Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sue Haywood Mountain Bike Skills Clinic

I first learned of Sue's clinics after seeing a FB post by Shanna Powell last year.  I had been wanting some formal instruction and with Shanna's positive review, I arranged a private clinic for 7 ladies this past weekend.

For those of you who don't know Sue Haywood (shame on you), she is one of the most down to earth world class racers you will ever meet.  With championships and podiums in almost every style of mountain bike racing there is, she was and still is a force to be reckoned with.  Couple that with her ability to communicate those skills and you have an instructor that can teach an old mountain biker new tricks!

Mary showin how it's done, with a smile!

The group of women I invited are all expert level riders.  Despite our years of experience, we all learned a ton!  The biggest take away for me was how to drive the bike, not just ride it.  Unlike operating a car, on the bike you need to be aggressive, not defensive.

Kathleen is like C4 ... a small package of explosiveness!

I believe we all left with alot more knowledge and a little more skill.  Now I need to practice, practice, practice.  At this point, my mammalian brain knows what to do.  And with practice, my reptilian brain can take it to the next level where I don't have to think about it.

Rachel with a nice drop in.

It was great to have an all ladies clinic.  No machismo interfering with our self confidence.  Even though ladies do have egos, we know when to leave them at home.

Learning the basics before applying them on the trail.

Now I just need to "unlearn" some bad habits and work on the core skills.  I figure that I am as fast as I can be on the climbs.  Where I can gain speed is on the flats and descents by applying Sue's teachings.  She is a level 2 IMBA certified instructor and has also been an instructor with Gene Hamilton's Better Ride clinics, before branching out on her own.

Sue loved Live Wire and High Voltage

Sue runs a series of clinics throughout the year.  She is also willing to come to your neck of the woods and instruct a small group.  I would highly recommend taking a skills clinic.  My only regret is not having done it sooner!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Progold Xtreme Lube Test Wrap Up

Last November, I began a durability test of two Progold Lubricant products.  I applied ProLink to my road bike and Xtreme to my Niner Jet 9 RDO.  After last week's muddy "ride" during the Snake finale, the test was concluded.  Although I did not have any shifting issues, there was an irritating noise coming from the drive train.  For most, this would probably not be a factor, but for me, anything more than the "whrrrrr" of my I-9's drives me crazy!

A typical race day at The Snake

The final tally was 100 miles and 12 hours of ride time.  This included 4 rides 2 of which were the Snake Creek Gap TT), all of which were wet and muddy.  After all, it was winter time.  If but for the nasty conditions, I feel confident that this mileage/time could have been doubled or even tripled before I ended the test.  I plan on conducting a second test once I am back on the bike and during more favorable riding conditions.

Meanwhile, after 600 miles and 39 hours my drive train is still "happy, happy, happy" on my road bike.  I was hoping to have concluded both tests by now, but I have been off the bike for 4 weeks due to overtraining.

I was able to clean my bike in no time with ProGold Degreaser + Wash and Chain Shine.  A little goes a long way.  I add 1 part water to 1 part Degreaser + Wash and I pour a tiny amount of Chain Shine into a cup and apply it to the drive train with a small paint brush.

After allowing both products to sit for a couple minutes, I then use the above tools to clean.  James Stankowitz showed me that a cheap paint brush gets easily into all the nooks and crannies of a full suspension rig.

Hard to believe she is in her 4th season of racing.

White stays white with ProGold!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snake Creek Gap TT "Ride" Report

After 3 weeks off the bike and 1 race away from securing the belt buckle, I made the decision to kit up and "ride" the finale.  I was unsure of how well my body was recovering and needed a spin to let me know if I was making any headway or not.  Probably not a smart move physically, but I needed the mental satisfaction in order to keep me going for another 3 weeks of rest.  And if I felt like crap, I could always bail at the 1/2 way point and drive Zeke's truck back to the start.

After horrendous winter conditions the past few weeks, the trail would not allow for many PR's.  That combined me starting in the back of the field would ensure a slow, enjoyable ride.  Never knowing how my legs truly feel until the race starts, I stood patiently waiting while at least 150 riders began their TT.

Normally I am freezing at the start, but today I chose to layer ... alot.  Being warm at the start was a bonus.  As I began my ride, I soft-pedaled to the creek crossing.  Many passed me, but I did not care.  I was happy just to be on the bike, enjoying my time with nature.  I was wearing my heart rate monitor, to keep me honest.  As I settled into my granny to begin the double track climb, I glanced down at my monitor.  Heart rate of 150 with an RPE of 4 and no "burn" in my legs.  That was a fantastic sign.  3 weeks ago while attempting a tempo work out at the Dry Creek system, my HR was 130 with an RPE of 10 and legs of lead!

The trail was slicker-n-snot in alot of places.  My bike and I were soon covered in a couple pounds of mud.  I chose to work on skills today.  After "granny-ing" the climbs, I would put it in rock-n-roll mode on the descents.  With lots of energy being conserved, I do believe I rode the descents faster and better ... although a couple trees did get awfully close!

Starting in the back allowed me to make several new observations:

  1. The 26" wheel is not dead!
  2. The men smell so much better.  Over the course of the race, I rode behind 4 guys that had on cologne.  Not overpowering, but very pleasant.
  3. The size of the hydration packs!  OMG, it made my neck and shoulder blades hurt, just looking at them. 
  4. The aid stations are packed full of racers.  They did not appear to be making any NASCAR style pits.
  5.  The racers are really the same as the frontrunners.  Although not as fast, they are equally determined to enjoy the ride and accomplish goals.  

Arriving at the Snake Creek Gap parking lot, I mosey'd over to my cooler and had a brief picnic. After refueling and shedding a layer, I began the climb up Mill Creek Mountain.  After remembering last month's painful, demoralizing experience of this section, I reveled in the fact that today was so much better.  

Just before the washed out, rutted descent prior to The Wall, I was able to catch up to Grace Ragland and ride with her for a couple miles.  I know Grace pretty well, but I have never ridden with her.  WELL, LET ME TELL YOU!  THIS CHICK HAS SKILLS!  She slayed that downhill!  I was most impressed by her descending skills, as well as her ability to negotiate the rock gardens.  WOW!  This, from a woman, who had her 55th birthday today ... and has multiple sclerosis.  Truly amazing!  

Snake bit!

Having conserved so much energy over the first half of the course I was able to clean so much more of the last 8 miles of single track.  I almost made it up the wall; just too many walkers to negotiate around led me to spin out at the halfway point on the short rocky ledge.  Ooooh ... so close!

I rolled through the finish line in 4:07.  This was 34 minutes slower than last month, but 
100 times more enjoyable!  Last month my average HR was 155 with an RPE of 10.  Today was an average HR of 144 with an RPE of 5.  I will take this and enjoy the next 3 weeks off the bike and any structured training.  I truly needed this mental boost as I was doubting my abilities to recover and be able to strive for a successful 2015 season.


I must apologize to all my cycling friends, but I am groovin' on next week's forecast.

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."