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!