Saturday, August 4, 2012

Training Carnage... Sort Of

Training for LOTOJA has been rolling along nicely (pun intended). Many miles, both forward and up, have been logged. I even had a successful race now that I have accepted my place as an "old lady" citizen rider. The Tour de Park City Gran Fondo wound 94 miles up and over Wolf Creek Pass and climbed over 7500 feet. JB and I hung in there and finished 2nd and 3rd in our class (and there were lots of women in our group). Our efforts would have placed us similarly even if we were in the younger "old lady" group.

This week our family is vacationing in Sun Valley, and the road bike was hauled along to continue the training, as the big race is only 6 weeks away. With my daughter planning hikes, runs, mountain bike rides, and treading water tests, my energy levels were challenged. Still, I rode 23 miles 2 days ago, and yesterday I logged 25 miles on the way to Red Fish Lake. After the family picked me up, we all embarked on a 6 mile hike in the beauty of the Sawtooths. As we drove back to our condo, my husband asked if I wanted to be dropped off at Galena summit and ride the 30 miles back. I had a lame excuse about not having enough water, and after the kids combined the ice from their drinks and a few ounces at the bottom of a couple of bottles, I had no choice. "Suffer now or suffer later" is the motto for LOTOJA training, so I opted for some immediate suffering.

It wasn't much suffering, as the first 8-10 miles were steep descent, and I could easily spin or coast. The long flat leading back to Ketchum can be brutal because of up-canyon winds, but I was surprised with a solid tail wind that kept me going near 30 mph much of the way. Although conditions were terrific, I was still tired from all the vacation activities. As I approached the outskirts of Ketchum, I began to think that I should get off the highway and onto the bike path... for safety. I was cruising at about 25 mph and missed the first opportunity to get off the highway, so when the next turn-off came up, I acted quickly. It didn't take long to realize that I took the turn too fast, and to make it worse I noticed the turn was sharper than 90 degrees. My first instinct was to slam on the brakes, causing immediate skidding. Now I saw that the road was covered in black sand. I tried to ease off the brakes and extend the turn into the far lane; I ran out of road. Before I knew what happened, I was down on my side, sliding down the road. My head slammed the pavement, and then the slide continued on my front side. Instantly, I was standing up; a guy on the highway slowed down to ask if I was all right... I said yes before I even had a chance to assess anything.

I untangled the my chain and got it back into place. The bike looked O.K. I had a little blood on my knees and my wrist was also bleeding, but I had too much adrenaline in me to feel any pain. I got back on and headed home. Realizing I slid on my ipod side, I touched it, and the music started again. Guess all is well. When I was within a couple of miles from home, a little family was coming toward me on the other side of the path; mom, dad, little girl, and little boy taking a leisurely ride. Of course the little boy wasn't watching where he was going; he crossed the center line, sending me into a post-traumatic stress emergency. We didn't collide, but now I was crying.

In ten years of recent road cycling, I have never crashed until now. It's interesting to get a sense of what those poor guys in the Tour de France go through... kind of a weird rite of passage. Still, I could do without the aches and pains on every prominent surface of my right side; my cheek, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and shin. I'm wondering if my elbow is broken, as I can't completely straighten it, or bend it too much either.

I'm taking a couple of days off, and I'm sure I can resume my training plan after that. These things ultimately make us stronger; I'm counting on it.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Racing? Seriously??

Yesterday was the Porcupine Hill Climb, which starts at the base of  Big Cottonwood Canyon and climbs about 3500 feet over 14 miles. I planned to sign up for this event, as the climb would be good for my preparation for LOTOJA. Plus, having accomplished the Mt Nebo Century, which was nearly twice as much climbing, I was feeling confident that I could do well. Herein lies my flawed thinking.

The Nebo event was composed of a group of enthusiastic cyclists, but few actual "racers" were signed up. In fact, I only noticed two female "racers", and they passed me and almost everyone else on the ride like we were standing still.

Fast forward to the Porcupine Hill Climb... I could have registered as a citizen, but my friend (this is same friend who got me to do Nebo, but then bagged out on it at the 11th hour) convinced me to enter a race category. I had already experienced racing with the Master's 35+ women's group at the High Uinta 10,000 this year. We were a group of seven, three of us not really racers at all; the other four, it turned out, were Cat 3 veterans. It was because of my interaction with these women that JB has forbidden me to talk to cyclists, unless she has approved the content first. All I did was try to have a little conversation, momentarily forgetting that we were racing. I saw that one girl's jersey matched a big group that does the MS ride every year, so I asked if she did that ride, or did she "race". She looked at me quizzically (and with a tad of scorn) and replied, "Aren't we all racers?". After my and JB's next pull, the girls pulled away, leaving me gasping for breath for quite a while. Apparently, riders like us are not welcome, and as we watched their small group continue at basically the same pace as us, but out of reach, JB decided it would be best if I kept my mouth shut from now on.

Anyway, I was coerced into signing up for Porcupine in this same group, the gnarly Master's 35+ women. My friend told me it would be better, as the citizens would be starting an hour earlier, when the canyon winds were stronger.

On the morning of the race, we rode for about 10 miles to the base of the canyon and studied the crowd. I didn't really recognize anyone, but I did notice that there were not any of the big guys I had seen at the Nebo event... these guys were skinny. As the start grew near, everyone got into position for the mass start, and unfortunately, I was near the end. When the race began, it took a few seconds for the front of the pack to move and for me to even start to coast out of the parking lot. Of course, I couldn't get my foot into my clip, and as we crossed the road about 100 feet from the start, the mass was already flying ahead. My legs felt like cement as I tried to stay in the pack, and when I backed off a little, the entire mass slowly moved further and further away. I didn't dare look back, because I wasn't sure if I was dead last or not... and I didn't want to know.

I told myself that some of these riders would blow up, and by the time it got steep, I would be passing quite a few of them. It wasn't quite that way; in fact, I think I only passed a handful of riders the whole way. One of them was that kid in the Specialized commercial that they are showing in the Tour de France; the one where the 11 year old is wildly sprinting down the dirt road, imagining someone chasing him? At least the kid I passed was about the same size, which looked to be about 3 sizes smaller than his bike. After that surge of confidence, I came upon another guy and passed him too; he said he was riding a lot slower than he did last year. Yeah right. It was pretty quiet for quite a while, no one in front, and as far as I knew, no one behind, although I still would not look. I went as fast as I could, but still there was no one in sight. It was extremely disheartening. What was I thinking?! Signing up in a racing class when I'm just another week-end warrier basically.

As I neared the top, I think I passed about 3-4 more people. They were probably recovering from organ transplants or something. One of the guys looked really fit from behind, which gave me a boost, until I saw his front side as I passed. He had a gray beard about a foot long and was maybe 70, 75 years old. Still, I pushed to the finish, even trying to pick up the pace a little. Fortunately, when I arrived, the party was still going on; a band playing music and breakfast of bagels and fresh fruit.

Before heading back down the canyon, I checked out the result board, which didn't have any of the groups sorted out yet, but it did have times. I saw my name at the very bottom of the list. Perhaps they hadn't updated all the times yet? I still don't know, but I do know that I am going to rethink this racing thing. It's definitely out of my league, and given the amount of riding I have been doing, I'm not sure if it will ever be in my league. I'll just have to find a venue that fits a little better.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

550 Miles and 33,562 Feet Later...

I feel bad for not keeping up on this important task that ABSOLUTELY NOBODY is following, but today is the day for an update!

June has been a great training month for me, which culminated with the Mt Nebo Century yesterday. At a friend's suggestion, I signed up for this well-supported, scenic ride that included a 20+ mile climb to 9300 feet. I almost convinced my best riding partner to join me, but the smoke from the nearby wild fires currently consuming the state kept her away. Turns out the friend who suggested this ride also opted out, leaving me alone. What follows is the play by play action that I drove an hour in an un-air-conditioned car to accomplish:

It was a dark and stormy night.... actually, it was a bright and sunny morning albeit with a pretty thick smoky haze all about. I met a few people at the start and was grateful that we had a few miles of flat for a warm-up, as I didn't want to log any extra miles warming up before the century. The group seemed antsy, and being at the end of the train provided some excellent slinky effect. These little catch-up sprints were making me nervous, as I knew the climbing was going to be horrendous. I wasn't disappointed!

As the road wound up through beautiful forest, containing a surprising number of maples which don't normally thrive here, I settled into a pace that was "comfortable" for me and hoped that not too many people would pass. The switchbacks were pretty extreme at first, providing short and flatter areas for reprieve. After about 4 or 5 miles, the grade became more constant, reminding me of many of the hard climbs I had done before, although this climb just kept going. I tried not to look at my Garmin, knowing that I had more than 10 more miles to climb. I definitely made no calculations as to how long it would take. Near the top, there are several false summits that I was told about, so I avoided any feelings of elation until I knew I had reached the real summit. There were some great, short descents through the cooler air, followed by shifting lower and lower until no gears were left.

Near the top, I was all out of water and looking for the aid station. When I got there, food was aplenty, but they were short on water. Being the generous (aka stupid) person I am, I only took half a bottle, knowing there was more aid ahead. Seven miles and a few hundred more feet of elevation later, the next aid station had no water... just ice cubes. I filled my bottle and started the long-awaited descent. Soon, the cubes were rattling noisily in my bottle, as the road had just been prepared for resurfacing: picture chip seal on steroids, plus a little loose gravel just for fun. What could have been a thrilling flight down the mountain became a brake-twitching epic search for a path between gravel. Even so, it was better than the climb. The long flat at the bottom was into a hot head wind, and I desperately searched ahead and behind for anyone... no one was there. Fortunately, after a few miles there was another aid station, and this one actually had water and ice.. woo hoo! I drank and ate as much as possible, realizing I was already low on everything and still had 50 miles to go. By now it was hot, and the expected temperature for the day was 101 degrees. Two guys left the aid station, and I jumped on their wheels. We took turns pulling, first into the wind, then downwind after the course headed back north. I was feeling great, especially because we were making good time.

I have to say, I have never ridden with strangers that were so good to me. As time went on, I think the heat or dehydration or fatigue or something was getting to me, and I dropped back a little, fully expecting them to move on. They both slowed down to pick me up again! After mixing with a couple of other groups, the pace increased too much for me again, and this time one of the guys came back and tried to pull me back to the group. I tried to take advantage of this most unexpected heroism, but I had to send him on. It was almost 80 miles into the ride, and I was determined to.... quit. I just couldn't ignore the massive signal in my brain that was telling me to stop, even though my legs weren't in agony. This stretch was a blazing sunny flat through farms, with absolutely no shade... except one tree. I sat under this tree for a minute or two, texted my husband, hoping he might pick me up... thought about crying for help or just crying. No response, so I got back on my bike and spun along, determined to get to the next aid station and then get a ride back. It was about here that the road was newly paved, the darkest black possible, not smoothly, but with chip seal. As if 100 degrees weren't bad enough, we now had some extra heat waves beaming up from the ground; I tried to sit tall.

The last aid station was 6 miles from the end, and I demanded a ride back. A really nice lady had me sit down in the shade while she got me some ice water, which I poured down my gullet and over my head. After resting for a little while, I figured I might as well continue and ended up making it back in one piece, in time for a nice lunch in the shade with other survivors. 100 miles (actually 101) and 6578 feet of climbing in and above the smoke during a major heat wave. It was a great end for the month. I'm looking forward to the start of a new cycle, beginning with an easy week.

Next time... why JB won't let me talk to other cyclists

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Mostly Talk, Little Action

Well, it's better than all talk and no action! More proof that most things aren't black and white, but shades of gray. Still, as I predicted, I did not do any cycling exercise while attending my conference in San Francisco - but I did a lot of walking... and quite a bit of wine drinking. I also stocked up on Trader Joe's goods, and have upped my eating volume too. If only I could approach training like wine and dark chocolate!

One thing about getting older and wiser is that you do really see the grays in life. This wasn't so in the early 1980s when I found myself in Utah. I had a steel-frame 10-speed that I inherited from my older (and considerably taller) brother, complete with 5 pound kickstand. My roots are in rural upper Michigan, so I grew up doing lots of activities, mostly just for fun. So, as I cycled up Emigration Canyon in Utah, with my baggy sweat pants tucked into my knee-high tube socks, I was amazed at how many decked-out cyclists there were. It seemed that everyone here specialized in something and sported all the latest gear and clothing. I was unaware that shoes specially made for cycling even existed. For me there were only uphills and downhills, with flat places grouped with the downhills. Having no skill or training in cycling but exceptionally strong legs from ski racing, there were only 2 gears also; 5th and 10th. It simplified the process of riding, as I only had to work with a single shifter; 5th for climbing and 10th for everything else. It was a blast!

Eventually, I discovered a mail order catalog that contained all types of cycling gear, and I bought some Italian shoes and padded shorts. I can't recall when the helmet entered the scene, but it was not after a head injury, so I was lucky. The intricacies of shifting came next, as I learned that not all hills are created equal... shades of gray. Today, I can sense and appreciate the slightly flatter sections during a steep climb and breathe a little easier. Those small breaks provide just enough respite to keep going with a small amount of renewed energy. This is a life lesson!

My job involves research of pathologic pain and fatigue, and I have met many people who face major challenges. Recently, we tested a woman who was part of an experimental drug trial. Her fatigue and pain were so severe that she spent almost all of her time in bed, except for about 2 hours each day. She felt that the treatment she was receiving was helping, reporting that although her pain was still bad her fatigue had improved. In her uphill challenge, she was experiencing a little "flat" spot in which she got a small break; respite. This got her moving around for about 4 hours each day. While this does not seem ideal or even good to you or me, for her it was a major breakthrough, and she was happy. I guess it is all relative... if we feel we are getting better, this is a major accomplishment.

Lately, I'm not too encouraged about my goal to become the fittest I've ever been when I turn 50. I'm also pretty sure I'm not going to make a video that goes viral and appear on the Today show either. But, every day, or every week I can find some joy whether it's on my bike or somewhere else. It's all relative.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Girl Power?

Now that I am gaining some momentum in the midst of my endurance block (I've ridden 7+ hrs this week), work is taking me to San Francisco for a few days. I hope to find a stationary bike in the hotel to keep up, but I'm guessing this week is shot. This trip is precluding me from riding in a classic all-women ride north of Salt Lake, Little Red Riding Hood. It would be good to get a century under my belt.

Which brings me to the topic of all-women rides... they are cropping up all over the place. Part of me thinks it's great; a venue for all types of women riders to gather in a non-stressful environment to cycle together. I get that many women are intimidated to participate in cycling events with men, who tend to be more competitive and may be intimidating. These all-female events draw hundreds of riders, and it's great to see the diversity; young, old, skinny, fat, tall, short, etc. Although it sounds weird, it reminds me of the time I went to see the Vagina Monologues. I was incredibly moved by the beauty of women of all types. It was wonderful to see and accept that women of all shapes and sizes are lovely. Events like Little Red promote the idea that you don't need to be an Amazon woman to enjoy a cycling challenge.

BUT... over the years, Little Red has also been extremely disenchanting, as I have watched clueless riders take up an entire lane, mindlessly chattering to each other, while frustrated drivers wait to get around them. Efforts to educate these cyclists on rules of the road have been mostly ineffective; it's still a melee of swerving, nervous braking, and road clog... and every year there are threats of revoking the event license because of unnecessary crashes and traffic interference.

As I browsed the Little Red blog last week, I realized that the educational message this time was directed to riders like me! The site preached that Little Red was not an event designed to provide opportunities to achieve your fastest century time. Translated: competent female riders need not apply. Because efforts to educate novices on riding etiquette have failed, the strategy now is to rein in faster riders who possess the ability to use a pack to move along quickly.

It gets even better (or worse, depending on your perspective). Little Red is a venue to promote other all-female rides, like Pamper Fest, in which you can get your nails done and have a massage too, all in a sea of pink fluff. (maybe they should consider liposuction and face-lifts as well). The message I'm getting is: women can't really ride, and they shouldn't lose sight of their real purpose... to look good. So, the heavyish granola woman on the mountain bike should consider a manicure to improve herself.

It's not for me! I'm not young anymore; I'm riddled with wrinkles, gray hairs, and mysterious brown spots. I can ride a bike, and I'm getting better every year, even at this late date. It would be great to encourage women to focus on what they've accomplished and where they are headed, rather than this constant message to stay looking young. Let's raise the bar and focus on substance and celebrate the many ways women are great!

I'm disappointed that I don't seem to fit in the all-women venues or the "real" cycling races. I'm somewhere between and spend most of my time cycling alone, but I still experience the joy of almost flying during an acceleration or fast descent, and I guess that's the point - to find joy. I hope that the variety of opportunities out there help others find that too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Southwest Women Rock

Iron Horse Classic

This year's Iron Horse road race, a 6000 ft climb from Durango to Silverton, was epic! A pack of 83 women in the combined age categories 45+ and 55+ rolled out at just before 8 am. This time I wasn't too quick to judge cycling fitness based on hair grayness or other superficial observations... I knew these ladies were tough. My plan was to stick with the group for as long as possible, but if they attacked the first hill too fast I would ride my own pace, rather than blowing up. I actually had a note taped to my frame that told me how long each section of the course was, how fast I should be going, and what time I would reach each landmark. Sounds ridiculous I know, but it sets some goals, provides something to think about (other than pain), and is remarkable accurate.

The biggest challenge we faced this year was the weather. Driving into Durango on Friday evening, the sky was tinged brown with dust kicked up from strong wind and gusts of 60+ mph. Saturday began calm, but as we approached the two higher passes, wind was definitely a factor. There were moments of elation, as a powerful gust shoved me forward; other times I was pelted by pine cones or nearly stalled in the headwind.

Early in the race I identified a woman who pedaled at a steady, fast cadence that I was able to stay with. She looked to be about 30 from behind, but when I saw her from the front I realized she was one of "us", the older ladies. I later learned that she was in the 55+ group. We switched places off and on all day; she led the climbs and pulled me on the flats, and I usually slipped away on the descents. Had the wind not been so scary, I might have been able to stay ahead. As it was, my descents were tempered, as I thought about how fast I wanted to hit the pavement if a gust knocked me over. Luckily that didn't happen, but at one point I was pushed sideways with my wheels literally off the ground.

I managed to finish the race 10 minutes faster than last year, which was exactly my goal (I have the piece of paper that was taped to my bike to prove it!). However, I did learn how important fluid and calories are. It's not like I hadn't realized that I would need to eat and drink, but I didn't appreciate the degree of energy expenditure required for this 3+ hour event. In 3 hrs 21 min and 6000 ft, I only ate 2 energy gels and drank only 2 water bottles for a whopping consumption of about 400 calories (and my Garmin indicate a total expenditure of 1400). I should have consumed at least 900 calories and at least 3 bottles of fluid. So how do I know this was even a problem, especially since I bested last year's time? It happened at the finish, or rather just before. As I was pounding my way to the line, a girl from my group appeared out of nowhere and pulled ahead. My counter-"sprint" got me no closer to her; she was too well-rested from drafting me (excellent strategy, by the way). Anyway, in dealing with her plus another couple of citizen riders, I barely heard this guy standing in the middle of the road say "Racers, left". My mind did not comprehend who he was or what he was saying... and by the time it sank in, I was already corralled in the right side lane.... and I missed the finish! Definite brain drain... Lunch after the race was also interesting, as my friend JB and I tried to carry on a conversation, but neither of us could hang on to a thought for more than a second or two.

The brain problem was evidence of an energy shortage, but more importantly, the Garmin data shows that on the last climb my pace and heart rate kept dropping off. The inability to maintain power on each of these climbs illustrates an important deficit in my training... the lack of a deep aerobic base. Obviously, quite a few my fellow "pushing or pushed" 50ers did not have this deficit, as my result was around 23rd place, middle of the pack. In fact, quite a few of the 55+ ladies cleaned my clock. These ladies from Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico were amazing, and definitely an inspiration! So, beginning now and for all of June, I'm working backward to a base training regime... endurance block, here I come!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ready to Roll?

I wouldn't say that my preparation for the Iron Horse is ideal by any means, but there is a pattern that indicates a method to the madness. My excuse for inadequate training, which is shared by countless others, is that I don't have enough time... It's true that work has been crazy busy this month and that there have been numerous parenting responsibilities, so this excuse is credible... even to me. That is, until I met up with an old friend on a ride the other day, and she invited me to do hill work with her friend on Tuesday morning at 5:45. The fact that I have rarely considered dragging myself out of bed early (when there are never any schedule conflicts) demonstrates that time is not necessarily the problem; it is committment. At this point, I am unable/ unwilling to interupt my morning sleep to do the work necessary to really progress. At least I am considering the possibility now, and I might change my ways!

For now, I am pursuing the "here and there" training plan, getting 2-3 week-day rides and 1 longer week-end ride. In the 4 weeks leading up to the Iron Horse, I noticed my so-called "plan" actually looks pretty good, and I have more confidence now that I've analyzed my numbers. This week (week 4 of the training cycle) is my taper week. So far, I rode 18 miles and did 3 5-min intervals at a heart rate at the edge of my sustainable rate. These intervals will improve my ability to cope with sudden pace increases, like when the ladies dropped me last year. The plan is to do this type of work again today, and then do an easy ride on Friday before the race, just to keep the legs loose.

The stunning realization I had when looking over my Garmin data was that weeks 1-3 were nicely periodized. This essentially means that week by week I increased my training load. The increase can be via mileage, ride duration, elevation climbed, etc. To illustrate, here are my numbers (keep in mind that I put less effort into this than probably any other competitor signed up for the Iron Horse.. but that's another topic). Week 1 was 50 miles, 3 hr 14 min, and 3110 feet of climbing; Week 2 built up to 69 miles, 4 hr 43 min, and 6447 feet of climbing; and Week 3 was 106 miles, 8 hr 21 min, and 9049 feet of climbing. Perhaps this has something to do with my fatigue feelings last week, as this is a rather steep progression (happens when you take two weeks off to go sea kayaking). Now, it's kind of a relief to know that I am essentially finished preparing for this event; all I can do is try to keep hydrating, eat well, get plenty of rest and do 2 more rides. After the race, it will be time to start another training period, and the work begins again. Maybe this time I will approach the task with a little more committment and a more concrete plan; then again, who knows!

For now, I'm signing off, as I realized I could look at my Garmin data from last year's Iron Horse... I'm going to see what pace worked, what heart rates were achieved, and where the major climbs are. I know less about mental preparation, but knowing what's ahead is almost as good as complete naivete!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's Not All Fun and Games

Actually, my dad would say "It ain't all fun and games", referring to times in life when you had to do things that were, let's say, "unfun". This seems to be a time when I'm feeling this way about a lot of things... work, house/yard work, training. It's an energy low for sure, and it may have to do with listening to too much NPR, or maybe just the weather, which has been unseasonably warm. I did manage a few rides in the last week or so... climbed big mountain on Sunday, about 3300 ft, and felt pretty good. It was Tuesdays ride that about killed me. As the Iron Horse looms closer, I am starting to freak out about my preparation, as I have still not done any substantially long rides. So, on Tuesday, I determined I would go as long as possible in the time that I had (perhaps this is a source of gloominess, because I never seem to have more than 2 hrs in a row to complete anything). The day was hot and windy, and as I started out with my tunes, I soon realized that I had only one song in my low-tech ipod... . I turned back to home and re-sync-ed, and also refilled the fluids. It was hot, and I knew I was starting out a quart (or more) low.

When training time is limited, I find it difficult to spend much time spinning easy and keeping my heart rate down. I figure if I push hard when I'm able to ride, it will pay off more. But riding hard all of the time takes a toll, both mentally and physically. Add heat, and the experience is even more difficult for me. For these reasons, I have developed a training "framework" to not allow quitting or turning around unless some sort of landmark or goal is attained. I decided that I had to make it to the top of a hill that was about 15 miles away from home. As my rides progress, I set new goals along the way, so realizing I would easily attain the first goal, I decided to ride out to 23 miles in order to achieve a round trip of at least 40 miles (the math doesn't seem to make sense, but I had the little ipod loop at the start). The new goal put me into Little Cottonwood Canyon, one of my nemesis(es)/ nemeses? because of its unrelenting grade. Once in the canyon, another goal revision... go 2 miles (to achieve 23) OR until 4:00 pm (because I had to get home in time to fix dinner), whichever came first. Turns out, they occured simultaneously! (Not a big deal really, but it's amazing what you find interesting when you are trying to occupy your mind). Descending, as always, was a blast until I began to feel the awful, extremely painful foot burning.

Perhaps some of you skiers have experienced the terrible foot burning that happens when suddenly your numb feet become engorged with blood and come close to exploding. I get this feeling on my bike quite a bit, perhaps the worst case being when I did my first LOTOJA using my mountain bike pedals and too-small mountain bike shoes. Frequently, I had to stop, jump off the bike and lie down on my back with my feet in the air. Having pedals and shoes that distribute the force on the foot helps quite a bit, but when it is hot and the ride is longer, I still experience this excruciating pain. For me, it is worse than childbirth; at least contractions don't last that long... the foot burn is unrelenting. The best relief is elevating the feet, as the problem is reactive hyperemia or too much blood flow. Hopping off the bike to raise your feet is not an effective racing strategy, so I only use this option in desperate situations. Another partially useful solution is to wiggle and contract the toes and feet in order to push blood out. Last year, during LOTOJA (which was unusually hot) I tried pouring water over my feet, to get some vasoconstriction; cool relief! (for about 10 seconds). Also, shoes full of water probably adds more weight than I would like to think about. Probably the best solution is getting your mind off the pain. I have no idea how to do this, but it has worked for me, as I have had moments of awareness when I thought, "Hey, my feet don't hurt anymore" ... and then the pain returns! So, however I came to stop thinking about the pain worked!

To make a long story short, I completed my 40 miles on Tuesday, with a lot of suffering. I figure if I suffer now, maybe I won't suffer so much later. My weight the next morning was still about 3.5 lbs lower than usual, so I know that dehydration played a major role in the discomfort... working on trying to keep hydrated. It's essential to replenish fluids and calories in the first few hours after a ride, but when you feel awful, it's not always easy. So, as I tell my daughter, "keep moving in the right direction". I'll keep plugging away at work, riding, and all the rest. I know better days are ahead!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Embrace Your Inner Minivan

... A white minivan, and not even a fancy one. Ours was a manual 5-speed with windows that you actually had to roll up and down with a crank. So what does this have to do with cycling? or getting older? Whenever I drove that minivan, no matter how fast I was travelling, everyone HAD to get ahead of me. That vehicle exuded uncoolness, so anyone nearby had to get away. Again, link to cycling?

Some days out riding, I have to accept that I am that white minivan. No matter how great my kit looks, I'm still an older female; that is more than enough reason for everyone else (at least those of the male persuasion) to pass me, no matter how much energy it burns. As I was riding up the canyon today, three guys glided past me in pretty close succession. They weren't that young, and their legs definitely weren't shaved. (Technically, I should be able to stay ahead of this class of rider). My humiliation was amplified a few minutes later when another rider FLEW by as if I was standing still. (I did experience some satisfaction as I watched this guy overtake those other three). 

After a couple of minutes, it was clear that I was riding at the same pace as the third guy in the bunch; he just passed because of my uncoolness factor. I slowly crept up to his wheel, but as soon as he realized I was there, he took off again. I gave up and just maintained my pace to the top, passing a few folks on the way; a tandem (usually can pass on a steep incline) and a mountain biker (he may have a blog about pushing 70... not sure).

This is where all my theoretical riding hierarchy (nonsense) fell apart... Because of my alpine skiing background, I am usually pretty competent on descents, especially this one since I ride it regularly. But guess who passes me??? The old guy on the mountain bike! He pulls me halfway down the canyon, and I stay behind because I'm not sure I could go much faster! Finally, he briefly stretches his hip flexors and I pull ahead and hammer as hard as I can, but after about a mile, he's back again. I'm going to have to re-evaluate all of my riding stereotypes... Perhaps this fellow was just an anomaly.

All in all, great ride!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Prep Time!


So, am I the last to know that it's already May?? It just dawned on me that the Iron Horse (a 47 mile, 6650 ascent to 10,867 feet) is only 3 weeks away! I find myself in a dilemma; is it time to train or taper? This is particularly difficult because the training has been lacking. I did ride Big Mountain on Sunday, a 3389 ft climb over 33 miles (round trip) that took about 2 hrs 25 min. At least I am familiar with what climbing feels like. With only two week-ends left before the race, I am going to consult Chris Carmichael's "Time-Crunched Cyclist" in a desperate attempt to prepare. The plans that are outlined in this book oriented toward busy cyclists are 12 weeks long and assume the rider has some base training. Sporadic rides interupted by a 2-week sea-kayaking vacation hardly resembles base training, but it is what it is. My strategy for the next 2 weeks will be to push hard on shorter rides during the week (when work does not permit longer rides), taking advantage of natural terrain for intervals. The canyon in my back yard is great for this, as it has both gradual and steep sections. I also hammer all the way down the sometimes rolling terrain. For the next two week-ends, I'm going to ride longer, hopefully 2+ hrs Saturdays and Sundays. This should help me get used to saddle time, as last year the Iron Horse took me about 3.5 hrs. I can use the last 5 week-days preceding the race to take it a little easier, just riding to stay loose. This is by no means an ideal training plan, but it's all that I can do at this late date. From a broader perspective, this should be fine, as my REAL goal for this year is to get a personal best at LOTOJA in September.


I promised I would get back to you on the topic of gauging progress by comparing yourself to others. I generally compete against myself, but it is fun to race against unsuspecting cyclist that just happen by. Reflecting on my performance, I realized I am like a wolf... preying upon the sick, the old, and the young. Translation: If you are a sick cyclist, I probably can beat you. (Usually, I don't see any sick cyclists... or at least I can't tell). If you are very young.... like less than 10 years old, I probably can pass you going up the canyon also, especially if you are wearing running shoes and a cotton t-shirt. Likewise, if your hair on your head (and legs) is really gray, I might pass you also. Very wolf-like, don't you think? (It should also be noted that I usually pass people cycling in boots or black work socks or on mountain bikes) .... usually. It's not much, but it's something!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Roles and Goals


It seems like when we get older, opportunities decrease. Over time, our choices create obligations that force us into roles that demand time and energy and don't allow us to pursue other interests. For example, when my husband and I chose to have a family, we gave up a lot of the activities that we used to do all of the time, like white-water kayaking, back country skiing, etc. Of course, we replaced those pursuits with equally or more rewarding activities that focused on our kids. The same is true with education and career... the further you go in one direction, the less likely you will be able to switch paths. I guess getting older has led me to reflect on these choices I've made.

When I was young, I thought I could do anything. My grandma thought I was so beautiful that I could become Miss America. I actually toyed with the idea for a while, as I had so many talents (see illustration). With my hair of spun gold and the amazing talents of skiing and saxophone playing, I was pretty sure I could place pretty high in the Miss America contest! The judges would be in awe of the fine carved turns I made while playing a jaunty tune on the sax!
Since there is no actual photo of my amazing talent, I've provided an artist's rendition of what it might have looked like.
The confidence of youth was also evident in my dreams of being an olympian in both the summer and winter olympics. I thought I could ski race for the winter olympics and for summer, it was a toss up between the hurdles or swimming. (Never mind that I never actually competed in track or swimming competitions, except for one hurdles race in 5th grade in which I creamed the competition and cleared all the hurdles by more the a foot! ... and I lived on a lake and swam quite a bit).

Fast forward to today, and my goals are a little more realistic. I just want to make a video that goes viral and be on the Today Show. More on that later....


Since my goal for turning 50 is to be in the best shape ever, my daughter thought I should provide some cool fitness tips for people that might have similar goals. She thinks I should post things like, "Park your car far away from the entrance to the grocery store so you walk a little more each time you go". So, consider that posted.

I'd prefer to talk about more esoteric topics like "exercise urticaria" and "reactive hyperemia" because they relate to cycling, and it's likely that no one has mentioned these before. Maybe I'll do that one of these days!

So, my cycling training has begun, and I actually rode twice last week for a whopping total of 50 miles. It was actually great! Although I rode alone, it was great to be outside and to enjoy the unseasonably cool weather... perfect for cycling. In fact, I'm headed out today to attempt a longer ride to prepare for the Iron Horse later this month. Last year was my first Iron Horse, which is about a 50 mile climb from Durango to Silverton. I must still have a little of that child in me, because as I looked at my competetition at the start (a group of women who looked kind of old and not that fit) I figured I could take them all for the win. That "child" is an idiot, because at the first real incline, those women kicked my butt, and I only managed to catch a few by the end. It was at that point that I realized that I too look (am) kind of old and not that fit. So this year, I'm hoping that actual training might have an effect!



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Season

Sadly, this is the year I am going to turn 50. Perhaps it is not sad, but it is inevitable and in order to better cope with this reality, I decided in January to get into the best shape of my life to soften the blow. Like many resolutions, I immediately took no action, as there was no real plan to guide me. Knowing that fear is a powerful motivator, I signed up for a single-day bike race that crosses from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming (LOTOJA) in a single day... and I'm in. So, now that it is May, I'm seriously thinking about increasing my training on the bike. After a recent 2-week sea-kayaing trip in Baja, my arms are much stronger, my weight is slightly lower, and my legs are weak. It's a start at least, and as I say to my 18 year-old daughter, "just keep moving in the right direction."

The purpose of this blog is to document the creative (and sometimes bizarre) thoughts I have while riding. For example, yesterday, as I pedaled up the 9 mile canyon near my home, I came upon a young male rider (unshaven legs). Usually I have no problem slipping past males with unshaven legs, but the youthfullness of this rider must have offset that rule. Plus the fact that no young male wants to get passed by an old woman. We traded the lead as we progressed to the summit... I just didn't have any legs on the steeper sections.
Next time, more on the governing "rules" regarding riders I can easily pass contrasted with those that fly by like I'm standing still...