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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzmXvHHQzcs). 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.

 

 

Hostile Takeover

In an ironic twist of events, my legs have somehow disconnected from my aching sacrum ans well as my brain’s sudden meltdown into a quivering heap of lost hope in humanity. During the past two days of training, my system has done a 180 from it’s normal function of brain not listening to whining legs. It’s like the exact opposite of this:

 

I appreciate everyone’s concern and suggestions in my previous post. Group rides are great, and the atmosphere of the one I went on last week was incredibly accepting and fun. They’d be an excellent way of getting back into road riding with less worry about drivers “not seeing me.” However, a coach/training plan isn’t usually compatible with a group ride, and, as long as I’m physically able to do so, I have to set my meltdowns aside and get on the HTFU train to improving my fitness.

So, my legs have taken over like they’ve got a mind of their own. It’s akin having Sargeant Hartman in my quads. I’m hoping that when the Ouachita Challenge rolls around in a little less than 2 weeks, I’ll be healed enough that I can put them to good use and negotiate the steep and rocky parts of the Ouachita Trail. If not, I’m gonna have a bad time. If it all works out, I can pull off a win at a race where I’ve had plenty of bad luck in the past. Last year’s winner, Carey Lowery, is not on the entry list, but Jessica Rawlings, who beat me by minutes last year, is going to be there.

In an attempt to not have repeated breakdowns while road riding, yesterday I took to waving and saying “thank you” to every driver that took care by slowing down, giving space, and waiting until the road ahead was clear when passing. It took my mind off of the other 50 that passed too close and/or fast on blind hills & whatnot. Focus on the positive, right?

Cheer up, Emo Kid

Training this weekend was, physically speaking, not a failure. I’ve still got sacroiliac pain, but, from what I understand, that sort of thing just takes a long time to heal. I’m going in for another checkup with the orthopedic doctor on Wednesday, and I plan on talking to him to make sure that everything I’m experiencing is normal with my sort of injury.

Unfortunately, as my physical scars are fading slowly, the psychological  impact of my accident is beginning to sink in. On Saturday, I went out for a road ride. I cried no fewer than 5 times. Why? People were being careless- they’d pass a little too close, or going into a blind turn or hill. One driver buzzed me at ~50mph because he/she wanted to pass when there was oncoming traffic. After the initial 5 seconds of adrenaline, I pulled off the road into a heap of snot and tears.

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None of these things are atypical for any road ride, and, aside from the buzzing incident, none actually put me into much danger. However, I’ve become acutely aware that a majority of people in existence just don’t care about anyone other than themselves. It’s ugly, and it makes me lose hope that I won’t get mowed down again because someone is too wrapped up in their own agenda to actually give a damn about the well-being of others. It’s like this quote posted by one of my Facebook friends about motorcycles:

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My tattoo artist, Joe Stamp, is still in the hospital because someone who wasn’t paying attention pulled out of a sidestreet and hit him while he was riding his motorcycle. He just had to have the lower half of one of his legs amputated (you can donate to his insane medical bills via this link: https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/7SCd6. I’m guessing the amount that’s on there right now will pay for 1 or two days of his really long hospital stay, so chip in if you can)

At one point, about 5 miles from my house on the way home, I actually called for someone to come and pick me up. I almost couldn’t bear to think about any other human beings acting in a manner that would put other human beings lives in danger. However, a few minutes after I made the call, I texted back… (warning, I used the “F” word)

 

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So, I rode home. I didn’t cry again until I was back.

Sunday, I did a recovery ride mostly in Shelby Farms, and today, I’ve got a trainer workout (indoors). Tomorrow, I’ll get back out and try again. It’s all I can do at this point.

Insurance Companies and Bright Lights

Things are slowly getting back to normal for me.

Earlier this week, I had a meeting with an insurance agent from Progressive, the insurance company of the driver who hit me. Up until this point, I’d received a lot of advice and admonishments about how to handle the wreck/insurance situation. Everything from, “Call a lawyer and sue everybody for huge sums of $$” (most of facebook) to “You’ve got no reason to meet with them. Don’t do it” (my dad), and lots of people saying that I needed to be on my toes because I would be pressured to sign a settlement immediately and for less than what I “deserved.”

Thankfully, my experience was quite the opposite of any of those things.

The agent I met with was kind and genuinely concerned for my well-being. I know what some of you are thinking- I’m being naive. No, not really. She was, by far, the nicest and most helpful person I’ve dealt with (and she felt bad about asking if I was wearing dark clothing in our previous phone conversation). I’ve got a pretty good handle of when people are blowing smoke. So, it looks as if everything is in motion for getting my medical, equipment, and P&I (pain and inconvenience, which I had no idea even existed) taken care of, with her help.

As for riding, I’ve been getting back into it slowly. I can pedal at a moderate pace without any pain or discomfort. However, any hard efforts make my sacroiliac joint ache. According to the ortho doc I visited last week, everything is structurally intact, but there’s lots of soft tissue bruising. He also said that getting back to my normal activity at a rate that’s not uncomfortable is the best therapy for my type of injuries.
I did manage to get out with a group ride last night. I joined up with the Memphis Hightailers for an early-evening loop around Germantown. Being in a group feels a little safer to me for the time being, though I’m determined to not let solo-ride traffic anxiety deter me from getting on with training in the near future. I did make a “security blanket” purchase last week- Cygolite Hotshot 2W
I actually bought 2. Just in case. In case of what? I can’t really tell you, but so far it’s come in handy for when Matt went out for an evening ride while I was using light #1.

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So, the machine is slowly winding up again. Hopefully I’ll be back at cruising altitude in the not too distant future.

Follow-up…

I’m discovering another bad part of getting hit by a car is not only the actual injuries, but also the fact that you get to tell your story of “this is how some lady wasn’t paying attention and could have killed me” to no fewer than 5 insurance company employees in the days that follow. They are generally nice, but they ask loaded questions like, “were you wearing dark colored clothing?” and the like. I’m not afraid to admit, yesterday, all of the phone calls made me cry a little in the name of feeling sorry for myself.

Then again, I’m glad I’m not dead or paralyzed.

I’m relatively certain that I’ve found most of the damage to my equipment. The most glaring of the damage is that the steertube of my fork is cracked…

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Which essentially means that, at the ripe old age of 3 rides and 95 miles, the CAAD10 is currently unusable (frame integrity is yet to be determined- there is a lot of paint damage, and I’m taking it to the shop to check the alignment today). So, I’m once again without a road bike.

Prettymuch all of the rest of my equipment resembles my body- sliding down the road at however many mph we were accelerated to via bumper of a car is not kind to anything.

On a more positive note- I used my spare non-training time yesterday to make springrolls! An international market opened up near my house last year, so I’m trying to find new stuff to cook that involves interesting ingredients that I can find there. Now that I know the basics of the spring rolls, I’m gonna try some other rice-paper wrapped stuff. They have really good seafood up there, so I made these with gulf shrimp, spicy rice noodles, cucumbers, and carrots…

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Rouge Roubaix XV

A.K.A. One of the unluckiest/luckiest days of my life.

Saturday morning, Matt and I drove down to St. Francisville. We stopped on the north end of the course and pre rode the 2nd and 3rd (previous years, these were the 1st and 2nd, but the course was changed this year) sections of gravel. It was sandy and treacherous as usual. I was happy with the fit & feel of the new bike. In case you were wondering, a CAAD10 rides very nicely- the handling is great, and, though it’s a tiny bit less “rockety” than a super stiff carbon bike, it’s miles better than the 2009 Madone I briefly owned a couple of years ago.

Sunday morning, everything was shaping up for a good race. For the first time in 15 years, women had their own separate start (in previous years, they’d raced with cat 4 and/or masters men). I haven’t road raced in the area in a couple of years, so, other than Louise Smyth (a.k.a. best TTer in the South & last year’s winner) and Amy Phillips (who I’d met racing cyclocross in TN), I didn’t know who the horsepower of the bunch would be.

The race got off to a little bit of a slow start. Fine by me- we had 104 miles of course ahead of us. However, as we approached the fist gravel road section at about 18 miles in (a new addition to this year’s course), Louise, who’d been sitting on the back, moved up to the front of the group. I glued myself to her wheel, and, as we made a sketchy, loose, hairpin right-hander onto a gravel road, she and I got around clean while the rest of the field faltered.

Hammer = down.

Louise can throw down on some gravel. We pounded through the rest of the section, and as we neared the exit, looked back and saw that one lone rider, Amy Phillips, was dangling in no-man’s land behind us. We decided that with ~80 miles to go, it’d be wise to include another good rider into hammer time. The three of us worked our butts off to the next gravel section. Behind us, I can only imagine the infighting that was keeping the group from getting organized and chasing us down, but Louise and I agreed that it was unlikely that they’d catch us if we stayed steady.

Gravel #2 (the longest gravel section) was a little sketchier and sandier than the first section. We paced ourselves- going just hard enough to make it through everything smoothly, but not so recklessly that we couldn’t see the washouts and waterbars ahead of us. Unfortunately, right near the end of it, Louise stopped as we approached the crest of a hill. Amy and I stopped at the top and yelled back at her to see what was up, and she said that she’d dropped her chain. We soft pedaled for what seemed like an eternity (it was probably only about a minute, but in “off the front” time, it felt like 10) before deciding that we didn’t want to stick around long enough to see the rest of the group. So, Amy and I set out onto the road as a duo.

We agreed on sharing the work in steady, two minute pulls and settled in for what was going to be a long, hard day. Unfortunately, this is where the bad luck comes into play. At mile 58, we were on a long, flat, straight section of road. Amy mentioned that (because of the lack of hills or turns), this would be a good place to see if anyone was behind us. While she pulled, I took a good long look over my shoulder.

Nope, nothing back there except a car in the distance.

Seconds later, I heard a fraction of a second of car brakes panicking on the asphalt. Before it could register in my head what was happening, the car I’d seen behind me seconds before plowed into me and my bike. I was airborne long enough to picture myself dying on the side of the road. It was the most absolutely terrifying moment of my entire life because I was moving so fast, and everything hurt so bad.

(just typing this now is making me feel clammy and anxious)

The rest of my story is in a police report, and, because I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do “legally,” I’ll leave the details out except to say that I went to the hospital, was x-rayed, and was discharged with nothing broken. Just to clear up some of the rumors I’ve heard- no, it wasn’t a hit and run.

As for the race, Louise caught up with Amy, who’d stopped when I was hit. They battled it out for the QOM on the next gravel, then rode together til the last gravel, where Louise attacked her and rode in for the win.  I’m disappointed that I wasn’t there, but I’m happy that I’m not in a hospital or dead right now.

Gu Energy

I haven’t talked about it much until now (it was a little bit of a late addition to the sponsor list), but it’s high time I made this post. All of my sponsors are great, and they’re all very important pieces of the race season puzzle, but today’s post is dedicated to Gu Energy.

Details aside, they’ve made both a product and race entry contribution that’s so significant, it’s allowing me (budget-wise) to go to an extra stage race (TSE) this season along with the Breck Epic. If you know anything about mountain bike stage races, you know that they’re expensive as all getout- not just the entry fees, but also the cost of travel, lodging, etc. I’m incredibly privileged to have such a generous sponsorship, and I hope that all of you who are reading this take it into account when you make your next nutrition purchase at the bike shop.

I mean, it should go without saying, but, like most of my other sponsors, I used Gu products way before they had any idea that I like to ride a bike at high rates of speed. Just a quick rundown:

Roctane (gel and drink mix) is one of my most favorite nutrition formulations of all time, and, even if I wasn’t sponsored by them, I’d still mainline it during my hard training & racing efforts. In the words of my friend Forrest Owens, “it hits you like a freight train through a wet paper sack.”

Gu Chomps are like athlete candy. I use them a lot as a pre-ride snack, but you can eat them any time just like you would a regular gel (there are two servings per pack). Confession- sometimes I want to ride just so I’ll have an excuse to eat them. They’re crazy tasty.

Recovery Brew is also something you’ll start craving once you’ve had it. I’ve taken to making various recovery brew recipes. My current favorite (since it’s cold & gross outside) is heating up 1/2 water 1/2 goats milk in the microwave (just enough to make it warm) then pouring it over the chocolate smoothie recovery powder in the shaker bottle. It’s like having post-ride hot chocolate.

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P.S. There are two other people that use the pictured shelves & drawers for storage, so other stuff is bound to show up in photos.

P.P.S. Honorable mention to the new style purist bottle- holds 22oz, softer plastic than your usual bottle, and a water hose for a spout. That shaker bottle is pretty sweet, too, and you don’t actually have to use it in the same manner that Poolboy Matt does for it to be effective.

I haven’t pictured the electrolyte brew and tablets. I like the Roctane so much that I generally just drink it in my bottles, however, the electrolyte brew does have a lot more salt in it that I’ll be craving in the summer time, so it’ll likely show up on the shelves in the next couple of months.

 

 

Oops

First off, just as a quick update, there’s more bad juju going on with the EVO. I’m just waiting to work things out with C’Dale before I give a full report, because I want my next report to be my last one.

Now that’s out of the way, I can talk about my own screw-up that kept me from riding in a group MTB ride in Oxford on Saturday. As a little change of pace, Poolboy Matt and I decided that we’d go down to Oxford for the “Tuff Guy” ride- a group ride starting at one trail system, taking a road/bike path route to trails on the other side of town, then coming back to the starting trail system. The weather was pretty dismal- temps hung in the low 30’s, cloud cover was thick, and the humidity was so high that the moisture in the air was turning into snow-ish ice pellets that’d pelt you in the face and collect in your collar. We figured it’d be more fun to suffer bad weather with a group on new trails instead of suffering alone in Memphis.

So, Saturday morning, we got into a breakfast time-vacuum of some sort, and ended up rushing a little to leave. I backed the car out of the garage to pack and realized that the roads were slimy, so I decided to stick the bikes inside the Element rather than on the rear rack. I removed the front wheels, and they fit in perfectly with our bags & other riding stuff. We were off & running, and made the drive down with 20 minutes to spare before the ride start.

As soon as we arrived, Matt took his bike out & rode off to look for a bathroom. I got my bike out and it immediately hit me- I had no thru axle for my front wheel. I didn’t even have to look around in the car to make sure. I clearly remembered wrestling with it a little to get it out of the front wheel, then tossing it on the ground in the driveway before installing the bike and front wheel into the back of the Element without retrieving the thru axle. I flagged down Matt. We made a few hail-mary efforts to look for someone with a spare bike that may have one, but it wasn’t happening. I knew Matt was really looking forward to the ride, so I offered to be a crew person for the group then do my workout on the trainer once we were home. However, he decided he’d rather go back and ride in Memphis.

The ride back home was very quiet.

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Back home, we hit the reset button- eating lunch, prepping bikes, and deciding on a route. Given the rain we’ve been having, we chose on an out & back route that included the driest of the nearby trails as well as some of the Memphis Greenline. Pace would range from spirited to “hammertime.”

We ended up having a great, exhausting ride. Matt installed a rigid fork on his bike a few days ago and decided to celebrate by riding cross-country pace+ on the inbound portion of our route. The combination of pace and lack of trail traffic (due to weather than was better suited to staying inside with a hot toddy) made for some serious Strava terrorism. We may not have done the planned group ride, but we got in one helluva workout.

Day = salvaged

Just Riding Along and Stuff

Just Riding Along seems to be gaining some traction in recent episodes. If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, you can check it out here: Mountain Bike Radio- Just Riding Along

The past few episodes, we’ve actually had more write-in questions via Facebook than what we can cover in the show, which is great, because it’s very effective insurance against dead air- on a related note, if you want to be 100% certain that we fully discuss a topic that you want information about, I’d suggest actually calling in during the show. We often times have to speculate, which is fun, but may not give you what you’re looking for. Added bonus- you’re also much more likely to win the giveaway if we’ve got one.

Since it seems we’ve got a good listener-base, I’ve also been trying to procure some product to test/review/talk to someone about on air, and, so far, I’m 0 for 3. Apparently, no one other than Bruce Dickman from ProGold sees the value in internet radio shows (nothing wrong with that, of course- we’re pretty huge fans of their products).

On the training front, everything is chugging along. I’m putting in approximately 15 hours per week (give or take), and, though my legs were arguing with me yesterday about the intensity of some 15 minute intervals (I eventually won the argument, but it took lots of loud music and hurt a lot), everything is going pretty well. The weather here is back to 40/windy/humid as f*** for the foreseeable future, so my volume is acutely stunted by taking to the occasional trainer ride. Not that I can’t get out in that stuff…

Tough day at the office

…it’s just some days, 40 and raining feels less tolerable than others.

In “mechanic of the century” news, I found one last thing that got killed by the mud/powerwashers at CX Worlds. Fullface Kenny was giving me a hand with a quick check of tension on my 2 sets of I9 wheels (normal suggested maintenance after the first few rides) when he found that all of the outboard bearings in my i25 road tubeless wheels were dead (not the wheels’ fault- this is guaranteed to happen to any bearing if you’re sloppy with the pressure washer). I hadn’t touched them other than one washing since we’d come back home, so I’d totally missed it. So, it was impromptu hub rebuild time at the shop. Luckily, Kenny has continued my legacy of bearing hoarding at the shop, so I was able to replace everything that was crunchy. I got artsy with Instagram (again).
P.S. In case you were wondering, after a little thrashing- including both Syllamo and Tour de Wolf (read- irresponsibly fast launches from washed out root drops), the Trail 24s were in near-perfect shape.

Finally, in “EVO Saga” news, Cannondale has responded favorably to my previous blog posts about my frame issues (I was actually contacted directly by Mandy Braverman from @CannondaleWomen on Twitter). Previous issues aside, it’s nice to see a company that responds to customer issues rather than ignoring them/pretending they don’t exist, or, even worse, deleting them from existence when posted in a public social media spot (ask Dan Hensley what he thinks about Specialized’s views on IMBA Rule #2). As of Tuesday, they are supposed to be shipping a new bike my way. This one should be non-defective and totally compatible with any PF30 bottom bracket available. I plan on tearing my current frame down again today in preparation for the new one’s arrival, though I’m not getting too excited just yet, because I don’t know if it’s shipped. I’ll keep you posted.