Monday, March 30, 2009

Extreme Taper: OC Edition

I have officially made it through the first three weeks of my training plan pretty much exactly as prescribed, although yesterday's planned 3 hour road ride turned into a 3:45 death march in lightly falling snow. My legs said enough was enough, and I just couldn't keep up a decent pace. Though technically, I think my power average was still in the assigned range (just barely) and I racked up the assigned amount of kilojoules, so I'll call it a win. Okay, I think I'll call the fact that I went outside at all a win.

As icing on the cake, yesterday marked the 21-day threshold for habit formation, although I think wrote down 100 days of no blown-off workouts as my first goal for 2009. It's a both a good goal and a silly goal at the same time. It's good because it was something I needed to improve on, but silly because it's not like it will do me much good if I decide to sit on the couch and eat ice cream for Day 101. I don't think that will happen, though.

Speaking of sitting on the couch, my three weeks of hard work have earned me one heck of a rest week leading up to the Ouachita Challenge Sunday. Days off include: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I'm not sure if I'll know what to do with myself, but my muscle fibers need some time grow back (hopefully stronger) before the race. I'm pretty sure that there really won't be a whole lot more sitting on the couch than normal, since I will need to use a lot of the free time to catch up on the housekeeping and other miscellany than have been ignored during my training binge. Hopefully, I'll still find time to put my feet up for some book reading and movie watching before time to leave on Friday.

My one real workout this week is on Wednesday, which is 1-minute intervals, and I'm actually really excited about this one. The night before the Long Run Park road race a couple of weeks ago, I was supposed to do 4 X 45-second "openers". The instructions said "FG" (I took this to mean Full Gas), so I went out and KILLED IT and I managed to knock out some pretty impressive power readings, for me at least. It was exciting to pour it out for the first time in forever, but it was probably also a contributing factor to my crappy race the next day. So I'm looking forward to KILLING IT again on fresh-ish legs without worrying about ruining my race, as I will have three days to recover afterward. Then I should be able to show some restraint for my next set of openers on Saturday.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mofo Accomplished (Mostly)

After three days of fretting about whether my big mofo four-hour singletrack ride would happen today, it did, more or less. I spent the whole day yesterday checking the radar for Nashville, IN about every 30 minutes, as I watch two large green patches of rain go each side of Brown County State Park. Score! However, there was still rain predicted for late morning today. So I got up at 6:15 a.m. ON A SATURDAY to try and beat the rain.

I had hoped ride the paved climb up to the North Tower, ride two laps of the race loop, come down the connector trail, refill with water, and do the whole thing over; kind of like doing two DINO BCSP races back-to-back. However, I wasn't going full race pace, because I was going to be out there much longer than normal and my legs were quite tired from training this week. I didn't know if I'd be able to do that within four hours.

After two laps, I was well off-pace, partly because I had to make a bathroom stop at the top of the Aynes climb on both laps. Obviously, hydration was not a problem and I had a decent amount of water left. It started lightly sprinkling, so I decided to try and get in one more lap without stopping to refill for water. By the end of the third lap, the rain was coming down earnest and I knew it was time to get off the trail. I still had some time left, and since I've become very OCD about getting in the full workout time, I finished up on the road. I could have probably finished another beginner loop only, if it had not been raining, but I was close enough.

When I got home, I was kind of disappointed to see that I had only covered 26.1 miles of not-that-hard terrain in my four hours. I was hoping for more like 40. It's still way better than I'd done before the Ouachita Challenge last year, and I'm lucky to have been able to get in four mountain bike rides already this year. Hopefully, the speed will come soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

She Has Danced Into the Danger Zone

Soooooo tired.

After 2.5 of the 3 relatively butt-kicking weeks of this training cycle, I'm starting to hurt. It all seemed pretty manageable as I ticked the workouts off one at a time. Now I'm in the last day of the next-to-last block. I just need to make it through the workday and a two-hour mountain bike ride tonight and then I get a day off tomorrow.

I think my real problem is that I've the far, and things are looking thunderstormy for my the big four-hour mofo singletrack ride that I had scheduled for Saturday. Then Sunday has a high in the 30's and a chance at snow. That's a three-hour road ride day.

Damn. I forgot it was still March.

I'm so close to pulling off a perfect training cycle. I WANT MY BIG MOFO SINGLETRACK RIDE!

I realize I'm getting a little too caught up in the details again, as I tend to do lately. My actual written down goal for March-June was to follow my training plan without blowing off any days. I figured I needed to get that accomplished before I could hope to achieve anything performance-wise. During my initial consultation with Jason, I all but blatantly stated that I wanted a totally easy sandbagger program for the first month, just so I could prove to myself that I could follow a plan again. The plan I actually received was anything but easy sandbagger (at least not to me), but I'm thisclose to having pulled it off, anyway.

I just need to breath, have a snack, sleep a lot the next couple nights, and take whatever Saturday's weather brings.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Overkill? Perhaps.

Training is still going well and I have reached the last hard week of the cycle before I spend next week resting (and praying) for the Ouachita Challenge. I'm scheduled for 13 hours this week, and even though I'm pretty tired from what has possibly already been my best two-week training period ever, I feel confident that I am going to sail through beautifully.

My pink booties seem to be drawing attention out on the roads, and when I walk by the drying rack where I air out my cycling clothes I'm starting to see a trend. Spring must be "pink season" for me, since all my heavy winter stuff is black. Soon I will shed it all for a few months of hatless, gloveless goodness.

It looks like I will have to buck the trend soon, though, because on my mountain bike ride on Sunday, I realized that my three-year-old pink Fox Incline cross country gloves are on their last legs (or thumbs). I was looking for a new pair of the same gloves, but current choices are limited to charcoal or walnut. I finally decided to go for the walnut, since it has light blue stripes that will match my new non-pink helmet, seen in this picture from the road race a couple of weeks ago.

When I got my new job, I decided to celebrate withe purchase of of a high-end helmet. I had planned on getting a pink Giro Atmos for a while, but I really didn't like the look of the latest version and in the end I decided I wanted to ugrade to an Ionos, anyway. The Ionos doesn't come in pink, so chose the light blue and white, which look pretty good with the mostly black 2008 kits (no word on when 2009 will be available).

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Mountain Bike Ride of the Year

It seems that Indiana has a wet year/dry year pattern. Luckily, we are scheduled for a dry year this year and seems to actually be working out that way so far. I was able to get in my first mountain bike ride of the year, exactly as my FasCalendar (I like that word) stated. Last year I didn't see any singletrack until I hit the Womble during the Ouachita Challenge. I'm not sure if I will get in the remaining three singletrack sessions that I have scheduled before the OC, but things are looking good for the next one on Sunday and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to take pictures now that it is warm enough to handle a camera without the bulk of lobster gloves. My phone was buried in my hydration pack, as I don't trust jersey pockets when I'm riding off-road. Since I was only out for an hour and a half, I didn't want to stop and dig it out.

The ride went better than expected. My mountain bike mojo was low since I'd been off the trail for a few months, but it was still better than I expected. I'm pretty sure I cleaned some rock sections that I never had before. It was the routine logs and roots that I've been riding for years that messed me up. With this, it seems that I have started a tradition:

For three years in a row, on my first ride of the year at Brown County, I have managed to ram into some seemingly innocuous object, come to a stop, nose wheelie, bang the top of my quads on the handlebars and bruise them, and come back down embarrassed but more or less unscathed. Last night it involved a roughly four-inch diameter log; I'm not sure how that happened.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


On the ice-filled line of sanity
It's a place most never see
It's a hard-won place of mystery
You can touch it but can't hold it

You work all your life for that moment in time
It can come or pass you by
It's a push of the world but there's always a chance
If the hunger stays alive

It's funny, but those were the lyrics that came to mind when I made the agonizing decision NOT to go get a muffin yesterday. Yeah, I know.

About a month ago, I hit my lifetime high weight of 137. Luckily, I realized that everything that I believed to have stood in my way during the last couple of years was either resolved or very near resolution. Like when I was offered my new job, I quickly realized that having a new job wouldn't in and of itself make me happy, but by leaving my old job, I had removed my most major excuse for not being happy. However, I still had to make the decision to get over it.

So I started riding again and quit worrying so much about whether I felt like riding or not. Then I pulled the trigger and signed up with a coach again. Then I stopped eating crappy food. Then after a couple of weeks it actually got easy to do all of these things again.

Which leads to me to the muffin. I was having a stressful morning and I just wasn't imagining the bean soup that I had brought for lunch giving me the happy shot of dopamine to the brain that I thought I needed. I craved something sweet and strongly considering going out for a muffin after I ate my soup, but after I was done with the soup I realized that I already had the blood-sugar stabilizing protein and fiber that I really needed. While I still wanted a happy shot of sugar-induced dopamine, I decided losing the 20+ pounds that I've gained over the last year and a half was more important.

What I can't understand is how I could make that decision yesterday, but not a couple of months ago when I was busy gaining those 20+ pounds. It's a hard-won place of mystery. You can touch but can't hold it.

I don't think there's a better way to describe the way that my weight has fluctuated through about five major ups and downs in the last 10 years. It really has nothing to do with which self-prescribed regimen I'm using, it's whether I "have it" at the moment or not. I just wish I knew how to keep it.

For the moment, I am rocking the first two weeks of my new training plan and I've lost about three pounds. I'm super tired, and I get hit with overwhelming hunger every couple of hours, at which time I eat 200-400 calories of something healthy and move on. I just need to remember that after months of not really needing any nutrition on the bike, that the overwhelming hunger will likely hit in the middle of the ride and I need to have some Rapidade or gel ready when it comes. Two hours with 2 x 14 minutes tempo kind of sucked last night on just water.

How far can I take it? We shall see.

Along those lines, I have decided that "She's A Maniac" will be my 2009 theme song, since that seems to be something that I like to do. There was "Livin' on a Prayer" in 2007 and "The Long Way Around" in 2008.

At first glance, choosing the song from an 80's movie training montage seems really lame. I didn't really even like the song until I heard an a capella version in the movie "Hamlet 2". Once I got the "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" song out my head (watch the movie), I started thinking about the "maniac" lyrics. There's actually some pretty good wisdom about self-efficacy in there. No overly inspirational crap about getting what you want if you work hard enough; more of a "you won't know unless you try" message. I like it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Famous Last Words

As for myself, I'm doing everything I can to not need an excuse for tomorrow (crashes and mechanicals be damned). I've spent the whole week trying to hone my "Eye of the Tiger". - Me, Three Days Ago

I had this great plan to show up two hours before the race start, get checked in, dress in a calm and relaxed manner, do a thorough warm-up on the trainer, inspect the course, and start the race ready to fight harder than I'm normally used to doing. So here's a rundown of Saturday's race for which I thought I was so well prepared:

1) Late start from Columbus
2) Had to stop for gas, because I hadn't expected to drive the rest of the way to Louisville (my fault)
3) Got semi-lost or at least took a very inefficient route (semi-my fault for trusting the directions on the race flyer rather than taking it to MapQuest.)
4) Pouring rain made for slow moving a high stress level once I knew we were semi-lost (rain, not my fault; stress level, kind of my fault).
5) Arrived at race venue 45 minutes before race, 1:15 later than planned.
6) Freaked the hell out because I had to tried so hard to actually properly prepare for a race for the first time in probably two years
7) Got dressed
8) No warm-up except for one easy lap of the course, which was really just inspection rather than warm-up.
9) Started race, but due to the wet conditions I was afraid to bury myself in the middle of the pack as I had been instructed to do.
10) Got dropped on first hill.
11) Spent about a lap and a half beating myself up for everything that had happened so far that morning and my inability to handle it.
12) Told myself to HTFU and chase down the girl 100 meters down the road.
13) Looked up and saw there was no longer a girl in sight (not sure if she sped up or dropped out), but it left me with no choice but to time trial it out to the end
14) My chain broke off right before the end of the fifth lap. I had been on pace for six laps, but while I was walking up the last hill, the leaders finished and I was recorded as finishing with five laps, rather than a DNF.

So my "no excuses" race place dissolved into nothing but. I think that's why I had my pre-race freakout, because last year was nothing but lame-ass excuses. I wanted to actually put my heart into a race for once, even if it wasn't an "A" race. I guess that Saturday's race had become way too symbolic for me. I'm just so freaking tired of things getting messed up all the time, and as much as it happens, I feel like it must be my fault on an unconscious level.

On a side note, racing with a power meter adds a nice measure of objectivity at least. I was able to go home and see that, yes, my numbers were pretty weak compared to my training last week. It is comforting in the sense that I know the crappy race was in fact me actually riding badly rather than riding well and still falling behind. However, a bad day is a bad day and it's important that I figure out a way to do better next time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Excuses, Excuses

I thought this results page was funny. It contains a comment field with notable mechicals and injuries. Don't you wish all races did that?

As for myself, I'm doing everything I can to not need an excuse for tomorrow (crashes and mechanicals be damned). I've spent the whole week trying to hone my "Eye of the Tiger".

I read the following passage of this article a few weeks ago and it really stuck with me.

MiMBR: For those people reading this who are just starting out or who want to race, what advice would you give them?

DM: The important thing is to be easy on yourself. That’s something I tend to not be. If you go into a race and you’re constantly putting yourself down, then it’s not very much fun and you set limits within your own mind.

MiMBR: And you tend to live up to them.

DM: Yeah, exactly. That was the biggest mistake I ever made and to this day I still regret it. I did this race in Massachusetts and there was this other woman there. It was when I was still new to racing and I was just like “she’s going to beat me, she’s going to beat me.” And I was always just 15 minutes behind her and I never even really tried to push harder because I just thought I couldn’t.

Even though I'm no underwear-under-my-chamois-wearing newbie (earlier in the article), I think I would do well to heed this advise. I think I've always had a disconnect between I'm physically capable of and what I believe myself to be physically capable of. My college track/xc coach mentioned on more than one occasion that I did not look sufficiently spent after practice. It's not that I was consciously sandbagging, but maybe I just had another gear that I didn't realize I had. The only problem with trying to push past the pain and find the other gear is that it makes you even more conscious of the pain. That fact alone usually breaks me.

Maybe this is my true weakness. Perhaps what I believe to be my well below average level of physical talent is actually a well below average level of mental toughness and/or self-efficacy. I really want to use tomorrow's race as an opportunity to try and test my boundaries this area.

After all, I am technically undefeated on the road, so I should to focus on the fact that anything is possible and not create mental boxes how I should stack up against the field.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Gloves Are Off

It's interesting that I thought up this title during my *gasp* 70+ degree ride yesterday, where I amazingly rode with no gloves whatsoever for the first time in probably six months. It's probably even more befitting of today's events, though the temperature has dropped 40 degrees.

I'm a little weirded out, because for the second time this week, my blog-browsing netted some shocking material. I was reading this post and I realized that I am the way-back competitor referenced in the second paragraph. I don't understand the "rivalry" part.

Okay, so the reason I was reading in the first place was to see if the girl was doing the circuit race in Louisville this weekend, so maybe there is a little rivalry. However, it's my first road race ever and I not planning on "rivaling" anyone. If I can hang with the main pack the whole race and manage some semblance of a sprint at the end, I will be thrilled. It will be interesting to see how I fare against girls who I have only raced against in 'cross. Things might pan out differently without the annoying factor of grass and a lighter bike that actually fits me.


As for my ride yesterday, it was really good; so good that I kept forgetting to take a picture of my ungloved hands and pasty-pale shorts-clad legs to post. I'm sure everyone's dissapointed to miss that spectacle.

It was the first without on my new "FasCalendar", and I did 3X9 minutes Sweet Spot, which is harder than tempo and easier than threshold. It went really well, and I'm pretty optimistic looking over the next four weeks' workouts. There is even a 13-hour week on the schedule in a couple of weeks and the sight of it doesn't scare the crap out of me. A year ago it would have, so that's a good sign.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seriously Disturbing

During my usual Monday blog-browsing, I came upon this post and sparked a traumatic memory from the weekend.

I just got back from a quick three-day trip back to Oklahoma for my grandma's 80th birthday. As part of the festivities, all of her children, grandchildren, etc. were supposed to submit a memory for a "memory book" that my aunt was creating for the party. I had a really hard time thinking of a good one besides that one that I used for her and my grandma's 50th anniversary video, and reusing it felt like cheating. So I sent off something short and lame, only to find upon inspection of said memory book, that several of my cousins had skipped their memory submission completely. However, when we attended the "after party" with several visiting relatives from California at her house, I gathered some solid material for her 90th birthday.

We were all sitting around having some "Owl Wine" , as she called it, and telling stories, and the subject of pesky wildlife came up. My mom mentioned that she had trapped a raccoon that had been killing some of her ducks, but didn't have the heart to shoot it, so she just drove it several miles from her house and let it go. That lead to my grandma telling about a recent bout of killing squirrels (as she tends to do) and the rest of the story went as such:

So then I looked up in a tree and there was this tiny little baby raccoon. It was the cutest little thing you'd ever see. Then I shot it....

Ew. I think I'm scarred for life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Back to Fight Another Day

I'm fighting the urge to cheat on my lunch again, but it looks like I'm going to pull through.
Would you want to eat this?

Monday, March 2, 2009

My Cheatin' Lunch

Okay, so this picture kind of refutes the point of this post, but I was mulling all this over while heating and eating said dish and I decided I needed a picture a little too late.

On Friday I mentioned that I had gone five days with no junkfood. I actually made it six and a half, pausing only for a "reward meal" of BBQ and waffle fries after viewing the NAHBS yesterday. Afterwards, I went straight home and prepared Thai-style tofu/veggie curry to bring for my lunches this week (sort of pictured above) and I'm back on track.

Lately it seems that my Sunday night lunch preparation is the key to my success or lack thereof. The first three weeks that I was at my new job, I probably went out for lunch all but two or three days, which is never a good sign for healthy eating. Part of it was trying self-medicate my new-job anxiety with comfort foods from the Bloomington Bagel Company, but part of it was that I either slacked on preparing food for weekday lunches or what I made didn't sound appetizing. I found myself cheating on my lunch a lot.

Finding a solution what part "suck it up" and part finding a lunch I could love enough to stay true to. I had to compromise a bit last week when I made Smoked Turkey Shepard's Pie, which was delicious, but is probably the most sour-cream and butter laden dish in my cooking repertoire. However, since I prepared it myself, at least I knew how much butter and sour cream were actually in it (less than Rachel Ray's original recipe), while I have no idea about the actual contents of restaurant food. On the positive side, it was also pretty heavy on the veggies and lean protein and gave me some inspiration to get back in the habit of "running what I brung" as far as my daytime food consumption. (Let's face it, going out for lunch a lot is even worse for my budget than it is for my waistline.)

So this week it was hard to find a follow-up to the Smoked Turkey Shepard's Pie, but I hadn't had the tofu/veggie curry in a while and it is easy to make. However, I was still kind of dreading my lackluster lunch today, but as you can see, I finished it all with no desire to top to it off with a cookie or anything. I've got to remember to bring a salt shaker for work, though.