Training Camp 2011: Day 3

Yesterday morning, I rolled in to town to make a WalMart run and to meet up with Nate, Sue, Tim, and Collin, who had been driving all night from Virginia. They made it in sometime around 9:00, and we stopped at the Country Time restaurant for some breakfast before heading up to the cabin.

Since everyone was prettymuch a  road zombie, they unpacked a little and took a nap.

I figured that the orange and green trails were a good sampling of Syllamo terrain, so we hit those for a late afternoon ride (as you can see in the photos, the light is pretty low by the time we reached the green trail overlook). Amazingly enough, even after yesterday’s 5 hours of trail time, I felt really good (with the exception of one slip/fall on a slick rock at the end of the green loop. OW)

P.S. The top of the Cedar Scrappy climb on the orange trail is no longer to be considered “hike-a-bike”… at least by anyone with a granny gear.

Training Camp 2011: Days 1 and 2

Day 1 was relatively easy. Since Matt didn’t have to work this weekend, he followed me up for a couple of days of riding.  We got on the trail around 1:30 and rode the orange loop. My prescribed workout for the day was 2 hours with various intensities, so we headed up Green Mountain Road for a little more climbing & saddle time. Afterward, some friends came over & hung out for a couple of sunset beers at the cabin.

This morning, we planned to meet up with Memphis friend Forrest Owens and ride almost all of the Syllamo’s Revenge course. However, Forrest had to get home earlier than previously thought, so we re-tooled our plan to just the yellow and blue trails from Blanchard Springs. I quickly realized, though, that I wasn’t feeling the pace that the guys were pushing, so when I caught up to them, I offered to let them go so I could ride longer, and at my own pace. They ended up with 2.5 hours, and I rode the remainder of the trail solo. Matt was nice enough to meet me at the Hwy 5 trailhead with water then pick me up on Green Mountain Road once I was around the loop. Final ride time was 4 hours, 56 minutes (including various food/photo breaks).

I try to ride at least one more technical section every time I’m on the trail. Today was no exception, though I did manage to wreck a few extra times (all were generally slow-speed, but left me with some extra bruises). Riding in solitude gives you a lot of quality time with your own self doubt and personal fears. Singletrack therapy is your friend…

Training Camp 2011

The past couple of years, a winter training camp has been an easy proposition since I was teaching and had about a month (paid) off of work. Since I’m working a job with a more “traditional” schedule, I hadn’t put much thought into trying to take a few days to dig myself into a bit of a training hole at the cabin. However, I’d stayed in touch with Nate (aka “Gorgeous” from the Shenandoah 100), and he asked if I’d be interested in showing him and some friends around the Syllamo trails for a day or two.

Hell yeah, I’d love to! Who are your friends?

Sue Haywood and her husband boyfriend.

Holy isht, Sue Haywood? She’s like, a total badass!

I was excited to hear that. Then, I got kinda nervous. It’s going to be a kinda nuts to play tour guide to someone who is such an awesome bike racer. Yes, I’m somewhat starstruck. It should be a good time, though. The rock gardens should be scared.

So, I took a couple of days off of work, and, since I don’t normally work weekends or wednesdays, will have  a nice little 5-day brick for some trail riding. Maybe I’ll finally learn how to ride wet rocks…

Dear Alessi Sea Salt,

I have a sea salt grinder that I like(d). Originally, it was not refillable, but I drilled a hole into it and use(d) a funnel to refill it with coarse salt such as what’s shown in the photo below. I was just wondering if that is that a natural Mediterranean rat turd, made naturally from the sea and sun? Because if it was a standard American salt mine rat turd, I’d be very upset.



Help my face…

I normally limit my vanity to matching accent colors between various parts of my bikes, but something’s been bugging me lately, and after much frustration with shopping on my own, I’ve decided to turn to my faithful readers for help. Though, most of you could stop reading now and not miss anything that you’re interested in. Hopefully, not all of you.

As of late, I’ve been noticing that my skin is starting to show signs of discontent and age. It’s dry, and I’ve got “smile lines” around my eyes. I’m not the type to be drug kicking and screaming into my next birthday- quite to the contrary, I’ve always said that I can’t wait until I’m older so I can be fast. However, that doesn’t mean that want to see it on my face if there’s a reletively easy way to prevent it.

My mom has gorgeous skin for her age (>50, <70), as does her mom. Unfortunately, I’ve not been blessed with either their genetics or their disdain for prolonged outdoor activity in extreme conditions. As a result, my mom’s skincare advice of “daily vasaline application” doesn’t really help. She also mentioned Oil of Olay. So, I looked at that stuff in the store. First off, it’s got the marketing prowess of bodybuilding supplements, which automatically sets off my BS detector. Second, I can’t pronounce most of the ingredients on the labels. Call me paranoid, but that makes me somewhat uneasy. Third- it’s expensive. Which, I honestly don’t mind too much about as long as I know I’m getting something that will actually “moisturize, reduce fine lines, and increase skin’s radiance” without causing some odd form of chemically-induced cancer by the time I’m 90.

With that being said, who can help? Ladies- any of you have a favorite? Men- anyone’s girl/wife got something she swears by? Comment away.

3 Days?

It’s been 3 whole days since my last post, and nothing of interest has happened.

-A9C #2 is still chilling in a box in the entry hall of the house, my SRAM XX order still hasn’t arrived, and, even if it did, I’m waiting on a backordered BB30 insert from Niner, so no building can occur until those planets align.

-I haven’t had any alcohol since Sunday. I’ve found that I can either be drunk or bipolar, and being drunk makes me fat.

– Thor kitty gains at least half a pound a day, and he is becoming quite the lap-cat. It’s time for him to get the snip, too.

– Any of you living further north than Memphis can stop reading right now. It’s supposed to get down to 7 tonight, then snow several inches tomorrow night. The grocery stores are absolute mayhem right now, and I think a few cars have already slid off the road. I F*CKING HATE WINTER. Hopefully the weather is more cooperative next weekend when I’ll be heading over to Syllamo for the 2011 edition of training camp.

– I can’t wait to have some sweet potato chili tomorrow for dinner. Gonna put it in the crock pot before we go ride a few laps of the Herb Parson’s trail. It should keep up warm & fed until everything thaws out and life can resume as “normal”

Looking Ahead

It’s less than 2 months until the first race of 2011 (Southern Cross). I’ve had a personal vendetta for that race ever since the 2009 edition where I experienced one of the biggest failures of my racing career by losing 1st place to Carey Lowery in the last seconds of the race (a combination of bad pacing, bad nutrition, bad motivation, and bad bike handling). Last year, I was able to pull off a win, but Carey was not there, and she then proceeded to have one of the most prolific race seasons of her life. Would I have beaten her? I’m sure you could find people that would argue either way, but mostly you’d find people that would ask, “Who the Hell are Andrea and Carey, and what is Southern Cross?”

I digress.

As of late, I’ve been focusing on building aerobic endurance- a quality that I’ve not spent much time on in the past other than the occasional long ride (which would inevitably contain large chunks of time NOT focusing on an endurance pace). It’s the classical “base building” that I conveniently skipped in the past because before mountain bike racing, I was racing for 2-3 hours at the most. I could go into the physiology of it, but I’ve kind of enjoyed NOT getting into the physiology of anything lately. It’s driven me a little crazy at times, but I’m hoping for payoff in the upcoming months.

The season starts off a little slow- Spa City 6 hour in March, then the Ouachita Challenge April 3rd, then nothing on the calendar until April 30th, when the NUE Series kicks up with the Cohutta 100 (after that- destruction!) I’m still on the fence about racing the Ouachita course Singlespeed. Only one other female singlespeed competitior is registered, and there’s a slew of “women’s open” competitors. On one hand, I want to support singlespeed racing, but on the other, Ouachita isn’t that great of a singlespeed course because of several miles of flat/rolling forest road. If I want to “chase” the fast women, it would be advantageous to have gears in order to play to my strengths. What does the studio audience think?

I’m hoping that other NUE races besides Cohutta and Breck add the women’s singlespeed (hereby referred to WSS) category. It’d be a dream for WSS to be its own category in the NUE Series. My recommendation to the NUE gods- make WSS a category. Being the only woman dedicated enough to chase points on a singlespeed, I’ll win by default, then other, faster women will be all like, “oh, she just won by chasing points, no one fast raced that category,” and I’ll be all like, “yeah, then maybe you should race singlespeed and beat me,” and then they’ll be all like, “maybe I will,” and I’ll be all like, “bring it on, gearie!” and then… well, you get the point.

With Cohutta, Syllamo, Mohican, Breck, Fool’s Gold, and Shennandoah,  I’ve got plenty of races to get NUE points (only the 4 best are counted). April/May/June will be pretty packed, but after that, there will be larger gaps between the A races, and I’m not yet sure if I want to fill those with training or more racing. I originally wanted to go to the Breck Epic, but I likely won’t find the disposible income for it, and I feel I should be a lot faster before I hit sponsors up for that type of cash. It’ll probably be last minute additions as I get bored with weekends in Memphis.

Speaking of geared bikes, I received something black and white and carbon all over in the mail yesterday. Now I’m just waiting on other hardware from the likes of SRAM in order to start putting it all together. This one will take a little more parts-gathering time than the previous build, but I’ll post it once it’s up & ripping.

2011 Sponsorship Rundown

I’ve been relatively quiet on the sponsor front because I’ve had a couple of things in the works. As you may (or may not) know, my 2009/2010 road team was Marx-Bensdorf (local elite team). The ladies were great. If I were to road race again in 2011, I’d would have loved to race with them. However, the team management was not willing to sponsor my mountain bike pursuits (don’t get me wrong- they’re on top of the road game, and adding MTB to the mix would likely complicate things. No hard feelings towards them at all). That being my main focus and top priority, I had to look elsewhere.

Luckily, about the time I went searching, I also found my awesome job at Outdoors, Inc. This is an excellent on two fronts- I get a lot of products at a discount very similar to what I’d get if I’d propositioned each individual company,  and the store has also had a USA Cycling registered team for about as long as I’ve been alive. A couple of phone calls and breakfasts later, and I’ve got myself additional backing from the shop I love. So- new, big sponsor #1- Outdoors, Inc.

You might also have noticed that I’m a big fan of Niner bikes. It just so happens that they’ve got an amazing grassroots program, which they are graciously allowing me to partake in. Hell. Yes. So- new, big sponsor #2- Niner Bikes grassroots racing program.

There might be a little shuffling around of the individual companies you see on the right. Some of them are products that kick ass (like Trail LED, Raxter, and Stuffits) that Outdoors doesn’t carry (and that I generally like better than comparable products that Outdoors does carry). Others are covered under the Outdoors “umbrella,” so they’ll get absorbed by the benefits of working in a bike shop. As always, stay tuned…

New Year’s Weekend at Syllamo

Getting tired of reading about Syllamo yet? It’s prettymuch a way of life in the wintertime- the creek is low, the leaves are getting packed in, and the rock gardens are always prime. I had set my alarm for 5am New Year’s Day so I could get moving to meet up with Ryan & Matt, who’d left the previous morning since they hadn’t had to work. However, I ended up awake at 3am, so I decided to get out of bed and go early.

The non-existence of traffic at 4am is wonderful.

I arrived at the cabin sometime around 7:30, had 2nd breakfast, and we were on the trail around 10. We started out on the yellow trail (hadn’t done that one in a while), and moved on to the blue trail. We were all on singlespeeds (32×21 is a good gear out there. Matt brought a 32×20, but was willing to “compromise his sexual integrity” for a 21t) Ryan destroyed climb after climb (and had a flat or two) while Matt killed the rock gardens. I was somewhere in the middle.

Ride time was somewhere around 4 hours. Matt and I (both on rigid forks) were feeling pretty beat up by the time we reached the final climb up from highway 5. Back at the cabin, it was a battle for hot water when everyone hit the shower at the same time. The remainder of the evening was spent eating pasta, grazing on Oreos, and drinking beer (though, I didn’t partake of the Natural Light). Matt pretended that he was Burt Reynolds (you’ll have to find that one in the gallery below)

Sunday morning, everyone was moving slowly. The mood was vaguely reminiscent of the long-ago Metro Volkswagen training camp where we’d all wake up exhausted, but no one would admit that he or she didn’t feel like getting on the bike and riding like hell. The guys weren’t feeling anything epic, so we stuck to the green and orange trails, which took a little less than 2 hours. I decided somewhere on the green trail that I was going to ignore all pain from the previous day and channel the Honey Badger. I bombed down a couple of the Orange trail descents, which was good for figuring out what was possible with the rigid fork (though possibly not so good for the wheels I just built. The damage gets surveyed today). The moved earned me exhaustion and a random nosebleed.

There are still parts of the trails that kick my butt, and sections that make me walk, but those are getting fewer and further between.

2010 Stuff that Sucked

This is actually a kinda hard list to make, because I generally have a good handle on what I like as far as equipment goes. However, disappointments do happen…

Sidi Shoes: Ok, this should really be last year, but it’s worth mentioning that the tread on SIDI shoes is much akin to plastic. Sure, they are high quality, rebuildable, etc, but if you ride on rocky stuff like Syllamo, then these shoes fail the hike-a-bike test. Unless you’re a baller who never walks (like Dicky), look elsewhere.

Quarq Powermeter: I hate to bash on a company with great customer service, but this thing has done nothing but bother me since I got it. The calibration is really sensitive to temperature, so any time you’re riding in a rapidly changing environment (spring/fall/trainer room), you have to stop and re-calibrate often. And yes, I tried the auto-cal feature in that situation, and it wasn’t effective. I sent it back twice (both times, the turnaround was SUPER fast- like I said… great customer service), and it seems to generally work OK now (outside of the aforementioned temp swings), but I just don’t feel like I can trust it like I did my SRM. This is confirmed by the computrainer that we just got. Its readings are always right on with Ryan’s SRM, but always 10-30 watts over what the Quarq readings are.

Hayes Brakes: I haven’t used these, but Ryan has a pair that came on his Felt 9Solo. The brake pads fall out when the wheel isn’t on the bike. Also, I’ve talked to a pro (who shall remain nameless) that had a major problem with Hers at one of the last big, humongous races of the year. Luckily, when you’re that much of a badass, you don’t have to rely on little things like brakes to still destroy everyone.

Giordana Shorts: I blew the seams out in 2 pair this season. Nothing like riding 72 miles of the Breck 100 with your inner thighs hanging out and rubbing your saddle.

VALIC Investment company: Yeah, it seems random, but it’s who was “in charge” of my retirement account from the University of Memphis. Apparently, once you get over a certain amount of money in your account, you can’t withdraw it to move it to another investment company. I’m trying to move my retirement funds to Vanguard. VALIC has some of my money invested in a Vanguard fund, but since it’s not a company that’s “approved” by U of M/VALIC, I can only get half of it. The remainder will be moved in small monthly installments so that VALIC can keep making money off if it. It’s a bunch of bureaucratic bullsh*t, and I let them know that the last time I talked to them, and I’m telling everyone I know… including the internets.

The iPad: Ryan is obsessed with it, and it probably gets handled by him more than I do.

Chamois Butt’r: It dissolves within half an hour of riding. Sure, it’s nice to be able to wash it out of a chamois, but let’s take a look at basic chemistry here- chamois butt’r (as well as a lot of other “chamois” products) is water soluble. Sweat is made out of water. When you ride, you sweat… hopefully you can figure out the rest.

Motobecane Bikes: Once again, I haven’t ridden one, but I’ve worked on them. Just a word of advice if you’re thinking about buying one- when you unbox one, there will be missing parts, parts that are incredible heavy/sketchy, wheels that aren’t true… you get the idea. Go to a bike shop and get a real bike that wasn’t assembled in a sweatshop.

Trek Madone: Too light for its own good. Scott and Cannondale can make super-light rides that are stiff and lively… what happened to the Madone?? After riding it and the BH back-to-back, I realized that it had no soul (even moreso than I).

This is all I can think of right now… I generally focus on the things I love, so trying to remember the ones I don’t is kinda difficult. I’ll keep adding, though.