November 19, 2012

Memphis- a Rant

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 6:36 am

Since I’ve told people that I’m focusing full-time training and racing, I’ve been bombarded with the same two questions:

Are you leaving Memphis?
Me: No.
Why not?!?

Why? Why would I need to leave?

I’m going out on a limb and assuming that since Memphis isn’t A) exactly overloaded with people racing bikes (relatively speaking, of course) or B) a pristine city in the mountains, people generally think that is somehow going to be a limiting factor to my performance.

Well, guess what… I like it here.
It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s not pristine. The closest thing to a mountain within a bike ride of the city limits is a steep, 200ft hill on the north end of the county. A “large” women’s field for a mountain or CX race in this region is 6 people.
You know what all of that means? You have to want it to succeed here. This city is ripe with excuses for why you can’t be competitive with the chicks that are going on epic 6 hour rides through the Rockies and racing against fields of 20-50+ on a weekly basis. I hear it all the time… “oh, those guys from the mountains kicked my butt because I’m from Memphis.” No, those guys kicked your butt because while you were off feeling sorry for yourself because it’s 98F and 98% humidity with a code orange Ozone air quality alert, they trained harder than you.

I’m the person that’s hoping for an epic thunderstorm during a race. I want a 25mph headwind. I like rocks and briars. I live for conditions that cull the weak and wannabes from the field. Memphis is, in a way, a selective condition.


So, no. I’m not leaving Memphis. I’ll do a fair amount of traveling to Arkansas to ride the techy stuff at Syllamo. I’ll ride, for hours on end, the beautiful rural roads just outside the city, and I’ll get faster than the ladies who “have it easy” in the mountains.

M.E.M.P.H.I.S. (content warning- don’t click that if you don’t like rap music. It will be offensive to you. I don’t use drugs, shoot people, or pimp anything other than bike parts. I just like the first line of the song @30sec in)

November 10, 2012

Holy s(&*

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 9:21 am

I’m slowly coming to the realization that in a few days, I’ll no longer be a part of “normal” working society. This, along with the incoming good news in sponsor support I’ve received is nearly overwhelming at times. I’m also a little surprised by how supportive the local cycling community is. Not that they aren’t a great, friendly group of people- it’s just that I wasn’t expecting them to be so genuinely happy to see me bypass the “what ifs” and go all out in pursuit of my dreams.

I’m every synonym you could possibly imagine for “excited” with a dash of “terrified” thrown in just to make things more interesting.

In the immediate future, tomorrow is the Outdoors, Inc. Cyclocross race. Unfortunately, there’s also a USGP race in Louisville this weekend, so unless someone headed there takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque, the Nashville contingent (and several Arkansas racers) aren’t likely to show up in Memphis on Sunday. After that, I’m generally sticking to more local/regional CX racing.
Zandr asked this morning why I don’t pursue high-end CX sponsorships. Well, I love CX, and I love being in the pain cave for 45-50 minutes at a time, but after traveling all over for a long season of mountain bike races, I’m ready to keep it local(ish) for the winter months. Unfortunately, local(ish) in Memphis means racing a handful of women who like to start slow/in the back (read last Saturday’s race report) and the occasional Men’s race with <20 entries. Not exactly what the bigger companies are looking for marketing purposes. My biggest races this season are the Tennessee State Championships as well as Master’s Worlds at the end of January. It’s going to be interesting to maintain/build top end power for the duration of the winter training season, but it’s not like I won’t have the time ;)


As cheesy as it sounds, I saw this on Facebook this morning, and it makes me think of my upcoming adventures:


Expansion ~~From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: A social security number, a gender, a race, a profession or an I.Q. I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in, rather than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies? Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained’?


November 3, 2012

The Next Episode

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 5:54 am

Ok, so earlier in the week, I made mention that I was quitting work to begin training more. It’s a decision that Ryan and I have made after a fair amount of deliberation over the last few months. Being a professional cyclist has been a dream of mine since the first time I pedaled a bike as an adult. Right now, I’m good. I’m fit enough to win regional stuff and get an NUE podium when the right people (don’t) show up. I’m not content with this. I feel as though I’ve reached a bit of a plateau in my ability to get faster because of both the time and physical demands of my job (as a mechanic, you’re basically on your feet for 30-40 hours a week).

Now for the realistic part- I could do this and still fail. I might reach a genetic limit and not get a lot faster than I am now. I’m aware of this. I’m OK with this, too. It won’t upset me to know that I tried as hard as possible, but there’s no way for me to be as fast as the women I want to race head to head with. I also realize that there’s not much money in cycling- ESPECIALLY women’s cycling. I’m not looking to make money. I’m basically looking for it to no longer cost me money to race. So, I’m giving it two seasons, then re-evaluating and making future plans. ‘Til then, I’m going for it.

On the sponsor front, exciting things have been happening since Interbike, and, surprisingly enough, very little of it Interbike related. My main sponsors will be Niner Bikes, Industry Nine, and Outdoors, Inc. A couple of local guys are the US distributors of Nimblewear Clothing, and they’ve offered to make a kit for me. It’s going to be black & purple. I love purple.

These companies are all being very generous in their support. While you enjoy reading the next chapter in my great cycling adventure, the best thing you can do right now is shop with my sponsors. Tell them you appreciate their support of Brickhouse Racing (and whoever else they sponsor). The important part is that they make money because of the relationship they have with my racing/blogging. Your money helps them make aspiring cyclists’ dreams a reality.

I’m in the process of figuring out what races I’m targeting. So far the list includes the Whiskey 50, Trans-Sylvania Stage Race,  Breck Epic Stage Race, and XC/Marathon National Championships. There will be more, but those are the ones that are on the radar for now.

October 30, 2012

Show of hands…

Filed under: Around the shop,Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:37 pm

How many of you have been around here since the blog beginning?

The Kenda road team days?

How about back during my short stint on the Metro Volkswagen team followed shortly after by a nervous breakdown which led me to mountain biking?

My first 100?  (You know… the Cohutta ’10 with all the rain and thunder?)

My first road trip to Colorado? Second?

Just started reading today?


How about that time that I decided I’d quit working my “normal” job in the bike shop and dedicate most of my free time to racing and training in an attempt to become a professional cyclist?




Wait, what?


Cannondale SuperSix EVO

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 11:49 am

I’ve had this bike since about the middle of the month, but it’s taken some tweaking to get it exactly how I like it. Essentially, this is the most awesome road bike ever (ok, if it had a set of carbon clincher wheels, that would be awesome-er, but that’s just splitting hairs). It’s equally as stiff as my previous bike- the BH Connect, but much lighter (some of that weight is frame, some is components). It makes me want to climb hills all day.

Here’s the original spec from Cannondale’s site. As you’ll see below, I swapped the stem/seatpost (the post that came with it looked janky and the stem was only 90mm, so I got the matching EC90 set from Easton), saddle (0nly one I like to ride), chainrings, and tires (the Mavic griplink/powerlink tires were scrawny- a hair under 22mm wide, so I installed some Maxxis Padrone tubleless tires). Final weight- 14 pounds, 3 ounces…


October 28, 2012

PMS Awareness Day

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 3:56 pm

I’ve been wanting to bring this topic to light for a long time. However, since it involves a woman’s reproductive system, it is considered “taboo” by some. But, since a large portion of my readers are women or men who occasionally interact with women, I’m going to go for it.

For the last 17(ish?) years, I’ve suffered from premenstrual syndrome. It starts with a giant pimple (or two or three) on my face, then, over a period of 2-3 days, turns in to irritability, which escalates to terrible, wild mood swings, which are punctuated by cramps that make it feel as if my uterus is attempting to stab its way out of lower abdomen with its IUD (yeah, I just threw a birth control reference in there, too. Scared yet?) There’s usually an overlapping day of debilitating cramps and actual menstruation, but the bulk of the pain is prior to and not during.

I’ve not yet found a cure for this, and, judging by the lack of research on the topic, one isn’t likely to manifest any time soon. (maybe now that we’ve got 50 drugs to help men function sexually, women can get a little more attention from researchers). Some women have successfully taken birth control pills in a continuous manner to stop the menstrual period. I tried that, but all it did was make me have PMS with no actual period. I’m also not a fan of messing with my hormones via synthetic hormones. Apparently, if symptoms are bad enough, some doctors call it premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and are prescribing anti-depressants. Yeah, I’ll go ahead and pass on that one.

My own personal coping mechanisms involve trying to avoid situations that would magnify my mood issues, not talking if I feel as though I want to say something that might be rude or hurtful, and taking ibuprofen if the cramps get to “double over and fall down” levels of pain. Sometimes, (as you may have seen reference to on Twitter) I vent my anger by drinking a glass of wine and yelling angry feminist rants at commercials on primetime television. Otherwise, I always strive to maintain my normal activity. While it does occasionally interfere with my everyday life, I don’t see it as a handicap. It’s just a challenge that I (along with may other women) face on a regular basis.

So, ladies (and men who occasionally interact with ladies), how many of you face this challenge along with me (or know someone who does)? How do you cope? Comment here or on Facebook.


October 9, 2012

Yoga and Chainrings

Filed under: Around the shop,Training — Andrea @ 6:34 am

As I mentioned last week in my confessions, I haven’t been going to yoga as often or as consistently as I’d like to. I’ve definitely done better on the consistency part since I’ve been every Tuesday and Saturday for the last few weeks. I could squeeze in a 6am Thursday class  like I was earlier in the summer, but I’m not sure if losing the hour and a half of sleep would be 100% productive from a recovery standpoint. Plus, the 2 hours of cyclocross training on my current Thursday training schedule would be nearly impossible to complete if I wanted to be at work on time (at the Cordova store, we keep the shop open ’til 8 on Thursdays, so I’d go in at noon).

I did discover the most amazing class, though. Arline’s 10:30 “level 3″ Vinyasa Flow on Saturday. It’s unlike any other class I’ve been to- the music is a little louder, and the poses are often things I’ve never done. The entire thing is like one long dance, and most of the time, there will be at least one or two moves that I don’t yet have the strength/flexibility to do more than attempt. Not that all yoga classes aren’t challenging, but this one takes the challenge up to notches I can’t yet reach, and I love it!

In bike-related news, I discovered a huge first world problem involving plans for my new road bike. Seems that a compact rotor chainring in size 52t won’t fit on the Quarq made for the Cannondale Hollowgram crank:

I’m thinking about exchanging them for a set of CX-sized rings, but I’m 100% sure yet. I’m a little sad that I’m going to have to settle for some less-sexy, round FSA chainrings. First world problems, right?

Yesterday, my plight garnered a little ribbing at the shop, and, as I poke fun at myself here, I can be glad that I have these problems now. “Eat or pay bills” is not the easiest way to get through grad school, but it did give me a greater appreciation for the easy life I lead now.


October 6, 2012

Still Waiting

Filed under: non-bike,Training — Andrea @ 7:07 am

I know that everyone is waiting and watching my blog every single day for news about what’s up & coming for 2013 (jeez, 2013? It’s just now starting to get a little chilly, and I’m talking about 2013). In case you actually are, the only update I can give you is that yesterday, I got news that almost makes me want to get my hopes up. However, I’ve made that mistake in the past, so for now, I’m just going to talk about pets and stuff.

For all of my roadie friends who read, keep watching in the next couple of weeks. I’m getting one of these. I actually ordered it back in August, but it won’t ship from Cannondale until the 8th. The first order of business? Take the super-pimp one-piece spider/chainring set off of the Hollowgram crank and install this (with a set of Rotor chainrings, which are also on order):

Of course, I’ve been super excited about getting it. Yesterday, the excitement really hit home when I was working on a customer’s several-years-old carbon road bike and realized how the graphics and bigass carbon weave look a little dated. My BH Connect looks very much the same way. Don’t get me wrong- I love that bike. We’ve done a lot of ass-kicking together, and it really is an awesome bike- it’s super stiff, and the fit is perfect. I can only imagine that getting a new bike will be much like a police officer getting a new partner when his old one retires. If it’s anything like my Cannondale SuperX, I won’t be disappointed.

In less exciting news, my “no wheat” experiment is going well. I can’t say that I notice any difference in overall health or wellness, but it has removed a source of high-density calories from my diet, so I’ve lost a small amount of weight (consistently 1/2 a pound of morning weight lower than before I started). I made wheat-free chicken nuggets the other night by taking gluten-free pretzels and crushing them in the food processor before seasoning them, dipping them in egg, then rolling them around in the pretzels. I baked them for 15 minutes, but I’m guessing you could pan-fry them instead if you’re so inclined. They were pretty delicious baked.

And, because everyone loves animal photos, here are some of  Indy and Thor kitty. Thor is the most awkward sleeper, ever.


October 2, 2012


Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 2:52 pm

It’s been since the Breck Epic that I used a foam roller.

I haven’t had a massage since I was in Breckenridge.

I haven’t visited my chiropractor since August.

I’ve developed a strong affinity to having a “glass” of wine most nights (a pint-sized wine glass counts as a glass, right?)

I haven’t obeyed the old adage “Don’t walk if you can stand. Don’t stand if you can sit. Don’t sit if you can lay down” following my first few hard rides back into training.

It took me a long time to get back to going to yoga classes on a regular basis after my trip West. I’m back at it now, but a change in my work location means that I’m only getting to class 2 days per week. I have no other excuse except, “I haven’t made time to do more.”


In other words, somewhere in the past few weeks, I fell out of the habit of taking care of myself. It finally caught up to me on Sunday when I couldn’t bring myself to finish a 4 hour ride because I was too exhausted. I ended up riding 2.5 hours and going home to recover.
It’s nobody’s fault but my own. So, like fixing a yard that’s been unkempt for months, I’m tackling one issue at a time. Sunday following my partially failed training ride, I ate, picked up dog food, then sat on the couch for most of the afternoon. The last two nights, I’ve spent about 20 minutes with the various roller-type devices to work the knots out of my hips and thighs. I drank the last of the wine last night, and I probably shouldn’t buy any more for a while.

The other stuff, I’ll work on. I transferred over to the Outdoors bike shop on Poplar (in East Memphis- a 20 minute drive vs. the 5 minutes to Cordova), and the hours of the shop are different, so I don’t have the long mornings a couple of days a week like I did before. As a result, I’m having to choose between recovery ride, yoga, or chiropractor (a massage has been out of the question). Usually the ride wins out. I know all of this stuff seems like absolute “1st world problems,” but, as someone trying to be faster than everyone else riding a bike, they’re hurdles I’m going to have to clear.

Along the way, I’m trying to make small changes to the way I eat. I’ve recently decided to give up wheat for a month. I’ve read enough educated guesses and anecdotal evidence to think that it may be a good idea to get carbohydrates elsewhere. I suggest you do your own research and see why- there are plenty of arguments both ways.

So, the recovery “lifestyle” train is slowly getting started pulling its load of fall training volume. It’s almost overwhelming to look ahead, but I’ve been here before, and it’s totally doable.

September 29, 2012

Cross Hiatus and Winter Plans

Filed under: Trails,Training — Andrea @ 6:16 am

It wasn’t until I was making a fall/winter race schedule out that I was reminded that Master’s Worlds aren’t until the end of January. Last year, the season felt like it went on forever while I was getting ready for The Race at the beginning of January. Also noted while I was compiling my schedule- there’s a plethora of regional mountain bike stuff happening in October.

With the exception of the “undecided” weekend of the 11th, I’ll likely end up not racing cyclocross until November. Here’s what October’s looking like so far:
-13th/14th: Cyclocross in Little Rock or the Six Hours of Herb race near Memphis on the 14th. I can’t decide which I’d rather do. I get kinda bored with long lap races and the amount of prep they take in their execution, but it wouldn’t involve traveling.
-21st: Race to the Canal in Kentucky. I’ve never done a point-to-point race. It looks like a bunch of fun.
-27th: Berryman Trail Epic in Missouri. Never done it before, but it’s always been on the radar. There is always a strong women’s field, so it should be tough in a good way

Now that I’m sitting down and typing this out, it seems to make more sense to race cyclocross the weekend of the 13th- mostly because the recovery period following a weekend of racing cyclocross is much shorter than racing the hell out of a 6 hour race. The last thing I’d want is to line up for the final weekend and feel like I’d rather be at home in bed.

Also on the mountain bike horizon: The Eagle Rock Loop. A long time ago (in a galaxy far away, no less), I ran the Athens-Big Fork trail marathon. It is, to this day, still one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I remember thinking afterward how impossible the trail seemed for a mountain bike (at the time, I hadn’t ever really ridden a bike, though). Now, Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne and I are in the “yeah, that sounds cool” phase of planning an adventure that includes riding the A-BF trail as part of a 27 mile loop. It should be almost impossible, but not quite.


Also a goal this winter? Help the Syllamo trails. I’m feeling compelled to get in touch with IMBA and see what can be done in the winter to help the poor drainage and overgrowth that plagues much of the trail as it ages. Busy times ahead.

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