Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lake Wappapello Trail

We've been spending a few days in Southeastern Missouri visiting some of Chris' family, and today we went for a ride at Lake Wappapello State Park. The trail was supposed to be 15 miles and multi-use for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. We were expecting warmer weather in Missouri, but it was only about 32 degrees, foggy and misting when we started and I was dressed pretty warmly, but was still afraid I was going to be too cold. However, as soon as we got rolling I was immediately wishing I had less clothing.

It was a really fun trail, although there was some hike-a-bike involved. There were a few significant hills, and wet leaves, wet roots and wet rocks don't make for very good traction. I ended up walking up a few of the hills. The strangest thing for me was the rocks—I'm just not used to big rocks on the trails in Michigan. I did ride a lot slower than I would have at home because of some of the obstacles, but I think it was really good for me to work on my bike-handling skills. My lone crash came on the way back and hardly hurt at all.

We ended up riding for about an hour and 20 minutes, and probably rode about 5 miles total. We rode out and back. It was a great time and I actually did a couple shallow stream crossings. The best part was a decent downhill at the very end. I even let myself go a little bit fast. We had a great time. Today we're going to go out to the nature preserve for a hike.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ella Sharp Ride

We had a team ride yesterday. Five people showed up, including Chris and I. We met at 2:30 at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson. From 9:00 yesterday morning to the time we were gathering to ride, the temperature had plummeted from about 40 degrees to about 20 and the winds were very high. I'm still trying to amass some winter riding gear so I'm improvising with my clothing selections and I was a little worried. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the wind was biting right through everything I had. As I discussed previously, the tights I have are not really meant for very cold winter riding. Luckily, I wore a pair of wind pants over them which I intended to take off before beginning the ride. In the parking lot getting ready I quickly decided I was leaving them on. In fact, in the several seconds it took me to put my wheel on my bike while my hands were bare, my fingers froze up so badly I could barely move them. I had to hop back in the car, turn it on and hold my fingers in front of the heat vents for a while to warm them up so I could even use them.

We were just starting on the trail when Chris decided to turn back and wait in the car because he was dressed completely inappropriately. His tights were as light as mine and he had nothing over them. (I was also wearing his balaclava since I can't find mine. I offered to give it back, but I think that was the least of his worries at that point.) I continued bringing up the rear. I actually had a really good time despite the cold and the fact that I fell three times and feel a little bit like someone beat me up now. Once I got going, I really warmed up a lot. At first I thought I wasn't going to be able to ride because it seemed like I couldn't get up the smallest of hills. I think the cold was really sapping my energy, but after a while I got in a little bit of a rhythm and felt a lot better. One of the guys, Dave, refused to let me be last even though I was by far the slowest, and he and Scott took turns riding behind me.

I really liked the trail. I had never been on it before and it was a little weird to ride it since I spent most of my formative years just a few miles away. Our fearless leader Jake was describing some of the things that had been there since he was a kid and since he is only a couple years younger than me, they were there when I was a kid, too. I guess I missed them then because at that point in my life I was usually in my bedroom with my nose in a book. I did feel a bit demoralized when I realized I was the only one in the group on a geared bike and I was still a lot slower than everyone else, but those are the things I have to get over.

The trail was quite clear in some parts and the ground was frozen enough to make riding across it pretty easy. However, there were several patches that were very icy. I thought I did well on the icy parts, even though I did walk a few of them. The fear monster caught up with me a little. I do feel less bad about walking over icy patches than I do about walking down (what are in my mind) gnarly downhills. There were a few places where the snow was heavy and somewhat deep that called for some hike-a-bike. Granted, I did more hike-a-bike than everyone else there, but I still felt proud of what I accomplished. I probably rode 85 - 90 percent of the ride, which made me happy. We ended up riding for about an hour and 15 minutes, which I thought was good, particularly given the weather.

Afterwards we went to a bar and ordered food. The guys had a few beers and a couple of them played pool. I thought it was a really good team event, despite the low turnout.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Training Log 12/17/07 - 12/23/07

Spinervals Aero Base Builder, 1 hour and 20 minutes

Rest Day

Spinervals Recovery & Technique, 45 minutes

Spinervals Sweating Buckets, 50 minutes

Rest Day (unplanned)

On the Road with Coach Troy DVD, 2 hours

Trail ride, 1 hour and 15 minutes

Total = 6 hours and 10 minutes

Riding at Lake Placid

We had the best of intentions for riding the trail yesterday. The weather had warmed up considerably in the last few days, and the snow from last weekend's dumpfest was getting scarcer and scarcer. We spent most of the morning at the house waiting for a FedEx package they had been trying to deliver, inexplicably, at the exact same time, three weekdays in a row. It reminded me of the joke, "What's the definition of insanity?" "Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

Luckily, since it was Saturday, we were finally able to retrieve the package, which made me especially happy since it was apparently a present for me. Note to online businesses: If you are going to require a signature when a package is delivered, it is best to warn the purchaser ahead of time. Note to FedEx: Don't check "final attempt" on the door tag if it is not the final attempt. This causes the deliveree to have to call the FedEx 800 number several times and upon not being able to get through, drive to what he thinks is the "main" FedEx location in the area, only to find out it is not the correct location, then have to return to the website tracking mechanism the next morning, only to be confused and bewildered to find out that the package is "out for delivery," and so to have to call the 800 number again and find out the package is indeed out on the truck again and wait around all morning for the truck to show up.

Okay, now that that's taken care of, back to the stuff that actually has to do with riding. We drove out to Rose Lake, marvelling at the fact that it was 40 degrees out and would be a much warmer ride than last weekend's. Chris hit the trail first and came back several seconds later to let me know the ride was not going to happen. Being the obstinate sort I am, I had to try for myself, only to set my own personal record for soonest crash after arriving at the trail. There was still enough snow on the trail to make riding impossible. Due to its slushy nature, it was all we could do to get one revolution out of our tires before sliding off the trail. Chris commented that we should have brought our hiking shoes, which would have been a great idea, but it was too late.

Now I realize that my hero, Alaska Jill, rides in these types of conditions all the time. However, there is the fact that the very race she's training for could turn out to contain these sorts of conditions, whereas that is extremely unlikely for summer mountain bike racing in Michigan. For us, I think actual riding is much more beneficial than hike-a-bike, so we headed home to the trainer.

Now here's where Lake Placid enters the story. Our newest Coach Troy DVD is from the "On the Road with Coach Troy" virtual reality series. Each one consists of Coach Troy riding outside and switches between his helmet cam and a camera following him. He talks pretty much non-stop through the entire DVD, but there is much less gear shifting. This particular DVD is 3 hours in length.

We had some hours to make up from Friday. In an unspoken agreement, we arrived home from work, sat around in the living room watching t.v., and did nothing else all evening. We never agreed not to ride the trainer, but neither one of us even brought it up. However, I think we both knew we'd have to make it up on the weekend. We were also scheduled to ride for an hour and 20 minutes on Saturday as regular training. So, we ended up doing about 2 hours of the DVD before stopping. We didn't do the whole thing because we were tired, my toes were hurting and we wanted to save something for today's ride.

The DVD was actually really enjoyable. It follows the route of the bike portion of the Lake Placid Ironman Triathalon. We're not sure if it will continue to be less boring than our other DVDs when it is no longer new and novel, but I guess we'll find out.

Today we're supposed to try another team training ride. We're trying out a trail down in Jackson at Ella Sharp Park. If the trail isn't rideable, we're meant to use the paved bike path as a backup. Chris is normally pretty anti-bike path. He thinks they're really boring, which is often true, but I feel that riding outside on the bike path is preferable to riding on the trainer for the fifth day this week and he agreed. If anyone would have told me two years ago that I'd ever want to ride my bike outside in the winter, I would have said they were crazy, but riding the trainer, though very useful, is an easy way to get cabin fever. Right now it's pouring rain, but according to the forecast it's supposed to stop raining and cool down before our ride, so I'm hoping it doesn't get cancelled again. Keep your fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm on a team!

I can't believe it. For the first time since 10th grade, I'm actually on a team again. Chris and I decided to join the MMBA Mid-State Chapter Team. Tryouts were simple—Jake sent out an e-mail and we answered it. So, it's not really like we were chosen or anything, but I think being on a team is good for several reasons:

  1. Camaraderie
  2. Motivation
  3. Accountability
  4. Cool new jerseys

So far, we've had one team meeting, one trainer night (which I skipped because I'm not excited about taking my trainer down, hauling it across town and setting it up again) and one trail ride (which was cancelled due to the snowstorm). I'm really excited about racing this year. What with the racing season and the wedding, I really can't wait for spring to be here (but I'm going to have to, because I still have tons of stuff left to do).

Monday, December 17, 2007

Training Log 12/10/07 - 12/16/07

I was thinking yesterday that I should start recording what I do for training somewhere, and this seemed as good of a place as any.

Spinervals Recovery & Technique, 45 minutes

Spinervals Aero Base Builder, 1 hour and 20 minutes

Spinervals Sweating Buckets, 50 minutes

Spinervals Aero Base Builder, 1 hour and 20 minutes

Rest Day

Trail Ride, 30 minutes

45 minutes on the trainer (watching a movie)

Total = 5.5 hours (It seemed like a lot when I was doing it, but when I add it up it doesn't sound like much!)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Outside Ride

I mentioned in a previous post that I hadn't really spent any time riding in the snow before and my first experience with it was at last week's Kisscross race. It's weird that I've actually had one mountain bike or another for eight or nine years or so, but there's so much about the experience I was missing before now. Chris and I decided to go out and ride at Rose Lake yesterday and I was so glad we did. I had a blast. I don't have much cold weather gear, as I've mentioned before, but I improvised and it actually turned out okay. The only thing I really missed was a pair of winter tights. Just about all of me was pretty warm, but my legs were freezing in my thin tights.

I ended up using a handwarmers and footwarmers to help supplement my flimsy mountain bike gloves and mountain bike shoes and it surprisingly worked very well. I was afraid the handwarmers would be worthless since my fingers would be colder than the rest of my hands. I told Chris before we started riding that I wished they made tiny little finger warmers that you could put in each finger of your glove. However, it turned out my concern was unwarranted as the heat spread to my entire hand fairly quickly and by the end of the ride my hands were actually hot. My only wardrobe malfunction involved having to stop fairly soon in the ride because one of the foot warmers had shifted and became wedged between my toes and the front of my shoe and was actually hurting my toes. I stopped, took my shoe off and rearranged it and it was fine for the rest of the ride.

We were a little nervous when we got in the parking lot of the trailhead because the lot was one big sheet of ice with a dusting of snow on top and was extremely slippery. It also looked like there was a lot more snow on the trail than what we had at home. (Around our house there was still lots of grass poking through and very little snow accumulated on the ground.)

The snow was actually a lot of fun to ride in, though. There were a couple of icy spots, but most of the trail was a layer of crusty snow. I was fairly easy going with the bonus of the tires making a satisfying crunching noise as they broke through the crust. We only stayed out for about a half hour but we had a great time and it beat riding the trainer any day.

I felt really positive about the ride. I have to try and remain that way instead of thinking about all the time I've wasted with a perfectly good mountain bike not doing anything fun with it. If I let myself think like that all the time I'd be really depressed, so I'm trying just to think about the whole new world I've opened up for myself and all the new experiences that are in front of me.

We are supposed to be doing a team ride (more on the team in a later post) later today and I'm really excited about that because I had so much fun yesterday and because the trail we're supposed to ride is one I've never been to before. I'm hoping those plans aren't going to be thwarted, though, because we got dumped on with snow last night and more is coming our way today. I'm going to be really bummed if I end up having to get back on the trainer again before Monday.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Season Finale Success

Yesterday's race was a real learning experience for me. I'm pretty sure I had never ridden on snow before and honestly, when I was riding my practice lap, I almost talked myself into not racing at all. I'm really glad I decided to race, though, because in my opinion, it was my best race all season.

Deciding which race performances are better or worse is a little subjective. After all, the races are all at different venues, with different courses, so it's not like I can determine whether my time from one race to another is faster. I can't really use where I place as an indicator either, since a lot of the people are different and even the size of the group fluctuates pretty wildly.

For example, yesterday I came in 10th out of 11th, beating only a 7-year-old. At Manhattan Park I was 19 of 23, which is technically better, but I feel like I rode better and faster this time. I also felt like I pushed myself harder than I have in any other race.

I could consider it depressing that I pushed myself harder and still came in at the back of the pack, but I feel encouraged by it instead. You see, something happened (or more accurately, didn't happen) in this race for the first time. I finished the race without being lapped! For some reason, not being lapped felt even better than lapping someone else did two races ago. I think one of the reasons I felt so good about it was that my fiance, who was watching and taking pictures, told me that the leader was inching up on me and was ready to lap me. Instead of resigning myself to the inevitable like I normally would do, I kicked it up a notch and stayed ahead of the leader. I crossed the finished line to start my last lap just before he did to finish. It was a moral victory for me more than anything else.

I also feel good about the way I made myself race when I was so discouraged during my practice lap. I was so nervous about the snow because it felt so different. I felt a little out of control in the beginning. Once I got out there and began racing, I was a little cautious at first, but started to get used to it and got braver. I think getting over some of my mental hurdles is going to be my toughest challenge with racing.

Overall, it was a great day. It was sad that it was the last race of the season, but I am determined to train hard, improve and come back stronger next season. These are some of the positives I took away (some small, others not so small):
  • I didn't get lapped!
  • I didn't crash.
  • I pushed myself harder than I thought I could.
  • I didn't quit.
  • I had a blast.
  • I won a t-shirt.

There are more pictures from the race on flickr.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

No Slackers

As I mentioned previously, my training this winter will be extremely trainer-heavy, and today was no exception. Since I didn't have a race today, I was supposed to do the "No Slackers Allowed" DVD, which is in the "competition" series. The DVDs I use most often are in the "fitness" series, with the only real exception being the recovery DVD. So, I was somewhat apprehensive, but figured I had better get it out of the way fairly early in the day.

The DVD was supposed to be a substitute for my race, and it did fairly well in most respects. Obviously missing was the socializing aspect, since I was alone upstairs except for my dogs, who chased each other around until they got tired and then crashed on the old, cruddy couch that's up there.

I noticed two things about this particular DVD:

  1. It looked different. Instead of the usual setting in a ballroom at the Belvedere Hotel, it was on a beach, only marginally more interesting. There was something slightly disturbing to me about using a bike trainer on a beach, particularly since it was reasonably warm, if the apparel of the participants and Coach Troy are any indication. Although it was pretty grey, it was perfectly acceptable weather for outdoor riding. Beyond the weird setting, I also noticed that it just looked old. Coach Troy looked a little younger, with a nerdier looking hairdo and everything else just looked a little outdated. This was confirmed when I got to the end of the DVD and instead of the usual URL for the Spinervals Web site, a mailing address was offered for inquiries. I was disturbed again when I looked at the date on the back of the case. When did 1997 start looking outdated? (Yes, I realize that was 10 years ago, but when I think about the fact that I graduated from high school in 1991 and college in 1995, it makes me wonder where all that time went.)
  2. It was hard. Now I probably didn't really use as much effort as I do in a race, mostly because I'm aware of the fact that I'm not actually racing. It's really easy to lapse into soft-pedalling, but overall I thought it was pretty high intensity. A particularly hard part was a five-minute interval that's supposed to simulate a prologue in the Tour. Again, I don't think for a minute it was as hard as being in the Tour, but for me it was quite difficult. Since I was able to finish, I have decided that I must not be a slacker.

Overall, I feel pretty good about how I got through it, especially given the fact that I was sprawled on the couch, sloth-like for the entire day yesterday as I result of some questionable decisions on Friday night. I still wasn't feeling great when I woke up this morning, but I actually feel a lot better after riding.

I am glad I liked this DVD. I'm going to be riding it a lot in the next several weeks since next Saturday is the final Kisscross race of the season. When that happens, I'll have to get outside on my bike to ride at least once or twice a week and hope the paltry amount of cold weather gear I own will hold out until Christmas.