Hopefully, at least.

The forecast for the next 7 days- sunny w/highs near 70- seems like a dream after the cold/damp/snowy misery that’s been hanging around lately. With that, I can resume my short pre-work rides that I’ve been neglecting out of avoidance of frostbitten body parts.

This morning, I took the geared A9C out for a spin around the Tour de Wolf trail near my house. I’d forgotten just how freaking amazing that bike is- I fall in love again every time I ride, and I’m itching to race it! I’d also forgotten how beautiful it is to cruise singletrack faster than traffic can move on Walnut Grove Road (a major artery for traffic in/out of the suburbs). It’s a mix of happy and content that makes me feel very, very lucky…

Weekend in Training

Another kickass weekend of training…

Friday morning before work, I was awake at 4 something and in the trainer room for the circuit/interval hell workouts that I have started to love. Ryan went to the gym to lift, and made it back in time to take a photo…

Saturday, I had the go ahead from Coach to attend the Saturday Morning Worlds. The pace was perfectly fast. I got dropped from the lead group of 5 or 6 guys and worked my tail off with the main group just behind. After the store stop, things settled down quite a bit… I think mainly because Ryan was tired from the previous day’s lifting. Once we were home, I spent the remainder of the day chilling in my new compression tights.

(sorry… no photos…)

Today’s workout was the same as last Sunday’s- 5 hours of endurance-paced riding. It was windy, mild, and sunny- just a little touch of spring (though there were still some patches of snow along the road from our most recent “blizzard”). It was an excellent Crank Therapy day… I loaded a new playlist into my shuffle and headed out to sort through my head.

Thought of the day, courtesy of Albert Einstein: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I realized that in repeatedly trying to explain this concept to a friend during his recent relationship struggles that I, myself, was repeating a failing cycle of doing the same thing and expecting different results. Insane, I tell you!

After I figured that out, I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery…

You know you’ve got a “good” bike route when there is a coozy on the gas pump.

Snow Ride

Before the ride report, a preface…

I’m not gonna lie- I hate winter and everything associated with it. People ask me why I don’t want to live in Colorado or someplace cool like that. It’s because I have no desire to deal with cold, ice, and snow on a regular basis. When I tell people this, I usually get an “It’s OK, you just dress right and you’re comfortable!”

Let me tell you why this statement is not true for me.

For as long as I can remember back into my childhood, I’ve always hated the feeling of layers of clothes. I even had a whole process of straightening out my socks and toes in order for them to not feel “weird” inside my shoes. I didn’t wear anything but elastic-waistband pants until I was in 5th grade. As an adult, I can’t sleep if the sheets on the bed get too messed up under the comforter, and the feeling of having enough clothing on to restrict my movement even the slightest amount makes me want to throw things and punch holes in walls. So, NO, I’m not going to be “comfortable,” even if I do dress properly for cold weather.

With that being said, last night’s snow ride was UFCKING AWESOME!

Matt Robbins (who, in order to distinguish him from Matt McCulley, will hereafter be referred to as “Dickface” Matt because of an incident involving alcohol and a black marker), Kenny, and myself gathered at my house around dusk to have (the required by coach) beer and prepare to brave the cold and snow. I think the beer made me care much less about having to wear a metric crap-ton of clothing, so I’ll admit, I was comfortable. It was one of the few chances I’ve had this winter to use my Trail LED light. I gave it a go with the handlebar mount this time since we weren’t going to ride singletrack. That sucker is even brighter when it’s shining on snow!

We started out by heading to the Shelby Farms dog park. It was quite the experience to “find” the washed/rutted out spots leading through the park to the gravel road that goes to Patriot Lake. From there, we crossed Walnut Grove and hooked up with the new Wolf River greenline bridge and make our way down the Germantown Greenline back towards Germantown Parkway. Along the way on the Gtown side, we were warned by a robocop sounding motion detector that we were going to be photographed for riding on the greenline after dark. We waved.

Once we were back to Germantown Parkway, we crossed the Wolf River again (taunting cars along the way), and stopped at the liquor store, where Kenny bought a bottle of Makers Mark. Once we were back on the road headed home, Kenny had a spectacular sliding wreck in the middle of Walnut Bend and was closely followed by Matt, who had been riding directly behind him. We eventually made it back to the house, where we found the next door neighbor out in the street doing donuts on his moped.  I shot a little video, but I still haven’t figured out how to compress & upload it.

Back at the house, libations continued in front of the fireplace. I’m not sure if there’s any better way to finish off such a great evening of sliding around in the snow…

Snow Bike (Memphis Style)

We usually don’t get much snow around here, but this winter has been quite the exception. As a result, my training plan has undergone constant revision. Here’s the latest for today:

“Snow ride for fun! Put on snow pants, big coat, hiking boots (platforms and old bike not new cool plastic bike)Go ride around the park in the grass and work on skills sliding around down hills and through the trees. This is a fun recovery ride in Z1-2 and works best with beer;-)”

Since I’m not allowed to ride a plastic bike, I had to break out the Surly Crosscheck. Just to be awesome, I put some flat handlebars on it, and the largest tires that would fit:

Of course most snowbound individuals like a pugsly or other fatter-tired bike, but since this is Memphis, my bikes have to be multitaskers. I don’t own snow pants, but I’m sure I can find something that will work. We’re planning a post work night ride in the snow. The beer and flat pedals part is probably a good idea since I might die otherwise.

New favorite thing

Since I’ve had to learn to sleep on my back in order to keep my arms from falling asleep (see the TOS post if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I’ve been trying to figure out how to not wake up with a backache. The bed at the cabin has a sweet memory foam pad on top, and it’s always been comfortable, so I convinced Ryan to splurge on one. After a couple of hours of reading online information and reviews, I settled on this one: Sensus 3-inch, 5lb Mattress Topper

Oh, wow. It’s like an instant coma.

I still can’t sleep on my side, but I can sleep on my back now without my back hurting, so not only am I sleeping better, it’s helping to alleviate the daytime arm numbness I was periodically feeling when I was riding, working, driving, etc. Hopefully it will help heal everything back to normal.

The only downside is that it’s really, really hard to convince myself to get out of bed in the morning.

…highly recommended to anyone that loves sleep. Don’t waste time with the cheapie ones- go for density. This was one of the few I found in the 4-5lb range that actually weighed in at the correct weight for its stated density (in other words, customers who wrote reviews measured and weighed their pads in order to confirm that the foam was as dense as advertised. A lot of them don’t stack up). Lower density is overly soft and wears out faster. This one is definitely soft, but in a very supportive way (if that makes sense).

Yesterday, I rode for 5 hours. As soon as I was home and showered, I felt magnetized to the bed and ended up laying around watching the Superbowl pre-game BS until Ryan made it home from the Marx-Bensdorf team camp in Nashville. We went to El Mezcal, and I had some freaking awesome huevos rancheros before coming back home and vegging out while sort of watching the big game. I was in a training coma about halfway through the 4th quarter. Oops.

Crank Therapy

I was debating as to whether or not to post this because (to paraphrase my parents), sponsors and employers don’t want anything to do with someone who has “issues.” I’m taking a leap of faith here in assuming that those people understand that everyone has issues, and the act of posting about mine allows my growing blog audience to understand that the fight to try and be competitive at the highest levels of my sport  is, well, sometimes a fight.

The past few months have been mentally tough. I was experiencing a random, spastic carousel of mental states and attempting to level them out with copious amounts of beer. The one thing keeping me “sane” was getting the job in the Outdoors bike shop. I absolutely love, with every fiber of my being, being a bike mechanic. I spend most of my Sundays daydreaming about going to work on Monday. Also, having really great coworkers is icing on a really badass cake.

The past few months were a repeating cycle of  workdays followed by a somewhat uncontrollable desire to ingest alcohol. As of late, though, I’ve felt much better- more of a fun and gently undulating roller coaster of emotion (kinda like the old Zippin Pippin- the highlight of a trip to Liberty Land, the now closed amusement park lovingly dubbed “Six Flags over Orange Mound” by Memphis residents). I’ve traded triple corkscrews and loops for small highs and lows… I can deal with that. Heck, that feels pretty damn normal by my standards!

It took a minute to figure out why, but I’m reasonably sure that it’s the addition of higher training intensity into my pre-season program. Something about the perpetual tear down/recover cycle takes a bit of the edge off and makes a drinking binge seem much less desirable than when I was on a diet of endurance pace riding (not that I didn’t need that training- I sucked at it when I started, and have made some pretty nice improvements). I’m hypothesizing that it has something to do with brain chemistry.

So I’m currently feeling more “Andrea” than ever. Now that my fitness is really coming back, I am itching to get the race season started. I look forward to hard training days, and I relish in the tired/sore feeling that follows them… that’s the feeling that “fast” makes when it’s growing in your muscles.

Ode to Debbie Milne

You local roadie chicks (as well as non-locals, pros, and guys… she beats you, too, on occasion) know who I’m talking about.

Though, if you’ve raced against her, you would know her better from behind. She’s a master’s national RR champion, and she’s placed top 10 at Elite Road Championships, racing on her own, against full teams of pro women.

Why am I posting about Debbie Milne when I haven’t raced against her in over a year?

It all started yesterday. I had a very non-stellar circuit/trainer workout. Coach says if I don’t feel up to it today, I can push today’s trainer workout to Thursday and have the day off. I wake up this morning feeling tired and lazy, so I send out this tweet: “Thinking of postponing today’s trainer ride for tomorrow. I’m still beat from yesterday.”

Then, as I’m drinking my coffee and thinking about being lazy for the remainder of the day, I scroll through facebook, and see a post from The Milne: “Really really really dont feel like intervals tomorrow which means they are right on track……”

Why does this matter?

It’s like this- women’s road racing can be an intimidating place for a beginner. More often than not, the cat 4 (beginner) category races with all of the other categories. Unlike the men, who have the “benefit” of racing against people of  similar experience level, a woman could be lining up for her first road race against a seasoned pro.  If you’re not incredibly strong and fit, you get dropped. If you’re strong and fit, you do something dumb, get schooled, and get dropped. It’s trial by fire, and it will either make you a great racer or make you quit and resolve yourself to triathlons.

Ever since my first real road race (Mississippi Grand Prix, 2007), Debbie has administered more 2-wheeled beatdowns to me than any other person I race against. While other women in the peloton resolved themselves to riding for 2nd place when she showed up, I was chasing my ass off with the few others that didn’t take to defeat so easily. For some of us, we thrive on the thought that at some point, we might actually be able to catch her. It’s happened a couple of times.

My point? Ever since I started racing, every time I think about slacking off, I think about how Debbie is probably out riding a century, in the mountains, with all of her kids (and the dog), in a trailer behind her bike, never bothering to use the small ring. In the freezing rain. No disrespect for the women I race against now that totally kick my ass and train just as hard, but Debbie was the original “HTFU and TRAIN” person.

I could go on, but I have a trainer workout to do.


Ever have an epic-ly great series of days?

Friday- rode and fixed bikes in the morning, then I started cleaning the shop.
I realized that the floor was coated in years of grease, tire sealant, and dirt. It took a bottle of White Lightning Clean Streak, a scrub brush, and 5 water changes in the mop bucket, but by the time I was finished, the floor was freakin’ gorgeous. I went to Wal-Mart for a new trash can (the old one looked like a bike shop had puked in it). Once I was back, we didn’t have much of a chance to sit around and stare at the awesomeness of the clean shop because a young couple came in looking for two mountain bikes. They left with a Cannondale Trail Sl Women’s bike and the last of our Gary Fishers- the (carbon) Superfly Singlespeed. Somewhere along the way, the UPS guy delivered my missing rear brake. Hell. Yes.

After work, Ryan and I met up with some friends at Half Shell- The Warthogs. WTF is a Warthog? Quick history lesson:
I asked the same thing more than 5 years ago when I saw people in “Warthog” running jerseys at a local trail run. Then, I was introduced to the friendliest group of people you could possibly imagine. They were great company on the trail, and would eventually invite me out on my first bike ride. With their encouragement, I kept at it, and, well, the rest is, for the most part, in the pages of this blog. They’re the type of people that, no matter what you do with your life, they’re always happy to hang out and catch up over a couple of beers.

Saturday- The “implied consent” 2-a-day.
I could not make up my mind as to which workout to do, so I did both. The first was trainer/circuit insanity, much like the previous one, but this time, 100Kj intervals and no rest. After a shower and 2nd breakfast, I put the rear brake on A9C#2 and headed for a couple of hot laps at Herb Parson’s Lake.  I rode a little with co-worker Kenny and a couple of his friends, but had to put the pedal down a few miles into the first lap. The geared bike is a freaking ROCKET. I made it around 2x in exactly 90 minutes.
On the trip back, my mom called. She was making tacos for dinner, and Ryan & I were invited. Hell. Yes. (again) Nothing like not having to cook after a hard day of training… especially when you can fall asleep at the table, only to be awakened by the thump of a bowl of strawberry shortcake next to your head.

Also, I hit 7,000 blog views for the month of January- a new record. At the time of this posting, I’m at 7,103.

Sunday- 4 hours of endurance.
I wasn’t sure how the ride would go after the previous day’s rides, but it was spot-on. Ryan and I made 76 miles (he actually detoured near the end for a few extra miles/intensity) in a little over 4 hours. Power numbers for my endurance rides are steadily increasing. I’m starting to feel like it’s going to be a good season. Hell. Yes. x 11ty billion

Be careful what you ask for

I’ll be honest here- up until training camp, I was growing a little tired of the long zone 2 ride monotony. In his post-training-camp feedback, the Wizard mentioned that I should rest up, because the next training cycle would feature much more intensity. However, when I looked at the upcoming schedule, and it didn’t seem to change much- circuit training, long Z2 rides, recovery rides… hmmmm. I didn’t say anything, but I was wondering when the eye-bleeding workouts would start.

Then, he sent me a new circuit workout. Like the others, it was a warmup followed by 4 rounds of resistance exercises, but with a twist- near the end of each circuit, a 200Kj trainer interval.

For me, 200Kj translates to approximately 13-14 minutes of pedaling (do the math on that, ladies…)

It was intense.

I started out a little too hard on the first one and paid for it on the 2nd one. By the 3rd one, my legs were numb, and on the 4th one, I was digging into the darkest corners of my mind for thoughts that would drown out the screaming from my legs… mostly memories of any and all failures I’ve ever experienced on a bike. Nothing like polishing off a trainer workout by nearly making yourself cry. Hey, whatever works, right?

Just a warning- if you attempt this workout, make sure to get extra groceries. It will make you hungrier than a momma grizzly in the springtime.

The following day was another Z2 ride. It was tough to get the legs moving on that one, but it ended up being one of my better ones, wattage-wise. Once I was home, I felt drained, so I ate & sat around not doing much for the remainder of the day. It’s not for everyone, but personally, I love going down the training rabbit hole. On tap for this weekend, more/harder of the same…

In other “be careful what you ask for” news, I now have a mohawk. Yesterday, while waiting for the roads to dry out a bit, I actually went and paid for a haircut. I’ve been contemplating a ‘hawk for a while (even toying with a mini fro/faux hawk since my hair was getting longer), but didn’t want to go someplace and have a snooty hairstylist be like, “OMG, you’re so weird, and that’s a horrible hairstyle, let me do something totally different!” Lucky for me, I took the recommendation of a friend and went to a place called Dabbles in Midtown, where I doubt I could have asked for anything that was “too weird.”

The result- a gorgeous little fro-hawk. It’s quite androgynous, but, as long-time readers should know by now, I am secure enough in my straight womanhood that I don’t bind myself to any ideas of what’s “right/wrong” and/or “unacceptable”  for any particular gender. In the words of that trailer park chick from Jerry Springer, “Whatevah… I do what I want!”

If this post was too long for you to read, just google image search “Foul Bachelorette Frog” and have yourself a laugh or two. If you are my parents, a sponsor, or a mature, responsible adult, who is offended by female toilet humor, you should not do that.

There’s a name for that?

For about the last 6 or 7 years, I’ve occasionally had problems with my right arm falling asleep in odd situations- usually sleeping on it wrong or wearing a piece of clothing that is tight around the shoulder joint/collarbone area. Since I’ve started lifting weights and have grown more upper body muscle (which has been a pivotal part of training for singlespeed riding), it’s been happening a lot more. I can’t sleep on either of my sides without it falling asleep. It also falls asleep when I’m riding the trainer, occasionally when I’m on an actual moving bike, as well as in the aforementioned “odd situations,” but on a much more regular basis.

I mentioned this to my chiropractor on Monday, and he immediately said, “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.”

What? There’s a name for it?

Apparently so. There are websites for it, support groups for it, and surgery that involves removing the 1st rib to alleviate the pressure that’s being put on the nerves and/or blood vessels that are being compressed and causing the issues. It can also cause many of the other problems I’ve had such as sensitivity to cold in the fingertips and the problems with ulnar nerve pain and numbness.

He made some “adjustments” that he said might or might not help (hasn’t so far). The nice thing about my chiro is that he isn’t the type to swear off all forms of medical treatment for chiropractic treatment. If the adjustments don’t change anything, I’ll look to a different doc for help. I don’t want surgery. Hopefully some physical therapy and stretching can fix me.