brickhouseracing

May 7, 2012

In Limbo

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:20 am

So, if you listen to the latest XXC Mag Podcast, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of things having to do with both racing and the trafficking of cocaine via Amish horse & buggies. You’d also hear me talk about being intimidated by the workout I had on my schedule for Saturday- a 5 hour endurance ride that included an 8 minute ramp of intensity at the end of hours 1-4.

I thought that I was mostly recovered from the back to back race weekends. Turns out, I was wrong. My power numbers were well off of where they’d normally be for such a workout. By the last hour, my heart rate was staying elevated, no matter how much I backed off. After a brief respite under a tree (it was the first kinda hot/humid day of the year, too, so that wasn’t helping), it settled down, and I wrapped up the last interval and made my way home. For a second, I thought about heading home early. Then, I decided that the difference between pro and amateur was the last interval that seems nearly impossible.

Now, I’m staring down the barrel of Syllamo’s 125k and hoping that I can maintain some fitness while I recover from deep-rooted fatigue. It’s sort of a wait-and-see affair. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are recovery days, and I’ll try the legs out again on Wednesday in the last of the Tiger Lane criterium series. If I feel good, then I know that I’ve found the light at the end of the training tunnel. If not…

May 4, 2012

High Maintenence

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 6:17 am

Tuesday (my weekday off from work), I spent half the day taking care of myself. Not so much as in an, “oh, I raced hard, so now I’m going to pamper myself” sort of way, but more of an, “I need to do this stuff to function normally again” sort of way.
-First, the chiropractor. I’d originally started seeing a chiro when I had a neck crick problem. Now I go because he not only keeps my neck/back feeling good, but he also works out some of the knots in the muscles of my neck/shoulders. My chiropractor isn’t the type that thinks that chiropractic adjustments are the solution for World Peace or a cure for any diseases. He even laments to me on a regular basis that half of his clients don’t need him, they just need a diet and exercise. He does, however, agree that the weekly adjustments he makes are useful in keeping my rides pain-free.
-Next, massage. When you spend hours on a bike, stuff hurts. When stuff hurts, your muscles get tense. Then, you start using the muscle differently… either compensating with another muscle or not going through a full range of motion, you get little knots in the muscles, etc. A massage is huge in relieving that and helping you get back to normal function. It’s also very relaxing.
-Finally, physical therapy. On Tuesday, I graduated from PT for my fingers. The only one that’s still of much concern is the badly sprained middle one on my right hand. It’s still swollen, and it stiffens up when I don’t stretch it several times a day. PT consisted of heat, ultrasound, passive stretching, active stretching, and 15 minutes in the dry whirlpool (aka, the “corn machine”). He had originally planned to include strengthening exercises, but I tested out of those- even with a fracture/sprains, my grip strength measurements were above normal. Imagine that…
-After all of that, I ate some lunch and joined up for a chill ladies only ride.

It was a lot like overhauling a bike after dragging it thorough really nasty conditions.

Taking care of myself has been an ongoing process. When I began this endeavor, I didn’t realize how time consuming the act of maintaining one’s body could actually be… and I’m not even that good at it. Talking to the pros after races (when I’m still in kit and they’re cleaned and changed), I realized that even with as much as I do, I could still tune up my out-of-town diet, get a juicer (thanks to Jeremiah for that suggestion), address my tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet in the days following races (which sometimes spills over into a tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet following large training rides), spend more quality time with the foam roller on a daily basis, get more sleep, and do a better job of getting in recovery rides.

Like I said, cramming self-care into my schedule is an ongoing process of making time rather than finding it.

 

 

April 30, 2012

Cohutta 100 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing,Product Reviews — Andrea @ 6:54 am

Friday morning, I packed up and hit the road around 7:30 for the 6.5ish hour drive to Ducktown, TN. Along the way, Zandr (from XXCMag) joined in, and we had a brief Element Convoy down I-24.

We arrived mid-afternoon, checked in, and pre-rode the first climb and a little bit of the first singletrack. I attempted to show Zandr the “Thunder Rock Express” trail, but I’m not too familiar with the trail system, so we just ended up climbing out & back on FSR45. Back in the parking lot, I saw Thom Parsons from Cyclingdirt, and he asked me a few questions about my bike (Per your requests, I refrained from using a suspension fork).

I felt just OK during the pre-ride. Definitely not bad by any stretch, but not 100% crank-ripping/ready to kill, either. I don’t think I’d fully recovered from the previous weekend’s Slobberknocker race. Nothing I could do but relax, get some dinner, and try to get a good night’s sleep.

Brief side story- The “office” for the motel in Ducktown was the gas station in the motel parking lot.

Race morning was (thankfully) not as chilly as it was last year. I was doing final packing of my jersey pockets when I realized that I’d left my giant flask full of Roctane gel back at the motel. All I had in my car was an extra Powerbar, so, trying not to panic (it was about 20min ’til start time), I started asking everyone I knew if they had extra gel. Eventually, I found Gerry Pflug, who didn’t want to share his own stash of baby wolverine blood. However, Ernesto Marenchin, who was there with him, had a couple of extra flasks of partially diluted Hammer Gel. Perfect.

I rolled back to the starting area where Thom P. found me again and asked if I’d wear a Cyclingdirt helmet cam. I figured “anything for publicity,” and accepted his offer. He turned it on immediately in order to get some starting line footage, so I lined up and asked people random questions and handed out random tidbits of advice (like “Don’t isht yourself” to Amanda Carey).
This year, the start line was moved back into the parking lot about 1/4 of a mile. Unfortunately, that meant that the race no longer started at the base of a sizable road climb, so, when the gun went off, there was about 1 minute of big-ring time before the hill. I spun as fast as I could as what seemed like most of the field went by in their 39×11. As we started up the hill, I worked my way back through some of the crowd with a pack of other singlespeeders.

Somewhere along the way, we decided that a group of singlespeeders would be known as a “party” (you know… like a “gaggle” of geese or a “herd” of cats).

Over the crest of the hill and somewhere before the turn into the trail, Brenda and Lee Simril flew past me and made it in about 10 wheels ahead of me. Dually noted. The first section of singletrack was pretty uneventful (unlike last year, when I flatted). I settled in to a group that had a nice pace going until we hit the first hill, and they started shifting. I made my way around them and kept grinding my way through the remaining singletrack.

Once I was out on the gravel, it was business time. I started swapping places with a woman in a Specialized jersey (I’d pass on the climbs, she’d pass downhill). Then, her teammate, who I’d been doing the same thing with on the trail, blew past me, and she jumped on his wheel. I caught up to them, and she said something along the lines of “you’re killing it on these hills!” I replied back that I had a disadvantage on the downhills, and that she should enjoy it while it lasts. She obliged, and took off towards the next hill with her teammate.

Suddenly, from the bottom of the next hill, I looked up, and, in the low-hanging, early morning light, saw the silhouettes of  Brenda and Lee Simril at the top. I stood and cranked… it was on.

As I hammered up, I caught Specialized lady, and we split and passed Brenda. I don’t know if she saw me or if she was focused on the other woman passing on her left. The other woman and her teammate took off once again, and I knew that, at about 20 miles in, with Brenda behind and the other woman riding so aggressively in front, that the race was getting awesome.

Then, I hit Aid #2, the course turned briefly flat, and I was alone for a long time.

Mostly, anyway. I began the singlespeed shuffle with some other geared riders (some of which stayed around me until the infamous climb back up “potatopatch” several hours later). I was dying to get into my climbing rhythm again, and eventually, the forest road turned back up, and I was back in business. I caught back up to a lot of people, and hit aid #3 in what seemed like no time at all. Between there and the nasty descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was where I caught up to the Specialized gal on one of the steeper sections of road.

The descent down Potatopatch to Aid#4 was the only place where I feel like the rigid fork was a bad idea.

Brief Product Review Interlude: What was worse, though, was my brakes. I thought I was severely wearing through my brake pads. However, post race inspection revealed that there was plenty of pad left, but that the pads seem to not advance well, making the lever pull feel frighteningly long. SRAM XX Brakes = FAIL.

Aid #4 was located in a large switchback intersection of the road. It was leaving there that I saw Brenda rolling in towards the aid station behind me. I knew I was losing time to her on the descents (and probably holding/gaining on the climbs), so I decided that I’d ride the next loop of course (a little climbing followed by a singletrack descent on the Pinhoti trail) with my descending turned up to 11. In the flat-ish section after the Pinhoti, I kept waiting for her to catch me, but luckily, I made it through Aid#5 and back to the safety of a climb before she appeared.

The climb up Potatopatch was slightly wicked. The worst part was the horseflies. You can’t swat horseflies when you’re climbing singlespeed. That climb broke a lot of people. It was hard on the singlespeed, but the way I saw it, if you’re on your lowest gear behind me, every pedal stroke of mine is a nail in your coffin. After that, I knew that the hardest part was over, slammed some gel, and resolved myself to keep it at 11 the whole way back.

The remainder of the course was verymuch like the first part. Lots of gravel and hills, then a little singletrack.

I eventually caught up to Specialized Lady’s teammate, who exclaimed, “You just like to catch guys to make them feel like shit, don’t you?” I hate that attitude, so the nicest reply I could muster was “No, man, I’m just racing my bike. I don’t give a fuck what gender you are.”
Thom Parsons said it best in his report on the first blows of the women’s race:  “I chased AC (Amanda Carey) and CS (Cheryl Sorensen) for a bit, until a couple dudes tried to horn in. I was kinda hell bent on getting good footage of the ladies because, admittedly, they tend to get the shaft coverage-wise. These dudes, however were hell bent on not getting “girled.” Do you know how much that term pisses me off? A freakin’ lot, that’s how much. Buddy, you’re not getting “girled,” you’re getting “better athleted.” Now shut up about getting “girled” already you club-cut jersey wearing clown.”

Somewhere on the final throes of singletrack, my Garmin told me that I’d already ridden 100 miles. I cursed the course designer and eventually made it to the final run down Thunder Rock Express… which I took somewhat conservatively given the terrain and unknown degree of sketchiness of my brakes.

Final finish time- 9 hours, 28 minutes, and 7th behind 6 freakishly strong women (3 from Team CF, with Cheryl winning and the 2 others who racing their first 100 following in 3rd and 5th) who gave me an honest ass-kicking. Brenda was about 15 minutes behind me, followed closely by the Specialized lady (whose name I’ll stick in here as soon as the full results are up and I know who she is).

More post-race rundown to follow. I figure you’ve read enough already.

April 24, 2012

Audience Polling

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 10:59 am

I can’t make up my mind:

Cohutta 100- rigid w/an Ardent 2.4 front tire (lighter, a little faster uphill, makes me look like a badass) or SID WC suspension fork w/an Ignitor (~1.5 pounds heavier, but a little faster downhill)?

Comment here or on FB/Twitter. Whichever has the most votes is what I’ll do this weekend…

 

April 23, 2012

Recovery Day Shennanigans

Filed under: Bike Racing,non-bike — Andrea @ 6:00 am

Trophies are nice, but they tend to sit around and collect dust. Not the case with the Slobberknocker trophy. Ryan’s George Foreman grill was falling apart (thank gawd), so I finished it off with style.

April 22, 2012

Slobberknocker Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:34 am

The Slobberknocker is a 75 mile gravel grinder in Perryville, Arkansas. With my past gravel road racing experience at Southern Cross, I opted to ride my cyclocross bike. Most people were riding mountain bikes and told me I was brave for bringing the CX rig. I knew that there were a couple of gnarly spots on the course, but that the skinny tires would be faster on ~90% of the route. In light of my ongoing minor awe at the volume/intensity of training I’ve been absorbing lately, I added a motivational sticker:

The course started out on 6 miles of pavement before turning into the gravel roads of the Ouachita National Forest. The rollout from Perryville went smoothly. My plan was to get ahead of the other women from the start so that I wouldn’t have to wonder what my placing was on course. I ended up on the front, shoulder to shoulder with Frank Webber (on his CX bike) for the neutral motorpace out of town.

At the first climb (still on the pavement), I sat back and watched as a bunch of riders hammered up while I rode a hard, but non-strenuous tempo up the hill. I figured as long as no women were challenging me, I’d keep the pace at about 90-95% of “beast mode” in order to not destroy myself before next weekend’s Cohutta 100.  Like Southern Cross, my climbing strategy was to stand and pedal singlespeed style rather than gear down and spin.

The course was rolling big ring stuff for a while, but once I was on the bigger climbs in the Forest, my strategy was also to cruise the descents easy to avoid flat tires or wrecks. This meant that I was back & forth with a lot of guys on mountain bikes who would granny gear uphill then let loose downhill. There were only a few spots were I really had to ride the brakes and creep. I only heard the rim hit a rock once or twice. (Tubeless FTW!)

One part of the course (the descent to/climb out of Lake Sylvia) was two-way traffic to an aid station/turnaround where you could see the people ahead of (or behind) you. After a quick pit stop at the Aid Station, I was making my way up the climb when Laureen Coffelt zoomed past on her way down. Even though I knew that meant she was a solid 5-10 minutes behind me, it motivated me go one gear harder.

Speaking of motivation, I almost forgot to add a song to this post (weird video… you’ll notice something new each time you watch it)

The course after the turnaround was a couple more climbs and a bunch of flat/rollers. After the initial sketch of the last big descent, I hit the big ring and hauled all sorts of ass, absorbing a large quantity of guys who had been just ahead of me all day. Rolling back into town, I realized that I was going to come in under 5 hours (not that it was a goal or anything, since I really had no idea how long the course would take, but it’s a good benchmark).

Official finish time, 4:54- landing me in 1st place with $200, a belt buckle, and a sweet trophy woodsplitter maul. Bam!

Results aren’t online yet, but I’ll post a link & maybe some more photos as they turn up.

 

April 19, 2012

Tiger Lane Crit

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 9:13 am

I decided to add some interest to the intensity of my training this week with the Tiger Lane Criterium race. Given the difficulty of my upcoming races and how hard I’ve been training lately, I’d felt unsure about going. However, with all of the other women in town avoiding the race, I figured it was a pride thing and pinned my number anyway.

As many youngling roadies have discovered, criterium racing (click the link and scroll down a little if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is somewhat of a learned skill. Much like cyclocross, because of the added bike and pack handling skills required for crit success, it’s possible to have exceptional fitness but still suck at it. The physiological efforts of a fast crit is similar to cyclocross as well- most of the time, you’re close to threshold, with repetitive leg/lung searing attacks sprinkled throughout the duration of the race.

I haven’t been training for the attack-type effort, much less ridden in a crit since June of 2010, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. The “women’s race” was run in conjunction with the Cat 4 men- a group that can be somewhat unpredictable due to the variety of riders ranging from recently upgraded 5s, cat 4s for life, sandbaggers afraid of cat 3 racing, as well as  former cat 2s (yeah, I’m serious, there was a downgraded cat 2 in my race).

The course was flat, fast, and relatively non-technical. As we lined up for roll call, I did my best to stay stone-faced despite the fact that my heart rate was already above 130bpm. When the race started, I immediately stuck like glue to the first few wheels. My strategy was to stay near the front where the pace was smooth and I could follow the important moves. It was a good one- I barely used my brakes, and, though we were often 2-3 deep through the turns, everything was smooth. Even at high speeds, the group was surprisingly calm and non-sketchy. I chased a few breaks and made a few of my own attacks. I couldn’t help myself…

About 3/4 of the way through the race, a small break formed. Noticing that it was the magical mix of 1 rider from each of the attending teams, I jumped and bridged. According to Ryan, we had a workable gap started as we rounded the home stretch. Even though we were killing it, for some reason, someone chased down the break. It was a total cat 4 move on someone’s part, because there was seriously a member of each team in the group (i.e. someone chased down their own teammate). Maybe they were mad that I was up there?

The last few laps were somewhat uneventful. A lot of riders were stuck in the back because of the breakneck pace. I sat around near the front until the former cat 2 rolled off the front on the last lap (and won). The resulting surge/sprint landed me somewhere in the top half of the field for the sprint.

Given the situation, I’m pretty stoked on the whole thing. I’ve still got the crit skills on lock, and that sort of intensity will do wonders for my upcoming racing endeavors. Unfortunately, because of said races, I don’t think I’ll make it back to the crits until the last of the 4 race series. Big thanks to the 901 Racing guys for putting on a great race AND including a women’s payout!

April 18, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Active Women

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:55 am

I might catch some isht for this, but I think it’s worth saying. Guys, you don’t have to read. This doesn’t really involve you.

Over the weekend, I worked neutral mechanical support for the Los Locos Duathon. While I was there, I was amazed at the number of beautiful, strong ladies who were not taking care of themselves.

Ladies… I’m talking about your breasts here.

I saw so many cases of breast abuse during the run portions of the race that I wanted to start a neutral breast support tent. Do you WANT them to be friends with your belly button by the time you’re 50? Seriously?!

If you’re female and still reading, let me give you some sage advice. If you have larger than pancake-sized boobs, the same sports bra that you wear for yoga class, yardwork, lifting weights, or even cycling will NOT work for running. You know that feeling of something smacking you in the chin with every stride? That’s your breasts- it’s not good for them, and it’s not necessary. There are awesome sports bras out there, but you aren’t going to find them at Target for $20. Educate yourself. Do a little searching on the internet, then head down to your LRS (local run shop) or LBS (local bra shop) and start trying things on. Your boobs will thank you.

My other sage advice is this…

Well, it’s more of an etiquette/self respect  thing…

Triathlons are places where you’ll see people wearing very little in the way of clothing. It makes sense- it’s a sport that involves swimming. It’s hot. Etc. See below:

 

The triathlon-friendly swimsuit. Makes perfect sense. Should you wear one to a duathlon? I’d hazard a guess that if any female triathlete showed up to a duathlon in her favorite tri-suit that no one would bat an eyelash.

However, if you’re green enough to multisport that
A) You consider bootyshorts to be “close enough” to traditional tri gear that you can ride a bike in them
B) You attempt to run the wrong direction out of transition
C) Your pre-race warmup includes bending over and touching your toes while the guy in line behind you at the portajohn is looking embarrassed and diverting his gaze.

You should probably reconsider your choice of clothing, so that people aren’t snickering and giving you this look:

April 6, 2012

Oops

Filed under: Bike Racing,Trail Riding — Andrea @ 6:43 am

As I mentioned in my Ouachita report, I have three injured fingers- a sprained middle one on the right hand, and a sprained/broken middle and sprained index on the left. The most painful, colorful, and most sausage-like one is definitely the index finger.

Following the race, Fullface Kenny texted me for a race update. The conversation went like this (I wanted to take a screenshot, but I just figured out that my phone doesn’t do that without downloading an app):

FFK: Finished Yet?
Me: Yeah. 3rd after a flat and a bad wreck
FFK: You OK after the wreck?
Me: I may have broken my hand
FFK: Minor details :)
FFK: A broken hand X-Ray is worth some free beer

So, the next morning, I went to the Minor Med place to get checked out, and was given the aforementioned diagnosis and fitted with some finger splints:

 

Surprisingly enough, I can still do prettymuch everything I need to do at work, with the exception of adjusting hubs and truing wheels… the little arms of the splints get caught up on the spokes. Also, I occasionally have to use a screwdriver to open up a tight quick release. I did get called Edward Scissorhands when I was trying to re-wrap an old gripshift cable.

Tuesday, I noticed that my middle finger is not healing straight. My days as a hand model are officially over.

 

Wednesday, Kenny kept with his promise, and I found this in the mailbox:

 

The healing process is slow. I can work or ride a little without my fingers splinted, but they start to get sore after a couple of hours. It’s going to be an indefinite amount of time before I can ride my road bike since I can’t operate the front brake right now. Luckily, I can still operate my mountain bike with no issues, so my training doesn’t have to take a break for healing.

Hopefully, the ortho will have a positive prognosis when I visit on Monday. I’ll update then.

 

 

April 4, 2012

3rd Place Curse

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:18 pm

I’ve got quite a collection of 3rd place finishes from “big” races.

It all started with Marathon Nationals in 2010:

 

 

Then, in 2011, I kept the Bronze collection strong.

Spa City:

Mohican 100:

Fools Gold 100:

 

2012 has been the year that I’ve stepped up the mediocrity… starting off with a Master’s World Championship Bronze:

Then, more bronze at Spa City:

…and, to polish it off, a cute little 3rd place quartz from Ouachita:

 

Yes, being able to podium at a race is something I’m thankful for.
On the other hand, always being on the lowest step is something that is sprouting a deep seeded discontent somewhere in between my liver and my stomach. It had only been a mild annoyance before, but when I heard the latest XXC Podcast with (relatively new) pro endurance racer Jonathan Davis, I really started to feel restless. Among other things, he talked about his dedicated training and recovery routine. I feel like I have a similar desire to dedicate my life to racing a bike much like he has, but I also feel like I’m stuck someplace in between the dream of becoming a professional bike racer and the reality that I can’t quit my day job unless someone magically calls me tomorrow and offers me a pro contract.

I don’t want to sound like I’m discouraged, because I’m not… more like really anxious and a little frustrated with a touch of impatience thrown in. So, this season, I’m hoping/training to get at least another step up… if not see the top at least once at something other than a regional level race. Sure, my goal of “World Domination” might seem a little ambitious at this point, but at least it gives me something to shoot for.

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