brickhouseracing

May 1, 2014

Tiger Lane Crit #2

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 11:25 am

Because I was still feeling less than recovered from OGRE, I hadn’t planned on racing Tiger Lane Ladies’ night #2 until Tuesday night when Matt guilt-tripped me into not showing up to a local women’s race. He was right… the more women who show up and pin a number, the more promoters will realize that we’re worth having around.

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If you recall from last week’s race, I was able to capitalize on some tactical errors made by the M-B women and get free of the group for a solo breakaway win. This week, they had their heads on straight from the start.

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The strategy was, like last week, to keep me working. Unlike last week, the attacks were more frequent & slightly harder to follow, and Pam, their strongest lady, was stuck like a tick to my rear wheel. I managed to pull off an early prime sprint for $25, which is nice for getting money, figuring out which line is the “good” one, and for checking out everyone else’s sprinting legs.

I got kinda bored with being in the pack at about 13 minutes in (of 25), and decided that I’d counter their next move into the headwind. It mostly worked, with the exception of Pam, who made it across the gap.

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I attacked her at least a couple of times into the wind, but she was able to close the gap every time. This is where post-race analysis with of power data is interesting…

Last week:
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Yesterday:
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The initial snap was there, but my inability to follow it up with a 30sec-1min watt bomb was keeping me from permanently unhitching Pam from my draft. If you’ve ever wondered what happened during a race and thought it may have something to do with recovery, then a powermeter is an excellent way to analyse your efforts to know for sure. Yay, science!

So, back to the story…

I realized quickly that I wasn’t going solo. Pam was being smart and not taking a pull, leaving me to waste my energy to keep us out in front of the pack. I figured that no matter what, with my inability to get away, I was going to have to sprint her, and, I could either drag her around for the remainder of the race OR I could sit up, let the group come back up to us, and tuck back in to rest before the sprint. It took some work to get someone else on the front once they were back, but I made it happen.

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At that point, we only had 2 or 3 laps to go. I stayed tucked in, following occasional attacks, until the rider on front (Julie, who would go on to win 3rd), pulled off just before the final turn. I claimed my next-to-the-curb line that wouldn’t anyone else sprinting head-to-head to get a draft from the crosswind.

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Hey… I didn’t say I couldn’t sprint, I just said I didn’t like to. Lucky for me, the territorial dogs on most of my rural training rides keep me on my toes.

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April 28, 2014

OGRE 150 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:43 am

As I mentioned in my previous post, this weekend’s race was about the furthest thing from Wednesday’s criterium that you can possibly get. I entered the OGRE (short for Ozark Gravel Road Expedition) 150 as a shorter, presumably “easier” rehearsal for the Dirty Kanza 200- a chance to test my legs as well as my strategy and bike setup for the bigger, longer race. This bike wasn’t quite finished yet…

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So, the Air 9 RDO got the long distance gravel machine conversion- XX1 drivetrain parts (36t chainring), Matt’s Specialized rigid fork, some skinny/fast mountain tires, frame pump (Topeak Mountain Morph), and extra storage space for food, extra bottle, two tubes, and the race required mandatory first aid kit/emergency blanket (the seat pack is a Jandd Mountain Wedge Expandable and the large top tube and handlebar bags are from J.Paks).

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Friday morning, I loaded up and headed to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. My lack of nervousness was actually making me nervous. For whatever reason, the only thing I worried a little bit about was the course navigation. However, once I saw the layout of the cue sheet and heard during the pre-race meeting that the corners would be subtly flagged, I was somewhat relieved. Lots of riders at the pre-race meeting were chattering about the size/steepness of a few specific climbs on course… I told them not to name them, otherwise, that’d give the climbs more power.

A few course notes that came with the cue sheets:

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Bonus 4.7 miles!

My hotel room was 1990s fancy as hell…

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(note the lack of a proper shower)

I had a nice Friday afternoon spin from the Oz Cycles shop where racer check-in was. I also got a chance to meet Barry (who’d heard on JRA that I needed a crewperson) as well as his sister, who’d be my (excellent) crewperson for the race.

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Saturday morning reminded me of one of the reasons I grew tired of 100 mile mountain bike races. A 6am race start is soooooo eaaaaarly… even though I’m generally a “morning” person, I’m somewhat of a “wake up at 6 and drink coffee for 2 hours” type of morning person.  I did, however, hear one of the best pre-endurance race songs ever recorded:

The starting line grid was set up for predicted finish times. I wasn’t sure how long it’d take me, but I was hoping for less than 13 hours, so I lined up somewhere around the 12 hour marker. Once we got the “go,” we had a police escort out of the parking lot and to the first gravel road of the race course. I immediately put my pacing plan into effect- easy. I’ve done hours of sub-threshold riding, and I know the intensity well enough to do it without even looking at my powermeter. I have also, through a healthy amount of singlespeeding and tons of practice on a hardtail, developed what seems to be a somewhat unique skill of standing while climbing without raising my heart rate. On a straightforward gravel hill, I feel like it’s much easier to stand than to sit. It also means that I’m shifting my position around more, which is great for super long rides.

So, that’s how I rolled it- a zone 2 effort all around with my “comfortable” standing pace on climbs. The hills would turn out to be relentless- you essentially climb and descend the same 30-180 feet of elevation repeatedly throughout the race (various websites and electronic devices estimate between 12 and 14k feet of gain). Many of the hills were pretty steep, too- well into the teens on grade percentage.

Somewhere in the first hour, my tail light fell off of my seat pack (a first for me with that style light- they’re normally very secure).

I arrived at the 37.7 mile checkpoint (a spot with water and a couple of people recording numbers) in a nicely paced group of friendly guys that included a guy named Brian who was 6’7″ and had a draft like a vacuum cleaner. I refilled my bottles, used the bathroom, and took off with the same group towards the first pit stop (a spot where you met your crewperson and received a slap bracelet to prove your progress). There were a couple of bigger hills in that section, and the group kinda started to split apart. The last hill to the pit stop was one of the “scary” ones that people were talking about beforehand, though I didn’t realize it until I spotted people from the pit stop standing at the top and cheering. It was the one spot on the course where I found the 36×42 gear to be just right, and one of the few times I sat instead of standing.

At the pit stop, I picked up some food (I’d been eating a pack of Gu Chomps per hour and drinking Roctane in my bottles), and forced down a rice bar (the famous Alan Lim recipe) and some cheetos. I say “forced down” because I’d eaten and drank enough at that point that I was pretty full feeling already. That’s how you gotta roll, though. I did start alternating half packs of Chomps with shots of Roctane and Salted Caramel gel once I was further along and solid food became less appealing.

When I left the stop, it just worked out that I rolled out with tall-guy Brian. The next part of the course was down a big hill then around a 15-ish mile loop and back up the same hill to the same pit stop. Brian and I rode together for the loop and shared life stories. I’ve always found it fascinating how briefly riding with someone you’ve never met can be bonding enough to facilitate somewhat deep conversations that you’d likely not have if you’d only known them for 3-4 hours in any other situation. It makes this sort of racing very special compared to your run-of-the-mill hammer-time event.

As we were approaching the spot in the course where the loop ended and the two-way climb back to the pit stop started, we rounded a corner and came upon a concrete-bottom creek crossing with about 8 inches of flowing water over it. Not wanting to get my feet wet, I carried enough speed to unclip my feet from the pedals and lift them up in front of me to avoid the splash. Simultaneously, Brian yelled at me that the crossing was probably slick, and, simultaneously, my bike teleported out from under me as soon as both wheels were in the water. I went in up to my neck and slid almost all the way across on my knees. I was generally fine (just soaked with some bloody knees), and my bike was mostly unscathed. However, the head of the lower bolt on my seat tube bottle cage had pulled through the cage, and my handlebar light had broken off the mount, leaving part of the light body in the mount.

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I needed that bottle cage. Luckily, the Arundel sideloader has two sets of bolt holes. I told Brian to go on while I got out the multi-tool and moved the bolts to the undamaged cage holes. Bonus- it gave me better clearance between the top of my bottle and my frame pump. Looking back, that was the absolute best place on course to wreck. It wasn’t sharp, and I was very close to the pit stop, where I was able to change socks and gloves so that I wouldn’t have saturated contact points for very long (I could have changed kit, but I was dry enough to be comfortable by the time I was up the hill).

Brian was at the pit stop when I arrived, and left after me. However, about halfway to the next checkpoint, I had my next minor mishap- a flat tire. It seemed to be a slow leak, and I couldn’t find a leaky sealant spot in the tire, so I was hoping that I could shoot it with CO2 and go on (side note- if you find an active leak, it’s a guarantee that you should just go ahead and tube it… your sealant hasn’t worked so far, and it’s going to continue to not work when you add more air). Within a mile, it was obvious that CO2 wouldn’t work, and I thought I heard air coming out from around the valve, so I went ahead and found a good spot to install a tube. As I was doing so, Brian came up the road and stopped to help. Once I was back in action, we rode together the last few miles before the 77 mile checkpoint. At that spot, though, I had plenty of water and didn’t really need to stop other than to make sure my number was recorded. Brian wanted a break and told me he wasn’t going to be able to keep up with my pace much longer, so I should go on alone.

From then on, aside from a few brief passes/chats with other riders, I was flying solo.

At 87 miles (more than halfway through!), I reached pit stop #2, still feeling great. I took another bathroom break (indoor plumbing FTW!), ate another rice bar, RedBull, and handful of cheetos, picked up fresh bottles, and got my second slap bracelet & cue sheet. I also got an update on the weather- there was a black cloud hanging over the next part of the course, and it seemed as if I might run in to a little rain. I didn’t mind too much- I was more appreciative of the fact that the lingering clouds & spotty rain were keeping the temperature down for much of the day. Soon after I left the pit stop was the one spot where I decided to stop and take a few photos:

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The next section of the course was definitely my favorite. It was largely through a state park, and was a gorgeous, rolling tunnel of dogwoods and redbuds that concluded at a unique, old swinging bridge. It was somewhere in there that I passed the 100 mile mark, too, still feeling pretty good. I soon reached the 107 mile checkpoint.

It was soon after that I had my next minor mishap. At 109 miles, there was a left turn off of a road that rolled somewhat quickly across the top of a ridge. I wasn’t paying enough attention and rode right past it. When I arrived at a paved road intersection with no flagging, I knew something was wrong. Once I looked at my cue sheet, I realized I’d gone about 2 miles too far and started back. Along the way, I caught another rider doing the same thing as I had. Elapsed time off course- about 15 minutes.

Soon after going off course, at around 113 miles, I hit my “low point” of the day. Every long day has one, and you can’t let it break you. The sun had come out, the wind was in my face, and everything seemed uphill. My legs hurt, my garmin randomly shut off (I caught it pretty quickly and think I lost less than half a mile), and I kept thinking, “damnit, I’m just tired of being on a bike right now.” The third pit stop wasn’t until mile 127.9 (otherwise known as mile 131 with my added detour).

At around 9.5 hours and 123 miles, I took a “get your head out of your ass” break. I found a good place for a “nature stop,” then sat on my top tube a minute to eat a highly caffeinated gel, drink half a bottle of water, and put a headphone in my ear. That’s the first time I’ve ever used music during a race. In anything USA Cycling, it’s illegal, and in many other races, the promoter will ask racers not to use even just one headphone. However, at this race, it went unmentioned. So, I was immediately greeted by the sound of Rick Ross telling me to “Push it to the Limit.”

The break was just what I needed to get my isht together and get to the next Pit Stop in a timely manner. I picked up some cold bottles (definitely makes a difference when it’s getting hot out), drank one more RedBull, and ate another rice bar and handful of cheetos. The next few miles from there were great- there was a nice tailwind, and the road was mostly small rollers. Of course, that was over quickly, and it was back to steep climbs with not much help from the wind. I did realize, though, that I’d likely finish very close to the 12 hour mark. I ended up walking up a couple of short, steep kicker hills on the last gravel sections before the finish-  I could feel my left toes trying to hurt (somewhere around 10-11 hours for that pain is an improvement over the 4-hour mark where I was feeling it before all of the injections and whatnot), and the walking breaks were successful in holding off the full-on pain.

Those final few miles were somewhat of a blur. I remember passing a farmer spreading what smelled like chicken manure in a pasture and almost gagging, being cheered on by some kids in a trailer park driveway, and being very happy to see the last checkpoint (3 miles from the finish). Those last 3 miles are mostly uphill on a sidewalk. They were probably the easiest hills on course, though. I finished in 12 hours, 1 minute. First woman, and 14th overall.

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I was pretty wrecked and just sat around in a chair for a while, absorbing everything that had happened.

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At some point, Barry’s sister showed up, and I shuffled around to change and eat a little before she drove me back to get my car from the start area. I was super lucky to have her help… driving around and dealing with sweaty, needy bike racers allll day long is probably more demanding than actually racing.

After a shower, I went back to the shop/finish area to have a beer and watch more people finish. There’s always that one person who has had many beers…

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You people who did Trans-Sylvania last year know who I’m talking about. You people who do Mohican know who I’m talking about, too.

The amount of caffeine that I consumed meant that I wasn’t even close to going to sleep until sometime after 11. I eventually fell out while watching COPS reruns. The next morning, I finally had my appetite back.

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I made a pit-stop in Jonesboro on the way home as well.

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…and, as I write this, my stomach is growling, so I’ll probably go to Brother Juniper’s and get a ridiculously large breakfast of some sort to polish off my post-race days of hunger before returning to my normally-sized diet.

 

April 24, 2014

Tiger Lane Crit

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 7:06 am

The Tiger Lane training crit series is a Springtime staple of Memphis put on by local team 901 Racing. Historically, if you’re female and want to race, you slot in with the Cat 4 men. It’s not terrible- the course is pretty open, and the local guys (with the exception of a few that are easy to ID/avoid) aren’t sketchy to ride with. It does make it very much just a training effort, though, because being a solo woman in a men’s race that 99% of the time ends up in a sprint doesn’t give you a chance to be competitive unless you’re good at sprinting.

Side note- I’m not terrible at sprinting, but I’m not a sprinter… especially so now that I don’t really road race anymore. It’s a skill that definitely takes practice, and I have more important things to practice with my training time… Important info for the rest of my story.

This year, there was enough interest following the first two of four races that the promoter added a women’s race to the front end of the schedule of race days three and four. Sandwiched between a nutso hard training week and a 150 mile gravel grinder billed as being “harder than Dirty Kanza,” I wasn’t 100% sure that it was the best Wednesday activity, but it was kinda like…

I figured, at the least, it’d be a great mid-week wake-up call for my legs.

The turnout of 10 ladies- 5 from Marx-Bensdorf, 4 from Memphis Velo, and myself, was excellent for a local race-

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My strategy for crits (actually, for any road racing) is to never be in a sprint finish. Road racing is all about playing to your own strengths and your opponents’ weaknesses. In that respect, my plan was to sit in until the planets aligned for the correct timing to attack and separate myself from the group. You always hope that such a separation can occur as late into the race as possible, but, as I’ve often found, planetary alignment is something you have no control over.

I knew my toughest competition would come from Pam Tate (the tiny M-B lady on the Cervelo w/Reynolds wheels). She’s won plenty of races, and she’s likely got a better sprint than me. Additionally, she was backed by four other strong teammates. I hadn’t raced with anyone on the Memphis Velo side, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from them. I knew that being the lone solo in between two good teams would be tough. One other thing that I had going against me was the wind… or lack thereof. It seemed to come from all directions, but always at less than 10 mph. I had been hoping for a gusty, 20 mph hairdryer from the South.

When the race started, the M-B ladies quickly took over. I was happy to sit on the wheel of whoever was in front. It seemed like the strategy was to take turns attacking off the front, but I was able to hear all of them coming and slot over to whichever wheel came by. Within two laps, it seemed to frustrate someone on M-B, because as we were rounding the final couple of corners, someone yelled something at Pam about “just pulling her around.” In the confusion, Pam launched some sort of attack as we came through the start/finish area.

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Team confusion… strongest rider attacking… Planets align. Time to wind it up-

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I’m not going to lie- going off the front exactly 6 minutes and 30 seconds in to a 25 minute criterium when you’ve got two teams that could organize and pull you back doesn’t exactly have the highest potential for success. I knew that, but I had to capitalize on the opportunity, because if I didn’t, it may not happen again.

So, I went all-in.

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I was definitely checking over my shoulder. The gap to Pam was steady for a lap or two, then, suddenly, there was a similar gap back to this group…

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Once I saw that they were together behind me, I knew that my chance of staying off the front had just been reduced. I was feeling all 20 hours of the previous week’s riding in my legs. I formulated Plan “B” in my head, but kept hammering away in hopes that they wouldn’t organize well enough to close the gap.

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It wasn’t until around 3 laps to go that I started to feel like I had gained enough ground to stay away.

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ERMAHGERD, A FINISH LINE!

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I was feeling a little rough by then, but came around after a good cooldown, podium, a little beer, and easter candy. Major props to 901 Racing for putting on a great race for us and to the local ladies who all came out and pinned a number.

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Now I’m switching gears to probably as far away as you could possibly get on the bike racing spectrum… the Ogre 150. For reasons I don’t totally understand, I’m not at all nervous of the thought of 150 miles of gravel grinding in the Ozarks. My bike is loaded, my legs feel good, and I’m approaching it with the mindset of “I’m gonna go ride my bike allllll day long.”

 

 

 

 

April 8, 2014

6 Hours of Warrior Creek Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 10:48 am

I went in to this race without any real expectations of myself other than doing what I could to have a good first “long” race of the season (now that I think about it, it was my longest ride of 2014 as well). So, while my base is strong and top-end fitness is still building, I really wanted to focus on pacing, fueling, and paying attention to keeping my head up and bike handling fast/accurate as fatigue started to set in. I knew that this race tends to draw some regional horsepower (lots of familiar names on previous years’ results), but, being in the mindset of “just go and have a good race and let the results happen,” I didn’t even look for a list of registered riders. I did, however, see Carey Lowery (always one to chase) post (on facebook) an “enlightening” photo of her bike and herself on the scales the day before the race.

Eh, whatevs.

I’d never ridden the Warrior Creek course before, but I heard that it was a lot of fun. A Friday afternoon preride would reveal that I would not be disappointed. Berms. Berms everywhere. Most of them amazing.
(side note- When you put 598 berms into almost 14 miles of trail, not all of them are gonna be winners)

I was stoked to race. Saturday morning, the race started at 10:00am (love that… racing the NUE series for 2 years in a row left me with soooooo much hate for early morning starts). It made a “parade loop” of sorts around the park before diving in to the last piece of singletrack before the start of the official first piece of singletrack. I thought I’d noticed one or two women ahead of me at that point, but figured that if I successfully carried out my plan that they’d come back at some point in the next 6 hours (I’d later figure out that both were in the duo competition). I hadn’t noticed Carey ahead of me and figured that the speed of the start loop had put her (riding a singlespeed) into the singletrack a little further back in the group.

Somewhere as I settled in to the first lap, Matt caught up to me and said he was having a bad time riding singlespeed. He stuck with me for the remainder of the lap. When I stopped at the pit, I said something to a nearby support person about waiting for Carey to come by me, and she informed me that Carey was racing as a duo. Interesting…

I grabbed bottles, ate some Gu Chomps, and got back on my bike. At the start of the second lap, I had a frustrating/satisfying run-in with a guy on a Krampus. The story is a Just Riding Along exclusive, though. So, you’ll have to listen to the show on Mountain Bike Radio to hear it.

On the second lap, I mostly followed a guy who had a great pace and seemed to know the trail well. It was very helpful to follow his lines and he wasn’t going either too slow or too fast up any of the climbs. Carey also caught up to me somewhere along there. She confirmed that she was, indeed riding in the duo competition, and, when I asked what solo women were ahead of me, she replied, “Just you!”

Oh… Damn.

I felt pretty good and was already well on my way to executing my plan of 5 laps in the allotted amount of time. The thing about following your race plan to the letter is that other than saying you did it, there’s not a lot to write about. Fueling boiled down to downing 1.5 bottles of weakly-mixed Gu Roctane per lap (I’d scouted “drinking spots” during my preride and always watched for other opportunities), taking a large hit from my gel flask (filled with Roctane gel) at a non-wooded, straight piece of trail about halfway through each lap, and eating at least half a pack of Gu Chomps and sometimes another gel (Gu Salted Caramel) as I rolled through the timing/pit area.

I did have a little back and fourth with the two women’s teams that finished behind Carey and her teammate. Not that I was necessarily racing the duo ladies, but one of them caught up to me early on the last lap, and I didn’t recognize her as a duo woman, though I was 99% sure she said she was (she definitely looked like she was) when she asked to get around me. I caught back up to her in the last couple of miles, and asked her a couple of times, explaining (as well as you can when you’re riding behind someone) that I believed her, but that I was very wary of being burned by someone not being honest about their race category. She laughed it off and let me by at the final pavement as we exited the woods to the finish line.

Yee-ha!

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I definitely felt like it was the longest/hardest ride of the year. Luckily, I’d had the wherewithal to make the hotel reservation through Saturday night, allowing us to go back, shower, and lay around with our feet up rather than checking out before the race and getting on the road immediately after. If you do it right, the “run over by a truck” feeling is there whether you win or lose.

March 31, 2014

Bad News/Good News

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:14 am

This weekend was pretty laid back… I went out on a group ride with the 901 Racing guys again on Saturday, but, being kinda cold and rainy, everyone was having a good time riding just hard enough to not be cold. We rode through some of the more “scenic” areas of North Memphis, which I always find to be interesting. The air outside of Madea’s Soul Food Cafe smelled like my grandmother’s house. I think it was turnip greens.

On the way back, Matt and I decided to take another “scenic route,” and rode about a mile on the unfinished part of the Shelby Farms greenline- a former rail bed with no tracks and a little overgrowth. It’s pretty mundane on a mountain bike, but the road bikes added a small level of difficulty. We tried taking a different neighborhood route home from the greenline, but ended up somehow bailing on that plan and grinding it out down Macon Road. It’s a lower speed-limit road (35mph), but it’s mostly narrow, and there was a good bit of traffic. Even though we didn’t have and run-ins or close calls with ignorant drivers, for whatever reason, it induced a panic attack. I yelled at Matt to pull over in a neighborhood, and I spent several minutes gasping, shaking, and crying on my handlebars.

It’s been more than a year now, and I still get caught off guard. We made it home, though, and I engaged in retail therapy for the remainder of the afternoon.

Enough about that- in much more awesome, exciting, and inspirational news:

LAUREN FREAKING HALL…

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…WINNING GHENT-WEVELGEM.

Here’s a quick summary from the bowels of Velonews… where if you click on the link for “Results: Ghent-Wevelgem,”  you only get a listing of the men’s race. It took a little digging, but here’s the rundown.

If you don’t know who Lauren is, we used to race against each other back around 2008-ish, when I was on Kenda, and she had just joined the local ProBike team with infamous local hammer Debbie Milne.

A random from back in the day… Lauren is in the blue shorts:

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I bet not many of you have a photo of results where you beat the winner of any of this year’s Euro classics ;)

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By the end of that season, she and Debbie were prettymuch unstoppable…

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That photo is from the last race of that season- a crit in Birmingham where she and Debbie double-teamed the field until they escaped sometime in the last few laps. I’d done a ton of chasing, so I had nothing left for a pack sprint and decided my best bet was to attack into no-man’s land with 2 to go. I got away and landed the 3rd place spot behind the dynamic duo.

P.S. Floyd Landis was really drunk.

Lauren moved out to Colorado and started working her way up the pro cycling ladder, and now she’s a freaking rockstar with honest World Championship and Olympic potential. It was the highlight of my weekend to see that race result.

In other “amazing/inspiring” news, the Barkley 100 Ultramarathon is happening right now. It started at 6:45 on Saturday. Out of 35 starters (including local Memphis Badass, Billy Simpson), only one man remains on course (Jared Campbell), looking as if he’s going to finish. I don’t know if “brutal” is really a descriptive enough term for that “race.”

In other training news, I decided to call off my quest to further lose weight. I hit the mid 140′s last week, but that coincided with feeling like hell on the bike. I’m guessing there’s a reason why my body has really insisted on staying at 142 pounds, so I’m going to quit arguing with it and just maintain 141-142. With the muscle I’ve put on from lifting/MMAing, I’m definitely a leaner/meaner 142 than I was this time last year. I’ll take it.

March 17, 2014

Spa City 6 Hour- Pit Crew Time

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:54 am

Because the Spa City 6 hour fell right into the end of my “take it easy in order to avoid secondary injury” time following my cortisone injection, I did not race over the weekend. However, as, as I mentioned in on of the previous posts, I owed Matt some crew work, so I went with him to do whatever I could to give him a hand.

It started Friday morning, after another round of anesthetic injections into my hamstring (the first round was cortisone in the ischial bursa and anesthetic in the hamstring). It sucked, but not nearly as badly as the first time.

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Once I was finished at the doctor’s office, I ran home, ate breakfast, and started in on weekend preparations. It’s been my goal so far this season to make short road trips without having to eat out at all, so I made some chicken/veggie rice for dinner and bacon/egg rice bars for breakfast. I also made a cookie cake… more on that in a minute. It’s a little bit of an arduous process to make/pack all the food, but it pays off hugely in predictable digestive processes and time saved trying to look for a restaurant with decent food.

Once I was done cooking, I packed most things into the car and waited for Matt to get home from a half day of work. We loaded up quickly and headed out to Hot Springs. Once we were there, we got my “monument to car camping” tent pitched and I finished uploading/setup while he went out for a little preride. All the timing worked out just right to warm up dinner just as the sun was setting…

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I’m pretty sure we were asleep by 9:00.

Saturday morning, the arrival of people setting up pits at 6am woke us up before the alarm clocks. Since we’d camped in our usual prime pit spot, it was a matter of rolling out of bed and lighting the camp stove to heat up water for coffee. Everything went smoothly, though I quickly figured out that I was a bigger bundle of nerves as a crew person than I’ve ever been for a bike race. I did my best to hide it and went to the LeMans start area to make sure that Matt’s garmin didn’t shut off while he was staging for the start, and, once it didn’t and they were on course, I trekked down to the staging area to get Matt’s jacket and leg warmers he’d tossed beforehand.

I spent the next hour or so pacing around and being a bundle of nervous energy (ok, possibly the next 6 hours). When Matt finally arrived at the end of lap 1, he told me he’d wrecked into a tree and that we should pack up and go home. I had some stern words and ibuprofen for him and he headed back out. Nervous energy x1000.

Somewhere in my pacing and fidgeting, I remembered the cookie cake. Last year at post-race Slobberknocker, local racer Scott Penrod was telling me about how he felt better climbing when he weighed less, and that he wanted to lose weight prior to Leadville because he really wanted the sub-9hr buckle. I then gave him a pretty hard time about the handful of cookies he’d grabbed off the finish line snack table, and he ended up looking really sad then putting them back in favor of a banana. I felt a little bad, so I promised him that if he brought back the buckle, I’d make him a cookie cake.

He finished a handful of seconds under 9 hours- attributing at least a couple of those seconds to leaving the cookies on the table earlier in the year.

So, I left this on his crew table after the first lap:

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He waited ’til after the race to consume it, because, according to him, “I’ll puke if I eat it now!”

Back in my pit area, Matt was doing progressively better with each lap. the gap between him and the handful of racers I was marking to know that he’d be in soon was growing smaller with each pass. Somewhere on lap 5 of his eventual 6, he passed most of them… with a couple wondering where the hell he’d come from because he’d gone by them like a scalded cat. When he crossed the finish line, ahead of even more people than he’d been after his 5th, I was so giddy I almost hugged him off his bike. I’ve never been so relieved to see the end of a race.

His ultra-consistent laps (all of them were within a minute of each other and within 11 watts average power) were fast enough to land him in 17th place overall and 2nd in the 29 & under age group…
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After his podium, we packed up and got on the road just as the rain was starting.

It makes me very proud- I’ve been doing my best to teach him how to be a good bike racer, and Saturday, I got to watch it happen. It’s quite a rewarding feeling. Next up? Warrior Creek 6 hour. I’m back on track with training to be back in form just in time for it.

 

March 5, 2014

It’s not all Rainbows and Unicorns

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 4:35 pm

Well, several bike fits, shoes, three doctors, one EMG/nerve study, three MRIs, an arterial doppler, and 5 ultrasound/e-stim sessions later, the cause of  my left hamstring ache and toe exploding-off-the-end-of-my-foot feeling on longer rides has been narrowed down to “something in the area between your ischial tuberosity and the middle of your hamstring gets inflamed and puts pressure on your sciatic nerve.”

Along the way, I’ve tried (and still use) a lot of alternative therapies (chiropractor, massage, yoga, acupuncture, and structural integration). While all of them have proved beneficial to me physically, none of them have affected the sciatic pain. So, now that I’m under the care of one of the only doctors I’ve ever really trusted, we’re about to get more aggressive with it.  Friday morning, I’m going in to get multiple injections in the area. One will be cortisone in the area of the sciatic/ischial tuberosity/bursa area. Others, going into the hamstring in the area of pain, are non-cortisone, and are given in a series once a week for three weeks.

I know it sounds weird coming from someone with multiple tattoos and piercings, but I’m incredibly shot-phobic. One of my earliest memories from when I was a kid was being forcibly pinned down on a pediatrician’s table like an animal at the vet and being given booster shots in my backside… all while fighting as hard as I could to try and not get booster shots, which only made the entire process that much more painful. Ever since then, my heart races even when I get a mostly painless B12 shot. I went without a tetanus vaccination for waaaaay longer than I should have, too.

To say this procedure is gonna be rough would be a gross understatement.

It’s difficult to swallow what I’m willing to put myself through to deal with this.I love what I’m doing, but between the mental and physical pain of being hit by a car a year ago, an irritable degenerative lumbar disc, and now the choice to get a painful series of treatments to deal with an ongoing overuse-related problem, the health impacts of repeatedly pushing my body past its normal limits are becoming more obvious.

But, I still love what I’m doing. I still love to ask myself, “How far?” and “How fast?”
For now, I’m willing to keep suffering to keep answering.

The prognosis? Still somewhat unknown. Because of the effects of the cortisone injection, I’ll have to take a week and a half off of strenuous training. Luckily, I’m still allowed to ride during that time, but the intensity will have to stay low to reduce the risk of injury to the soft tissue in the area of the injection. It means I’m going to miss out on the Spa City 6 Hour race, which will also effectively take me out of the running for the Arkansas Marathon Series, since they use your top 3 race finishes to calculate points, and my three were going to be Iron Mountain, Spa City, and Syllamo’s Revenge (Slobberknocker, usually in April, was pushed back to the weekend prior to Dirty Kanza, and a 70 mile race is a little much for my taper).

I’m likely to show up at the six hour race, anyway. Not to participate, but to act as pit crew for Matt. He all but wiped my backside during the Breck Epic race last year, so I owe him a solid. Six hours of refilling bottles and unwrapping rice bars is pretty simple compared that.

Hopefully this is going to knock out the pain and let me find a new level of awesome, because the whole “can’t do long rides without stopping multiple times to rest my left leg” thing is really cramping my style.

February 24, 2014

Season Opener

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:41 am

While I’m still somewhat early in my spring training, I decided that the Iron Mountain MTB Marathon would make a nice season opener. At 42 miles, it wasn’t crazy long, and, from what I’d heard, the course was a lot of fun (as opposed to something like Ouachita or Syllamo, where the course is billed as “challenging” and/or “soul crushing”). It also helps that it was “only” a 3.5 hour drive from Memphis.

Matt and I left Saturday morning (Ryan was at a Homebrewer’s competition and ended up winning the “oak aged” category with his Turbo Porter). During the drive over, I noticed that my throat was pretty sore, but I totally ignored it, hoping that I’d just been breathing funny or something. As is customary for driving through Arkansas to a bike race, there was rapping.

The nice people at Holiday Inn Express let us check in early, and we unloaded some stuff out of the car, had a snack, then made the short drive to the race course. The course wasn’t too hard to follow based on the website map/instructions, so we were able to ride the “start loop” and part of the first lap. The course was exciting- lots of flowy/bermy stuff, and some rocks mixed in for fun. It really keeps you on your toes, because some of the berms end a little earlier than you expect, and some of the blind corners lead you into loose over hard rocky turns. Definitely a good one to pre-ride before going race-pace.

As the day/night progressed, my throat got more sore, and my nose started getting stuffy. Luckily, Sunday morning, my cold seemed to still be isolated to my nose/throat, and, unlike my previous illness, I wasn’t getting a fever. We checked out of the hotel and went to the race course.

After about half an hour of warming up, I lined up and tried to eyeball the ladies in the group of around 170 people. I didn’t really know anyone except for Laureen Coffelt, who I’ve raced many times in the past. She’s a 24 hour racer, and, historically, a little slower than me, but incredibly steady- always someone to look out for.

Being somewhat early in the year, I knew I couldn’t go balls-out from the start (the course began with a 2 mile, double-roller climb on pavement before turning on to singletrack). So, I paced myself a little more than usual. Once I arrived at singletrack, I wasn’t sure how far behind the next woman was. From there, the course turned downhill for a while. It was a fast, flowy/rocky decent where you could definitely carry enough speed to end yourself if you weren’t on your toes. At the bottom, I backed off of my pace a little at a time in order to find a comfortable yet not-too-slow race speed as I passed through the start/finish area at the end of the start loop and started up a long-ish climb to begin the first of two laps.

I may have been a little too comfortable, because a few miles later, Laureen caught up to me (we were about 16 miles in to 42). She asked in her cheery Canadian-nice voice if she could get by, and I was happy to oblige. She’s so smooth everywhere, I knew that, even if she was riding a little faster than the pace I wanted, that I’d likely be able to stick with it. So, that’s exactly what I did.

For the remainder of the first lap, and up the first climb of the second lap, everything was pretty chill. There was a dude behind us the whole time who seemed to be happy to sit back and spectate (we asked a couple of times if he wanted to get by, and he said no, he liked the pace). It was very comfortable- Laureen would sit up and spin a bit up the hills then let it fly going downhill. I started to formulate a plan… initially, I thought, “I’ll just stay here and sprint the final 2-300 meters.” I paid very close attention to our trip though the start/finish at the transition from lap 1 to lap 2 in order to scope out where to start and what line looked smoothest.

Then, we got to the top of the first climb of the second lap, where there were a bunch of embedded rocks without a clear line through them. She, on her full suspension, started to pick up the pace a bit. I had to fight a little and mmuscle my way through to stay on her wheel. There was a brief respite as we crossed a road and started on the next section of trail. However, soon enough, she began turning the screws again. It was very subtle, because, without looking like she was working any harder, would pedal about one gear harder on all of the flats/false flats, and stay off the brakes a tiny bit more going downhill. The guy who’d been cruising with us was gone within minutes. I held on hard and concentrated on staying off the brakes and getting calories every time I could- I typically keep a very concentrated bottle of Roctane drink on my bike when I race just in case the terrain or competition doesn’t allow for me to get to my gel flask. It definitely came in handy on the 2nd lap.

The attacks left me dangling a few times- enough to make me re-evaluate my race-finish strategy since she could potentially open a gap in the last mile that would make me work so hard, I wouldn’t have a good sprint for the finish. The only place I felt like I was really stronger was on the climbs. So, my new plan was to keep on being a bulldog until the final 1/4 mile-ish section of road before the final 1.5-ish mile section of trail… which included a climb that started as a false flat, crossed a creek, then got steep and turned up a piece of wide doubletrack with one good line. Being in front going in to that climb was ideal, because there was one good line, and anyone wanting to pass would need to take the chunky/loose line on either side of it.

Implementing this strategy wasn’t without risk- it was very close to the finish, and there was a straightforward, yet significant downhill immediately following the climb where I wanted to get away. She’d been killing it on the descents (making me uncomfortable more than a couple of times), so if I didn’t create a large enough gap, it was possible she’d close it back if I didn’t also go all-out down the hill.
When we reached the road, I sat on her wheel a second before going full-roadie-apeshit and sprinting off towards the last section of singletrack. Once I was in, I backed off and caught my breath. She caught up to me during that time, but I wasn’t worried since I was in control of the trail/pace. We made it though the false flat to the creek crossing where the climb really started. The crossing was super sketch, and, if I hadn’t kept cool, I definitely could have screwed up and put a foot down, leaving the door open to get passed back.

I made it, though, and let loose again with the ground & pound- hammering up and over the final climb and down the hill after it. As I exited the trail, I looked back and saw that my strategy had worked. I was alone with only a hammer to the finish ahead of me.

It was a nice change of pace (literally & figuratively) to race head-to-head with Laureen. I don’t think that I’ve ever had to use strategy during a mountain bike race- either I’m ahead and alone or my competition is ahead of me, and I’m alone. It took all of my patience and self control to not pass any of the times she offered to let me by on a climb earlier in the race. With my springtime fitness still in “build mode,” I knew that if I was setting the pace that I may not be able to shake her, or that I’d possibly go too hard in my attacks without the legs to back them up, leaving her with time to catch back. Waiting ’til the end really was my best chance…

podium

February 21, 2014

Spring Fever

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 8:01 am

I have to say… since I arrived home from Florida, it feels like Spring training has been turned up to 11. That week ended up being a 17 hour training week, punctuated by a power test on Sunday. That went well, and, after a single recovery day, was followed up with some 10 minute intervals that were way better than anything I’d done this year and a 4 hour mountain bike ride the following day, during which my best hour was the last.

I know I said not long ago that I felt out of shape… I think I was just cold.

The one lingering issue I’ve got is the ongoing hamstring pain/foot numbness on my left side. If you remember from my last post about it, the doctor ordered an MRI of my back to check for a disc issue that could be putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. That wasn’t the case, so he wanted to try physical therapy to the hamstring at the origin of the pain. Therapy included electrical stimulation, ultrasound, nerve glides, and, at first, seemed as though it may have worked.

Unfortunately, in Florida, the pain came back. So, the doctor ordered another round of diagnostics, including an arterial Doppler and another MRI- this time of the pelvis. (He actually requested pelvis and hamstring, but my insurance will only approve one area at a time… you know, because they obviously know more about this problem than my doctor does. Maybe I need to be seeing the “expert” at my insurance company instead.)

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It’s a little discouraging, especially since I feel pretty strong right now. However, I trust the expertise of Dr. Martinez and Kevin the PT, and I think they’re both highly motivated to help me succeed.

Health issues aside, I’m super excited for the first race of the season this weekend- Iron Mountain. It’s “only” 42 miles, so I don’t foresee having too much of a problem with my leg/foot. Matt and I plan on driving down to Arkadelphia tomorrow morning in order to leave plenty of time for a little pre-riding and settling in (Ryan is staying in town to attend a Homebrew Competition).

Today is bike checkover and recovery day. Technically, yesterday was a recovery day as well, though I ended up starting and ending the day at UFK with their weight training class followed by MMA class in the evening, and staying really busy in between. My schedule today is much more laid back. I’ll basically tinker with my bike a little, run to the grocery store, go for an easy ride, do some laundry, and generally relax and build excitement to get the season kicked off on Sunday.

January 3, 2014

Rouge Roubaix XV, the rest of it

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 8:12 am

If you haven’t been around long enough to know that I was hit by a car during the Rouge Roubaix road race back in March, then go read this post now: Rouge Roubaix XV

The insurance case with the driver is settled and closed now. So, I feel that I can tell the rest of the story without some skeezy insurance lawyer questioning my actions following some dumb b**** plowing into me from behind.

In the post about the accident, I left off at a girl hitting me, us gathering her information, and me going to the hospital. All of that happened. However, between getting her information and the trip to the hospital, there was a brief moment where I was laying on the ground, then on my feet, and being incredibly verbally abusive to the woman who’d hit me. I’m one of the least mean-spirited people you’ll ever meet, but I called her all sorts of names, and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

Then, I decided I wanted to try and finish the race. There were 40 something miles and two hard gravel sections left. Louise had passed Amy and I just before I decided to try and continue. I got back on my bike and got on Amy’s wheel, but realized in a couple of minutes that I needed to straighten my handlebars out. Amy stopped with me, but when I realized that I needed to use my multi tool in order to fix them, I told her to go on after Louise (I didn’t know if I could finish, anyway, and I didn’t want to jeopardize Amy’s race).

I rode alone, into the wind, for what seemed like an hour. I could see Amy in the distance until the turn into the next gravel section. It’d been 8 miles since the car had hit me, and, it was then when I hit the potholes and bumps of the gravel that I couldn’t bear the pain in my pelvis any longer and had to withdraw from the race. At that point, I thought that it was broken at my right sacroiliac joint, because the pain was not only radiating from there, it also felt as if my pubic symphysis was unstable.

You know the remainder of the story from there.

My recovery is still not 100%. Physically, my right SI joint still hurts, and the scarring of the muscle seems to be permanent… so my right butt cheek has a flat spot. When I sit wrong or go on long car rides, it takes a few steps to not limp because of it. Psychologically, I still have rare but persistent breakdowns when I’m frightened by drivers. I’m still angry at drivers who have no care for another human’s life. The insurance company took those things into account when paying “pain and injury” money to me, but that doesn’t make it go away.

The CAAD10 that I was riding at the time of the wreck has been revitalized as a weird bastard of spare parts I had around the house. The rear triangle was knocked out of alignment, so it’s off of “work” duty and now is a testament to riding bikes long enough to have a hodgepodge of parts in storage. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever ride it, but it goes a little like this…

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So, now you know the entire story. Here’s to not getting hit by a car again in 2014…

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