Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
I have successfully survived another training cycle, which was capped off with a 14.5 hour week that ended yesterday. Furthermore, today the 50th day in a row that I have successfully followed my training plan. I'm halfway to my arbitrary goal of 100 days, and it's kind of fitting that today is a rest day.
Last week I made reference to my being a drama queen the accumulated fatigue that I was experiencing. I've since realized that I'll soon need to move beyond simply tolerating the fatigue (a new development in itself) to full embracing it. The reason? I am giving serious consideration to entering the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race, which is slated for mid-October.
I have pretty much wanted to do a mountain bike stage race since I learned that such a thing existed just few months after I began racing. At the time, there were no stage races in the United States, and only the La Ruta did not require a partner. This made the dream of stage racing seem really remote and far off.
All of the sudden, there is plethora of stage races available in the United States and Canada, and most of them now offer a solo division. I then considered the possibilty of doing a stage race as soon as 2010, if 2009 went okay, of course.
Then I heard about a relatively affordable four day race East of the Mississippi that I theoretically could do THIS YEAR and I got all excited. They even pay age group prize money, and there aren't a lot of girls who are 29 and under who do endurance mountain bike racing. With nearly six months to prepare, I think I can do this.
A week ago I was feeling pretty confident about my endurance racing goals for 2009. Then I got a little worried about my endurance ride on Saturday. Is there still a chance that I will be too slow to finish the Lumberjack, despite all of my hard work? I'm reminded that, even though the last seven weeks feel like a long time, I really haven't been "working hard" for that long.
I feel a little scared about comitting to something so big with the Lumberjack still looming. However, I know I'll work harder if I have something to work for.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
My last singletrack endurance ride left me frustrated, because I only managed to get 26 miles in the allotted four-hour period. Part of the problem was that I used my small ring a lot on that ride, because after three weeks of hard training, my legs burned every time I tried even baby climbs in the middle ring. Yesterday, I was determined to better, even though I woke up that morning already in a deep state of fatigue. Luckily, once I started riding, I didn't feel that bad. I was able to complete in the whole loop in my middle ring no problem, so I was hoping that would improve my pace a lot more over last time. Unfortunately, it didn't really help that much. I managed to cover 33.3 miles (four laps) in 4:48.
My scheduled time had been 4.5 hours and I was hoping to get five laps, and the plan was to go back to the parking lot and refill my hydration pack after three. I finished my third lap in 3:25 and saw that there was no way to get in two laps without going way over time-wise, so I decided to one more lap without a water refill. My water calculations had been correct, as I ran out of water very early in the fourth lap, but I just wanted to get it done and get out of there. It's funny how the mental distress of just knowing you are out of water on a hot day can slow you down.
I did manage to go a little faster than last time, but this ride shook my confidence about the Lumberjack a little bit. I rode exactly one third of a hundred miles, so if you triple my ride time, that comes out to 14:24, which is well past the Lumberjack cutoff time. The good news is that I still have eight weeks to prepare, the Lumberjack course is faster than the Brown County loop, and my legs will be perfectly honed and tapered for the race, rather than flat and toasted like yesterday.
I still have a three-hour "survival" ride this afternoon, and when its done, I'll have about 15 hours for the week and a big rest week ahead.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
But sometimes it's fun to whine, anyway.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Second, I wanted to show off the new silver bar tape that Adam added on Monday. He saw that the black was making my pink gloves dirty, so he switched it to something less rubbable. It's kind of a nice change after three years or so. My road bike is definitely the pure workhorse of my stable, but it was nice to spruce it up a bit.
Finally, I wanted to demonstrate that I pulled out the full winter Napoleon Dynamite booties one more time for the year. From my perch on the sixth floor of the Poplars Building, I watched the weather go from rain to wind to sun to sleet to snow and back and forth in between all day. The temperatures stayed in the mid-forties, so when I went out to ride, I wanted warmth plus protection from whatever the sky might throw at me. Luckily, it just alternated between sun (in which I was too hot) and drizzle (in which I was about perfect). The wind was manageable, and I got in another decent Sweet Spot Bursts workout. My numbers were lower than last week, but that was intentional survival strategy. Only five more days until rest week!
Monday, April 20, 2009
I referred to this ensemble as my "Criterium Barbie" outfit, although the pink shoe covers are apparently the same color as my legs.I ended up doing a road race at Ceraland Park in Columbus, IN on Saturday. I didn't mention this before the fact, because it was kind of a last minute decision. I had been considering doing this race since my first road race a few weeks ago, but I delayed the decision because, prior to the cancellation/uncancellation of the DINO Spring Tune-up, it would have had me racing three weekends in a row. Also, I kind of figured that whatever workout that Jason scheduled for me that day would be more beneficial than and hour at puke effort.
Indeed, when I got this month's schedule, I had a three hour moderate intensity road ride on Saturday and a two and a half hour mountain bike ride scheduled for Sunday. Sticking to that plan probably would have been better preparation for my immediate goals, but in all honesty, I wanted to race and was ready to cave with only minimal peer pressure. So when the minimal peer pressure was applied last week in the form of, "Are you racing at Ceraland this weekend?", I easily caved. However, I stubbornly stuck the to the idea that I was going to get my hours in, puke effort be damned.
I tossed around several plans about how to do this, and drafted my "peers" in Columbus to try and help me find a post-race road route, but as the weekend neared, it became apparent that there was no way a mountain bike ride was going to happen on Sunday, due to all-day rain. So I talked Adam into bringing the mountain bikes so we could stop at Brown County on the way home.
Well, enough with the big picture (or really myopic picture?) for a moment. There is a supposed to be a race report buried in here somewhere. I will start off by saying the weather was slightly better than the last race. I'm not sure if Saturday was the official warmest day of the year, but it was definitely the first time one could comfortably wear short sleeves at 10 a.m.
There were about 12 girls ranging from Cat. 1 to first-timers, but we were on the circuit with a large "citizen's class" field, as well. It was decided before the race that the men and women shouldn't work together, which became a point of contention post-race, and the women started about thirty seconds back.
The field strung out on the first straightaway, but when the rubber band contacted about a half a lap in, most of the women had grouped into a 1/2 pack and a chase pack. I started well and was actually second wheel in the chase pack for a lap or two, until I got anxious and decided to take a pull. However, I pulled too hard, split the pack, and when I pulled off, I found myself unable to stay on the back. I just don't have the patience for road racing yet; I get very anxious sitting on some one's wheel. The good news is that there was zero feeling sorry for myself this time and I rode as hard as I could for the entire race by myself. I managed to pass another dropped girl from the original group near the end, so I pulled off a sweet "not last" place finish.
Perhaps next time I will have a bit more skill and patience to stay with the group, although I'm not really sure when next time will be. I might do the Bloomington Crit, but that isn't until July, and I can change mind about 50 more times before then.
The rest of the weekend was tough and tiring to say the least. We did stop at Brown County on the way home, but I only ended up riding about an hour and a half. I had this crazy idea about getting in three hours and some serious "big girl panty" time that would further prepare my legs for riding tired near the end of the Lumberjack. However, Adam did not want to stay that long, and I started feeling bad about my constant agenda-pushing during my ride. I began to doubt the efficacy of riding much longer on legs that would barely move, since it was my own crazy idea and not coach-prescribed torture, so I turned in early.
Yesterday I woke up feeling the worst I can remember after a race or training day. I was pouring rain all day and it was quite a chore just to get myself out on the bike. Since I no longer had a relevant plan for the day, I went out and "just rode" for a couple of hours. It was another day where simply turning the pedals was all that I could manage.
I finished out the week just shy of 11 hours, but with a lot of intensity thrown in. I have a 14 hour week on tap for this week, but I plan going at it a little easier than the last. I officially have new power zones in which to work, so I'm going to be good and stay within my ranges, rather than trying to be a hero on my intervals this week. It would be kind of cool to actually have something left for my Sunday ride for once.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I spent the day in Indianapolis job shadowing at the IUPUI Registrar's office, so that I would have better I idea of what Registrar's offices actually do, since my job involves supporting their functions. Getting up early, driving by myself in Indianapolis, sitting through training, and generally having my daily routine turned upside down left me pretty exhausted by the end of the day. When I headed back to Bloomington about 4:00, it was 45 degrees, drizzling, and seemed to be getting dark already. There was a definite urge to stop at the Dairy Queen in Martinsville, buy an extremely large Blizzard and some of the "real" DQ food that isn't available in Bloomington, and eat in it front of the TV when I got home.
However, my destiny awaited with the evenings' scheduled workout, so I pressed onward. You see, my race simulation on Saturday earned me a tentative upgrade in my power zones. The plan was to increase the prescribed zone for my workout by 15 watts to see how I fared.
Both the strength and the downfall training with a power meter is its blunt objectivity. When you have a pretty good idea of the number you need to hit to achieve Goal X, and you are nowhere close to that number, it sometimes makes you want to stay home and train more instead of racing. Within reason, I relish any opportunity to squeeze a few more watts out each workout in the hope of getting a little bit closer to the "magic numbers".
Last night was 3 X 8 minutes Sweet Spot, with 10 seconds max effort bursts every two minutes within the interval. I first heard of "bursts" in this article and thought, "Holy Crap! That's exactly the solution to my late race fading!" They'll be especially good in prepping for the Lumberjack 100, as the whole course is short, steep hills that tax the legs a bit more each time. Anyway, I actually completed the workout well above the newly prescribed zone. If I can replicate in tonight's 4 X 9 minutes regular Sweet Spot reps, then I will officially get my zones increased, and spend every workout a little closer to where I want to be.
The closer I am to fast
The closer I am to fast
Saturday, April 11, 2009
It's just as well, because I had a great workout this afternoon. It was a race simulation that consisted of clipping in from a full stop, sprinting for 10 pedal strokes, two minutes Zone 6, five minutes threshold, and ten minutes sweet spot all back-to-back. It was pretty hard, but I was proud of my numbers when it was all done. I was also supposed to ride for "a couple more hours" when I was done with the race simulation, so I gave myself a ten minute soft-pedal break and then tried to settle into upper Zone 2/ low Zone 3. I wanted to put in a better effort than "just riding along" pace, and I did. I only ended up with 2:20 ride time, but I was working hard enough that I didn't feel the need to try to tack on more distance at the end. I was about as worked over at I wanted to be with two very hard weeks ahead of me.
I was sunny and nice today, but the temperature was only in the low-to-mid 50's, so I developed "cyclocross cough" by the time it was over. That happens when I ride really hard efforts in cool/cold weather. I think I will be fine after some echinacea tea and good night's rest.
Friday, April 10, 2009
That was from my very first race in 2006, which was about my fifth time on singletrack and my technical skills did not exist yet. I have a feeling that course is a little easier now that I have become "Rockhopper Rodkey". Instead, I get to do a sweet race simulation workout on the road, that should be really hard but kind of awesome at the same time. I like making my power meter go "vroom vroom".
I can't really explain the sudden burst of cycling related self-esteem. I'm still feeling good about last weekend, time and place aside. Something about the fact that I got faster without really trying makes feel hopeful about the future. Plus, I'm feeling surprisingly grown-up about following my training plan for the first time in my life.
Seeing Sarah last weekend was an inspiration to me, because she's made so much progress in the last year. She mentioned "putting on your big girl panties" when it came to training, and it got me thinking: If you put on your big girl panties often enough, eventually you'll actually become a big girl.
Excuse me while I go change...
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I have been toying with the idea of "jersey cookies" for endurance racing for a few months, since I have now been saved twice by oatmeal cookies at aid stations. I don't have the strongest stomach when it comes to eating on the bike, so my nutrition plans have so far revolved around liquid/gel products. Despite being a bit afraid of eating "real food" in races, I ended up eating oatmeal cookies at the last aid stations of both the OC and the Iceman in 2008, when the end was near and the sports drinks were getting nasty.
So when I was preparing for the Ouachita Challenge this year, I strongly considered supplementing my gel with oatmeal cookies cut into quarters and stuffed my jersey pocket for easy access. Not the cleanest thing in the world, but easy to eat without stopping. However, I abandoned the idea after I finished exactly half of the gel that I brought on my last long ride before the race.
Then Jason called me the day before the OC for a pre-race pep talk/nutrition talk. Much to my surprise, he seemed kind of encouraging about my cookie idea, so I planned on picking some up at the rest stops. Unfortunately, they didn't have the same cookies as last year so that was kind of sad. I ended up making it through the race on 2 1/2 of the 5 gel flasks that I had packed, 2 1/2 bananas, 1 sugar cookie, and 1/2 oatmeal cookie I tried to scarf down on Big Brushy when the ugliness hit. The moral of the story is that real food has real value after all, and gel gets somewhat unpalatable after a while.
With that in mind, I'm doing taste testing in preparation for the Lumberjack 100, which is a little over 10 weeks away. I tried Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Raisin a few months ago when the idea originally struck. They tasted good, but I never actually ate them on the bike because it was the middle of winter and eating cookies takes more manual dexterity than lobster gloves allow. My biggest problem was that despite the "zero grams trans fat" on the label, the word "hydrogenated" still made it's way into the ingredients list.
I really liked the fat-free (more in importantly, hydrogenated-free) cookies in the swag bags at the OC, but the attached card said the minimum order was four dozen. I think four dozen cookies in my freezer would be a really bad thing.
Finally, I noticed Quaker Breakfast Cookies while I was in the grocery store yesterday, and grabbed the box without giving it much of a look. I was under no pretense that they were actually health food or that people should actually eat cookies for breakfast (breakfast is a sensitive subject for me), but I somehow thought they might stack up better than the Pepperidge Farm cookies, which are marketed on deliciousness instead of nutrition. Sadly, when I looked at the nutrition facts on the Quaker Breakfast Cookies, I was shocked. That long column of text in the picture is its ingredient list, and the word "hydrogenated" in there a lot, along with a lot of other big words. It kind of grossed me out that they try market these things as being good for you.
I'm sure I'll find something good soon. I suppose a "dietarily insignificant" dose of hydrogenated-ness isn't terrible, but it would be nice to find a cookie that is tasty, soft, and shelf-stable without it. I'm not sure if that is chemically impossible or not.
Monday, April 6, 2009
This year I had no pretenses of trying to "get ahead of the slow people on the singletrack". I might as well have made a formal announcement, "My name is Lindsay, and I AM one of the slow people on the singletrack." So when the pack started rolling, I started rolling at exactly the pace that felt good to me, going souly on RPE with almost no mind to what my HR or the rest of the group was doing. I did pay enough mind to look back and realize I was literally DFL for a few minutes. I knew that wouldn't last long and that I would eventually pick off a few people before the day was over. Luckily, the first one came as soon as the first significant dirt road climb hit and the girl in front of me got off and started walking. I was shocked, because if you're walking on a dirt road that a car could easily drive up, what are you going to do on Blowout Mountain? I figured that was her decision, though.
So I moved on to where the normal dirt road turned into steep jeep road/double track. This part was kind of funny because I was just sitting in my granny gear easily picking my way up the hill, and observing what I liked to call "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" because it was pretty much a gauntlet of people fixing flats on each side of the road. I had been warned about the sharp rocks in this section, so I make sure to be very careful picking my lines and not going full bore.
After that came the Womble, which was just kind of whatever for me. I was riding reasonably smooth and clean compared to last year, but I still wasn't going particularly fast. I was still reserving energy for later in the day.
I rolled into the first rest stop within my fairly arbitrary time goal, made some minor wardrobe changes due the rising temperature, grabbed some more water, and moved on. I was feeling good about my chances of finishing "pretty", meaning finishing still looking strong with little no doubt that I was going to finish, even if the placing wasn't great.
I knew ahead of time that the course I finished on last year was an abbreviated version, but I didn't really understand the differences for 2009. I knew there was a little more trail and a little more dirt road before the first rest stop, but I didn't know how much more road there was in the middle. Last year it took me 20-30 minutes to get to Chalybeate from the first rest stop and yesterday it took me an hour and a half. During this time, there was a lot of frustration and fear that I was lost, because the blue ribbons marking the course were few and far between. I also had to shoulder my bike and carry it through a thigh-deep creek while holding a rope that was strung up to keep riders from washing away. That would was interesting, but pretty cold, and the soggy shoes weren't fun.
So when I finally arrived at Chalybeate, I was pretty frustrated because my legs and butt were aching from an hour and a half of sitting and spinning. I was also starting to fear that I wouldn't make the last cutoff time. I walked up the initial steep ascent of maybe 100 meters, and then told myself to suck it up and ride the best I could, even if my chances of finishing were waning. Once the determination to suck it up was made, my spirits were quickly lifted when I realized that I was able to clear almost the entire mountain from that point on. That section does have one major rock garden that I wasn't able to clear, but at least this year it looked like something I could ride with a little practice rather than a hopeless mess. By the time I finished the descent, I had given myself the new nickname of "Rockhopper Rodkey", which is quite an overstatement, but I was feeling good about myself.
Blowout mountain was much the same, I had a little trouble getting to a place where I could make a clean run at climbing on the bike, but after two or three attempts I was caught by Jason, my coach. It was funny because that was our first in-person meeting, which was brief, but it seemed like some sort of weird sign. I was able to ride most of the way over the top, with just a few fumbles from that point on. I also rocked the descent for quite a while, although I was forced to walk a lot during the last third of the mountain, because then the rock gardens got too big for me to handle and then there more climbing, which was steeper and rockier than anything else that day.
Around the time that I was able to start riding again, it started getting really cold and the 3:30 cutoff time was rapidly approaching. I rode as well as I could, but since I really didn't have any idea of how much distance vs. time was left I had decided that whatever was supposed to happen would. My only dilemma was if I showed up at 3:28 and had to make the decision of moving on with no time for fresh water or warm clothes or just letting the clock run out.
That didn't happen, because I arrived at the last station at 3:45 and was informed that the cutoff was now 4:00. It was kind of upsetting, because I was already resolved in the fact that I ridden much better than last year and simply wasn't fast enough for the extended distance yet. All of the sudden, I was forced to give up my fantasies of an imminent shower and realized that the decision to finish was back in my hands. Although I could have dilly-dallied in the aid station a couple more minutes and allowed myself to be "administratively pulled", I had come too far to give up unless I really had to.
So I squeaked in just past the cutoff determined to rock Big Brushy the way I had Chalybeate. I did pretty good for a while and then I was joined by Todd, the sweeper, who I was somewhat familiar with through Sarah's blog. We chitchatted for a while, and I was riding well, but then I started to fade. Looking back, it's funny, because during the time thought I had missed the cutoff, I was vaguely disappointed that I would be pulled without ever seeing "the ugly place" where my legs buckled and pedaling up the smallest grade became a Herculean task. Not that I wanted to feel that way, but it just would have felt odd to be pulled off the course still feeling decent. However, to the dismay of myself and both the sweepers, "the ugly place" did come before we were off of Big Brushy and I ended up having to walk a lot, and whimper a little, too.
Once we got on the road, Todd implemented a pull me on the flats, push me up the hills, strategy that got us home much faster than I could have done on my own. When he found out that I was in the 60 mile race, he said that I owed him big time for moving the cutoff and allowing me to go down as an official finisher. By the time the ugliness hit, I wasn't so sure that I was glad that I had been allowed to go on, but he does have my eternal gratitude for helping me back and making sure I DIDN'T GET LOST this year. He even gave me an awesome lead out train for my lantern rouge winning sprint.
I'm well on my way to becoming the Wim Vansevenant of the Ouachita Challenge, so I'm now resolved to do better next year, not for myself, but for all of the volunteers who've had to sit around waiting for me two years in a row. I feel like I need to send them an extra big donation check in addition to my entry fee.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It was kind of funny because it seemed like the park was full of Little 500 riders going the opposite direction, presumably going for a cool-down ride after ITT's last night. I couldn't help but imagine what they were thinking as they met me grimacing, gagging, and grunting through my workout.
Overall, I still did pretty decent, but I wasn't able to produce the numbers I had hoped for a few days ago.