Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Long Time Gone

It's been three long weeks now,
Since Blowout Mountain blew me out,
But I'm gettin' it back on the dirt now,
But I'm takin' the long way 'round.

The last week and a half has been insanely busy with work craziness and getting back into training, so I'll try to be short 'n' sweet as I can on the catch-up.

Last week was essentially cycling rehab for me as I ditched my scheduled workouts and just tried to get back in the habit of getting on my bike ever day. Work was really stressful and just getting on the bike for an hour or so a day was about all I had in me.

Saturday I returned to formal training with 3 hours on singletrack at Brown County State Park with 4 X 3 minutes hill repeats thrown in the middle. It was hard and kind of clumsy at first, but it helped me get my dirt mojo back and allowed me to earn my first Big Ugly Black Bruise of the season:

I've been thinking that my blog needs more pictures, but as you can see, my camera phone quality isn't the best. You get the idea though.

Don't worry; it wasn't a bad crash. I just banged my leg on the handlebars after my bike came to an inadvertent stop trying to roll over a large root.

Sunday Chrysa and I went to the course for the coming weekend's XC race to pre-ride and there happened to be a dirt TT going on while we were there. They were paying well and there was only one other expert woman so I decided to enter. I was doing really well until about halfway through I blew a tire and managed to pinch a hole in my replacement tube trying to change it. Doh! I ended up walking the rest of the way back, but I got $40 for it, so I can't complain.

I'm getting pretty tired of going on long walks with my bike, but I supposed that when I finally make it to the La Ruta I will be the most experienced hike-a-biker there.

Finally, tonight was more hill reps on the mountain bike, but I opted to do them at our local mountain bike park which is within riding distance rather than go to Brown County. I already used way too much gas over the weekend and have a lot of driving to do on Saturday as well. The problem with having such a nice trail 30 minutes away (by car) is that the local trail is falling into sad disrepair. It's located next to some low-income housing and there seems to be a very high scary people to mountain biker ratio, so I don't really like going out there by myself anymore. Tonight was okay as it was a little cold; there were no hanger-outers to make me nervous.

So with that, I will leave you with one final low quality picture:

This is a very important purchase for mountain biking season: bandages that match my team kit! If you're going to beat the crap out of yourself, you might as well make it look cute, right?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Happy Cows and Tiger Eyes

Risin' up, back on the street,
Did my time, took my chances,
Went the distance now I'm back on my feet,
Just a girl and her will to survive...

I made it through my stomach pain, yet never got a diagnosis. Apparently my blood work indicated nothing more than minor inflammation (which could be anything) and any malady that would normally cause pain like that should have come with nausea and vomiting. Luckily, it went away on it's own, but really wish they would've found an explanation.

I did an easy hour ride today and should resume fully normal training by next week, but I will be missing the first cross country race of the season tomorrow. It's technically a "practice race" and doesn't count for points or prizes, but it's a fun course and it makes me sad to miss it. However, racing tomorrow sounds like a good way to relapse, which I absolutely don't want to do. So, just a couple of easy hours on the road for me.

During my couch confinement for the last week, I got pretty well caught up on my DVD watching, but more importantly I read an eye-opening article in Velonews. I generally don't pay much attention to the training articles, as I have a coach to tell me what to do, but the latest issue intrigued me. It had to do with Rick Crawford's CNS scoring, which I have been logging in for my coach for months, but didn't fully understand what I was doing.

CNS stands for Central Nervous System and the article was about measuring and balancing different types of stress and recovery in a more holistic way than just hard and easy days on the bike. More importantly, he used the analogy (and we're going to assume this is true and not just an annoying cheese ad campaign) that cows produce more/better milk when they are happy and cyclists produce more/better results when they are "happy".

So after two weeks of travel, work stress, and illness, the pursuit of happiness was heavily on my mind already. It turns out that Happy Zen Lindsay has the potential to be even faster than Angry Lindsay, and much more consistently, at that. Of course, I already knew that on an intuitive level or I wouldn't have been trying to focus on the mind/spirit aspect of my training for several weeks already. Unfortunately, it's a long confusing process and it's a little hard to come to a conclusion about what would make me truly "happy" now.

I actually visited our local "Zen community" last Sunday, which is convenient, since it's 1 1/2 blocks from my house. I'm still a little confused though. Basically, I think it comes down to that after some practice I should learn to neutralize my emotional state and learn to live in the moment. The practice should help me learn not to let my level of happiness hang on ever-changing circumstances that are beyond my control. We'll see.

More in tune with the article though, I started brainstorming on ways to make an immediate reduction in my stress scores, other than just lying to the computer program and myself as I apparently have been doing since I keep burning out before the numbers say I should. It also made me question if I'm really cut out for this if cycling doesn't intrinsically make me happy.

It's a weird question since I'll admit I'm not one of those girls who says, "I've just always liked riding my bike", because a lot of the time, I don't. However, I do LOVE racing bikes and training is just something you have to do in between. I hope that doesn't make me seem bitchy and overly competitive, because I really don't want to come off that way. I also don't want to come off like all my self-esteem is hanging on "who's ass I can kick" (although it never hurts the ego). Honestly, as cheesey as it is, my feelings can best be described as such:

It's the eye of the tiger,
It's the thrill of the fight,
Rising up to the challenge of a rival...

I really just like engaging with a competitor and really pushing myself. It's probably why I don't like just riding for training so much and why I like cycling so much better than I did triathlon. I probably would have felt the same way about running, but trying to go from a non-runner to Division I runner, I really never got good enough to race head-to-head with anyone much. I really wish I would have got to run at the high school or Division III level instead.

Anyway, I come to the conclusion that cycling does make me happy, more or less. I just need to find a way to keep the rest of my life from draining on me so much. Maybe that's where the meditation will come in. Until then I will leave you with another great quote not from the Rocky III soundtrack:

"....I realized that sometimes riding a bike is just plain not fun and too many people in the world are assholes (I've decided to stop being an asshole in order to decrease the numbers)."

-Tracy Nelson

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ummm, Barium...

First Mrs. Bigglesworth and now me. The mystery abdominal pain that slowed me down on my ride Saturday decided to stick around and get worse, so this morning I decided to see a doctor. So far, we don't have a clear diagnosis, but I do get to drink a couple of Barium "smoothies" and go back for a CT scan at 2:30. It's just goes to show that missing work isn't always fun.

Until then, I get to sit around and worry about what my diagnosis will be. I'm sort of worried it's my gall bladder and they're going to want to take it out and I won't be able to ride for another month or so. I guess it not a good idea to get too freaked out too early though. Hey, at least I should lose some weight from it, right?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bike Race to Rat Race

I got back to Bloomington Wednesday night well-rested and ready to get back on my bike, as I had been bikeless since the end of the Ouachita Challenge. My bike rode home with my friend Chrysa on Monday and I flew home on Wednesday. Not really the best laid plans, but the brilliant travel plan that I had when I signed up back in December slowly fell apart as the race drew nearer. Oh well, you live, you learn. It was my first time "travel racing" as my husband would say.

Unfortunately, my anxiousness to start training again was completely killed my first day back at work. So much work had piled up while I was gone and I got stressed out to the point of feeling physically ill: headache, random body pains, dizziness, and nausea. That bled on into Friday and I ended up not riding until this morning.

Today's ride was my first official "mountain bike ride" of the season (last weekend was a beast all of it's own). I went to Brown County to try out my singletrack legs and found them quite lacking, even on less-techical terrain and with a non-exploding heart rate. I was riding very weak both fitness-wise and techincally. I've had stomach pains since breakfast this morning that didn't really subside for my ride, but I got the distinct feeling that I still wouldn't have exactly been a superstar otherwise.

I did get some good practice on the "fake rocks" today though. I pretty much rode out the most techical section and back to see if I'd gained any skills in last week's experience. Overall, I was actually pretty wussy, as I tend to be when I'm out of practice, but I did manage to clear the "S-shape rock garden" for the first time ever. It's considered to be one of the more difficult elements on that trail system, so that was an accomplishment.

I nine more weeks to get myself ready for the Lumberjack 100 and while podium places are probably out of reach, I would at least like to get through it with a little less pathetic suffering than Ouachita. Taking five-day breaks from riding are probably not the way to do that, but I'm going to try really hard to make sure that doesn't happen again, well, like ever... We'll see about that.


In case anyone was wondering. I made the last-minute decision for Mrs. Biggleworth to have her surgery while I was out of town. I didn't want Adam to have to take care of her afterwards by himself, but the vet was leaving town the day I was getting back and I didn't want Mrs. B to have to wait two more weeks. I figured that given the choice, it was more important for the vet to be there for the surgery than me, so she had the operation while I was on my way to Arkansas.

It went really well and she's feeling much better. Now she just has a bald belly and a little strip of one front leg shaved (for the IV, I presume) that makes her look like she's wearing Uggs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How the Other Half Lives

It took me a couple of days to find the motivation to write my race report for the Ouachita Challenge. Then this morning I saw that Carey had posted hers and I was quite surprised to find a few similarities between her race and mine:
1) It was the hardest LAST PLACE finish for me ever.
2) The start was way faster than I expected.
3) The course was way harder than I expected.
4) I was in no mood to listen to the guy giving me directions at the last check point. This was not because I was worried about holding anyone off, but because I too believed that it was all down hill to the finish and I just wanted to be done.

This, however, is not the "other half" I am referring to. I am referring to the other half (okay 95%) of the United States that is not Indiana and how I had no idea what I was getting into when I rolled up to the starting line Sunday morning. I apparently picked a very bad venue to venture out of everything I had known about mountain bike racing until that point in my life.

Arkansas singletrack is hard. When I heard that there were rocks I was still imagining Indiana rocks, but just more of them. The problem is that Indiana trails only have rocks that were placed there after careful thought on the part of the trail builder, with great consideration regarding the flow and difficulty level desired. Arkansas just has rocks: big ones, little ones, loose ones, sharp ones, etc. They grew there themselves.

So now that I've set the mood for our tale, I will proceed with my version of the 2008 Ouachita Challenge.

As I mentioned before, the start was fast, but I didn't really know that at the time as I had no previous experience with that sort of thing. I just hammered away trying to stay mid-pack so I wouldn't "get stuck behind the slow people on the singletrack" as I had been warned about the day before. Hah! Basically, I spent the first half-hour with my heart rate about 15 beats above the early race limit I had set for myself and by the time I hit the singletrack I was having a terrible time bringing back down. My handling skills were also crap because I hadn't seen singletrack since Thanksgiving, my tires had too much air, and I was already tired. The Womble seemed to last forever and by the time I hit aid station one I had basically just finished my first cross country race of the season.

Too bad I still had a 40 mile death march to the finish.

I did get what seemed to be a too-short reprieve over highway and fire road where I did my best to spin my legs out, but it was to be the last time I felt good that day. After that the real rocks and climbing set in, draining my strength with each pedal stroke or step. The Blowout Mountain section was so hard that I don't think I was able to stay on my bike for 60 seconds straight the whole time, either because of the steep climbing over rocks or because the descent was so darn technical. That made for seven miles that took two hours to cover.

The thought of quitting crossed my mind many, many times during that section, but the fact that I had come halfway across the country to be there and the need to prove all the naysayers wrong forced me to get back on my bike after a short break at the last aid station. I'm not even sure if the Big Brushy section was really that hard, but I still had to walk a lot of it. That was because my quads refused to pedal over anything steeper than 4%, even in my easiest gear.

So when I reached the fire road at the end I was ready to rip it with every bit of strength I had left and call it a day. The guy tried to tell me how to get back to town while putting on my zip tie, but I think got distracted by the fact that he was putting in on in a stupid way. Those damn zip ties were about the only thing keeping me going at the time and I wanted it put on neatly so that I could keep them as a badge of honor. Anyway, all I heard was "down fire road, left at highway, less than 10 miles" and I threw it in my big ring and started flying down the fire road.

There must have been a turn that he didn't tell me about or that I didn't hear because after what seemed like way too long I still hadn't hit the highway and I realized there were no other bike tracks in the gravel. I stopped, looked around, pulled out my cellphone and found I had no service, and cried. Then I pedaled some more until I realized I was back at the aid station where I had been before we entered the last section of singletrack. Then I cried some more and turned around. Luckily, it didn't take long before I saw the bailout route signs back into town, so I was able to get back without totally retracing my steps.

As I was rolling up the hill with the finish in sight, albeit from the opposite direction from where I was supposed to be coming from, my phone started ringing and then a guy said, "Is that her?" I looked over to find a my mom, my friend Chrysa who I had driven down with, and a small group of volunteers forming a search party to find me.

So I may or may not be on the official results when they come out, but as far as I'm concerned, I made it back to the Oden School without any motorized help, so I finished. It wasn't what I would call "fun", but it was an important lesson in resilience that I sure I will benefit from in the future.


The volunteers were nice enough to leave the showers open for me and standing in the concrete walls of the high school locker room, I have to say I had the best, most luxurious shower of my life.

I also got to eat my first Sonic in five years afterward. I chose a cheeseburger, which is totally weird for me, but it was delicious. I meant to get a picture, but I stuffed in my mouth so fast that I forgot to take one.

Hopefully, I will have some race pictures to post tomorrow.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Suitcase of Perpetuem

Yep, that's what I've packed so far. That, along with my flasks, hydration pack and bladder. I've been trying to phase things into the suitcase for a few days now, but since this is technically a "B" race I'm training right up until I leave tomorrow and keep needing to use things. So I've only been able to pack things that won't be used again before I leave.

The Anthem was retired from duty after Tuesday's workout and got it's final pre-race tuneup last night. Adam made it nice 'n' sparkly for me. Too bad all the naysayers are predicting a muddy mess for Sunday. Oh well, I love mud. If we can just coax up some pouring rain I'll be good to go.

So tonight I have to do some short hill reps on the road bike and then come home and pack. Then early tomorrow, it's off to Arkansas.


As for bad news, I just got a call from the vet and it turns out that Mrs. Bigglesworth doesn't have the mysterious but ultimately harmless FLUTD that we thought she did. She has a stone in her bladder/kidney (I can't remember which) that will have to be removed surgically and will cost about $600.

Not only is that painful to hear, but I'm also just upset that she will have to have surgery. I'm very heeby-jeeby about anyone (even cats) getting cut open. Kind of ironic since I wanted to be a vet for several years of my young life. However, I got squeemish as a teenager.

Just the thought of her being shaved, doped up, and in pain for a significant amount of time bothers me, but I guess if it makes her better it will be okay. I'm trying to tell myself it's probably no worse that getting your cat spayed, but that I wasn't around for that phase of her life. I pretty much pointed to the cat I wanted at the animal shelter and a week later picked her up from the vet, so it was much less personal at the time.