Friday, February 20, 2015

Diagnosis: Over Trained

While all of my FB friends are headed south to frolic in the dirt and sunshine at 12/6 Hours of Santos, I have been enduring my first of 6 weeks of forced rest.  As I have mentioned before, ever since I ramped up my training/racing after a 5 week break over the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays, I have felt "flat," and two power tests showed a 10% decrease in power and a 10-15 beat drop in my heart rate.  After lackluster performances at the Chainbuster 3 Hour and the Snake Creek Gap TT, I went to my primary care doc.

While awaiting bloodwork results, I diagnosed myself with everything from another food allergy to Lyme Disease to heart disease to cancer.  I had considered being "over trained" briefly, but how could I be?  I took 5 weeks off any structured training.  Yes, I still did ride, but in the JRA zone.

Just last week, after finishing up my fourth week of structured training, I pulled the plug.  I pretty much fell apart on the bike while doing a 4 hour single speed ride, where I was supposed to build up to hard and fast the last hour.  I called it after 3 hours, when I could not get my HR into the 140's and on any grade greater than 5%, I barely could turn the pedals over.  I decided right then and there at the Dry Creek parking lot that I was not dying of some horrible disease, but that I had pushed my body to its limits and beyond.

The next day I received my blood results.  All was normal, including a TSH and T4, but my free T3 was considerably low.  This is called "euthyroid sick syndrome," or non-thyroidal illness syndrome.  This is a dysregulation of the thyrotropic feedback control, where the T3 and/or T4 levels are low, but the thyroid gland is not dysfunctional.  This condition is seen in starvation, critical illness, or in over trained athletes.

Hindsight is 20/15.  I had a heavy race laden season last fall.  In both Sept and October, I did back to back to back races.   I ended my season later than usual with the last race being Oak Ass at the end of November.  And I was on fire and feeling great!  Coach warned me, but I was having PR's and my numbers were up, so I did not even know I was digging a whole that I might not be able to climb out of.  I should have known after noting in my training log that I was feeling a little "off" at both Nite Nationals and Oak Ass 50.

I took time off training from the end of November until the first Snake in January.  I thought that this would be enough, but apparently not.  What I also did not take into account was the extra  "off the bike" workload that I had taken on during this recovery period.  More work days and hosting holiday festivities does not equate to adequate rest.

So Coach has me off the bike for 6 weeks.  I am praying that this will be long enough for a reset.  In her latest email to me, she has warned that it could possible take 6-12 months to overcome ... which really has me scared.  Scared enough to stick to the plan.

I've learned a painful lesson.  If I am blessed enough to start racing again in April/May, my schedule will undergo a drastic overhaul.  I have the drive of a 20 year old, but a body that is more than twice that age.  In the meantime I may start a BA (Bike-aholic's Anonymous) chapter.

As much as I hate February, I am grateful for the ugly weather.  Being off the bike hasn't been too bad ... yet.  I'm sure once the warm weather comes, I am going to have "ants in my pants."  Hopefully I won't go postal on my family.

So what to do with all this free time.  This week I painted my bedroom.  My family is enjoying my down time as they are loving all the home cooking.  Next week, more painting.  Lots of stretching, core work, and yoga.  My bikes will all be getting detailed and dialed.

Oh, and lots of cuddle time!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Drink the Bean!

Last February, Bobby Rishel, team manager of Christopher Bean Coffee, sent me an email, wanting to sponsor me.  I was taken aback, as 99% of the time, I have to go hunting for sponsors and not vice versa.  At that time, I declined, feeling that there was a bit of a conflict.  I had also never tried the coffee and therefore did not want to commit to something I potentially might not like.

I heard from Rish again last Thanksgiving.  He FB'd me, saying how he really wanted me on the team.  Seriously?  After I had turned him down?  How could I say no, again?  Especially since I had tried a bag and found it to be pretty darn good.  So I accepted.

Since then, I have tried about 7 varieties.  I always get the whole bean and use in my french press no longer than 48 hours post-grind.  I have been pleased with the flavor profiles and even though I am NOT a coffee connoisseur, I think I would be above average in a blind taste test.  Every bag of beans I have received was fresh (not roasted until your order is placed), aromatic, and the beans have a nice oily sheen.

Shipping is fair (no handling charges) and free over $50.  The pricing may be slightly more than what a gourmet coffe (Starbuck's, Seattle's Best, Peet's, etc.) in a grocery store will be, but you are getting the freshest bean possible.  CBC has everything from country of origin to organic to fair trade to flavored coffees. There is an unconditional money back guarantee and you can accrue "bean bucks" to use towards future purchases.

I am quite fond of the Arabica Mocha Java, with its subtle hints of chocolate and mellow taste.  Next would have to be the Poison Spider, a super dark roast that will about knock your pants off.  If I am in need of a chocolate fix, I go for the Chocolate Decadence.  All flavored coffees are gluten free.

So give it a try.  Use coupon code CAREY25 for 25% off your first order.  I think you will approve.  And ... you will be supporting a company that supports cyclists!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Snake Creek Gap TT v2.0 Race Report

Sometimes I get so caught up in trying to make my life 10% better that I forget how pretty damn good my life is already!  Going into this race, I committed myself to having a great day on the bike, no matter how I felt.  I did not want to let February 7, 2015 slip out of my fingers without breathing in each and every moment of it.  Trying to live in the present can be a difficult task, what with all the shoulda, coulda, woulda's that on occasion take over my thoughts.  I still placed my Garmin on my bike, but did not look at it until the very end.  These days, I can hardly see the numbers anyways, thank you very much presbyopia!

I laid my bike down towards the front.  The timers graciously allowed me to soak up a bit of their portable propane heat while waiting for 9am.  I swear the Dry Creek parking lot is the coldest place in Georgia on any given day.  22 degrees had me throwing in a pair of chemical warmers between my two layers of gloves.  Must keep the fingers happy!  I dressed minimally as I knew it would heat up pretty quick.  Better to be shivering the first 10 minutes than trying to stave off a heat stroke later.

I was in the top twenty off the line.  So cold that my eyes were watering, blurring my vision for the first 10 minutes.  Quads feeling like frozen beef roasts, I was forced to go slow on the fire road.  People passing me like I was sitting still did not deter me.  Kaysee passed me like she was on fire!  I am not afraid to admit that bruised my ego a bit.  But then the "present" me took control and threw my ego off into Dry Creek as I crossed the bridge.

Lisa came around me climbing the double track.  Asking how I was feeling, I replied, "It could be alot worse."  And it definitely could have.  Here I was, on a great bike riding for a cool team, racing The Snake for the 11th year in a row!  Lisa motivated me and I was able to slowly ride back up to her.  She was definitely strong on the climbs, but I could reel her back in on the descents.  Over the remainder of the first half, I yo-yo'd off her rear wheel.

As I turned hard right to begin the arduous climb up Horn Mountain,  I saw 4 poor souls who had unfortunately gone left off course.  I have seen this alot.  It would probably be a good idea to paint some arrows on the ground at this turn.  When in oxygen debt, your body is always going to vote to go downhill!

I entered the pain cave going up Horn Mountain.  My quads burned so much I thought that this might be one explanation for spontaneous combustion!  I managed to clean all the sections, despite having to maneuver around those who could not.  As I descended down to the parking lot,  I knew Lisa did not have to stop, so I would have to be quick in hopes of riding her wheel up Mill Creek Mountain.  I pulled in, swapped bottles, chugged a watered down gel, and pulled out in record time.

I lost sight of Lisa but caught sight of Kaysee.  The carrot I needed.  Still in the pain cave with burning legs, ragged breathing, and tunnel vision, I slogged my way up to her.  I laughed out loud at myself, envisioning me as the character in the Triplets of Belleville.  If only an average person watched us cyclists climb up Mill Creek, they would think us completely off our rockers.

I managed to latch on to her wheel along the ridge.  But then I got schooled on the descents.  Not willing to go THAT fast, I had to settle within my means.  I managed to stay with her until I bumbled at the crest of one climb.  A rock reached out, grabbed my front wheel, and body slammed me.  Bad rock!  This all happened within seconds, but long enough for Kaysee to pull away.  I was able to keep her within my sights until the final descent down to Swamp Creek.  That girl haz skilz!

Climbing up the fire road to Middle Mountain, I was cooked!  At least it was not the soul sucking mud of last month's race.  I rested as best I could on this climb, knowing that I would need a few minutes of upper end power to tackle the gnar of last section of single track.  I saw Kaysee for the last time as she entered the belly of the beast.

No matter how pooped I am at this point, I am always smiles here.  I just love the ruggedness of the trail.  This section favors those with skill, focus, and gutsy determination.  Last month I had no focus and so was the pinball.  Today, though I may have lacked the fitness, I had the focus and grit.  I had a fairly clean, albeit slow run.  Loretta helped to lift my spirits and keep the fire going through the last 100 yards of so of single track.

The remaining two miles I focused on maintaining a strong cadence, knowing how this race can be won/lost by a matter of seconds.  I rolled through the finish line in 3:33:15.

Although I felt like a turtle today, I was pleased with my performance nonetheless.  I realized over the course of the race that sometimes you just need to play the cards you are dealt with.  Living in the moment allows you to have that perfect day!

Monday, February 2, 2015

ChainBuster 3 Hour Race Report

Round 1 of the ChainBuster 6/3 Hour racing series took off this weekend at Tribble Mill Park in Lawrenceville, Georgia amidst chilly temps and bluebird skies.  I was racing the 3 hour on my single speed in preparation for Marathon Nationals, a mere 3 months away.

Have I said how much I love my Ti Cysco?

I had been "off" my game for the past 8 weeks and was looking forward to coming out of my slump.  On Friday's pre ride, I chose an easier gear as I was concerned about top end power.  At the very least I would get in a great neuromuscular work out on Saturday.

The start had us launching across a field of grass, followed by a hard right and funneling us down to two-wide with a hard left turn at the bottome of the hill.  Talk about nerve-wracking.  Luckily, there was no rubbing,  but wave after wave of racers passed me in this brief parade lap.  I wished I had been strong enough to push a harder gear, but I would just have to bide my time and make wise passes over the 7.4 mile course.

With nothing too technical on this up and down, twisty course, those who could maintain speed through the pine needle laden corners and chattery sections of trail would have the advantage.  It was actually a great course for a single speed.  There were 4 flat sections that I lost time in, but it also allowed me a chance to drink and recover before the next hammerfest.

On the first lap, as I awaited for my legs to come around, I followed Maria.  She was faster on the flats and smooth ribbony sections, but I was able to reel her back in on the climbs and the rocky areas.  I made my move on her towards the end of the last lap, when she bumbled just a bit on a tricky climb.  After the pass, I tried to punch it, but my legs bitched and moaned until I settled.

Knowing that the day wasn't going to be stellar, I focused on staying off the brakes and finding flow through the corners.  The day was too beautiful not to just enjoy life.  Besides, just before race start, my husband had texted a picture of Carly shooting her first duck at Daddy's Cache'n In Duck Club in Arkansas.  It was the last weekend of the season and a youth only hunt.  That made my day!

Now, only if she was just as excited to get up at 4 am for a bike ride!

The second and third laps were just about surviving and holding my position.  My gearing on these two laps was almost too hard.  It was a grunt-fest on the final two climbs of each lap.  At least traffic wasn't too bad.  Some of my passes were not the cleanest, and for that I apologize.  The last thing I want to do is spoil another racer's momentum.

I finished with 3 laps in 2:26, good enough for the W in my age group (I was the only one), and 2nd overall.  Huge congrats to Emily for the overall.  It is great to see some younger women jump into the world of dirt.

I've got alot of work to do to get back to my "A" game.   I just need to figure out what has been "gumming up the carburetor."

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!