Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Thought That Counts

This was on the kitchen table when I got home last night. It's a paper bat (wom-bat) with a bloody dagger in it attached to a new pink Bikesmith's water bottle. It's supposed to be my reward for slaying the "Wombat Trail" (Womble Trail). Unfortunately, I didn't even get to see the Womble Trail this year, much less slay it, but I guess I get to keep the bottle, anyway.

I just got my first peek at the OC results a bit ago. A couple of weeks ago I posed the question on Twitter as to whether it was too ballsy for me to publicly announce that I wanted to finish in the top 15 of the approximately 35 females entered. It turns out that just finishing would have been good for a top 15. I totally could have done it without the flat tire.

And you know what? 15th out of 35 does not suck. I may not have proof on paper yet, but I NO LONGER SUCK. It's a nice feeling.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It Never Hurts Less; You Just Go Faster.

That's the problem with my habit of picking blog titles out well before the events to be blogged have happened, but I decided two or three weeks ago that this would what I had to say about my third trip to the Ouachita Challenge. It's kind true, but it needs some qualifiers:

It actually does hurt less when you're going faster, because it's awesome.
It hurts a lot less physically when you get pulled halfway through the race, but it hurts pretty frickin' bad emotionally.

Basically, the race started off well. After things startle to settle near the end of the road section, I was sitting well out of last place, and I could think of at least 6-8 girls in my wake, and possibly more that were behind me from the gun. By the time we hit the singletrack, I was catching and passing a few people. I had been working really hard on the road, and tried to ease up a bit on the singletrack and just kind of get down to business. While I was settling and trying to eat, I got caught by a group of people, who I rode with then eventually passed most of, all except for two guys that I was riding with near the end of Big Brushy. (BTW, Big Brushy is way more fun when you aren't bonked out of your mind.)

Anyway, I was in the middle of trying to adjust my pace and decide whether I was going too hard staying with those guys, and then my back tire made the decision for me. I think the Giant 29er wheels' supposed ability to run really low pressure even with tubes is limited to much smoother trails and not for bouncing over a bajillion rocks as fast as my handling skills would allow. I'd already heard a bunch of bad sounding noises, but I just hoping it would hold and I was going to try to add some air at the aid station. Anyway, I was having a horrible time getting the tire of the rim to change it and lost a lot of time while all the girls I had passed flew by with the rhetorical "Are you okay?", which means "I'm not stopping unless you have a concussion." Finally, a nice guy (thanks again!) helped me and I made to the aid station frustrated and chilled to the bone, due to standing still in the drizzly upper 40's conditions after working up a sweat.

I got some toe warmers at the aid station, but it still took quite a bit of time slowly bobbing and weaving up Blowout Mountain to get warm enough to feel human again, especially since my delay had placed me back behind all but a few stragglers, instead of the speedier crowd I'd been with before. Blowout Mountain is in fact waaaaaaaaay easier in direction we did it this year, because at least after you make it over the worst rock gardens, it's a nice long descent to without too much technical stuff. (The past two years, it's been a long grindy climb followed by a rocky descent that requires stopping to get off the bike a lot for all of the rock gardens.) I did it about 45 minutes faster than last year, but I'm pretty sure it was more the direction than my improved abilities.

Anyway, I just kept moving forward after that, hoping I would make the cutoff times, of which I only knew I had to clear the last aid station by 3:00. At a few minutes to 1:00, I was chugging along the dirt road in the middle of the course, hoping that the "unknown section" that I was venturing into could be completed in under two hours. It didn't matter though, because I saw some cars up ahead and thought they were just giving me my zip tie, but they said that I had missed the 1:00 cutoff my 2 minutes. I hadn't even worried about the 1:00 cutoff, because in past years they set it so ridiculously easy that even I made it with lots of time to spare. If I had just read a little more closely, I would have known to hurry my butt up and would have made it. Stupid....

So my fastest year so far was the year that I didn't finish. I have a funny feeling that my tooth and nail fighting to the finish the last two years somehow resulted in my missing the finish last year. After carefully reviewing the cutoff times (hindsight is 20/20), I realized that even with the increased distance and difficulty, there was a very strategic plan laid out that would absolutely guarantee everyone would be off the course by 5:00 p.m., probably because I kept everyone waiting past 6:00 the last two years. I can't really blame them, but it was definitely a bummer.

The last two years I would have left the race saying, "I'll do better next year", but this I have more of a feeling that I wish I could give it another shot as soon as my legs recover. I know I had a better race in me, but it just didn't happen. The good news is that this year I have Syllamo's Revenge (Rodkey's Revenge?) in five weeks, and I'll have another shot at doing things right.

OC Photo Dump

That was the easy part. Race report to follow.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I always want to yell that when I get to BCSP first thing in the morning when it's barely light enough to see. It started one day last summer when I had to go really early to be back for something, but then I realized how much being first rocked. Saturday morning was bonus because I was first on the first ride able Saturday of the year.

The view from the end of the empty parking lot.

Trying to show off my awesome outfit (bibs sticking out of old track sweats with turquoise Crocs).

I had no trouble getting up and getting there on Saturday, because I was so excited for my first longish/hardish mountain bike ride of the year. I had been there the last two Wednesdays, but the first was just messing around and getting my bearings again, and last week started with some one minute intervals up the paved climb, so I was pretty weak for the actual mountain bike part.

Saturday was my one chance to try and dial my OC race pace. I was assigned 2.5 hours, but I had the secret goal of completing 3 laps, along with connector, in under 3 hours. The weekend before the OC last year I did 3 laps in about 3:50, so being the excessively meaning-making person that I am, I was hoping to be an hour faster for the same ride a year later.

Things went okay, but I didn't make my goal. I got 2.5 laps in 2:47, a pace slightly slower than my absolute best ride near the end of last summer. It was just a little harder because I was expecting a good ride this time, instead of being pleasantly surprised.

I've spent the last two weeks wavering between extreme confidence about the OC and self-doubt. I'm without a doubt much, much fitter than I was this time last year and I'd like to think that I've become a bit smarter, as well. Then I look at the map and compare it to the 2008 map and wonder how the heck they added so much trail and still kept it to 60 miles. I'm a bit worried that the additional fitness will be eaten up by the harder course and I'll still be OTB by the end of the day, except that there will just be a greater percentage of the field dropping out behind me.

The next week is all about focusing on positive self talk and minimizing the negative self talk. I probably shouldn't have even allowed myself write down my doubts, and instead made a list about how awesome I am. I definitely plan on doing that sometime this week.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hobbit Diet

"They would enjoy at least seven meals a day, when they can get them – breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and (later in the evening) supper." -

Ever since I started working full time I've tried to keep myself on a steady five meal a day schedule: breakfast when I wake up, snack halfway through the morning, lunch at 12, snack halfway through the afternoon, and dinner when I can get it, which can be anywhere between 4:30 and 8:30 p.m., depending on my workout schedule. Basically, I am usually hungry when I leave work, but on training days I either ignore it or tamp it down with some gel, depending on the intensity. I've pretty much had to deal with annoying, probing questions from co-workers ever since I adopted the practice.

I think there must be something about it that is out of line with American culture that I just don't understand. What do call these magical interim meals? They must have a label. It drove me nuts when someone would try to refer to my 10 a.m. veggies and hummus as either breakfast (yuck) or lunch, because I couldn't understand how it could be misconstrued as an actual meal. It was just something to keep my blood sugar stable.

Today my appetite is even more hobbit-like than usual. I had my normal breakfast at 5:45, and I was already craving my banana and mixed nuts by 9:00, so I gave in. At 10:00, I was hungry again, so I got a cranberry walnut salad from the BBC, which has plenty of appetite suppressing protein, fat, and fiber, but I was hungry for lunch by 12:15. Too bad my eating times and food choices don't quite line up with the hobbit scheme; 11:00 seems to be the only time I didn't feel hungry.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Sometimes in southern Indiana in March, there is a small window where the first S, Sunshine, becomes plentiful enough as to allow the other two S's, Singletrack and Shorts. Somewhat unexpectedly, today offered one of those windows.

My Blue Steele face?

Emily being gansta as always.

I didn't really expect to be able to mountain bike this week. We had passed the threshold of three days with temperatures staying above freezing at night, but there had been rain showers on Sunday and Tuesday and more are expected for the next five days or so. However, when I saw that the forecast of 60 with afternoon rain was really going to be 70 and sunny, I consulted the HMBA message board, hoping that Gnawbonelefty, the trail condition oracle of Brown County, would confirm my suspicions that the trails were drying faster than expected. I received my confirmation, along with instructions to poke any "puddle blisters" that I might see, and that was that.

After work, Emily and I rushed BCSP, since as nice as the weather was, the daylight was still limited. We got about a hour and twenty minutes in before dark, and I got acquainted with my new bike. I would like to say that I felt some magical floating difference, like the big wheels came equipped with their own locomotive power, but it felt hard like the first ride of the year always does. It was awesome, though.

The title is a bit punny because of Jason's "hay in the barn" saying. I probably would have made more of that kind of hay if I'd stayed home and done my assigned threshold bursts workout, but when conditions allow mountain biking in March, they must be taken advantage of immediately. Besides, this weekend is going to be one last crazy haybarn stuffing party before the OC, where I have hard intervals with 6 hours total ride time on Saturday and a full road century on Sunday. That's friggin' lot of hay, but among all of those road riding bales from the winter, I will now one special bale of grade A alfalfa to cherish when I arrive in Arkansas in a couple of weeks.