Nostalgia and Pride

Those of you that have been reading for a hot minute may remember my brief but life-altering stint with the Metro Volkswagen Elite team out of Dallas. We had a 10 day training camp during which I redefined “physical limits,” and I met some very talented riders who shared my drive to rule the bike world. I only made it to a couple of races for the team, where I worked outside myself as a domestique before having the cycling equivalent to a nervous breakdown.
The team manager, Nathan, wasn’t the easiest person to deal with. When I’d first met him at the Tour of Arkansas, he had his hand in a cast… because he’d gotten mad and punched the metal team trailer, denting it and breaking his hand (you may also remember his punching through the back window of a Suburban during team camp). Anger management issues aside, he knew his shit when it came to race tactics, and, he’s one of the only people who has ever genuinely believed in my ability to ride a bike at a lever higher than what I’d even expect of myself. Not that any of my other friends/family doesn’t think I’m good, it’s just that their expectations don’t exceed my own, but his were, “you have the potential to be better than you think you can be.”

I still channel that expectation on a regular basis when I’m out training alone.

The riders I met while on the Metro team have generally scattered across the U.S. since the team exodus during the remainder of the 2009-2010 seasons. Though not all of them still bike race, through various social media outlets, I’ve watched them all be successful in whatever it is they’re doing. I’m not going to go through all of them and their achievements (that sort of post would take all day), but here’s the latest:

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Christian Helmig wins Luxembourg National Cyclocross Championship

 

It’s not an uncommon occurrence for any of my former teammates to win a national title or make it onto a pro team roster. Some have abandoned the pro ranks and gone on to do other things with a similar drive for success- everything from art to rock climbing to baby making. I’ve felt proud of them all at one point or another.

Move on…

I wasn’t going to post anything because I’ve tried to avoid the whole Lance/Oprah thing as much as possible. I’m not really going to talk about it. I just wanted to rant a little (surprise surprise) about the whole “sensation” stirred up on news and social media.

I don’t want to watch anyone’s downfall. I can’t relish in it. No matter how “bad” a person is, I’m not happy to see anyone fail, get thrown under a bus, be executed (figuratively or literally- talking all levels of bad here), or fall from any sort of grace. It doesn’t make me happy to see Lance Armstrong get any sort of comeuppance for actions or lies of his past. I feel uncomfortable when I see/hear people celebrating societal and/or physical revenge on someone.

Right now, I’m more concerned with the war on little black ants in my kitchen that’s now spilling over to my computer desk (before you say anything, yes, I feel bad when ants die, too, but I feel worse when I find one crawling on my arm while I’m typing). I’m more concerned with finding a suitable partner for PMBAR and Double Dare so I can enter the series for a chance to vie for the title of Queen of Pisgah. I am concerned with the two more days of hard training I need to complete before my WCCX taper starts- both a relief, because I’m exhausted, and a stress, because after Sunday, I’ve built what I can, and I can’t build any more. I have way too many things to keep me busy to mess with celebrating a confession that was pointlessly obvious in the first place.

Hey, everyone, I’m real sorry to have to tell you this, but I have a mohawk and more than one tattoo. I tried to cover it up forever, but I’m ready to come clean and admit my propensity towards bad hairstyles and permanent body art.

If you want to quit re-hashing the past and talk about something current, follow @lauren1717 on Twitter. She’s posted a lot of great links to articles about the current plight of women’s pro cycling.

Pisgah Calling

My experience with Pisgah riding is minimal- aside from 1.5 ORAMM races, I’ve never gone there. I’ve always had a few friends in the area, though, and I get to read all about their adventures via Facebook, blog, and oral history. It sounds like a fun place to ride- very much like Syllamo, except on a more grand scale.

I’d mulled over the idea of going to the Pisgah 111k instead of Syllamo’s Revenge. All of my Memphis friends go to Syllamo, and it’s my “home court.” However so, I feel drawn to the idea of a new race on unfamiliar trails. Then, to sweeten the pot…

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A series of Pisgah Productions races that includes Pisgah Mountain Bike Adventure Race,  Pisgah 111K M, Pisgah 55.5K, Pisgah Monster Cross Challenge, and Pisgah Double Dare (dates, etc. are on the Registration Page). It sounds like a bunch of fun, and the races fit into my schedule well.

The big thing that’s keeping my finger off of the registration button at the moment is lack of a partner for the two “Adventure Race” events (PMBAR and Double Dare). I would love to partner up with a local(ish) person for those two races so I could complete the entire series. I don’t have a preference of male vs. female partner as long as it’s a tough person. Tough can make up for a healthy dose of speed (though a combination of both would be nice).

If you (or anyone you know) would be interested, click on one of those social media links over in the right sidebar and let me know.

Bike for Sale/Training in the Rain

First off, I’ve posted it on Facebook, but I’ll put it here, too. I’m selling my Air9 Carbon CYA frame and RDO rigid fork. It’s out of total vanity- I want a Moondust color frame.

Air9 Carbon CYA Frame- I got this particular frame back in September of 2011, and I’ve had it set up singlespeed since then. The frame is a small, and includes headset bearings, eccentric bottom bracket, a PF90 insert (new in box), and shift upgrade kit. I included a pic of a scuff on the top tube where my brake lever hit it. Other than that, any other scratches are very minor.
Carbon RDO Fork- The fork is very lightly used. I trained on it a little over last winter (not much since I was getting ready for Worlds 2012 and mostly riding my CX bike), used it at Cohutta 100, then took it off. It probably has less than 200 miles on it (104 of those being Cohutta). The RDO fork has a tapered steertube and 15mm thru-axle.

Asking price $1100 for the set. If you’re just interested in one or the other, you’re welcome to make an offer, but I’m not quite as keen to make such a sweet deal on one as I am for both. How sweet is this deal? Well, retail on all of these things new is $2650 (frame/frame parts/fork). If you’re local, I’ll even drive it over to your house. Not local? We’ll work something out on the shipping…

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Over the weekend, the weather turned foul again, with more rain moving in and temperatures plummeting overnight Saturday. I found myself doing “hour of power” workouts in a downpour both days (in addition to some extra trainer time Sunday morning). The 40/raining ride wasn’t as bad as you’d think. It was a combination of not being out for an incredibly long time (1.5 hours) as well as having a good rain jacket and fenders. It was also the maiden voyage on my kickass Industry Nine tubeless road wheels, which automatically made everything at least 5% more awesome.

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The wheels really do kick ass. With tubeless valves and rim strips, they are exactly 1500g. If you’re looking for a reference, my Mavic Ksyrium SLS wheels were 1490g with valves. The most noticeable difference between the two? The I9 rim is HUGE. They make my CX tires ride more like a MTB tire, which is great for sliding around in the mud. I can’t wait to put them on my road bike once ‘cross season is over.

Sunday’s training in and of itself wasn’t the most fatiguing workout possible. However, the accumulation of all of the training I’ve been doing up until Sunday made me feel pretty exhausted. My legs were on fire inside my compression tights, and when I tried to use the foam roller, I felt almost nauseous. So, in lieu of rolling, I emptied everything ice-related from the freezer into my tub and took a 15 minute ice bath.

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The first 3 minutes is the worst. After that, it’s actually pretty relieving.

Today, the recovery efforts continue. I’m going to yoga in a little bit, going for a short, easy ride, then follow it up with food, rest, and another attempt at rolling the muscles out. If all goes as planned, tomorrow is another hard two-a-day. This week will be the hardest before training backs off into tapering the following two. I’m eager to get it done and get to racing.

A whole bag of awesome

Suddenly, a bunch of cool stuff just happened on the sponsor front.

Monday evening, I received an email from Gu Energy. I’d sent the application for sponsorship off a while ago and hadn’t heard back, so I’d started to wonder. What they have to offer is more generous than I ever would have imagined, so I’m incredibly stoked to be a part of the team.

Then, Tuesday morning, I got an email from Industry Nine. My road wheels are ready, and they’re gonna be here on Thursday! Riding along in the box with my wheels will be a shiny new Endless Bikes Kickass Cog- a gold 21t. Not that I’m not already lighting off fireworks in the kitchen out of excitement over my road wheels, but the thing I’m most excited about from I9 is the new mountain wheels that will be here in another month or so. Purple hubs, purple/black/gold spokes… yeah. It will be a dream come true if those get here before my post-worlds Syllamo trip.

To polish off the “great sponsors” trifecta, the UPS man dropped off a ProGold care package, courtesy of Bruce Dickman:

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The bike wash is magical:

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In other, totally random happenings, I woke up yesterday morning and found that I had a kitchen drawer full of little black ants. After 5 minutes worth of research on the internet, I ran to Lowes for some Terro ant bait. What happened next, I can only describe as the “ant rave of doom.”  They congregated by the hundreds in the drawer and gorged themselves on poisoned sugar syrup.

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This picture is from early on. It got way more intense as the day continued. Hopefully, this is the final battle in my ant war.

Kit!

Sometime near the end of the week, this will be here from Nimblewear:

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(Huge thanks to Micheal at S2N Design for the design)

Just in time for delightful onslaught of purple accessories to hit the market:

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That last one is the X-project shoe from Pearl Izumi. It would be perfect for racing CX, but it doesn’t exist in stores yet. According to the regional rep, I’m going to have to wait ’til March. All I’m missing now is a fresh pair of black Swiftwick Pursuit 4s (best sock, EVER) to tie it all together.

Since posting the proof on my Facebook wall, I’ve had a few people make mention of wanting a Brickhouse kit for themselves. Once I get it in and see the colors/fit in person, I’ll have a better idea of when/how I’ll do a run for people who would like to buy one. It would be a slightly modified graphic (I’m guessing no one will care if theirs doesn’t say “Wilson” on the collar), and I’d take a deposit for whatever items you wanted. Kits would get here 4-6 weeks after you order, and I’d send them out once I had all of your money.

Even if I’m not the fastest woman at Worlds, I’ll surely be the best dressed.

Speaking of fastest, my training this weekend went well. After a frigid morning ride on Saturday, I lounged on the couch until later in the afternoon, when I did some 20 minute intervals on the trainer. I know a lot of people detest the trainer, but I’m finding it to be a comforting pain cave. Versus riding outside, it’s easier to maintain a steady power output, and, when I’m done with my last interval, I can sit up and pedal at 50 watts to cool down while looking at Facebook on my sweet new iPhone versus taking the energy to ride home from the roads that I typically use for intervals. It’s also a lot easier to dress. Winter laundry = hamper full in two days.
Yesterday, I did ride outside. I did the “hammer time” interval workout, where I warmup for 15 minutes, ride hard for an hour, then cool down for 15 minutes. I was getting a little tired in the last 15 minutes… thankfully, my Worlds race is only 40 min long.

“The Rules,” a gentle reminder

The trails are pretty soaked in a lot of areas of the country right now, so a lot of you are taking to the road for your training. Or, maybe (like me) you always employ a good deal of road riding in your training. Or, possibly, you are a road-only person who just likes to read my blog. Whatever it is, you should realize that there are some “unspoken” rules to road riding- especially when it comes to group rides. I figured now is a good time to cover a few that I’ve seen severely violated in the past few weeks.

Follow these simple steps to avoid looking like a douchebag:
-Safety: this is pretty easy. Obey traffic laws. Be predictable. Look way ahead and avoid obstacles so that you never need to make a sudden maneuver. This also makes the entire ride more “elegant” because you aren’t constantly yelling and pointing at crap in the road. You just follow the person in front of you, and everyone avoids everything without excess chatter.
– Nothing says, “I’m insecure with my ability to handle wind” like bringing your TT bike to a group ride. The group ride is not for time trial bikes. You don’t ride time trials with a group, so save it for your solo rides. (exception- that’s your only bike, in which case, your elbows never touch the elbow pads unless you’re leading the group or off the back of the group.)
– Nothing says, “I’m insecure with my ability to not get dropped” like riding carbon wheels during a group ride. In fact, the heavier your wheels are, the faster you look (bonus “panache” points for 32+ spokes and/or 25c tires).
– Bring your own flat repair stuff. Know how to change a flat without flatting your new tube. Women- this especially applies to you.
– Shave your legs.
-If the temperature is <50 and you’re not wearing anything on your legs other than shorts and/or you wear summer gloves, you don’t look tough. You look dumb.
– The only form of (slightly) acceptable sleeveless jersey is a previous year’s team kit with the sleeves cut off. It may only be worn if you are at least a cat 3 road racer or cat 1 MTB racer, and only when the temperature is >90 deg F.
– Nothing says I DGAF about anyone like wearing headphones on a group ride. Yes, even one headphone.
-Know when to retire your shorts. Just because they don’t have holes in them doesn’t mean the person behind you can’t see the hairs of your asscrack once you start to sweat.
– There will be one or more “senior,” well-respected, “been around forever” members of the group ride who will tell you if you’re riding in an unpredictable or otherwise incorrect manner. Whether you like what that person says or not, shut up and do what he or she says. The only time you talk back to this person is to thank them for the help/advice. I can’t stress how terrible you look when you mouth off to someone who has been racing bikes since before you were chasing cheerleader tail in high school. You know how bad kids look when they talk back to their parents and act like brats? It’s like that, except that you’re a grown man. Respect your elders. Some day, if you’re lucky, you might earn that status. ‘Til then, shut up.

Addendum: I know a lot of riders who put in big miles. That’s great if that’s your thing, but if your goal is to win road races, and you’re a cat 4 or 5, your races are nowhere near as long as the century rides you like to brag about on facebook every weekend, and they’re a helluva lot faster, too. Nothing wrong with just enjoying a full day of riding a bike at all, just don’t tell yourself (and everyone else) that’s it’s getting you prepared for the first 35 mile road race of the season.

Now, go out, ride hard, and get fast.

Feed the Ego, Starve the Soul

I’m not entirely compelled to write a “New Year’s” or “I rode 6500 miles last year, blah blah blah” post here, seeing as I don’t really celebrate any holidays (it’s not just Christmas- I’m an equal opportunity grinch). I just don’t see the point in getting really drunk and staying up late in the name of “celebrating” the fact that, for at least the next 3 weeks, I’ll be writing the wrong date on any and everything. I’m just really glad that the holiday crap is all over now, people are going back to work, and thus, fewer crowds will be in the roads and stores that I need to use in order to successfully navigate my day.

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Since I last posted, things have been quiet around the house. I managed to ride outside some, though the weather has stayed pretty terrible. The thermometer is chronically stuck at 40 degrees, and I think I’ve seen the sun about twice in the last week. Luckily, one of the trails near my house is very sandy, so it drains well, and can usually be ridden after about 48 hours of drying (yeah- “drains well” is pretty relative. 48 hours is fast for Memphis winter trail drying time).

Yesterday, Ryan and I went out for a 3 hour road bike death march. No matter how fit you are, if all of your most recent rides are filled with intervals and <1.5 hours, riding steady for 3 hours at a more aerobic pace will make you ache all over. During the course of the ride, I swore off all future attempts to try and ride with anyone male unless I’m planning on riding at a pace that’s n+10% harder than what I’m planning on implementing (attempts to road ride with other women are sworn off by proxy since I found out that all Memphis women who are fit/competitive apparently dislike me). I digress.

It seems like every time I go for a ride with one or more other people (Poolboy Matt excluded), someone feels compelled to break Rule #86. Instead of just chilling the eff out and enjoying the simple fact that he’s riding a bike, this person needs to prove to everyone else that he’s faster. Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, it’s not impressive. It’s obnoxious (especially since the situations I’m thinking about right now involve guys who I’ve raced against/beaten within the last year).

I’m not swearing off group rides by any means, I’m just changing my expectations from, “let’s go out and enjoy riding bikes,” to something more along the lines of, “if I ride with someone else, it is because I’m looking for a pissing contest.”

Enough ranting for now. Worlds training is chugging along, and the next 4 weeks and 1 day should prove to be some of the most challenging. Every day seems to take forever, but the weeks seem to fly.

 

Next Stop, Louisville

Prior to the State Championship Cyclocross race, I was training pretty hard for cyclocross (yeah, I know, seems like an obvious statement), but I wasn’t totally “set” on gunning for another try of the Master’s World Championship in late January. Something about winning the State race finally made it click, though.

The weather sucks pretty bad right now. We had a great run of nice weather up until early this week when the cold snow/rain started. Now, the extended forecast is pretty Belgian. Think I’m just trying to be Euro-cliche?

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So, I’ve been on the trainer. The weather-bourne necessity of riding a trainer is something that makes or breaks racers. If you blow off workouts, you don’t get faster. It’s as simple as that. While you’re skipping interval day because (like yesterday) it’s 35 degrees and raining all day, your competition is doing this:

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I put my headphones in, crank the Swedish House Mafia/Glitch Mob station on Pandora, and stare at the World Championship colors until the stripes burn into my retinas.

Along the same line, I was getting my latest ink worked on at No Regrets on Thursday, and told Joe (my artist) about the upcoming race. After a little brainstorming, we decided that if I win some stripes, he’ll fill the bottom flower of my half sleeve in the World Championship colors…

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So, motivation has been found. Big time. In the next 5 weeks, I’m going deep into the rabbit hole of lactic acid and blurred vision, and hopefully finding the podium on the other side.

In Defense of Hike-A-Bike

With Ryan out of town visiting family and Poolboy Matt off work for Christmas, we decided to make a quick pre-Christmas trip to Syllamo. Rather than the usual trail riding, I convinced Matt to join me in exploring a couple of off-trail paths that looked as if they were once “roads.” During the course of both Saturday and Sunday rides, we ended up pushing our bikes for slightly upwards of 20 minutes in order to navigate steep, overgrown, and/or deadfall-covered terrain. Matt (bless his heart) did his best to stay positive, but I could tell that he wanted to stab me in the neck with a chainring.

This brings me to my main point of this post- why are so many people so bothered by hike-a-bike???

It seems like most riders (I’ve heard it from everyone- average joe to all-out pro) hate traversing/climbing/pushing/carrying over less ride-able terrain. Why? Short of things like yellow jackets, wasps, and belligerent motorists, I can’t wrap my head around the concept of hating anything during a mountain bike outing.

In less than 1 minute, I came up with this list of 10 things worse than hike-a-bike:
– Root canal
-Rush hour traffic with lots of angry commuters
-Being late to anything
-Overcooking a really nice cut of meat
-Air conditioner out of order in the Summer
– Running out of anything important on Christmas day and all of the stores are closed
-Desk Jobs
-Homelessness
-Fast Food
– Listening to people argue politics

See? You could be experiencing any one of those things (among others), but instead, you’re out in the woods with your bike. How can that possibly be bad? (unless yellow jackets or wasps are involved) It’s like listening to road racers complain about wind or a hill or something… it’s just a “thing” that comes with the territory. Embrace it.