Friday, May 30, 2008

Bacon Chocolate

Yeah, I said it. Bacon chocolate. It's the most exciting thing I have to tell right now.

A couple of days ago, a co-worker came back from a vacation to Scotland and brought an assortment of shortbread and other buttery treats back with her. This lead to a discussion of the superiority of real butter and other "natural" fats in cooking and baking, which lead to the joking proposal of bacon grease based cookies.

It's a horrible idea, but it reminded me of a recent trip to the local international/organic/ health food market, which keeps a ridiculously large selection of chocolate from all over the world near the checkout (sneaky). I did a double-take when I saw what appeared to be piece of back on a chocolate bar. Sure enough, it was a bacon bar. I was initially repulsed, but the work conversation inspired me to purchase one and bring it in to share with my office-mates yesterday. It wasn't bad. It was sort of good. I ate what was left after everyone else had a piece. I probably won't buy one again.


On the training front, I'm feeling too darn good. Not really. My legs still kind of feel like lead, but despite homework, work-work, and a fairly heavy training load so far this week, my stress and recovery scores are solid and I am maintaining a very good sense of well-being. My muscles are tired, but I don't feel bad. All of this is good, of course, but I'm trying to figure out how this week is different from my pre-crash living dead experience a couple of weeks ago or the deep fatigue and depression I dealt with all winter. I need to know so I can keep whatever's going on now going.

The only difference I can think of is the bacon bar. Just kidding.

However, I've really have been eating a lot this week and I'm wondering if it's helping. It's mostly been good quality food with the exception of the bacon bar and shortbread. I'm sticking to my snack schedule, having chocolate milk within minutes of getting off the bike, and actually eating dinner after I shower. Well, if you count stuffing some hummus and broccoli sprouts into a pita pocket dinner. It's got protein, fiber, carbs, and vegetables and requires chewing, so close enough.

It's usually so late when I get done training, so I just want to suck down some recovery drink and go to bed, but this week I've been eating real food at least. I'm getting a little less sleep because of it, but I'm feeling so much better right now I'm thinking it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mountain Bike Mojo

As the "cheeseburger kitties" would say, I doez not haz it.

Monday was my first time back on a mountain bike since the Warsaw race three weeks ago. It was also only about my sixth time on singletrack this season. The frequent and heavy rains have really been keeping me off the trails, as well as several breaks in training. So I am really having trouble finding my "mountain bike mojo" this season.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced the "Oh my gosh, this is hard" sensation the first time your tires touch dirt after a long winter on the road. It seems to occur no matter how good of shape I think I am in from road riding and this year it seems like it's happened on all but one MTB ride, due to the long dry (or wet) spells in between.

Monday I went to Brown County and was supposed to do 3 X 20 minutes TT efforts, but I felt like complete crapola from the get go. It may be true that you don't really lose any fitness in a week off, but it can certainly make you feel cruddy in the first few days on the bike afterward. So I just rode "easy" for two hours. However, I racked up a lot of zone 3-4 time just training to make it up the climbs without shifting to my little ring. I just hope this phase wears off before Sunday's race, as I can't imagine trying to suffer through 2 laps of that at "hard" pace feeling the way I was a couple of days ago.

The good news is that I actually cornered and descended pretty decently. I really focused on my new mantra of "the thighs tell the bike where to go, not the hands". I'm trying to develop my counter-steering abilities.

Yesterday was a two hour easy ride on the road, so it was actually easy, more or less. It still made me tired, but I think I'll be fine. This afternoon is 5 X 3 minutes of Zone 4 in a 1:45 total ride on the road. It's looking like I'll actually hit double-digit hours this week for the first time in forever.

Crossing fingers.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Easy Hard Day

Today marked the third green square in a row since my unplanned break from training. It was also my first "hard" day. Luckily, it was an easy one: 7 X 12 second sprints on a 3-5% hill. It was the kind of workout that's actually just plain fun at the time, but I will probably feel tomorrow. Actually, I feel it already. Tomorrow is a scheduled day off, and while I feel a little bad taking off a perfectly good Sunday, I know it's for the best. I can't load the legs up too much too soon, as they are kind of in shock from the return to training. Besides, I can get ahead on my homework so that I won't stress about it on the days when I do have scheduled workouts over the next couple of weeks. I still have Monday left to ride and play.


So here's a philosophical question for everyone, although there seems to be a lot more dog people than cat people among my blog friends, so I may get my butt kicked on this one. Today I was watching Sixx chase her tail, but unlike most dogs, she was actually catching it. (The key is to go through the back legs not around the side.) So tell me, does the fact that she can catch her tail make her smarter than a dog or does the fact that she can catch her tail, but still continues to chase it some more make her less smart?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

One Green Square

I finally got back on the bike today. I did a short "inertia breaker" ride on Sunday, but today was my first day back at anything resembling training. I did a two hour ride in zone 2 with a 12-second superspin every 10 minutes.

Now I need to just keep doing that. Whenever I download a workout like I'm supposed to, Training Peaks puts a green square on my training calendar for that day. If I cut the workout short by more than 10 minutes, it's yellow. If I skip it altogether, it's red. Now I have one green square on my calendar for the week. My new goal for the season is to accumulate as many green squares as I can and I think the rest will take care of its self.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Brain Fried

Well, the interview is over and the thank yous are sent. Now all I have to do is wait (hopefully less than two weeks). Thanks to everyone who wished me good (even if it was just mentally). I've just been a little too brain fried until now to post anything.

For the record, the interview went okay. I've been joking that I did my normal nervous stuttering, but the content of what I stuttered was impeccable. That's not completely true, but I put a lot hard work and thought into my presentation and I think I came up with a heck of a sales pitch. I just wish I would have delivered it a little more smoothly. However, after being the interviewer so many times over the last couple of months, I have a strong feeling that I sounded worse to myself that I did to the people listening.

Then I spent the entire workday today in Indianapolis doing training and I am overcome with a deep exhaustion right now. I've been a little short on sleep the last couple of nights, but I think the real problem is that all the stress is just screwing up my brain chemistry and telling me I need to crash. I'm more relaxed than I have been for the last week, but I'm not fully where I should be.

I've almost got my whole class strategy figured out. It helps that I have a three-day weekend coming up. It's turning out to be much more work that I expected, but hopefully I can learn to manage class and training. I may just need to wean myself off my movie addiction for a while and figure out some new ways to keep myself calm.

As for training, there's not much to it right now. I got my training plan from now until the Lumberjack yesterday and it's reasonably kind. Apparently, I'm still tapering for it after all (from what I don't know). I'm going to just take it as an opportunity to get back on my feet and rebuild some my consistency. Since the plan is a little easier I'll hopefully be able to stick with it through the race. The Lumberjack is going to be yet another "learning experience" or "even more expensive group ride", but I'm pretty sure if I made it through the Ouachita Challenge I can make it through the Lumberjack.

Then I'll have 11 weeks until the Shenandoah, then all of cross season, and then, oh, the rest of my life to try and get fast. On days like today, I'm honestly way too tired to be anxious and the rest of my life seems soon enough. I might change my mind about that once I'm feeling good again...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Another Non-training Blog Entry

Today's weather was nice, but the ratchet of a career related stress that I have unnecessarily heaped upon myself keeps on turning.

Besides the homework I've been dealing with all week, I now I have a very important job interview on Tuesday. I have to give a presentation, but luckily it's of the powerpoint-on-random-topic variety. Basically, I just have to stand up and talk about myself, no powerpoint necessary. I think it's might actually be a good thing since I get to cover a lot of material before we go into the great of unknown of question and answer format. Unfortunately, I'm pretty much worthless in the days going into a big interview and all I can really do is hope I get the job and that it will be the last one for a while.

The second is goes back to earlier in the week. I already decided on Tuesday that I am completely lacking in an "business formal" attire that I actually feel good in. I think part of the problem is that I always buy suit jackets the same size as the pants and then they look big and sloppy. I'm a cyclist; I have top/bottom discrepancy.

I actually ordered a new suit a few days ago, but it will probably not be here in time. Even if it is I always have to have pants hemmed, because I'm solidly in between regular and petite length legs. So I had to come up with a way to make what I have acceptable. I spent a good portion of my time at the mall this morning, but couldn't find any of the items I was looking for. I think I have settled on just wearing a jacket and pants that both fit, but are not a set. Hopefully, the committee won't judge me too harshly.

It just frustrates me how hard it for women to find nice suits compared to men. I was once complaining to a male coworker who joked, "business casual is a scam invented by men to keep women from advancing professionally." He jokes, but it's true. Here's what mean were for work: pants, jacket, shirt, tie. If they want to be business casual, they take off the jacket and tie. They have special stores with racks and racks of these items and salespeople to show them how to match.

For women, there is so much more to it: pants, skirts, jackets, blouses, camisoles, all kinds of things men don't have to worry about. Wearing opened-toed shoes for men isn't even an option except in the most casual circumstances. For women, finding closed-toed dress shoes (at least stylish ones) this time of year is hard, but I have some very high ideals beaten into my head from my undergraduate business studies. One of those is no open-toed shoes at work and certainly not at a interview.

Seriously, why is there not a S&K women's wear? I just want to like the way I look.

I keep telling myself that from my all my experience as both an interviewer and interviewee the last couple of years, that probably very few people care about this stuff as much as I do. I probably hurting myself more by caring at this point, since it's stressing me out.

So all of this probably seems pretty lame coming from someone who usually blogs about training for cycling. I know should care a lot less about my job, what I wear to my job, and anything regarding my job when I'm not there. I try to tell myself that it's really all about paying for my cycling toys anyway, and when the pursuit of money for toys interferes with the enjoyment of the toys, it's time to back off. Easier said that done.

I've always been a very high achiever academically. I was not one of those kids that got rewarded for a straight-A report card. Mostly my parents had me so scared of what would happen if I didn't get straight-A's I never actually got a B until college. At that point, it was somehow acceptable and I took full advantage my first semester.

I was always the kid that wanted to hang out with adults rather than other kids, and from junior high on, they always thoughtI was the best thing ever. Then my academic career ended and I was an "adult" in the real world scratching to survive. Everything I'd accomplished prior to that point apparently meant nothing to the people that mattered. For the first time in my life, success didn't come easily and three years later I'm still trying to prove that I'm really what my transcripts and diplomas say I am.

I grew up as a kid who was good at school and bad at sports, so I desperately wanted to become good at sports. I spent so much time and effort on that I suddenly was bad at the life the good grades were supposed to prepare me for. So these days I spend a lot of time vacillating my focus from one to the other and being good at neither. I definitely need to work on my balance if I ever want to be successful.

Hey, at least I'm not trying to have musical and artistic talent, too, right?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

My Training Needs Antipsychotic Medication

Yep, train my butt off, get physically exhausted, get depressed, find excuses to miss several days of training.

This week was rain and homework. Going "back to school" is harder than I thought. At least I know what I'm doing after this week and will be better prepared for the rest of the semester.

I've been avoiding the blog all week out of guilt, but I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem.

Sooooo...I have a problem.

Monday, May 12, 2008

And Wussing Out...

Okay, so I'm not really beating myself up about it too much, but I needed a title and my efforts over the past few days have been less-than-heroic.

Friday I skipped my squats because my legs were junk and I didn't really see the point in causing the significant muscle fiber trauma that I knew it would when there was definitely not enough rest scheduled in the near future for it to heal. Breaking down muscle only works when you let it grow back.

Saturday was my one "heroic" day of the weekend. My scheduled workout was 8-12 X a 6-8% grade hill that took 60-90 seconds to climb. The first part of the climb was supposed to be zone 3-4, then stand and push to zone 5 for the last 20 seconds, and finish with 5 powerful pedal strokes at the crest of the hill. This is a Coach Dave staple and as many times as I've done it, I've never made it through more than six reps. However, once I saw it smack-dab in the middle of a power block, I finally got it. It's not about the hill; it's about the sprint at the top of the hill.

My legs once again felt terrible going into the workout, but I decided to do one rep and then if I still wanted to quit I would. This time I made it a point just to climb the hill, not try to push too early like I have in the past (a steep grade will get me to zone 3 without training) . Sure enough, I had a much better workout this time and got 8 reps in. I might have been able to do more, but I didn't want to be greedy. I had made my point and I wanted to live to train another day.

Unfortunately, the next day I woke up to rain, high winds, and a temperature that topped off at 51 degrees. Great weather in February, not so much in May. I had two workout options for the day: a four hour mountain bike ride if I felt good or a two hour road ride if I didn't. Well, I didn't feel good and couldn't have mountain biked even if I did and it didn't take long for me to decide that I didn't really feel up to a road ride in the rain either. Adam had some sort of nasty flu thing last week and I'm still not fully convinced that it won't get me yet. I've had a low-grade sore throat since Friday, but nothing else so far.

The only problem with this plan is that Monday is ALWAYS my day off. I have a serious mental block against riding on Monday, but I somehow convinced myself yesterday that I would. Yeah right. I came home and stressed about what to wear to our office "retreat" tomorrow as I wanted to look nice for all the important folks in other departments.

Then I stressed about my first week of homework, because I just began the first class of a "graduate certificate" program in Instructional Systems Technology. I don't officially need any more education, but I'm definitely wanting to make a bit of a career change. Well, I've been wanting to do that for two years, but I'm finally getting a clear picture of what my strengths are. They include being a student loan guru/superstar, but unfortunately there's not a lot of room for advancement in that field (at least without moving), so I have to figure out a way transfer my skills to something more profitable.

So the ride got bumped for homework. That's not going to happen again, I swear.

The good news is that my legs should be good going in the next week. I'm going to keep pushing the limits about what I can handle and see what happens. I really wish I had a power meter, because I feel like my legs and HR monitor are lying to me about what I'm really capable of as far training volume and intensity go. Too bad that probably won't happen for a while on the current salary.

From what I hear, power meters and Shakira's hips are the only training devices that register fully accurate information.

(For some odd reason, we like making Shakira jokes in the Rodkey household.)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Pushing Through

After Tuesday's basement torture, I pushed further into my sprinty, power-building block of training. Unfortunately, Wednesday had thunderstorms all day and I was stuck inside on the trainer, which wasn't really that bad for sprints. I just cut the ride time from 1.5 hours to and even 1. I justified the reduction in time by telling myself the extra 30 minutes would have been eaten up by the ride in and out of town anyway, had I ridden outdoors.

Yesterday was a two-hour zone 1-2 ride. My legs were pretty wobbly from two days of sprints, but I set out to see what would happen. Thirty minutes into the ride, I was still struggling to keep my HR up to zone 2, so I thought about cutting it short. I have a belief, which my coach has confirmed, that riding much more than an hour is a waste of time when you can't get out of zone and you would be better off going home to rest.

However, I was really set on making through a hard training block as planned for once. I was hitting zone 2, but it was hard. I decided that since it was Thursday night and I was almost done with a relatively low-stress week at work, I was going to experiment and push a little further through the boundaries of fatigue than I normally do. Rest and recovery are all well and good, but I have to step up to "big girl" training someday. So I forced my legs to keep spinning strong, smooth circles fast enough to keep my HR above 154, even though they didn't want to. Finally, after the first hour I hit my stride and actually felt decent. My HR actually went a little crazy and started jumping up too high the last 15 minutes, but I was okay.

I woke up pretty worn out today and my legs definitely feel heavy, but it will take a few days to really see the results of my experiment. My workout today is 30 minutes of different types of one-legged squats. Since it's short, I can go home and watch a movie and chill for a while when I get home from work, so it's going to be a mental rest day even if I won't be getting full-on physical rest.

We'll see how it goes, I've still got a tough couple of weeks ahead of me and I'm really going to have to be vigilant lest I "break" under the pressure, but if I can make it through it will totally be worth it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I'm going to refrain from lengthy commentary today, but I just wanted to say how hard my workout was yesterday. It was three sets of the following: 20 box jumps followed by 5 X 30 sprints on the trainer in my biggest gear. Yep, sprints are fun at 15 seconds, hard at 20 seconds, and apparently torturous at 30 seconds. My legs were jello afterwards, but I guess it's good for me.

Today is more sprinting, but these just babies: 10 seconds out of the saddle, then 10 seconds in the saddle every 5 minutes over the course of a 1.5 hour zone 2 ride. These are the fun kind.


Just in case anyone was planning on trying to eat a whole mango at their desk at work while wearing freshly dry-cleaned clothes, don't. Stick with apples and bananas.

Don't ask me how I know this either.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Finding the Right Words

Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time reading various responses to my weekend's race by blog comment and email. I also spent some time catching up on my blog-reading and reacting to other peoples' race reports from the weekend.

It's unfortunate that Hallmark doesn't make a "I'm sorry for your race" card, because it's really hard find the right thing to say in those situations. I don't want to you be a downer, but there's also the reality that, for the person involved, the only cure for a bad race is a good race (or good workout at least).

Of course, bad races aren't the only times I don't know what to say. There are also the cases where I want to say "Good job!", but a bunch of people have already said that and I can't think of anything new or cool. There's really of whole plethora of situations where I want to say something, but everything I can think of is trite and/or unoriginal.

So I have come up with the perfect blog comment, although I'm not sure if I'll ever use it: "So I read your blog and I care what's going on in your life. I hope that knowing this will make you feel good."

That's pretty much what I'm trying to say most of the time.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Day of Rest

Yesterday, I had a much needed "day of rest", which I learned is a lot different from a "rest day". Technically, I had three rest days last week (two planned, one unplanned), but I still went into the race Saturday feeling like the living dead. That's because it's the non-training stuff that's killing me. It seems that too often my "rest days" are just weekdays where I don't have to ride, so I just run around town like an insane woman doing errands after work. It's not very restful, even though I'm not training.

Yesterday, however, I did ride, but it was a lot closer to a real rest day than I've had in a long time. I slept 12 hours as planned. I then got up 11 and ate a leisurely breakfast while watching a movie. Then I ran a couple of errands with Adam and got ice cream. After I got home, I went on a 1:15 easy ride on the road, showered, and made a nice dinner. After all that I was still in bed before 10. I seriously need to do that more often.

Now today is a "rest day" per my schedule, but I'm still stuck running around after work. I really try to get everything I need to do done on the weekend, but it's hard when I'm racing or traveling as I was last weekend and this past Saturday. I did what I could yesterday, but a lot of businesses aren't open on Sunday. It makes me kind of glad I have four weeks until my next race.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

DINO #1 Race Report (Race Rant?)

UGLY is the only way to describe my race today.

I headed to Warsaw, IN today to kick off the DINO series and start shaking out the answers to the questions and speculation that I mentioned yesterday. I can only hope that by June I am proven wrong because things aren't looking so hot right now.

It was the most painful start I've ever had as my throat and gums were burning so bad from lactic acid that I thought my lower jaw was going to fall off. I haven't traditionally warmed up well before XC races, but I did before the TT last week and I felt so much better than I did today. I think I need to make it part of the routine.

The leaders dropped me pretty quickly and I was left to suffer with a couple of sport riders lurking behind me. I kept myself completed redlined trying to hold them off, but during a series of power climbs near the end of the first lap, I blew up, crashed, and let them pass me. I completely couldn't get myself together after that and could barely keep my bike on the trail. I wanted to quit.

I decided to finish, but just ride the second lap "easy", which still hard after an hour with my HR sky high and expert men zooming by at that point. The sad thing is that I my "easy" second lap was less than 2 minutes slower than the first lap where I was killing myself.

I ended up with a time 17 minutes faster than last year, but my third place expert woman (I was fourth out of four) put a full 30 minutes on me. Additionally, I was beaten by several sport women including one that I consistantly beat by around 15 minutes every race last year. It was not good.

I'm sure part of the problem was how exhausted I've felt all week, which is bad because the fatigue is only about 30% from training. I'm definitely going to try to sleep at least 12 hours tonight and try not to do anything tomorrow except my 2 hour ride, which I will be doing VERY easy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Power Trip

I got my training plan for the next three weeks from my coach a few days ago and it sort of makes me want to cry just looking at the workouts.

We decided that since the season is getting off to a late and funky start that it may be best to just start over and try to peak for the Shenandoah 100 at the end of August. The Lumberjack has been demoted from an "A" race to another "learning experience", which I suppose it's good to adopt that line of thinking ahead of time rather going in and blowing myself up over nothing.

As for the crying part, that because of the muscle-fiber shredding power workouts I'll be doing before then. The idea is that if you increase your maximum power that automatically makes you faster at all effort levels, as they are all percentages of your max. Doing this will involve doing a lot of sprints over the next few weeks.

Fifteen second sprints on the road bike are fun and I will be doing plenty of that, but I will also be doing sprints at the top of hill repeats, 30 second sprints on the trainer (it starts hurting at 20), and jumping onto boxes in between sprints on the trainer. Fun, eh?

Then endurance training gets mixed back in as I start to adapt. That's going to leave me short on long rides before the Lumberjack, but I think it's okay. My problem at the Ouachita Challenge was burning all my "matches" (power, fast twitch fibers, etc.) out early in the race. The new training plan should give me a few more matches to burn and hopefully I'll be smarter about how I use them for the Lumberjack. Then by the Shenandoah I will hopefully have lots more matches to burn, lots more efficiency at burning them, and the experience of knowing how to use them correctly. Oh, and hopefully I'll be better at riding over rocks.

So that's the long term for the season. In the short term, I feel very much like I did jostling around at the start of the Ouachita Challenge all over again, as the first DINO XC race is tomorrow. The season always starts with a wave of rumor and speculation and an inevitable post on the HMBA forum predicting the DINO Series top 10 expert men for the year. We women don't get that kind of publicity; for us it's more chatting amongst ourselves about who we will think will show up, what class they will be in, and how fast they'll be.

And then by June, we're always proven wrong. Kind of like worrying about getting "stuck behind the slow people on the singletrack", eh?

I'm still nervous nonetheless. It largely has to do with the thought of racing gut-wrenchingly hard for two hours and knowing I'll probably still get beaten by several people after all that suffering. But as my favorite line of this blog's namesake tune says, "You live for the fight when that's all that you've got."

The funny thing is that trying to focus on the long-term is what's making me nervous. Since I'm getting what feels like a really late start rolling into the season (I hit my lowest weight since Christmas this morning, but it's still around 7 pounds heavier than this time last year), I'm already worrying about stretching the season out as much as possible. I've already been looking for late-fall races, which is dumb because I have no idea how I'll feel in November. Yet I'm still formulately plans and backup plans for six months from now. It's a compulsion I can't seem to break.

You may have noticed that I have the Iceman Cometh as question mark on my sidebar schedule. Yes, I could have signed up for the lottery, but I wanted to a "win" a spot through the Midwest Mountain Bike Championships program. It was a good idea at the time, but after my crappy winter training I think I've just traded a lottery for a poker game. It's all gambling, and I'm letting myself get worried about too many things beyond my control.

I don't think I'll elaborate beyond that. If I'm in a poker game, I need to keep my cards close to my chest.