The Beginning Cyclist’s Guide to the Rules of the Road (and All Those Funny Hand Signals)

If you’ve started cycling to become a stronger runner, you’ve probably discovered the rules of the road are often confusing, misunderstood, and, sadly, ignored.

It isn’t out of spite — it’s usually just lack of knowledge. However, when cyclists don’t follow the laws, they don’t just put themselves at risk, they give a bad name to other cyclists.

You know how people are always bitchin’ about how cyclists think they own the road? This is what I’m talking about.

But most cyclists aren’t reckless asshats — and yet that stereotype about cyclists is prevalent in almost every community.

To help clear the air, I’ve invited Laura, badass triathlete from one of my favorite sites, Frayed Laces, to help me put together a primer on what you should know before you hit the road, whether on your own or in a group.

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The One Thing Harder than Ironman

It was one year ago that I told you about Carlos and his cancer diagnosis. Many of you responded to “You Have to Fight” and the follow-up columns about him, “The One Word to Ignore” and “Out There: Never Stop Fighting” with an outpouring of support for him.

For weeks, I’ve been working on a one-year update for you. It’s been difficult to write — every time I sit down, I’m filled with tears, laughter, and pride for my best friend.

Recently, Carlos was asked to give a speech about his experience as a cancer fighter. As soon as I read it, I threw all of my drafts for this article away. No one can tell the story better than he can.

I am not here for pleasant conversation.

I write to you about things that happen to people — bad people and good people. Things that make some cry, and question life’s fairness and God’s existence. But it’s OK, because I know I am in good company. Many of you have likely gone through hell and back. I know, like you, how it feels being in pain, scared, hopeless, helpless, defeated, cheated, and alone.

But I also know we are made of some tough stuff. Every one of us is equipped to climb over obstacles. We are all made to fight and never give up.

One year ago

I was what people call “super-fit.” My sport makes regular people cry in pain just watching it on TV! Ironman consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and then running 26.2 miles, a full marathon, in less than 16 hours. I have done this 13 times in races across the United States and Europe.

I was in the midst of training for yet another Ironman last April when I suddenly got sick. It wasn’t a gradual, progressive illness. One day I rode my bike for 6 hours, and the next I had emergency surgery. In an instant, everything changed.

One year ago, I was told that I had Stage IV colon cancer, the most advanced stage of cancer.

The tumors in my colon had metastasized to the lymph nodes and to the liver. With luck and chemotherapy every oncologist said I could live another year, but the odds of survival beyond that were slim. Liver surgery is an option for some with my cancer, but I was not a candidate for it, as I had too many tumors.

The doctors didn’t say it outright, but I could tell what they were thinking: Start writing your will.

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5 Ways Cycling Can Make You a Stronger Runner

Post written by Susan Lacke.

#5: The Brick Workout (which actually looks nothing like whatever it is she’s doing)

Admit it — you runners love to poke fun at us cyclists.

We’re dork-ish looking people in our helmets and padded-ass shorts who think it’s fun to spend hours pedaling away through roads and up mountains, pretending we’re in the Tour de France.

But those of us who both run and cycle know a secret: cycling helps make you a better runner.

Many runners turn to cycling after injury- that is, they’re forced into riding a bike to stay sane while rehabilitating a stress fracture or joint pain. However, they soon discover something remarkable when they return to running — cycling actually made them better than ever before!

How cycling can make you a better runner

If you’re a runner, you might want to consider joining the ranks of Lance wannabes. Even if you’re not injured, riding a bike is an excellent cross-training activity, one which can improve your running performance significantly. Here’s why:

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From Couch Potato to Ironman — In 20 Months

Susan Lacke at the finish of Ironman Wisconsin, just 20 months after deciding to run her first 5K.

In 2009, I made a New Year’s Resolution to run my first 5K.

I assumed I’d run the 5K, cross the accomplishment off my bucket list, and go back to being a couch potato. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, that 5K led to something else: 20 months after making that resolution, I completed my first Ironman triathlon, a race which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.

Anyone can do an Ironman

After the Ironman, I wrote a post which was titled with the one statement about Ironman I firmly believe: “Anyone Can Do an Ironman.”

If you sit on the sidelines of an Ironman finisher’s chute long enough, you’ll believe this statement, too. There’s such a wide cross-section of Ironman triathletes, from chiseled studs to 80 year-old nuns. After sitting at enough finish chutes, I decided I didn’t want to be a spectator anymore. I wanted to know what it was like to be on the other side.

The next time I saw an Ironman finisher’s chute, I was running down it.

When I made that resolution to run my first 5K, I had no idea I’d complete an Ironman 20 months later. I was a couch potato who was trying to quit smoking (again). Ironman triathlons were something crazy people did, and though I was happy to spectate with a beer in my hand, I never saw myself as one of those people.

Besides, training for a 5K was hard enough. Training to run 3.1 miles was difficult and time-consuming.

Covering 140.6? No freakin’ way.

The 9 things that helped me do it

It was a series of bold choices, hasty mistakes, happy accidents, and – finally – focused planning which took me from couch potato to Ironman in just 20 months.

Everyone has their own way of doing things when it comes to Ironman, and when you train for one, you’ll discover yours. For now, here are what I found to be the nine most important keys in going from zero to Ironman faster than most people think is possible.

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How to Survive Your First Open-Water Swim: 8 Tips for The New Triathlete

Note: This is a post from No Meat Athlete Resident Triathlete and Triathlon Roadmap author Susan Lacke.

Runners often tell me they’d love to check out the triathlon scene, but they can’t (or won’t) swim.

They say swimming is hard, the mass start looks scary, and open water just gives ‘em the heebie-jeebies.  And I’ve got to admit, they have a point.

Susan Lacke in the swim start of Ironman Wisconsin (she’s the one in the wetsuit).

Most of us log our swim training in the pool. When it comes to our first open-water swim start, we get a reality check when the starting gun goes off.

I wish someone had warned me of this — in the first 5 seconds of my open water swim, my mind rushed with a frenetic string of thoughts:

  • Why are these people so CLOSE to me?
  • Where’s the black stripe on the bottom?
  • Why can’t I see my hand in front of my face?
  • What is that thing floating up from the bottom? Is that a lake zombie?
  • I can’t breathe. Am I going to die?

In spite of all the pool hours I had put in, three minutes into my first open-water swim I was flipped over, doing the backstroke, and gasping for air.  I’m sure the spectathletes on the shoreline were thoroughly amused.

As for the zombie, turns out there was no creature of the undead in the lake — just a stick.

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Dear Santa (And a Very Merry Giveaway)

Note: This is a guest post from Ironman triathlete and lifetime Santa-believer Susan Lacke.

Santa Claus
1225 Candy Cane Lane
North Pole

Susan Lacke, age 2?

Dear Santa,

It’s been a little while since I wrote to you. A year, actually. I kept meaning to touch base with you during the year, but time just got away from me! I know, I know. I say that every year. You’re starting to feel like I’m taking advantage of you, like I only write to you when I want a present.

That’s not true, Santa. I really was busy this year. I mean, I trained for an Ironman! That’s gotta count for something, right? I’m sure you know how it is. Don’t you spend a couple weeks doing P90X after eating all those cookies on Christmas, big guy?

Let’s cut to the chase. I know I’m supposed to be asking for selfless things now that I’m a grown-up. I should leave the requests for toys to my nieces and nephews while I request responsible things, like world peace.

Screw that, Santa. I want a tri bike.

Listen, buddy: I’ve been a good girl this year. I got up at 4 AM to train like I was supposed to (okay, I hit the snooze button a lot, but I got up eventually); I ran and biked more miles than I’m able to count; I swam laps in a pool like an aquatic hamster. Do you KNOW how boring lap swimming is, Santa?

I deserve this bike, man. Don’t get me wrong. I love my roadie, Bessie. She’s been very good to me. But after we’ve gotten hit by a car a couple times, she’s a bit worse for wear. I’d like to put her up in a nice retirement home in Boca and ride off into the sunset on my new sleek aerodynamic triathlon-specific bike. I promise I’ll take good care of him. I’ll feed and water and take him for rides every single day and love him so, so, so much! I’ll even give him a sexy name…like “Santa.”

Forget what your “naughty list” says, Santa. I don’t belong there. My readers at No Meat Athlete can vouch for me. They’ve been with me all year and will back me up on this one.

As a goodwill gesture, I’ll give them a chance to win a special prize, the Ultimate Stocking Stuffer Giveaway:

  • Vanilla Gingerbread, Mint and one additional favorite flavor/product from GU
  • Road ID socks, Road ID hat, & Road ID gift card
  • Ryders VTX and Grindhouse or Shreddie glasses

To win, readers should comment below by December 19 with what’s at the top of their own NMA Christmas wish lists.

See how this works, Santa? I give them something, you give me something. If you do this, I promise next year I’ll ask for world peace.

Or maybe a new wetsuit.

XOXO,

Susan

P.S. Please remind the good NMA boys and girls that they can still enter the iHerb.com giveaway by Wednesday, December 15.

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27 Things Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

This is a guest post from Susan Lacke, who has recently overcome a debilitating phobia of Twitter. You can now follow her to learn everything you never knew you needed to know about cupcakes, beer, and triathlons.

Even between friends, some things are best left unsaid.

But at No Meat Athlete, we’re happy to do the dirty work, and we think it’s about time you and your training partner got it all out in the open.  It’s time you heard a few of the things they’re dying to tell you, but never will.

What Your Training Partner Won’t Tell You

1. You will not lose momentum if you stop moving during a run. So quit jogging in place at the stoplight. You look like an idiot.

2. There are at least two embarrassing songs on everyone’s iPod playlist. There is no need to pretend you don’t know how they got there. Just own up to your love for N’Sync.

3. Everyone pees in the pool at some point. Everyone. Anyone who says they haven’t is lying. The same goes for the mass start of an open-water swim. There’s a reason that water feels so warm.

4. Please limit yourself to no more than two electronic devices when we work out together. Anything more and you have more wires coming out of you than an ICU patient.

5. Newton shoes are the Ed Hardy shirt of running.

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Put Down Your Phone and Drive (Before You Kill Me)

This is a guest post from our resident no-meat triathlete, Susan Lacke.

Are you reading this article on your cell phone right now?

If so, are you behind the wheel of a car?

Please. Put down your cell. NOW. Get to your destination. I promise, I’ll still be here when you come back. Go on.

Seriously. GO.

It seems strange, writing about your driving habits, when most of my articles on this site are about locomotion using the two-wheel variety or the old school hoofin’ it. But now, more than ever, I’m intimately familiar with how 2,000-pound four-wheeled vehicles impact the physical activity of every athlete.

I got hit by a car while riding my bike. Again.

I’m not sure what happened. First I was riding, and then I wasn’t. I was on the road, then I was in someone’s lawn. I was upright, then I was faceplanted in the grass. I was satisfied with a  great workout, then I was crying, scared, and hurting.

This is the third time it’s happened to me. What hurts the most is not the broken ribs. It’s not the concussion. It’s not the road rash and bruises. It’s my faith in humanity.

You see, when I’ve been hit while cycling, the drivers didn’t stop, but just kept on going. When talking with a police officer, I asked why this might be — the answer? They probably didn’t even realize what happened, or, if they did, simply didn’t want to get caught and admit they weren’t paying attention behind the wheel.

When I heard that, it took every ounce of strength I had to maintain my composure. I wanted to have a meltdown. I wanted to grab someone by the shoulders and shake them. I wanted to scream: G-dammit-how-do-you-hit-another-person-and-not-know-it-what-the-hell-ARE-YOU-AN-ASSHOLE-OR-JUST-STUPID-GAAAAAAAAAAH!

Ahem. Pardon my French.

Distracted driving is growing at an alarming rate. In your car, you probably multitask: You drink your coffee, eat your snack, check your e-mail on your BlackBerry, change the music on your iPod, talk to your child in the backseat, read the billboards on the side of the road, daydream, and text. You read about the texting-while-driving accidents in the news and “tsk-tsk-what-a-tragedy” but rest assured that it would never happen to you. You’re a much better driver than that.

Right?

Except for those times when you’re reading an e-mail on your phone and look up and quickly notice the car in front of you is stopped, causing you to slam on your brakes. Or those times when you’re looking for a specific song on your iPod and look up to realize you’re in the oncoming traffic lane. Or those times when you space out and realize you have no recollection of the last 15 minutes of driving.

I’m not really a fan of using scare tactics to make a point. But let’s face it: I’m scared. In a matchup between car vs. bike, the vehicle with heft, seatbelts and airbags beats a simple ultralight bike and helmet every single time. I could be dead. I should be dead. All because someone wasn’t paying attention.

It’s been three weeks since my accident. The road rash is almost all gone, and I can finally take deep breaths again without it hurting too much. But I still can’t bring myself to get back on the roads. I’m terrified.

I’ve written before on how you can stay safe while running, cycling, or swimming. Now, my plea has nothing to do with your participation in any of those activities.

When you drive, promise me you’ll remember you are operating a piece of machinery that weighs thousands of pounds. If you haven’t been hit by a car before, take it from me: You feel every single one of those pounds when you’re hit.

Put down the cell phone. You can wait until you get home to text your friend that you LOL’d (You know weren’t really laughing out loud anyway). You can pull over to the side of the road to call your spouse back about what kind of wine you’d like to pick up for dinner. You can read No Meat Athlete when you’re not behind the wheel of a car. When you’re driving, make that one task your priority. Everything else can wait.

I’ll get the confidence to get back on the road one of these days. When I do, I hope you see me pedaling away in the bike lane.

Really, I hope you see me.

I’d like that.

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