Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 27: It's a Date

I'm going to start off with kicking a little scientific knowledge, Lil' Emily style.

This is an normal pancreas.

This is my pancreas.

This will be my pancreas (or double pancreas) after December 27.

After two months of testing, examining, and above all, WAITING, I finally have a date for my surgery. In my last post I mentioned how I was worried that this thing would turn in major abdominal surgery, and the powers that be would continue to drag their feet resulting in the surgery not being done before Christmas. Unfortunately, I was correct on both counts. I underestimated my worst case scenario the seriousness of the surgery, but the date only missed the Christmas deadline by a couple days.

So here's the deal. Due to the size and location of my cyst, I have to have the middle part of my pancreas removed. Once that is done, the orphaned tail piece is going to be attached directly to my intestine, so that it can continue to produce pancreatic enzymes. Supposedly everything will still work pretty normally once it is all over, but healing is going to take a while.

I will have to be in the hospital for about seven days, and for the first three I will be all cracked out on a morphine pump with no food or drink. After that will be the starting to drink, eat, and walk enough to prove that I can survive on my own at home. After that, I will spend another 5-ish weeks recovering at home before I return to work.

As for the timeline for my return to cycling, I'm just going to play it by ear. I don't really expect to be able to mountain bike until late March, but really no one in Indiana gets to mountain bike more than a week or two before that, anyway. The difference is that I will have lost a lot of muscle and fitness. Since it's highly unlikely that I will be anywhere near healed enough for the Spa City 6 Hour or the Ouachita Challenge, as I had been planning, I might not rush into the beginning of XC season, either. I may take this spring and summer to work on building back lost muscle mass, strength, power, flexibility, and all that jazz, before I get serious about cycling again and give New New the proper CX season she didn't get this year (and some new wheels with tubies). Of course, that's pretty far out to be planning, and I may find myself dying to race in April. We'll see.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Wanna Be Sedated

One, two, three more hours to go, I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do no where to go-o-oh, I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the OR, give me something for the pain
Hurry hurry hurry before I go insane
I can't control my fingers I can't control my brain
Oh no no no no no

Not much to report in my world. The biopsy went okay, although it was nearly three hours late getting started. (Thus the lyrics above, which were going through my head all morning.) Unfortunately, it will still probably be another week or week and a half before the full lab results come in and we can proceed. I think surgery is still going to be the conclusion, but things are getting fuzzy about what kind of tumor I have, etc. Hopefully, the lab analysis will reveal something helpful, since I feel like there's more going on that just have something pressing on my internal organs. After nearly five weeks of rest or very light riding, as well as a super clean diet that is claimed to reduce systematic inflammation, my muscles and joints are still stiff and achy and I'm still pretty weak. I'd hoped that getting the cyst taken out would allow some sort of full-body healing to take place, but the doctor sort of looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if the cyst could be causing more systematic problems. So now I'm worried that I will go through surgery and then not really feel any better once it's over.

Additionally, I'm starting to be afraid that by the time the lab work is all finished, that all of the super special cyst surgeons at the IU Medical Center will be booked up until after their four week long holiday vacations to the Caribbean. (Okay, that's mostly making an assumption based on what the orthodontist that my mom works for does.) It's also looking like it might turn into full abdominal surgery, which I think would keep me from even riding outside again until sometime in April.

Needless to say, I'm getting very frustrated and worried. I keep hoping for the best case scenario at each stage of the process, but it then it turns into something worse. I'm crossing my fingers that my luck will change soon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last Dance With New New

The pancreatic situation has been moving pretty slowly since my last post. I have to have a biopsy on Wednesday, and then hopefully we will finally get the surgery on the books. The good news is that after two weeks of complete inactivity post-Berryman epic, I actually started feeling better on my own and I've started doing a little bit of easy riding and some simple bodyweight strength training at home. I'm not really training because a) I don't want to push myself too hard to and start to get weak and sick again b) I know I'm going to have to take more time off after the surgery, so even if I'm feeling better, trying to mount a comeback is impractical until after the surgery. I'm basically just trying to maintain my strength and muscle tone until I'm fully healed and ready to start my 2011 base training.

That being said, something was niggling at me to race one more cross race if I was able. I remember feeling bad for New New as Adam was loading his 'cross bikes up for the USGP Louisville and I was loading up my 29er for the Berryman Epic while she sat in the back room of the basement, all dressed up with nowhere to go for the weekend. So I felt like she needed one last run before winter.

This weekend provided the perfect opportunity with Backyard Cross, presented by Adam's team, the Speedway Wheelmen. The race was at Adam's teammate's property, which was intended to be a housing addition, but currently only contains one house. So making the best of a bad economic situation, the place has been turned into a very large cyclocross course until the housing market picks back up. I wanted to participate in this race, which is part of the Indiana Cyclocross Cup, the younger less-attended sibling of the OVCX series, which the Speedway Wheelmen are trying to get going. With no other Cat 3/4 women entered, I was able to boost their attendance numbers a bit, and get a "win" without blowing myself up. Of course, once the gun went off, I had a hard time "riding easy", but I would make myself back off when I felt like I was going super hard, and I didn't allow myself to try to pass the one junior who passed me. So I got my last race in and don't feel like I pushed myself hard enough to do any damage, plus I got a sweet bag o' swag for my "win".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Don't Call It a Comeback

"Don't call it a comeback; I've been here for years" - the cyst on my pancreas

The reason that I haven't posted any news since the Berryman Epic is that I've spent most of the time waiting on news myself. As I mentioned in my race report, my stomach was messed up the week before the Berryman Epic, and I think the lack of proper nutritional intake was what slowed me down so much. The week after the race was spent waiting and hoping my digestion would come around and I would get my strength back for the Storm the Greens CX race. When I didn't, Jason's pre-race pep talk call turned into a discussion of gallbladder symptoms and I spent the weekend waiting to talk to my doctor on Monday. I spent Storm the Greens camped out in the Shamrock Cycles tent, which is fun, but not as fun as getting to race first and drink after. (I figured whatever was wrong, I probably shouldn't pour hard cider on top of it.)

When I went to the doctor on Monday, she poked around on my abdomen and made the initial guess that it was, in fact, my gallbladder. I had blood work and an ultrasound done and then spent most the week waiting for results, and worrying about a future of compromised ability to break down dietary fat, just when I'd really started to fall in love with dietary fat. (Butter is my methadone and without it, I might go back on the hard stuff: Ben & Jerry's). As it were, I was nearing three weeks with compromised ability to break down dietary anything, and the ~1000 calories a day I was able tolerate weren't really cutting it.

On Thursday, I finally got the long awaited call with some unexpected, but not really surprising news. I get to to keep my gallbladder, but a baby pancreatic cyst that discover during a previous abdominal incident after my first Ouachita Challenge is apparently all grown up and pressing on the organs around it. No wonder I feel more full than usual after eating. So I still have to have an MRI next week, but the upshot is that I will have to have surgery of some sort and my CX is 99% likely to be over.

I'm disappointed but not devastated. I was looking forward to one more month of racing, especially since I've been enjoying 'cross much more than I have in a couple of years and placing better, as well. I spent the first half of the season waxing nostalgic about the old days when I was a 'cross devotee, but lost the love when I was repeatedly handed ass-whoopings by every new girl who rolled each weekend during the early explosions of the American Cyclocross Boom of 2007. When I started this season and realized that I could hold my own better than in the past, the famous opening lines of L.L. Cool J's "Momma Said Knock You Out", came to mind. Unfortunately, my threshold power isn't the only thing that's been growing since 2007.

The good news is that I should still be healed up in time to still get a good base for spring, and with the 11 pounds that I've lost since August, and the weight I will continue to lose until I get a full-time appetite back, I will likely be a much better climber next season. So I guess I will report back with my progress once all of the tests are done and the timeline has been established.

"I'm gonna knock you out, Momma said knock you out." - Lindsay to cyst

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Berryman Epic: Even If You Don't Have The Legs, There Are Still Worse Places To Be

Over the weekend I traveled to Steelville, "the floating capital of Missouri" (although I'd say it's more of the four-wheeler capital of Missouri from my experience) for the third iteration of the Berryman Trail Epic. It was my first time at the race, since it always conflicts with the Louisville USGP, but this year I decided it was worth missing the USGP to see what the Berryman was all about.

Unfortunately, my stomach had been out of whack for the week prior to the race, and the lack of good digestion was throwing the rest of my body out of whack. During my mid-week sprints, I knew I was feeling awfully weak, but all I could really do was eat lots of protein and sweet potatoes and hope that my muscles would get what they needed by Saturday morning. Unfortunately, whatever it was that my muscles needed, they apparently did not get it, because when I got on my bike Saturday morning it felt like 100 pound foreign object beneath my labored pedal stroke. I realize that my bike is, in fact, actually a foreign object, but on a good day it doesn't feel that way.

So when the race organizer set off his "big fire cracker" that was used as the starting gun and sounded like a cannon, I set off into the unknown. I just pedaled as best I could, but I was quickly in nearly-last place. It was three miles of relatively tame dirt road to the singletrack, and I was surprised to find the opening stretch of singletrack easier than I had expected. While it wasn't screaming fast, it was gently winding and mostly flat, if a bit rough.

I still had to work to keep my ragdoll legs turning my middle chainring at any sort of decent clip, and the occasional short, rooty climb was a struggle even in the granny gear. It didn't take long for me to doubt my ability to keep going at that rate all day, and started calculating whether I could be back home in Indiana by dark if I dropped out at the first aid station (and maybe stopped for a piece of foot-high pie in Illinois). Then I saw Zeke Lilly on the side of the trail with a flat. His tire was cut so badly that the tube kept popping out of the hole, so he couldn't fix the flat. I tried to convince him to take my tire so that he could finish the race, and I would have an excuse for quitting. He wouldn't take my tire, and in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't have to do the 2-3 hour hike-a-bike it would have taken to get to the aid station.

After that, I started feeling better, and while I wasn't fast, I felt like I could make it through the day. I kept going past the first aid station, but my spirits started to sink again as I dragged along to the second stop. I had myself about 80% convinced that I should quit at the next stop, but while I was discussing my options with the volunteers at the checkpoint I heard someone yelling my name. Sarah Miller was at the aid station, and after stopping for a quick chat with her, I was compelled to go on.

Sarah had told me the next loop was 15 miles and had some road in it, so it shouldn't be too bad. However, an hour later I caught up to a guy who was walking up a hill and I asked if he was okay. He said he was just tired and was debating about whether he would go on after the next aid station. I said that I was going through the same thing, but if we'd come this far we might as well finish. Then he said that we had ten miles until the next stop, which would mean that I had only covered five miles in the previous hour. I decided that the guy's computer was wrong since that would be the only way I could console myself.

Not long after, I was teased by an intersection of the trail and a dirt road where I saw a rider about to cross my path. I then suspected that I needed to get to the end of the trail and a reasonably easy dirt road ride back to the aid station would await. Unfortunately, I crossed, or at least saw, the road three or four more times before I was able to collect my zip tie and head on down the road. Unfortunately, that section concluded with a mile-long paved climb to the aid station that felt like the longest paved mile I've ever ridden.

I made the final cutoff by about 15 minutes or so, and after eating, refilling my hydration pack, and washing some of the sticky grime from my face, I committed to what I expected to be 2-2.5 more hours on the bike. The last section of singletrack was probably the most technical, but I liked it. There were several fairly big drop-offs where the trail had eroded beneath a root, and I enjoyed riding off of those and pretending I was some sort of freeride badass or something. Nevertheless, I spent most of the section looking at my watch and bargaining with myself about how far I'd probably gone and how much I probably had left to go.

I finally reached the dirt road to the finish and was accompanied by numerous locals on four-wheelers and other all terrain vehicles. Some were polite, some seemed to try to choke me with as much dust as possible, and some tried to joke around with me, although I couldn't hear much over their roaring engines. I have to say I saw way more four-wheelers than people floating down the river, thus my opinion on the appropriate namesake recreational activity for the area.

And then at the bottom of hill, I once again reached "river level" as evidenced by the super-soft gravel that was hard to ride through. The only upside of this was that things were starting to look familiar and I realized I was at the far end of the campground where the race started and finished. The last five or ten minutes of riding the soft surface seemed like forever, but I finally rode into sight of 200 or so clean people sitting around eating barbecue and relaxing after finishing quite some time before. Although it took me two hours longer than I'd expected it to, I was happy to be off my bike and that I would return to Indiana without another scarlet DNF on my record for the year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Triple Race Report All the Way!!!

I was so tired after my Java Johnny's CX and Brown County Breakdown weekend that I put off blogging for a few days. Then I got really busy the last half of the week. Then it was time to race again at BloomingCross, so I figured I would just roll it up into one big TRIPLE RACE REPORT ALL THE WAY. (What does it mean???)

However, a week and a half later I don't remember a lot of what I was going to say about JJ's and the BCB. Basically, Java Johnny's had the big, intimidating 60ish person field that I mentioned in my last post. Unfortunately, I couldn't muster Adam's swagger, and I found myself REALLY intimidated on the starting line. I would say that my start was not great and not terrible, but with that many people, not great still puts you 20 places back at the first turn and near stopping through all the little chicanes leading to the first sandpit. I did pretty well at getting off, running the sandpit as fast I could, and taking off again, but I messed up going into the steep ridge that we had to ride over twice in succession early in the lap. I just couldn't power myself up, and had to run it. We hit the mid-lap twisty section and I was determined to use my cornering skills to make my way back to the upper mid-pack, but there were nuts all over the bases of the trees and I ended up crashing not once, but twice, before the middle section of the first lap was complete. By the time I got myself upright and going the second time, I well behind the group of racers I wanted to be with and had to motivate myself to pick through the back of the pack. I made up a few places, but I still ended up 22 out of 27 which was disappointing.

I seem to be doing pretty well here, but this was before I fell in the nuts. Twice.

Much further back post-nuts. I am ahead of everyone else in the picture, though.

In the background making my barrier face.

The next day I did the 60 mile route of the Brown County Breakdown. I'd never done this ride before, because it always conflicts with the Cincinnati UCI 3 weekend, but this year I gave up racing on my old favorite CX course at Harbin Park because I knew I needed to get in a long training ride before the Berryman Epic. It was hot and dusty to the point that the trails were kind of slick from dust instead of mud, but overall it was a pretty good day. I overcooked myself a bit early on trying not to slow down the long train of riders making their way through the North Tower Loop, Aynes Loop, and up to Hesitation Point. I have a fun moment going up Hesitation Point when I rode the S-shaped rock garden and most of the guys around me didn't.

After the first aid station at HP, the traffic got a lot more sparse and I settled in for a few hours of riding by myself at a comfortable but solid pace. My goal had been to go under 7 hours, mostly because I figure that going under 7 hours at the Brown County Breakdown is an important step to my long wished-for sub-7 hour finish at the Ouachita Challenge. I did okay through the ride, but I did struggle some during the last two hours. I ended up going about 7:25, but I also spent more time at the rest stops than I would have in a race, so it wasn't too bad. It was at least enough to make me feel confident that my riding once or twice a week plus racing CX on Sundays training plan of the two months hasn't left me too under prepared for the Berryman Epic.

It really is looking like what I told Jason back in August: Even if I train really hard, I probably won't get on the podium at the BTE, and if I focus on 'cross and just do a couple of long rides I'll still probably do okay. That may seem like a little bit of a defeatist attitude, but I'm actually mostly happy with the way things are going now. I'm not highly motivated to train, but I'm enjoying racing. So if I can't just squeeze one more month of fun out of my residual fitness from earlier in the season I will be happy. Then I'll buckle down and start getting into serious preparation for the spring endurance races again.

Spinning on some dirt road at the Brown County Breakdown.

Finally, Sunday was my first opportunity to race "above ground" cyclocross in my hometown at BloomingCross, since I missed the inaugural BloomingCross last year when I was at the Pisgah Stage Race. Besides being a home race, I was also excited because a lot people were taking the weekend off between the Cincinnati UCI 3 and the USGP Louisville. That would mean a smaller field and a shot at a top 5 or, on a really good day, podium for me. Regardless, I was looking forward to being able to tell what was going on in my race after the previous weekend's giant jumble. I pre-rode the course on Saturday and I determined that while all of the wide, flat straightaways weren't going to help my case, that if I could get a good start and make it the rideable sandpit about a minute into the course with good speed, that it could still be a good day for me.

Unfortunately, I must have spent too much time thinking about this plan, because standing in the staging area, I was ready to throw up. When the whistle blew, I stood to sprint to the front, but I seemed to be going in slow motion. I was just pedaling and watching racers come around me from the row behind, and thinking "Noooooo!" By the time, I hit the pavement downhill before the sandpit, I was in next-to-last out of the women and had several of the juniors that started behind us clogging the way. I still tried to get enough speed to ride the sandpit, but it's hard to do with that many people in front of you. I had to dismount and run the rest, at which time was I passed by the last place women putting me DFL with some juniors preventing my immediate catch-and-repass. In the end, I did get my top 5, but that was because there were only 7 starters in my class, one dropped out after I passed her, and I passed another for next-to-last. I was pretty bummed about my missed opportunity, but hopefully two weeks away from 'cross and a 55 mile trip through the Ozark mountains will bring me back to Storm the Greens in costume and with my head on straight.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tour de Louisville

The Tour de Louisville went a whole lot like Kings CX, with the exception of being a lot chillier. It was actually just overcast and in the 50's, but since it was the first even remotely chilly day of the year, it was still a shock to the system. A guy had a bad crash during the men's 4's race, and the rest of the schedule was delayed while they got the ambulance down the course to pick him up. That meant that our field spent a lot of extra time standing around the staging area getting cold. By the time the whistle FINALLY sounded, my legs were pretty blue.

The good news is that I was at least listening for the whistle this time and had shifted into my big ring for the start, but I was still a little slow to react and was already 10-15 places back by the first turn. I shoved my way back through the twisty section up to the barriers, but my first time over sucked pretty bad. I messed up my remount as my bike wobbled over into one of the stakes holding the course tape while I tried to clip back in. I lost back nearly as many places as I'd gained in the turns while I got off, backed out of the tape, and did remount number two.

Once I was on my way, I made up a couple of places again, but then I was back to trying to catch the only girl in sight through the next couple of laps. Once again, I was faster in the turns and she was faster in the straights. I got in front of her right before the second pass through the barriers, but she quickly repassed me and was never really in striking distance again after that. I ended up 9th out 15 AG and 13th out 23 overall, so it was a lot like last time place wise. Unfortunately, it seems that I keep burying myself with the 35+ field, so even though I'm close to the top half of my field place-wise, I think I have a pretty big time gap I need to overcome. Hopefully, this will get a little easier as the season progresses and I start to learn to who look for in the opening melee.

Speaking of melees, the Cat 3/4 women will get our own time slot for the Cincinnati UCI 3 races this weekend, and we will be the first race of the day. I'm only doing the Saturday race, but that's going to be the biggest field, since there are already 27 women pre-reg'ed in the 3/4 Open class and 29 in the 35+ for a total of 56. Add in a few day-of registrations, and there will likely be 60 women on the starting grid. I get a little nervous thinking about this, although I can't explain exactly why. I'm not really afraid of the bumping and jostling at the start, because I'm usually the bumper and jostler. I am a bit of afraid of having to work my way through a lot of traffic if I'm less than on point during the opening frenzy, as I have been the last two times out. Mostly, I think I'm just intimidated because 60 is so darn big (and sorta awesome). It's almost like being a dude for the day.

Guess I need to channel my dude's attitude:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kings CX: Imma Ride It, Dammit!

Sunday was my first 'cross race of the year at Kings CX in Mason, OH. Going into the race I was definitely in "let's see how this goes" mode, since I've only started to get my post-primal legs back since the DINO 6 hour, and last Wednesday was the first 'cross practice that I didn't feel awful. I still didn't feel fast, just not awful.

I tried to sneak out on the course for a lap between the men's 4's race and the 10-12-year-old race. However, I was confused about the course, and a guy showed me where to sneak in after the finish so that I could not interfere with the 4's but wouldn't have to wait until they all cleared the course. We rode together while previewing the course, and when we came to sand pit, I tried to ride through, even though it was very deep sand with no good line. I explained to the guy that coming from a mountain bike background, I feel like I'm more stubborn about trying to ride stuff, even when it might be faster run. Therefore my new MTBer on a CX bike motto: Imma ride it, dammit!

The course was bone dry and and had lots of swoopy bermy turns and I actually found myself whooping a couple of times through my practice lap. It was probably the best mood I've been in before a 'cross race in a long time. I was in my element. However, I didn't realize that they had already taped off the big hill for the juniors' race when I was preriding, so it was kind of a nasty shock during my actual race. My new joke is that the juniors' course at Kings CX is my favorite course (I liked the half-size barriers, too).

I came to line in a jovial mood, it may have worked to my disadvantage because I was a little too relaxed. I was joking around when the whistle blew and had a pretty delayed reaction time clipping in. I also realized that the medium-sized gear that I thought would be appropriate turned out to be too easy and I lost a lot places really fast. I was stuck behind a lot racers during the first swoopy section and was not able to make up the ground there. Then I bobbled the first time up the big hill, because I wasn't prepared and the 38 tooth small ring that New New came with is still kind of difficult for my wussy little legs on some occasions. A bouncy unclipped-in trip downhill and another trip back up left me redlined as I prepared for the first trip through the sand pit. I tried to gather as much speed as I could and thought, "Imma ride it, dammit!", only to bog down about a third of the way through and fall over as I tried to do an emergency dismount. Fail.

After I got up, I composed myself, railed some swoopies, and actually started to do okay. I passed a couple of girls, and battled with another who slower than me in the turns and faster in the straights for the most of the race, but in the end I got to the finish first and almost overtook another girl sprinting to the line. I ended up 8th out of 13 in my age group and 16th out of 27 out of all of the 3/4 women combined. I was still a couple of places short of adding a "Top 50%" to my page on, but I'm pretty sure I've never done better than next-to-last in a CX race so 10th from last is a big improvement. I feel like it might have even been my Bill Brubaker moment, and that I have a good shot at breaking the top half next time out if I just pay attention at the start, kill it on the accelerations, and keep the negative thoughts at bay.

This weekend is the last one without a race until December and I will be spending it my mom, who's coming to visit. I'm excited about hanging out with her, but I'm already counting the days until the Tour de Louisville, where I will get another chance to see if this is the year I really do stop sucking at 'cross.

Losing ground. I should really pay more attention at the start.

At least my barrier technique is better.

Race face.

Monday, September 13, 2010

5 Hours, 55 Minutes, and 6 Seconds of DINO (And 4 Weeks of Bacon)

Some basic math will tell you that's slightly better than 6 Hours (2 Minutes, 58 Seconds) of DINO, but you may be wondering about the bacon part. Every race report has a back story, right?

I'm not really sure where to start, which is probably why I've been blogless for four weeks.

Several times over the past few months, during my perusal of not completely cycling related blogs and general falling down the Internet rabbit hole, I have stumbled upon the website Mark's Daily Apple. My initial reaction was something along the lines of "So...what? These people just eat big hunks of meat and vegetables? I'm not really a fan of meat and vegetables."

Yet, I kept finding my way back usually through various other sources saying that grains are eevill. Then I would have to wonder about the fact that I was frequently struck with "I HAVE TO EAT NOW" urges in the middle of the workday, not to mention the sudden obsessive thoughts about cookies/cake/ice cream that would not go away until I'd eaten copious amounts of the offensive material. I also came to terms with the fact that my dislike of meat and vegetables came from my 'rexy days as a college distance runner where too many meals consisted of grilled boneless skinless chicken breast and steamed broccoli. All the sudden I was reading that I could eat the roasted thighs of an organic free-range chicken with broccoli sauteed in real butter and it probably would not kill me or make me fat. It actually sounded kind of tasty and I figured it couldn't be any worse for my health that what binge-eating would do when my luck finally ran out. (Luck is the only real explanation for why I am not severely overweight.)

I really can't remember what exactly prompted the trigger pull, but four weeks ago I got my butt out of bed on a Saturday morning and headed to the farmer's market to stock up on organic meat and vegetables. The next day was the pilgrimage to Chicago to see baby Ramona, so I had one last day of "non-primal" food consumption. Then I woke up Monday morning and replaced my usual oatmeal with two eggs scrambled with nitrate-free bacon, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers, as well as berries topped with real cream. I'd known I'd be sad about giving up the oatmeal, so breakfast became quite a "go big or go home" affair. I lost three pounds during the first week, and really had no carbohydrate cravings, except for the oatmeal-related sadness that passed after four or five days.

But then there was the whole "bike" part of the equation, and it took much more of a hit than I had expected. At the end of the first week I went for a night ride at Versailles with a group of people that I didn't know very well, but I'd received a Facebook invitation and thought it might be fun to get to know them. However, I really struggled on the ride, and bonked so hard that I was nauseous when I got home and it took four days off the bike before I stopped feeling weak and shaky. I heard that this was called the "low carb flu", and I started adding some sweet potatoes to my breakfast since it appeared that I'd overdone it a bit.

At the end of the second week I thought I felt pretty good and did the final DINO race at SWW Park. It soon became clear that I had a lot less gas in the tank than I thought I did, and I basically just had to force myself to keep going through the race. That was followed by another week of lackluster training that lead up to Labor Day, when I went for a 1.5 hour ride at Wapehani and came home shaking and exhausted like after the Versailles night ride. Then came super achey muscles, headaches, and sore throat to the point that I called in sick to work on Wednesday. Despite the fact that my emotional relationship with food was starting to look pretty darn healthy, I became very frustrated that my body was not feeling healthy at all, and I started to panic about the DINO 6 hour race that was just a couple of days away.

When I returned to work on Thursday, I started to tell my office mate about how I was feeling without any mention of my recent dietary changes. It turned out that she had the exact same symptoms at almost the exact same time as I did. It may sounds funny, but I was actually pretty happy to discover that I'd probably had an actual germ-related illness rather than an ugly carbohydrate-related slump. By Friday I was pain free, and I just crossed my fingers that my legs would carry me through Saturday's 6 hour race.

And they did. I had to be pretty careful to not overdo it on the climbs during the first half of the race, but luckily Versailles has enough flat twisty sections that I was able to still go relatively fast without having to produce mega watts. I was in a world of pain during the fourth lap, and slowed down a lot more than last year, but in the end, I completed my four-lap race about 8 minutes faster than last year. I was probably 30-40 minutes slower than I would have been a few weeks ago, but really I was just happy that I was able to keep going the whole 6 hours.

I know that wasn't much of a race report buried in the middle of such a long post, but I guess it was finally time to come out an say all the things I have avoided the blog for four weeks to avoid saying. I guess I'm just self-conscious, because I'm terrible about suddenly jumping into "big ideas" and then having to admit that they resulted in epic failure. I'd really wanted to keep mum about the semi radical experiment that I've been performing on my body, but I guess it's better to just tell the truth than to try to vaguely explain away four weeks of sudden lack of bike power.

My weight has been holding steady since the first week, but my sudden lack of interest in sugar is a victory in itself. I'm eating food that tastes good enough that I want to eat it but not so good that I want to eat too much, and that's pretty exciting. This weekend was a good indicator that I will regain full power in the near future, so I'm not feeling so bummed about being slow. So frankly, if a little real, honest-to-goodness animal fat helps me quit sugar and eat my veggies, I'm cool with it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Non-Race Report

I haven't been blogging for a couple of weeks, because nothing really noteworthy has happened cycling-wise. Since Versailles I have missed both the Sub-9 Super D at BCSP and the DINO Logansport race. I wanted to do the Super D, because it would have been a chance for me to compete in a more downhill than up format, which probably would have been advantageous. However, it wasn't that high on my priority list and I thought $35 was a bit much for a 5.5 mile race.

I've also spent the time since Versailles working getting back to consistent training and preparing for CX and the fall endurance races. Rather than giving up the weekend for a short race, the crown jewel was a two full laps of Versailles at 6 hour race effort. I was 15 minutes faster than the first two laps of last year's 6 hour, but still a bit off of the pace for which I was hoping. Slogging through alone with semi-stale legs is much different than working under the influence of race day magic though, so I still think some faster laps on September 11 will be in the cards.

On the other hand, I was a bit more bummed about missing the DINO Logansport race. Even though I had bad races there the last two years, it was also the site of one of my top five best races ever back in 2007. I had a good feeling about this year. However, Adam's brother and his wife had there first child last week (Ramona Elaine Rodkey), and we spent Sunday going to Chicago to see her. Although I'm pretty awkward around babies, it's still exciting to be an aunt.

It all may be just as well, anyway, because I had a little too much excitement on Saturday and had a pretty painful road bike crash. It was really dumb - a short downpour early in the ride was enough to make the streets wet, but not enough for me to remember that the streets were wet. So I whipped into a side street at full speed, and ended up sliding across the road on my left side. Now I've got a grated elbow and hip, and still some lingering sore muscles from the impact. As it was I was worthless for any riding on Sunday even if circumstances would have allowed. I'm seeing chiropractor/ART guru Brian Murer at lunch today, though, and I expect to be on track to complete tonight's interval workout, even if I'm not 100%.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Four Hours and a Feed Bag

This weekend I got back into endurance MTB training, since the DINO 6 hour (I've settled on the 6) and Berryman Epic will be here before I know it. The plan was to ride four laps of French Lick at endurance race pace. Since French Lick has a nice wooden deck at the trailhead, I decided to ditch the pack and set up a "pit" on the deck.

The only bad part was riding from the parking lot carrying a fairly heavy bag, and I actually got off and walked the little steep pitch from the road to the deck, since my balance was bad. Of course, there was a big group of people sitting on the deck who watched me walk up and set up my bag, which was awkward.
The good news is that it worked out well and it was nice being able to ride pack free. I also tested out a new mid-ride food that worked out well: a Bloomington Bagel Co. soft pretzel bagel with Nutella, cut into quarters, and eat one quarter at the beginning of each lap. A good balance of salty and sweet, seemed to digest well, and didn't leave any weird aftertaste. (I hate the aftertaste of anything peanut butter or cinnamon flavored while riding.)

I ended up only doing 3.5 laps, because I needed to get home, but the three full laps that I rode were good. I did 1:03, 1:06, and 1:07, which were all significantly faster than my single lap at the French Lick DINO race (1:16). Of course, I had better trail conditions, a faster bike, and didn't have to ride the start/finish shoots nor the ridiculous fireroad section. Hard to tell if the DINO course was noticeably longer or if I was really faster, but regardless I was happy with my ride.

Friday, July 30, 2010

They Call Me New New

This is New New. She's a rich girl from a nice family. They wanted to send her to the Ivy League (Granogue), but in the end she got her way and was allowed go to the HBCU (historical badass cycling university) of her choice. Although they raised her to be elite, she's going to be slumming it this season trying to help me work my way out of Cat 4 in the OVCX series.

She can be classy and refined, with her subtle white and black paint job, but has a slightly more gaudy side, with her blue glitter-paint underbelly and pink highlights.

This is Jake, a poor boy from the 'hood. Jake did his best for a few years trying to make it as a 'cross racer, but he just wasn't very fast. Kona marketed him as an all-in-one entry level 'cross bike and commuter bike, so lately he's been working in the less glamorous commuter field. Getting used to the basket was hard, but it's satisfying to be appreciated again.

Then New New met Jake and they fell in love. I got home from work today she was leaned up against Jake in the back room of the basement. I just hope we can make it through 'cross season without the birth of any metallic blue push bikes.


Okay, so I remembered a little more about the character for which New New is named and I did my best to draw some parallels. Apparently, I only name CX bikes, but even Jake only has a name because he came with it. She's also the first "female" bike I have owned. Not women's specific, because my Anthem is women's specific. For some reason, though, I've always thought of him as a metro sexual boy, but I've never given him a name. My 29er is definitely a boy, as well. I'm not sure where I come up with these things.

Anyway, anthropomorphizing aside, New New is one killer bike. I took her out on a test ride yesterday on a mix of pavement, singletrack, and gravel road. She's so light (even lighter than my road bike), and just floats over the rough stuff. I'm totally looking forward to racing 'cross on my floaty bike.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

DINO Versailles

I went to Versailles without a lot of optimism about how I would do, but I still went because, good or bad, I wanted to know for sure. It turns out that it went okay.

I came away from the Muscatatuck race more than a little mentally broken. I can't really explain this, except for the fact a I'd been struggling in my training since May, it was obvioius that I wasn't going to be getting my Cat 1 upgrade back this year, and I let a woman racing in a bra top and old lady perfume push me around.

I'm not really sure how much I trained since that race, but it sure wasn't much, except for the weekend when I did the Nashville 90 on Saturday and four hours MTB on Sunday. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it is that I want from the rest of the season and what I need to do to get it. I decided that since I was feeling really down on XC racing, I should go to Versailles and it give it one more shot on a course that I liked, and if it went badly I could skip Logansport and Town Run. I took a few days off and committed to start my base training for 'cross and the Berryman Epic this week, whether I was feeling good after Versailles or not.

So I showed up at the race late and with little preparation, but also with little worry. I told myself to "just do it" and whatever would be would be. This meant that I took off at a pace that felt good to me and didn't look to see the order in which we reached the singletrack. When we got there, I found myself on Amelia Nelson's wheel and figured that was a good place to be and I should just work on staying there. So I stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

When we reached the Cliffside trail, I got a better view of what was going on. I was fifth in a train of girls and the leader was not going that fast, and wasn't doing much to allow the passing efforts of the girls immediately behind her. I have a feeling this probably happens to guys all the time, but it's a rare occurance in a women's race. I struggled with the multiple stall outs and accelerations, which required more effort and yielded a slower pace than I would have done by myself. Then a couple of Cat 1 girls got through and broke away, and I was left with just the two girls who had finished immediately ahead of me at both BCSP and French Lick. While the category leaders were well ahead, I was satisfied with the opportunity that was presented before me.

I started feeling taxed and got gapped by the two girls ahead. Jeni, who had been wisely biding her time a few bike lengths back while we all ran each other over, used the opportunity to make her move and passed me. She quickly passed others as well and was gone. I soon started feeling good again and bridged back up to the other girls to find that they had slowed to a pace that I found excessively comfortable for a race situation. Amelia let me through not long after, and I made a fairly aggressive pass (yay me) around Christina, then took off after Jeni. I rode hard and could tell I was making up ground, but I ran out of trail. I finished 14 seconds behind her in 4th place.

So now I'm feeling a lot better about the rest of the year. I'm actually looking forward to Logansport, although I'm still ambivalent about Town Run. I'm excited about the DINO 6/12/24, although I keep flipping back and forth about whether I want to do the 6 or 12 hour solo. I want to accomplish more than just doing four laps faster than last year, but I don't think I'm fast enough to do five, so I kinda want to shoot for the 100-mile mark in the 12 hour. However, a 12 hour race would take a lot out of me, and I want to be recovered in time to give a proper debut to the tiny, adorable, and super light Giant TCX W that arrived yesterday. (Pictures when it's finished.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Do I Pimp My Ride?

Rashad: What kind of name is New New, anyway?
New New: I'm New New cause I always rock the new, new shit. Thank you.

- Lines from the movie "ATL"

I don't remember much about the movie ATL, except for the dialogue exchange above and a bunch of fancy roller skating. However, I've always thought it would be fun to quote that line in the context of cycling equipment. I figure now is as good a time as any, since I just got an email from Adam saying that a 2011 Giant TCX W, size XS, was on its way. I was super bummed last night because, after reading that these bikes would be available in August, a check for a specific date revealed that there were a few Smalls and Mediums available already, but the Extra Smalls were not to be had until late September. Somehow, Adam worked some magic, and it looks like I'll be rocking the new, new shit before August. Also, I might actually have a bike with a name for once.

So, now I just need to figure out how I want to pink it out. Definitely pink cable housing, but I think I'm going to eschew pink bar tap and go for black tape with pink hoods. I'd like to put on a white and pink saddle like I have on my 29er, but that seems like a waste since the bike comes with a Fizik Vitesse, my saddle of choice, that just happens to be black and white instead of pink. While cable housing and brake hoods are pretty cheap, buying a new Vitesse for purely aesthetic purposes, rather than functional ones, seems a bit silly. If anyone has some other pinkifying ideas, let me know in the comments. It's a 'cross bike, so I won't be installing bottle cages.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lemon Shake-Up

Every so often my coach will assign a road century for my Saturday workout, and in the past, my compliance has been spotty. The first time this task appeared on my calendar, I was afraid of going on a ride that long by myself, since carrying that many hours' worth of food and water on my road bike would be difficult; there would be no trips back to the car for refills like with long mountain bike rides. So I decided to leave the food/water/support to someone else and made arraingements to do the nearest organized century ride that day, which was nearly three hours away. It was a tiring but fun day and I blew all previous long road ride efforts out of the water trying to make sure I wasn't the last person off the road after a late start. Of course, that was last season when I was trying to establish a good relationship with my new coach and I followed pretty much every instruction with dogged precision.

When I was instructed to do a road century again in February, an organized ride was not an option. After researching some routes, I decided to break from dogged precision figured that doing the famed "Nashville 90" route would be close enough. Unfortunately, my ability for dogged precision had basically broken after the Pisgah stage race, and when I was assigned a road century on Saturday and another five or six hours on Sunday, I got seriously overwhelmed. I panicked two hours into my attempt at the Nashville 90 and turned around and went home before it was too late.

After that, the road century was off the table again for a while, and it didn't come up again until a few weeks ago. I very near the rock bottom point of my late spring/early summer slump and I never really even considered subjecting myself to a road ride that long. I planned to substitute a six-hour mountain bike ride, but even that turned into about a one-hour ride.

When my July schedule came with the road century schedule again, I got the feeling that I would not be off the hook until I HTFU'd and did it. I still had never completed a Nashville 90 in my nearly five years in Bloomington, so I decided it was time. I got up Saturday morning, put a bottle of unflavored Heed in both my bottle cages, a bottle of water in my jersey pocket, three flasks of gel in my other pockets, and a bit of cash in case I had the chance to buy more food and/or water along the way. As I mentioned before, my biggest fear on doing this ride had do with inadequate nutrition/hydration during the course of the ride.

I missed the start of the Bloomington Bicycle Club ride by about ten minutes, but I can't say that was totally an accident. While I liked the idea of not being alone on the route, I didn't really want to have to ride in a big group for 6-7 hours and make small talk with people who rode up next to me and tried to talk into my (deaf) left ear. I figured the late arrival strategy worked well for the previous century and maybe I could apply that day, as well. I did eventually catch a straggler who indeed rode up on my left side and told me that most of the riders did a short route and only the fastest riders were doing the full 90. He informed me of food and water stops along the way, which eased my mind, and I kept riding after he stopped so that I could be alone with my own pace and thoughts.

I made my planned water stop at the Story Inn, where I was able to go into the external bathroom next to the beer garden and refill my bottles. However, as I rolled along, the gel/Heed/water combo was not doing it for me. I decided that I should make another stop in Nashville and get another form of calories and see if that would work for me. I considered various locations and food items, and came to the conclusion that would stop at the BBQ stand with the leme shake-up sign on the far end of town and get one of those. It totally hit the spot, except for the lump that drink a 32 oz beverage in less than 10 minutes left in my stomach. It digested quickly and the last two hours of the ride were much more pleasant.

So I finally got up the courage to do my first unsupported Nashville 90. It was not nearly as hard as I had imagined, and that I know the food/water stops, I don't have to stuff my pockets until they are about to burst. I just need to bring some money for whatever sounds good along the way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Talent Code

I started reading The Talent Code a few weeks ago and got about halfway finished, but like many other things in my life lately, I got too busy/ tired/ distracted to finish. Yesterday I had extra day off from work and a rest day from training, so I set out on the second half. I'm now a couple of chapters from the finish, and while I'm not sure if the information can be used to change the athletic ability of a almost 30-year-old only child with both of her parents still and alive and living in a developed nation, it is all very fascinating. Here' a particular passage that I've been mulling over since yesterday:

"First, Dweck gave every child a test that consisted of fairly easy puzzles. Afterward the researcher informed all the children of their scores, adding a single six-word sentence of praise. Half of the kids were praised for their intelligence ("You must be smart at this"), and half were praised for their effort ("You must have worked really hard").

The kids were tested a second time, but this time they were offered a choice between a harder test and an easier test. Ninety percent of the kids who'd been praised for their effort chose the harder test. A majority of the kids who'd been praised for their intelligence, on the other hand, chose the easy test. Why? "When we praise children for their intelligence," Dweck wrote, "we tell them that's the name of the game: look smart, don't risk making mistakes."

The third level of tests was uniformly harder; none of the kids did well. However, the two groups of kids - the praised-for-effort group and the praised-for-intelligence group - responded very differently to the situation. "[The effort group] dug in and grew very involved with the test, trying solutions, testing strategies," Dweck said. "They later said they liked it. But the group praised for its intelligence hated the harder test. They took it as proof they weren't smart."

The experiment then came full circle, returning to a test of the same difficulty as the initial test. The praised-for-effort group improved their initial score by 30 percent, while the praised-for-intelligence group's score declined by 20 percent. All because of six short words. Dweck was so surprised at the result that she reran the study five times. Each time the result was the same."

So I haven't quite decided what the "moral" of this story was, but it definitely struck a chord with me. The whole middle section of the book is about how chance events and small, often subconscious signals shape people's performance in sports, the arts, etc. much more than their genetic material. (The first and last parts have to do with practice styles and coaching.) In the end, I'm not sure if I like having my destiny determined by subconscious ideas that I don't even know that I have any better than having it determined by my genes, but it does make some good food for thought.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

DINO Muscatatuck Weekend

I think I can actually manage to keep my race report short and not-so-sweet this time.

Saturday's short track went fine. As far as I can tell, it all played out very much like last year's race. I think I kept the time gap up to the Cat 1 girls a few seconds smaller than last year, but nothing big. I did not win the Cat 2 state championship this time, because the girl that won was on a tear and lapped or at least got really close to lapping all of the Cat 1 and 2 women, except for Cat 1 winner. There was one other Cat 2 girl there, and while I finished ahead of her, she had some sort of issue that caused her to leave the course for a bit, which makes it's hard to determine how we would have finished in a fair competition.

Last year, the short track race was kind of the highlight of my season, because I was suddenly able to stay within 1-2 minutes of Cat 1 girls who usually beat me by 15-20 minutes in XC races. Of course, a shorter race means a shorter margin of victory/defeat, but it was still a pretty big shift. This year was not as exciting, because I was expecting small gaps and was actually a bit disappointed that they weren't smaller. The good news is that I think this year I think figured out the reason for the smaller gap: This particular short track course doesn't necessarily play to my strengths, but it definitely minimizes a major weakness that I hadn't really figured out until last night. Now that I know exactly what I need to work on, perhaps I can start getting some better XC and 'cross results before 2010 ends.

Unfortunately, today was not a day to chalk up good XC results. Everything I could say from this point on is basically an excuse, so I will keep it short. I got to the race feeling scared and generally not right about the course, my bike, the competition, or pretty much anything. The first 10 minutes went badly, mostly because I reverted bad into my old reactionary mode, rather than riding my own race as I have been trying to focus on this year. I let myself slip into "I suck" mode, and ended up dropping out.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just Do It

I've been in a rather large training slump since the French Lick race. Despite having a very hefty week on my training plan, my weekday workouts last week amounted to a single 45 minute easy road ride and the weekend consisted of a low-key preride of the Muscatatuk (woo, spelled it right for once) race course and some half-hearted tempo on my roundabout trip to watch Adam at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest road race.

I can't really attribute the slump to any single factor other than the fact that I have spent much of the last six weeks visiting the IU branch campuses and other work-related travel. Being the introverted creature of habit that I am, spending long hours traveling, meeting with people, and veering from my normal work schedule are probably even more stressful for me than they are for "normal" people. After a few weeks, the resulting patterns of insufficient sleep and the greater-than-normal urge to shove copious amounts of really crappy food in my mouth have left me feeling like a fat tired slug.

The problem with feeling like a fat tired slug is that it decreases the willpower to do things that seem initially unpleasant, but will ultimately make me feel better, like turning off the television or putting down the book so I can get to bed on time, eating healthy food, and following my training plan. It took longer than I had hoped, but I finally reached the point where I gathered the energy to do something that I really didn't want to do but that I knew would help deflect the downward spiral in which I was moving.

When I found out yesterday morning that the MMSF time trials were moving to a simpler bi-weekly schedule, which meant there was one last night instead of next week as I'd marked on my calendar, I decided to suck it up and go despite the fact that it was a rest week on my schedule. The fact of the matter was that I'd rested plenty the week before and if I kept the rest of the week light, I would still be sufficiently recovered for this weekend's racing. So I did it and it felt miserable, and according to my power meter, my power sucked. However, I set a season best by 1:15 and beat my best ever time from 2007 by about 30 seconds. I'm still trying to figure out that disconnect, but strange things happen at the MMTT. The most important thing is that I stepped up and did something hard and unpleasant, and that I feel better for doing so.

As for things that I accomplished last week, I bought some chocolate rocks from Sahara Mart (what with the shoving of crappy food and all), and in my typical nerd fashion, decided I needed to practice my trail building skills with them. Yes, I ate them when I was done.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

DINO French Lick

You know what they saw about the best laid plans of mice, men, and female bike racers (okay, all bike racers), right? Well, so it went for Lindsay "I never get chain suck" Rodkey today. (AKA, Lindsay "I never get flats" Rodkey, as I am know in Southwestern Arkansas)

I came to French Lick today with none of the gut-wrenching pressure that I had at Brown County. After BCSP's re-alignment of my season goals, my objective today was not so much to WIN, as to gather critical information to help me learn what I need to do to WIN. I know that the obvious answer is to train harder/more, but I really think that while my fitness needs to improve, that improved racing skills are going to be a critical piece in the breakthrough that I still hope to have in 2010.

I knew the race was going to be super hard, but I also knew that I would likely have the advantage of being the only Cat 2 woman who had ridden the new section. My plan was two-pronged: to stay in control effort-wise until a certain climb that I considered my "step on the gas" point and within reason of the first prong, do my best to drop into the new section with no one obstructing my path. I knew that with the exception of the long climb up from the creek, which I was hoping to save some spare muscle fibers for, that I would be strongest rider in my category on the new section.

It all seemed like a good plan, but it wasn't to be. I practiced much more pre-race patience than I ever have and continued to soft pedal around the starting area until about four minutes before we went off. I rolled up to the dashed "on deck" line on the far left side as I like to do, and it looked like I was going to get a place on the front row without bumping any Cat 1 girls. Then the wave before us went off and started to pedal forward to the starting line and I heard a crunch. My chain had popped off and lodged next to my frame. I pulled it out, but I didn't have room to pedal out the kinks between where I was and the starting line, so I lined up and slightly panicked knowing that I would not be able to shove hard off the line like the other girls. When the siren sounded, they flew off and I took a few awkward pedal strokes to get my bike working. The good news is that I started going normally, but the bad news is that I was already 30 seconds back at that point.

At that point, all I could do was chase, but I made sure not to kill myself to try and catch up, since it would do me no good if I made contact but was too blown to keep up when I did. When I dropped into the new section I was exactly where I didn't want to be. I was about to catch two girls, but it was in the place where I didn't want to have to be behind anyone. I quickly caught the first one, and she let me pass fairly quickly, but the second was the girl who I went back and forth with at BCSP. I caught her on an especially narrow portion of trail, we were heading into a steep, pukey climbing section (lots of rocks and I think three switchbacks), so she started pulling back away as soon as I made contact. The really bad part is that I started burning quite a few more matches than I was ready to give away during this cat and mouse portion of the race. I re-caught her and eventually passed her, but not after spending way too much of the technical section than I wanted to sitting on her wheel waiting to pass.

When I finally got clear, it was nearly time to for the climb I had been dreading, and I was coming in with more blown legs and a narrower margin than I had hoped. It hurt so bad. To make matters worse, I passed a Cat 2 guy not long after getting free of my competitor. I'm not really sure what all transpired during the next couple of minutes, because I think I passed another guy after him. At some point I dabbed on some little rock feature because my legs were about to pop off and I couldn't manage the extra 5% power to clear it. I heard a male voice saying something about getting my cadence up behind me. Are you freaking kidding me? There aren't a lot of things that piss me off more than making a minor flub in front a guy I don't know and then being the recipient of "helpful advice" that I apparently need since I'm a female and all.

The fact of the matter was my legs were fried and I was tapped out in my middle ring, but I was not about to give up a get all granny geared up when I knew I was being chased. As the climb went on, I struggled more in the most deeply anaerobic state I've experienced since I allowed myself to slip that far into the hurt box on the same climb at the DRT race. The difference was that this time I had known better than to let myself get in that situation, and yet it still happened anyway. I had reached the point of audible groans and out-loud negative self-talk. Well, at least it was supposed to be self-talk. Unfortunately, Mr. Sport Guy was riding behind me and responding, which did not help the situation at all. I guess he was trying to be encouraging, but it was just annoying. I finally got mad and told him to go around me. I'm now struggling with guilt over being the short-tempered bitch that I become in the middle of cross-country races, and a complete misunderstanding of how such a weird situation happened in the first place.

After finally getting rid of Mr. Sport Guy, my frustration had reached a peak and I gave up and switch to the damn granny gear for a while. I got really close to making it to the top of the climb without being caught by the girl behind me, but she passed me before we got to the open field that lead to the swoopy pine forest section that would allow for some recovery before the last bit of climbing. Then, to my horror, the pine forest section was rerouted to a long series of horrible muddy fireroad sections that somehow added even more climbing through a section that would normally be flat. I was so unbelievably mad at the promoter for this travesty that the short-tempered bitch flared once again and I resorted to walking my bike through a couple of the really thick muddy sections.

At that point, I just wanted it to be over and it mostly was. I got through the last climb, and started the descent that I love so much, but I found that I didn't even have the strength left to enjoy it. Although, it is downhill, it still requires a decent amount of pedaling and pumping to really fly, and I didn't seem to have much pedal and pump left. I even had a baby crash where I dropped my chain again just a minute or so from being done. That sucked.

So, all and all, it didn't go well, but the thing I'm most disappointed in was losing the opportunity to experience the start, since we still have four races left and, other that I girl I raced against today, I still don't have a good idea of the girls' strengths and weaknesses. The other disappointment is that the bad start deprived me of the opportunity to play my strengths. I guess the one good thing that I'm taking away from today is that I can now list "shredding the gnar" as a strength on my bike racing resume'.

Monday, June 14, 2010

What, Are You New?

My Go Phone takes terrible pictures sometimes.

I know it's getting a bit boring to read that I spent yet another weekend riding in French Lick, but it seems to be my thing lately. I went back on Saturday because I heard the 9-mile loop was really, for-realio finished and I wanted a chance to ride the lap as it will appear in next weekend's DINO race. It also doesn't hurt that this trail, which is less than a year old, already dries nearly as well as the North Tower and Aynes loops at Brown County. From the trail reports on HMBA, it seems like BCSP has been abnormally wet in the last month, and I can't tell if it's exaggeration or what. Something isn't adding up, but I haven't investigated much, because I've found a new jam that I can count on. Rather than trying to decipher the actual North Tower/Aynes conditions from too many competing voices on the BCSP forum, I know I can look on the French Lick forum and if Alex says it's cool, it's cool. And more often than not, it's cool.

Anyway, the reason for the title of the post and the grainy picture above, is my excitement at finally getting to ride "the big loop" just days after it was finished. Since I knew not many people had ridden through the intersection above, I wanted to commemorate my inaugural ride through that section of trail. Of course, the final finishing work hasn't been done on it yet and I found myself bumping and sliding through that section. Then, into my head popped the family-friendly insult from one of Adam's old TV favorites, Boy Meets World. "What, are you new?" I asked. I'm not sure if it was directed towards the trail or myself, but it made for a bit of entertainment as I bopped along. I rode the new loop much better than I did at the DRT race or my Memorial Day ride. However, all I can say about this weekend's race is that it will be interesting. The plan is still to try to not kill myself in the first half of the lap (considering it's a one-lap race, but those decisions are a bit random on new courses) and hope it's a battle of wits rather than a battle of watts.

I also got a couple of non-grainy action shots from last weekend's Brown County race:

Thanks to Matt Link for taking these and to Angela Breeden for passing them along.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Happy Warm-Up Face

The happy warm-up face belies my feelings at the time of the picture. I'm actually seriously thinking about throwing up, but I saw the photographer there and decided to cheese it up for him. Then I thought, "In another hour he'll take another picture of me in the same with my pain face on." I was right.

Serious Last Meters of Last Climb Face

Of course, there is a little more story to be told in between the two pictures, like why I felt like throwing up in the first one. The short answer is that since the possibility of winning was revealed to me at the DINO Spring Tune-Up, I had been placing an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself to WIN at DINO BCSP. Unfortunately, even though I've finally gotten over thinking that I'm genetically or cosmically doomed to lose, too many years of thinking that have weakened the skills I need to WIN.

All in all, the race went okay after I got over my jitters. I got a good start, and even though I lost more places than I wanted to on the opening climb, it was still probably the best start I've ever had on that killer hill. I entered the singletrack in fifth place out of ten Cat 2 girls, but I wasn't too far back overall and I was within a few bike lengths of third and fourth. I lost some ground early on because I was so blasted from the opening climb, but I worked my way back up to visual contact with fourth place. Unfortunately, I got caught by another girl very close to the top of the Aynes climb, and I made the overly polite decision to let her pass rather than turning myself inside out to stay in front over the crest and then rail the descent to lose her. As it was, I had to re-pass her right after cresting the hill and although I put some time on her on the descent, it was not enough to keep her away through the top of the North Tower climb.

In the end, I got 6th out of 10, which is sort of crappy in the context that I came into the race with the idea that I would be really disappointed with anything short of 1st. However, the top half of the field was well-matched, and my 6th place was still only about 6.5 minutes back from the winning time, and the 4-6 places were all within a minute of each other. After looking at old results, I realized that I have only been that close to the winning time of a race two other times: my last beginner class race in 2006 and my last DINO-sanctioned outing back in April.

So the point is that it was actually a good race, but it just fell below the expectations I had set for myself. I still don't like the idea of myself as a Cat 2 rider, because it's hard to admit that I still can't keep up with the girls who kicked my ass when we were all beginners a few years ago and that many of the girls I can compete with have only been racing a year or two. The positive side of it is that I am actually really getting to compete now instead of showing up and having the race decided in the first few minutes. It doesn't look like I'll be earning my sandbagger crown/ unarguable upgrade by July like I'd hoped, but it's looking like this might be the year I actually start to have fun with XC racing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

French Lick Double Dip

For my three day Memorial Day weekend, I made not one, but two trips to French Lick. The first was for the DRT series race, which I wanted to do after having such a good time at French Lick a couple of weeks ago. However, I didn't really expect the new loop to be done in time for the race, but I guess it was close enough to being completed that they hooked up some fire road to the nearly completed loop for a nine-mile course instead of the five-mile course we did the other day. It also meant that I would be racing into what I'd heard was some fairly difficult singletrack that I'd never seen before.

The race on Sunday was not so good. It was terribly, oppressively hot. I felt okay on my warm-up and could see that my HR was higher than it should have been for a given effort, but I tried not to worry about it too much. I had only done DRT time trials before, and it turned out that the XC races start much differently than DINO series races do. The waves went in the order of Cat 1 men, Cat 1 women, Cat 2 men, Cat 2 women, and then Cat 3 men (no Cat 3 women that day). This was bad for two reasons: I didn't get to start with the girls I normally start with, and I had the Cat 3 men going off one minute behind me. I thought I was going to have to start alone, but there was one other Cat 2 girl who I have never seen before (later research showed that she was SERC series regular from Alabama, which was a bit surprising).

Anyway, I made a bit of a false start and was not "loaded" for the real start and she got a jump on me. I tried to catch and pass her before the singletrack, but it wasn't happening. She also continued to gap me once we got to the singletrack and I tried to straighten up and repeat my new mantra of "focus on fast", which means quit thinking about how hard I'm going or what the other racers are doing and just try to get through each section of trail as quickly and smoothly as possible. Unfortunately, my HR was pinned at around 199-200 and wasn't letting up even as I tried to calm and focus. Then the Cat 3 men caught me which meant I had to ride in the rough stuff on the side of the trail a lot and worry about what they were doing instead my effort, which did not help me relax and focus at all. Then I started getting the chills and goosebumps that signal dehydration, even though it was only about 15 minutes into the race. So I went into to complete soft-pedal mode and tried to drink, but it didn't really help me much. Basically, for the first 30 minutes of the race my HR would not go under 195, no matter what I did and it didn't let up until I got to an extended downhill. By that point, my body was trashed and I couldn't even ride normal easy pace. I soft-pedaled, granny geared, and even walked some to finish the lap, which took me 1:30 for 9 miles, and then went back to my car to pour an entire gallon of water over my head.

Not good. Must get back on that "no longer sucking" track that I was on in April, because not sucking was a lot more fun than going back to my old "it all got screwed up and I went slow because of..." mode.

On Monday, Adam and I went back to French Lick, because he'd never ridden there and wanted to check it out, but eschewed Sunday's race for personal reasons. For Monday's ride, I opted to break out my Anthem for the first time in quite a while and went "minimum effort required" pace for the first 9 mile lap. The new section is pretty freakin' hard and sometimes the minimum effort required to keep rolling was still pretty high, especially on legs trashed from the previous day. Regardless, my "minimum effort required" lap with trashed legs today was still 10 minutes faster than my "race" lap on Sunday, so it became obvious that this trail will not forgive killing myself in the beginning. For the DINO race, I've picked out a spot on the course where I will put on the accelerator, but until then I'm going to make sure to leave something in the tank. I'm not sure how effective the strategy will be competition-wise, but it sure as heck has to be more effective than my strategy on Sunday. I'm also going to race on my Anthem, because the new singletrack is so rough and saving myself some physical beating will probably help, too.

Anyway, aside from riding, I had a really nice weekend. Saturday was Adam's birthday, but we turned it into a three-day celebration with sushi on Friday, steak dinner at home on Saturday, and dinner out with his parents on Sunday. We also got to spend a lot more time together than we have for a long time, since our work/training schedules are so different and neither of us have much free time on a given weekday. It was fun just hanging out, though, and even kinda sorta riding together for a bit. After our ride, we stopped at the Fairfax beach on Lake Monroe and checked out the crowd there. Here is a picture of me standing in the "pee water", as I liked to call it:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Catching Up

It seems like I've had several blog-worthy occurrences since Syllamo's Revenge, but I haven't had an blog-worthy pictures and have been a bit lax about writing things down over the last couple of weeks. So here's my attempt at a short and sweet review of the last couple of week's blog-worthy moments:

1) French Lick Ride/ Race Simulation: Since my return from Syllamo's marked the time to get all cross country-y, the next weekend Emily and I went to French Lick to get in some hard singletrack riding. I'd only been to that trail once before and didn't really feel so good that time, so I wasn't too impressed. However, I sorta fell in love a little when we were they the other day. The current five-mile loop is basically 2.5 miles of gradual climbing followed by 2.5 miles of awesome swoopy downhill. It was even open and flowing enough that I was able to put a few bike lengths on Emily in some places, which is quite an accomplishment.

Anyway, we did one lap easy and two at race pace, since DINO Cat 2 women's races are usually about 10 miles. I took off while Emily took a bathroom break and then tried to catch up with me, which was a good motivator for both of us. She caught me about 3/4 of the way up the climb on the second lap, but I repassed her by the peak and make to the bottom in the lead. The fact that she made up five or so minutes on me in an hour of riding isn't great, but is an improvement over the last couple of XC seasons. My goal was two laps in under an hour, and I did 66 minutes, but my legs were still a bit flat from Syllamo's. I think I can get under an hour with good legs.

2) Huge PR for Race-Sim Workout: A few days after our trip to French Lick, Jason had me to his "famous" power based race simulation workout on the road. I was a little scared going in, because my legs hadn't been good over the weekend and still felt a little sore. However, once I got going it was clear that it was going to be a good day. I was about 7 watts higher by all measures over what I did last July. That was good news considering that my training hasn't been quite as consistent as last year because of my nasty cold/allergy thing a few weeks ago, and just general life. I've been vacillating between really sub-par workouts then popping a really good one every couple of weeks. I just have to cross my fingers and hope to "pop" on race day.

3) Duffield (Demolition) Derby: Last Sunday I traveled to the southwest side of Louisville to try and get another race under my belt, since Jason thought that five weeks between Syllamo's and DINO BCSP was too long without racing. I had actually gotten pretty excited about the race, even though the Kentucky series races aren't as well attended as the DINO races, but I figured I'd get Emily to go with me and we could at least race against each other and pick up some prize money/ swag. Unfortunately, the weather was looking bad and Emily decided not to go. I pressed on because Adam had already given up a road race in Ohio so that I could race in Kentucky and I didn't want to back out at the last minute.

Unfortunately, it was pouring rain the whole time, and the course was like a very dirty slip 'n' slide. There was actually one other Cat 2 woman there, and I'm kind of disappointed in myself because I submitted to my baser instincts and did not fight hard enough for the hole shot at the top of the super steep quarter mile climb that we started on. I know most of the problem was that I'm afraid of racing in slick conditions and I was afraid of what would happen if I did get the hole shot, which is frustrating to me. The rest was self-fulfilling prophecy as we hit the mud, I washed out twice in the first couple of minutes, and I lost sight of her in no time.

The race didn't really help my goal of increasing my confidence and to start racking up so Cat 2 W's so that I moved back up to Cat 1 sufficiently mid-pack rather than leaking out the bottom like in 2008-2009. I think the difference between this year and years past is that in the two XC races that I've done this year, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I chose not to win, while in the past it's never even occurred to me as a choice. Now I just have to take it one step further and choose to WIN when the chips are down. Interestingly enough, the next time I will likely have to make that choice will be on another steep paved climb at the BCSP DINO race, and I've been trying to practice the scenario in my head so maybe I won't crack next time.

4) MMTT: Finally, I threw one more big effort in over the last couple of weeks at the Morgan-Monroe forest time trial a few days ago. Things looked bad at first because I had to spend Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis for a work-related conference, which left me tired and cranky and pressed for time on Tuesday evening. By the time I made it home, I didn't have time to change and make out to the forest by bike, and I almost skipped, but at the last minute I decided just to drive out and take out a couple of days' frustration on the pedals. I felt okay, after the initial shock of absolutely no warm-up, but the results were a bit confusing and frustrating. I set a personal worst time and a personal power average for the 20 and 30 minute ranges. Given, I've not done one of those TT's since 2007 and that was without power, but I almost felt like if my time was going to be bad, I'd rather my power be bad, too, so I could just call it a bad day. Now I'm just confused.

Anyway, that's what I've been up to lately. I'm hoping the trails will be dry enough to bust a couple of hard laps at Brown County on Saturday, but we'll see. Then it's more race sim work and another trip French Lick, where I will be doing the DRT race on the 30th and hoping for the elusive 'W'.