Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Last One

In yet another of my favorite sports-themed media items, the book Running with the Buffaloes, there is a chapter called, "It's My Last One, Bitch!" The phrase comes from freshman Steve Slattery's reply when he is chided by the team captain for running too hard during a workout. I'm pretty sure I may have also said it in my head last night when I blew past some soft-pedaling guys who were also doing intervals on Bottom Rd.

Yes, last night concluded my Vo2 build-up for the month with 2 x (2 x 5 min). Despite having lingering fatigue left in my legs from the weekend and the plethora of gnats that kept trying to fly in my mouth and stick to my sweaty arms, I completed the workout in quite a respectable fashion. I averaged 187 for the set and set a new best 5 minute power of 194.

While there's still quite a jump between what one can do for 5 minutes and FTP, last night's workout was getting darn close to the magic number of 200. That's given me extra motivation today since I've been making great progress towards my wattage goal, but I'm still a long way off from the 115 pound weight goal that goes with it. Even with a lot of improvement, I'll still only be able to produce good skinny-girl level power, and I won't be very fast unless I have the skinny girl body to go with it. When I get the urge to eat sugar or other refined carbohydrates, I'm going imagine myself eating up all my power gains along with it.

As for other lasts, I also got my last month of workouts leading up to Pisgah last night. Everything's scheduled except for the last ~10 days of taper. I excited when I saw it, because it's looks like I'm going to get to race a couple of 'cross races and do a couple of Wednesday night 'cross training races.

In general, I'm kind of happy to see that my calendar doesn't have too much of a "OMG, Pisgah!" theme to it. The endurance is interesting: another 3.5 hour "freestyle sweet spot" mountain bike ride (lets see if I can kill this one, too), 6 of the 24 Hours of DINO, and finally a road century a couple of weeks before the race. The road century was 100% Jason's idea, but I kind of like it. I looked on the internet to see if I could find an organized ride that day so that I wouldn't have to be bored and alone, and I think I found a viable option in Very Southern Indiana that looks like fun.

Since the Lumberjack, I've been hesitant to be "OMG, anything", because that was how I was the first half of the season and it ended up being a disappointment. The irony is that Pisgah was supposed to be carrot that kept me training hard through the end of the season, and as it's turned out, it's more like I've been training hard in spite of it, not because of it. Everything that I've done the last two months has been because I'm sick of being slow and I feel like I've been training for some unknown success that's three years in the future or something. Whatever happens in October happens, but as the race gets closer, things are becoming a bit clearer to me: I think it will hurt really bad and that it will be really good for me. I think I'm a little less scared of the ugly place than I used to be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Because I Really Needed a Second Blog

For quite some time I've been wanting a place to write down my random thoughts about TV, movies, books, and whatever else, just in case there are a few people in the world who share my tastes and sense of humor. Those people need something to Google, right? Well, just in case, I've started a second blog, so feel free to check it out and see if you are one of those people.

I'm going to try this for a while and see how it works out.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rode Hard

Wet Dirty Cycling Clothes

The phrase "rode hard and put up wet" definitely comes to mind after this weekend's workouts, although I'm not particularly a fan of that phrase. It sounds like it means something dirty, even though I learned enough in my horse-crazy youth to know that it is not dirty at all. Basically, if you put a sweaty, overexerted horse in its stall before walking it around to cool down and possibly putting a blanket on it, it will get sick (read Black Beauty), much like what would happen to me if I sat in my sweat-soaked cycling clothes longer than than the time it takes to drink my chocolate milk and download my power file. Luckily, there are things called hot showers. I guess the reason that the phrase comes to mind is that I've just completed two longish days (3.5 hours each) where I rode to exhaustion and ended up soaked in sweat, despite upper 60's/ lower 70's temperatures.

Yesterday included part three of a four-part build-up of Vo2 Max intervals that Jason has me doing this month. I started with 2 x (2 x 2 min.) a couple of weeks ago, followed by 3 minutes last week, and then 4-minuters on Saturday. I finally cracked and fell short of averaging 200 watts for the set, but not by much. It sure was painful, though.

After that, I still had over two hours of endurance riding to complete and Emily joined me for that portion, since she become a Bloomingtonian last week. It was fun seeing her and catching up, but we got so busy chit-chatting that I forgot to eat or drink. To be exact, I consumed about 12 oz. of water and zero calories during the 3.5 hour ride. That wasn't really the best idea, since I'd exerted myself so much early in the ride. By the time I got home, I was cold, shaky, and starving, although I hadn't really noticed myself feeling bad until we were already back in town.

Despite a hard day yesterday, I was able to pry myself from pajamas and my Sookie Stackhouse novel for another 3.5 hours of Zone 2 today. For most of the summer, my Sunday Zone 2 rides tend to regress into "sit on the bike and soft pedal for the assigned amount of time" because that's all I can muster by the end of the training week. However, I know this isn't maximizing my training, so I've been trying to put in better efforts on my Zone 2 rides lately. Today I forced my tired to legs to turn hard enough to keep my heart rate in the 160's (I prefer HR over power on long rides), but I definitely felt wasted again by the time I got home.

This is the first time that I've felt truly tired since before the Lumberjack, although I've dealt with a lot of mental fatigue and sleep deprivation since then. I definitely prefer the deep physical tiredness that I'm feeling now, especially now that I've had a hot shower and some dinner.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's Working

Does anyone else find this commercial equally creepy and hilarious?

After finally unloading my Billy Brubaker metaphor from my brain and semi-successfully avoiding the need to drag through yet another bummer race report, I've decided to try and unload a few more things that have been floating in my brain during the past few weeks. I make no promises as to how coherent this will be.

Speaking of bummer race reports, I get the feeling that people don't like reading them and I don't blame them. I don't like writing them, but I guess I'm committed to truth in journalism or something.

It's funny, because the other day Adam told me that his friend who I don't even really know mentioned that I sounded discouraged in my blog. That's not really the reaction I want my writing to produce, but I guess there is some truth to it. For whatever reason, my race times are still slower than were two years ago, despite much better training. If pressed, I would call it a combination of bad luck weather-wise, race-day mental distress, and possibly the fact that all of the extra watts are being sucked up by the 15 extra pounds that I didn't have to contend with in 2007.

However, after the initial post-race cooling off period, I'm doing okay. What I'm doing is working.

After the Lumberjack, I said that I would focus on on the trail in front of me and I for the most part I've done pretty well at that. Despite some extra stress at work and dip in what I will call "surface motivation", I've still not missed a workout and really nailed several of them. No matter what's going on or how I'm feeling, when it's time to go to work on the bike, I'm getting the job done day after day. Even if I'm not seeing the immediate rewards that I'd hoped for, my numbers say that my day is coming.

As for my post-race negativity, everything I said back in June is still 100% true:

"Here's the thing. I'm not going to quit racing just because I'm not good at it. I'm also not going to resign myself to being a happy, smiley, back-of-the-packer with a "healthy attitude". I'm going to keep working and take this thing as far as I can take it, even if it doesn't go as far as I'd hoped. I'm going to stop caring what other people think, especially when they think I don't deserve to care about racing because I'm slower than them. I'm going to do what I want and I'm going to care as much as I want, because that's what I want to do. I'm not going let anyone tell me how I should feel, either."

Unfortunately, part of caring about something is being disappointed when it doesn't work out the way you wanted. I assert full rights for feeling disappointed after a bad race. I also feel like I'm dealing with it pretty well this year, as I'm not letting these setbacks throw me off course. However, I'll admit nobody likes a whiner, so whatever happens at Town Run, I'll try and think of something nice to say.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two Metaphors, One Race Report

You may have noticed by now that I like metaphors, and since my race report from DINO Logansport would be pretty boring if told it literally, I've decided to tell it in metaphor.

First, I would like you to imagine being a rag doll with little floppy rag doll arms and legs. Then imagine being dunked in a bucket of water so that your floppy rag doll arms and legs are wet and heavy. Finally, imagine trying to race a mountain bike like that. That's pretty much my race today. As for possible explanations, I'm going to say a combination of the heat and a phenomenon that will hereafter be known as "my brain on DINO".

As for my second metaphor, it doesn't specifically relate to the race today, but I thought it up several weeks ago and I've been wanting to mention it since. It came up when I was watching a very edited for TV version of Summer Catch, which is a goofy teen comedy from the early 00's about college/amateur baseball players in a summer league in hopes that will be noticed by professional scouts. It's also about Freddie Prinze, Jr. romancing Jessica Biel, but that part is pretty uninteresting except for the part where says in her most breathy voice, "If want big rewards, you gotta take big risks." So cliche, but kinda true. It's not really one of my "favorite" movies, but I feel the urge to watch it every time it's on TV.

Anyway, since the last time I watched it, I've been thinking about the subplot involving Billy Brubaker, the catcher player by Matthew Lillard. He goes through a significant number of games without a single hit, because he is not used to using wooden bats and really struggles adjusting to them. It gets to the point where he packs up his stuff and is ready to go home, but of course, FPJ's character plots to derail his trip to the bus stop with a night of debauchery with baseball groupie, Dee Dee Mulligan. Strangely, at no point does FPJ tell him "it's just baseball and we do it for fun".

After waking up hungover and wearing a thong, Billy Brubaker suits up for the next day's game and gets on base with a bunt, marking his first hit of the season. He does a happy dance and saves the ball, and the movie cuts to a montage of him hitting successfully and his batting average climbing on a news ticker.

Sure, I love cheesy sports movies as much as I love metaphors and I know darn well that real life doesn't always work that way. However, since I watched that scene I can't help wondering if all I need is a Billy Brubaker moment, some minor score to get me out of a rut. Or maybe I need a night of debauchery; I'm not sure.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Now U Can Haz More Wattz, Too

As promised, Jason published an article about his famous race simulation workout on Check it out and with any luck, a few months from now I should have random people telling me about the sweet new workout they've been doing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Song for Cyclocross

Every time I think of you, I always gasp for breath
And I'm still sitting here, and you're weeks away
And I'm wonderin' why I left
And there's a storm that's raging through my lactic acid-filled legs tonight

I see your name all over Facebook, and it always makes me smile
All my friends keep talkin' about you, and it's almost driving me wild
And there's a heart that's breaking on this registration site tonight

I ain't missing you at all, since I'll been gone away
I ain't missing you, no matter what I might say


When I signed up for Pisgah Stage Race last spring, the thought of sacrificing a season of cyclocross for it didn't bother me one bit. After all, I suck at 'cross, right?

However, after a few months of reflection and the fact that the best race I've had this season was a 30-minute short track race, I'm starting to question the whole "I suck at 'cross" belief that I made up ago couple of years ago. Yeah, I've had some pretty questionable 'cross results the last couple of years, but I also had some pretty questionable training in July-September the last couple of years. Could it be that 'cross was a litmus test for my real fitness level rather than the fact that something in my genetic makeup makes me especially weak and ungainly when riding a rigid bike over rough, grassy ground?

Okay, I admit that the 'cross bike/grass combo puts a hurt on a me like nothing else I have ever known (I do it for the thrills, the skinsuits, and the pageantry), but having never actually been inside the body of an elite mountain bike and cross racer, I can't say that transition away from suspension and buff singletrack isn't just as rough on them. I also must admit that, while I have a special affection for Jake, he isn't exactly the most high-end bike in the world and he may not be helping with the roughness.

Regardless, I've decided that the "I suck at 'cross" excuse is not going to fly anymore, anyway. It's a little too much like the stereotypical old "When am I going to use this in real life?" excuse about high school Algebra. I may never become a 'cross "specialist", but I think it's important for identifying strengths and weaknesses that carry over to my other races.

Good bike racers are good bike races no matter what type of race you put them in. Adam Craig, Rachel Lloyd, Katie Compton, and Georgia Gould all come to mind. Heck, I wouldn't bet against Mark Cavendish in a local amateur hill climb race, even though that's his "weakness". (Less than 25% slower than the top climbers in the world is still pretty fast.)

Having thought about all of this, it's not really going to change my plans for fall, because I've committed to Pisgah. However, it may change my attitude about what I'm going to do in November and December when I get back. That is, if I my legs are still attached when I get back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Morning Woods

Saturday morning I had the rare experience of having Brown County all to myself, in nice weather, and on dry trails. Of course, that only lasted about an hour and I had to get up at 5 a.m. to do it.

The reason I was up so early was because Adam was racing in Indianapolis in the afternoon, but he was leaving just late enough for me to get sneak in my assigned MTB ride before he left. So I got up at 5:00 to be at the trail by 7:00. For the first time I can remember outside of really crappy weather, I was the first car in the parking lot.

My assignment was a 3.5 hour ride with "freestyle sweet spot". Since I didn't really know what that meant, so I decided to take it easy up the connector trail and when I hit the North Tower Loop, ride at 80% of race effort for as long as I could keep it up.

It turned out that I could keep it up for quite a while. I tried really hard not to look at my watch the first lap, but I took a little glance at the end and realized that I'd done a 58 minute lap. When I was gearing up for the Lumberjack, my laps were 65-70 minutes, albeit at a lower effort level. While I was going hard, I certainly didn't feel blown out in the way that I usually do after the first hour of an XC race. I kept on going and busted two more laps at 56 and 59 respectively. I almost went out for another lap of the North Tower Loop only, but I realized that was cutting it a little too close on time, since I couldn't afford to go longer than planned that morning. So I took the long way back to the parking lot through the Pine Loop and erred on the side of going a little short instead of a little long.

It was a good ride, because I think that, for the first time, I actually felt what endurance racing is supposed to feel like. I was going hard for over 3 hours and I still felt like I could have kept that pace for another hour. I only got 28 miles in, but I got a taste of something sweet, and now I can totally imagine being able to go that hard for 50 miles by the end of next season.

So, needless to say, I skipped the third iteration of DINO Versailles yesterday. The stage race was much more important to Adam that the Versailles race was to me, and while I might have been able to bum a ride to the race, I really just didn't feel like trying to. I saw the results this morning and it doesn't look like I missed much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Shiny Short Adventures

As you may remember, when I crashed on the road doing some pre-Lumberjack sprints back in June, my first thought as I was sliding down the road was not about how I was getting hurt before the big race, but about how I was destroying my good pair of bibs. When I got home from the crash, I showed the holes to Adam and expressed my dismay. He said, "Can't you just get a new pair?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Your local team keeps a full stock of extra kits year-round and they just happen to be stored at your shop. Not so easy for me. While Louis Garneau makes fabu-tastic bibs for the Velo Bella team, they are quite hard to obtain. We haven't had a full team clothing order since January 2008, and there probably weren't that many extra pairs of bibs, anyway. Unless there is some obscure black market of which I am unaware, I'm out of luck until the next order. (Pilfered ivory? No. Cocaine? No. Human kidney? No. Velo Bella bibs, size medium? YES!!!) The crash taught me an important lesson about buying extras (and maybe some extras to scalp later).

So after six weeks of riding around in holey-butt shorts, I finally decided to break down and buy a pair of plain bibs to train in until the next team order. I still have one pair of VB bibs from 2007, but are definitely showing their age, so I'm trying to ration their remaining usability. One side effect of this is that I've begun thinking of even more excuses to wear my short-sleeved skinsuit, which is still in great condition, to more races.

The problem is that I've yet to find a pair of non-team bibs that I don't hate. I was pleasantly surprised when I tried out Boure's bib tights and knickers last winter, so I decided to get their summer bibs a shot. They are okay, but not as good as the LG's. Mostly, they are shiny. See them sparkle in the sunlight on my ride last night:

Last night I had a two-hour ride with 2 x (2 x 1 min.), then finish out the time in Zone 2. I did my intervals on a short steep hill right outside of town and then continued out Old 37 to do my Robinson Rd. loop backwards. As I was heading down the fire station hill and riding all swervy while I tried to get my shiny-short chamois settled, I must have encountered at least 20 cyclists, at least half of whom I knew, in about a half-mile. For some reason, I found myself a little embarrassed, as if I wanted to say, "Hey guys, I don't always wear the uncomfortable shiny-shorts on road rides; it's just something new I'm trying." Of course, I'm sure no one even noticed my shiny-shorts. I'm probably just self-conscious.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You Are Here

I'm not sure why I felt the need to make this just now. Sometimes I just need a little perspective (and a few more pictures).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

No One Really Wanted To See Me On a Box Anyway, Right?

'Cause I was on a box, but I was too embarrassed to ask anyone to take a picture, because I was alone on the box and posted a pretty weak time getting there.

But technically (and only technically), I won the women's Cat 2 class at the DRT Brown County time trial today. The details aren't that exciting; I just didn't ride well and fell well short of my goal of staying within 10 minutes of the Cat 1 girls.

One thing that I realized today is that my race-pace handling skills are not as good as I thought they were. This year I've spent my skills sessions working on muscling over rocky formations and I haven't put much time in on corning work. However, there were two different instances today where I got dropped on downhills when I really shouldn't have. I also rode like the biggest sketchball ever on the Aynes descent, but that can largely be credited to fatigue.

Speaking of a different type of skills, I think I've decided to this women's road racing clinic. Even though I don't ever see myself becoming a serious road racer, I've discovered that it's fun to race road sometimes for a change of scenery. Hopefully, this clinic will help me be able to race a little smarter when I do race on the road.