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.