July 28, 2014

New Allies in the Heat Battle

Filed under: Product Reviews,Training — Andrea @ 6:51 am

Just when I was conceding defeat to the terrible summer hotness of Memphis, I happened upon a couple of new products that, as of this weekend, are swinging things back in to my favor.

Product #1: the new Gu Brew formulation

Because of my own personal preference for taste and digestibility, I previously diluted my Gu Roctane and Gu Electrolye Brew drink to somewhere in the neighborhood of 90cal per bottle. That’s not a bad strategy, and it worked pretty well for me, but it also meant that while diluting the sugar, I wasn’t getting quite as much of the electrolyte part of the mix.
They’ve now re-formulated the Brew to be lighter on the carb side (it’s 70 calories per serving as opposed to the 90 previous calories). The sodium content is 250mg per serving (with the 500mg per serving blueberry pomegranate option)- similar to the previous version of the mix. Additionally, they’ve now got a “plain” flavor (which I haven’t tried yet), and they’ve got single serve, pocket-sized packets that make it super easy to take your drink mix with you in order to continue consuming it throughout your longer rides.

I tried the lemon lime and watermelon flavors over the weekend, and, I can say that lemon lime tastes good (better than it did previously), and the watermelon is so good that it makes you actually want to drink the whole bottle, even later in the ride, when drinking anything sugary used to seem kind of like a chore.

Product #2: Camelbak Podium ICE Bottles

If you live someplace hot, you know that the previously available versions of insulated bottles aren’t really that good. Both Camelbak and Polar make bottles that, at best, marginally keep your drinks from boiling within the first hour of your ride, but still don’t make that much of a difference… certainly not enough of a difference to warrant dealing with the scum that seems to grow inside of a Polar bottle literally within one long ride (both of the ones I used during Dirty Kanza started the day totally clean and ended the day with scummy spots), or the fact that if you’re not careful with how you drink from a Polar bottle, the top would suck down a little and trap part of your lip with it. The previous version of the Camelbak insulated bottle just didn’t work well enough in the soul-crushing heat to bother paying extra for one or carrying the extra weight.

Enter the Camelbak Podium Ice.

My strategy over the weekend’s rides was to fill two of them with ice, keep one as plain water, and the other as Gu Brew. I drank at least one bottle of Brew per hour in addition to enough water to wash down whatever food I was eating (honestly, with the new formulation of Brew, I could probably go without the plain water, but I didn’t want to get too far off from what’s worked for me in the past). During my Saturday ride, the ice lasted long enough to make two more cold bottles of brew and water at the 2-hour mark. That remaining ice melted during the final hour of the ride, but the drink still remained refreshingly cold.

The result of combining these two products, along with some strategic ride planning (making two loops from the house so I could get an ice refill 3 hours in), meant that I finished my 5+ hours on Saturday feeling nearly as good as when I started, despite the heat index being well over 100 by the final hour.

I’m really stoked on all of it. The new Brew formula is so easy to drink, and the single serve packets make it incredibly convenient  to carry in a jersey pocket on long rides (even the small pockets on my new kits). The combination of that and having constant access to cold liquid is a proverbial game-changer. If you’re someplace oppressively hot, give them a whirl ASAP.



July 25, 2014

Pedal Smashing

Filed under: MMA,Training — Andrea @ 8:46 am

Before I stop talking about fighting for a couple of posts (maybe), I would like to give a bit of a redux on my fight now that it’s had time to sink in, and I’ve looked through some pictures/video. I’ve dubbed my first fight experience as “panic braking into the rock garden.” From the get-go, I did exactly everything I’d practiced not doing for months and basically acted like an aggressive heavy bag. However, I did notice one thing that sucks… the punch that suddenly took me from, “I’m gonna stick this out no matter how much I’m getting my ass beat” to “Get the eff out before you are seriously injured” was illegal by the rules given to us prior to the fight. I’m guessing that from where she was standing across the ring (you can see a blue glove in the first photo below) the ref didn’t see it. Watching the video, it looks careless at worst, and not intentional… it’s not like she needed to sucker punch me to keep winning.



Like I said before, I’m not worried that I went down in flames the first time. It seriously reminds me of when I first started mountain bike racing. In my first real endurance race, the Fool’s Gold 50, I came in waaaaay too hot down a descent on Bull Mountain, and, in a similar fashion, I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done by grabbing both brakes and locking my eyes on to every solid object that could end me if I hit it, essentially guaranteeing that I’d hit something and yard sale at 30+ MPH. Aside from scaring the hell out of everyone who was in the general vicinity, I cracked at least one rib, severely pulled a groin muscle, bruised my arm enough that I thought it was broken, and punctured the shell of my helmet. I still finished, and held on to 2nd place. A broken nose is waaaaaaaay less painful than a broken rib.

Did I give up on descending? Well, hop in your way-back machine and ask the pros from TSE 2013…


It’s true… when I first started mountain biking, I sucked at it.

I no longer suck.

Speaking of not sucking, after last week’s volume of techy-climby stuff in Michigan followed up with a handful of rest days, I’ve started back in to my pre-Vapor Trail training camp in all-out wattage cottage form. Monday, I killed some 10 minute intervals. Tuesday, I lifted heavy stuff, then Wednesday, I had a kickass tempo ride, nailing 78 miles in about four & a half hours (water stops inclusive).

In case anyone else who reads likes to rely on the hose at the Wagon Wheel Rd. VFD, the water is cut off now. I had a sad…


But, there’s a church a few miles from there on Old Hwy 59 with a nice shady/cold spigot


…and a church on Hwy 196 in Galloway an hour or so later


The strong start gets me amped for workouts to come. It’s mostly hard training and good fitness with a side of “everything seems easy compared to fighting.” Not that Vapor Trail will be easy… I’m incredibly excited about it, though. The very loose plan of attack for the next month is to train hard, race the state championship XC race on August 17th, then leave for Colorado sometime in the week following that.



July 21, 2014

Tour of Da U.P.

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails — Andrea @ 8:01 am

Ryan had been after me to make a trip up North with him for a while. So, we’d decided to leave the Monday following my fight as sort of a recovery-time trip. I generally made the best of having one and a half black eyes…


Our first stop Monday night was at his brother’s house in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. It was a quick stay-over before we continued north to his Mom’s (Gail) house in Marquette, MI.

It was cold and damp up there, and we ended up borrowing warmer clothes from his mom and finding a local shop where I could get a set of arm warmers. Tuesday night, we hit up a group ride that left from a friend’s house and went to the North Marquette trail system. I later found out that it was supposed to be a “guys only” ride, though I’d been fully accepted into the group via both my riding ability and my skill of opening a beer bottle using an SPD pedal.

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Gail baked espresso cookies while we were out. No exaggeration- I probably ate a dozen of them within a two-day period.


The next morning, we set out on a loop of the larger/more climbey South Marquette trail system. There was a course used in a local cross country race that incorporated most of the trails within a 3-loop cloverleaf. The trails we found were mostly machine-built, flowy, and sometimes steep/kinda rocky. One part, near a golf course, had signs every mile or so saying to be quiet. Then, once you were past the course…


Near the end of our adventure, we climbed up a steep forest road to the Marquette Mountain overlook, then descended a trail called “Scary,” which was definitely one of several trip highlights, as it dropped from what was probably the highest point in town down to almost lake level… quickly.

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With all of our navigational breaks, the 29-mile ride took close to 4 hours. Back at the house, we ate, napped, had more cookies, and packed our things to go to Ishpeming for another group ride on the Ishpeming/Negaunee trail system. We found a handful of local hammers (including the town “Antique Gun Show”) and hung on tight.

Every riding community has an Antique Gun Show (a.k.a. “silver fox” or “bald eagle”), and if you don’t know who/what I’m talking about, you should go ride with Todd Henne in Arkansas.

I’m not sure I could find my way around those trails without local assistance, so I’d suggest the Wednesday night @6:30 group ride from Jasper Ridge Brewery if you’re ever in the area (there are several groups, so all skill levels are covered). The trails are worth the visit- lots of steep, tech stuff that will challenge you in all sorts of ways. It’s a nice, hand-built complement to the machine-built  smoothness of the South Marquette system.  Highlight of the ride? Hearing  locals’ discussion of where to go next- something along the lines of, “let’s take that two-track that crosses the luge” (thing you will never hear in Memphis #123). It was a pretty exhausting but highly rewarding two-a-day. Gail had made polenta lasagna and kale salad for dinner, which, along with more cookies, was another highlight of the trip.

In keeping with our “ride lots of trails in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan” theme, Thursday Morning, we drove to the Houghton/South Range area at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula.


That afternoon, we rode the snowmobile route from South Range to Houghton to ride the Michigan Tech Trails. If you can tolerate riding in loose sand, those things will take you anywhere you want to go:


The ride out was fast, because it’s all downhill by about 1.5%. It’s worth not getting in to a half-wheel contest with your riding partner at that point since you’ll be climbing back up that same grade in tire-deep sand on the way home…

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The tech trails are really cool. We rode the “red loop” first, which has some neat wood features that I only took pictures of.

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It also includes the “Hairy Toad” trail, which, with all of its rocks, was another favorite for me. On a stroke of luck, we found a brand new downhill dirt jump/flow trail that was like an express train from the upper trail system to the lower one. No pictures of that one, only grinning and occasional whoo-hoos.
After a couple of hours there, we headed back up to South Range. The “uphill in the sand” ride back was as fun as I’d imagined it being. I get excited at the prospect of hike-a-bike followed by terrain that tries to be soul-crushing, no matter how simple it is.

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Something that’s hard to get used to… it stays light really late up there. This photo was taken at 10:00pm:


Friday morning, we drove up to Copper Harbor. We started by riding the suggested “IMBA Epic” loop, which covered most of the trails in the system. Then, we rode up Brockway Mountain on the road to the Flow trail that meanders back to town.

From the Red Trail on the Loop:


From the Flow Trail (that wooden structure is part of the “Overflow” gravity trail that takes a much more direct route down the mountain):


The Copper Harbor trails are cool and lots of fun, but definitely don’t skip the other ones in the U.P. area, because they’re equally, if not more enjoyable. We also stopped by the Swedetown Trails in Calumet. I didn’t take photos, because the accumulation of leg hurt from all the other riding made the loop at Swedetown a bit of a mosquito-driven deathmarch. We toppped off the long day with a pasty from Toni’s.


…and a little Tour-watching back at the house


Saturday morning, we started the long trip home by driving back to Fond du Lac. As a little recovery, we tried to go ride some nearby trails. I say “tried” because all of the designated “bike only” trails in the park were way overgrown. So, we ended up just going on anything that wasn’t marked as a hiking-only trail.


Back at the house, we ate dinner and sat around watching the Tour with the kids and animals.

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Sunday, we finished the drive. It’s a looooong day.


I’m pretty sure Indy was happy to have me back.


Observations from the trip:

#1- the Upper Peninsula dialect is equally as unique and endearing as a thick Southern accent.

#2- Don’t take a trip up to that part of Michigan without visiting all the trails. Lots of people just go to Copper Harbor. It’s great, but the others are too good to miss, and not far away.

#3- Take bug spray. The mosquitoes are the size of hummingbirds, and the flies have found their way into someone’s meth stash.

#4- Bring some fall clothes. It warmed up some from our first days there, but overnight lows in the 40s/50s in the middle of the summer are pretty normal.

#5- Hardtail or Full Suspension? You definitely won’t die on a hardtail, but there are lots of roots, rocks, and techy stuff that make a full suspension a good choice if you’ve got one.




July 13, 2014

Fight Time!

Filed under: MMA — Andrea @ 6:47 am

Friday- Weigh in day. I woke up, had a double espresso, gave that some “working time,” and stepped on the scale at 137.6 pounds. Weigh-ins were at 5:30, so I had all day to sweat off that couple of pounds and chill out until it was time to go. I decided that I’d throw on a few layers of clothes and go over to my parents’ house and mow their lawn for the while they’re out of town (they’ve got a huge yard and a baller zero-turn riding mower).
While I was out there sweating, my phone was blowing up with John and the dude who was the matchmaker for the fights trying to get in touch with me to tell me that my opponent- Toni Tallman, had reported in that she wasn’t going to make the 135 weight, and wanted to see if we could fight at 140 instead. Just to prove to myself that the cut to 135 was do-able, before I had a snack and some water, I went back home, cleaned up, and weighed again…



Since I had 5 pounds to play with, I ate a couple of small snacks, drank a bottle of Gu Electrolyte Brew, and laid around until it was time to go. Just before I left, I weighed myself again, and was 138.6 pounds. At weigh-ins, their janky beam scale said I was 135.5. Toni ended up weighing in at 142… meaning she was probably a full 10 pounds over our initial intended weight class.


Saturday, I watched Ryan and Matt race a local training series crit. Time seemed to move like cold honey all day, but eventually, it was time to get going to the fight venue…


John and I settled in to a spot in the “blue corner” side of the locker room and, as the start time approached, he wrapped my hands up so we could start warming up.

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I had occasional waves of nerves, but generally was pretty calm and focused.

Fight time finally arrived…

This is where things went all 6s and 7s. I totally cat 5′d it. The bell rung, and it’s like I forgot most of the things I’d learned about how to not get hit in the face. We squared off, I took a bunch of hard hits (maybe landed a couple of my own), then we were against the cage for a hot minute. I did get in a few body shots that felt awesome, but once we broke, it was back to taking hits to the face. About that time, I remembered that I had legs and landed a couple of leg kicks that felt solid, and, I saw a glimmer of that taking a bit of the hardness out of Toni’s punches, but, unfortunately, by then, I was so beaten up that I couldn’t take the incidental punches that’d make their way through even if I’d gotten my shit together and started to do what I’ve been practicing so hard in the past few months. I knew my nose was broken already, and my “live to fight another day” instinct was like, “dude, it’s time to GTFO,” so I verbally tapped out at just under 2 minutes in to the fight.

Disappointed? A little. Discouraged? Nah.
John said to me just before the fight that I was about to learn so much in the next few minutes. He was exactly right. I made lots of defensive mistakes. LOTS of them. I know exactly what they are, and the wild thing is, it’s all stuff that I’d planned to do that totally escaped me as soon as we threw the first punches. Learning the hard way x1000.


‘Tis but a flesh wound! I should heal up with some ice, ibuprofen, and time. I don’t have any symptoms of a concussion, and, other than a slight modification to the shape of my nose, nothing is permanently hurt.

Ryan got the whole thing on iphone video, and I’ll try to get it uploaded to youtube today.

July 11, 2014

Weight Cut Week & A Very Important Message

Filed under: MMA,Training — Andrea @ 6:39 am

If you don’t care about reading MMA Content, scroll to the bottom for a very important bike-content/f*ckcancer message. Otherwise…

Weight cut week has been quite a roller-coaster experience. Since it’s not 100% over yet (I’ve still got a little sweating to do between now and weigh-ins at 5:30 tonight), I’ll save the gory details for my post-fight bloggings and just give you the highlights.

The biggest thing is that I’ve had only incidental quantities of sugar and salt since after lunch on Sunday. This has its ups and downs. On one hand, once I was over the initial violently cranky sugar cravings (I now wholeheartedly agree that sugar is physically and psychologically addictive) and everything stabilized, my appetite also stabilized. On the other hand, by Tuesday, a 1.5 hour bike ride became an act of what felt like pedaling through molasses.

This is a delicious lunch that will remain a staple from now on- salmon, 1/2 an avocado, walnuts, “supergreens” mix from Whole Foods, and a little balsamic vinegar & olive oil.


Since Tuesday, I’ve had to keep my physical activity pretty light. I hit a heavy bag bag a little on Wednesday and have taken the dogs for a few walks as well.


We have to walk at Old Man Indy pace. His stubby little 14-year-old legs get worn out too quickly otherwise.


All-in-all, it’s been a very laid back week. I’ve spent hours laying on the recliner and watching The Tour, during which time, I began to notice the fruits of my weight-cut labor-


I also discovered the beauty of the Aeropress. I can make a quad-shot espresso that allows me to get my normal quantity of caffeine with just a fraction of the water…


Has it been hard? Yes. On the bright side, though, it’s given me something to focus on other than getting nervous about fighting Saturday night. Like a bike race, I’m much less nervous than I am very anxious and excited. The guys at the gym have worked hard to get me prepared, and I fully trust in my training.

Important Bike-Related Content: 

On that note, speaking of guys at the gym, John, who has selflessly spent hours of his time teaching me everything he knows (and in the process, has let me punch/kick him full-force in the head and body) needs your help. He’s signed up to participate in the St. Jude ride- a 24 hour lap “race”/fundraising event on the roads in downtown Memphis. Most people sign up as a relay team, but he’s going at the 24 hours solo. Right now, he’s trying to reach a fundraising goal of $10,000.

If you haven’t heard of St. Jude, just know that they’re one of the biggest fighters of childhood cancer in the World. Families come from all corners of the globe for cancer treatment, and none of them pays for any treatment or housing when they’re here. Being the epicenter of such a great organization is one of Memphis’ best attributes.

So, if you want to help him help St. Jude, click on over to his fundraising page and throw a few (or more) bucks his way: Help John Trent raise money for St. Jude

July 7, 2014

Transition Weekend

Filed under: MMA,Training — Andrea @ 9:26 am

It was a pretty quiet 4th of July weekend around the compound. On Friday, Matt had to go to his family’s house for lunch, so we were all up early to get in a ride before that. What started as a 3-person group ended up as just Matt and myself when one of Ryan’s Crank Brothers pedals fell apart just blocks from the house. The rest of the ride was pretty sedate. We rode some of the Wolf River Trail (which is not in great shape right now because of flood-induced overgrowth and downed trees), then took the Greenline to Overton Park, wandered around that area, then headed back home. I wasn’t feeling good until later in the ride, when we stopped for donuts, and afterwards, I decided to feed off of my own misery.


After that, Ryan, Matt, and I went out for a somewhat spontaneous bout of car shopping. Ryan’s Escape is getting pretty clapped out, so we test drove a Honda Fit and poked around at Ford and Subaru for anything similar. Afterward, I made the guys an early dinner then headed out to El Toro Loco for delicious Mexican Food and UFC 175 Fight Night.


I didn’t pick a favorite for the Rousey vs Davis fight, because I was just hoping to see a good fight. Quite to the contrary, it was over in 16 seconds. If you watch the video, the death blow combo started by her connecting with an overhand right and finished with repeated punches until the ref stopped the fight. You can see a bootleg youtube video here, or, if that one is taken down, just search “Rousey versus Davis” and it’ll pop up in some way or another (it’s such a short fight, it’s already been turned into an animated GIF).
Ronda Rousey is a total animal. Seriously… I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- she is to women’s fighting what Marianne Vos is to women’s cycling. There’s her, then there’s everyone else. People are calling for her to fight Cris Cyborg, however, with Cyborg’s history of getting caught using steroids, and the UFC’s stance of “no steroids allowed,” I personally don’t see it happening soon (though, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it as badly as anyone else out there). The UFC president alluded to the possibility of it, and, considering the amount of money that matchup would draw, I’m crossing my fingers.

Sunday morning, I was feeling rough. the fights went on waaaaaay past my usual 10:00 bedtime, and the dogs have an internal alarm clock that goes off every morning between 5 and 5:30. While I was trying to convince my body that it really wanted to get out and do 15 minute intervals, Matt washed half the bikes in the house. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to witness the awesomeness of the collection…


Interesting side note- all of those bikes have a powermeter of some sort on them.
It took a few cups of coffee to get me mobile and onto my bike for the last interval workout before going in to “fight taper/weight cut” mode. Though I started out a little slow in my warm-up, the intervals were surprisingly awesome- I hit a season PR wattage for 15 minutes with a little to spare. In my educated opinion, the addition of intense sparring to my training regimen has helped improve my top-end fitness. Essentially, it’s 3-4 minute bouts of full-body, zone 5 intervals separated with 1 minute breaks. Sparring follows the old training adage that’s so incredibly true… it’s like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t stop when you get tired, you stop when the gorilla gets tired.

Following my ride, I had a recovery shake, which would be the last deliciously sweet thing I plan on eating until after weigh-ins Friday night. I’ll go into the weight cut strategy a little deeper once it’s over, but let’s just say that it involves lots of water, very few carbohydrates, and food without salt.

P.S. No amount of herbs and spices can replace salt in scrambled eggs…


July 3, 2014

Rain and Stuff

Filed under: Product Reviews,Trails,Training — Andrea @ 9:32 am

First, to anyone who hasn’t seen it… A photo of me at Dirty Kanza is the headliner in an Outside Magazine article: 200 Miles on 2 Wheels

Of course, my first nationally published photo is of me, looking like I’m about to pull over and burst into tears. It was a photo from early in the race, so I’m not exactly sure why I looked so concerned. I’ll take it, though. It’s otherwise a cool photo and story.

I mentioned storms and trail saturation in my previous post… following that, Mother Nature took that to the next level, and it stormed/downpoured enough that the Wolf River flooded large parts of the Wolf River Trail system that I frequently ride from my house. Flash flooding abounded…

My nicely groomed back yard before/during:


Marley appreciated the dig-ability of the soft mud once it had stopped pouring:

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The entrance to the Germatown Greenline:


And, the concrete ditch you’d normally ride through to go down the Gray’s Creek trail:


That last one is the day after, as the water was receding. You can see by the mud line on the surrounding vegetation that I would have been standing under water in that spot at the crest of the flood.

The rainy days gave me a chance to finally fix my Whiskey No.7 fork. The brake mount came with a very poor finish from the factory, so it was a struggle to get the front brake adjusted correctly. The guy in their warranty department pulled a *Crank Brothers, telling me it was my job to face the post mounts on a brand new fork. So, the shop had to purchase the tool, and I had to wait until I had time to do the job. The bottom mount seemed to be the problem child… I had to remove a slightly unsettling amount of material from it in order to get proper alignment. The whole process took a little less than an hour (if I had to do it again, without meticulously double checking all of the instructions for each step as I went, it’d still be a 30ish minute process).



The small gap between the back face of the cutting guide and the knob of the cutting tool represents the amount of material that needed to be removed from the lower post in order to make it even with the upper post:

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It works now, but it still chaps my ass that I have to deal with something that shouldn’t be the shop/consumer’s problem.

*”pulling a Crank Brothers” refers to how Crank Brothers’ customer service informed me that I need to disassemble every pair of new pedals that I sold and replace the tiny bit of thin, pixie-dust-esque grease that was in them from the factory with something of a higher quality. They blamed it on a problem with their manufacturer and said that they wouldn’t warranty pedals that fell apart because the grease from the factory dried up within 2 weeks of use.

Between rain storms, I did manage a good bachelorette week while Ryan and Matt were out of town. I locked my keys in my car at a going away party:


Kicked some stuff hard enough to necessitate the shaping of my ice packs to match my shins (sparring with a big dude = continuation of training in Expert Mode):


Geeked out about getting a single-stream recycling bin:


And finally got a new fork for the Cysco Hardtail:


The only downside of the new fork is that it’s white. Between the black and white fork, the ti frame, and my multi-colored I9 wheels, there are faaaaar too many colors on my bike. I can’t complain too much, though. It is a really, really nice fork that I’m very happy to have. I’m going to ride it down to the Wolf River Trails today and see if the trail looks like it will be dry enough for a 4th of July ride tomorrow.

June 26, 2014

Training in Expert Mode

Filed under: MMA,Training — Andrea @ 10:03 am

As I alluded to in my Facebook Post yesterday, training right now is an exercise in pushing my limits. (If you haven’t already, click that FB link and “like” the Brickhouse Racing page. Lately, when I post something about MMA, I seem to lose a FB follower). I’m not asking you to become an MMA fan- I understand, it’s not for everyone. However, I would expect most of my readers to have an open-minded appreciation for the journey of finding new challenges in a multitude of modalities.


On the cycling side of things, I’ve made the move to dragging my LT up by its hair while still maintaining the vast expanse of base fitness I solidified prior to DK200. It’s been a mix of 10-20 minute intervals and Strava Terrorism Fartlek rides punctuated with the occasional 4-5 hour Tempo ride. The intervals have gone well… power numbers are creeping up a handful of watts at a time.


I had some dark weather roll in for my last 15 minute interval on Tuesday.

The long rides are proving to be difficult. Last week, I split my prescribed four hour ride into light/dark loops on the trail, starting from my house around 6, riding a two hour loop, then picking up my lights and riding a couple more hours. Aside from lots of spider webs, it was definitely a good time. However, repeated afternoon thunderstorms have saturated the trails again, so this week, I was forced back out to the road for my four hours of saddle time. Not only did the 100-degree heat index prettmuch kill me by the final hour, I also started getting the same foot/hamstring numbness/pain I’d been having problems with in the past. It looks like I’ll need to see the doctor for another course of hamstring injections to band-aid the area around my sciatic nerve through the remainder of the season.

I’d thought that my “need a race to do in early August” had been fulfilled when I saw this: Six Hour Race to the Sunset, and I was really stoked for about five minutes. However, the realization of how hot it will be in Atlanta on August 9th hit me like…


(that’s Trey, one of the instructors at the gym, KO-ing his opponent on Saturday night)

I am kinda over heat exhaustion… even though, relatively speaking, it’s not even “that hot” yet. Ever since Kanza, it seems worse. Almost seven bottles of water and drink mix yesterday (not including the 20oz of electrolyte drink I put down while I prepped to ride), and I was still lightheaded and five pounds dehydrated when I arrived home. Short of moving someplace less humid/hot and/or starting an IV and attaching a bag to my bike, I don’t know what else to do other than avoid any prolonged exposure to the heat… including a 6 hour afternoon race, in August, near Atlanta, GA.  It looks like I’m going to be forced into the wee hours of the morning and night to keep the tempo train rolling.

On the other end of the training continuum, my ass is getting thoroughly busted (by both myself and others) at the gym getting ready for my July 12th fight. While bike fitness is definitely a solid start to fight conditioning, the exertion you feel in three minutes of fighting is far greater than any three minute pedaling effort.

It’s been a mix of intense mitt/thai pad work:

kick punch

With some wrestling, rolling, and sparring thrown in…


…and some lifting of heavy isht for good measure


The best way I can describe my current training is Expert Mode. The other day, after a particularly hard bout of sparring where John hit/kicked me far more times than I hit him, he reassured me that I shouldn’t get discouraged, because he was just trying to make it harder than my actual fight. Quite to the contrary, I can really appreciate that, because it’s basically how I learned to bike race- soon after I’d purchased a road bike, I was seeking out the group “A” rides. Since I rolled with (and was sometimes dropped from) the fastest people in the city, when I got into my first season of road racing, I was often like, WhyTF ARE WE GOING SO SLOW?!? It wasn’t nearly as difficult as the group rides back home, because I’d learned in Expert Mode.

So, that’s how I’m doing things right now- always picking the hard way, whether its dealing with adverse weather, peeling through layers of gym soreness to do intervals on the bike, choosing the big kettlebell, or getting my ass kicked by someone who is stronger and a much more experienced fighter than myself. The combination of all those things (along with an equal or greater quantity of eating and putting my feet up in between) is elevating my physical and mental abilities to new levels. I live for this!

It’s like I told the intermediate group of ladies at the Women’s Weekend… there’s no shame in taking the shuttle to the top of the mountain, but just remember, you don’t get better at climbing by doing it that way.

June 23, 2014

Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend

Filed under: Trail Riding,Trails — Andrea @ 11:10 am

After a hard-ish week of training, I was really looking forward to the Mulberry Gap Women’s Weekend. I’d volunteered to help with the bike maintenance instruction part of the weekend, and, though I wasn’t 100% sure of what to expect, I knew it’d be a good time no matter what. What I definitely didn’t expect was a near-blowout of my passenger side rear tire, which went totally flat in the space of about 10 seconds while I was going fast in the fast lane of the heavily-trafficked 3-lane I-75 just south of Chattanooga. Luckily, when no one is punching you in the face, it’s pretty easy to deal with panic-potential situations with a cool head and steady hand. I guided the Steel Box through traffic to the shoulder, which I found to be far too narrow for a tire change, so I limped to the next exit with my hazard lights on and found a suitable parking lot.  (p.s. keeping a yoga mat in your car has more use than just impromtu yoga sessions)

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From getting out of the car to finding a ProGold  pro towel for a final hand-cleaning, flat change time was 12 minutes.

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Once I’d found a tire repair shop, purchased a new (used) tire (the rim-ride had destroyed the inside of my old one), and waited for the installation, the total time lost was only an hour. After that, it was off to Mulberry Gap.

The afternoon meet-and-greet time & settling in was just getting warmed up when I arrived. As an added bonus to everyone being excited to meet each other, Mulberry Gap is dog-friendly, so there were some 4-legged friends around as well…

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…and a cool moth


Sometime around dinner, we found the clown bikes in The Barn.

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…and before bed, there was a bug that needed a proper dispatch from the cabin. I found a suitable page of a nearby magazine that served this purpose well.


Saturday morning, we started out with breakfast and a short ride to talk about bike handling. Split into beginner and intermediate groups, I rode out with Anet, one of the event organizers, and the latter of the groups, and we went to a short section of a nearby singletrack climb. Before we started, I made one rule for the group- unless you’ve actually hit, injured, or caused some other accidental physical harm to someone, there’s no apologizing allowed. That’s something you don’t often hear in a pack of guys that’s learning something new- them apologizing for not being able to clear an obstacle or for having a slip-up of any sort. Women, on the other hand, seemed to feel compelled to say they’re sorry for these things. I let them know that there’s no need to be sorry for a normal part of the learning process.

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Just before the ride, everyone filled their pockets with some goodies donated to the event from Gu Energy Labs. They were super stoked…

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After our short ride and some lunch, we geared back up for a longer afternoon ride. We went up a long forest road climb to the Bear Creek trail with a quick stop at a very nice overlook. Luckily, the rain in the picture missed us until the very end of our ride. 


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Once we were down Bear Creek, we rode more of the Pinhoti Trail. I made it up and over a climb just ahead of my group, so I stopped and took some photos, and caught a few of the ladies on their way through the creek at the bottom

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Just as we arrived back at camp, the bottom dropped out as a big storm came through. It knocked the power out until nearly midnight. Which meant, unfortunately, that my bike maintenance portion of the evening was blacked out. I was able to help a lot of the ladies individually, though. I’m sorely disappointed in some of the halfass things that husbands were doing with their wives’ bikes.

For example, one woman’s bike was set up with gripshifters. No biggie, but he hadn’t taken into account the length of the bar end, grip, and shifter when assembling everything. So, she ended up with her knuckles approximately 6 inches apart from each other on the bars when grabbing in a spot where she could use both the shifters and the brakes (you can see in the photos below- the scratches on the bar are where the brake levers were clamped prior to my moving them). I cut about two inches off of each one of her grips and moved everything out. She was stoked.

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Then, there was the woman who was missing a spoke.


The woman whose husband had told the bike shop that she weighed 150 or 60 pounds (she’s probably 120 with a lead weight in her pack).


That photo was taken after lots of descending, and she’d only used about half of the travel. In all fairness, though, that one was a pretty awesome bike that he’d ordered her for mother’s day, but it’d just arrived at the shop the day before she left. It would have been nice to have called her and asked, though. I helped her with adjusting the air volume and told her to ride the bejesus out of it down a hill and see if she came closer to using all of the travel.

Some other honorable mentions- running shoes with flat pedals, running shoes with cheese-grater cheapie flat pedals, and a new set of 26×1.8″ tires. Of course, I can also see the view that at some point, its everyone’s job to learn about his or her own  equipment. That goes without saying. However, you’ll never get interested enough to learn if you hate riding because there’s a myriad of cheap-to-free things that could be fixed on your bike to make riding more comfortable, easier, and more enjoyable.

I digress.

On a more positive note, here’s Lynn, a very inspiring older-than-the-others woman who has the flat pedal game down to a science, with some nice, wide platforms, and a pair of five ten shoes.


I don’t know a much better way to spend a stormy afternoon than having a glass of wine and working on/talking bikes with some new friends.


More doggies!


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The next morning, since I had a long drive home ahead of me, I decided to forego the post-yoga group ride (I actually didn’t do yoga either, instead getting a super kickass sports massage from Shelley, the massage therapist in for the weekend). Luckily, the drive home did not include any more flat tires.

It was an excellent weekend. Mulberry Gap is a really nice place to stay- it’s really close to miles of great singletrack, the cabins are nice, the food was tasty (and you all know how I am about food), and the company was more than I could have asked for.



June 18, 2014

It’s Hotttt out

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 6:19 am

First off- don’t forget about my awesome stuff for sale. The only thing from the original post that’s sold so far has been the Columbia pack. There’s still a SID World Cup fork, Easton EC90 Stem and Seatpost, some Pearl Izumi women’s winter gloves, and a nice women’s Deuter hydration pack.

I needed to post today to concede to the heat. I’m just going to come right out and say it- I’m having a hard time physically dealing with the heat and humidity in Memphis now that our summer weather pattern is sinking in. Basically, the highs are somewhere in the 90′s, and the humidity is somewhere between 50 and 60%, making the heat index in the neighborhood of 100 degrees or more by  noon.  I’m not complaining… lord knows I only complain about cold. I’m merely stating a fact.
I am pretty sure that my problem is sweat. I sweat sooooooooooo muuuuuuuch. Which, if you live someplace where the normal daytime humidity isn’t 60%, is a very positive thing. A high quantity of low osmolarity sweat is actually a sign that your body has adapted well to exercise in the heat. However, that sweat only serves to cool you off if it can actually evaporate. The humidity here stunts evaporation, which basically means that I lose pounds of water with little benefit to the cooling of my body.

Just an example- Sunday, I had a 22oz bottle of Gu Brew + Elete before my ride (about 500mg of sodium), then drank nearly 5 24oz bottles of water in the space of 3.5 hours (I’d started with some Roctane in my bottles, but refilled with plain water on the road, so it was gone halfway through the ride). I was still seriously feeling effects of the dehydration and heat during the last hour.

My strategy looking ahead? I’m going to start weighing myself before and after both fight training at the gym and my training rides to see just how much I’m losing. On the bike, I don’t know if I could physically drink more water than what I’m drinking now, but it’ll at least give me a good idea on where I stand and how much more I should drink off the bike. I’m also going to start carrying some more electrolyte drink mix on my rides. The Gu Blueberry Pomegranate electrolyte mix works really well (it’s the higher sodium flavor), but it can only work if I’m actually drinking it the entire time (duh). Also, Gu has a new Roctane electrolyte capsule that I’m going to start taking with me on rides as well.

Another thing I’m planning on that I haven’t done in the past is avoid the heat. I’ve always been one to live by, “if you race in the heat, you have to train in the heat.” While that’s very true, the fact is, I don’t currently plan on racing in the heat any more this summer. What I DO plan on doing is racing when its dark (at the Vapor Trail 125). So, I’m going to integrate night riding into my schedule. Today, I’ve got a 4 hour tempo ride on tap. I plan on starting around 5:30 or 6 and finishing the last couple of hours in the dark. That way, I’ll avoid both the hottest part of the day, and I’ll be practicing for my next huge race.

It was very nice yesterday to go to Shelby Forest State Park for some hill repeats. The roads and bike path in the park are super shady, and, while the hills aren’t very big (the longest one takes a little less than 2 minutes to climb), they do tend to be steep as all getout…


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I’ve gone from full-on recovery straight back in to eat, sleep, train, mode. It’s 10-15 hours/wk of riding with an additional 5 or so in the gym getting ready for my fight. So, I have some days where everything revolves around getting ready to train, training, and recovery. I live for the feeling of being a little exhausted and digging for more. I’ll get a little bit of a break this weekend at the Mulberry Gap Women’s weekend, where I’ll be teaching bike repair,  helping with some of the riding instruction, and handing out some Gu Energy product to the attendees. I’m pretty stoked to spend a few days hanging out with some like-minded ladies.

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