I’m banned from training for 2 more days (after today), so I played photographer today while Poolboy Matt did some gnarly BMX stuff at Stanky Creek…
May 22, 2012
May 21, 2012
Syllamo is a wild, brutal trail. It’s hard on your equipment, your body, and your mind.
Since Wednesday this week, I’ve been out at the cabin riding a little and relaxing a lot. I spent a lot of time hanging with Amanda Carey and hoping that some of her pro fast-ness would rub off on me. She makes a mean bowl of food…
Aside from short pre-rides (during which, we discovered the trail was viciously overgrown in some areas), we spent most of our time watching hummingbirds
Or, just generally kicking back and enjoying the sunset
The last few weeks have been tough… for reasons still under speculation, I didn’t experience my usual speedy recovery following the Cohutta 100. I was feeling somewhat better last weekend, and I figured that I’d be 100% back on point with a few days at the cabin participating in the aforementioned activities.
However, yesterday morning, I felt as if I had a subconscious aversion to the race. First, I forgot stuff at the cabin… extra water bottle, extra sports bra, and, oh yeah… MY SHOES. Luckily, Ryan (racing the 50 miler, which started an hour later), was able to bring them to me. It was as if a ghost didn’t want me to get on my bike, and could only barely grasp at me like that transparent ghost hand in the movies.
The race start was as it always is- a drag race up the 3/4 mile Blanchard Road climb to the entrance of one of the more technical sections of singletrack. By not being on a granny gear up the climb, I was able to be with some slightly more technically-abled riders once we hit the yellow trail
The riders I was around were generally alright… however, I felt a strange malaise about my placing in the pack. A few miles in, Brenda passed me on a rare doubletrack climb. I felt indifferent. I sort of picked up my pace to follow, only to realize that I just didn’t feel like a battle. At that point, I figured I’d just go for a long ride and, based on my general good fitness and riding ability, it’d all turn out pretty good.
That worked alright until about 3 hours in when I reached the long climb from up the blue trail from the highway to Green Mountain road. Even though I was doing everything “right” as far as pacing and nutrition, I started to feel overly-fatigued as I hiked & ground my way up the hill. I ended up walking a good part of the climb that I’d normally ride. Not really sure what was wrong with me, or why I was feeling much more exhausted than what I’d normally expect at that point in a race, the urge to drop out started to creep into the back of my mind.
The hardest racing condition in the world is not a physical condition- If your mind doesn’t want you to race, you’re dealing with something much worse than any bad weather, injury, or difficult terrain.
I crept my way up to the 3rd aid station to grab some fresh bottles and get onto the red trail. Up there, I was greeted by Steven from Texas (a.k.a. Dude Brah) who had broken his chainring early in the race and forced to drop out. He asked me how I was doing, and I just told him it wasn’t a good day. He gave me several cups of ice cold coconut water and a quick philosophical talk about how I could appreciate a bad day because it brings about self awareness. He was probably a little stoned, but it gave me something to think about for the first few minutes of red trail. It was getting hot- probably around 90 degrees.
Then, my brain started to go. I was spacing out and losing awareness of time and space- other than “red trail,” I didn’t really know where I was or how long I’d been riding. I recognized the feeling, and, coupled with how I’d felt up the blue trail, it all made sense- I was bonking my ass off. How? No idea… I was eating and drinking how I have successfully in the past. I wasn’t necessarily riding any harder than usual. My legs began to complain and feel pre-cramp-ish.
Somewhere along the trail, I made a deal with myself: if I started to get full-blown leg cramps before I started the 2nd lap, I’d drop out.
That didn’t happen. I passed the “drop out” point and started back onto the Yellow trail. I was the tiniest bit happy to see that my “50 mile” lap time was right at 5 hours and 30 minutes… not that bad, actually. I was bonkish and overheated, but I decided at that point that the only way I was leaving the trail before crossing the finish line was by paramedics and a stretcher.
There’s something really creepy about the second lap on the yellow trail during the 125k. You see lots of evidence of lots of riders, but hardly ever an actual, live person. The couple of guys I did see were in pretty rough shape (how someone could be worse off than I was and still out there, I have no idea, but they were). Every time I’d get a little anaerobic, I’d feel like puking, so I walked up a lot of the steep/rocky stuff. I tried to go back into the bonk cave in my head so that I would be less aware of how slow I was moving, but instead just hung in a limbo of altered overheated consciousness.
It took forever, but I finally made it to the last rock garden and climb out to the “easy” part of the yellow that looped back to the final lap of the red trail. I knew I was going to make it. At the aid station, I put fresh water in my bottles. The Roctane I’d been drinking wasn’t sitting well, and I was afraid that it could be turning sour in the afternoon heat and sun. A half mile into the trail, I found a pocket-sized bottle of Elete drops. I stopped and put it into my water. Later on in the trail, I shared it with some 50 mile guys who were sitting at a road crossing, trying to get the energy to continue on.
There’s a point about a mile from the end of the red trail where you pass through two pine trees. It’s a narrow spot- the only one like it on the trail. From there, you climb a tiny bit and you’re done. I wanted to stop and hug the trees when I saw them.
So, I finished. 8:50something on the clock- more than 30 minutes slower than last year. I still finished 5th.
I’m mentally and physically wrecked right now. Coach and I are trying to figure things out, starting with 4 days off. It’s not really clear if I’m suffering from a simple lack of recovery, a lack of recovery due to something physiologically wrong, or a simple need to HTFU and ride harder. It’s never immediately clear. I hate being here at this point in the season, but it’s where I am, and, when I eventually rise up and overcome, I’ll chock it up to a learning experience, and it won’t happen again.
May 14, 2012
I almost forgot… Last Wednesday, I raced the final installment of the Tiger Lane Criterium races. Once again, I lined up as the solo woman with the Cat4 men. As previously mentioned, my recovery from Slobberknocker/Cohutta was questionable, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel for the crit.
From the gun, the pace was very slightly more subdued than the previous race. My strategy was to stick near the first few wheels and only attack if it seemed like a good idea. I did just that until about 15 minutes in. A small group of riders had drifted off the front, and I’d decided it wasn’t my place to chase them down. As the teams chased them back, the planets of the counter-attack galaxy aligned: we sped up behind the caught riders just as we reached the long-side stretch of headwind. Almost instinctively and involuntarily, I slingshotted out of the draft and attacked full force into the wind. I had a gap and one other rider with me- Jon, a young Memphis Velo guy.
It was early in the race, and neither of us had a teammate in the field. I knew that we were doomed to be caught, but I was at least going to put on a show before it happened. I like racing aggressively. While it’s not always successful against a bunch of guys, I figured it’s good practice seeing as it’s been a good strategy for me during women’s races in the past.
We were out for a couple of laps before the announcer called a prime. The field was bearing down on us, and I told Jon to sit up and get ready to be caught. He took that a little too literally and nearly stopped while I tried to back off just enough that it’d be easy to absorb smoothly into the group. As a result, as they caught him, I was rounding the final turn before the start/finish, staring down the barrel of an obtainable prime. I sprinted for it. Keegen Knapp, a rider from Arkansas, jumped out of the group after me and took the prime by half a bike length (he later claimed that he thought I was on the attack again since the group had sat up). It’s ok… I didn’t really need a pair of men’s designer shorts from Oak Hall.
I re-absorbed successfully and maintained my safe spot in the front of the group. Eventually, the last few laps were called. Some BPC guys attacked and got away. Once again, I decided it wasn’t mine to chase. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by other BPC guys, and the guys who should chase were slow to react. I sat in and watched the scramble until, on the last lap, when we turned into the wide headwind section where I’d previously attacked. The guys were trying to imitate a pinball machine, and I decided I wasn’t in the mood to mix myself into the melee of cat 4 men. I pulled safely out of the group. Once the main field was clear, I solo-ed in ahead of the guys who had been previously dropped.
Training crit success.
The following day, I attempted a long ride. My legs argued with me, and I had to turn home early. I started getting worried that I was in an insurmountable hole of fatigue. I’ve eaten well and recovered well since then, but Coach and I are suspicious that I might have problems getting enough iron into my blood. Whether it’s diet-related or physiology related is yet to be decided, but, for now, I seem to be feeling well by eating iron-rich foods. Whatever it is, I’ve felt a lot better the past couple of days, and I had a great interval session yesterday. If things keep going like this, I’ll be ready to break cranks at Syllamo on Saturday.
May 13, 2012
Yesterday, most people who came through the store were Mother’s Day shopping. As a result, the most common question was not, “what bike should I get?” but more “do you think my wife will like this shirt?” No, I think your wife would like it if you expressed your love and gratitude for her on a random day of the year OTHER than one created by greeting card companies.
I did have a customer come in for a new wheel. She’d tacoed her old one, so I set her up with something a little more stout. Inside her tire, I discovered what had to have been the world’s largest Stan’s Ball.
Later, I worked on Ryan’s Speed Concept time trial bike. It was engineered by someone who hates mechanics. Maybe “hate” is not a strong enough word… more like “vendetta”… as if a mechanic had killed his/her family and dog, so he/she went to engineering school, learned about bikes, and created this particular frame as a method of revenge.
I switched his brake levers out from a set of SRAM levers to a special set of Bontrager ones. They essentially were forced to create a barrel-adjuster style brake lever in order to overcome the shortcomings of the brakes themselves. The only way to adjust the pad width without the special levers is to remove a fairing and swap out the spacer washers from behind the brake shoes. After I removed the base bar to route the front cable and spent an hour or so arguing with the rear brake, the final step of the process is to replace the cable cover on the top of the base bar. The only problem is, the cables themselves are in the way of attaching the cover, so I had to devise a way to hold them down while I installed the cover bolts:
Speaking of shop… there’s a new shop kit. It’s… colorful.
At least I’ve got something a little more subdued for when I don’t want to look like a quilt:
May 11, 2012
Terriers are awesome. At 12 years of age, Indy still pursues the elusive mole… sometimes in the confines of the empty compost bin
May 9, 2012
No, really. Watch it. Especially about halfway through when they start talking about the need for a “women’s specific” geometry on bikes.
Since I’ve started looking into various bike fits and helping people find proper bike fits, I’ve had an inkling that the women’s specific bike is a marketing gimmick… especially in the case of Scott, who just makes the women’s bike a different color with no other appreciable changes to the frame.
Other manufacturers make their women’s frames somewhat differently- usually shortening the reach and increasing the stack. This is similar to the type of geometry that they’ll use for their more “comfort” oriented frames (examples- Scott CR1, Cannondale Synapse). Last I checked, about 90% of my road bike customers were men… and last I checked, the more “comfort” oriented geometry was what was appropriate for 90% of the men who walk through the shop door.
So, what about a guy who wants a full-on race bike, but can barely touch his hands to his knees. Do we do this?
I’d love to suggest, “hey, Cannondale’s ladies geometry will give you a shorter reach and taller headtube,” or “you know, you’d be more comfortable on a Synapse,” but, if I did that, it would be a direct attack on his manhood and his desire to ride a full-on race bike, and he’d go to another shop.
My point? Like the ladies in the video told you… find a frame that fits you.Make final fit adjustments with bar, stem, and seat. Whether you’re male or female, be realistic. Be open-minded enough to realize that the traditional race geometry may not be what you’re most comfortable riding. Be open-minded enough to realize that if you’re female, the women’s bike may NOT be what’s most comfortable for you.
My next road frame will likely be a Cannondale Women’s Supersix…
But wait… I thought you said that women’s frames were bunk?
Well, The geometry almost exactly matches my NON-WOMEN’S BH Connect… which I’m very cozy on.
May 8, 2012
Today has been a wonderful day off filled with not much more than yoga (Janet’s class was especially killer today) and an easy bike ride. After that, I’ve generally wandered around the house doing dishes, laundry, readying my road bike for the final Tiger Lane Criterium, and whitening my teeth…
(I caved to vanity after watching this video from Cycingdirt.org)
Andrea Wilson- Sick Rigid Singlespeed
In other media-related news, if you missed the link to the latest XXCmag podcast, check it here: XXCmag Podcasts I’ve now managed to weasel my way in to episodes 4,8, and 16. Pattern? I hope so.
May 7, 2012
So, if you listen to the latest XXC Mag Podcast, you’ll hear me talk about a lot of things having to do with both racing and the trafficking of cocaine via Amish horse & buggies. You’d also hear me talk about being intimidated by the workout I had on my schedule for Saturday- a 5 hour endurance ride that included an 8 minute ramp of intensity at the end of hours 1-4.
I thought that I was mostly recovered from the back to back race weekends. Turns out, I was wrong. My power numbers were well off of where they’d normally be for such a workout. By the last hour, my heart rate was staying elevated, no matter how much I backed off. After a brief respite under a tree (it was the first kinda hot/humid day of the year, too, so that wasn’t helping), it settled down, and I wrapped up the last interval and made my way home. For a second, I thought about heading home early. Then, I decided that the difference between pro and amateur was the last interval that seems nearly impossible.
Now, I’m staring down the barrel of Syllamo’s 125k and hoping that I can maintain some fitness while I recover from deep-rooted fatigue. It’s sort of a wait-and-see affair. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are recovery days, and I’ll try the legs out again on Wednesday in the last of the Tiger Lane criterium series. If I feel good, then I know that I’ve found the light at the end of the training tunnel. If not…
May 4, 2012
Tuesday (my weekday off from work), I spent half the day taking care of myself. Not so much as in an, “oh, I raced hard, so now I’m going to pamper myself” sort of way, but more of an, “I need to do this stuff to function normally again” sort of way.
-First, the chiropractor. I’d originally started seeing a chiro when I had a neck crick problem. Now I go because he not only keeps my neck/back feeling good, but he also works out some of the knots in the muscles of my neck/shoulders. My chiropractor isn’t the type that thinks that chiropractic adjustments are the solution for World Peace or a cure for any diseases. He even laments to me on a regular basis that half of his clients don’t need him, they just need a diet and exercise. He does, however, agree that the weekly adjustments he makes are useful in keeping my rides pain-free.
-Next, massage. When you spend hours on a bike, stuff hurts. When stuff hurts, your muscles get tense. Then, you start using the muscle differently… either compensating with another muscle or not going through a full range of motion, you get little knots in the muscles, etc. A massage is huge in relieving that and helping you get back to normal function. It’s also very relaxing.
-Finally, physical therapy. On Tuesday, I graduated from PT for my fingers. The only one that’s still of much concern is the badly sprained middle one on my right hand. It’s still swollen, and it stiffens up when I don’t stretch it several times a day. PT consisted of heat, ultrasound, passive stretching, active stretching, and 15 minutes in the dry whirlpool (aka, the “corn machine”). He had originally planned to include strengthening exercises, but I tested out of those- even with a fracture/sprains, my grip strength measurements were above normal. Imagine that…
-After all of that, I ate some lunch and joined up for a chill ladies only ride.
It was a lot like overhauling a bike after dragging it thorough really nasty conditions.
Taking care of myself has been an ongoing process. When I began this endeavor, I didn’t realize how time consuming the act of maintaining one’s body could actually be… and I’m not even that good at it. Talking to the pros after races (when I’m still in kit and they’re cleaned and changed), I realized that even with as much as I do, I could still tune up my out-of-town diet, get a juicer (thanks to Jeremiah for that suggestion), address my tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet in the days following races (which sometimes spills over into a tendency to eat/drink a horrible diet following large training rides), spend more quality time with the foam roller on a daily basis, get more sleep, and do a better job of getting in recovery rides.
Like I said, cramming self-care into my schedule is an ongoing process of making time rather than finding it.
May 2, 2012
It’s been a hot minute since I’ve posted a few of the random things we get to see in the shop.
First off- warranty stuff. It happens. Parts (including frames), for whatever reason, don’t work, for no apparent reason. We call the manufacturer, they’ll send us a new part, and either want the old one back or, in the case of some large items, ask for only part of it back… like a bottom bracket from a frame:
Sometimes, people like Dave Cornthwaite come into the shop with weird projects like a broke-down bike car. Repairs done to this included (but were not limited to) re-cabling and adjusting the driver-side derailleur and converting the passenger side to singlespeed (its derailleur was exploded into a pretzel, and the mounting setup was very custom, so we couldn’t replace it. Instead, we hooked up a SS tensioner).
Subsequently, on day 1 of the Bike Car’s journey towards Miami, a vehicle hit both the follow van and the bike car, knocking it off the road. Everyone was OK, but judging by the video, the bike car needed some repairs outside the scope of the bike shop. We haven’t heard back from Dave.
Finally, here are some cute armadillo babies I saw while going on a “ladies only” ride on my day off…