Monday, December 28, 2009

Snow-klahoma


She was going to Stonewall, OK in a Ford Focus
Got past that big McDonald's
You know the one they built up on that great big ol' bridge
Across the Will Rogers Turnpike
Took the Big Cabin exit stopped and bought some Gummi Peaches
At that Indian Smoke Shop with the big neon smoke rings
In the Cherokee Nation hit Muskogee late that night
.....
Lindsay tried to make it, but she didn't quite


That's a more PG version of James McMurty's "Choctaw Bingo"and an account of how I came to spend Christmas Eve in a Best Western in Eufala, OK (main drag pictured above). After a rainy trip across Illinois and Missouri, the road got really slick as soon as I cross the Oklahoma state line. It started with driving 50 in a 75 on said Will Rogers Turnpike, but it turned to a road of slush after said Big Cabin exit. After Muskogee, the slush turned to crazy wind blowing snow across the road, and combined with my iced-over windshield wipers, I could barely see at all. So at 9 p.m., I had been on the road for 14 hours and was about two hours away under normal conditions and who knows how long at 25 mph. I finally gave up and spent the night on Lake Eufala (mentioned elsewhere in the song), and was able to make it in time for a slightly delayed Christmas dinner the next morning.

I tell you all this because it's way more exciting than the cycling portion of my trip so far. Obviously, I didn't get to get up early and have a nice Christmas morning ride as I had hoped and the next day consisted of riding as far as I could in one direction before the road became impassible and then as far as I could in the other direction and then back to my parents' house. I think that was about 1:45 of "riding time", although there was a decent amount of walking over icy patches and even the riding was pretty slow. During the ride the hub battery in my Power Tap died, so I'm not sure of any actual data.

Yesterday was sunny and clear, if windy and cold, so I got out for a little while, but I'm not sure how much. Since I'm so far from civilization, I haven't got replacement batteries yet, and I'm a little iffy on trying to open the hub up with a bench vise myself. I'm torn between thinking this is a job best left to Adam and the opposing fact that riding without a display to look at kind of sucks, even if I'm not really shooting for a specific power. Until it's fixed, my workouts will be "ride to such and such town/landmark and back". Today it will be Tupelo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Inside the Box


Since I know that everyone was is just dying to find out the contents the box featured in the fuzzy, cell-phone-camera-under-pale-living-room-light picture from last week's post, here is a fuzzy, cell-phone-camera-under-pale-living-room-light picture of what was inside. The small box contained the pink-on-white Fizik Vitesse saddle that I wanted for the pink-on-white Giant XTC Alliance 29'er that will hopefully be purchasing and pimping in March. The large box contained "the lightest for the money" SUNringle' 26 inch wheels, so the Anthem can lose some weight.

I forgot to mention in my solicitation of guesses that based on the the last few years, the box had a 98% chance of being a bike part. It's funny because my original guess was 26 inch MTB wheels, until I discovered the box was a 25.5 square, so I thought it was too small. I guess I was right after all.

Other than opening "Solstice gifts" (my ploy to find out the contents of the box a bit early), is that I'll be leaving for my sweet Oklahoma Holiday Training Camp in just two short days. Sure, the pros insist on training camps in Arizona and California, but Oklahoma does just fine for me. They don't understand the simple awesomeness of unlimited daylight riding time, since they aren't normally deprived of it, as I have been the last couple of months. Sure, it's not the coolest riding in the world and the mid-50's weather isn't IDEAL, but it's way better than riding my MTB around town in 30 degree weather and darkness or riding trainer.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby, It's 3 AM

Okay, it's not anymore, but I've had that song in my head for the last few days as tried to remind myself that I needed to wake up at 3 am today to register for the Ouachita Challenge. Sure, I probably would have been safe waiting until I got up at my normal time, but you just never know. All divisions were sold out slightly after my arrival at work.

So I've entered my first race for 2010, which is pretty exciting. It's a little weird to think about because I'm getting a much earlier start on my training this year (no missed workouts since last post) and I have the experience of a semi-good endurance racing season behind me, so things should be much less ugly. Let's not forget that I should have a new bike by bike then and that should make me like an hour faster all by itself, right? (eye roll) However, the race is so early that I'm not sure how much intense riding I'll have done or if the weather will allow me to ride off-road before then (in 2008 the OC was my first singletrack of the year).

Of course, my mom is agast that I'm doing the race again this year, especially when I told that they've made the course harder, but I swear this time will be different. No, seriously. No last places for me this year. Promise.

Anyway, now it's time to buckle down and make sure that really happens. In the mean time, anybody want to help me guess what this is?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Blues

The view from my office window seemed an appropriate addition to this post.

I've been loathe to admit it, but I think that November broke me just a little bit. After a two-week end of season break, it was time to start my winter weight training. I am not a fan of gyms, but I've been forcing myself to enter the HPER or SRSC on the reg to try and maintain the dogged adherence to my training plan that I've spent the last nine months developing. I had a minor blip during the second week when I missed a couple of workouts due to some annoying bug that never bothered to turn into full-blown swine flu. After that, I was in the gym and on the trainer like I actually enjoyed it or something. That lasted for about 10 days or so, during which time I made sufficient progress in listening to David Sedaris' "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" on my iPod and even felt like I might sorta be getting a bit of bike fitness back.

Unfortunately, the first three weeks of weight training were really crazy work-wise. During my 10-day trainer binge, I was also trying to hold myself together while I was having to go to the library every evening to help train students a on a new student activities system that I've been helping to set up for the last couple of months. I did everything that I was supposed to, both for work and training, but when Thanksgiving week arrived the next week, I found myself trying to coast through a three-day workweek with no energy for either.

That was the point where I began the hypertrophy phase of the weight training, which is the hardest. I did my weight workouts like I was supposed to, but I would come home after work and fall asleep on the couch in my work clothes. During those two weeks, I rode three times, not counting cross bike trips to the gym. One was the Gravel Grovel, and then a couple of easy Sunday rides on the road bike.

Now it's December and hypertrophy phase is over. I have four weeks of weights left, but it's only 2x a week and the workouts are easier. It's time that I reaqquaint myself with the bike, but I'm just having such a hard time making myself ride trainer or ride in the dark. Part of the problem is that I'll be back to outside daylight riding on the reg after the first of the year, so I'm kind of letting December slip away. Unfortunately, my fitness is slipping with it and I'm wasting an opportunity to get a head start on 2010.

So, I'm not sure what my intentions for this treatise are, other than "admitting that I have a problem". Perhaps it will be a bit easier to get on the trainer tonight, knowing that the eyes of the blogosphere are upon me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gravel Grovel: I am Thankful for Mountain Bikes, Half-Bananas, and Neoprene Booties

Half-Bananas are prepped and ready to go.

If I learned anything during the past season, it is to show up to every race with the following items: more food and water than I could possibly need, spare wool socks and chemical toe warmers anytime outside of May-August, regardless of the forecast, and a good attitude. The last item is the one I have struggled the most with, so when I was packing for the Gravel Grovel on Friday, I knew it was the most critical item. Of course, given all of the self-supported, "you are responsible for you" hype in the race description, I also stuffed my famous silver Wingnut pack with 50 oz. of water, a spare tube, a Co2 cartridge, a mini pump, a patch kit, four flasks of EFS Liquid Shot, four ready-to-eat half-bananas, and a zip-lock baggy with dry gloves, two pairs of toe warmers (which are good for pretty much all body parts including toes), and spare wool socks. Unfortunately, I didn't have room for the three chocolate chip cookies that I had pilfered from the previous day's Thanksgiving spread. I was pretty much a flask of rum around my neck away from being able to rescue myself and anyone else struggling on the course, given that they also had tiny hands and feet.

As prepared as I was food and equipment-wise, I knew that I was quite underprepared physically, but that is where the good attitude came in. I couldn't have put it so succintly before the race, but after I was done I realized what my "one-sentence" goal had been all along. Basically, I wanted one last opportunity to practice getting into my Ideal Performance State (IPS) before winter. IPS is a term that I picked up from one of the sports psychology books that I've been thumbing through the last couple of months. It is essentially the mental state at which you peform best. One important point is that athletes want to be able to channel this mental state regardless of other conditions, so the fact that I was in far from my ideal physical performance state was actually good chance for me to stretch the boundaries in which I could perform well mentally.

After all of the deliberation, I decided to go with my mountain bike instead of my cross bike. Since I was going to be slow anyway, I decided to go with comfort over speed and it turned out to be a good decision, as conditions were tougher than I had expected.

Things actually started off quite well and I was happy with my mental state in the opening miles. I settled into a hard-but-comfortable tempo and did not worry about the people around me too much. I was near the back, but not at the back, so I was okay with that. There was a steep climb 2-3 miles in and I was kind of disappointed when I had to shift to my granny gear and let a bunch of people pass me, because my weight-lifting trashed legs were loudly communicating their limits for the day. I just had to accept that and move on the best I could.

Luckily, it was not long before the mountain-bikey section of the course, which was a "gated road" that was technically wide enough for a Jeep to go through, but the singletrack going through it made it appear that it had not been traversed by a four-wheeled vehicle in quite some time. It was slick and gross, but after the steep hill in the middle, I was rewarded for riding my mountain bike when railed the downhill while the cross-bikers bumped and slid along. It was exceptionally thrilling, probably because in a mountain bike race you're just supposed to go downhill as fast as you can, but in that situation I was kind of being a show-off. Muah, ha ha ha ha.

That was really the last exciting part of the day, because after the high of Combs Road wore off, I just settled back in my tempo and tried to keep going as fast as I could without pushing my legs over the edge. This kept me in the same position of near the back, but not off the back, and near the halfway point, I was getting a little uncomfortable and struggling with numb thumbs, but was more or less okay. However, at that point, pretty much everyone in my general vincinity on the road decided to take a short-cut back. I wasn't really ready to give up, but I was fairly certain that my positive mental state would disintegrate if I were suddenly stuck in OTB no-man's land by myself for the next 30 miles. I decided that since my goal had more to do with a positive mental state and than a token finish, that I should follow the guys back and finish while I was still having fun.

I didn't have a speed/distance sensor on my bike, but I think we ended up with about 42 miles, which was still a lot more riding than I've done in a few weeks. The event seemed to be quite a success with 115 entries mostly just on word-of-mouth advertising, so I'd really like to try to come back and actually be competitive next year. For now though, I'm happy was that I was able to get in some good mental and physical training.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Twenty-Niner


I'm not sure exactly when or how it happened. Just a few short months ago I was totally convinced that my little silver Anthem was all the bike I needed, unless of course, I won the lottery and replaced it with a similar carbon-fiber dream. However, at some point in the season that I started to feel like my bike was a little too heavy and inefficient. Sure, I could have been projecting my true feelings about myself or it could just be the two year itch, but I began to think about getting the Anthem a friend. A hard-tail friend.

Then came Velonew's proclamation that the 26-inch hard-tail is dead. Because I believe everything I read and jump on every cycling-related bandwagon possible, I knew I had to heed their advice like my entire bike-racing future depended on it.

Included in the article is Adam Craig's sweet, sweet Anthem-X SL, which Giant is not producing in my size. I realize that it may be a smart business decision on their part, as the respective markets of mountain bike racers under 5'6" and mountain bike racers who can afford $8000 bike are both relatively small. I'm sure the number of riders who fit both of those categories is tiny, but it's disappointing to know that I can't get one, even if I do win the lottery. Perhaps for one-meellion dollars they would make one in my size.

However, included in the great proclamation is the fact that 29'ers are not just for tall people. Thank goodness that us shorties (or slightly below average-ies of the female gender) aren't going to be stuck riding around on dead bikes, right?

Okay, so all of this aside, I still don't know the exact root of my 29'er craving. I think it may have begun with a fantasy of getting a new Ellsworth carbon-fiber hard-tail, with the pretty paisley paint-job that is on the Velo-Bella pro 'cross team's bikes. At one point, it was indicated that the color scheme would be available for other Ellsworth models, but that does not seem to be the case. Regardless, I got to check out a demo bike at the Cincinnati UCI weekend, and the smallest size is still way too big and it's more expensive than I was expecting. What can I say? I'm spoiled to unsurpassed value offered in Giant's non-$8000 bikes.

I was about to resign myself to getting the Anthem some nicer wheels and calling it good, but just a few days later I found myself in Pisgah and participating in various 29'er related talk to with Arkansas peeps. Specifically, Todd, of OC lantern-rouge lead out train fame and a fellow Jason Hillimire coaching client, broached the subject while we were washing bikes after one of the stages. He said, "I'm going to tell you what Jason isn't telling you: you need to switch to big wheels."

I suspect that if I'd ever asked Jason his opinion on the size of my wheels, he would have shared that information, but mostly he's concerned about the fact my wheels still have tubes in them, regardless of size. I've only had two off-road flats four years of mountain biking, so I'm kind of old-school in my attachment to tubes. I'm sort of superstitious about not messing with a good thing, even if it means a little more weight and a few more psi's. I'm sure I'll get over it some day, just not right now.

Despite coming home and trying to dismiss the events of mid-October 2009, I began compulsively looking up 29'er specs. Giant's smallest size was listed at as 16-inches, and I normally ride a 14.5. However, with some research I discovered that none of the brands I looked at make anything smaller than 15.5. Combined with the fairly frequent comments of "so and so rides a 29'er and she's shorter than you", I inspected the Giant geometry a bit more closely. Turns out that aside from the seat tube length, the Small 29'er was very similar to my current bike, but the front triangle could actually hold a water bottle. Score!!!

Anyway, Adam brought home a demo bike from an Bicycle Garage Indianapolis where a couple of his friends work (BikeSmith's doesn't have demo bikes), and I got to ride it around the neighborhood a bit. The proportions looked silly, and the un-shortened handlebars were awkward, but it felt good and that nice pedal=instant forward motion feeling I've hear people talk about but never really experienced. I even caught myself standing to accelerate up the hill behind my house and realized that I was experiencing zero bounce.

So I'm saving up my dollars in hopes of getting the pretty white Alliance (part carbon/part aluminum) model listed above. I think it will look awesome with pink Jagwire cable housing (Adam's favorite bike-pimping accessory) and one of the white Fizik Vitesse saddles with the pink thigh pads. To sweeten the deal, it comes with special wheels that are designed to run 20 psi, even with the darned old tubes. Corner well and not get flats? I'm there.

I'm hoping it will make the gravel sections of the Ouachita Challenge a lot more pleasant, and I only wish I could have it for Friday's Gravel Grovel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Next Blog?

Something strange showed up on my blog tracker log this morning.

(I know, the first rule of the blog tracker log is that you don't talk about the blog tracker log, but the marketing undergrad student turned sport administration grad student turned wannabe techie grown-up in me enjoys seeing how many people bother Googling my name off of race entry lists or results.)

Anyway, during my 10 a.m. banana and mixed nuts break, I was purusing the traffic from last night, which was surprisingly heavy. I kept seeing "Next Blog" mixed into the gobbledegook (yes, I soooo technical) along with the names of blogs that I've never heard of. Is this "Next Blog" button at the top of the Blogger screen new? Regardless, it's pretty cool. You can sit there and go from random cycling blog to random cycling blog and see if there's anything you want to read.

So I just wanted to share in case other people hadn't noticed it and you have free time on your hands. It also gives me a reason to post something at a time of the year when I don't have much to post. I hoping to report on test riding a Giant XTC 29er, which I plan to do on Sunday, so maybe I'll have more to say then.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Graveling

Jake gets all bottle-caged up.

So with another week passing in between outdoor rides, I finally got out today and took my cyclocross bike on a test run for the Gravel Grovel. I'm still debating on the 'cross bike vs. mountain bike choice, so I wanted to test out the severity of the 'cross bike cons of not having enough gearing to get up the tough gravel hills and providing a rough ride over the gravel. The gearing thing turned out not to be an issue unless we get a lot of rain the next 12 days. I'm used to riding gravel roads in the spring and having tire-sucking mud with which to contend. However, thanks to the unseasonably nice weather, I found the big hill on Gross Rd. to be relatively smooth and hard-packed. It still hurt to climb on my 'cross bike, but it was doable. The rough ride sucked, but considering how many people ride gravel roads on 'cross bikes with no complaints, that part may just require a bit of HTFU on my part. The 'cross bike pros are about 8 less pounds of bike with a lot less bobbing around on the smoother parts, and the ability to carry more fluids since it is a self-supported race and I need to carry about 6 hours worth of food and water with me.

I'm not really sure how this thing will go since when I told my coach that this race wasn't that important, I think we were thinking different things. I was thinking that I was burned out on hard training going into Pisgah, and I wasn't concerned about being in top condition. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was looking forward to one last chance to experiment with a few hours in the pain cave (okay, mild discomfort cave) and produce a good-for-me effort in the closest approximation to my prefered race type that Indiana has to offer.

However, the off-season strength training program is going to make things more difficult than planned. My legs are sore and slow, and I didn't feel good on today's ride. I know that getting the complete shut-down and reboot phase over now will be good for my next season, because I will have so much extra time to be in good form then, but it's kind of making me worried about my ability to get through any ride over 20 miles right now.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Year

Today I turned 29, which wasn't terribly exciting, but it seems like a good marker, since I'm rolling into 2010 mode pretty slowly. I got a week in the weight room and then I missed my Monday-Wednesday workouts due to some mild flu-like illness which I am referring to as the 2009 Adam & Ryan virus, because Adam and his friend Ryan had similar symptoms at the same time a couple of months ago. Just tired/achy/crappy feeling without being fully laid out on the couch and unable to move sick.

The aching has subsided and at this point the tired and crappy could just as easily be attributed to inactivity, so I plan to return to my plan tomorrow. That means weight workout with 30 minute spin on the trainer before and after. Yep, trainer. I've made arrangements to work 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. once my more serious winter training starts, so I can ride in the daylight, but I probably won't start that until January.

Anyway, as you may know, I like coming up with obscure and/or cheesy theme songs for my training, so tonight my new Preseason 2010 song worked it's way back from 1990 and into my head. An odd choice with metaphorical meaning (at least to me). In the end, the deep meaning doesn't matter; it's a good old fashioned rebound song. See below:



Why is it that I seem to prefer music that was produced before I hit puberty and that I was too young to understand when it was on the radio?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

French Lick

Forgive me, Anthem, though I haven't actually sinned. It's been three weeks since my last bike ride, but only because that's what my training plan said to do. Of course, my training plan said today was a day off, but it was 70 degrees and sunny and my coach okayed what was likely my last chance to check out the new French Lick Resort trail before winter sets in.

~~~

Yeah, so I haven't been on the bike since Pisgah. I knew even before the race started I that I NEEDED to be done for the season once it was over. I asked for seven days off and I got two weeks. Last week was my first week of 2010 base training, starting with the much tweeted about FasCat off-season strength training plan. So my "base training" started with a bike-free week in the gym, leaving me with a third week off from the bike.

~~~

Anyway, today I went to French Lick, since I kept hearing rave reviews of the new trail, and also because it's the venue for a US Cup race next summer. I was glad to see that it was really only 1:10 away from Bloomington, instead of the 1:37 predicted by Google maps. I was also glad to see how swanky the facilities were and how friendly the staff of the adjoining golf course were.

A fellow racer who I know and his girlfriend arrived a few minutes after me, so I was going to ride with them, hoping it would be a nice mellow pace. It wasn't too bad, but it was a little more challenging than I'd hoped for in my first ride after a long break. I did fine for about a half an hour and then a sudden slight increase in the grade of the trail did me in. I can't even explain it. I would say that I bonked, except that I don't think that's possible after 30 minutes of riding with a good breakfast in my stomach. That's definitely how I felt, though. I'm guessing the lack of aerobic activity mixed with a lot of muscle trauma played some sort of nasty trick on my body. (I also did a 5k during my break that left me limping for nearly a week.)

After I slowed way down, I was able to do two more laps and enjoy the scenery, including the nifty cave shown above. Even if riding was a bit of struggle, it was super nice to get one more MTB ride, with bonus shorts and short sleeves, before winter.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pisgah Pictures

Since I didn't take more pictures while I was in Pisgah, I broke down and bought a couple from the The Living Pixel. There were only a couple of actual racing shots, which I wasn't crazy about, so I picked just picked a couple that appealed to me.

This picture shows two of the four Hoosiers who entered, but not the one out of four that actually finished the whole thing. I actually just met Kenny, the guy in picture for the first time right before this picture was taken, but I recognized hit kit as being Indianapolis-based and struck up a conversation. We look so clean, fresh, and hopeful, don't we?


This is me talking to the race director after finishing my 9 hour, 40 minute Stage 1. He's trying to convince me that the stage I just finished was the hardest one. For me, it was, because it was the only day I stuck it out for the entire stage. From my understanding, the second day was actually the hardest, for those that chose to press on through the snow.




Monday, October 26, 2009

Post Pisgah Diet

Okay, so I don't have trouble doing anything without a cigarette, but this commercial epitomizes how I feel trying to watch a movie or enjoy a day off from training without junk food. However, I told myself weeks ago that once the big hairy monster of Pisgah was past, that I would start concentrating on improving the kilograms side of my watts per kilogram ratio during the off and pre-season, when I could best afford some calorie deficits.

I'm in the middle of enjoying a two-week break from training before I start slowly building up in November and resume "real" training in December. I thought that trying to keep myself off junk food while taking time off would be hard, but I think it's actually a bit easier since I can devote 100% of my willpower towards resisting it right now. I think it's a fairly well-researched fact that each person only has a limited amount of willpower that is distributed throughout all areas of their life, and if too much is devoted to one area, it usually slips in another. While I was struggling to get through the last couple of tough training cycles, I was coping by "rewarding" myself a lot food-wise. Now I can concentrate on gritting my teeth and gripping my teacup while I abstain from sugar and other deliciousness.

Of course, I probably won't see any real weight loss until I start training again, but this period is proving to be a good chance to recondition myself. Besides the full focus on diet, I have the advantage that I'm less ragingly hungry than when I'm training and I can allow my stomach to shrink a bit. Plus, there's always that first week or so of getting used to telling yourself no, so it will be a little easier by the time I start riding again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And Then...

Well, given the comments on my last post and the fact that the 2010 DINO schedule was posted while I was away, I don't suppose it would hurt to start discussing the events of my near future. Here is the very tentative 2010 schedule that I sent off to my coach today:

DINO Mountain Bike Series
4/10 DINO Spring Tune-up, Avon
5/1 Warsaw: Winona Lake Trail
6/6 Nashville: Brown County State Park
6/19 French Lick: French Lick Resort (We're getting a genuine US Cup Race!!!)
7/3 North Vernon: Muscatatuck County Park (STXC)
7/4 North Vernon: Muscatatuck County Park (XC)
7/25 Versailles: Versailles State Park
8/15 Logansport: France Park
8/29 Indianapolis: Town Run Trail Park

Endurance events:
3/28 Ouachita Challenge 60 mile
5/29 Mohican 100k (date not official, just guessing)
9/11 24 Hours of DINO, Versailles (9 laps in 12 hours this year?)

I kind of want to pick another 6 hour or 100k-ish race in the last half of the season, but I don't know of any good ones. Any suggestions?

As for the rest of 2009, it's pretty much over. I'm looking at a complete end-of-season break for the next couple of weeks and then an early start on prepping for next year. I may do the Indiapolis CX races just for support reasons, but I'm not sure. I'm not really feeling it right now.

I have started thinking about the 100k gravel road race in Brown County the day after Thanksgiving. Given the proximity of the event, mere $10 entry fee, and the fact that the website very explicitly states that no one will be dragging my sorry butt off of the course, I think it's exempt from my new top 50% rule. That is, I'm okay with one more DFL with such a minimal investment involved. I'm just trying to decide between my 'cross bike and my mountain bike.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race: Up Where I Don't Belong

"I figure the only thing more pathetic than taking a vacation alone in an area where I don't belong is looking back when I am older and regretting not taking this opportunity to ride over a mountain range and on trails someplace other than my back yard." - ZenBicyclist

After two cycling-related trips in about a week and a half, I'm far behind on what's been happening in my Internet world the last couple of weeks. However, as I was combing through more pressing tasks this morning, I noticed the the title "Pisgah National Forest" on my very backed-up blog reading list. Seeing as I had just returned from Pisgah and the author of the post was not one of the folks I had encountered there, I decided to check it out.

It turns out that he was contemplating a vacation there this week (I think), and one of his reasons for choosing the destination was that it would be "warmer than Michigan". Funny, I found it to be exactly no warmer than when I raced in Michigan last fall. The main difference is that I packed much warmer clothing for a November race in in Michigan called the ICEMAN than I did for an October race in North Carolina with no references to cold things in its name. And that, as Robert Frost said, has made all the difference.

More importantly, the thing that struck me most was that "alone" and "don't belong" are exactly the top two things that come to mind about my Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race experience. The alone part is obvious: when time for the race came, neither my husband nor my mother could make the trip with me and I was stuck with a non-refundable deposit on a nice, affordable, and very remote cabin outside of town. In the end, I would have traded my fully-functional kitchen for a hotel room in town with not even a microfridge if it meant closer proximity to the other racers. Good nutrition means nothing if low morale is the price.

The "don't belong" part slowly built as I got lapped in Thursday's short track race that served as the prologue. It was a one-mile lap, half of which was a rooty, sloppy wet, five(?)-switchback climb up a hill on the Brevard campus. The first pass I tried a slow-and-steady and maybe I can ride the whole thing approach. No way. By the last lap I just ran the whole thing because it was faster than constant mounting and dismounting.

I didn't worry about the prologue too much as I was saving myself for the longer stages and putting out a 70% effort at best. However, by the middle of the first long stage it was obvious that it was obvious that I really had no business being there. The stage started with seven miles of constant grinding up a gravel road with a fairly consistent steep grade. It was mostly just a literal pain in the butt because it's hard to just sit still on a mountain saddle and constantly pedal for that long. I'm used to more dynamic activity in one way or another. However, things got plenty dynamic once I hit the singletrack. Dynamic in the sense that the trail was completely muddy with wet roots everywhere and when I wasn't dabbing and dismounting, I was careening all over the trail like a pinball. The trail would have been technical under dry conditions, like a root-heavy Schooner Trace, but wet it was darn near impossible for me to stay on my bike for me than a minute at a time.

After the singletrack, I had four more miles of straight-up grinding where the sweeper and I discussed at length my chances of making the time cutoffs and what was in store for me if I did. Luckily, I made the second cutoff by 20 minutes and since I was told there was only more gravel (even some downhill) and easy singletrack before the next stop, I pressed on. The last stop was a mere five miles from the finish, although I was told that it contained a full mile of hike-a-bike (stuff that only Sam Koerber was said to be able to ride) and a gnarly downhill-bike type downhill. However, I went into it with the attitude that got me into my very first beginner race: "Meh, it's five miles...on a bike."

And much like my first beginner race it was much more five miles with a bike than on a bike. However, it was actually the most fun five miles of the whole trip. I was in the space where I was so far back from the next person that it wasn't even funny, but I had three hours before the final cutoff time and I only mildly cold in my slightly insufficient clothing. I took my time and enjoyed the ride, er walk. Luckily, I had a very cool sweeper named Yuri (sp?) with me and he was very laid back and didn't try to rush me. He actually stopped a few times on some of the better overlooks and told me about the different mountains we could see in the distance. He even took the picture below, one of the few I had time and energy to get while I was there. I finally made it back to finish after 9 hours and 40 minutes to a wealth of pity claps and semi-rock star treatment. It was pretty cool and I felt good having toughed out a situation that I never should have put myself in the first place.


After the first long stage, I think I subconsciously decided that I had proven whatever point that I had come to prove. It was nearly dark when I finished and I still had to clean my bike, wash my clothes, and eat dinner. To make matters worse, I locked myself out of my cabin and had some drama trying to get back in. When I woke up at 5:30 the next morning after six hours of interrupted sleep, I felt like garbage and could barely eat my breakfast. The temperature had dropped to the mid-40's with drizzle and a little snow, and early in the day I decided that I would probably just take the early-bailout time penalty at some point and try to come back strong on the final day. I stuck it out just long enough to get myself soaked on the seven creek crossings, but not enough to ride though the heavy snow at 6000 ft. that would come later in the day.

I had high hopes for the final day, as it was sunny and I was feeling more rested. The only problem was that my toes were still kind of numb from the previous day and I made the decision that it got to the point where my fingers were too numb to shift, I would pack it in. There was hope for a warm afternoon, and I dressed as warmly as I could, although I had not brought many warm clothes. Things looked good on the initial fireroad climb, but the wind was strong up high in the mountains and by the bottom of the first decent I my fingers had completely lost feeling. At that point I realized that punishing myself like that was not worth it and that it was time to call it. I got a ride back and hung out while the pros finished incredibly early in the day and the weather turned surprisingly decent (of course).

I'm sad about how it all ended, but I'm also ready to move on. I came to the decision that Pisgah was my last death march. I'm going to reign things in in 2010 and concentrate on doing well in shorter races rather than throwing myself into the deep end of events that I may or may not be able to finish. There is something very noble about throwing yourself in the deep end and I admire people who are willing to do it in varying capacities, because, it stretches you to be better. However, it's only cute so many times and I think I've befriended enough sweepers and received enough pity claps for one cycling career. When I first started endurance racing, I was pursuing glory; now I'm shooting for something even more difficult: anonymity. My goal for 2010 is to start achieving respectable top 50% finishes in a few 50-60 mile races and not require any special treatment from volunteers or organizers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mental Toughness

You cannot run away from a weakness;
you must sometimes fight it out or perish;
and if that be so,
why not now, and where you stand.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

That quote summarizes so much of what I've learned in the past few months and pretty much the complete opposite of my behavior the last couple of weeks.

In many ways I made great strides in my training this season, since I have achieved levels of volume and consistency far beyond those of my past seasons, but I still haven't had the kind of race success for which I was hoping. It's been said that eighty percent of success is showing up, and I have to say I got really good at showing up this season, at least physically. As the summer wore on, I realized that the problem was a combination of not showing up mentally or lacking that other twenty percent when I did.

That lead me to seek out sports psychology books at my local library, and I checked out The New Toughness Training for Sports which a teammate had suggested on the Velo Bella message board. The most important thing I got from that book was the quote at the top of this post, but I started to glean some other good information as well. My main issue was that the book seemed way too focused on younger athletes, mostly in ball sports. I like many of the author's ideas, but I just couldn't identify when having pressure from my parents as one of my major stressors, so I returned the book halfway through and got Toughness Training for Life instead. I'm about a third into the book and I'm pretty happy so far, but I'm also a bit disappointed that author doesn't seem to realize that adult amateur athletes exist. However, I realize that my perception is a bit skewed as to the size of that population and realize that is probably significantly larger than it was in the early '90's when the book was written, due to the increased accessibility/popularity of running races, triathlons, and cycling races, especially cyclocross. Perhaps the author needs to get to work on "Toughness Training for Grownups Who Work Because They Have To, Race Because They Want To, and Wear Themselves Pretty Thin in the Process. " I would totally read that, but until then, I think I can get what I need from the later book.

All of that being said, the information in the book will help me, but it doesn't fully address the "weakness" as it applies to me. At some point in the summer, I realized that I was gravitating towards endurance racing not because I actually had a gift for it, but because it allowed me to run away from my weaknesses in cross country and cyclocross racing. While I think it's perfectly acceptable for me to prefer endurance racing, which after the DINO 6 hour I really believe I do, I realize that I must "fight it out or perish" when it comes to my shorter race weaknesses. I can't reach my full potential as a cyclist in any discipline if I'm running away from a weakness.

The part I'm having a problem with is, "Why not now, where I stand?" This could not have been any more evident than in my cyclocross races the last two weekends (notice the lack of race reports). Basically, I came into the races with low energy and low motivation, because I've been giving everything I have left into preparation for Pisgah, while I've been struggling against my usually August and September malaise. To make things worse, realizing that my cyclocross problems are in my head did nothing to improve them, it just helped me make excuses to myself.

So while "now, where I stand" is good in theory, I'm am standing on the edge of a much bigger and more imminent battle. At least it's one in which my strength, if there is one strength I have, lies. I really struggle with holding my intensity in the first few painful minutes of a cross country or cyclocross race, but it when it comes to the moments of, "Okay, Lindsay, you got yourself on this stupid mountain, now you gotta get yourself off," I know that I have a pretty good track record.

The good news is that I have formed a solid plan for conquering my weaknesses this winter and next season. After I return from Pisgah, I plan to rest up, regain my strength, and come out ready to fight next spring.

But for the next few days, this is what I am up against:

Cycling Videos on CyclingDirt

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ride of the Century

Fifty Miles In

This weekend concluded my last big training block before Pisgah and probably for the rest of the calendar year. For Saturday, I was charged with riding a road century, which was interesting for me as I'd long kept the dirty little secret that Lindsay Rodkey: Wannabe Endurance Stud had never ridden more than 70 miles on a road bike. The major reason for this had to do with my propensity for solo riding and the difficulty presented by trying to carry seven hours worth of food and water with me on a road bike. Long mountain bike rides are a bit easier, since I'm used to multi-lap formats, so I'm never far from the car and I don't feel like dork wearing a hydration pack on a mountain bike.

So when my September FasCalendar arrived with a road century on it, I searched the internet for a organized ride that would provide me with food and water stops along the way. I found that the Falling Leaves Blue Heron Bicycle Tour was the closest ride with a 100 mile option that day.

Unfortunately, "closest" still meant that it was nearly three hours away, but at least I had until 9:00 a.m. CDT (10:00 a.m. EDT) to sign in. I left around 6:15, but I had to stop at a gas station for a nap, because I was having trouble staying awake. Then it took me a while to find the place, because Rocky Point, IN is not on any map that I could find, so I basically had to get to the closest town that WAS on a map and stop for directions.

I was dressed and ready to start riding at about 8:45, but when I went to sign in, I got a bit of, "You're really right on the line of when we would recommend starting the 100; otherwise we'd probably tell you to do a shorter distance, but you look like an experienced bike rider." Eh, we'll see, but I drove over three hours to ride 100 miles and that is what I'm going to do. It really worked out for me, because I was determined to chase down some other 100 mile riders and not be the last one in.

I pulled out of the registration area with an "endurance pace be damned" attitude after riding hard for six hours the previous weekend. I has caught and passed some of the shorter distance people by the second aid station, and there was one lonely bike on the ground when I got to the third. It belonged to another 100 mile guy, so I knew I was no longer going to be the last one in or at least not by any significant amount of time. He rode a bit faster than me, but took longer stops, so we kept regrouping at the aid stations. By the last 15 mile section, we had caught four more guys, so I successfully avoided SAG wagons and sweepers.

It took me just a tad over seven hours, although the official route came out to be about 98.5 miles on my PowerTap. A couple of guys went past the finish to get the full 100, but that seemed a bit silly to me. I figured that finishing what was advertised as a century was enough.

After getting some free food and driving another exhausting three hours back home in the dark and rain, I had to get back up and do it all over again on Sunday. Well, not all. I only had to do four hours on Sunday, which came out to be about 52 miles on my tired legs. I'm still a little scared of the four days of major accumulated fatigue that I will experiencing in a mere 2.5 weeks, but hopefully this weekend has me a bit more prepared and after my taper I will be rearing to go.

Monday, September 21, 2009

6 Hours (2 Minutes, 58 Seconds) of DINO

I'm just now getting to this race report, because frankly, I was too friggin' tired to type yesterday. I was also hoping I might get my hands (er, mouse?) on some pictures, but that hasn't happened yet. I really need to get myself a real camera besides my cell phone.

Anyway, I did the the 6 hour solo division of the 24 Hours of DINO race on Saturday. My objective was simple: Bust out one last long MTB ride before Pisgah, aided by cheering bystanders, uni-directional bike traffic, and the motivation of knowing that I was being timed. After reviewing the times from the triathlon that used the same course at Versailles earlier in the summer, I came to the conclusion that I could probably do the 13-mile laps in 1:30 a piece. That meant that I should be able to do a total of 4 laps/ 52 miles before the race was over. To prevent my usual goal creep, I told myself that I was in for the whole 4 laps, even if I couldn't finish in 6 hours. I set a "drop-dead date" of 5:15 p.m. (a lovely term often used at my job for the deadline at which a project must be either completed or abandoned). As long as I had started my fourth lap by that time, I was going to be in it to finish it, whether lap 4 showed up in the final results or not.

The race began with a LeMans start, where we had to run to our bikes with either a wheel or a seat removed. I lined up at the back with the "I'm in no hurry" group of 24 soloists and other non-aggressors, and when the gun went off we casually jogged/waddled/walked to our bikes took off once the wheels or seats were intact. The casual, polite start lead to a train going into the singletrack. Instead of a sprint for the hole shot, it was more of a long discussion of who was in the least hurry and switching places based on who thought they were slower than whom. Things were spreading out a tiny bit by the time we hit the twisting section of Shadow Run and I found myself with a couple of fast guys who were racing the 24 solo. Since they was very little elevation change, my ability to stay with them hung on my willingness to step out of my bike handling comfort zone more than my physical exertion. I was feeling really cool for a little while, until I turned my bars a little too much through a corner and crashed. It's always good to smack the crap out your knee 13 minutes into a 6 hour race.

Nita was racing the 12 hour solo and she caught up to me while I was getting myself upright. We rode most of the first lap together, only getting separated when each of us stopped for minor adjustments. When finished the lap, I was pumped to see that we'd come in a couple of minutes shy of 1:30, and she went to "powder her nose", while I kept going in hopes of finishing sub-6 after all.

The next two laps were pretty uneventful, as I just rode on, hovering just below my cross-country race effort. I finished the third lap with 4:31 on the race clock, so I knew that I had a shot at actually getting my fourth lap to count. My mojo got messed up a bit as I shifted down for the first climb of the lap and my chain came off. Luckily, I got it back on and had no more problems, but by the point, fatigue was starting to catch up with me. I did everything I could to channel all the advice I'd gleaned from the sports psychology book I've been reading (need to write about that some time) and hold it together, despite being tired. A lot of the time it felt like my legs were powering the bike along, but the rest of my body was just clinging on for the ride. I was also getting kind of cranky with the clean, fresh team guys passing me, who were probably only their first or second lap.

When it was over, I'd only slowed down 1-2 minutes for the last lap, although it felt much longer. I'd posted a really awesome time (for me), but I was still 2 minutes and 58 seconds away from having the last lap officially count. That was a little bit of a bummer, but it didn't make any difference in the placings as the first place woman did five laps and second place did four way faster than me. However, when the results were posted on the website, my fourth lap was among them, and I was ahead of eight men. I can't complain about that.

So in the end, I was extremely proud of my effort this weekend. While I have raced longer races, that was first time being on the rivet for six hours straight and it was really exciting. My previous best long ride/race was the two laps I did at the Lumberjack this year, where I did 50.8 miles in 7:13 and this weekend I did 52 miles in 6:01:01 (official bike computer time). I know you can't really compare between courses, but that's a huge improvement.

Will I be able to ride this wave of badassery on to Pisgah? We shall see. I'm a little worried after reading Carey Lowery's recon report, but I think I'm tough enough to handle it. I just may need the full 11 hours per stage that they are predicting for slow people.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Scaredy Cat



With a dirty, bleeding ankle like that, I must have been out on one epic mountain bike ride last night, right?

Actually, I was scheduled to do a one hour mountain bike skills ride and I didn't feel like packing up my bike and driving somewhere to ride for one hour. Instead, I did a mostly "urban ride" that took me out to the secret singletrack and back. Instead of the usual route, I decided to go right at the T instead of left, so that I could see where the trail went in that direction. It went a lot further than I expected it to and my exploration ended in a dry creek bed at the bottom of a steep, slightly washed-out downhill. I couldn't really see where the trail went on the other side of the creek bed, so I stopped and put my foot down while took a look. Unfortunately, I put my foot down on a mossy rock and fell over. How's that for an epic bike crash?

I could tell that the trail went on past the creek bed, but it was time to turn around time-wise, and I still had to go back up the hill I had just ridden down. I was also getting a bit freaked out at that point, because I was further into those woods than I'd ever been before and I wasn't feeling that good about it. It's not an official mountain bike trail and I don't really know who it belongs to or who else might be back there. It took about 60 seconds for me to go from totally fine to thoughts of serial killers hiding in the woods.

What is it about me watching Fear Itself on cable on demand and then going and riding in creepy remote areas alone? The stories aren't that scary, but try watching this intro and see if you want to go ride in the woods by yourself.

The good news is that I rode pretty darn fast back to civilization, speeding up a bit with every snapping twig or thump that I heard. I think I may be sticking to sanctioned trails again for a while, but in retrospect, it was kind of fun.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Little Pony


Most of my blog posts can be grouped into three categories:
1) Workouts I dominated
2) Races I did not dominate
3) Things I bought or were given to me by Adam as I token of his affection.

This one falls into category 3, because this week has been a bit of a gray area training-wise. After my supreme laziness last weekend, Jason let me off the hook for my one meaty workout this week, so it's just been a lot of a Zone 2 that's not too exciting to talk about.

I am, however, pretty excited about my new shoes. I've been wanting new road shoes for a while now (preferable white, because that's so pro), but they were pretty low on my priority list because the Sidi T1 triathlon shoes that I've been road riding in since 2005 are still perfectly functional, except that I haven't actually done a triathlon since 2005. However, when I discovered these puppies in the Velo Bella classifieds for $100, I jumped on it (they are listed for $350 on teamestrogen.com). They are Sidi's second most high-end women's road shoe, and the most high-end that they make for small-footed women like me.

Most importantly, they are white and they are sexy, at least for cycling shoes. However, instead of being plain white, they are shiny, iridescent white. The girl I bought them from said that her boyfriend described them as being made from My Little Pony skin, which is both hilarious and slightly disturbing, since I once had an obsessive devotion to My Little Ponies. The original 1980's versions were not iridescent though, so I think can happily wear the shoes without imagining them being made from the hide of Baby Glory.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Supremely Lazy

After the Logansport DINO fiasco, I promised I would find something positive to say about DINO Town Run. I actually have something very positive to say: Absolutely, nothing bad happened to me at DINO Town Run. Of course, I'm going to pin that mostly on the fact that I wasn't there, but I have to say it was a good day.

Despite having a recovery week the past week, I still wasn't over the "hit the wall" feeling that struck me during/after the women's clinic. A really light training load, with three days of no riding at all had helped my physical fatigue, but even as the three-day weekend commenced, I felt mentally tired and overwhelmed. I was also dreading the race on Sunday, because last year's town run was particularly humiliating for me and nothing about my results so far this summer indicated that today would be better. I just wanted cross country season over, so I can move on to forms of cycling where failure is more relative and less personal to me.

So when Adam announced this morning that he felt too sick to race due to the allergies and/or cold that have plaguing him for the past three or four days, it only took me 15-20 minutes of debating before I let myself off the hook. Sure, if I were properly motivated I would have got in the car and gone to the race alone, but I wasn't. I decided that as burned out as I've been feeling that I should just take my first blow off day since February. Rest days are much more restful when they are on weekends, rather than having to work all day and then just getting a couple of hours of anxious free time before I have to get ready to go to bed for the next day's work.

The good news is that I was supremely lazy today and I actually got to spend some time with Adam, since we weren't on our usual completely opposite work/riding schedules. Tomorrow is more of the same, except I will go out and do my planned two hours of Zone 2. Then I will watch the season finale of the Secret Life of the American Teenager and be kind of happy that I don't feel obligated to watch any more TV for a while.

I also managed to clean the bathroom clean out my closet and take a bunch of stuff to Goodwill and the local charity thrift store that gives office/interview closed to abused women. Basically, I feel like I can go back to work on Tuesday and feel like I got to do everything I wanted to do over the weekend, which is rare. I'm pretty excited about that.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

BikeClicks Racer Chicks Clinic

Last weekend I attended the BikeClicks Racer Chicks clinic in Louisville as a quick and dirty attempt to hone my road racing skills. Until last spring, I was terribly afraid to try road racing, both because I was afraid of crashing and because I was afraid of getting dropped. Of course, both of those things happen in mountain bike racing, but they tend to be less painful on the dirt. Last spring I finally decided to try my hand at a couple of circuit races and survived unscathed, despite some rather glaring tactical errors on my part. I expect that when the early spring, tiger-in-a-cage feeling hits again this March, I will once again be compelled to race on the skinny tires while I wait for the trails to dry, so I should make some attempt to look like I know what I'm doing next time.

As it tends to happen lately, I was too caught up in the activities to capture them on camera, but if you want to see some pictures, they are here.

So Saturday morning I was up at 5:30 with a plan to leave by 7:00, but my stomach was feeling rebellious and insisted we stay in the house until 7:15. The continental breakfast portion of the clinic was supposed to start at 9:00, and I crossed the river at ten 'til. I so far was successfully reaching my exit on I-64, but I managed about 5 or 6 wrong turns and a restroom stop after that, and I arrived at the clinic around 9:30 completely stressed out. Fail.

The morning portion was pretty informal. We spent the morning talking about our racing experience and what were hoping to learn and the instructor, Nicola Cranmer talked about how she went from horse racing jockey, to mountain bike racers, to road racer, to founding the ProMan Hit Squad professional women's cycling team. It was very interesting, especially since the participants ranged from complete beginners to Cat 1 or 2 women.

After devouring a sort of huge sandwich for lunch, we set out on our group skills ride. The first order of business was to have the more experienced riders pair off with the less experienced riders and run into them. Okay, okay. We just rode really close side-by-side and practiced likely bumping arms/shoulders so that we wouldn't freak out if it happened in a race. I willed myself to be okay with it at 7 mph, but I still can't confirm that I won't freak out if it happens in a race.

Then we practiced out paceline skills, it wasn't too bad when we were riding two-abreast and each pair pulled at a pretty easy pace for a few minutes each. However, once we got to more open road, Nicola had us do a single paceline with ten-second pulls. This was a lot harder on me since I was having a terrible time keeping the right space between myself and the person in front of me. I kept letting the gap get a little too big, accelerating to close then then getting too close to their wheel and having to coast or alter my line to keep from hitting them. The pace was actually not that tough, but I was wearing myself out mentally and popped before we reached our destination.

That was bad, since I didn't know my way around, and just allowing myself to get dropped wasn't an option. Things got pretty ugly inside of my head during the final grueling miles out to the crit course where we were to have more skills practice. A week of hard training, stressful work, and an early and exhausted exit from my bed were not playing in my favor. I was not loving "road racing" at that moment.

Luckily, we got to the crit course, everyone else ate some gelato while I recovered, and the crit skills portion of the clinic was easier on me. I even attempted to ride in the drops a bit. I was able to pull it together on the ride back and do okay in the two-abreast paceline.

Despite being more challenging than I had expected, the clinic was a good experience for me. However, by the end of the day on Saturday, I had hit a mental and physical wall and had no desire to get up early and return for the Sunday race. Instead, I slept in, did a couple of hours of Zone 2, and got an early start on my much-needed recovery week. I'm trying to get myself pumped for the last three weeks of hard training before tapering for Pisgah.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Last One

In yet another of my favorite sports-themed media items, the book Running with the Buffaloes, there is a chapter called, "It's My Last One, Bitch!" The phrase comes from freshman Steve Slattery's reply when he is chided by the team captain for running too hard during a workout. I'm pretty sure I may have also said it in my head last night when I blew past some soft-pedaling guys who were also doing intervals on Bottom Rd.

Yes, last night concluded my Vo2 build-up for the month with 2 x (2 x 5 min). Despite having lingering fatigue left in my legs from the weekend and the plethora of gnats that kept trying to fly in my mouth and stick to my sweaty arms, I completed the workout in quite a respectable fashion. I averaged 187 for the set and set a new best 5 minute power of 194.

While there's still quite a jump between what one can do for 5 minutes and FTP, last night's workout was getting darn close to the magic number of 200. That's given me extra motivation today since I've been making great progress towards my wattage goal, but I'm still a long way off from the 115 pound weight goal that goes with it. Even with a lot of improvement, I'll still only be able to produce good skinny-girl level power, and I won't be very fast unless I have the skinny girl body to go with it. When I get the urge to eat sugar or other refined carbohydrates, I'm going imagine myself eating up all my power gains along with it.

As for other lasts, I also got my last month of workouts leading up to Pisgah last night. Everything's scheduled except for the last ~10 days of taper. I excited when I saw it, because it's looks like I'm going to get to race a couple of 'cross races and do a couple of Wednesday night 'cross training races.

In general, I'm kind of happy to see that my calendar doesn't have too much of a "OMG, Pisgah!" theme to it. The endurance is interesting: another 3.5 hour "freestyle sweet spot" mountain bike ride (lets see if I can kill this one, too), 6 of the 24 Hours of DINO, and finally a road century a couple of weeks before the race. The road century was 100% Jason's idea, but I kind of like it. I looked on the internet to see if I could find an organized ride that day so that I wouldn't have to be bored and alone, and I think I found a viable option in Very Southern Indiana that looks like fun.

Since the Lumberjack, I've been hesitant to be "OMG, anything", because that was how I was the first half of the season and it ended up being a disappointment. The irony is that Pisgah was supposed to be carrot that kept me training hard through the end of the season, and as it's turned out, it's more like I've been training hard in spite of it, not because of it. Everything that I've done the last two months has been because I'm sick of being slow and I feel like I've been training for some unknown success that's three years in the future or something. Whatever happens in October happens, but as the race gets closer, things are becoming a bit clearer to me: I think it will hurt really bad and that it will be really good for me. I think I'm a little less scared of the ugly place than I used to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Because I Really Needed a Second Blog

For quite some time I've been wanting a place to write down my random thoughts about TV, movies, books, and whatever else, just in case there are a few people in the world who share my tastes and sense of humor. Those people need something to Google, right? Well, just in case, I've started a second blog, so feel free to check it out and see if you are one of those people.

http://myownmyopicobservation.blogspot.com/

I'm going to try this for a while and see how it works out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rode Hard

Wet Dirty Cycling Clothes

The phrase "rode hard and put up wet" definitely comes to mind after this weekend's workouts, although I'm not particularly a fan of that phrase. It sounds like it means something dirty, even though I learned enough in my horse-crazy youth to know that it is not dirty at all. Basically, if you put a sweaty, overexerted horse in its stall before walking it around to cool down and possibly putting a blanket on it, it will get sick (read Black Beauty), much like what would happen to me if I sat in my sweat-soaked cycling clothes longer than than the time it takes to drink my chocolate milk and download my power file. Luckily, there are things called hot showers. I guess the reason that the phrase comes to mind is that I've just completed two longish days (3.5 hours each) where I rode to exhaustion and ended up soaked in sweat, despite upper 60's/ lower 70's temperatures.

Yesterday included part three of a four-part build-up of Vo2 Max intervals that Jason has me doing this month. I started with 2 x (2 x 2 min.) a couple of weeks ago, followed by 3 minutes last week, and then 4-minuters on Saturday. I finally cracked and fell short of averaging 200 watts for the set, but not by much. It sure was painful, though.

After that, I still had over two hours of endurance riding to complete and Emily joined me for that portion, since she become a Bloomingtonian last week. It was fun seeing her and catching up, but we got so busy chit-chatting that I forgot to eat or drink. To be exact, I consumed about 12 oz. of water and zero calories during the 3.5 hour ride. That wasn't really the best idea, since I'd exerted myself so much early in the ride. By the time I got home, I was cold, shaky, and starving, although I hadn't really noticed myself feeling bad until we were already back in town.

Despite a hard day yesterday, I was able to pry myself from pajamas and my Sookie Stackhouse novel for another 3.5 hours of Zone 2 today. For most of the summer, my Sunday Zone 2 rides tend to regress into "sit on the bike and soft pedal for the assigned amount of time" because that's all I can muster by the end of the training week. However, I know this isn't maximizing my training, so I've been trying to put in better efforts on my Zone 2 rides lately. Today I forced my tired to legs to turn hard enough to keep my heart rate in the 160's (I prefer HR over power on long rides), but I definitely felt wasted again by the time I got home.

This is the first time that I've felt truly tired since before the Lumberjack, although I've dealt with a lot of mental fatigue and sleep deprivation since then. I definitely prefer the deep physical tiredness that I'm feeling now, especially now that I've had a hot shower and some dinner.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Working

Does anyone else find this commercial equally creepy and hilarious?

After finally unloading my Billy Brubaker metaphor from my brain and semi-successfully avoiding the need to drag through yet another bummer race report, I've decided to try and unload a few more things that have been floating in my brain during the past few weeks. I make no promises as to how coherent this will be.

Speaking of bummer race reports, I get the feeling that people don't like reading them and I don't blame them. I don't like writing them, but I guess I'm committed to truth in journalism or something.

It's funny, because the other day Adam told me that his friend who I don't even really know mentioned that I sounded discouraged in my blog. That's not really the reaction I want my writing to produce, but I guess there is some truth to it. For whatever reason, my race times are still slower than were two years ago, despite much better training. If pressed, I would call it a combination of bad luck weather-wise, race-day mental distress, and possibly the fact that all of the extra watts are being sucked up by the 15 extra pounds that I didn't have to contend with in 2007.

However, after the initial post-race cooling off period, I'm doing okay. What I'm doing is working.

After the Lumberjack, I said that I would focus on on the trail in front of me and I for the most part I've done pretty well at that. Despite some extra stress at work and dip in what I will call "surface motivation", I've still not missed a workout and really nailed several of them. No matter what's going on or how I'm feeling, when it's time to go to work on the bike, I'm getting the job done day after day. Even if I'm not seeing the immediate rewards that I'd hoped for, my numbers say that my day is coming.

As for my post-race negativity, everything I said back in June is still 100% true:

"Here's the thing. I'm not going to quit racing just because I'm not good at it. I'm also not going to resign myself to being a happy, smiley, back-of-the-packer with a "healthy attitude". I'm going to keep working and take this thing as far as I can take it, even if it doesn't go as far as I'd hoped. I'm going to stop caring what other people think, especially when they think I don't deserve to care about racing because I'm slower than them. I'm going to do what I want and I'm going to care as much as I want, because that's what I want to do. I'm not going let anyone tell me how I should feel, either."

Unfortunately, part of caring about something is being disappointed when it doesn't work out the way you wanted. I assert full rights for feeling disappointed after a bad race. I also feel like I'm dealing with it pretty well this year, as I'm not letting these setbacks throw me off course. However, I'll admit nobody likes a whiner, so whatever happens at Town Run, I'll try and think of something nice to say.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two Metaphors, One Race Report

You may have noticed by now that I like metaphors, and since my race report from DINO Logansport would be pretty boring if told it literally, I've decided to tell it in metaphor.

First, I would like you to imagine being a rag doll with little floppy rag doll arms and legs. Then imagine being dunked in a bucket of water so that your floppy rag doll arms and legs are wet and heavy. Finally, imagine trying to race a mountain bike like that. That's pretty much my race today. As for possible explanations, I'm going to say a combination of the heat and a phenomenon that will hereafter be known as "my brain on DINO".

As for my second metaphor, it doesn't specifically relate to the race today, but I thought it up several weeks ago and I've been wanting to mention it since. It came up when I was watching a very edited for TV version of Summer Catch, which is a goofy teen comedy from the early 00's about college/amateur baseball players in a summer league in hopes that will be noticed by professional scouts. It's also about Freddie Prinze, Jr. romancing Jessica Biel, but that part is pretty uninteresting except for the part where says in her most breathy voice, "If want big rewards, you gotta take big risks." So cliche, but kinda true. It's not really one of my "favorite" movies, but I feel the urge to watch it every time it's on TV.

Anyway, since the last time I watched it, I've been thinking about the subplot involving Billy Brubaker, the catcher player by Matthew Lillard. He goes through a significant number of games without a single hit, because he is not used to using wooden bats and really struggles adjusting to them. It gets to the point where he packs up his stuff and is ready to go home, but of course, FPJ's character plots to derail his trip to the bus stop with a night of debauchery with baseball groupie, Dee Dee Mulligan. Strangely, at no point does FPJ tell him "it's just baseball and we do it for fun".

After waking up hungover and wearing a thong, Billy Brubaker suits up for the next day's game and gets on base with a bunt, marking his first hit of the season. He does a happy dance and saves the ball, and the movie cuts to a montage of him hitting successfully and his batting average climbing on a news ticker.

Sure, I love cheesy sports movies as much as I love metaphors and I know darn well that real life doesn't always work that way. However, since I watched that scene I can't help wondering if all I need is a Billy Brubaker moment, some minor score to get me out of a rut. Or maybe I need a night of debauchery; I'm not sure.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Now U Can Haz More Wattz, Too

As promised, Jason published an article about his famous race simulation workout on Singletrack.com. Check it out and with any luck, a few months from now I should have random people telling me about the sweet new workout they've been doing.

http://singletrack.competitor.com/race/training/training-race-simulation/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Song for Cyclocross

Every time I think of you, I always gasp for breath
And I'm still sitting here, and you're weeks away
And I'm wonderin' why I left
And there's a storm that's raging through my lactic acid-filled legs tonight

I see your name all over Facebook, and it always makes me smile
All my friends keep talkin' about you, and it's almost driving me wild
And there's a heart that's breaking on this registration site tonight

I ain't missing you at all, since I'll been gone away
I ain't missing you, no matter what I might say

~~~

When I signed up for Pisgah Stage Race last spring, the thought of sacrificing a season of cyclocross for it didn't bother me one bit. After all, I suck at 'cross, right?

However, after a few months of reflection and the fact that the best race I've had this season was a 30-minute short track race, I'm starting to question the whole "I suck at 'cross" belief that I made up ago couple of years ago. Yeah, I've had some pretty questionable 'cross results the last couple of years, but I also had some pretty questionable training in July-September the last couple of years. Could it be that 'cross was a litmus test for my real fitness level rather than the fact that something in my genetic makeup makes me especially weak and ungainly when riding a rigid bike over rough, grassy ground?

Okay, I admit that the 'cross bike/grass combo puts a hurt on a me like nothing else I have ever known (I do it for the thrills, the skinsuits, and the pageantry), but having never actually been inside the body of an elite mountain bike and cross racer, I can't say that transition away from suspension and buff singletrack isn't just as rough on them. I also must admit that, while I have a special affection for Jake, he isn't exactly the most high-end bike in the world and he may not be helping with the roughness.

Regardless, I've decided that the "I suck at 'cross" excuse is not going to fly anymore, anyway. It's a little too much like the stereotypical old "When am I going to use this in real life?" excuse about high school Algebra. I may never become a 'cross "specialist", but I think it's important for identifying strengths and weaknesses that carry over to my other races.

Good bike racers are good bike races no matter what type of race you put them in. Adam Craig, Rachel Lloyd, Katie Compton, and Georgia Gould all come to mind. Heck, I wouldn't bet against Mark Cavendish in a local amateur hill climb race, even though that's his "weakness". (Less than 25% slower than the top climbers in the world is still pretty fast.)

Having thought about all of this, it's not really going to change my plans for fall, because I've committed to Pisgah. However, it may change my attitude about what I'm going to do in November and December when I get back. That is, if I my legs are still attached when I get back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Morning Woods

Saturday morning I had the rare experience of having Brown County all to myself, in nice weather, and on dry trails. Of course, that only lasted about an hour and I had to get up at 5 a.m. to do it.

The reason I was up so early was because Adam was racing in Indianapolis in the afternoon, but he was leaving just late enough for me to get sneak in my assigned MTB ride before he left. So I got up at 5:00 to be at the trail by 7:00. For the first time I can remember outside of really crappy weather, I was the first car in the parking lot.

My assignment was a 3.5 hour ride with "freestyle sweet spot". Since I didn't really know what that meant, so I decided to take it easy up the connector trail and when I hit the North Tower Loop, ride at 80% of race effort for as long as I could keep it up.

It turned out that I could keep it up for quite a while. I tried really hard not to look at my watch the first lap, but I took a little glance at the end and realized that I'd done a 58 minute lap. When I was gearing up for the Lumberjack, my laps were 65-70 minutes, albeit at a lower effort level. While I was going hard, I certainly didn't feel blown out in the way that I usually do after the first hour of an XC race. I kept on going and busted two more laps at 56 and 59 respectively. I almost went out for another lap of the North Tower Loop only, but I realized that was cutting it a little too close on time, since I couldn't afford to go longer than planned that morning. So I took the long way back to the parking lot through the Pine Loop and erred on the side of going a little short instead of a little long.

It was a good ride, because I think that, for the first time, I actually felt what endurance racing is supposed to feel like. I was going hard for over 3 hours and I still felt like I could have kept that pace for another hour. I only got 28 miles in, but I got a taste of something sweet, and now I can totally imagine being able to go that hard for 50 miles by the end of next season.

So, needless to say, I skipped the third iteration of DINO Versailles yesterday. The stage race was much more important to Adam that the Versailles race was to me, and while I might have been able to bum a ride to the race, I really just didn't feel like trying to. I saw the results this morning and it doesn't look like I missed much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shiny Short Adventures

As you may remember, when I crashed on the road doing some pre-Lumberjack sprints back in June, my first thought as I was sliding down the road was not about how I was getting hurt before the big race, but about how I was destroying my good pair of bibs. When I got home from the crash, I showed the holes to Adam and expressed my dismay. He said, "Can't you just get a new pair?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your local team keeps a full stock of extra kits year-round and they just happen to be stored at your shop. Not so easy for me. While Louis Garneau makes fabu-tastic bibs for the Velo Bella team, they are quite hard to obtain. We haven't had a full team clothing order since January 2008, and there probably weren't that many extra pairs of bibs, anyway. Unless there is some obscure black market of which I am unaware, I'm out of luck until the next order. (Pilfered ivory? No. Cocaine? No. Human kidney? No. Velo Bella bibs, size medium? YES!!!) The crash taught me an important lesson about buying extras (and maybe some extras to scalp later).

So after six weeks of riding around in holey-butt shorts, I finally decided to break down and buy a pair of plain bibs to train in until the next team order. I still have one pair of VB bibs from 2007, but are definitely showing their age, so I'm trying to ration their remaining usability. One side effect of this is that I've begun thinking of even more excuses to wear my short-sleeved skinsuit, which is still in great condition, to more races.

The problem is that I've yet to find a pair of non-team bibs that I don't hate. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried out Boure's bib tights and knickers last winter, so I decided to get their summer bibs a shot. They are okay, but not as good as the LG's. Mostly, they are shiny. See them sparkle in the sunlight on my ride last night:





Last night I had a two-hour ride with 2 x (2 x 1 min.), then finish out the time in Zone 2. I did my intervals on a short steep hill right outside of town and then continued out Old 37 to do my Robinson Rd. loop backwards. As I was heading down the fire station hill and riding all swervy while I tried to get my shiny-short chamois settled, I must have encountered at least 20 cyclists, at least half of whom I knew, in about a half-mile. For some reason, I found myself a little embarrassed, as if I wanted to say, "Hey guys, I don't always wear the uncomfortable shiny-shorts on road rides; it's just something new I'm trying." Of course, I'm sure no one even noticed my shiny-shorts. I'm probably just self-conscious.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You Are Here


I'm not sure why I felt the need to make this just now. Sometimes I just need a little perspective (and a few more pictures).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

No One Really Wanted To See Me On a Box Anyway, Right?

'Cause I was on a box, but I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to take a picture, because I was alone on the box and posted a pretty weak time getting there.

But technically (and only technically), I won the women's Cat 2 class at the DRT Brown County time trial today. The details aren't that exciting; I just didn't ride well and fell well short of my goal of staying within 10 minutes of the Cat 1 girls.

One thing that I realized today is that my race-pace handling skills are not as good as I thought they were. This year I've spent my skills sessions working on muscling over rocky formations and I haven't put much time in on corning work. However, there were two different instances today where I got dropped on downhills when I really shouldn't have. I also rode like the biggest sketchball ever on the Aynes descent, but that can largely be credited to fatigue.

Speaking of a different type of skills, I think I've decided to this women's road racing clinic. Even though I don't ever see myself becoming a serious road racer, I've discovered that it's fun to race road sometimes for a change of scenery. Hopefully, this clinic will help me be able to race a little smarter when I do race on the road.