brickhouseracing

June 7, 2012

Always unsettled, never unnerved

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 9:45 am

Mid weeks during a recovery period following a race tend to be the most torturous… at least for me. You feel good enough to not be tired, but tired enough that you aren’t going to do anything other than a recovery ride on the bike. As a result, I just feel extra restless. Mentally and physically.

In my head, I’m ready to get back into training. If you haven’t heard, the Breck Epic is the (self -proclaimed) Single Speed Stage Race World Championship (SSSRWC) race. This is, quite possibly, the best chance I’ve ever had to win a WC, and, while it’s somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek designation, I am a junkie for rainbow stripes on my jerseys.

In my race report, I forgot to mention a fun story about a woman named Colleen. Somewhere between aids 2 and 3, we re-entered singletrack from a bit of gravel road. It was one of the slightly techy sections, and, in my haste, I spun a tire on a slick rock at the base of a steep, rocky pitch. I hopped off to push, and, as I did, I realized that there was a group of people in harnesses and helmets just off the trail to my left.
With them was a woman hanging from a short, low, zip line. (I knew there was a tourist-y zipline thing in the area but I didn’t realize that the course cut right through it). This woman was somewhat overweight, dressed one notch too nice to be out in the woods, and her coiffed and curled hair was smashed under her red bowling ball-style helmet. As I was trudging through the rocks, I heard the group leader say, “nice job, Colleen!” as she swung slowly down the line. I could be totally wrong, but she looked absolutely terrified and out of her element. She was hanging in her harness like a side of beef in a butcher’s freezer (ok, yes, I realize that sounds mean, but, at 40something miles into a race, it was the first thing that popped into my head).

At that point, I yelled, “HELL, YEAH, COLLEEN! DO IT!”

…this prompted every other racer within earshot to also encourage Colleen at the top of their lungs.

I’d like to think that Colleen spent the day conquering her fears and came out a better person on the other end of the zipline course. Maybe she decided she’d start taking more risks, and, as I type this, is doing crazy stuff like driving 5 mph over the speed limit or getting the “hot” salsa instead of “mild.” Maybe later on that night, she had the courage to flirt with Darrel… the young, good-looking new hire from down the hallway.

Or maybe she’s still finding chigger bites and hates the woods even more than she did prior to her zipline experience.

I guess the take-away message is that doing something out of your comfort zone is a risk. Taking risks can be both terrifying and life changing (in both good and bad ways). Risk-taking prevents complacency, and, in my mind, complacency is the most vile and evil thing I can think of. Complacency is the brother of “Good Enough,” who is first cousin to both “Lazy” and “Stagnant.” Risk-taking is the daughter of Challenge.

I realized that I’m not necessarily “tired” of 100 mile races, but that I’ve grown slightly complacent. I’m not good enough to battle for placing, I’m merely fit enough to ride at my own pace, which occasionally happens to be faster than a majority of competitors. I have to challenge myself to be better. It’s scary, because if I’m faster, the expectations I have for myself are that much higher, and the competitive challenges I seek out will be larger and harder. It’s what I love, though.

So, while being restless and discontent is not a comfortable acute state, it almost always breeds change for the better.

June 4, 2012

Mohican 100 Race Report

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:06 am

After polling the viewing audience and doing a lot of riding/thinking, I decided I’d go with the geared bike for the Mohican race. It was a tough choice… I love singlespeed. I realized that repeatedly on course- I’d feel a touch on envy any time I was around someone on a singlespeed. I felt like an outcast.

Saturday morning was chilly. A cold front had moved through the day before, bringing rain and a drop in temperature. Luckily, the trails had been very dry, so most of the singletrack was in great shape. (I did bring the singlespeed with me… just in case). For whatever reason, the 100k racers were started with the 100 mile racers, making for a crowded start line. I warmed up for a little while then crammed myself in to the third or fourth row back. The start is always hectic at these races, and this one is no exception. After a downhill that’s just long enough to get going over 30mph, the road goes straight up- about 300 feet of elevation gain in 3/4 of a mile. My goal for the day was to stay in the big ring and ride it like a singlespeed whenever I could.

I found myself sitting in 2nd as we entered the first trails through the woods. Thankfully, my singletrack mojo was in full effect, and I negotiated the slippery, steep spots where a lot of people were spinning or sliding out. Half an hour in, and I still feel like I’m flying. Flying enough that I almost took a wrong turn at a 3-way intersection that was at the bottom of a hill. I couldn’t see the course markings until it was too late, so I came to a full-on sliding stop about 10 feet down the wrong trail. As I turned to get back onto the correct path, Kathleen Harding, a pro from Team CF, was coming down the same hill. I yelled at her and some other riders to go right. I got back onto the trail and stayed with her group. Eventually she and I were together. I decided to keep pace with her for a while and see what happened.

Not long after that, we made it to the first aid station. I’d decided to go with 3 bottles that morning (I LOVE having a medium frame with two water bottle cages!), and I had 1.5 bottles remaining. She stopped, and I made the split-second decision to push to the next aid before refilling. (Spoiler alert- I made it to aid 2 about 5 minutes after I drank the last of my 3rd bottle).

I was alone for a little while. It was about 2.5 hours in, and I realized that I was really bored. Not acutely… the singletrack was great, and a lot of fun… but kinda bored with the whole “ride 100 miles” thing. I’d had a similar thought at Syllamo, but figured I should wait until I was having a good race before I decided I was tired of 100 mile races. Yeah. Kinda Bored.

It wasn’t long after that when I heard a commotion behind me- Brenda was coming up the trail with a train of male riders dangling on her wheel as if they thought they could keep up with the half-pint horror for another 70 miles (in case you’re wondering, of course I mean that as a compliment). She and I rode together for a little while until I struck a pedal and wrecked. She and Lee quickly disappeared up the trail. I didn’t chase. However, unlike last time, when I just didn’t care about chasing, this time, I was in such a good groove and pushing just hard enough that I just decided that I’d stick to my plan and see how it unfolded. (spoiler alert #2- she beat me by about 18 minutes)

Once I was out of the initial singletrack, I made it a point to eat and drink plenty. Even though it was going to be a mild day, I didn’t want to get behind on anything. At one point, a couple of guys rode by and told me that there was another woman not far behind me. I kept that thought in my head the remainder of the day.

As with any 100 mile race, there were chunks of the day where I wasn’t having the best time and chunks of the day that I don’t really remember. I kept chipping away at the miles, though. The wind was a little relentless, and it seemed that every time I was on the road, I was usually without a wheel to draft. The best part, though, was turning on to the (often dreaded) 9 miles of flat gravel rail trail section and getting a wicked tailwind for the first couple of miles. One of the other more notable spots was between aid 4 and 5… just before the midpoint water stop, there was a descent that was so steep that I was laying into both brakes, sliding/skidding a little, and when I hit a bump, my saddle bumped up and smacked the underside of a boob. Sure, maybe I was back a little further than I needed to be… but I wasn’t endo-ing or walking, either.

I eventually passed the final aid station and found myself in the final 5 miles of singletrack. I looked over my shoulder the entire way to the finish line. It was a good thing, too- if you watch this video on Cyclingdirt, you’ll see just how close Kathleen was…

So, I had a pretty good race and finished 3rd in 8:44- an hour faster than last year. Yes, this time, I was faster with gears. I still love my singlespeed, though.

I don’t know how bored I am with 100s. Maybe I just need to be faster so I’m doing more “racing” and less “100 mile time trial” style riding. I can’t see myself leaving them totally, because if I did, I’d miss all of the adventures and all of the awesome people that I get to hang out with before/after the race. For now, I’m gonna take a step back and prep for the Breck Epic that starts mid-August. The focus now shifts to building the speed and top-end that I’ll need to race the shorter days at altitude.

May 30, 2012

Mohican Countdown

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:17 pm

The votes from my previous Mohican post have been tallied, and, well, as always, I may or may not take the peanut gallery’s advice. You see, advice is what you ask for when you’ve already made up your mind. Often times, you probably know that the right answer isn’t necessarily the easiest answer or the safest answer, so you’re just waiting for someone to tell you that it’s OK to take the easy/safe route.

That makes it justified, right?

I digress.

I’m leaving for the Mohican 100 early Friday morning. Yeah, I know, driving 10 hours the day before a race kinda sucks, but, until I achieve awesome, baller status, it’s what I’ve got. Yesterday, I took the A9RDO out for my one and only between-race interval workout. Even though it wasn’t the most splendid and awe-inspiring set of intervals ever, I didn’t feel worn out, burned out, tired, or any of the other ways I’ve felt over the past 4 weeks. Barring another full-on brain and body meltdown like Syllamo, I think that Mohican should be good. Maybe very good. I want to be on the tall step next to Amanda.I hope my race goes something like this:

 

Oh yeah, In case you were wondering, I’m taking Gerry Pflug’s advice.

May 26, 2012

Another “Pearl Izumi WTF?” Moment: P.R.O. Bib Short Review

Filed under: Around the shop,Product Reviews — Andrea @ 5:22 am

Another entry to the annals of Pearl Izumi’s bad decisions when it comes to their relationship with female cyclists: The Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Droptail Bib Short. It’s their top of the line model for women.

The “droptail” idea with bib shorts is a great idea. P.I. does a good job with their “Elite” model short, which has an actual waistband around the backside (the quality of the construction of the “elite” line is not that great, though). Hincapie also makes a droptail bib. It uses a simple plastic buckle in the back suspenders. It’s under your jersey, but low enough that it’s not hard to reach, and the top half has a “tail” strap that makes it easy to fish the top half back in order to get it buckled.

Enter the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. short. Through work, we get a screaming deal on certain brands… Pearl being one of them. I bought a pair, even though on the website, you can’t tell how the droptail actually works. Turns out, it uses a similar design as the Hincapie model… except that it uses bra hooks, and there’s no tail on the top strap. The closure also sits up higher under your jersey:

Let me get this straight… I’m supposed to reach under my jersey, up between my shoulder blades, and unhook those? Worse yet, once I’m done, I’m supposed to fish around under my jersey for the top half, then RE-hook that thing? I’m flabbergasted at the idiocy at work here, because it’s painfully obvious that no women were involved with the design or testing of these WOMEN’S shorts.

I returned them with a note to that effect. I received a refund, but they’ve not contacted me for feedback purposes, and I don’t really expect them to, because from my past experience with them, that’s how they roll.

May 25, 2012

Mohican 100

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 5:39 am

With the Mohican 100 one hot week away,  I know the question that’s hot on everyone’s mind right now is “wtf is wrong with you?” I still don’t know- the blood tests seemed pretty normal. I rode a little yesterday, and I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t really feel kickass, either. Tomorrow’s ride will be a little longer, so I’ll see how that goes.

Mohican is a course with short, steep climbs and lots of flat/rolling terrain between. With the distinct possibility that I could (given I feel good) place well, I’m giving some serious thought to riding it geared.

The prospect of riding a 100 on a geared bike seems really weird to me. My bikes all have their own personalities. The singlespeed is like the “comfortable sweater” boyfriend- we have a great time together, he’s always super reliable, and he doesn’t care that I accidentally farted that one time in the car and it smelled really bad. The Air9 RDO, on the other hand, is like the guy that you only call on the weekends when you’re bored and feeling adventurous. Sexy, fast, but with a crazy streak that screams, “I’ll never, EVER meet your parents.” Riding a 100 miler on that one is like suddenly taking the “weekender” out for a week-long road trip. What will we talk about after the first hour? Do I actually want to find out that he’s got a weird affinity for McDonald’s Happy Meals? What’s he gonna think when he’s subjected to my morning “sit down” in the confines of a hotel room?

It’s up to the viewing audience at this point. Go to the Facebook page and vote in the poll: https://www.facebook.com/BrickhouseRacing. In the meantime, here are the Air9 RDO photos that I never posted before:

 

 

P.S. Yeah, that headset’s looking a little rusty. Ignore that and admire the swirls of carbon goodness.

May 23, 2012

WTF my mom smells like a horse

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:27 am

Ok, not really. My mom always smells like nice perfume. But, according to my wordpress stats, someone found my blog by Google-ing that phrase. Now that’s out of the way, on to less random ramblings.

I haven’t ridden since Saturday. Normally, I’d do some easy recovery rides, but Coach put me on a 4 day vacation that ends after today. Leading in to Mohican, I’m basically recovering. It’s not ideal. In my head (and, probably to a lesser degree ,in my legs), I’m losing fitness every day. That, coupled with the uncertainty of WHY DON’T I FEEL LIKE RACING?!? has basically turned me into an emotional basketcase.

There are theories… not many ways to figure out which is correct-
A) I’m just burnt out. I don’t feel like racing because I’m tired of racing these long-ass races. The mental malaise has carried over into physical malaise.
I don’t necessarily think that’s true… I don’t feel like I’ve met my goal of “kick lots of 100 mile ass,” so it’s still very interesting to me. Where do I go after this season? I don’t know. It may not be the NUE series. It may be XC or Marathon distance racing. It may be racing geared in the NUE. I don’t know, but right now, I am 99% sure I’m not burnt out on 100s.
B) Overtraining/lack of recovery
Plausible. Why? I don’t know. I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary. My training program seems solid. If anything, since ramping back into training in February, I’ve felt like I’ve wanted more. Up until Slobberknocker, I’ve felt like a sponge for training intensity- absorbing everything the bike throws at me and still feeling thirsty for more.
C)Physiological problem
Maybe I’m anemic. I started eating more high-iron foods, but maybe there’s a problem with absorption. I do experience some pretty interesting beeturia when I consume beets. This is the one thing that’s easier to figure out- I went to the Shot Nurse clinic yesterday and had blood drawn for a complete blood count. I should have preliminary results back later this morning, though, even if everything looks normal now, I wouldn’t totally drop all suspicions… blood is not a static thing. While it always consists of the same basic elements, fluctuations in hormones, electrolytes, hydration, etc. can occur and throw off the numbers.

Whatever it is, it’s frustrating. I identify as a bike racer. You take away my ability and desire to do so, and you take away a part of my being. Everything has gone so well up to this point… looking so promising… I just want this bad patch to be over so I can get back to honeybadger status…

 

May 22, 2012

Recovery Day Shennanigans

Filed under: Training — Andrea @ 1:20 pm

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 21, 2012

Syllamo 125k

Filed under: Bike Racing — Andrea @ 6:53 am

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

 

Petting Turbo

 

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

Tiger Lane #4

Filed under: Bike Racing,Training — Andrea @ 7:28 am

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

More around the shop…

Filed under: Around the shop — Andrea @ 6:43 am

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:

 

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