Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I Still Remember How to Ride a Bike

I even remember how to do Sweet Spot Bursts. Well, sort of. It was interesting coming off of nine days of complete rest and doing a hard workout. Three times 10 minutes would normally be "kinda hard", but tonight was more like really hard. I haven't downloaded my file yet, but I think my numbers were acceptable but no where near personal best territory.

Since I was on my "mid-season break" last week, I decided to take a break from blogging. Sure, I could have regaled you with tales of awesomely bad TV and movies and of spectacular feats of junk food consumption, but I decided just to wait until there was more cycling stuff to talk about.

Not that my Sweet Spot Bursts are that interesting. You probably would have rather heard about "Urban Legend: Bloody Mary" and the Brownie Batter Blizzard/frozen pizza combo the Monday after the Lumberjack. That day was pretty much Mardi Gras Lindsay-style.

Anyway, the only real excitement for this week is the "DINO Mountain Bike Challenge" coming up this weekend. I believe that it was listed as a "must do" in the 2009 VeloNews Race and Ride guide, but I can't find that issue to confirm. Basically, there's a short track and downhill race on Saturday and a regular XC on Sunday. I've said that I was going to do the downhill the last two years and I've never actually got up the motivation/guts, but hopefully it will happen on Saturday. I think the key factor will be if it rains before then and how much. That course reminds me of the nursery rhyme about the little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead, because when it's good, it's very, very good, and when it's bad, it's horrid.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A New Attitude

"Don’t worry about riding good or bad, let your mind run blank. It’s hard to explain, because all your planning etc goes around making it a long ride and being ready for a long ride. But when it comes down to the ride, focus on the trail right in front of you. Don’t worry about what’s next or if your nailed or flubbed the last section. Little tiny bites at a time make it really easy to swallow more than you probably can."

That was Jason's sage advice to me a few weeks ago after I struggled on a long training ride. However, I think I may adopt it as my new attitude towards cycling in general.

I'm surprisingly not that upset about not finishing the Lumberjack. Sure, I had to choke back a few tears when I handed in my timing chip early and spent a lot of the drive home worrying about what people would think when I dropped out after all the hype. I could have used my crash as an excuse, but my injuries actually did very little to hamper my performance. Despite three months of really solid training, I just wasn't fast enough in time for the race.

Given those facts, I can either get really pissed that my genetic makeup won't allow me to average 8 mph on singletrack for 12.5 hours after three months on a training plan that probably would have landed a person of normal ability in the top 10 or I can be proud of myself for sticking to that training plan for three months. I've chosen the latter. Because getting mad about my genetic makeup will not do any good.

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.

What I will do is take the next week off the bike, because that's what my training plan says to do. When it tells me to start doing workouts again, I'm going to do them. Maybe I'll set a goal of putting together another 100 days, just for good measure. I'm going to try not to think about Pisgah too much and just do the work until October 15. Then I will accept whatever happens when that day comes. If I can not smash into some pavement on October 12, that's even better.

There's one other thing I've been thinking. You know how some people ride to raise awareness for charities? I think I'm going to start a foundation for TDD (Talent Deficiency Disorder). While there is no cure for this disease, I would like to prove that it can be effectively managed with proper treatment. Eventually, I would like to raise enough money to build the "Lindsay Rodkey Center for Kids Who Can't Ride Good and Wanna Learn How to Do Other Stuff Good Too".

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Lumberjack

Once again, I came home from the Lumberjack without my big "F". I used to not understand why people did things "just to finish". I mean, how hard can it be just to finish something if you train properly? That was before I realized how hard 100 miles of singletrack really is and how it gets even harder if you're abnormally slow.

Basically, I started out feeling fine the first lap. The pace felt good, I was eating exactly when I needed to, etc. My aggressive rehabbing got my crash-related injuries under control to the point that my butt-pain threshold was in sync with my lactate threshold so basically my butt would tell me to back off about the same time my legs did. The pain wasn't bad, just enough to remind me when I was going too hard.

The course was divided into three almost-even sections, because there was an 8-mile inner loop that we did first, and they had an aid station 8 miles into the outer loop. Then there was a 9-mile section back to the pit that was the hardest.

The start was on a paved road and it took about 10 minutes to get to the actual singletrack. After I made it up the first hill, which turned into a bottleneck hike-a-bike for all but the very front of the pack, I just tried to settle in. Then I realized that I needed to complete each section of the course in about one hour to make the time cutoff. So I hit the first one at 1:08, which was less than an hour after the 10-minute roll-out. Then I hit 16 miles in 2:03, and I was feeling really good about my pace. Then the last 9-mile section took a lot longer and I ended up finishing my lap in 3:18. I needed to average 3:20 for the first three laps to make the time cutoff, but I really wanted my first lap to be about 3 hours so I'd have some wiggle room for pit stops and a little slowing down on the next two laps.

Since it was already over 3:20 when I left the pit, I knew that I had absolutely no wiggle room on the next two laps. I tried to pick up my pace on the first 8 mile section of the second lap, but I actually ended up going slower than I had on that section the lap before. At that point, I knew there was no way I was going to make the time cutoff, but I tried to convince myself to at least ride up to the cutoff and get 75 miles in. Unfortunately, I had pushed myself too hard on the last section and my stomach started feeling bad. I slowed down a lot and ended up skipping my next gel, telling myself I'd eat at the next aid station. I slowed down a lot after that because I really had trouble holding it together once I saw that making the cutoff time was out of the range of possibility.

So I stopped after 50 miles really disappointed but not totally surprised. My best ride up until that point was 41 miles in 6:15 and yesterday I did about 51 in 7:10, which is a reasonable improvement in distance and pace, even with feeling bad the last 17 miles. I was hoping the course would be faster than the trails I'd been training on and that the taper would give me a big bump in speed, but neither really happened. I pretty much raced like I had trained, which is what is supposed to happen. I didn't do "bad"; I just didn't have the time to get as fast as I needed to.

Lumberjack Pictures

Cooking my "gourmet road trip" dinner at the cabin.

First time through the pit area.

Leaving pit.

At 33 miles.

Sticking with my nutrition plan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I actually chose this title a couple of day ago based on my planned workout, but it's a bit ironic in light of actual events.

The original reason for the title had to do with the plan to get out of the saddle and sprint my 6 x 15 second efforts all proper-like. The thing is that, in the last three months, I've blown away all of my previous bests for all critical power ranges over 12 seconds. However, my 5, 10, and 12 second bests are still stuck back in October when I last did sprints for cyclocross. Until now, I've resisted the urge to throw in some some unnecessary sprinting just to increase those numbers, which mean practically nothing in endurance racing, anyway. However, when I saw 15 second intervals on my plan, I thought that just once I could put up some vanity numbers.

Talk about a morality lesson. I was in the middle of the first one cranking the pedals and rocking hard. I'd just told myself to "stick out my butt" to try and smooth out, when I felt a jolt and then my bike coming out from under me. All I could think in the deceptively long interval before I actually hit the ground was, "Holy crap, my first road crash." As I hit the ground and started to slide, "This isn't as bad as I thought it would be." As I continued sliding, "Crap, I'm going to tear up my shorts." As I slid to stop, "Okay, this hurts. Can I get up? There's a car coming, so I better."

Only upon getting safely out of the road did I realize that I had just crashed really hard three days before the Lumberjack. Since I was still in the "knocked silly" stage, it was too soon to tell how hurt I actually was. I even seriously considered continuing the workout.

Unfortunately, I have a three-inch radius of pain around my tail bone that allowed me to ride home, but I couldn't get over 90 watts without extreme pain. Now I can't even bend down and pick something off the floor. The good thing is, I don't think there's any bone damage and I'm just crossing my fingers that the pain lets up before Saturday. This is definitely not how I was planning on feeling tonight.

The worst part is, I can't even explain how I crashed. I don't know if I was just cranking too hard and twisted the bars or what. I guess it doesn't really matter, because all I can do now is hope I'm in okay shape by Saturday.

I did set a season best 5 second power, but I don't think that's going to much of a consolation prize if I messed up my first A race of the season to do it.


P.S. Please excuse any spelling or grammar errors. I'm in a lot of pain right now and don't feel like proofreading.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 100

From my FasCat New Athlete Questionaire, February 23, 2009:

What is your biggest goal in the next year?
a. Put 100 days of consecutive training together (planned rest days okay, skip days are not)
b. Finish the Lumberjack 100
c. Not get last in my category at a DINO race (local series)

Well, the counter started on March 9 when my first FasCalendar took effect, which means that today is Day 100. I didn't really do the math when I set these goals, so I had no idea that the first two would come together in the same week. Now all I have to do is get in a super-easy 45 minute spin after work today and I will be able to check Goal A off the list. Despite the pre-race nerves that I've already had for over a week, I'm pretty confident that I'm ready to complete Goal B this weekend.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Things No One Told Me About Mountain Biking

Today I was selfish. That really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that knows me very well, but I have mixed feelings about the fact that I stayed home and did my ridiculously easy 1.5 hour ride when there was so much else going on.

By staying home, I missed both the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic and the DINO race in Ft. Wayne. It all goes back to a few months ago when the organizer of the women's clinic asked for volunteers. As soon as I saw the date, I wondered if she knew it was the same day as a DINO race. After a few more requests for help, it became obvious that she knew and just didn't care. It's not that a DINO race is soooo important that girls who race wouldn't be willing to miss it for a good cause (and I think some did), but I thought it was kind of rude of the organizer, who doesn't race, to completely not acknowledge that racing is important to people who race and politely ask us to make a sacrifice to help out.

This is the first time I have spoken out publicly about this topic. Until now, I have simply not replied to any request or forum thread and kept my feelings to myself. It seems like there is already enough friction between the racers and the non-racers in the mountain bike world, and being the self-absorbed racer that I am, I'd rather just stay out it.

I think my approach has been good, in general, but I still feel a bit guilty because it's not really about my feelings, or those of the clinic organizer; it's about helping women who want to mountain bike get better. Part of the problem is that I was so into advocating women's mountain biking my first couple of years, only to have my efforts run into a brick wall, that I gave up and decided just to worry about myself. Which is what I did today.

I still don't know if clinics, etc. do that much good in increasing long-term female participation in the sport. Sure, participation is increasing, but I think it's a side-effect to the rapid growth of cyclocross. 'Cross is relatively safe and unintimidating to a new racer, and now some of the girls who started with cross are spilling over into other disciplines. It's pretty much the marijuana of cycling. In the end, it seems like the girls who really want to become good mountain bikers will find a way and the ones who aren't so committed will fall away no matter how much encouragement they get.

So what would I have taught if I'd decided to help with the clinic? I'm not sure that I would have been that great of an instructor, but I felt like writing down some mountain bike lessons that I've learned along the way that I wish someone had pointed out sooner.

1. I raced almost an entire season before learning about getting out of the saddle in the "attack" position for descents. I just kind of figured out how it was supposed to be done after a few months of watching other people. When I finally decided to try it, I started on the straightest, shallowest downhill I could find, and pretty much death-gripped the saddle with my thighs.

2. Once I was willing to loosen my death grip, I realized that all of the drops that I was afraid of weren't so bad if I would lean back behind the saddle. Adam told me this when I first started riding, but the problem was that I had to learn to get out of the saddle to get behind it. Oops.

3. After about a year and a half, I ran into Sally Marchard Collins at Brown County one evening and she ended up giving me a lesson on counter-steering so that I could corner faster. I spent quite some time trying to copy the move at low speed, but despite all of my slow-mo "stay upright and tilt the bike towards your outer thigh" practice, I never officially got it. I think some of it eventually absorbed and I'm pretty sure I do it now without trying. I still can't do it when I try.

4. When descending, keep your middle and index fingers ready on the brakes and grip your bars with your ring and pinky fingers. I actually raced two seasons before figuring that one out. I used to put all four fingers on the brakes, but then I had a nasty crash when my hand bounced off the bar on a high-speed descent. Not long after that, I was looking at pictures in Velonews and observed the correct hand position from the racers in the magazine. I didn't crash hard again until the Brown County race a couple of weeks ago.

5. Finally, it is easier to straight over a rock or root, even if it is a bigger bump for your front tire. I first realized this at the Ouachita Challenge, and it was confirmed at the Brown County race when the girl in front of me was trying to steer around everything and going so slow.

After reaching this conclusion, I really don't understand the idea that new riders should start out on a hardtail because it will help them "learn to pick lines better". It seems to me that usually what appears to be the harder line is a actually the better one, and having a full-suspension to help you through it isn't going to impede your progress.

Of course, regardless of the type of bike one is riding, it's always better to learn to roll over stuff in a technically correct manner. I still don't think I have this one down. Instead of popping my tire and putting it where I want it, I kind of "monster truck" over stuff. It's kind of amazing how far I've gotten using this technique, but I will probably never be able to do this with it:

From www.sonyalooney.missingsaddle.com. Very cool picture.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Too Big for Twitter

I'm doing some last minute planning for the Lumberjack and I came across this on their website:

The aid station will be stocked with Perpetuem this year, not Heed. There will also be Powerade, oranges, bananas, nuts, cookies, P&J, jerky, gummies, Hammer Gel, e-caps, pretzels and Coca Cola.

MMM, free jerky...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Worthy Goal

Her eyes are cold and restless
Her wounds have almost healed
And he'd give half of Texas
Just change the way she feels

But he knows her love's in Wellston
And he knows she's going back
Well, it ain't no normal bike race
It's that damned old Lumberjack

It may not be the coolest thing to paraphrase the words of former Oklahoma State University javelin thrower, Garth Brooks, but it's a pretty accurate assessment of this week. It's too late to train and too early to pack. All that I can do right now is rest and do a few short intervals. (I'm SO setting a personal best for my one minute power tonight.)

Although Adam officially went on record about his feelings regarding endurance racing this week, he's actually being very supportive. I think he's actually just happy to see me excited about training and racing again. Sure, it would be more convenient for everyone if I could find this kind of motivation for DINO races, but that's just not going to happen.

The other day someone asked me if I was crazy for signing up for the Pisgah Stage Race. The short answer is yes, but the more I thought about it, the more logical it seemed. For someone with my lack of natural talent, winning even local races would be a difficult feat. So I could work really, really hard to accomplish something that's not even that great (I understand it holds more sway if you're a guy) or I could put in the same amount of work to accomplish something that only a few people are even willing to try.

All I know is that for the first time in nine years, I have actually set a goal, stuck to it for over three months, and put in the necessary work day in and day out without fail, no matter how hard it got. I think the key is that I've finally set goals that were achievable, but are still worth achieving, at least to me.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fully Loaded

As my coach would say, the hay is in the barn. (At least I think that's what he means when he says that.) Today I capped off the 16.25 hour week that marked the end of my training load for the Lumberjack. Tomorrow is the beginning of my two-week taper. It's a combination of rest days, super easy rides, and a few short intervals.

Luckily, there is no more mountain biking left before the race, because after nearly 10 hours of mountain biking this weekend, I'm a little tired of it. I know I'll have be on my bike longer than that for the race, but it's a little easier when I'm in a race because that's what I'm supposed to be doing. However, taking that much time out of my real life, plus all the driving, and the explaining to the husband why I disappeared for most of the weekend wore on me a bit. I know it will pay off big time, but I'm glad to be done for a while.

Saturday I was supposed to do a 6-hour endurance ride, and I decided to do something a little different. I had never been to Versailles State Park, so I drove 1.5+ hours both ways on mostly two-lane roads in the hope that some new terrain and smaller crowds would inspire me. The good news is that it worked out great and I had a very successful ride, with no real pain or fatigue even after 6 hours and 15 minutes.

I even had a riding partner for the first two hours, since a guy named Steve who arrived about the same time as me offered to show me around. It worked out pretty well, as he was about the same speed as me, and I didn't feel overtaxed trying to ride with him. He even took my picture standing on the Old Versailles-Milan Highway. Yes, some of the singletrack at Versailles used to be a "highway". I think that must have been in the horse-and-buggy days, but it's still hard to imagine now that it's a 18-inch wide strip of broken rocks.

More rocks at Versailles. I thought this feature was cool, although only about a mile of the trail was rocky.

Today was a toughy. Although my long mountain bike rides are usually followed by a Suck-it-up Sunday spin on the road, today was one more trial before I earned my rest. I was assigned 3.5 hours on the mountain bike with 2 x 20 minute Sweet Spot. My legs felt terrible when I first started out and it took 45 minutes of messing around on the Pine Loop before I decided I needed to just get down to business. Once I actually started my Sweet Spot efforts, I actually felt decent. I guess this will be an important lesson for my Pisgah Stage Race training. I finished off the last two hours after the intervals feeling not-so-great, but still riding at an okay pace.

Right now, I'm so tired and so glad to be done, but I'm proud of myself for what I've accomplished so far. Now I just need to rest up for a couple of a weeks, before I head to Michigan to harvest the fruits of my labor.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Little More Dirt

I found more inspiration on Cycling Dirt today. It was just what I needed to see. Maybe I should buy a single-speed.

Jason called me yesterday to discuss some training calendar stuff. He'd already seen my last post and also thought that catting down in XC was a good idea. I still had my race plate on my bike when I was getting ready to ride yesterday. I guess I'll be trading it in for something a little less flashy (with triple digits) next time. I couldn't help but think of the immortal words of Gwen Stefani: "I'm about to give you away, for someone else take."

Wednesday was a Zone 2 ride out Highway 45 and across South Shore. On rainy days, the "highway" is always so empty past Unionville. It gave me a chance to snap a cool picture of the foggy greeness in the Yellowwood State Forest.

Post slow-mo endo over a rocky dip

Finally, I made another attempt at Schooner Trace last night. I hadn't really planned on it, but the urge suddenly struck and I went for it. The trail seems to be drying better than when I rode it April. At the time, it was significantly wetter than the rest of the system; now it's about the same. I guess the trail still isn't officially open, even though people have been riding it for months, so I don't think any maintenance has been done since they finished the cutting. There are tons of trees down, so that made for a lot of stop and go. I know the trail's supposed to be hard, but I'm still hoping that the finishing work improves the flow a little. I did manage to tip over a couple of times (once into a patch of poison ivy), but crashing at 2 mph hurts a lot less than smashing into a tree at 15-ish.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Compared to Standards

Courtesy of Cycling Dirt

I saw this video after I posted the picture of myself on the paved climb at BCSP. Here is what going up a paved climb on a mountain bike is supposed to look like. About the only thing I can copy from the Luna Chix is the skinsuit. Maybe some day when I own a sweet carbon fiber hardtail with a bottle cage, I can wear my beloved skinsuit without looking like a dork. I can ditch the hydration pack and stand up hammer. Rawr.

Speaking of XC racing, last night I started giving some serious consideration to catting down to sport for the rest of the DINO season. This is following the second year in a row at Brown County where the sport women's field only did one lap, while I managed to have something bad happen on the second lap and DNF. Both years I was 20-30 minutes off the back of expert girls, while there was a large well-balance sport field with plenty of girls closer to my speed. Afterward, I was left staring at the results thinking, "I would have done okay in sport." At least I would have gotten off the course before disaster hit.

The DINO women's classes have come a long way in the last couple of years. When I was in sport class, I was mid-pack when a lot of girls showed up and top 3 when it was just "the usual suspects". It wasn't exactly auto-upgrade material, but I upgraded because Angela was upgrading and she was the only person faster than me who I could count on to show up at nearly every race. The distances wouldn't be that much longer and I would have at least one other person to race against every time.

However, when the next season came around, making sure I had at least one other person to race against was no longer an issue. The fields had grown larger and stronger and I'd gotten slower after upgrading instead of faster. All of the sudden, I had to deal with an onslaught of sport girls kicking my butt and 30 minute gaps between myself and the next expert woman. The standards had changed.

So here I am, back on the upswing fitness-wise, but I'm still falling very short of the expert class standard. I realized this morning that, while finishing the distances for expert races isn't an issue (what's 18 miles when you're shooting for 100?), I am nowhere near the 1:30-1:45 time guideline that the promoter lists on the website. The fastest I've ever finished an expert-distance race is 2:05. This was not something I thought about before I upgraded, because there was very little precedent for what was required, but now it seems that I'm the only girl in the class who is consistently much slower than that time estimation.

All of this leaves me wondering if it's time to take a step back. All I know is that I'm starting to hate XC racing and that I've pretty much dreaded the last two races. It would hurt to downgrade, but it would be much less demoralizing to be beaten by sport girls if I were one of them. The shorter distances might even give the confidence to ride a lot harder than I have been. Even though I can ride for hours and hours now, I'm having a hard time making past 1 hour at XC race pace.

I know that getting faster is supposed to be about learning to suffer, but isn't bike racing also supposed to be fun? I suppose it depends on the form of the suffering. What lesson/fitness gain am I achieving from slogging through 2 hours of self-inflicted torture because "I was supposed to be faster than this by now"? Perhaps it's time to accept where I really am and focus my efforts on competing against girls of similar ability, rather than beating myself up over the people I can't compete with.

Monday, June 1, 2009

BCSP Picture

Nita sent me this picture of me on the opening paved climb from yesterday's race. I'm not sure if I'm grimacing or laughing at her singing "She's a Maniac" for me while I was climbing. I actually remember trying to make up new words about "a college-town girl on a Sunday afternoon" the rest of the way up the hill, but it just wasn't coming.

I'm sore in some weird places today and a little bruised, but I don't think my crash caused any real damage. That's good, because this is my last week of real training before I taper for the Lumberjack and it's a doozy. I'm scheduled for 16 hours, with 6+ of singletrack on Saturday, and other 3.5 more on Sunday.