Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Hilly Billy Awesomeness

It's been a while since I've written a race report.  Sorta goes with the territory of returning to the same races every year.  This season, my focus is on longer races with some really long efforts planned for July and early September.  Last weekend, I survived a good day on the bike at the Stoopid 50 - managed my nutrition well and basically loved riding.  I finished faster than I was hoping but not as high on the results list - a testament to under/over estimated goals or a faster group of women out here to race against - I'm not sure which.

This weekend, I ventured out to West Virginia for the awesome-sauce of the Hilly Billy Roubaix.  It might be the hardest race I've ever done.  Yes, I count the 40 milers at Michaux as races I've done.  No, Jes and company at Gettysburg Bike, you don't need to make the Michaux races harder.

This was a different kind of hard.  About 65 miles in, I crossed a road with a fire truck marshal.  Up. A gravel pitch.  Loose gravel.  You've got to be kidding me.  I decided that it was okay if I walked.  But then something funny happened, all the guys around me were walking. Anyone who knows me knows that I can be a little too competitive.  If the guys were walking it, I needed to ride it.  I did.  Thanks to compact gearing I'd scrambled to put on my Santa Cruz the night before the race.
Photo - Fred Jordan

Hot and dusty but frickin' awesome.  A mass start of ~250 of us on a mix of cross bikes with fat tires, mountain bikes with skinny, low profile tires, and a few true road bikes thrown in.  I found a training partner's wheel early on and held with a safe group for about the first 15 miles.  I'd get gapped on the steepest climbs and latch back on after any kind of fast descent.  But, I was running without a camelbak, necessitating a stop at the first aid station.  I lost the group then flatted shortly thereafter and was in solo land for a long, long time.  A few guys would come by and I'd jump on their wheel and work with them for a bit, and vice versa.  I honestly think the average number of flats for this race is 1 - mine was a simple slice in the tread that the Stans wouldn't seal, even with added CO2, but the tube held for the rest of the day. 

Somewhere around 5 hours in, I started to feel the effects of heat, a lack of interest in eating for about 2 hours, and dehydration.  I've been through much worse bonks - I just had to slow down and convince myself that the race was almost over.  Somewhere about 5 miles from the finish line, a Pittsburgh rider came along and put me on his wheel.  We'd traded back and forth while he was cramping, but this time he mostly wasn't.  We traded pulls (he pulled more, though) along the windy road towards the park, then he said he was planning to walk the last hill.  I wasn't.  Finish time posted on the results was officially 6:00:32.  Looks like I have to be at least 32 seconds faster next year.
Photo- Fred Jordan

I was closer to some women that I expected to be well off the front, and within 45 minutes of many of my training partners' times - all in all, I think that says I'm not the slow girl getting lost in the woods that I used to be.  The added bonus was that I drove home with a couple of teammates, who indulged my Five Guys craving.

Friday, May 25, 2012


It took me 5 years and 10 days to get a Ph.D.  I defended exactly 5 years ago today.  This fall, I will leave my post-doc after just under 5 years.  I have been racing bikes for 4 years. Doing science for 13. Teaching skiing for 15.

How did I get so old?  How am I possibly still this young?

Anyone else in science knows this about science - it flies and drags at the same time.  Mostly, for me, it drags.  That's why the next 5 years include some pretty big changes in life.  There will be dressier clothes.  An office.  Mountains.  Bikes.  Friends.  Food.  Some things are just constant.  Mountains.  Bikes.  Friends.  Food. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

training is good

Sometimes, I race myself into shape.  Who am I kidding?  I usually race myself into shape, race a lot, and love it.  But this year I've got some big events lined up - longer endurance races than I've ever done before.  This year, I think a different approach is actually working.

It's nearly June.  I've only raced once.  40 miles at Michaux Maximus.  I love that race, but my body wasn't thrilled with all my choices and I had a rough and slow second half - wanting to puke doesn't make it easy to crush any hills.  But, it's Michaux, I finished, and the women's field was only 3 deep (another race was being held about 2 hours away - I'll assume it stole some of the would-be Michaux folks) - I'll take the privilege of finishing Michaux any day - especially in 2nd place.  Especially on a day that beautiful to be in the woods - without an afternoon rainstorm to spoil my spirits.

Next up is a gravel road race in West Virginia followed by the evil fun that is the Stoopid 50.  I owe that race one - last year in the midst of an illness that caused me to lose more than 10 lbs in two weeks, I dnf'd in the pouring down rain at the 18 mile mark.

But for now, I'm training a lot.  18 hours a week on the bike.  Give or take.  Group rides to get dropped from.  Bugging some training partners to drag me around for a hundred miles and a lot of thousands of feet climbing every weekend.  Long, flowy loops on the mountain bike out in Frederick.  And a lot of eating.

It's good.  I'm loving riding my bike.  It's easier to get out the door for the long rides than the short ones.  My legs are coming around and the power tap is showing me that.

But I've gotta curb the eating - this is actually something I experience every year - weight gain as I start training - my body is just craving food all the time.  I'll admit that some other challenges in life mean that I have been pretty stressed - that doesn't help.  The power part of the power:weight ratio is coming round.  Guess it's time to work on the denominator.

Tomorrow, I'll ride my bike.  It's a rest week.  I only get to ride it for an hour.  Saturday and Sunday will make up for it.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

caramelized onion pizza anyone?

I love caramelized everything.  Including caramel corn, though that didn't turn out so hot the last time I made it (typo = 3x too much salt, yuck!).  This week, I grabbed a pizza crust from the freezer when I got home from work and,  voila - when I got back from my ride, it was waiting for me on the counter, ready for cooking.

In an effort to lighten the amount of food that I waste, I'm trying to use what I've got - egg scrambles and pizza crust can help with that.  So this week's pizza was a caramelized onion, garlic, and spinach white pizza.

The crust:
Herbed Whole Wheat Crust (freezes maybe better than it is fresh)
Proof 2 packages of yeast in 2 cups warm water with 1 teaspoon sugar.  Add 3 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups white flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1-2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence or similar dried herbs. Stir until sticky.  Knead approximately 5-8 minutes incorporating another ~1 cup white flour until it's an elastic ball.  Allow to rise in an oil coated bowl for about 1 hour and divide into 4 crusts.  Wrap tightly with saran wrap to freeze.  Each will make a 10-12" thin crust pizza.

The toppings:
olive oil
caramelized red onion
pizza cheese
parmesan romano

Assemble and bake 15' or until done at 425 on a pizza stone dusted with cornmeal.  Yum.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The rest of the trip notes...

I posted details from my BC trip over at the Diva Ski Tips blog - it gets substantially more traffic.  At least go look at the extra pictures. 

Photo: Brad Karafil
If in doubt, make a snow angel.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crossing boundaries

I haven’t skied outside of the U.S. since 2001 at Tremblant.  I was a college junior on spring break with my beau at the time.  As a compulsive rule follower, I also hadn’t consumed alcohol before that trip.  The drinking age in Quebec was 19 at the time.  I pretended it was the same when I returned to school, though that’s another story.

I recently headed up to British Columbia for an adventure. The Canadian border patrol asked me about three times if I was planning to work while there.  Oh, but how I now want to. 
Kootenay Lake

The trip details and recommendations on why you should go and where are saved for another post here or on the DivaSkiTips blog.

This was a trip about pushing my boundaries a bit.  The exhilaration of exploring new resorts – Whitewater and Red Mountain.  Picking up hitchhikers on access roads. Getting nearly cliffed out and lost on my way to a named run.  Noting that many a Canadian makes their home-grown Arc’teryx gear look pretty good.

Oh, and some cat skiing with White Grizzly.  I’m hooked.  

Here’s something that’s embarrassing to admit – my whole time in Utah, I never had enough faith in my fitness to go into the backcountry.  I even had avy gear and the knowhow to use my beacon and probe.  I had plenty of friends with skins and touring gear to borrow.  Many an invite to tag along.  But never trusted myself to be able to keep up with the guys who I would trust with my life in avalanche terrain.  Never thought that I would add anything to the group and unwilling to just be along, slowing them down.

So really, this was my first trip into the backcountry.  No lifts, but no skins either, just a cozy snowcat and a few trusty guides.  With somewhat tricky avalanche conditions and very steep terrain, trusting the guides that we were with was pretty key.  And I did.  They shared what they were thinking, too.

Incredible powder skiing.  Deeper than I’ve ever skied for more than a run or two.  Steep trees and fun lines.  Scolding myself for skiing poorly then putting it together to point ‘em down the fall line and go.  Getting into the air a few times – highly unusual for me.  Pushing my own boundaries. 

Photo: Brad Karafil, White Grizzly Adventures

Giggling.  A lot.  Forgetting to breath.  Making new friends.  Drinking Canadian whiskey.  Smiling until my cheeks hurt.

Being sad. Among the reasons - sad to leave the powder, terrain, and friends behind – not necessarily in that order.  Sad for those who died doing what we love in an avalanche at a nearby heli-skiing operation.  One gal who was caught was 29 and from Salt Lake.  That precise tour operator and date were in my final list of possibilities for this splurge of a trip.

This trip was well-timed for me.  It’s hard not to look introspectively at life when surrounded by amazing mountains, adventures, and fun people amidst a pending career change for me and with news of an eerie tragic accident.

B.C. has stolen a place in my heart - I’ll be back to cross the boundary for more. And next time I get invited into the backcountry with people I trust, I’m going.  If nothing else, I can add the giggles.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I have no off season...

They skiers I know keep their lives together in the summer.  The cyclists I know get their 'honey-do' lists done in the winter.  Most years, I don't even have an off weekend between the end of the fall cross season and ski season.

In December, I raced Fair Hill. On a Saturday.  It was a great course but my legs and head were checked out for the season and my result indicated that.  Ah well, at least I had to wear more than a shortsleeve skinsuit at ONE race this year.  It was fun - three bikes, three people, two dogs, and a minimal number of extra wheels.  That's right, I said two dogs.  I'll write more about Oz sometime.

Sunday morning after an early morning run, we drove to Vermont.  Ski instructor camp.  I'd never been, even though it's a big deal and almost a third of the Ski Liberty instructors make the trip.  Can I just say - I love starting ski season with strong legs and endurance!?

After nearly a week in Vermont, we drove back late and I did one of my favorite things on Saturday - lead a hiring clinic for a small group of new instructors.  Only this year, the resort wasn't open yet.  Warm weather meant we were confined to a strip of white on the beginner's hill and a lift open just for us.  The weather didn't get colder after that... and the resort didn't officially open until December 30th this season.

But wait, how cool is that - I had like 2 weekends of an offseason.  I rode my bike.  A lot.  More training hours than November or October.  I played on the rocks at the Shed. A lot.  I rode with friends on the road. Long rides in the wind. Long rides in 60 degree December balminess.  Long rides in chillier weather.  I didn't get enough science done, but I thought about my science a lot.  That helped, actually.

Right now, I feel great.  Life has been busy but balanced.  But the crux of ski season is on me.  I have some travel coming up for training and personal skiing, then some more likely for PSIA events.  Plus every weekend, I teach beginner skiers, beginner instructors, and all the gang that's been around for years.  Yikes. Time to hold on until March.

I have some big goals this year for cycling.  If you see me on the slopes, ask me how my training is going.  I don't want to forget who I am the other 8 months of the year!

looks good on paper, but...

I wrote most of this post right after Cap Cross in December but just didn't feel okay posting it yet.  I just finished it and here ya go.

 What I learned about cyclocross this weekend: I love the gals we race with.  What a good group.

Cap Cross. Two years ago it was icy.  Three years ago, so windy that popups were rolling through the parking lot.  This year - sunny, 55 degrees, perfect weather to spend outside all day.  Technical course with a bunch of power sections.  Awesome fun downhill.

Toeing the line with 16 other women.  How cool is that?!  We're routinely getting elite fields >10 in the region now.

I had a good start, coming off the second row and sitting about 5th heading onto the grass.  Hoping to make the early selection and stay in the draft across the bridge.  A rider ahead of me started to wobble. I went wide.  She went down, so did the gal behind her.  I looked over and in a split second when I normally would say something to the effect of, "C'mon Erin, get back on it, let's go," I saw pain.  Not sure how my brain knew it other than instinct, seeing as I was already almost seeing stars from the start.  A half a beat later, a wail of excrutiating pain.  Crap.  I checked my speed a bit. Talked to the woman behind me.  But kept going.  I'm not sure what else to do.  But I couldn't get my head back into it.  Couldn't go as hard as I can nor as aggressive.

By the time we got to the end of the lap, they neutralized the race.  The ambulance was immobilizing a badly broken ankle.

We milled around.  As a group, we decided to basically parade the restart without contesting.  Didn't mean we went slow, but we didn't pass aggressively, sprint, or do anything particuarly competitive.  The cash for the day went to Erin - a group decision - to cover her deductible. 

I've decided it's okay that this affects me - upsets me even.  She's a friend and we were doing what we love.  It's okay to lose the killer instinct for a couple hours.  That's why we love the community.

Update: Erin is just now spinning with no resistance.  She's got some extra metal in that ankle, but will be back next year, no doubt.