Every week I slather on anti-chafe goo, pull on my padded spandex shorts, grab my bike, and head out for the wild freedom of … my spare bedroom. The room, now known as the TCHA (Tri Crap Holding Area,) was originally meant to house guests. Then it ended up housing boxes of our stuff that our home is too small to hold.
Now it includes all that stuff plus all the tri crap I never knew I needed but now somehow can’t live without (Bike? Check. Trainer? Check. Bike tools, sneakers, wetsuit, extra swimsuits, hydration backpacks? Checkity check. Bike rack so that I can do bike maintenance? You betcha.) So the room is full of tri crap, and those boxes are piled up comically high, leaving exactly enough room for me to set up my trainer, and hope that the boxes and bins don’t collapse on me.
For the uninitiated, a trainer is a
torture device piece of equipment that essentially turns your road bike into a stationary bike, allowing you to work really hard on your bike while going absolutely nowhere in the “comfort” of your own home. You put your back wheel on the trainer, it contacts a roller which generates resistance by either a fan blade, magnets, or fluid. They range in price from cheap to WTF?! (a friend of mine just bought one for $1,200, mine was on sale for $50 on Amazon.)
Fathlete Tip – You can buy a heavy duty trainer that isn’t super expensive – it will save you money (and protect your bike!) in the long run. Since the trainer raises your back wheel, you typically use a riser to keep your front wheel level, or use a higher riser to create an “uphill” experience (weeeee!) These risers are plastic and they can break under our weight, it was recommended to me that I use a phone book or wooden block, both of which seem to work well!
Working out on the trainer has its upsides – air conditioning and not needing to slather on sunscreen being chief among them for me. It also has, for me, two main downsides. The first is discomfort. The bike isn’t exactly a comfy recliner, but when I’m out riding I’m generally reasonably comfortable – at least for the first 4 hours or so. With the trainer, it’s just uncomfortable the whole time – it’s amazing to me that the same bike can feel so different on and off the road.
And the discomfort acts as a kind of accelerant for the boredom which is the second downside. I’ve written before about how boredom is the biggest challenge for me in this training- focusing on doing the same repetitive motion for a really long time is difficult enough for me, it gets worse when I’m working super hard and going absolutely nowhere. I’ve been listening to books about ultramarathons as a way to pass the time, it seems to help to hear someone talk about doing things that are even more horrible than what I’m doing.
The good news for me is that typically I am using the trainer for speed work – intervals at specific RPMs, in specific gears, for specific times meant to increase the overall speed of long rides. That helps to break things up since I’m watching the time, counting the RPMs and doing the math to remember which interval I’m on and when I get to stop.
The trainer is a tool to help – and I’ll take all the help I can get in this journey – but I won’t be sad when it’s time to put it out to pasture!
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