Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tuesday Night Track = Good for the Soul

I haven't been writing, because I had my crappiest race of the season on Sunday, and was struggling to come up with positive thoughts. But, I'm happy to report that we went to the track last night, and things are once again right with the world.

So, back to Sunday. The Wente Crit. It should have been a good race, as I was coming off my first build period and had been in a recovery week. So, fitness-wise, I should have been gangbusters. But no. The heat combined with a HUGE delay in our race (hoping all the ladies who crashed in the prior race are healing up!) conspired to completely shut down my body. After sitting in the heat for several hours, I just had no energy at all. My legs were heavy. And, I was hungry to start the race because I hadn't brought enough food or electrolytes. The end result was that I popped during the second of two preme laps and was unable to claw my way back to the peloton. It was rather disappointing and disheartening. The silver lining is that my team mate, Lala managed to get 5th place - her first podium finish. And, another team mate who was trying her first crit hung in almost to the very end and managed to have a lot of fun! Yay!

OK, back to the track! There was a good showing of ladies last night. Beth, Alicat, Velobella, Marscat, Ippoc were all there, along with a couple non-blogger chicas and we had a junior boy and a senior man, so they gave us our own race. On the rail a couple of younger guys tried to sneak on, but I said we only wanted girly men, and that seemed to get rid of them. Between Ali, Beth and Erika, there was almost never a moment's rest between attacks. I was able to hang with quite a few of the moves, but sometimes not. I was able to claw my way back in a couple times, which made me happy. I even was able to lay down a couple attacks of my own. I can put out a real big burst when I am recovered. But, when I am already sitting at red-line, that is when I have a hard time matching the attacks of others or putting on my own. In that situation, I am hugging the apron, just trying to stay attached with all my might. So, I guess I need to work on Anaerobic Endurance as well as trying to raise my threshold a bit. Because, I can still put out a good surge, even if I am sitting just below threshold. Oh, and I got one heck of a cramp in my right calf during the first race, which probably means I really screwed up my electrolytes on Sunday....and, I realized that one cannot stretch out a cramp on a track bike. I tried riding with my heel down for a while, but couldn't completely work it out until we stopped.

So, it was a super-fun night. I got to work on a lot of stuff and got to learn from watching the more experience racers, which was cool. Thanks for the good times, ladies!

Monday, April 21, 2008

My new team!

OK, I know I lured you over here with the salacious headline. Velo Girls is still my real team. But, I've joined team #46 of the Team Bike Challenge for Bike to Work Month - the "C&C Cool Commuters".

I'm writing to encourage you to take up bike commuting in the month of May, or at least give it a try. I know - you already ride like 200 miles a week, and the commuting will just be "junk" miles. It will tear into your already overloaded leg muscles. But seriously. Us hardcores need to embrace the transportation and advocacy aspects of our sport a little more. It will make the roads safer for all. And, we really do need to cut down on our consumption of the fossils a lot more. So, what better way than fueling the commute or errands with some GU and Simbree energy snacks (like how I worked the sponsors in there?)?

I've noticed that since I became a RealCyclist(TM), my utility miles have gone WAY down. I used to ride to the start of group rides. Now, I'm worried about over-doing the fatigue. I used to bike commute pretty much every day. Now, I really try not to on rest days. I used to spend my weekends going on meandering rides out the front door. Now, I drive my car like 200 miles in a day to take my bike to a race. Anyway, time to get back to it! So, for the month of May, I'm going to try to ride to work every day. And, bank errands must be combined with bike rides. There is no reason I can't schlep a check that needs depositing in my jersey pocket on a training ride. I hope some of you will join me. If you commute it entirely out of reach, then try making short errands by bike or riding to the start of group rides that are 10 miles or less away from your house. Together we can do it!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ahhh, the hot iron just lifted off my brain

Well, after 5 hours in my comfortable, air-conditioned office with plenty of cool water and temperatures outside hovering 20 degrees lower than yesterday, I have finally come back alive.

The oppressive heat of Madera was sitting heavy on my brain, and it just lifted like a stiff, velvet curtain. Ahhhh.

My 2nd trip to Madera had an entirely different focus than my first. Last year, I just wanted to try and finish a stage race. This year, I wanted to improve my TT, manage my hydration better, and work on pack management and positioning in both the crit and RR. Also, this would serve as a mini fitness peak that I will build from for my real peak. So, in essence the weekend was one big training block.

For most of the crit, things were going really, really well. I moved up all the time, all over the place - through the middle, on the outside, only burning matches when necessary and stealing a lot of wheels. I was feeling great about the race, overall. Then, with 4 laps to go, there were 2 hard surges at the time of the preme - maybe the preme and a subsequent attack? Anyway, I survived the first surge, but not the second. I did pair up with Julia from Dolce Vita and we minimized the damage and stayed only 1 turn behind the pack. But, they pulled us with 2 to go and penalized us 3 minutes! No way were we down, nor were we going to be down 3 minutes. Oh well. They were overly generous with me last year, so I guess it all balances out in the end. As I was chatting about the race with Hernando, my rear tire BLEW like a gunshot. I guess it was a blessing I was not hammering a sprint on that thing.

The TT was HOT and painful - just like last year. I did approach it with better hydration. I think the only time I was without water bottle to mouth this weekend was when I was peeing or pedaling like a banshee. Otherwise, I was sucking down the fluids. I did 33 minutes. I thought I had done 36 minutes, so had a 3 minute improvement over last year. But, I mis-remembered. It was 33 last year, too . I guess if I was more on the ball, I would have written last year's time down ahead of time. Bummer. I've been able to consistently TT 20.5 mph for an hour in training at home - even with the wind. I guess the heat and crit take a lot more out of me than I know. Sorry to all of you to whom I mis-represented my improvement - I didn't mean to!

Yesterday, I had no desire to road race. The only consolation was that I figured no one else did either. So, I started despite an overall feeling of heaviness and lethargy. We had a mentor with us, which was cool. She gave us lots of good pointers. I was very assertive and made sure I had shelter for the time I was in the pack. Things were pretty mellow overall, though there was one hard effort when a Velo Bella rider went off the front 5 miles into the race and for some reason, the pack felt like it needed an all-out, single-file chase. How about a nice, slow reeling in? No rush, right? I survived that onslaught and made it through the horrible pavement section. I moved up to 2nd wheel just before the hills, knowing I would need every advantage. But, I just didn't have any hard effort in my body yesterday. It was dreaming of hammocks and tropical beverages. No way was it going to be dragged kicking and screaming uphill. So, I popped. I limped up through the feed zone, tossed a bottle and picked another one up from Rick and headed for lap #2. Last year, I put myself in seriously scary heat-stroke land finishing the road race. I decided I would not push myself to that level of deficit again this year. So, I chased at a manageable pace for the lap looking for someone to work with. I knew there were a couple behind me, but suspected they had already pulled off. I could not catch those in front. So, I pulled out. That's not something I usually do. But, with no new lessons to be learned and nothing to gain but a serious hydration deficit, I pulled myself out of the race. I drank my chocolate milk and we bee-lined for a late lunch.

Thanks to Rick for all the support and encouragement this weekend. It was nice to have my honey along for the adventure this year. Thanks to Sabine for recommending The Vineyard, which provided a most-excellent and tasty Saturday dinner. Thanks to the teammies for emails, phone calls and text-messages of support. And, thanks to all the ladies (and guys) out there who made it a fun and safe weekend!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some Interesting stuff to chew on and some serious perspective-changing reading!

So, I've been wiling away time on this lazy morning perusing the Rivendell Reader. Normally, I find Grant's ramblings entertaining, sometimes perplexing and often "not for me". Though, I have drunk the Rivvy juice in terms of riding with a higher handlebar. I really don't care if I look like a Phred on my racing bike. All of you who think zero-rise stems are the only way to go, well, I don't care. My back doesn't hurt anymore and I can breathe and see what's going on around me. Anyway, enough of that!

There are two articles in this edition that are fascinating. Neither is by Grant, but that's OK.

The first, which is the one that is interesting to chew on, occurs on pages 15-17. It's called "The Primal Blueprint: Maximizing through Moderation", by Mark Sisson. It has shades of the Paleo Diet. However, the article actually delves into training and our human evolution. It basically proposes that we are designed to go VERY slow (think walking and zone 1 riding) for long periods of time with occasional "balls out" sprinting efforts. It suggests that long hours of high-aerobic and threshold work actually make us age more quickly, because our bodies have not evolved to that type of effort. And, that endurance athletes are killing themselves just as quickly as the couch potatoes. FYI, this dude was a serious endurance athlete and coach for many years. So, some interesting food for thought.

The seriously perspective-changing article is one on pages 24-27 entitled "How Not to Talk to Your Children - the Inverse Power of Praise" by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. This is intended as a parenting article, which I would normally read the first paragraph of and then dismiss as completely irrelevant. But, this one sucked me in. It really helped me understand my own psychology in how I approach racing and some other things in life. Basically, it proposes that praising kids for "being smart" is counter-productive, because they underestimate the value of effort and give up on things that are hard and may make them appear dumb if they fail. Conversely, if you praise children for "trying hard" or give specific praise around something they did well or a good strategy, it empowers them because it puts the variable of effort within their control. I'm probably not doing the best job reiterating, so you should just go read the article.

In any case, there was an example of students who were half praised for smarts and half praised for efforts being given the option of taking a test and spending time after examining their performance against the others in the class or spending time after learning a new strategy that would help them next time. Guess which kids chose which? Yep, this explains a lot. I have a lot of natural abilities which I was praised for growing up, which is a great thing. However, I think I've been bred to ignore the power of effort and the learning process and only look at results. And, hence, I have given up too easily on things that are hard and make me appear dumb at first try. I want to be the person that takes time to learn new strategies rather than immediately focusing on how I did against the others. This is also true in my web development career, which is why I'm undergoing a bit of an identity crisis this year, but that's a topic for another post. :)

Anyway, I'm going to try to change my own outlook on competition and achievement. And, if you want to give me a compliment after a race, tell me something specific I did well, or give me something to learn. Please don't tell me I'm fast or strong. I'm now here to learn and improve, not compare myself to others and keep up appearances (at least that's what I'm telling myself). And, I need all the secret strategies I can get! :)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Only 4 Days Until the Sufferfest - I can't wait!

Yep, it's the start of the stage race season for us uuber amateur, masterette fatties - the Madera Stage Race. This year promises to be a good 20 degrees cooler than last year, which should make it oh-so-much-more pleasant out there. However, it will be less of a test of how things will fare at the almost-guaranteed-to-be-super-hot Kern County Women's Stage Race.

Looks like the W4 is shaping up to be a bit more competitive this year. I'll probably have to work a little harder if I want to replicate that 10th place from last year (which I moved up to from last place during the road race due to flat tires and attrition). I will likely be the sole representative of our team, so may have to broker some deals out there. I'm not below bribing temporary team mates with ice cold chocolate milk and other such niceties. And, I do have a real TT setup this year, so hopefully won't replicate my last place finish there.

I've been working on my fitness and have a nice fat layer stored up for the final, 51 mile assault. Of course, that assumes my heart rate will be low enough to actually tap into the fat layer. If not, there is always the promise of replenishing the glycogen stores at the Dairy Queen on the way out of town. I swear, the truck-stop DQ is one of the best things happening in Madera. I can taste that chocolate-malty-ice-cream-headache specialness already.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Yeah, I'm a slacker!

While my teammates are all doing this:

I will be doing some of this:

And some of this:

And then getting my hair cut and then going to a baby's 1st B-day party:

Yeah, that will be enough for one day!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chatterbox - Category 4 Road, Category G Track

If there was a Category G at the track, that is what I would race. It might also be called the Slow and Lazy category.

Fortunately, I got to make my track racing debut with a bike that somewhat fit, since CyclistRick was sitting out with broken thumb. I did about 40 minutes warmup on my own. Then, we had the official 20 minute warmup, which was the first reasonable warmup I've had out there in a while. It was probably because Uncle Larry admonished us not to go anaerobic before our race.

There were 21 C's signed up and 8 women/juniors. Uncle Larry offered us our own race, but we said we'd go C's if all but 55+ 4/5 men went to race with the B's. So, that was the agreement. We lined up for our 60 lap scratch race with 3 premes and about 16 in the field.

I got a decent roll off the wall. I decided to line up on the higher row, because the draft was better there on the windy stretch, and I could make moves from there as well. That ended up being not such a good idea. As soon as we came around, and the whistle blew, some Godspeed dude who looked about 35 with super-man-meat-quads (like 75cm) attacked hard. This meant the rest of us strung out. This also meant my position sucked, because the first place I could grab a wheel was much further back than I wanted. The Godspeed dude ended up lapping us and then getting back on the front and keeping the pace so high, that no one could control him. I only lasted about 10 laps the first time. 1st reintegration did not go well. The 2nd time I reintegrated, I got a good slot and managed to hang on for about 20 or so laps. So, that was good.

I'm sure I'll be back for more, since I can't think of any more fun way to get my Tuesday intervals. However, I'm hoping to rally support around a Category G race where I can actually work on position, tactics and maybe have a chance to win!