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: