Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Riding with newbies...

I'm finding that the best kind of recovery ride for me is with new cyclists. I have a steady supply of those this year, it seems. Fellow ski instructors who are finding out how fun it is to play in the dirt, renewing their interest, or generally feeling like being in better shape and deciding that cycling is a good way to do it. Sunday, after my enduro race, I went out with a never-been-mountain-biking ski instructor friend and my sister, who tells boxes and horses what to do for a living (not at the same time).

Recovery rides and novice cyclists are great together for two reasons - 1. I always remember how much fun riding is and 2. I can go slow. Really really slow. I can even walk up the hills I don't feel like riding without feeling guilty (after all, it's supportive of those who can't ride up 'em yet!)

We were riding Patapsco, a fine example of local singletrack, on Sunday afternoon. A bunch of us met and did a lot of bike adjustments in the parking lot - I was borrowing a bike from a friend so that Newbie could ride mine, so there was lots of seat adjusting, pedal switching, chain lubing, etc. Nothing like me on a pink bike. Very pink.

Once we started riding, Shea, Octo-arms (our favorite touchy-feely snowboard instructor), Chris, Dirty girl and a Northern Virginia chica were off the front early on. Dirty girl, who shall remain unnamed here but I will say that she volunteered that nickname for herself, is finally off of her old Specialized Rockhopper and on the Fisher Big Sur GS that she picked out. Sweet deal on a model a year or so old from Light Street Cycles here in Charm City.

After hiking a bike up the first big hill, Newbie, Box Chuckin' Sister and I headed onto some of the easier trails to be had. Newbie crashed. Twice. Within a couple hundred yards. Over the handlebars both times. Now, I should say that newbie is an accomplished skier, so she's got the balance and healthy understanding of gravity that goes a long way toward learning to ride. A couple of bloody knees later, what she also has now - knowledge of which brake is the front one. Turns out a little confusion there was causing the endos. We wound up having a good ride around a few loops, walking that which was too steep to feel comfortable riding just yet and generally figuring out how to shift the center of gravity back off the saddle and let the legs do some absorbing. Good fun.

Apparently, though, I missed the real exciting part of the day, when Octo-arms heard a loud crack while dropping off a log. Lots of confused people looked around to figure out what broke, but let me remind you - when carbon fails, it fails catastrophically. He's got a front-to-back crack in the top tube that's giving his frame a bit more flex than it should have. It should be on its way back for a warranty replacement from Trek soon.

Mmmm... topped off with Doritoes and cold watermelon at the car.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goals met, not exceeded....

Numbers on the day: 7 1/2, 38, 71 times 5, 5, 1.

Yesterday I raced/rode for 7 1/2+ hours at the VisitPA.com festival enduro race - a 9 hour race that's part of the Mid-Atlantic Superseries for mountain biking. I was going to this mostly as a training ride - get a lot of hours on the bike under race conditions, working on staying hydrated and fed appropriately, and dealing with the mental aspects of racing. The goal (before I knew what the course looked like) was to complete 5 laps. Each lap is 7.5miles, so that's a total of nearly 38 miles in a day - pretty doable. Anything above that was a bonus. Normally I might plan on riding more - but the predicted expert lap time was 40 minutes, so I stayed conservative in my goal setting. Good thing.
About the logs - Beautiful all singletrack loops through a farm with occasional field sections ala cyclocross thrown in. Each lap had a significant amount of climbing - no real sustained climbs, but lots of climbing. And 71 logs. Per lap. When I say log, I mean piece of wood that has fallen or been placed across the trail of 4" in diameter or more - yes, I counted (on lap 2, so it might even be sorta accurate). I am not counting roots. I got over logs every way you could think of - gracefully riding over them, doing a proper cross dismount-carry-remount, waddling, walking, awkwardly clipping out with one foot and waddling, messing up my cross dismount and throwing my bike on the ground before going over the log, and generally getting my big chainring to grind some wood a little more often than I might like. However, the way I didn't get over even a single log - by doing a header. Woohoo!

About the riding - I did in fact finish 5 laps. With time for a 6th lap, but no legs or lungs. My heart rate and breathing rate were up a lot during that fifth lap, even though I wasn't pushing, so I knew that stopping was the better decision - I wanted to retain some element of fun in my all day Saturday recreation. Keys to the day - going out at endurance pace (my first three lap times were 1:24, 1:27 and 1:29 - and I pitted on laps 2 and 3 to reapply sunscreen and change out water bottles). Not forcing myself to ride crap I didn't feel comfortable with (so there you goofy guy who said "Geez, if you have to walk that log this will be a tough course for you" on my 3rd lap - I mentally cussed him out for about half the lap). Reminding myself to eat - I could barely stomach anything by halfway through. I was doing Cerasport in the camelbak and shot bloks to keep the caloric intake up. A banana on lap 3 and a coke (yum!) during a 20 minute break on lap 4 pretty much rounded things out.
If you're following - the last number - 1 - the number of husbands who went way outta their way to show up and surprise me by being there (with a large camera, I might add) halfway through lap 4. With peachy o's candy that I couldn't stomach until the way home. What a sweetheart.

My placing - who knows. Well, someone does, but I don't. I would've probably been around 6th in the solo women if I had gone out for a 6th lap, but I didn't. And, given that I was hoping to see my mom's new water gardens and enjoy her hottub, I hit the road pretty much as soon as I changed. Not very social of me, but that's life.

Edit 6/30/09 - Results indicate I was 7th! Going out for another lap wouldn't have changed that at all. Nice to have a field of more than 10 for a solo women enduro race!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

14 in 54 and underdressed

Pretty happy with that. On a training bike with heavy puncture resistant tires and the heaviest, cheapest wheels we have.

Tonight I headed out for a hard ride on the road - a 14 mile mock time trial, let's call it. First time I've even done a training race on the road, not counting a couple triathlons a few years ago (that was short-lived). Having (still) not built my road bike back up yet, I'm training on my cross bike with those heavy road wheels. It's a bit small for me for climbing on the road, but seeing as the road bike has no shifters, I like it. A few other Kelly guys were out on their dedicated time trial bikes - full carbon rigs with sweetness and lots of things that measure - powertap wheels, gps device that talks to heart-rate monitor. Somehow, I felt underdressed on my little blue Bianchi cross bike.

I pre-rode the route Sunday at a more endurance-type pace in 59 minutes. My goal today was pretty simple - push as hard as I could and shoot for sub-58 minutes... 54 minutes later, I was done. Give or take a few seconds.

This was a really good ride for me for two reasons - I was happily below my target and very psyched with my result. But even better, I was in a good mental place the whole time. Almost enjoyable. Except for the redline heart rate thing.

No doubt - I earned my burger at burger night tonight.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Inspiring Endurance...

I did it. I registered for a really long race (yeah, that's me under "9hr solo"). That I haven't trained for. Next weekend. So I'm planning to treat it as a training ride - hopefully a fun one with some elements of race conditions. I'm sure that no matter how much I tell my stomach that it's just a training event, it will not listen, and I will inevitably be too fast on the first lap. Either way, I'm looking forward to actually spending time on a trail - I think the mountain bike has seen 2, maybe 3 outings in the past month.

I'm doing this race to help me in my current quest to be mentally tougher and enjoy just racing for myself regardless of who passed me or got dropped - a season goal of mine. And I'm not expecting to make it the whole nine hours.

Turns out, I'm not the toughest or the craziest. I've been following Jill Homer's blog - she's currently out on a 2700 mile self-supported race from Canada to Mexico, through the Rockies. It's called the Tour Divide and you can find out where each racer is (based on their SPOT GPS tracking device) and listen to some pretty cool phone calls from all of the racers. Having already scared away a few bears and lived through a LOT of rain, she's a little over a week into what will likely be a month-long effort. Makes 9 hours look paltry. Somehow, I don't think it will feel that way.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Perfect Margarita...

The Perfect Margarita is made according to the CHOW recipe by my cute husband on a hot day in June - all this rain has just made it steamy.
It goes:
1 oz fresh lime juice (yes, squeezed today!)
1 1/2 oz Cuervo 1800 Tequila
1/2 oz Cointreau

Shaken (not stirred!) and served on the rocks in a 3rd place glass from a mountain bike race, complete with a salted rim. And a bendy straw in a color of your choice. Mine is red and clear. His is black and clear. Apparently Ikea can't make a straw that's only one color. I'm not really sure why we have straws from Ikea, come to think of it. Yum!

To make it even better, I think I'll grab one of those "low fat" loaded with sugar chocolate cookies that jumped into my basket at Whole Foods last night when I was nominally there for milk and tortillas.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Swinging from the sky

A few months ago, perhaps after a pitcher at the Liberty tavern, a few ski instructor friends convinced me that in order to see them in the summer, we'd go do Trapeze together. Yes, as in, flying trapeze, like they do in the circus, only much, much simpler and with ropes and nets to catch me. It turns out, ski instructors all bike and party in the summer too, so we've hung out without having to hang upside down.

But, this was an especially good plan since another friend of ours co-operates the trapeze school, which recently relocated from Baltimore to D.C. so they can have a year-round rig. So we met up in a parking lot near the convention center, signed our lives away, and started with "Ground School". It should be no surprise to me that the instructors were good - Brian is one of the best skiing clinicians I've worked with and quickly working his way up the PSIA ladder to eventually be an examiner. I expected his staff to be well-versed in presenting information, dealing with fear, and having fun. They were.

After we were cinched into our safety belts (even the skinny people get pooch tummies from this process), we learned that we would be learning a knee hang and a backflip dismount from a swinging bar some 20 feet above the bouncy net. But the key - do "what they say when they say it". Okay, I really think I can follow directions. I hope.

I'll admit that the first time up the ladder to the platform was pretty overwhelming. I really saw how the trust built on the ground was essential for success here. The instructor at the top told me to lean forward while they held my belt so that I could reach for the bar. Two hands on, improbably leaning forward into space, gripping a swing. How did I get here?

On "Hep", I hop and am off into space. Whew, this is scary fun. But then the hard part - I'm supposed to do something? Wait, who said this was gonna be work? Legs on the bar. Ha. If you fail to time it like they say (back to the "what they say when they say part"), this is nearly impossible for someone with less than a lotta abs. Of course, when I later listened at the right time, it was much easier - momentum is a wonderful thing.

Once I got my legs up over the bar, I had to let go with my hands, hanging upside down! What fun. Once right-side-up again, a swift set of kicks and letting go at the right time leads to a backflip. Which, I of course discovered, can also turn into landing on your face. Gently, of course, because those safety lines are being held by someone who slows you to prevent the face on net experience.

Toward the end of the class, an amazingly strong Neil from South Africa (I think!) climbs a rope (like in elementary school, only missing the knots) to another bar and starts swinging. If I can time all that knee hang stuff right, this rather attractive guy with an accent is going to catch me?! (truth be told, he also got to catch Shea and Zeke and Brian). Under the pressure of timing for the catch, I got my knee hang on the first try and made it! How cool.

In talking with Brian while at the rig, he pointed out that we, as teachers and coaches and athletes and people, should be a beginner at something every once in a while. As coaches, learning something new lets us feel the fear that our skiing students have - how do I look? am I wearing the right thing? can I do this? will I be the only one who can't? wow, it's really high up here... As an athlete, it's good to be moving in new ways and figuring out how to listen to directions again without existing movement patterns getting in the way. Plus, when you do something new with friends, well, it's just plain fun.

Sidenote: Fun pictures coming as soon as those with the camera upload them.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Road dirt

It's rained so much here of late that getting out on singletrack has been nearly impossible. Which means that I've been relegated to riding my cross bike on the road (with slicks, of course). I have a harder time getting motivated to be out on the road than for my dirt time. This morning, I got out about 45 minutes later than I wanted to, so planned to ride only 20 miles and head into lab. The road was still wet from (more) rain last night, so I was grimy by halfway through. Not motivated, spinning at an ok cadence but really not putting much power in. Gray dust on my face, spots all over my legs, yuck.

Then I flatted at mile 17. To call or not to call. I had all the stuff with me to change the tube, so I pouted for a minute then got to changing the tube. Save the sag wagon call for another day. I was pretty proud of myself for changing the tire without levers (which were missing from my little seat pack?) and got back on the road. I did get even more black dirt from said tire and a bit of grease all over myself in the process.

You guessed it - although I checked the tire where the puncture was and found nothing, I had somehow missed a chunk of glass and was flat again a couple miles later. Well, mostly flat. So I added some air and coasted to a few blocks from the house, where I got off and walked me and my dirty bike home. As a side note - I must've actually ridden through some glass becuase there was a little chunk in my front tire as well. Gotta love Baltimore.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You can take the girl outta Pittsburgh...

You can take the girl outta Pittsburgh, but you can't take the Pittsburgh outta the girl...

Why is it that I can't be bothered to keep up with the Pens during the regular season (hockey, for those of you from Ohio), but when it comes to the playoffs, I'm addicted. Not so much as I am to Steelers football. The offseason is pretty slim pickings on the four or so sites I routinely check NFL news on. Do you really think I care if Brett Favre had surgery, is coming back to play for the Vikings, or does charity work in Alabama for the rest of his life?

This year, I've been enjoying the Pens playoff games old-school style. I use the internet to listen to the Pittsburgh Radio Network on my laptop. If we weren't so cheap, we'd have cable and be able to watch the games. But, as I said, I only follow hockey in the springtime. And then we'd have to watch more bad tv to make the cable worth it. It's nice when the Pens play until June... makes football season seem closer.

Tonight, I'll get to watch them try to extend the series to game 7 - if we have power, that is. Apparently the weather conspired against me to make sure that I didn't get to try the Tuesday night Mock Time Trial ride. Nickel sized hail with 65 mile an hour gusts - no ride for me.

Go Pens!!

Monday, June 8, 2009


Last year, I was sitting in a meeting with my elbows on the table, and everyone in the room noticed at one point or another that I had massive bruises on my arms. That was when they began to figure out how weird I am - for fun, I take my bike out and challenge myself to the point that occasionally the rubber separates itself from the dirt.

Today's crash left a few colorful spots in places that won't be seen at lab meeting. Well, partly because I generally wear pants to lab. So all the scrapers on my legs don't show. But then I crashed coming out of a little creek in the mud - handlebars into chest. Again. Perfect circle bruise. Again. I crashed handlebars into chest a few years ago on the easy part of the Rattlesnake Gulch downhill outside of Salt Lake City. Literally - the easy part. Rode all the 2' dropoffs. Crashed hard on the gravel doubletrack.

I should know better by now. Like in skiing, sometimes when you fail to pay attention on the easy stuff, it really gets ya. It's hard to train myself to have the ability to keep at least a soft focus on what I'm doing when I'm tired, dizzy from lack of oxygen, wobbly, exhilarated from a fun piece of singletrack or successful line of bumps. Does a soft focus on bad tv while blogging count as cross training?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baltimore moments...

I expect every time I get home from a trip, that Baltimore will remind me in due time that I do, in fact, live in a city. And not one of those cities that's all flowers and wine festivals. Today, despite that I haven't been away, it reminded me twice. Once is sorta boring - no one can drive in the rain, so traffic on my drive back this afternoon was stop and go. For 12 miles on the beltway. Ugh.

But this morning was a better, more typical "you live in Baltimore" moment. As I returned from a quick walk with the dogs, I glanced in the neighbor's front yard. There was a pair of pants. Jeans. Odd. Even better when I saw the shoes sitting next to the pants. And the bottle (still mostly full) of whisky next to a slightly flattened plant. Someone had a rough night. When I got home this evening - pants and shoes still there, whisky picked up by some other wanderer.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

'Training' on the low road

It's raining... again. Pouring it down with loud noises sufficient to terrify our border collie into pacing around the room, flinching with each clap of thunder. Last night it stormed in the middle of the night. Just what I wanted - a scared dog needing cuddles at some unknown hour of the morning. Oh well, I was awake anyway. We are in the summer cycle, it seems.

In Utah, it only pretends to storm. Many a night in the summer, a big gusty storm comes up, drizzles enough rain to knock the dirt from the air onto whatever clean window you'd like to look through and then goes away. Here, it pours. This sucks. No trail riding here when it's wet - tonight's weekly women's mountain bike ride... cancelled. I was out on the road bike yesterday and not excited about a solo ride with a chance of thunderstorms tonight. So, I had decided to go get wet myself - a swim was in order. I then realized that while I had everything else I needed with me at work, my gym card was sitting in our kitchen. So I took the low road. I came home, made cheesesteaks, and got fat. I will surely pay for this transgression soon enough. I did not, however, drink beer. Or watch bad tv.

But tomorrow, I will likely have to make this to train or get fat decision again. The gym card is optimistically perched next to my coffee mug...