Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good:

I am stoked about this upcoming race season.  I've picked what I think are going to be some exhilarating, but extremely hard races.  First on tap is Marathon Nationals.  I am excited to have this one finally on the East Coast.  I am going to race the single speed division as this course just begs for one gear.  I've got alot of work to do, as I am going to have to be 1-2 gears stronger than when I rode the course a month ago.

Epic takes on a whole new meaning with the next two "A" races.  In August, I will be taking on the Maah Daah Hey 100 (actually 105).  This is a point to point, 99% single track race in North Dakota.  Temps could hit 100 and without tree cover, it could get interesting.  Let's hope for a hot, humid summer in Tennessee so I can get acclimated.  The following month, I will be hopefully heading to Colorado to ride the Vapor Trail 125.  This one requires you to send in a race resume to the director.  I am hoping that with Eric Wever's soul crushers, this will be my ticket in.  I say "ride" as my goal it to just finish this beast.  Planning and race day prep will be just as important as fitness for these two races.

The Bad:

The last two power tests, which have taken place in the last 30 days, have been subpar.  My numbers have been 10% lower, which worries me.  I have never had such low numbers.  And I don't know why.  I have several theories, ranging from a heavily loaded fall racing season leaving me flat to hitting that inevitable plateau that is we all come to face as we hit a certain age.  I don't really want to play the "age" card, as I am only 46.  Besides, my BRF, Zeke Lilly, is 67, and still going strong!

 I did have two "triple crowns" beginning with a September-fest of Pisgah Monster Cross, Black Bear Rampage (1 weekend), and Fool's Gold the following weekend.  My second was in October with Wilson's Revenge, Double Dare, and 12 Hour Nite Nationals (3 weekends in a row).  But I had or at least I thought I had a pretty big 4-6 week rest period beginning around Thanksgiving.  That should have been enough time to recover.

 But then my Coach discussed with me the phenomena of fatigue athlete metabolic syndrome.  What this means is that our muscles only have a limited amount of regenerative capabilites, and once these are exhausted, the athlete can be left in a state of chronic fatigue and training intolerance.  This has scared the bejesus out of me!  The article can be found here.

When I did these power tests, it was not that my legs felt heavy or flat, but my heart felt as if it had a governor on it.  My HR was 10-15 beats lower than what is typically normal for me during a 20 minute power test.  This low HR has been consistent over the past couple months and even during the first Snake Creek TT it was like this.  It has been a long time since I have seen 170bpm, which was easily attainable at higher efforts.

Any insight you might have, especially those that coach, would be greatly appreciated.  I have scheduled a doctor's appointment to rule out anything medical.

The Ugly:

Earlier this week, one of my favorite pair of winter tights met its untimely end.  I love these Pearl Izumi tights because they are warm, water resistant, and have the perfect chamois for my "tush."  I purchased 5 pairs of these back in 2007/2008.  They have gotten me through many cold and wet winter training rides and races.  Now I only have 2 pairs left and one of them is not looking to good.  I don't know how I will survive without them.  I hope that the newer versions are just as durable.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Snake Creek Gap TT Race Report

As I was changing out of my mud filled kit, I found this substance in areas on my body where it should not have been.  Not only had I accomplished all my goals for the day, but I had received a skin-reviving mud bath as well.  I probably dragged 2 pounds of trail off the mountain today.

Clean up ... the only part of the race I did not like.

Most racers were dreading today's run.  I was embracing it.  Six weeks off from racing combined with just an odd assortment of JRA rides left me feeling like a slug.  Last week's power test confirmed it.  I wanted to get out there and revive my legs and lungs.  Today begged for one gear.  Time to put my Cysco in action.

Going BIG in the rear.

The Dry Creek parking lot had standing water.  Along with high winds, it was drizzling at the start.  At least it was in the upper 40's/lower 50's.  I managed to line up with only 20 or so in front of me.  That would allow me to be in my own little bubble for most of the day.

The long flat stretch of fire road allowed me a controlled warm up as I spun a high cadence.  Disaster almost struck as a gear head almost took me out trying to pass me on the first short steep narrow uphill section about a mile in.

The bridge across the first creek crossing was a blessing.  Climbing up the double track to the first single track had me standing and grinding most of the way.  I silently thanked Becky and her spin classes where we would stand and grind for minutes on end.  That made it seem less tortuous.

Upon entering the single track, I managed to get myself behind a train.  This allowed me to practice my low rpm/track standing skills, along with my cyclocross dismount/remounts.  The trail was so muddy in sections that I had to pedal downhill.

Climbing up Pine Needle Hill had me rethinking my gear selection.  Trying to keep the rear tire seated was a bear and it was costing me precious energy that I needed for the final ridgeline.  The next few miles leading up to the hardest climb of the first half, I tried to conserve as much as I could and focused on my breathing.  During these "rest" periods, I tend to error on the side of short, shallow breaths.  It is hear that one can prepare their body for the next big push by slow, deep breathing to enable your muscles to absorb as much oxygen as possible.

I was off my bike quite a bit on the Horn Mountain climb.  It is hard enough on a geared bike, let alone a single speed in wet and loose conditions.  P36 practice, I told myself.  And saving my pedaling muscles now might avoid future cramps.  Finally cresting the top, I enjoyed the descent down to the Snake Creek Gap parking lot.

I had my Garmin on my bike, but I chose not to look at it.  I knew my time was not going to be good and I did not need to be thinking about how slow I was.  Fortunately, it was so covered in mud that I could not have seen the numbers had I wanted to.  I made a pit stop, chugged some gel, swapped my bottle and started the hardest climb of the second half, Mill Creek Mountain.

Photo credit:  Charles Brogdon

Grinding up this 1 1/2 mile climb had me convinced that either my (a) crank and/or hub was seizing up, (b) my tire was going flat, or (c) my brakes were dragging.  I had to shake the mantra, "How slow can I go, How slow can I go" out of my head.  Aside from the steep, tight left-hand switchback, I was able to clean the beast.  I considered it a small victory and my grimace changed to a smile at the top.  I slowed briefly as I came upon Jon Stang who was walking his bike in the opposite direction.  I asked him what he needed (secretly hoping that is was nothing I could help him with).  Busted crank, he replied.  I truly felt bad for him, as I don't like to see any racer have their day ended by a mechanical.

The descent down to the multiple creek crossings was a welcome relief to my heavy legs.  Unfortunately, the fatigue monster hopped on my back climbing the fire road up to the final stretch.  That combined with the peanut butter mud had me questioning my ability to finish the run in less than 4 hours.

Upon entering the final 6 miles of gnarly single track, the fog in my head was equal to the fog on the trail.  With mud spattered glasses, failing legs, and overall fatigue, I don't remember half of what I rode/walked.  It was as if I was in a trance-like state; my brain shut down and I let my muscular memory guide me off the mountain.  I was able to avoid several low speed crashes as I pinballed my way through rock garden after rock garden.  I chastised myself as I had to walk a couple sections that the so-called "Queen of Pisgah" should be able to clean handidly.

The cell tower was a welcoming beacon of hope.  After precariously speeding down the fog-enshrouded gravel road down to the road, I popped out onto the pavement and coasted to the finish.  3 hours and 53 minutes is one of my slowest times ever, but I'll gladly take it.  Even though I was whooped, I was happy.  I accomplished my goals of a sub-4 time, no mechanicals, and priming my body for another successful season.

I am happy to say that after the forest service "dumbing" down the trail 4 or 5 years ago, the Snake has returned to its former beastly self.  Watch out for its bite!

Let the clean up commence!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Second Edition of Whole 30 Completed

So I started my second Whole 30 the day after Thanksgiving.  It turned out to be a Whole 26, 2 days off, followed by a Whole 4.  I decided this after I not having any diet changing experiences this go around.  I previously mentioned I had been having some mild GI issues, fatigue, and insomnia.  During this second run, I eliminated sugar,  Stevia, carageenan, and guar gum, hoping that perhaps one of them was a trigger for my issues.  (I have been grain, dairy, alcohol, and legume free for 2 years).

I waited until I was in my third week to see if any of the symptoms would subside, but they did not.  I still kept on the plan, but added 500mg of Magnesium which I would take around 6-7 pm.  After about a week, I noticed improvement in both my gut motility and sleep pattern.  Magnesium is known for its ability to aid in digestion, natural laxative properties, and has a calmning effect.

Although a magnesium defiency can lead to fatigue, I did NOT notice any improvement to my fatigue levels.  I am hopeful that with continued improvement in my sleep, my level of fatigue will improve.

What I did notice the most and perhaps to a larger degree (as opposed to my first Whole 30) was fatigue on the bike.  Even though I was eating enough calories in the form of bananas, dates, and sweet potatoes, I had the endurance, but not the upper end power.

So, with Christmas approaching and my need to feel better on the bike, I shortened my Whole 30.  The first ride with sugar in my body was December 26 and my legs were back!  That ride was invigorating.

The first food that I have added back is peanut butter.  I have had no issues.  Why not just stick with the true nut butters?  Because peanut butter is SO DARN GOOD!  And I really want to get my hands on the new peanut butter RX bar.  I will keep it in moderation and tend to rely more on almond butter and cashew butter in my baking.

For now, my intentions are to be Whole 30 compliant on my rest/recovery days and to consume sugar on my training/racing days.  The sugar monster has been contained, thus far!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Time To Reboot

Real food is medicine for the mind, body, and soul.

This is my second time doing the Whole 30 Plan.  The first time was 2 years ago when my Mom and I decided to clean up our diet.  I learned alot about what food can do for you ... and to you (both the good and the bad).  Since then I have been grain free, dairy free, mostly legume free (aside from soy lecithin and an occasional spoonful of peanut butter), and additive free (nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, MSG) except for carageenan which is found in almond and coconut milk that comes in cartons.

I have been the healthiest and fittest ever!  So why do another Whole 30, you may ask?

I need to take a sugar detox.  In the past two months and especially on my non-cycling days, I have slowly been increasing my daily intake, mostly in the form of dark chocolate and stevia.  According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of sugar a woman should eat is 25 grams per day.  Initially, I had been sticking with this recommendation (on my non cycling days).  But here lately that number has been in the 40's - low 50's.  The sugar monster must be destroyed!  FYI, one 12 ounce Coke has 40 grams of sugar.

I have been experiencing sleep maintainance insomnia.  I have no problems falling asleep, usually by 9:30 pm.  But I am waking up around 3-4 am and cannot fall back asleep.  I have done all the recommended things:  no sound, no artificial light, taking melatonin.  Nothing is working.  So maybe it is something in my diet.

I have been experiencing more fatigue than what I think I ought to, given my training/racing.  By the time I get home after working all day, I am absolutely whipped.  All I want to do is eat dinner and curl up on the couch.  This might be normal given the stressors of daily life, but I want to make sure it is not related to food.

I occasionally have some GI disturbances, mostly in the form of bloating and decreased motility.  I had discovered certain foods that cause this:  garlic, onion, and brussel sprouts.  These vegetables fall into a category known as FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  These carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the GI tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria.  These sugars also exert an osmotic effect, increasing fluid movement into the large bowel.  The fermentation and osmosis caused by these undigested sugars can lead to gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea.  Whereas in the past I had these foods on a daily basis, now I must limit them to both in quantity and frequency.  But I still am experiencing some GI issues and am wondering if it could be related to any non Whole 30 foods.

So today was Day 1.  No big deal.  The second time is going to be alot easier than the first.  What I distinctly remember from the first time was the feeling of power!  That I was not a slave to the sugar monster.  Of course, I also remember the lowest point, too.  When, during week 2 I decided to pre ride the Southern Cross route and almost did not make it to the top of Winding Stair.  Talk about bonking!

I recommend trying this if you are having any sort of digestive issues, unusual aches/pains, low energy levels, seasonal allergies, skin issues, or have an emotional addiction to food (which is usually junk food).  It is only 30 days ... and it has the potential to change your life, forever!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

ProGold ProLink and Xtreme Lube Tests

This past weekend I ran into ProGold Bikes Bruce at the Oak Ass 100/50 in Birmingham, Alabama.  He asked me to determine how long one application of lube would "last" on my bike.  How many miles can you go?  As I usually determine my time on the bike in hours rather than miles, I told him I would put the lubes through an official test.  Seeing as how I don't even go through 1 four ounce bottle in a year, I knew that the answer could potentially involve many training rides.

So today, I readied two bikes:  a road bike and my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  First, I cleaned each chain with a "new to me" ProGold product.  Chain Shine is a biodegradable citrus-based cleaner.

< 5 minutes to a chain as clean as a new one.

Just use a small paint brush to apply, let sit a few minutes, take a scrub brush, and voila!  And it won't harm your precious carbon bits.

The chain on my road bike after using Chain Shine.

And my mountain bike.

After drying, I applied ProLink to my road bike and Xtreme to my mountain bike.  Only 1 drop per link is all that is needed.

I will be keeping track of the hours (and miles) that I put on my steeds over the next month or two.  I will also make notes of the conditions that I ride in.  During this time I will not do any sort of cleaning to my drive train, but I may have to put some Bike Shine on the frame.  After all, I am a little OCD about keeping my bikes clean.  Once the drivetrain starts making noise or shifting becomes less than perfect, the test will be over.

Stay tuned ...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dry Creek 6 Hour Race Report

Back in October when I signed up for this, I knew I did not want to race solo.  I started asking friends if they wanted to race a duo with me.  All my team mates save for Lisa had other plans.  Lisa was sorta in until she pedaled her body into the ground and was forced to take a 2 week rest period.  Ursula was out as she was still nursing an injury.  Loretta was interested, but then broke her arm.

So, I was left with no other choice ... Zeke.  Now all I had to do was to convince him how much fun it would be to ride in circles, on a team nonetheless.  You see, Zeke is an epic kind of guy.  Tell him to go big, go long, go hard (on a course that does not repeat itself) and he is as happy as a pig in poo.  But he was done racing the hamster wheel events.   What I had going for me was:  1.  that it was me asking, 2.  it was a new trail system, and 3.  he could do as many laps as he wanted.

He agreed ... to two laps.  Whew!  That meant that I only had to do four.  Since there was no single speed team division, we settled for coed.  We definitely had some competition.  Zeke was concerned of letting me down, but I told him that we were out here to have fun, and wherever we finished up, I was completely o.k. with that.  It had been a long season and I just wanted to finish it up not completely annihilating my body.

Cannot help myself ... always have my game face on, no matter what.

Saturday morning was frigid!  As I traveled from my house to the start of the race, the temperature slowly dropped 8 degrees.  Why is it that the Dry Creek parking lot, which is also the start of The Snake, is the coldest place in Georgia?  I needed to do a warm up, but was not wanting to brave the wind chill, so I kept it short, a mere 15 minutes.  I had just recently read an article about how long warm ups can be your undoing.  Not for me; I know that my body needs a solid 30 minutes to come to life.

Here is my account of the race, lap by lap.

Lap 1:  The flat parade lap up the fire road and around the parking lot sent me spiraling backwards into the field as my legs were spun out at a cadence of 130rpm.  I had unfortunately brought the wrong legs today; I had left the single speed ones at home.  The ones I had on were my geared legs and they did not like the gear I had on my bike.  I noted that there were 4 climbs that were particularly taxing with the gear I chose.  There were two fun and fast descents with whoop-de-doos.  I caught air, looked fairly graceful, and managed to not nose-wheelie myself off into the woods.

Photo Credit:  Mary Omstead

Lap 2:  I motored on through the transition zone.  The second lap felt easier.  Less traffic and knowing how hard I could push through the loose corners contributed to a smoother rhythm.  Around mile 4, I caught up to Star, the 2nd place team.  I passed her and then kicked it into a higher gear.  I had 6 miles left to gain as much time as possible.  The race for second was going to be close!  I rolled into the transition zone giving Zeke a 3 1/2 minute buffer.

Lap 3:  Zeke's first lap.  I was ready to go back out in case Zeke had an issue and couldn't do 2 laps in a row.  I crossed my fingers as I did not want to go back out so soon.  I could tell as he came through, finishing up his first, that he was giving his all.  59:08!  My team mates said that he hooted and hollered and sounded like he was having a grand time as he passed by them.  I hope I have half that much energy at 66.

All business!

Lap 4:  Zeke's second lap.  59:06.  So consistent.  He may want to rethink this whole lap race thing; he's darn good at it!

Lap 5:  Oh, the legs were barking going up that first climb!  After 10 minutes, they finally decided to cooperate ... a little.  What what !?! The 4 grunty climbs had turned into 6!  And they had gotten chewed up over the last few hours.  Now it took body english as well as muscle to keep the rear wheel from losing traction.

Lap 6:  Where is my competition?  I was trying to do the math, all the while laying down the power with a body that was beginning to fade and wanting to be done.  I needed to catch Star by mile 8 to have any sort of chance of us getting second.   At the 7.5 mile mark, I caught sight of the Motor Mile jersey up ahead.  Come on legs!   I asked my legs for just a wee bit more and by some small miracle they responded.  I passed Star and continued to ride like a scalded dog.  Two more climbs and one descent and I would be done.  The legs and lungs were burning as I crossed the finish line.  Second place was ours!

A huge thanks to the Ricky Manis and other NWGA SORBA members for getting this trail in tip top shape.  All the leaves and the loose gravel on the steeper climbs were blown off.  The cooperation between Chainbuster Racing and the local SORBA chapters has been awesome this year.  For all the Chainbuster races I have done, the trails have been perfect!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

12 Hour Nite Nationals Race Report

Having raced Double Dare the weekend prior and still carrying quite a bit of fatigue, I was not overly motivated about this one.  But, the weather forecast improved as the week went on; with a low of 52 and 0% chance of rain, I was doomed to race throughout the night.   The equal payout was very enticing:  $1500, $1000, and $500.  So I pretty much did a gut check and headed down to Auburn, Alabama.

All business.

The turnout was disappointingly low.  There were only 3 women and 5 men in the money classes.  Chainbuster Racing does an outstanding job and has quality races.  Perhaps it wasn't promoted enough outside the Southeast.  Maybe college football takes precedence over racing, although I find that hard to believe.  It has been a long season and what with the gazillion races to choose from, it is possible everyone was just as tired as I was.

The day leading up to the 9pm start was the ... longest ... one ... ever.  I did my best to stay off my feet.  I tried to take a nap, but failed.  I ate a big breakfast and lunch and went light for dinner.  The cup of coffee at 7 pm was a perfect fuel additive for my engine.  By race start, I was primed.

No better way to lose a night of sleep.

The course was 11 miles long, 700 feet of gain, and 99% single track.  It was held in Chewacla State Park.  The local SORBA group, CAMP (Central Alabama Mountain Pedalers), worked long and hard to get this course in tip top shape.

Here is a summary of my race by lap.

Lap 1:  Jill Martindale, a Mini-Me of Danielle Musto, had go go gadget legs.  I barely held on to her wheel.  During the more technical second half, I was able to take the lead and get the fastest lap award ($100).

Lap 2:  This was my settle down and maintain lap.  I really had no upper end power, but could crank out a steady aerobic endurance pace.

Lap 3:  Around mile 8-9, I swore I was pedaling through a Bath and Body Works.  And around mile 10, the odor of  cinnamon rolls elicited a Pavlovian response.  Your sense of smell and hearing are much more keen when night racing.  The flowery smell persisted all night long.  This was motivating, as I knew I was close to the finish of each lap.

Lap 4:  The first half of the course was on the aptly named  For Pete's Sake Trail.  It was equivalent to a person's small intestine.  5+ miles of so much twisting and turning that I could not tell if the lights around me were racers in front of or behind me.  This was the "Dr. Hyde" section.  I just kept telling myself that this evil would lead to pleasure ... Falls View and Creek View Trails.  These were "whoo hoo" fun.  Fast flowy descents with a few small rock gardens interspersed.

Lap 5:  Glowing eyes and large crashing sounds through the woods just next to me.  Hoping the deer, Sasquatch, or whatever it is doesn't decide to jump in front of me.

Lap 6:  Finally finding "zen" with the trail.  Knowing when to brake, when to accelerate, when to coast, and which lines were the smoothest.  In a race of this length, it is not just about the power you can generate, but using your engine efficiently.

Lap 7:  I started naming the roots:  Little Focker #1, Little Focker #2, Little Focker #3 ... you get the picture.

Lap 8:  The most painful lap.  Everthing was beginning to hurt:  taint, upper back/neck, feet ... in that order.  I began to daydream ... err, nightdream, to not think about the pain.  I tried to name all of Ursula's 5 dogs and 6 cats.  I designed my dream truck.

Lap 9:  Began to go through some mental calculations to determine how many more laps I would need to secure a win.  Try doing math in your head at 5 am with 95 miles in your legs!  At least it made the lap go by quick enough.

Lap 10:  The sunrise lap ... my favorite lap of these type events.  It is amazingly beautiful  how the trail slowly comes to life and you begin to see the terrain you have been riding through the past 10 hours.

The Jet 9RDO made for a much smoother ride.

Lap 11:  Came through the pits after the 10th.  I was told Jill was about 30 minutes behind me.  What with the time remaining, I had to go out for this 11th one.  Tired of carrying a Camelbak, tired of carrying lights and batteries, I shed all this equipment.  I didn't even want the weight of a full bottle so I drank about 8 ounces at the pits and rode away, "bare bones" style.

I finished at 7:52 ... plenty of time for a 12th lap, but not necessary.  Jeff, my teammate, finished 2nd, and James won the Ultra division.  A great showing for SuperSport!

C.A.M.P.  treated us to a delicious breakfast.  Bacon, sausage, eggs ... had I died and gone to heaven?

$150 per lap 

A special thanks to NiteRider for being the title sponsor.  This race could not have happened without their support.