Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Oh yeah...

I forgot to mention that I also came to the decision that the Lumberjack 100 is now going to be my first 100 miler instead of the Mohican. At the time I planned out my season, I chose the Mohican because it was the closest race in the NUE series and not in conflict with any of my DINO cross country races. It's since been moved up a week to the day before my "home" race at Brown County. Given that Indiana's female mountain biking talent is disapportionatley skewed towards the Bloomington area, that BCSP the state's main destination trail for non-Bloomingtonians, it's not any special kind of advantage.

Then a couple of days ago I was thinking about how my husband is transitioning into roadie world after eight years of mountain bike racing. The Brown County race is one of only two cross country races he's planning on doing this year. Even though the Mohican is the day before, making it back in time for him to race the next day was going to be a pain.

Then I realized that the Mohican and Lumberjack both conflicted with DINO races, but the Mohican conflicted with a race 30 minutes away and the Lumberjack conflicted with a race 4 hours away that I wasn't too keen on anyway. I checked to make sure that Adam didn't have a road race on June 14, as we only have one car, and low and behold, it was a free weekend for him. So I figured rather than go halfway to Michagan for a cross country race, go all the way to Michigan for a 100 miler and not have to miss the Brown County race.

Plus, the Lumberjack just looks more appealing to me for some reason. I guess I'll find out in June!

Personal Day

Yesterday I took an unplanned rest day from both training and work. I woke up not totally sick, but absolutely exhausted with the same sore throat that I've had on and off for a couple of weeks. After dragging my way through breakfast, I decided it was a good occasion to cash in some personal time.

Of course, one can't call in sick to work and then go ride in good conscience, but I really was tired so that was okay. I slept a lot and was pretty horribly bored otherwise. I didn't have any unwatched discs from Blockbuster and didn't feel like going to the store to exchange the one I had. So I indulged in a healthy lunch and some bad daytime TV. I also finally got around to completing my application for a graduate certificate program I'm hoping to start this summer.

It was probably good that my day was relaxing but not THAT fun. Boredom is good in such cases. It's allows me to rest, but I still get the reminder that laziness is not something I want to take on full-time.

I simply have not been taking very good care of myself since Christmas; mainly eating too much sugar and not going to bed on time. I've got to start keeping up with the maintanence work a lot better if I want my body to withstand and endurance training program, so I used yesterday as mini-rehab for my sugar/procrastination addiction. I'm almost 48 hours clean, but tomorrow's the office "Superbowl Party" so we'll see what happens then.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Recipe of the Week

This one is adapted from the January issue of Prevention magazine, but I added some of my own touches.

Hungarian Potato Paprika Soup

3-4 pounds russet potatoes, coursely diced with skin still on
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 handfuls baby carrots or 2 large carrots, shredded
8 oz turkey smoked sausage, diced
4-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, depending on desired consistancy
2 Tbsps fresh dill or 1 Tbsp dried
1-2 Tbsp paprika*
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup milk of your choice

*This will depend on your tastes and what is available at your grocery store. The original recipe called for 1 Tbsp smoked paprika and 1 tsp hot paprika, but I could not find "hot paprika" in my regular grocery store. I did, however, have "Smoked Hot Spanish Paprika" from my local international market. Most of their spices are purchased in bulk and broken up into 3-4 ounce portions, so there is no brand on them. I use 2 Tbsp of this paprika in my soup, but my husband, the king of hot sauce, complained about the slow burn of my last batch. So use what you can find and what tastes good. If nothing else, use plain old sweet paprika mixed with cumin in a 1:1 ratio, add a little cayenne for heat and you should be good to go.


Boil potatoes in large stockpot with salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, mash roughly, and set aside.

Heat olive in stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and saute until tender. Add remaining ingredients and warm through.

Wow, that was easy!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Big Week

Last week was the first in an eight-week block leading up to the Ouachita Challenge that I like to think of as "super-base". All the week's schedules are pretty much the same with some variance in the Tuesday/Saturday intervals. There are no rest weeks built in; it's more like the hard/easy pattern used by runners. The idea is to be hard, but sustainable. I think it is, but will take some getting used to.

After my "screw it" outdoor ride last Wednesday, I followed it up with a 90-minute tempo workout on rollers. Now THAT took some willpower! It was only my third time on rollers, so my skills aren't to the point where I can just relax and pedal. My hands and butt were killing me afterward from keeping a death grips on the bars and not shifting my weight the whole time. As unpleasant as it was, it is a really good medium for that workout. The terrain around here is pretty hilly, so if you truly want to spin at 90 rpms and your heart in between 166-172 the entire time, rollers are about the only way to do it.

Friday was my first two-a-day in who knows how long. I got up at 5 a.m. to do my plyo workout and Olympic lifts before work. In the evening, I did another easy hour on the rail-to-trail. It was much darker this time because it was cloudy, but I remember to charge my lights this time so it was okay.

Saturday was 2 X 15 minutes at LT in a 2.5 hour ride. I did well on the intervals and it was a big improvement from trying to slog through them on the trainer. By the time I was done with my warm-up, intervals, and recovery I was at about one hour, so I wanted to do a nice Zone 2-3 steady state for the remaining 90 minutes and get some muscular endurance work in. However, it just was not happening. I ended up dragging back home getting a little slower and sicker with each passing mile. I spent the rest of the evening very sick to my stomach and hacking away with a nasty cough.

I was much improved on Sunday and had hoped to make another go at my dirt road loop, but the strain it took to climb the first little hill told me I needed to back off for another day. I turned around and rode easy on the rail-to-trail for an hour instead.

It was a balmy 47 degrees, so the trail was a muddy mess from the melting snow. I was filthy by the time I got back, the short ride and "warm" weather gave me the chance to give my bikes a much needed cleaning. "Jake" (my cross bike) was still sporting river mud from our little swim a couple of weeks ago.

So my first week of the training block didn't go perfectly, especially since I missed out on a much needed long ride. However, I have to say I'm pleased overall. Eleven hours, four days of outdoor riding, and three hard workouts a week in January is doing pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

In Good Company

It is the extremely slow time of year at my job and I was googling around this morning and found this.

Look familiar? I thought he would have "people" to design something a little more unique. Makes me feel better though.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Screw It

Martin Luther King day was my first "screw it" day of 2007. After staying indoors on Saturday and Sunday of the long weekend due to rain, I finally forced myself out into the 30 degree drizzle on Monday. It sucked, my fingers froze, but it was a turning point in my cycling career. By the end of February, I had discovered lobster gloves, charcoal toe warmers (forget hand warmers; toe warmers are flat, adhesive, and perfect for toes, hands, AND ears), and become more or less immune to 98% of bad weather conditions.

Of course, I was still riding inside on weeknights due to the dark. The plan was to keep this up until Daylight Savings Time kicked in, but one evening in late Febuary I was walking out of work and it was 50-something and sunny and I had my next "screw it" moment. There was just no freakin' way I was going pass that weather up, so I rushed home and jumped on my bike for a quick hour ride before it got dark. I figured 60 minutes on the road was better than 90 minutes on the trainer. Of course, Coach Troy of Spinervals would say just the opposite, but he has a bit of a vested interest.

So coming into the winter of 2008 I was pretty well set up. I've only missed one ride due to weather, but the dark thing is still throwing me for a loop. However, Tuesday night was my first time back on the trainer in two weeks and it was a pain in the butt. Two times 15 minutes at LT in 90 minutes of total riding. Trainer intervals just shouldn't be longer than 3-4 minutes. Too much pain for too long with no distractions. However, it's getting to be that time of year and it's time to step it up.

Funny how my "step it up" time turns out to be almost exactly the time I started riding in crappy weather last year. I'm taking it as a sign of advancement: Last year's hurdles cleared and we're on to a new set.

Anyway, I got over the weather thing easy enough once I bought proper winter clothing, but the dark thing is harder to get over. Even with lights, training after dark is scary. However, last night became my first "screw it" night of 2008, almost 6 weeks earlier than last year. My assignment was 90 minutes of easy riding, but I figured there was no rule that I had to do the whole thing on one bike. So I rushed home, got decked out in full winter gear, and jumped on my mountain bike. I rode the rail-to-trail for almost an hour. I wasn't able to finish before dark, but at least I didn't have to deal with traffic and was back into decently lit neighborhoods before it got too hard to see. When I got home I did a Superman wardrobe change and jumped on the trainer for 30 minutes, which seemed very doable after a nice outdoor "warm-up".

Tonight is a 90 minute tempo ride that I'm planning to do on the rollers. I've been scheming, but I think it might still be a little early to try this one outside. Maybe in a couple of weeks...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Recipe of the Week

Since I like to talk about all the bad stuff I like to eat I thought I'd change things up today and talk about what I eat when I'm eating healthy. My meal plan is pretty simple, as I have the same breakfast every morning and don't cook during the workweek. I usually make a large batch of something on Sunday and have it for lunch for the rest of the week. Here is one of my winter favorites:

Southwest Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP chili powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
8 cups (2 big rectangular carboard containers) chicken or vegetable stock
2 15 oz cans of black beans
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBSP minced cilantro (you can usually find tube of minced fresh herbs in the produce section)
2 TBSP lime juice

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onions, chili powder, cumin, oregano and cook until onions are slightly soft. If the onions start to brown as soon you put them in the pan, your heat's too high. Once onions are soft, add stock, beans, and garlic and bring to a boil (uncovered). Once soup has come to a boil, add pumpkin, cilantro, and lime, turn heat to low, and cook 3-5 minutes until heated through.

I someones like to add a cup or so of frozen corn kernals and/or a diced zucchini to increase the veggie content of this dish. These should go in the same time as the beans.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feeling Like a (Clean and) Jerk

This is what I looked like earlier this afternoon (so I did a little too much stress eating last week). Okay, not really. Try inserting a broom stick where the 500 pound weights are and you'll be a lot closer. However, since I moved into a new phase of training this week, my strength workouts also started a new phase. Instead of the gentle bodyweight/core work, I will now be doing a routine of plyometrics and Olympic lifts (clean and jerk) on Monday and Friday. I will probably still keep up the push-ups and chin-ups three days a week, since my upper body needs all the strength and endurance it can get by April.

The idea is to try and revive some of the fast twitch muscle that I killed during my former life as distance runner. We're working on power, baby! It's all kind of funny to me that I am doing "sprinter things" now, as pretty much any time I try to perform a fast twitch muscle activity it's a site to be seen. I have to say it's actually pretty fun, though, except for knowing how sore I will be tomorrow.

The rest of the day was wonderful as I had the whole day off from work and only one hour of training to do. I spent the morning pattering around the house alternating between watching Cold Mountain (what a depressing movie with so much violence towards animals), doing laundry, and surfing the internet. I had a bit of a short attention span, so it took me four hours to get through a 2.5 hour movie. I even made it through all of the free time without eating any junk food. It was just the morale boost I've been needing and I feel great!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Dumpster Phil Effect

When my husband a was a collegiate cyclist at Ball State University, he had a teammate that all his friends refer to as "Dumpster Phil". I personally have never met the guy, but I have determined three things about him from Adam's stories:

1. He was "dumpster" (the favorite slang adjective used by Adam and his clique).

2. He rescued our cat Campbell from the middle of the road as a kitten and gave him to Adam as he was already at his pet quota (very un-dumpster of him).

3. Most importantly, he had a way of sabotaging himself before hard rides and races so that when they ended badly he had an excuse. For example, he would drink milk before a hard ride so that it was no surprise when he through up, or he would purposely ignore routine bike maintance so it was no surprise when he dropped of a race "due to a mechanical" when the going got tough.

So towards then end of my beginner mountain bike season in 2006, I came up with "The Dumpster Phil Theory". With the exception of the last race of the season, SOMETHING went wrong every single race that gave me a perfectly good excuse as to why I was getting my butt kicked. Of course, I knew damn well that it was mostly the fact that I just wasn't a very good rider yet, but most of the time it was easier to point to my flat tire or the puncture wound in my leg and go for the sympathy vote. Consciously, I was doing everything right (except sticking to a consistant training plan), but every race something got screwed up anyway. So I decided that I must be subconsciously sabotaging myself to have so many things go wrong.

In the 2007 season, I came back must stronger and more skilled and while I was still getting my butt kicked by the regulars, I also beat a few people myself. I can't say I had an ounce of bad luck, and had two or three very satisfying, well-excuted races. Then 'cross season came all of the sudden it was getting sick and missing my pedal at the start. Hmm...

The point of all of this is that right after my pedal came off ten minutes into my ride today, I realized that the Dumpster Phil Effect has been taking hold again the last couple of weeks. After two months of brilliant, clockwork-like training, things mysteriously start going to pot when I get to the meat of the training plan, instead of the namby-pamby, 6-hour-a-week, prep work.

Not that it's a huge deal; it's just a realization I came to. After a screwy training camp week followed by five days of doing nothing, I finally got myself out for a ride yesterdat I suppose it can be argued that anytime one ventures out to ride bikes in 12 degree temperatures, that they're asking for trouble. I was supposed to ride for four hours, and took my mountain bike out to Brown County to get in some rare winter singletrack time. There was snow on most of the trail, which made riding difficult, but I wanted get practice over rock obstacles since I will be encountering my fair share of them this season at the Ouachita Challenge and the Shenandoah Mountain 100. So I headed straight for the most technical parts of the trail system. O course, riding snow-covered rocks is harder than riding regular rocks, especially when you wear yourself out climbing the snow-covered hill to get to them. So I was dabbing all over the place and my left cleat finally iced over so much that I couldn't clip in. Riding technical trails with one foot loose was darn near impossible, so I ended up walking my bike back to the nearest road intersection and riding back to my car on the road. Getting 2.5 hours in that kind of a weather is nothing to sniff at, but after my screwy weak I was really wanting to go into the weekend swinging.

Today was 18 degrees and I was supposed to get two hours in. I planned to ride the rail-to-trail out to the local mountain bike park, since that seemed like the slowest and most sheltered route to take in the cold. I was feeling good and staying toasty with the five pairs of charcoal warmers I had stuck to various parts of my body, but not long after getting to the trail, my right pedal came off. I couldn't even screw it in enough with my fingers to ride it home. So I had to one-legged drill the whole way home, which was uphill most of the way. I couldn't deal with going back out after that so it left me an hour and a lot of quality short for the day.

So with all this evidence that the spirit of Dumpster Phil is taking over again, what am I going to do? I'm not really sure. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, so I guess I have that part out of the way.

Friday, January 18, 2008


So the training camp that intended to give me a super-boost in my winter training schedule turned out to be more of a super-bust.

I was pretty physically wasted after my little back-country adventure. The next day (Thurdsay) was I supposed to leave work at 1 pm to go on a 3.5 hour road ride before dark. It was raining, but not thunderstorms, so it was still considered rideable outside. However, as 1 pm neared the urge to put my head down on my desk and go to sleep kept getting stronger. It's not usual for me to be sleepy at work, but I rarely actually have to fully struggle to stay awake. That morning I actually scooted my keepboard out of the way a couple of times to make room, before I talked some sense into myself.

I decided that I deserved a nap when I got home since I was so sore and fatigued. Just one hour and I could still get my ride in before dark. That turned into the compromise that I would switch the 3.5 hour ride with Saturday's schedule 2 hour "ride how you feel" session. At 3:30 I woke up, decided that today was just as good a time for my scheduled rest day as Sunday, and went back to sleep until 6.

Things didn't get any better the next day (Friday) when I was still sore and fatigued and a little gimpy from when I decided to save my bike instead of my calf. I also found out that I would begin the interview process for a potentially big promotion on Monday. This turned me into a sore, fatigued, gimpy, nervous wreck and I ended up skipping the night's core workout to watch movies and baby myself.

Training resumed on Saturday, which had gorgeous weather for January, and I got in a 4 hour road-ride on my 'cross bike, which I have designated as winter road bike since I feel safer on it in crappy weather and it allows me to leave my road bike hooked to the trainer. The ride went really well; it was a zone 2-3 steady state with a 8 second super spin every 10 minutes. I rode well, but my quads ached enough to tell me that I will need a lot more long rides to get my muscular endurance where it needs to be by the Ouachita Challenge.

Sunday was my 2 hour "ride how you feel" day. I was hoping I would be able to ease myself up into some zone 3-4 "sweet spot" work, but it just didn't happen. After a half-hour, just getting up to upper zone 2 seemed like a chore, so I backed off and soft-pedaled the rest of the way.

So I ended with 12.5 hours for the week and overall pretty decent quality, but the accumulated fatigued, red peely nose, and stress of impending job interviews didn't bode well going into this week. Basically, I had an interview on Monday, a presentation and second interview on Wednesday, was at the vet until 8:30 pm Wednesday night with Mrs. Bigglesworth and her "feline acne", and I have not turned a pedal, done a pushup, or lifted a weight since Sunday. So the subsequent crash completely voided anything I did during the training camp. I didn't get the promotion, either, but after it was all over I found out it wasn't as great as I thought it was, so I guess that's all right.

So after a good night's sleep tonight and good nutrition over the weekend, I think I'll finally be ready to resume normal training. Tomorrow I will attempt a 4 hour MTB ride since the high is about 18 degrees and the trails should be sufficiently frozen. Sunday will be another 2 hour "ride how you feel" on the road and then next week I start my new training phase. Coach Dave has blocked out the next 8 weeks with a basic 13 hour a week schedule of Plyo/Olympic Lifts on Monday and Friday, VO2 or LT intervals on Tuesday and Saturday, easy ride on Wednesday and Friday, tempo on Thursday, and long on Sunday. The long rides are all scheduled at 3 hours right now, so some weeks will be more than 13 hours as I will rotate those days between road, dirt road, and MTB depending on the weather. I will basically be using Sundays to do what I need to do to survive Ouachita and then the Mohican 100 later in the season.

Well, that's my life in the last week and a half. Now that I'm caught up on my rest and blogging, it's time to move forward.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

La Ruta de los Hoosierista

Last Wednesday afternoon was a rare sunny and 40-something January day as I headed out for my 45-mile dirt road ride. I questioned my choice of a regular long-sleeved jersey instead of my thermal jacket during the first few minutes of the ride, but decided I would be fine once I warmed up. Once I got past the stoplights and in-town traffic, I settled into my assigned zone 3 rhythm as I cruised the paved road that would lead me to the Brown County wilderness. However, when I hit the first dirt road I discovered that it was freshly laid with new gravel, the big, chunky kind. My pace slowed a lot as checked my handwritten directions and tried not be bounced all over the road. I chose to ride my cyclocross bike instead of my mountain bike thinking it would be faster for my first time on the route. However, it didn't take long for me to start wishing for some suspension.

I made it McGowen Rd., which is a remote DNR access road that goes through some sort of protected wetland area. There was no traffic and I was thinking how great it would be lead a group of mountain biking ladies on this ride in the next couple of weeks. Singletrack riding is hard to come by in the winter in Indiana and the route was turning out out to be a pretty acceptable substitute.

Then I came to a flooded part of the road. There was a stretch of shoulder that was mostly above water, except for about a three foot wide strip. I started carefully riding across, anxious to get on with my adventure. As I came up to the narrow strip of water I notice I couldn't see the bottom, but the water so murky I wasn't too surprised. The shoulder wasn't that high so I expected nothing but a small dip as I started to ride across.

Wrong. I watched helplessly as my whole front wheel sunk in, then my drops, all the way to my brake hoods before I finally endoed completely onto the other side of the pit. It didn't hurt too bad, but I was pretty much soaked except for bits of my head, chest, and shoulders. Then my left calf completely cramped up as I unclipped and my bike completely submerged save one brake hood. I was face with the quick decision of what to do first: save my bike or stretch my calf. I saved the bike and the calf would continue to hurt for days.

At this point, I really should have turned around and gone home ASAP, but I'd been wanting a chance to do this ride forever and I'd already delayed my schedule by one day. So I decided I wasn't THAT cold and pushed on. I was fine for the next 60-90 minutes that I was on McGowen road, as it was rough, narrow, and had some killer climbs. I was staying warm and enjoying the spectacular winter views of the ridges, valleys, and river down below.

Unfortunately, once I hit the end McGowen, I came to a smoother road with no signs and I started to doubt my navigational skills. I started to chill very fast on the new road as I was not working as hard and going faster. I took a wrong turn and didn't realize it until I hit a dead end 2.5 hours into the ride. At this point, I could not longer feel my hands or feet and just wanted to be home. I knew I was probably over halfway through the loop, but in the interest of not making any more mistakes, I decided it was safer to go back the way I came. I really struggled to make it home since my numb hands wouldn't let me shift well or brake on the sketchy gravel downhills. I put in a lot of hike-a-bike time.

I got home well after dark, which was scary, and I ended up with 33.3 miles in over 4.5 hours. I have to say the experience will probably be my new "worst time on a bike" for my 2008 Velo Bella profile, but it is a terrific route and I will definitely be conquering it in the near future, now that I've learned a couple of valuable lessons, of course.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Training Camp

I just have been in a very bloggy mood since Christmas. That's probably okay since last week was very boring training-wise and nothing really happened worth telling about. Mainly just the same ol' strength and trainer workouts that I've been doing for a while. The only weird part was that Coach Dave gave be a rare SATURDAY day off, which was incredible, but also weird since I had the opportunity to ride in daylight and decent weather for January (40's and no rain or snow) and didn't. The weirdness continued on Sunday when it was in the 60's, but I had a one-hour trainer workout on my schedule.

I could have protested, but I've strongly committed to doing the workouts I've been assigned. Plus, this is going to be my first big week of 2008 at a whopping 11.5 hours. ;) I figured I would soak in the easiness while I could.

However, yesterday's wind and thunderstorm threw a small monkey wrench in my plans. I was supposed to have Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons off and do long rides, but the weather required me to move my long rides to today and tomorrow instead. Not a major deal, but kind of annoying.

So this afternoon I'm taking off a 45 mile dirt road ride that I've never done before. Apparently, it's pretty hard and the directions are pretty complicated, so I'm sort of nervous, as well as excited. I'm a little worried about being so deep into hillybilly country all by myself, but I usually don't let things like that bother me so I'll try to get over it. I was going to do it on my MTB to simulate the Ouachita Challenge and Mohican 100, minus the singletrack parts mixed in. (It's very hard to get in any singletrack time this time of year since the trails are so muddy.) However, since it's my first time, I'm going out on my 'cross bike since it's a little faster and I don't want to be stuck out after dark if things go badly.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Party Animal

So here's my New Year's Eve:

I worked from 8-5 since I didn't really have a good excuse not to and I'm sure I'll want to use my acquired time off for training or racing at some other point in the future. After work I stopped by the library rechecked a book I hadn't finished yet and went to Krazy Kroger to refill a prescription(you know what I mean; every town has a ghetto Kroger that's a little scary to go in). Then I came home and devoured the remaining mini-loaf of banana nut bread left from Christmas and a bag of chocolate-covered pecans as my day's attempt at sugar-detox blew up in my face.

Then I preceded to watch a major portion of Big Love: Season Two on DVD while I shelled the gigantic paper grocery bag of pecans that my mom sent home with me for Christmas. Around 10 p.m. the bread and pecans were semi-digested and I figured I better quite procrastinating and go do my leg workout. By the time I did my workout, got showered, and cleaned the litter box it was just about time to go sit in front of the TV with my husband and watch the ball drop at midnight. How exciting!

The problem with New Year's is that it is too darn close Christmas. I'm pretty over the whole holiday thing at that point and want to avoid any feasting or partying for a while.

New Year's day itself was a bit of a bust, too. I was looking forward to getting to ride outside on my day off, but when I got up it was snowing much harder than the flurries that had been predicted. I was disappointed, but at the same time I was feeling completely lazy and gross, so it was probably just as well. One has to really want it to go outside in 20 degrees, 20+ mph wind, and snow. I went out in the car later in the day and came to the conclusion that I made the right decision by staying indoors. I did to the interval portion of my prescribed workout on the trainer, but it was pretty half-hearted and left my 1:10 short of the prescribed saddle time.

I'm hoping the training and diet ennui wears off soon as my first "mini training camp" is next week. Since it's dark by the time I get off work in the winter and I have nearly 200 hours of paid time off racked up, I've decided to schedule two-day "training camps" during the second and third week of my January, Febuary, and March training cycles. I think this will really help bring up my training hours and will probably boost morale quite a bit, too.