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.