In like a lion, out like a lamb.
Today’s ride was c-c-c-c-cold. The 26 degrees wasn’t so bad, it was the blasting headwind, gusting strong at 30+ MPH that was tough to take. I stayed closed to home and took it slow at times, steady most of the ride. I really didn’t enjoy this ride, and mid way through I found myself just wanting it to be over.
This winter is the toughest I’ve had on the bike in some time. The temps have been extremely cold, and whenever I do have an opening in my schedule to ride, it’s often snowing. I’ve been dabbling with the trainer just to get some energy out and to keep my legs in some kind of shape, but I’m really seeing why the pros just move to California during the winter months to build their base miles.
Anyway, I climbed the Notch, which isn’t the hardest hillclimb but it’s not something I usually do in January. Hills are my friends, hills are my friends, hills are my friends. I’ll be grateful come summer when I’m faster for it.
I’ve been an avid cyclist for 14 years now, and never heard of the “one leg drill” before. I’m hanging around the right people on Twitter, and just learned the term. After Googling “one leg drill cycling,” I learned plenty. Recommended in the early weeks of base training, a one leg drill is performed on the trainer and is made to build strength. Watch this great video to illustrate how it’s done.
I’ve been reluctantly spinning on the trainer from time to time lately, no more than an hour–I just can’t take the tedium of a longer time period. The weather coupled with my work schedule hasn’t allowed riding outside. I last rode outside almost 2 weeks ago, and before that, another 2 weeks. This weekend looks highly questionable for outside cycling; as I type even more snow swirls and falls outside. It is 8 degrees.
So OK, I want to do the work, and the work will have to be on the trainer. I unclipped, spun for .3 mile, re-clipped, then repeated on the other side another .3 mile. Guess what? It was HARD. I should have done more. More importantly, I should have done it in an easier gear. I went back to the Internet (after I finished spinning) and got the following instruction:
Unclip one foot and rest it on a chair next to the bike so you are left to pedal with only one leg. With the bike in a low (easy) gear turn the crank at a comfortable cadence. The first thing you’ll notice is that getting through the top of the stroke, the 12-o’clock position, is difficult. Focus on smoothing this top transition. At first you may only last a few seconds before the hip flexors fatigue. When that happens switch to the other leg. When it fatigues clip both feet in and pedal for a few minutes applying what you have learned in the single-leg pedaling. Repeat the drill several times throughout the workout.
I did notice the “dead zones” in my pedal stroke they discuss in the video. I can see how this engages more muscles and works the leg much more specifically.
I’m really having a tough time with the lack of real riding over this winter, and there is no end in site. I am trying to stay active in the evenings, but oftentimes I am not free to workout until after 9PM, and let me tell you, that just ain’t happening. So I’m going to try and do the one leg drill thing, at least once a week, and several times during the workout.
This will be short & sweet. I should have written down my numbers for 2013 so I don’t have exact stats. Fortunately I still have enough brain cells to remember the ballpark….
Distance 2710 mi
Elev Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)
148 miles run, walked, hiked or skied.
Time 173hr 44m
Elev Gain 81,385ft
Happy that I crushed last year. I took on more climbing and found that it really made me stronger and faster. More of that in 2014. I’m not sure I’ll be able to match these achievement given my heavy work schedule. But I’ll have a great time trying.
It seems like every time I sit down to write about a race, I always want to convey how excited I was about the event–how much I look forward to it. Each race is different and special. Northampton is my home (or thereabouts) and is special for that reason, but it’s more than that. This is the oldest UCI race in the country, and in its 23rd year, the race has taken place at Look Park for many years now.
This weekend is the ONE weekend I have ALL YEAR that is ALL MINE. My son is away with my ex. My significant other is away on business. And there is a huge 2 day cyclocross extravaganza practically in my backyard. I look forward to this weekend all year.
So you can imagine how bummed out I was when I started to feel like a tired piece of crud on Thursday. I started popping Zicam like candy on Friday and by Saturday morning, I was still feeling abnormally fatigued and a bit sneezy. Not to mention, I haven’t been riding much the last month Work, fading daylight, and increasing demands of my son’s schedule have made rides few and far between. Now that I’ve properly explained away why I did so crappy, I’ll tell you about the races.
Course was slightly moist, not really muddy, but greasy in spots. I got a really terrible start. Too much hesitation in front of me and I was caught in the dominos. On the first pass of the run-up, I was forced right, up the steepest, least climb-able part of the hill. The racer in front of me slipped and lost control of her shouldered bike and hit me, and then the same thing happened to me. I practically dragged the bike up the steepest part of the hill. It was ugly.
Then we were in the woods, which I liked. The course twisted and turned and spit us back down onto the flat and fast grass, taking us down a swift singletrack. On the grass there was lots of sprinting and braking and turning and more sprinting. The second run up wasn’t anything to sneeze at, and wound us through the woods again, and onto my favorite addition to this course. A very mountain-bike-esque set of dirt turns through trees with minor elevation changes. I LOVED this section. It was just plain fun and challenging enough to keep the best riders on their toes. I think I liked it because it was hard without being dangerous. Perfect.
I did, however, crash in this section. My first actual crash in a race. The rider in front of me spilled and forced me into deep unstable soil and I went ass over tea kettle. She quietly apologized (Cat 3/4 Women as very polite racers I’ve discovered) but I hopped back on and kept going (and so did she). No worries. This was all part of the adventure.
After this the course shot us down a trail on over the railroad tracks. If you had enough speed, you could catch air here. I did every time and it was wicked fun. Despite feeling like shit, I was having a good time.
Back on the grass it was power, power power……something we all know I’m short on. I did my best and tried to ride hard and smooth. I finished 60 out of 82 racers. Now I shouldn’t feel too bad about this since the top 15 are all crazy good. But this wasn’t the middle of the pack I was aiming for. Sigh. Being off the bike for nearly a month has its repercussions.
On Sunday, the two monster run ups were gone and the course was much, much faster. The good news is I felt much better this day. After spending Saturday hanging out with co-blogger Heather and new cycling friend Aileen drinking beer and eating pizza and watching the Elite races, I got some rest and Daylight Savings Time gifted me another whole hour of sleep. Sunday was a new day. The bad news is it was 15 degrees colder and fast courses eat me for breakfast.
Whatever. I was there to race. I decided that I was going to leave it all out there on the course, Save nothing! I lined up and had a much better start. I was more aggressive and sprinted when things opened up. I had contact with riders for 3 of the 4 laps, playing cat and mouse with several. By the 3rd lap things had shaken out and riders were stretched through the course. I stayed on the wheel of one rider for a half a lap until she shook me and steadily opened a gap on me that was too big to overcome. I worked on keeping myself enough ahead of whoever was left behind me.
I sprinted for the finish alone, finishing 62 of 75. A worse result than Saturday. I was a bit mystified by this because I really felt like I raced this one, rather than just survive it. I think this just illustrates how much better I do in technical sections than on flat open sections. I am no sprinter, I am not fast. I like dicey technical stuff.
So a great weekend all in all. I really would like a full CX experience by having a really sloppy muddy race. Or snow. Most of my races (this year and last) have been very dry. The muddiest race so far has been Providence. I’d love to see how I do in some terrible conditions.
Too much to post about! I raced both days, lackluster performances both days. More on that later. I’ll start with some photos. (I dare say I’m a better photographer than I am a bike racer!).
A write up will come….sometime this week. I’m spent. This was a fun weekend, on a great course. I went in sick and my results were my results. It is what it is. It was a beautiful weekend in New England for bike racing.
It happened again. Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike. It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80’s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England. When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way. I hadn’t bonked. I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride. My ride ended around 3PM.
I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette. It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday. Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.
At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting. Bad. By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.
11:15PM I went to the bathroom. Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.
11:20PM I tried to got back to bed. My head was enveloped in indescribable pain. I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep. I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up. A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop. Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped. The nausea intensified. I made the decision to return to the bathroom.
11:30PM I vomited. More than once. Maybe 4 times in a row. I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back. I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back. I felt the pain ease and lift. Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep. I did. I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t. More like, the 7th? 8th? It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride. I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend. Each day, I sweat our fluids. I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV. The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.
I had a goal of 100 miles last week. 35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer. But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy. I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.
I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have. I wonder if others experience this problem like I do. I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration. I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car. And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time. So–just curious–anyone else have this problem? Care to share? Please comment if you would.
I’m not a morning person, but in order to maintain continuity in my fitness, I’ve started getting up early to ride. I wake between 5 or 6am, sneak in an hour or so, shower, dress, and then drive 45 minutes to work. I’ve been about to eek out some mileage by doing this. I’ve also avoided the wave of afternoon thunderstorms that have been plaguing the Northeast for the past 3 weeks. It’s so hot, humid, and wet here, there are few opportunities to ride without overheating or getting doused.
The early morning rides are nice. Few cars. The sun rising. A hint of coolness still in the air. Animals. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful way to wake up. Until last week, when as I was cresting a hill just two towns away at about 6:30AM, when I head this ringing pop from my front wheel. The bike immediately slowed. I pulled over and discovered one of my spokes dangling helplessly from the rim.
So what happens when you bust a spoke is your wheel warps. This makes the wheel impossible to spin. I was only 6 miles from home but on a truck route with no sidewalks, and as I mentioned, it was 6:30AM. I called my girlfriend who did not answer. I started to walk home with the front wheel lifted parallel to the ground. I was traipsing across front lawns, my cleats sinking into the wet, soft earth. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t getting home for another 1.5 hours which would certainly make me late for my new job, which is a 45 minute commute one way. It was a “save thyself” situation. I stopped on a front lawn and removed the errant spoke entirely. Then I was able to bully the wheel just straight enough to roll through the brakes, which I had opened wide. I wouldn’t have front brakes. And my wheel was still pretty warped, but it would roll. So I would roll with it.
I gingerly rolled home, slow but a heck of a lot faster than walking would have been. I made it to work on time and still got my workout for the day.
Cryptic, indeed. Time to let you in on some more personal events in my life.
Seven months ago, I was laid off from my job. This has never happened to me. It was devastating to my pride and my resume, and I soon learned that the economy is much tougher than even my spunky attitude could have comprehended. I’m in m 40’s now, I had just transitioned from one career to another, and I was one job into that transition when the small company I worked for downsized. As a single parent, I tried very hard not to be completely terrified.
Like with most life crisises over the past 14 years, I turned to the bike for comfort and therapy. I had just wrapped up my first cyclocross season when the lay off occurred. I had a small severance package, which helped, but still, I was reeling. I continued to ride throughout the winter, and on the trainer when there was too much snow to ride outside. I spent most of my time applying for jobs–a process that really does take a huge amount of time. Writing cover letter after cover letter. I applied for up to 10 professional jobs a week, which is 3 times the “required” amount. Just finding these job postings was a challenge in itself, especially during the holidays and in the winter months. I worked closely with the president of an employment agency, and the VP–two women whom I play basketball with, to find gainful employment. They were in the business of finding people jobs and couldn’t find anything suitable for me. I worked with another friend who was an employment counselor who sent me jobs that were unlisted. Still–month after month ticked by and although I was called up for interviews, no job came. I live in a college town and the economy isn’t particularly robust here so I soon was looking out of state, and contemplating how long I could go without selling my home, which I had bought on my own 13 years ago. Cycling helped me cope with these stresses. If I did not have cycling in my life, I would not have handled this period in my life nearly as well.
I picked up a freelance gig through one of my cycling friends I had met last fall–she connected me with one of her clients who needed some email marketing (she is a graphic designer), and then I did some more consistant work writing articles and editing for a PR professional, but this was also freelance and not full time, sustainable work. Eventually I made a random connection at a job fair I hadn’t planned on attending, and my now employer hadn’t planned on attending, that was a good fit. I started part time in April and today was my first day as a full time employee. I am so grateful to be working again in a professional capacity.
The upside of all this free time was I got to spend more time being a mom. Wow–that was nice. If only I hadn’t been so stressed about money and my future. And of course, I rode my bike a lot. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been this in shape in terms of cycling fitness and strength. That felt good. Those were my losses, and what I gained was more time with my son and a level of cycling fitness I would have never achieved without the time, and stresses that demanded an outlet.
Now that I’m back to work, I am going to have to cope with less cycling. I will strive to maintain my fitness level, even improve it–but I know it won’t be easy. In fact it might be impossible. I’ve gained a job–a chance to work back to where I once was on the professional totem pole. I am so, so grateful, relieved, thankful and happy to be back to work. That cannot be overstated. But I felt happy riding my bike every day. No matter how frustrated angry, frightened, hopeful, disappointed, or worried I was, I pedaled it all away on the bike. After an hour those cares were behind me. I felt happy and relaxed after a bike ride. every single time. It was amazingly reliable medication. So while I’ve gained employment, I am losing (at least in part) something that made that initial loss bearable.
Life is unpredictable. Happiness is fleeting. So few pleasures in life are renewable. I am thankful that I have cycling in my life to recharge me in body and soul, no matter what is going on in my life.
Gloucester & Providence