Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I didn't do my one task of a 45-minute roller ride this week, and it probably won't happen seeing as tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Friday-Sunday are wonderful work-free days on which I can ride outside. I really was *supposed* to do the roller ride on Tuesday, but I put it off. I told myself I *had* to do it tonight, but it was just so sunny and not-that-cold and hardly anyone was at work anyway so I left at 2:00. Unfortunately, this not a reasonable solution for every time I want to avoid riding indoors this winter, but today it was just what I needed. I've been feeling fat and gross and down lately and this is about the worst time of year to start putting the training wheels in motion again, since there's dark and cold and junk food around every corner. In the past, I've really struggled until Christmas was over and then I could get down to business after the distractions died down.

However, I've been at the point of "I seriously need exercise" for a while now, but I've been in a nasty cycle of feel crappy, so I don't do anything, so I feel crappier and do even less since the Iceman. So I got out of work and did a two hour dirt road ride on my mountain bike and I'm feeling tons better. Somehow getting on my bike seems a whole lot easier when I'm missing work to do it. Too bad that can't happen more often.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Last Dance

Today I got one more singletrack ride in for 2008. It's getting to be the time of year when the trails could turn irreparably slushy at any time and stay that way until March or April (let's cross our fingers for March). It turned out to be a really nice day and I was surprised how many people were out in 30-something degrees. However, it was sunny and didn't really feel cold at all. I was actually overly warm except on the longest descents.

I've been thinking for several days that it's probably time to start my "prep phase" for 2009. Basically, if I want the Ouachita Challenge to not totally suck next spring, I need to do some serious winter training. If I don't want the serious winter training to suck, I need to start getting myself used to being on the bike again. For example, I have 90-minute roller rides in Zone 3 planned for every Thursday in January and February. I came to the conclusion that I need to get in a 45-minute roller ride this week and start working up if I don't want January to kill me.

Today was definitely a testament to the amount of work I have to do to get myself back in shape. I knew I rode badly at the Iceman, but I really didn't have any frame of reference as to how badly since I'd never been on that course before. As for today, Brown County tells no lies. I was climbing stuff in my granny ring that I would normally climb in my big ring in a race situation. I'm pretty sure I'm almost down to my beginner-class fitness from 2006. I'm definitely up to (and above) my beginner class weight.

The worst part is that I haven't found the self-fulfillment and emotional balance that I hoped this break from the bike would bring. This isn't to say that it hasn't benefited me; it just hasn't benefited me in the way I had hoped. Basically, the last couple of months have been an important lesson in how avoiding discomfort doesn't lead to happiness. I'm still not exactly sure what does, but I think I'm closer than I was this time last year.

The one bright spot of the day was the realization how it really hasn't been that long since my tires first touched Brown County dirt April 2006. It was my first time taking my clipless pedals off road and about my fourth time off road period. That first ride I was super proud of myself that I did two laps of the beginner loop without having to unclip. Today I felt like might actually be less fit than I was then, but with much better technical skills. However, when I think about how I made from two beginner loops in April 2006 to finishing a highly technical 60-mile race in April 2008, I realize that I'm not doing as bad as I thought. Furthermore, 28 is still pretty young in endurance mountain bike world, so hopefully, I still have plenty more years and plenty more big improvements left in me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Birthday Girl

Okay, okay, so I've refrained long enough on my "down-low" birthday. By "down-low", I mean that I decided that I was too old to go around telling everyone "November 12th is my birthday. I'll be 28" two weeks ahead of time. It appears that word spread on Facebook anyway, so I might as well live it up. TODAY'S MY BIRTHDAY. I'M 28 NOW.

I don't have any exciting plans for tonight, since I wanted to delay my celebration until Friday night when I don't have to worry about going to work the next day. I'm actually off work for the morning because I'm cooking a 20 pound turkey for my office's "Golden Turkey" pre-Thanksgiving meal, so part of tonight's celebration will include brining a turkey. Woohoo!

Maybe the cats will make me another sign or something.

In other news, today is the first day of the La Ruta de los Conquitadores. It doesn't look like anyone in my immediate blogosphere is participating this year, but it will still be fun to read the updates on the Internet. Despite my slow start in endurance racing world this year, the La Ruta is still central to my future plans. It may just take a couple more years than I originally planned.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Welcometh Home, Ice-Woman!

This was the sign that was sitting on the kitchen table when I got home from Michigan last night. (The cats have pretty good handwriting considering they have no thumbs, right?) Of course, thanks to modern technology rarely used in mountain bike races, Adam already knew my results beyond my vague text message report of "hard" and "slow".

Really, I think that's all anyone needs to know, but I'll try and elaborate a bit.

Even though I'd originally entered the pro/expert class because that what's my age/license says that I am, I quickly wussed out when I realized that the pros had a special 2:30 start and I would not be able to hide my slowness in the massive crowds. Luckily, the Iceman staff was accommodating and let me downgrade to sport women 19-34 at the minute. That was the best decision ever since I ended up going roughly an hour slower than planned and was closer to the bottom than the top of the sport class.

Apparently, I get slower when I don't train. Who knew? I realize there are a lot of people in the world who can stay pretty darn fast on minimal training. I am not one of them, but I seem to forget that without frequent reminders.

Basically, I made it through the race in slow anonymity and had a nice vacation. The course was much harder than I expected. It was not technical, in that there were hardly any tight turns, roots, or rocks, but there was a lot more climbing than I expected. The course was full of little steep, sandy grinders that caused me to keep going anaerobic and sucked a little more of my power after each one.

I need to address this whole steep-hill, anaerobic, power-sucking issue before next spring, but I'm not totally sure how to go about it. Do I focus on my climbing/baseline power so that I don't go anaerobic or do I focus on being able to go anaerobic without it sucking my power so fast? I'm not sure. I guess this would be a situation where it would be nice to have a coach again.

Oh well, I'm not getting back on that horse until at least April. Until then, I'm going to do about 3-4 more weeks of running, 2-3 weeks of transition/prep, and then basically do the "super-base" block that my coach assigned to me last January and February. I'm very confident that it would have been an effective plan had I done more than 25% of what I was supposed to do during that time period.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Waiting For The Day To Be Over Randoms

Seeing as today is the last workday for me this week, I'm trying to get through the last few hours so that I can move on to all things Iceman.

First of all, I wanted to share this article, because I thought it was really cool. Unfortunately, they haven't developed any therapeutic uses for this discovery yet. Nevertheless, I think it can have repercussions about how we view what we eat. I've been slowly moving away from taking too much stock in theoretical calories in versus calories out counts, as the scale and the math never seem to sync. The old school explanation would be that I'm somehow "cheating" on my counts, which is quite possible. On the other hand, the more I learn about this stuff, the more I think that unless you're undergoing elaborate testing in a laboratory, you don't *really* know how many calories you are consuming and burning.

That's just a random thought. Take from it what you will.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Out of the Darkness Comes Light

It appears that in between Halloween and the election, that another important milestone has slipped through the cracks. Last Sunday was the beginning of the "126 Days of Night" in which people with 8-5 jobs are not allowed to see the sun except on weekends and sometimes lunch breaks. At least there are no vampires (yet).

I think I may start my own techo-pagan religion where instead of celebrating solstices and equinoxes, I celebrate man-made changes of the clock.

The irony is that my year of craziness set in during the dark days of winter 2008 and never seemed to let go of me, even during the sunniest days of the year. Of course, at the time, I thought my inability to pry myself from the bed every morning was because it was cold and dark, not because I dreaded what the day would bring.

After many months of railing against my dissatisfaction with my job and a general cloud of anxiety about various athletic and non-athletic aspects of my future, I'm starting to "go with the flow" a little more. Of course, this has resulted in my giving up my coach and pretty much all formal training, realistically facing my issues at work, and basically admitted that I have no freaking clue what will happen tomorrow or next week or next spring and trying to okay with that.

So as the darkness settles in on the world once again, I'm actually pretty at peace with it. I've been running through my neighborhood in the evenings with a headlamp, which is still kind of scary, but fun. I'm already starting to get less sore and more fast again. I've also remembered how well I sleep during the winter (at least when I don't have crazy Obama/McCain dreams swirling through my head) and that January, February, and March are usually my best training months because of the general lack of other distraction that time of year. I just pushed too hard, too early last winter.

For the time being I'm in what I will dub the "racing off-season", which is a nice little paradox like "active recovery". For all practical purposes, I am having my off-season now, even though I'm still going to a few races. I'm enjoying the running, so I'm going to stick with that on week days until I feel "hungry" enough to get on a trainer. I'm not sure when that will be. I may end up running the Boston Marathon next spring instead of racing the Ouachita Challenge (kidding).

The good news is that I am well covered when the time comes for riding a bike in winter weather. My new knickers and tights arrived yesterday. The website said the 3-5 business days to make and ship the knickers, but they were at my door in 6 regular days. That's darn good turnaround time for semi-custom clothing. Plus, they apparently make fully-custom clothing to your exact measurements for a slight premium. Anyway, I'm pretty happy with both items, at least from the quick try-on yesterday. It looks like the knickers will be field-tested at the Iceman this weekend, as the Traverse City, MI forecast is 41 and raining for Saturday.