We catch up with Marni Sumbal on this edition of The Kona Edge and discover what she has done to become a better cyclist.  She shares her love with us for hilly courses and reveals the two things you need to be able to manage the terrain and improve your Ironman bike. We look at bike skills and the importance of using the correct muscles on your bike.


BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back to yet another edition of The Kona Edge, time to chat some cycling today and we head back to South Carolina and a great pleasure to welcome Marni Sumbal onto the podcast. Marni, welcome back, thanks for joining us today.

MARNI SUMBAL:  Thank you for having me.

BRAD BROWN:  Marni, let’s talk about your bike. You mentioned that it was something you struggled with, particularly when you first started. Your husband is a very good cyclist, you’ve had to work really hard on your bike, personally, to get better over the years haven’t you?

MARNI SUMBAL:  Yeah, for a happy marriage with my husband, I needed to learn to ride my bike really well!

BRAD BROWN:  What’s the one thing you’ve done that you think has given you the biggest improvement over the years on the bike?

Improve your Ironman bike with correct posture and bike skills

MARNI SUMBAL:  The big picture with becoming a better cyclist is I’ve been able to manage the terrain better and since I do mostly hilly races, Ironman Wisconsin, Lake Placid, Lake Logan half, Ironman Austria, I love these hilly courses and in order to manage the terrain better I needed two things. Number one, is I need good posture on the bike, so I need to learn how to sit on the bike properly, so part of that is a good bike fit and I’m lucky in that area that my husband can fit and refit me, but just knowing how to sit on the saddle properly so that I’m using the right muscles and not wearing out the muscles that can also help me for the run.

The other thing is learning how to manage the terrain with my bike skills. Part of that is being relaxed, part of that is knowing how to turn and descend and to climb, but really it comes down to using my gears and if we take one step backwards, so if we think, okay, terrain management, I need good posture, I need good skills, it comes down to the training and as much fun as it is to just go for a bike ride, the training that I’ve done over the past two years is very specific to improving the variable cadence that I have so that when I am hit with the climb, it doesn’t tax my legs.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s interesting you say that and I find it fascinating too that you spend a lot of time in Florida, you’ve only recently moved to South Carolina, which is obviously a lot hillier than Florida. From a training perspective, particularly if you’re targeting a specific race, you want to try and simulate as much of that in training as you would on race day, am I correct in saying that?

It is important to know how to ride your bike

MARNI SUMBAL:  Yeah, I think it’s good and I think one thing that athletes need to remember is that when you’re doing a hilly course, you want to be prepared for what are those hills like, are they long hills? Are they punchy hills? Are they rolling hills, and then how were you trained for that and I did several races when I was living in Florida in hilly conditions and I did find, mostly because I do love riding hills, so I think you have to love to be on hills and climbing and love all aspects of being in the mountains if you’re doing hilly races.

But at the same time I needed to make sure and athletes need to make sure that their training helps them prepare and even more important than the training, it’s great to get on the trainer and do some heavy gear work and some high cadence work or get out of the saddle and get outside and do the same simulations, but you have to know how to ride your bike. You have to know how to anticipate the climbs, you need to know, when do I get out of the saddle, when do I sit up from my aero bars, when do I back off the pressure on the pedals? Am I pedaling with a good chain tension? These are those little components. They’re not as sexy as race wheels and a nice frame on the bike, but they’re so important to managing the terrain.

BRAD BROWN:  Without a doubt, as far as workouts go, you obviously love climbing, what are some of your favourite workouts on the bike?

MARNI SUMBAL:  I love being on my bike and the great thing with where we live is that the terrain dictates our intervals. On one side that’s great because we always get a really good stressor when we ride outside and it’s beautiful, I love where we live, but the downside is it also means that we need to be on our trainer a lot because if we just ride outside, we really don’t get that specificity that we need and I do love riding the trainer. I love any type of variable cadence work, so anything that forces me to ride in different cadences, maybe 45 rpm, 55 rpm, 65 rpm and then different intensities. Maybe I’m just doing the mechanical load, so my cardiovascular system isn’t stressed and then maybe another workout, it’s a big stress on both the legs and the heart. I love those workouts because they’re entertaining and they make the time pass by, but I also know that they have a clear purpose.

BRAD BROWN:  That’s vital too, is not just riding the bike for the sake of riding the bike because you need outcomes on everything you’re doing.

MARNI SUMBAL:  Absolutely, you need to have a purpose.

BRAD BROWN:  Marni, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated, we look forward to chatting about your run next time out.

MARNI SUMBAL:  I look forward to it.