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.