Cautious Optimism

As I mentioned in last week’s posts (as well as in TSE Journal #2 that I wrote for XXCMag), I successfully completed a sold block of training. It’s something I haven’t done much because of either A) work or B) some unforeseen issue like injury or feeling overly-fatigued. (glad to have eliminated option “A”) This time, however, I did it. Every minute of all of it. Perfectly.

Following that last big ride on Wednesday, my legs hurt like hell. I was supposed to do a 1hr recovery ride on Thursday, but all I could muster was a painfully slow ride to/from Outdoors (20 minutes round-trip) to give some love to the rear brake on my Air9 RDO. Apparently, some sort of reverse hydro brake jesus has been working his mojo on my bike, because the mineral oil inside had mystically been turned into black swamp water…

XTR brake

After flushing at least 4 syringes full of mineral oil into it and tapping it all over with a screwdriver to chase the bubbles out, it’s as good as new.

Aside from some pretty kickass yoga classes, I otherwise took it easy until yesterday, when I had a “half” training ride on the schedule. After making a Mother’s Day brunch that even Gordon Ramsey would be proud of, I went out to my favorite pain cave spot in Shelby Farms and proceeded to destroy my two prescribed intervals. They almost felt too good to be true.

Almost.

So, I get one more of the same abbreviated interval workouts between now and Syllamo’s Revenge on Saturday. I don’t ever like to get my hopes up about a race and the possibility to feel awesome, because there are soooo many other factors that go in to having a good race- especially at Syllamo, where the potential for outside killers like inclement weather and mechanicals is probably greater than any other race I’ll go to this season. It’s kinda like getting my hopes up for my birthday on Wednesday- all I can do is turn 32 as best as I can, but the quality of the birthday party is reliant on outside factors that I have little control over. Philosophy of “hope for the best, expect the worst” is implemented.

 

aaaaaaand, Done.

Yesterday I put the wraps on my aforementioned training block by going out and riding 100 miles. Typically, I’d connect a couple of my longer routes with some gravel out on the eastern ends of each loop. However, this time, I was recon-ing for the “Poolboy Matt’s 2013 Gentleman’s Ride,” and had a “no gravel” stipulation on the route choice. At first, I was a little disappointed, but it turned out really well because I found some gorgeous, rolling farmland and hardly any traffic. I’ve found that once you get out past a certain point, the traffic that you do encounter gives you the three finger country wave from the steering wheel (not to be confused with the one finger wave that you get closer to town).

The way I do long rides is to carry all the food I need then stop at various churches (or volunteer fire dept.) along my route to refill my bottles:

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Side note: For those of you wondering how I have a “working” EVO frame- it’s not. It’s one of the out-of-spec frames with a PF30 to English adapter and the GXP Quarq off of my cyclocross bike. I’m not sure when the new warranty frame will be available.

 

90 miles in:

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Salty:

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I needed a “snack” after I cleaned up, so I went for the (grass-fed/nitrate & antibiotic free) bacon cheese burger:

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I generally felt good for the entire ride, which was great considering the training I’ve done over the past few days. If you’re actually interested in what I do, you can take a look at Strava. If you don’t really care about training, but you want to see random photos (and you aren’t already inundated with social media), you can look at Instagram instead.

Now it’s mostly recovery until Syllamo and TSE where hopefully the hours of saddle time invested turn in to successful racing dividends.

Doing the work…

I haven’t had much opportunity to sit around and be disappointed that I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be at the Whiskey 50. That’s due, in  part, to starting in on my last hard training block before Trans-Sylvania Epic. In 4 days of riding (May 5-8), I’ m slated to put in 16 hours worth of riding, all of which includes some sort of  intervals. So far, so good- I’m halfway through, and I’m feeling better than I would have expected (I’ve got another 4 hours on tap for today, so we’ll see if I’m saying the same thing this afternoon). After these 4 days, I’ve got a couple of more reasonably spaced hard rides, Syllamo’s Revenge 50 (May 18th), and lots of recovery rides.

It’s been a little cold and really rainy since I came home from Whiskey. I’ve managed to get rained a little (and a lot) during all of my rides up until today (forecast is for 70 and sunny, so that’ll be a pleasant change). However, as I mentioned yesterday on my Facebook page (link is on the right sidebar if you’re not already on there), my desire to get faster has completely overridden my want for personal comfort. The only thing that I’m disappointed with right now is that the trails are so soaked that it’ll be this weekend before anyone should touch tires to them again.
As a side project/torture test, I applied some ProGold Xtreme lube to the chain on my road bike on Thursday before heading out for 3.5 hours in the rain, and I’m waiting to see how long it is before my chain starts making tweety bird noises. If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people plugging ProGold lately on their blogs/facebook/wherever. It’s not just because Bruce Dickman is a nice guy who hands out a bunch of lube- it’s because, as a whole, it’s been stupid rainy here in the Southeast, and ProGold makes a lot of stuff that will very effectively clean/lubricate the parts on your bike.

(I didn’t really mean to shill for the sponsors for two posts in a row, it’s just that mentioning how much rain riding I’ve done lately reminded me of my lube experiment)

Somewhere in the mix of training, raining, and recovery, I’ll be turning 32 on May 15th. In light of the slowly growing number of scars and dents on my body from various & sundry wrecks, as well as my recent run-in with a motor vehicle, I’m coming to realize the reality of this quote from Hunter S. Thompson:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

A safe, pretty-bodied life seems way too boring. When I look at a scar or a bruise, I don’t think that it’s made my body less attractive, but that it’s a reminder of the fun and/or adventure I was having at the time of its installation.

Whiskey Off Road Race Report

This might quite possibly be the most boring race report I’ve ever written. I generally had a great race, but the results were not very impressive.

As I mentioned before- Saturday I took as a very relaxing recovery day. I had a good night’s sleep Saturday night and woke up in plenty of time to eat, pack up the hotel room, and get to downtown Prescott before the crowds took all of the good parking spots. I changed and started rolling around to get a good warmup.

The awesome thing about racing the Pro category (other than getting to meet some of my favorite MTB heros on the start line) is that the 44 of us entered were privileged to our own start. Anyone who has ever raced an NUE race (or the Whiskey 50-proof amateur race the day before) can attest to the misery of traffic jams that result when huge numbers of riders of all shapes/sizes/abilities (whether real or perceived) all take off at the same time. Instead of arriving at the start 15 minutes early to elbow my way up to a good spot on the line, I meandered my way over once I heard the men’s race start 10 minutes ahead of us.

The race began with a gunshot fired by an old guy in old-time western costume. The course starts with a long climb out of town. It’s eerily quiet with the exception of the pockets of crowds that had gathered to cheer us along. At first, the pace remained easier than I thought it would as we negotiated the last of the city streets. However, once the road went to gravel and pitched up steeply, the leaders kicked it up, and the group strung out with me about 3/4 of the way back. I knew the pace I could maintain, and I knew that some of the women ahead of me were going harder than what they should, so I stuck with my effort and soon started to reel them in one at a time.

“Reeling them in” is a relative term here. Yes, I passed ladies who generally never passed me back. However, I wasn’t passing the women who were using my same strategy, but had all-around better fitness than me.

The only difficulty I suffered during the race was coming up the long dirt road climb out of Skull Valley. I was doing a great job of “singlespeeding it” by picking a really comfortable gear and standing/using my bodyweight to go faster than I could seated for the same amount of effort (it’s a learned skill- if you’ve never done much singlespeed climbing, you’ll find that until you figure it out otherwise, you’ll use more energy standing than you do when you sit). Example- if I stand and climb at a heart rate of ~170bpm, I’m going 9mph, whereas, if I sit and spin at  ~170bpm, I’m only doing 8 mph.
Anyways… I got a terrible case of hot foot (I think?) My outer two toes on both feet felt like someone was clamping them into a vice and they were about to explode off of the end of my foot. I was forced to sit. I’d been hanging with Li’l Karen Jarchow for a while, but when the toe thing screwed up my singlespeeder mojo, she dropped me like the 105 pounds of stone cold killer that she is.  I still passed a couple more ladies on my way to the top, but I wasn’t a happy camper.

Once I was up to the overlook where I’d taken photos on Friday, I made the right hand turn and started the descent back down to town. The descending out there was a ton of fun, though once I nearly made contact with a prickly pear cactus bush the size of a smartcar. I stayed on the gas the whole way in to make sure that no one caught up to me.

My finish time was 4 hours, 10 minutes. 27th place. Meh-pic!

 

Don’t get me wrong- given the all-star nature of the field, I wasn’t expecting a top 10 (or even necessarily top 15) finish. I was, however, hoping to be at least in the top half of the finishers. I’ve come to the following conclusions: A) Fitness is the obvious improvement. That’s a work in progress, as always, but this just provides a little extra something in the back of my head next time I don’t think I have the extra 5 watts at the end of an interval. B) The altitude had a little bit to do with it. It was day #3 at ~5300ft, so it would explain why I’d felt like a rockstar on Friday but maybe a little blunted on Sunday. C)I have to go downhill faster. That’s a tough one to work on in Memphis because the hills here are short. Descending at 20mph is what feels “normal” to me. When I get to where the descents are longer and faster, it feels crazy- I’m just not accustomed to the speed. It’s kinda like when you go from a state where the speed limit is 70mph to one where it’s 75mph. When you make that 5mph jump on the cruise control, it feels like you’re flying at first, but by the time you’re at the next state where it goes back to down, 70 feels like you’re standing still. I realized at Breck Epic last year that I can adapt to the speed pretty quickly with a little practice. It’s just finding a way to practice less brake and more shred. Maybe I need to learn to ride a moto… though that could become a “habit” in and of itself.

So, it was a good race to see both my strengths (I did a great job with pacing and nutrition), and my weaknesses (listed above). Trans-Transylvania is on the horizon, and it’s slated to be another stellar field of women. Along the way there, some hard training, a birthday, and Syllamo’s Revenge. Commence to hard work…

 

Recovery Day Shennanigans

We had so much fun with the triathletes a couple of weekends ago, that Poolboy Matt and I decided to “spectate” Sunday’s XC race at Herb Parson’s Lake. This time, we switched roles and added a horsehead mask. Hilarity ensued.

As always, follow the karma rules of photo-grabbing: these are totally free for everyone to download. If you email me (andrea at brickhouseracing.com) and ask for a file, I’ll send you the high-res version. In exchange, though, I ask that you please link to my blog (copy and paste from the address bar above) wherever you decide you’d like to display your photo on the internet. Practice good photo credit  karma or else you’ll get a flat tire!

 

Balancing build and recover

I’ve never been much of a gambler, but it seems that my (usual) slow recovery from the Ouachita Challenge and the proximity of the Whiskey Off-Road weekend (4/26-28) are making my participation in this weekend’s Slobberknocker race a proverbial roll of the recovery dice. If my last two hard training rides on Saturday and Monday had felt like 100% awesome, I wouldn’t question anything, and  I’d go to one of my favorite regional races and have a great time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Given my current fitness, the power numbers were about 95% of what I’d normally expect. Sure, a 5% drop doesn’t sound like much, but when the amount of recovery days I took following Ouachita don’t produce the amount of recovery I’d usually expect, then I start to get nervous.

I’m not sure what it is about Ouachita that does it to me, but I’m trying to prevent what happened last year from happening again this year. I raced, thought I’d recovered, then went to Slobberknocker and Cohutta 100 on back-to-back weekends. The three proved to be a deadly combination from a recovery standpoint, because by Syllamo’s Revenge (mid-may), I felt absolutely useless. I was basically forced off of my usual training for the weeks leading up to the Mohican 100 at the beginning of June. I managed to make the best of it, but it didn’t do much for my race results.

So, as Coach said, we’re taking it day by day. My legs felt alright yesterday on my recovery-ish ride (mostly spinning with a few hammery-spots to see if I still felt gassed). I’m going to the Tiger Lane crit tonight to race with the Cat4 men. The short/high-intensity effort should be good for fitness without too much stress. It’s sad that even though there are enough capable women in Memphis to make a decent criterium, they’ve so rarely shown up to the event in years past that the promoter actually took women off the website flyer and just asked me which race I want to jump into, and that he’d give me a requisite payout just for showing up (if you register online, they actually have all women listed with cat5 men, though in the past, they were on the flyer as racing with the cat 4s).

I digress.

In hit-by-car news, I’ve started PT sessions to try and heal the severe contusion in my right glute where I hit the ground in my Mazda-induced flight. The muscle is so hard and knotted that I can barely get into it by sitting on a lacrosse ball (a foam roller or quad baller is basically useless). Physical therapy has been a combination of the therapist digging knuckles/thumbs into the area and using Ultrasound to control the resulting pain/inflammation. It’s pretty intense, but hopefully it will bring back my original level of muscle function for that area.

I’ve got a huge season ahead, so hopefully I can skirt the edge of “too much” that I’m finding right now and get right into “totally kicking ass.”

Recovery Day Shenannigans (again)

This morning, with a recovery ride on the schedule and Ryan out of town at the Mississippi Grand Prix road race, Matt and I decided to visit the LosLocos Duathlon just a short trip from the house. On the bike course, there’s a nice little hill that’s also a popular Strava segment. So, we set up right at the steep part and heckled/encouraged everyone who passed…

 

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The course was an out & back, so everyone passed by our spot at high(ish) speed first. We yelled at them to stay off the brakes and not coast. There were cowbells involved, too…

 

As people came back through, I took a bunch of pictures as shirtless Matt shook his cowbells and yelled various encouragements. Most people reacted with a smile, though one woman said she was about to punch him in the face. I think that the KOM Campout may become a repeating event at future triathlons…

Not as OK as I thought I was

I found out today that the emotional scars from being hit my a car at Rouge Roubaix are going to last a lot longer than the physical ones that are visibly fading. This morning, I went to the orthopedic doc for a follow-up visit. Everything’s healing about like he’d expect, but he does want me to go to some physical therapy in order to take care of the knots in my right glute, quad, and hamstring muscles. No big deal.

I left to doctor’s office to run another errand- go to the William Sonoma Outlet and get a new 13″ saute pan. On the way, I stopped at Starbucks. I got my coffee and was on the way back out to the car. The parking lot was super busy and, at that location, is always kind of a clusterufck. There was a guy in a Taurus partially behind my car while he waited on another car to leave so he could take its spot. As I was walking around towards the back of his car, I dropped my keys. I bent down to pick them up, and as I began to stand, suddenly, there was a Taurus bumper/rear fender in my face & bumping my arm. It was just enough of a nudge for me to spill coffee on his car and my arm.

Before you get upset about people not paying attention (again), I have to defend the guy a little- he’d seen me walking towards the back of his car at “getting stuff done” pace. Then, when he went to back up to let the other car out, he thought I was already clear of his car… not squatting down in his blind spot. Honestly, I could have easily made the same mistake myself, so I can’t possibly be mad at him. He had his window down and was visibly freaked out when I jumped up and gasped as the car made contact with me.

The fact that it was an honest accident (rather than someone being incredibly negligent and not paying attention) didn’t prevent me from having a nervous breakdown once I was inside my car. All of the memories of how terrifying it was to feel like I was at the mercy of an unstoppable mechanized deadly weapon came flooding back into my head. I sobbed for a solid 5 minutes like I did back when I made this post about losing hope in humanity. Like that post, I took a photo, too, but… eh… it’s bad.

I couldn’t stop and had to go home to pull myself together without running my errand to William Sonoma. I just wanted to stay home and hide, but I eventually forced myself to complete my mission a little while later. Retail therapy.

I’ve had a lot of people say that I’m brave for posting stories like this. You know, if I only posted the awesome things that happen during my quest for cycling glory, this blog would be a lie. This is a significant hurdle to overcome in my journey… one that I’m obviously not anywhere near being over just yet. It’s not the first or last (though hopefully, it’s the worst). Posting here has been a good outlet for me to get these things out of my head when they happen, and I appreciate you all listening.

Devil’s Advocate (sort of)

I wasn’t going to get into this, but it’s getting ridiculous… the whole “UCI/forbidden race” thing.

First off, if you’re a rider with a domestic licence (not an International license), this rule doesn’t apply to you. Lots of people I see getting up in arms on the internets and posting “OMG, NOW I CAN’T GO TO MY FAVORITE UNSANCTIONED RACE” are people who don’t even hold an international license. Calm down, put your pitchfork away, and go race.

Also, I realize that there’s a statement in the UCI rulebook that allows USA Cycling to grant exceptions for unsanctioned races that allows UCI-licenced  riders to attend the excepted race with no consequence, and that USA Cycling, for whatever reason, isn’t doing that. Ok, sure, it’s a jerk move. I won’t deny that.

I’m not a professional, but I do hold a UCI license. I needed it for participation in the Master’s Worlds race (and will need it if I participate in any of the UCI-level ProXCT races this year). You need one to participate in any UCI-Governed race, which, in many pro mountain bikers’ situations (Amanda Carey’s last couple of years racing NUE is a shining example), means that you may only go to non-sanctioned MTB races, but then compete in UCI-sanctioned cyclocross races. On the other hand, you may be a World Cup level rider (like Amanda’s teammate, Krista Park) . Either way, if you’re served with a 1 month ban for an unsanctioned race, you could potentially miss out on the UCI-level races.

So, lets get into the meat of the issue here.

Rules.

USA Cycling is following the rules handed down to them by the UCI. If you’re living the dream of being a pro cyclist, you’re incredibly lucky, gifted, and hard-working. You also have to follow the rules that govern your profession. If choosing your races based on sanctioning body is the WORST thing that ever happens to you in your career, do you realize how much better you still have it over the 99.9% or people who can’t be professional cyclists?
If your livelihood is soooooo harmed by this rule, you could always find a 9-5 job that isn’t governed by USAC. It’s like a long-haul trucker whose employer speed-governs his truck at 65 mph. Sure, he could make more money and haul more loads if he could go 70, but he is paid to follow his employers rules, and that one, as much as he hates it, it one he has to follow. I’m fighting and training as hard as I possibly can to even get a taste of “pro” cycling. I’d sell my freaking SOUL to have your job. If getting even the smallest of paychecks because I’m awesome at riding a bike meant that I had to abide by some rules I didn’t agree with, then WHO CARES, I’M A PRO CYCLIST AND THAT MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY!!!

If you’re not pro, but you happen to have a UCI License, then you have to just deal with it. Until you get a paycheck, this is an expensive hobby. One that’s got its own set of rules. Pick and choose your races so that you’re not “banned” from competition if your “A” race of the season happens to be a USA-Cycling sanctioned race. That’s what I’m facing. It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.

One of the big issues I see is that USA Cycling hasn’t said how, when, and at what level they plan on enforcing the rule. Are they googling every rider on the roster at sanctioned races to make sure that all of the ones holding a UCI license are “eligible”? Probably not. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are they leaving it up to the competitors? In other words, if I race the Sun Valley Enduro (non-sanctioned) the weekend before Marathon Nationals (which uses part of the same course), then win Marathon Nationals, is it up to someone who I beat to protest to the officials that I did something illegal the weekend before and should be disqualified?

Because, let’s face it… the best training for a race is racing. If the ladies I beat at Marathon Natz follow the rules and don’t race the previous weekend’s enduro, then I gained an advantage over them by breaking the rules and racing an unsanctioned race. On the darker side of things, unsanctioned races have no doping controls. You could be full-on positive for PEDs in those competitions. I can see that as one of USA Cycling’s incredibly short list of  legitimate reasons for wanting their thumb on all of the racing in the US.

Also along the lines of enforcement, not only is it unclear as to how USA Cycling plans on “finding” riders who break the rules, it’s also unclear as to how they plan on doling out fines & bans. Will they be cumulative (1 month & a fine for each unsanctioned race)? Or, is it just an immediate “you’re banned from competition for one month” following an unsanctioned race?

So, before you post hateful things and tell me I don’t understand how bad this is for cycling and for promoters, I’ll just tell you now, YES, I get it. I think that it sucks shit for anyone with a UCI license to have to potentially make a choice between races because of the rule, and that USA Cycling could probably find something else to do with their time and energy besides attempting to monopolize all racing in the US. I think it’s terrible that promoters will have to pay more money to get a “blessing” from USA cycling unless they want to be “forbidden.”

I also agree with the Team Director of Sho-Air, who has some very good points in regards to what USA Cycling ISN’T doing right now (copy & paste from here):

Team Director Ty Kady welcomes the opportunity to take a stand.
“I’ve been pushing Scott for several years to really make USAC stand up for
mountain bikers and the sport here in the US. This is a perfect opportunity
for USAC to support all their licensed members by giving the UCI pushback
on a rule that clearly doesn’t work with the US model of mountain biking.
However they have yet to make a stand against the UCI. As the promoter
of two Pro XCT and two PRO UET eventsin 2013, what’s even more
grievous is USAC offers no overall prizemoney for their Pro XCT or Pro UET
series champion, even though they claim them to be the “premier” US
Mountain bike series. They offer no financialsupport for promoters, who
actually do host a UCI event on their behalf, yet now they want to tell
racers when and where and for whom they can race their bikes? That
doesn’t sit well with me, especially when it’s obvious they are doing
nothing to bolster their own series so riders can try and earn income.

However, Rules are rules. Hopefully they’ll be changed for the better, but, until then…

rules

 

Split Personality

Commence to rambling…

Like I mentioned in my last post, my weekend training wasn’t the usual long rides & intervals. Next weekend, whether I’m ready or not, the race season starts with the Ouachita Challenge. I did go on some nice recovery rides- Saturday, I squeezed one in before my favorite yoga class, and Sunday, I joined up with the Memphis Hightailers afternoon group ride. Combined with lots of foam rolling, my legs are feeling better from Friday’s cold & wet efforts.

Saturday night, we watched a special about Bradley Wiggins called a Year in Yellow (it’s a full-length documentary, and you can see it on youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzmXvHHQzcs). It’s good- it shows the usual drama and triumph behind any great athlete’s journey to winning something like The Tour. However, the part that caught me off guard was something that Wiggins’ wife said about him early in the video. When asked to describe Bradley, she quickly asked back- “Which one?” To her, there were two different men- bike racer Bradley and normal person Bradley. Bike Racer Bradley is a “wanker” (I’m pretty sure that’s what she called him- they actually bleeped it out). He’s selfish, short tempered, doesn’t care about his family, etc. Normal Bradley is, well, a nice guy and a good father. Like a normal person.

I realize I’m not training for the Tour de France (hell, I don’t even get a paycheck yet), but this struck me because I’ve dealt with the same feelings. “Normal” me is kind, caring, and somewhat of a mommabird to those around me. However, when the goal to become as physically and mentally strong and focused as possible takes over your life, you can start to withdraw from those around you. I’ve struggled with it a lot- especially since I’ve quit working and turned my entire focus towards training and recovery. Training like it’s your job can make you feel like you’re unable to deal with everyday life and people. I don’t know if all pro/wannabe pro cyclists experience the same thing, but since hearing that comment from Wiggins’ wife, I take comfort in knowing it’s NOT just me.

I’m not saying I’m not happy with what I’m doing. Not in the least- I love doing this, and the gains I’ve made since I’ve stopped working have reinforced that as a good decision. Something about it, though, makes me want to hide from all of life’s other annoyances and responsibilities. It’s gotten worse since I was hit by the car at Rouge. Since I’m trying to make this my job (or at least get to where I can stop paying to participate in my expensive hobby), I can’t just quit for a while to let my fears subside. I can’t hide in a group. I can’t blow off training rides just because they make the joint between my pelvis and my ass ache as long as it’s fixable afterwards with some ice and ibuprofen. Whether or not I’m terrified of rearward-approaching vehicles or losing hope in humanity because no one cares about anyone else, as long as my body is physically able, the proverbial show must go on.

I choose to do that because I love bike racing. If I didn’t, there’s no way I’d willingly put myself through that sort of car-induced mental torture or participate in rides like the one on Friday. It’s just that this is harder than I expected- in all sorts of ways. I’m constantly amazed at what my body is capable of handling with the additional rest and recovery time, but that just means that the training is harder and more exhausting. No matter how much it hurts or how much I torture my brain with it, I like it, and I want more (I’m pretty sure that Bradley Wiggins would say the same thing). It’s just that kind, caring, nurturing, “normal” Andrea is not as readily available while that’s happening.