Slobberknocker Race Report

Like I mentioned before, I was highly undecided as to whether I’d race this weekend. Coach had said something along the lines of, “racing this weekend will either put your fitness over the top or into a hole for Whiskey next weekend.”

Friday morning, I felt pretty good… still undecided, though. I had a bunch of errands to run, yoga, a PT appointment, and a ride to see how I was feeling. Somewhere in the middle of it all, I was thinking about bike racing and heard this song:


I can’t explain why, but while I was listening to it, I decided to take my chances and race.  After the errands were done, I went home and pulled my Cannondale SuperX off of the wall, put some fresh sealant in the tires (running my favorite wheel/tire setup for this sort of race- Industry 9 i25TL road wheels and some tubeless CX tires), and installed a 34t small ring in place of the 36t that was on my CX crank at the time. There was an 11-26 cassette on the wheels already, and I didn’t feel like hunting down the 11-28, so I decided I’d just go for it on the gearing. By 5:00, I was packed and ready to roll to Perryville, AR.

Fast forward a little, and I’m in a quaint motel on Harris Brake Lake just south of Perryville. One thing I’ve learned through half a year of gluten-free eating is how to make a pretty good chicken/veggie/rice bowl prior to going out of town. It takes a little extra work on the front end, but having a healthy meal waiting for you when you arrive into the middle of nowhere at 9:00pm is totally worth it…



I battled through a night of fitful sleep (the little Harris Brake motel is nice, but the walls are paper-thin, and apparently the guys next door were in & out all night fishing or something). Saturday morning, it was 37deg cold, and the sunrise was beautiful…


I had some breakfast and packed everything into the car to go to registration. I paid, briefly discussed my views on pros who feel “entitled” to race any race they want, went to the start, and rode around a little trying to warm up. Luckily, the start of the race is a neutral rollout past the Perryville city limits. It has potential to be somewhat of a clusterufck (like any mass-start-for-all MTB race), so I lined up in the front and, when the signal was given to go, jumped into the slipstream of the lead vehicle… safety and a nice motorpace warmup, all in one!

Once the lead vehicle pulled off, a group of hammery guys formed. They took off hard up the first road climb, and I decided to slide back into the next group, which included another woman (Priscilla Cazer, who had finished 15 minutes after me at Ouachita). I hung with them as they chased after the lead group, and felt like I was going a little harder than I really wanted to given the 70 miles and lots of climbing we had ahead of us. I stuck with it, though, and, as we crested the top of the hill, Priscilla informed me that she was only racing the 45 mile “tour” version of the Slobberknocker.

Ohhhh… ok.

We turned off of the main road onto the gravel, and I backed off a little bit and had some gel to prep for the first of the bigger climbs. It was a good idea, because my legs really started to come back around just as I came to the initial pitches of the longest one of the day. I paced myself into a mix of “singlespeed” and seated-type climbing (not my favorite, but gearing and traction don’t always allow for standing on the steeper stuff), and felt good all the way up. I remembered on the way down that I was on a CX bike, and that I’d need to dial the descending down a notch or two in order to avoid killing a tire or something on one of the rowdy sections of forest road.

For a while, I basically rode in the same rhythm. Just like last year,  I had a few guys on MTBs that I’d pass going uphill, then they’d pass me back going downhill. It continued that way until just after the “rowdiest” section of “road” on the course (a sharp, washed out jeep road made mostly of exposed rock beds), when, on a seemingly normal gravel section, I cut my rear tire on a rock. Sealant went everywhere. Without panic, I pulled off and installed a tube as quickly as possible…

4 minutes and 8 seconds, to be exact.

Between the previous section of tricky road descending, the flat, and the long descent into the next aid station (an out & back section of the course), Laureen Coffelt  (riding a full suspension MTB and able to go waaaay faster than me downhill) put a serious dent into my lead. As I was about 100 feet out of the aid station, she was on her way in- maybe a minute back at the most. Knowing that she was a) wearing a camelback and not likely to stop and b) going to come out of it with extra motivation that I was so close, I stepped my climbing game up a notch or two.

At that point in the race, on a cyclocross bike, nothing doesn’t hurt. I’ve always said that, compared to racing on a mountain bike, the places where the CX bike is faster will outweigh the places where it’s slower. However, that comes with the caveat of “if you can deal with the fact that the roughness of the roads is going to make you hurt all over.” The forest roads around that area are pretty rocky, and have the ability to remove small cars from service, as I learned the hard way several years ago. At 3 hours in, not only do you have a healthy dose of climbing in your legs, but everything from your butt up to your neck/shoulders, arms, and hands is aching from the constant forest road beating.

It was at that point that I channeled something I’d learned about in Yoga… the idea of Santosha, or contentment. It’s something that I’d heard from several yoga instructors, but that Kirsti talked about at length during a challenging class the previous Thursday. As we were holding a particular pose for an extended period of time, she asked us to focus on the sensations that we were feeling right then rather than avoiding them. The idea was, rather than trying to tune out feelings of discomfort, to explore them and accept them as a means of finding Santosha. I found myself doing the same thing as I was hammering through the final two hours of racing. Rather than attaching negative emotions to the pain and trying to distract my mind into thinking about something else, I went back to the idea of accepting the discomfort and being content despite all of it.

During that time, I built my lead back up to nearly 20 minutes.

So, I won in a time of 4 hours, 53 minutes- about a minute faster than last year (though, last year, I hadn’t flatted). The Slobberknocker not only offers a nice cash prize, but the trophies are some of the best out there… handmade by a local firefighter:



Now, it’s a race to see how well I can recover before Friday evening’s Whiskey Fat-tire criterium and the 50-mile race on Sunday.



Balancing build and recover

I’ve never been much of a gambler, but it seems that my (usual) slow recovery from the Ouachita Challenge and the proximity of the Whiskey Off-Road weekend (4/26-28) are making my participation in this weekend’s Slobberknocker race a proverbial roll of the recovery dice. If my last two hard training rides on Saturday and Monday had felt like 100% awesome, I wouldn’t question anything, and  I’d go to one of my favorite regional races and have a great time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Given my current fitness, the power numbers were about 95% of what I’d normally expect. Sure, a 5% drop doesn’t sound like much, but when the amount of recovery days I took following Ouachita don’t produce the amount of recovery I’d usually expect, then I start to get nervous.

I’m not sure what it is about Ouachita that does it to me, but I’m trying to prevent what happened last year from happening again this year. I raced, thought I’d recovered, then went to Slobberknocker and Cohutta 100 on back-to-back weekends. The three proved to be a deadly combination from a recovery standpoint, because by Syllamo’s Revenge (mid-may), I felt absolutely useless. I was basically forced off of my usual training for the weeks leading up to the Mohican 100 at the beginning of June. I managed to make the best of it, but it didn’t do much for my race results.

So, as Coach said, we’re taking it day by day. My legs felt alright yesterday on my recovery-ish ride (mostly spinning with a few hammery-spots to see if I still felt gassed). I’m going to the Tiger Lane crit tonight to race with the Cat4 men. The short/high-intensity effort should be good for fitness without too much stress. It’s sad that even though there are enough capable women in Memphis to make a decent criterium, they’ve so rarely shown up to the event in years past that the promoter actually took women off the website flyer and just asked me which race I want to jump into, and that he’d give me a requisite payout just for showing up (if you register online, they actually have all women listed with cat5 men, though in the past, they were on the flyer as racing with the cat 4s).

I digress.

In hit-by-car news, I’ve started PT sessions to try and heal the severe contusion in my right glute where I hit the ground in my Mazda-induced flight. The muscle is so hard and knotted that I can barely get into it by sitting on a lacrosse ball (a foam roller or quad baller is basically useless). Physical therapy has been a combination of the therapist digging knuckles/thumbs into the area and using Ultrasound to control the resulting pain/inflammation. It’s pretty intense, but hopefully it will bring back my original level of muscle function for that area.

I’ve got a huge season ahead, so hopefully I can skirt the edge of “too much” that I’m finding right now and get right into “totally kicking ass.”

Recovery Day Shenannigans (again)

This morning, with a recovery ride on the schedule and Ryan out of town at the Mississippi Grand Prix road race, Matt and I decided to visit the LosLocos Duathlon just a short trip from the house. On the bike course, there’s a nice little hill that’s also a popular Strava segment. So, we set up right at the steep part and heckled/encouraged everyone who passed…






The course was an out & back, so everyone passed by our spot at high(ish) speed first. We yelled at them to stay off the brakes and not coast. There were cowbells involved, too…


As people came back through, I took a bunch of pictures as shirtless Matt shook his cowbells and yelled various encouragements. Most people reacted with a smile, though one woman said she was about to punch him in the face. I think that the KOM Campout may become a repeating event at future triathlons…

Los Locos Duathlon 2013 Photo Gallery- Monroe Hill

OK, here are the rules…

You are welcome to download any of these photos free of charge. If you want the high res file of yourself, I’d be happy to provide it- just email me andrea@brickhouseracing . com

There’s ONE stipulation, though- if you post one on a blog, send it in an email, post on a forum, etc… please also post a link to Brickhouse Racing (copy and paste from the address bar above). If you don’t, bad karma will make you flat during your next race.

Not as OK as I thought I was

I found out today that the emotional scars from being hit my a car at Rouge Roubaix are going to last a lot longer than the physical ones that are visibly fading. This morning, I went to the orthopedic doc for a follow-up visit. Everything’s healing about like he’d expect, but he does want me to go to some physical therapy in order to take care of the knots in my right glute, quad, and hamstring muscles. No big deal.

I left to doctor’s office to run another errand- go to the William Sonoma Outlet and get a new 13″ saute pan. On the way, I stopped at Starbucks. I got my coffee and was on the way back out to the car. The parking lot was super busy and, at that location, is always kind of a clusterufck. There was a guy in a Taurus partially behind my car while he waited on another car to leave so he could take its spot. As I was walking around towards the back of his car, I dropped my keys. I bent down to pick them up, and as I began to stand, suddenly, there was a Taurus bumper/rear fender in my face & bumping my arm. It was just enough of a nudge for me to spill coffee on his car and my arm.

Before you get upset about people not paying attention (again), I have to defend the guy a little- he’d seen me walking towards the back of his car at “getting stuff done” pace. Then, when he went to back up to let the other car out, he thought I was already clear of his car… not squatting down in his blind spot. Honestly, I could have easily made the same mistake myself, so I can’t possibly be mad at him. He had his window down and was visibly freaked out when I jumped up and gasped as the car made contact with me.

The fact that it was an honest accident (rather than someone being incredibly negligent and not paying attention) didn’t prevent me from having a nervous breakdown once I was inside my car. All of the memories of how terrifying it was to feel like I was at the mercy of an unstoppable mechanized deadly weapon came flooding back into my head. I sobbed for a solid 5 minutes like I did back when I made this post about losing hope in humanity. Like that post, I took a photo, too, but… eh… it’s bad.

I couldn’t stop and had to go home to pull myself together without running my errand to William Sonoma. I just wanted to stay home and hide, but I eventually forced myself to complete my mission a little while later. Retail therapy.

I’ve had a lot of people say that I’m brave for posting stories like this. You know, if I only posted the awesome things that happen during my quest for cycling glory, this blog would be a lie. This is a significant hurdle to overcome in my journey… one that I’m obviously not anywhere near being over just yet. It’s not the first or last (though hopefully, it’s the worst). Posting here has been a good outlet for me to get these things out of my head when they happen, and I appreciate you all listening.

Devil’s Advocate (sort of)

I wasn’t going to get into this, but it’s getting ridiculous… the whole “UCI/forbidden race” thing.

First off, if you’re a rider with a domestic licence (not an International license), this rule doesn’t apply to you. Lots of people I see getting up in arms on the internets and posting “OMG, NOW I CAN’T GO TO MY FAVORITE UNSANCTIONED RACE” are people who don’t even hold an international license. Calm down, put your pitchfork away, and go race.

Also, I realize that there’s a statement in the UCI rulebook that allows USA Cycling to grant exceptions for unsanctioned races that allows UCI-licenced  riders to attend the excepted race with no consequence, and that USA Cycling, for whatever reason, isn’t doing that. Ok, sure, it’s a jerk move. I won’t deny that.

I’m not a professional, but I do hold a UCI license. I needed it for participation in the Master’s Worlds race (and will need it if I participate in any of the UCI-level ProXCT races this year). You need one to participate in any UCI-Governed race, which, in many pro mountain bikers’ situations (Amanda Carey’s last couple of years racing NUE is a shining example), means that you may only go to non-sanctioned MTB races, but then compete in UCI-sanctioned cyclocross races. On the other hand, you may be a World Cup level rider (like Amanda’s teammate, Krista Park) . Either way, if you’re served with a 1 month ban for an unsanctioned race, you could potentially miss out on the UCI-level races.

So, lets get into the meat of the issue here.


USA Cycling is following the rules handed down to them by the UCI. If you’re living the dream of being a pro cyclist, you’re incredibly lucky, gifted, and hard-working. You also have to follow the rules that govern your profession. If choosing your races based on sanctioning body is the WORST thing that ever happens to you in your career, do you realize how much better you still have it over the 99.9% or people who can’t be professional cyclists?
If your livelihood is soooooo harmed by this rule, you could always find a 9-5 job that isn’t governed by USAC. It’s like a long-haul trucker whose employer speed-governs his truck at 65 mph. Sure, he could make more money and haul more loads if he could go 70, but he is paid to follow his employers rules, and that one, as much as he hates it, it one he has to follow. I’m fighting and training as hard as I possibly can to even get a taste of “pro” cycling. I’d sell my freaking SOUL to have your job. If getting even the smallest of paychecks because I’m awesome at riding a bike meant that I had to abide by some rules I didn’t agree with, then WHO CARES, I’M A PRO CYCLIST AND THAT MAKES ME REALLY HAPPY!!!

If you’re not pro, but you happen to have a UCI License, then you have to just deal with it. Until you get a paycheck, this is an expensive hobby. One that’s got its own set of rules. Pick and choose your races so that you’re not “banned” from competition if your “A” race of the season happens to be a USA-Cycling sanctioned race. That’s what I’m facing. It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.

One of the big issues I see is that USA Cycling hasn’t said how, when, and at what level they plan on enforcing the rule. Are they googling every rider on the roster at sanctioned races to make sure that all of the ones holding a UCI license are “eligible”? Probably not. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, are they leaving it up to the competitors? In other words, if I race the Sun Valley Enduro (non-sanctioned) the weekend before Marathon Nationals (which uses part of the same course), then win Marathon Nationals, is it up to someone who I beat to protest to the officials that I did something illegal the weekend before and should be disqualified?

Because, let’s face it… the best training for a race is racing. If the ladies I beat at Marathon Natz follow the rules and don’t race the previous weekend’s enduro, then I gained an advantage over them by breaking the rules and racing an unsanctioned race. On the darker side of things, unsanctioned races have no doping controls. You could be full-on positive for PEDs in those competitions. I can see that as one of USA Cycling’s incredibly short list of  legitimate reasons for wanting their thumb on all of the racing in the US.

Also along the lines of enforcement, not only is it unclear as to how USA Cycling plans on “finding” riders who break the rules, it’s also unclear as to how they plan on doling out fines & bans. Will they be cumulative (1 month & a fine for each unsanctioned race)? Or, is it just an immediate “you’re banned from competition for one month” following an unsanctioned race?

So, before you post hateful things and tell me I don’t understand how bad this is for cycling and for promoters, I’ll just tell you now, YES, I get it. I think that it sucks shit for anyone with a UCI license to have to potentially make a choice between races because of the rule, and that USA Cycling could probably find something else to do with their time and energy besides attempting to monopolize all racing in the US. I think it’s terrible that promoters will have to pay more money to get a “blessing” from USA cycling unless they want to be “forbidden.”

I also agree with the Team Director of Sho-Air, who has some very good points in regards to what USA Cycling ISN’T doing right now (copy & paste from here):

Team Director Ty Kady welcomes the opportunity to take a stand.
“I’ve been pushing Scott for several years to really make USAC stand up for
mountain bikers and the sport here in the US. This is a perfect opportunity
for USAC to support all their licensed members by giving the UCI pushback
on a rule that clearly doesn’t work with the US model of mountain biking.
However they have yet to make a stand against the UCI. As the promoter
of two Pro XCT and two PRO UET eventsin 2013, what’s even more
grievous is USAC offers no overall prizemoney for their Pro XCT or Pro UET
series champion, even though they claim them to be the “premier” US
Mountain bike series. They offer no financialsupport for promoters, who
actually do host a UCI event on their behalf, yet now they want to tell
racers when and where and for whom they can race their bikes? That
doesn’t sit well with me, especially when it’s obvious they are doing
nothing to bolster their own series so riders can try and earn income.

However, Rules are rules. Hopefully they’ll be changed for the better, but, until then…



Ouachita Challenge Race Report

You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything about training last week. Basically, last weekend, I had a wicked sore throat, and it developed into a full-on upper respiratory infection by Monday afternoon. I was on the couch/walking dead for most of the week before I finally started to turn the corner on Thursday. I was left with a lingering cough and just enough head congestion to produce epic snot rockets (both of which are still lingering… I woke up coughing and snotty this morning).

The original plan for the race was for Ryan, Matt, and me to board the dogs and all three pack up & camp at Todd “Antique Gun Show” Henne’s   property that sits just off the Womble trail about 20 minutes from the Race start (includes a sweet pump track as well). However, Thursday evening, Ryan stabbed himself in the thumb meat with a knife while trying to break into his Apple Time Capsule to replace the hard drive. After bleeding some and freaking out enough to pass out, Ryan figured out on Friday that he couldn’t use his right thumb to shift. So, he stayed in Memphis to road race, and Matt and I went to Arkansas.

The drive is always entertaining until Matt gets so crunk that he makes himself bonk.


We set up camp and rode a little bit of the Womble before going to packet pickup. We later discovered that there was a kennel full of barking dogs within a mile or two of Todd’s place, and we got to listen to at least one or two bark at most hours of the night. Matt was in his hammock with earplugs, so he was pretty cozy despite the noise. I can’t wear earplugs, because then I don’t sleep because I’m worried I’ll miss my alarm. So, between dogs and coughing, it was a long night.

Sunday morning, we woke up and immediately got in the car to go to Oden school for the start. Along the way, we stopped to drop a cooler full of bottles at Sims (the midpoint of the race course). After a little oatmeal and coffee, we lined up early so we’d have a good spot on the start line (the “neutral rollout” of the OC Race is pretty wild, and with Matt riding singlespeed, it was a move of both safety and strategy)


(Photo courtesy of the Ouachita Challenge/Ouachita Cycling Club FB page- for anyone wondering, Matt’s been MTB racing in a Brickhouse jersey this season since his usual team doesn’t support MTB racing. I told him it’s like a season of “tryouts” for getting in on the actual sponsor support next season)

As usual, the start was a hammerfest of bar-bumping and tire rubbing. Once the lead truck pulled out of the way, I was well-positioned around the other women who wanted to stick to the front of the race- Jessica Rawlings and another woman in a Dallas Bike Works kit. I realized (thanks to my new MTB Quarq powermeter) that as we approached the first climb, I was going a little too hard. The thing that kills a lot of people (myself included) at Ouachita is how badly you can blow yourself up at the start and on the first climb. I learned that the hard way, so this year, when Jessica and the Dallas woman pulled off with the lead men, I hung back and rode the climb at my own pace as the 3rd woman. I lost sight of Jessica, but the other woman came back to me about 3/4 of the way up. I knew I couldn’t chase Jessica at that point, so I settled in with the plan to slowly chip away at her lead as she got tired over the next 50 or so miles.

Once I was mostly up Brushy Mountain (first of 3 Ouachita Trail mountains), I was gettin’ it down the trail when I wonked my rear wheel on a rock. It started to feel a little mushy… then went flat. I made my way to the side of the trail and did what was probably the fastest trailside tube installation of my life. All the while, other ladies and riders were blowing past me (including Matt, who went by just before I got my wheel back on). It was early, so without panicking, I used the next two mountains (Blowout and Chalybeate) climbs to pick my way back through all but one of the women who had passed me earlier, landing me on the gravel/road section in 3rd position with Matt, who was somewhere in the top 10 in Singlespeed. Soon after, some geared guys came by us, and I left him to spin incessantly while I worked with them all the way to Sims.

At Sims, I did a quick bottle swap at the cooler and got back on the road. Only a couple of the guys I’d been with were close by, so I hopped in with them. We lost one guy on a hill, so me and a man on a Fisher swapped pulls until suddenly, the Dallas Bike Works woman was in sight. He pulled off and said he’d stay out of the way of our race. I caught her rear wheel just as we got back on the short section of Womble singletrack before the next aid station. When we came to a short, muddy hill, I took the soft line to the left and made the pass. With another 25 miles or so of racing ahead, I didn’t need a full-on attack, so I just stuck with the “slightly faster than you’re going” effort for the next few minutes and through the next aid to another gravel road section.

When I came out on the gravel, I could hear another rider on my wheel. Thinking it was her, I didn’t look back for a long time. When I felt like I’d pulled long enough, I checked over my shoulder and saw that the person behind me was actually the guy on the Fisher. He came around to take a pull and said something along the lines of , “you put the wood to her back there on the trail.” We’d only covered a mile or two at the most since I’d made the pass, and she was nowhere in sight.

At that point, I wasn’t feeling like a rockstar. I’ve been racing just long enough to realize that the “I’m gonna cramp later” twitch in my quads and the distance left to race was a combination that needed to be dealt with carefully. I didn’t have the gas to go for an all-out chase for the win, but I did have plenty in the tank to ride tempo in order to stay a steady 2nd and to catch 1st if she were to totally fall apart or have a major mechanical. So, I pounded some more Roctane and did just that. Jessica, however, was feeling like a rockstar, so I ended up holding on to 2nd place and finishing about 20 minutes after her (my flat change was only ~5 minutes, so it wasn’t really that pivotal in the results). My time of 5:40 is 15 better than my best effort on that course, so, given A)an upper respiratory infection, and B) this one me, exactly one month ago (to the hour) from the finish of Ouachita:



…I can’t let myself be too disappointed with not getting the win I was hoping to get as a season opener. After the race, I was still feeling the effects of my car accident. Essentially, with the physical stress of riding a mountain bike for that long, my right sacroiliac joint feels like an aluminum bike with a weak weld undergoing frame flex. It’s got me back on the ibuprophen and ice for a couple of days before I get back to my usual schedule to prep for the Whiskey 50.

Product Review: CamelBak Spark 10 LR

I got pretty excited when I saw that CamelBak was making an LR (lumbar relief) pack in a women’s model- the Spark 10 LR. Back when I used to run Ultras, I found that the women’s hydration packs (the ones I liked were made by Nathan) seemed to stay in place better as a function of both the shape/placement of the main shoulder straps as well as the up & down adjustability of the stabilizing strap across the chest.

I’ve been using the original model Charge LR, which is a nice, light pack that holds a 70oz LR reservoir. The LR comes into play with the reservoir shape- it sits low in the pack and  and parallel to the ground rather than vertically from your shoulderblades to your low back. As a result, the weight of your water is carried more by your hips & pelvis instead of your shoulders. I’m a big fan of the design, and I also purchased a Volt LR which is more “all day” sized and holds a 100oz LR reservoir. I’ve yet to go for a ride epic enough to call for that one, though.

My initial impression of the pack was that it’s a nice piece of equipment. It’s got all the bells & whistles of the men’s pack, just in a smaller package… a little too small for me, actually. At 5’6″ I found that with the shoulder straps adjusted long enough to let the pack sit on my hips, the chest strap is as low as it can possibly go, and still maybe a tiny bit too high up. I wouldn’t really call the sizing a downfall to the pack because if you’re smaller, you’re likely going to be super happy with how well it fits you. It’d just be nice to have something on the Camelbak site that’s like, “Hey, this thing is made for people 5’4″ and under. Stick to the other pack, lady.”

The space available in this pack is nice. They’ve enlarged the “wing” parts of it over the previous version, so it’s a lot easier to hold more food and get to them without much fuss. The back storage is bigger, too, but there’s one small detail they overlooked- you have to unclip both sides of the back piece if you want to really get into it for something. First world problems-





I was kinda disappointed in the over-the-shoulder hose routing. I thought that the up & under route of the original Charge was super smooth. That brings me to what I really see as the only super-downfall to this pack. The reservoir has to be shoved in face-first from the “back” of the pack, and, in order to secure it, you have to blindly try and hook the front of the reservoir onto a loop that’s underneath it. No hydration pack is super quick & easy to refill, but this one is downright tedious.






Unfortunately, they’ve carried that design over to the new version of the Charge, as well as to the Volt. I’m not so concerned with the Volt, because I’m not likely to be in a hurry when I’m using it. Along the same lines, if you aren’t expecting to need a refill mid-race (which is likely the case for an XC distance event), this isn’t a big deal for you. However, if you’re doing longer, endurance-type events where you’ll need to refill during the race, just know that it’s not as fast as a lot of other packs.

So, the person who is going to love this pack is smaller than me, and doing rides/races that won’t involve a refill. I’m a little disappointed in it, but, then again, I’m also picky as hell. It is a nice pack, but I’m going to stick with my old Charge LR because of the sizing, hose routing, and ease of use.


Split Personality

Commence to rambling…

Like I mentioned in my last post, my weekend training wasn’t the usual long rides & intervals. Next weekend, whether I’m ready or not, the race season starts with the Ouachita Challenge. I did go on some nice recovery rides- Saturday, I squeezed one in before my favorite yoga class, and Sunday, I joined up with the Memphis Hightailers afternoon group ride. Combined with lots of foam rolling, my legs are feeling better from Friday’s cold & wet efforts.

Saturday night, we watched a special about Bradley Wiggins called a Year in Yellow (it’s a full-length documentary, and you can see it on youtube here: It’s good- it shows the usual drama and triumph behind any great athlete’s journey to winning something like The Tour. However, the part that caught me off guard was something that Wiggins’ wife said about him early in the video. When asked to describe Bradley, she quickly asked back- “Which one?” To her, there were two different men- bike racer Bradley and normal person Bradley. Bike Racer Bradley is a “wanker” (I’m pretty sure that’s what she called him- they actually bleeped it out). He’s selfish, short tempered, doesn’t care about his family, etc. Normal Bradley is, well, a nice guy and a good father. Like a normal person.

I realize I’m not training for the Tour de France (hell, I don’t even get a paycheck yet), but this struck me because I’ve dealt with the same feelings. “Normal” me is kind, caring, and somewhat of a mommabird to those around me. However, when the goal to become as physically and mentally strong and focused as possible takes over your life, you can start to withdraw from those around you. I’ve struggled with it a lot- especially since I’ve quit working and turned my entire focus towards training and recovery. Training like it’s your job can make you feel like you’re unable to deal with everyday life and people. I don’t know if all pro/wannabe pro cyclists experience the same thing, but since hearing that comment from Wiggins’ wife, I take comfort in knowing it’s NOT just me.

I’m not saying I’m not happy with what I’m doing. Not in the least- I love doing this, and the gains I’ve made since I’ve stopped working have reinforced that as a good decision. Something about it, though, makes me want to hide from all of life’s other annoyances and responsibilities. It’s gotten worse since I was hit by the car at Rouge. Since I’m trying to make this my job (or at least get to where I can stop paying to participate in my expensive hobby), I can’t just quit for a while to let my fears subside. I can’t hide in a group. I can’t blow off training rides just because they make the joint between my pelvis and my ass ache as long as it’s fixable afterwards with some ice and ibuprofen. Whether or not I’m terrified of rearward-approaching vehicles or losing hope in humanity because no one cares about anyone else, as long as my body is physically able, the proverbial show must go on.

I choose to do that because I love bike racing. If I didn’t, there’s no way I’d willingly put myself through that sort of car-induced mental torture or participate in rides like the one on Friday. It’s just that this is harder than I expected- in all sorts of ways. I’m constantly amazed at what my body is capable of handling with the additional rest and recovery time, but that just means that the training is harder and more exhausting. No matter how much it hurts or how much I torture my brain with it, I like it, and I want more (I’m pretty sure that Bradley Wiggins would say the same thing). It’s just that kind, caring, nurturing, “normal” Andrea is not as readily available while that’s happening.


Cold, wet, and beautiful

Last night, I heard from Matt that a couple of pretty fast guys (local hero John King and used to be local hero but transplanted to Colorado Russ Griffin) were going out for a slow & steady long ride in the morning. I had a similar ride on my training schedule, so I figured I’d join them and add a little to the end if I needed any more saddle time.

When I met them this morning, it was actually a group of 8 at that point- a mix of all ages and abilities. Under sun and blue skies, we rolled out of the city limits north towards Shelby Forest (gorgeous, rolling old growth forest in the north end of the County). Rain was in the forecast, but at that point, it was nice, and everyone chatted and randomly pedaled harder than easy up some of the hills, only to coast at the top as the group caught up.

Two hours later, the rain had rolled into the Forest. At the top of one of the steep riverbluff hills, we stopped to regroup, and a majority of the riders decided they’d turn back early (you know- family obligations and whatnot). So, John, Russ, and I headed back into the forest in the rain to put in our allotted amount of work.

There’s something beautiful about riding with other fast, experienced riders. It’s quiet-  you avoid potholes early rather than yell and swerve about them, there’s less droning of freehub bodies, and no one is breathing harder or shifting more than they need to. Everything is intuitive. You read each others body language and decide on a pace without verbal discussion. For a while, Russ and John pulled me around. It wasn’t that I was having a hard time, it’s just that they’d silently decided that it’d be faster that way.

Once we were headed back towards home (still in the rain), we started to share the work in a continuously rotating paceline. We were cold, totally saturated, and every time you’d rotate from one rear wheel to the other, you’d have to pass your face through a roostertail or two of road water. On top of that, I found the sound of most cars approaching us from behind in the rain to be utterly terrifying. Not only did we share the work, we were equal partners in misery as well.

As we came back into civilization, we exchanged our “what gratuitous act are we going to do to warm up when we get home” plans and joked at how our hands had turned into useless ice flippers. I think we also shared the tiny feeling of smugness that, while others turned back or stayed inside today, in fulfilling our “local hero” obligations, we’d ridden through it like it didn’t matter and come out faster and a little tougher on the other end.

That ride was the perfect end to the pre-Ouachita buildup. I have a rare two-recovery-day weekend, so I’m going to enjoy some yoga and lots of time with the foam roller trying to encourage my right glute to continue unknotting itself. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about Ouachita, so hopefully the healing process stays on track.