Saturday, May 10, 2008

2008 Race Schedule

Feb 3 - 3M Half Marathon - Austin
March 7-8 - Fayetteville Cycling Stage Race - 2x 40+ mile road race, 6 mile TT - Fayetteville TX
April 13 - Texas State Triathlon - Sprint distance - San Marcos TX
April 21 - Boston Marathon - Boston MA
May 13 - Tuesday Night Bike TT - 8 miles - Austin
May 17 - Austin Triathletes Open Water Swim - 2.4 miles - Austin
May 25 - CapTex Triathlon - Olympic distance - Austin
June 8 - Danskin Triathlon - Sprint distance - Austin
June 28 - Keep Austin Weird 5K Run - Austin
July 20 - Door County Triathlon - Half Ironman - Door County WI
Sept 7 - Ironman Wisconsin - Madison WI

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

balance and focus

Sometimes I feel like I am a hamster running on a never-ending wheel. I get up early to get to my first workout then work, eat, nap, do errands, eat, do another workout, get myself organized for the next day, then crash into bed. Some days are completely scheduled in order to make sure I get everything done. I stress and worry. It is a major challenge to balance all this stuff and still having time to reflect on life and enjoy that I am living it exactly how I want to. I mean, I get to get up on a beautiful sunny morning and go on a long bike ride when everyone else is commuting to the office.

Things can get to feeling out of control. Today I tried some new ways to go about the day and was successful. First I did my long bike ride and focused on going hard during the hard parts and easy during the easy parts. I went into it determined to do my best. I came home and set aside a large chunk of the day to be uninterrupted work time. This meant no web surfing or checking email. Nothing but work during work time. After work time I rewarded myself with a nap, a nice dinner, and some relaxation. I knew I had this coming so it made it easier to work. For my eating, I made sure to get in all my calories before 7pm. I don't like to go to bed feeling too full.

The key to today was to focus during focus time and then relax the rest of the time. I found that I had less stress and worry when I stayed on task. Finding balance in juggling everything works a lot like those bike intervals.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

my own real bed

I have a new bed. A real bed with a mattress, box spring, frame, and nice sheets. Queen size. And it's really comfortable. I have not had my own real bed for a long time. I have been sleeping on couches, futons, guest beds, hotel beds, and the floor for over a year now. It is really nice to have my own bed. This is one of those things that I didn't know I missed so much until now.

Here I am 15 minutes after running Boston. 5 minutes after it I was not doing so well. It's amazing what a bottle of water and some potato chips can do.
More Boston photos on my Flickr account.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

thoughts during a marathon

What do I think about during a marathon? Several people have asked me this in the past couple of days....

  • I break it down into mile repeats and think of it as 26 x 1 mile. 1 mile is easy.
  • I get into a rhythm of counting my steps up to 10 over and over
  • I look at something ahead and tell myself to run to that. Then I pick a new spot.
  • I make a game of seeing how many people I can pass
  • I imagine myself as an Olympic runner, running effortlessly with perfect form
  • I imagine myself as a gazelle running through the forest
  • At Boston I thought about my virtual cheerleaders one mile at a time
  • I think about the perfect delicious meal that I will have when I am done
  • I think how grateful I am to have two good strong legs that let me run races
  • I think about how in this moment I don't have to worry about anything but running
And sometimes I think:
  • I am really tired. I don't know if I can make it. Yes you can make it. You do not give up.
  • Wow, my legs hurt. I am not going to be able to walk for a week after this.
  • Why do I do this again?
  • That slick looking Boston marathon jacket will make this pain all worth it.
  • It's no wonder the first runner of the marathon in Greece died after running... this is no joke
But I try to push those thoughts away pretty quickly and get back to the more positive ones.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I ran the Boston marathon! I heard it was a tough course and it was. My plan was to start out at a 9 minute pace and then monitor my body throughout in order to decide if I would pick up the pace or not. I wasn't sure if my recovering hip injury would be an issue or not. My goal was to get to the finish line, enjoy the experience, and pace myself well enough to run the last three miles. My injury has had me running in the water for the last 6 weeks so I was not sure how things would go. I knew my aerobic engine was up to the task but I was not so sure about my legs.

The first half was easy and felt good. It was a joy to be out running a long run again for the first time in a while. Then fatigue and soreness started and it got to be less of a joy. The downhills had my quads exhausted by mile 17. I actually enjoyed the uphills and loved Heartbreak Hill because it was so long. It gave me a good chance to use all my strength from muscles other than my quads and I passed a lot of people on the uphills.

There were more spectators out there than at any race I have ever done. It was pretty much completely insane. People were cheering for nearly the entire 26 miles, and in the last 4 miles people were about 3 deep on both sides. At some points I kind of just wished for a quiet moment to find peace and get in my groove. I had to find my groove amidst people screaming in my ears. The last 5 miles were quite torturous as I worked hard to just get one foot in front of the other. My legs were not happy. I managed to keep a fairly steady pace by working extremely hard at the end. I fought to get in under four hours and I came in dead on 4:00:34. The last half mile up to the finish line was pure happiness. I felt no pain. I smiled and felt proud to have run the whole race. Just a few weeks ago I was doing 3 min run/1 min walk intervals to try to heal. I am healed and I ran smart. I feel really proud of how I am learning to deal with challenges and make things positive.

Now, let's rest up and bring on the core of Ironman training.

perfect race at aquarena

My first triathlon of the year could not have gone any better. I was organized, calm, my nutrition worked, and I focused to go hard. Everything went according to plan. I ended up first in my age group (30-34) and second female overall. This is the best I have ever placed in a triathlon. To top it off, I had the fastest female bike time of the day and I set a PR for my 5K run. This was a huge confidence builder and a great way to kick off the season. Clearly I have been doing something right. It's only April.

Photos here:
[Thanks Mo!]

Saturday, April 12, 2008

sprint triathlons are fun

I'm doing my first triathlon of the season tomorrow: the Texas State Sprint Tri at Aquarena - 500m swim, 14mi bike, 3mi run. Sprint triathlons are fun because they are like mini versions of the longer ones. Getting done in around 1:15, they are shorter than most of my typical weekday workouts. You go through all the motions so they are good to use as dress rehearsals for longer races. I want to get all the glitches worked out before CapTexTri in May so that that more important race is not my first. I got all my stuff organized yesterday so I can relax a little today and not have to worry about that. Above is a photo of everything. I am so excited to be racing on a Felt B2 that I am borrowing from the bike shop. It is lightening fast and a joy to ride. I wrote up my race plan so I know what I'm doing for the race and I think I'm ready to nail it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

gearing up for boston

I'm gearing up to run the Boston Marathon in two weeks. I qualified last year and delayed one year but I am really going to do it this time. Since I am recovering from a hip/IT band/knee issue, it may be more of a run/walk than a run, but I am going to go the distance no matter how long it takes. Mostly I am going for the experience of it, plus I will get to watch the women's Olympic marathon trials while I am there. I figure that I put in the hard work to qualify, so it's ok if I just go out and enjoy myself at Boston.

It's weird how I set huge goals for myself and then when I reach them it is hard to believe that I actually did. Life keeps going and it's so easy to immediately start thinking about the next goal without really enjoying my successes. Delaying Boston a whole year has given me time to let that one sink in... like, oh maybe I am a pretty decent runner. If I did Boston fast, there would be less time to enjoy being part of it. So I'd say that's the biggest positive thing about being injured: more time out on the course getting loved by spectators :)

Friday, March 21, 2008

my first road race

I did my first cycling road race last weekend... and I made it through! It was a two-day stage race with a 46 mile road race and 6.6 mile time trial on Saturday, and a 49 mile road race on Sunday. The Fayetteville Texas Stage Race. It was a huge victory for me to even get there, much less stick out the tough times through the three events. Last summer I was totally averse to riding with people, and never imagined that I would do a bike race. I was happy riding by myself to train for triathlon biking. I realized that I need to ride with faster riders to be a faster rider. I train my swimming like a swimmer, and my running like a runner. No doubt that explains why those are my strengths (and maybe my naturally long limbs). This year I am doing what it takes to make biking a strength too.

Ok, so the race itself. I went in with the strategy in the mind to just stay towards the front of the pack and stay on someone's wheel. Well, this is good unless you can't do it. We started off slow, so slow that I wondered if I had it in the bag. I had no idea how fast Cat 4 riders ride. When we got to the first massive hill, a few riders put it down and started to sprint. I was in the front and quickly fell to the back, and then dropped off the back. I was not expecting that sprint and sprinting up a steep hill is tough. They kept going and I had to give it everything I had to get back with them. It took a mile or two, so that was a huge effort expended. While I was sprinting, they were resting. When they took off again, I was spent and couldn't catch up again. I rode the rest with a few others who were dropped and then by myself. It was a good learning experience. I didn't let it get to me. The time trial was no big deal, since I am used to that. The road race the next day was more of the same, but I was able to stay with the pack for a few more surges because I was anticipating them. I knew I had to be ready to go 100% at any moment. Again though, I rode most of the day by myself.

Did I have fun? Hmmm. I guess so, but some parts weren't very much fun. I know these will make me a better rider and a stronger rider mentally. So in that sense, it was a satisfying experience to learn a new way to get better. I will do more races. In fact, I am planning to do another one in two weeks. Maybe I will have more fun when I get strong enough to do more than just fight to stay alive. Cycling is a grueling sport. Weak people need not apply.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

5 tips for optimal athlete diet

Every day is a work in progress. That's good because if I mess up one day I can try again the next. There are a lot of days. Right now I am trying to optimize my diet for training. My diet is already very healthy but I need to make a few tweaks. The most important thing is that I need to make sure I get 30% of my calories from protein.

My biggest challenges in having an optimal diet as I see it are: 1) getting the right caloric ratio while being a vegetarian other than eating fish (sorry little salmon swimming in the sea!) 2) not overeating when I am stressed out or bored. Things working in my favor are: 1) my body has a keen sense of telling me when it needs food 2) I already have gotten out of the habit of eating large meals 3) I love fruits and vegetables 4) I know my workouts suffer when I eat junk.

I am a fan of Gordon Byrn, triathlete and coach, and consulted his website to see if I could get any advice on this stuff. I found a good article where he broke down optimal eating into five "simple" tips. They sound simple at least.

1) Eat real food only.
In other words, if it does not occur in nature, don't eat it. Sounds good. I usually only buy real foods, but do veggie burgers occur in nature? I'd like to think that they would be considered "lightly processed" and thereby acceptable.

2) No refined sugar after 2pm.
Interesting. Challenging but managable. I'll just have to eat all the late night chocolate bars for lunch instead :) jk.

3) No bread, cereal, or pasta.
Whoa. We are bringing out the big guns now. These foods bring me happiness. If I give them up, what will I look forward to in life? It will have to be a gradual cut back with some cheating allowed every once in a while.

4) Only use sports nutrition products for workouts over 2 hours. For shorter workouts, use water and bananas.
I can handle that. I get sick of that stuff when I eat it too much anyway. Gels, bars, and powdered drinks definitely do not occur in nature. Bananas are cheaper too.

5) Eat lean protein at every meal.
That's a good strategy. It just requires some planning to make sure I have the right foods on hand.

What now? I am going to work on these one at a time. It is never a good idea to introduce too many new things at once. #1 is done. #2 and #4 won't be too hard. #3 and #5 will be the hardest. I am going to focus this week on #5 and see how I do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

appreciating the basics

I have been struggling to find a sense of peace in myself lately. I blame myself and then don't know what to do to make things better. I know what is wrong but it seems overwhelming and scary to make some necessary changes. I have been living a dream life with the flexibility that a lot of people wish for. I can be anywhere with my job, I can work the hours that I want, it pays me a comfortable salary, and I have the freedom to play in the middle of the day on weekdays doing whatever I want. What is the downside to this? Sometimes there is so much freedom that I feel like I am flailing all over the place and am not grounded in anything or even in myself.

Now that I have a steady place of my own to live, I am beginning to feel much more calm. I have my own part of a nice house with my own bathroom, and I live with a cool roommate who I just met. I'm in a nice part of Austin that I like. I found this on Craigslist. I love Craiglist because I am discovering that it can be used to solve nearly any problem in life. I have been living out of my car and a backpack for a while so I can't believe how grateful I am to just be able to leave all my stuff in one place. And I am grateful to have lots of kitchen space to put my food, all my food and workout food.

Shelter, food, clothing... check. Now that those are in order in my life I can begin to get back to other things, like finding inner peace and getting out to see new things in Austin. I am feeling optimistic.

Happiness log for today: making all my speed intervals in my swim workout, biking hwy 360 on a perfect sunny day, fresh legs after a rest day, Kashi TLC Honey Almond Flax bars

Monday, March 10, 2008

start a happiness log

I was surfing the web and came across Oprah's interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. I enjoyed that book, especially since I am on my own trip of self-discovery like hers right now. Liz had a few great suggestions on how to come to balance within yourself without requiring any travel. My favorite was to keep a "Happiness Log" where everyday you write down one or a couple of things that made you happy that day. She said that you see that there are recurring themes in the list and then it becomes very clear what makes you happy. Then you go from there in bringing more of those things into your life.

For me today, two things stand out: the breathtaking views of Austin seen while heading north on 620 on my bike, and my breakfast - oatmeal with bananas.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

bike shops with attitude

I'm not sure what is up with this, but I am coming to the conclusion that in towns that have biker-friendly culture and multiple bike shops, there is always at least one bike shop with attitude. These are usually shops that sell high end bikes and cater to serious cyclists. They bring the snootiness of road racing to the shop.

The shop in Madison WI with attitude, which I will call CM, can be intimidating to even go into. I once went there for a fitting and left feeling bad because my bike was not a $5000 custom frame. The fitter and owner of CM asked me how many miles I rode each week and was skeptical of my answer... were my quads not big enough or what?

The shop in Austin with attitude that I just discovered (ATC) was similarly annoying. I certainly know my stuff about bikes and bike parts these days, but had my needs and knowledge questioned. I asked him about aero-helmets and he was reluctant to even get them off the shelf for me to see, and then he discouraged me from buying one. Then I told him I was thinking of getting a Felt DA frame this year and he proceeded to tell me that it is not a fast bike and I should get a Cervelo P3C instead. I told him I have various reasons for being dead set against a Cervelo, and he proceeded to try to convince me and even brought out the binder with wind test results to try to prove to me that the Felt DA is not fast. He doesn't consider that it doesn't matter how fast that P3C is if it doesn't fit me well. I left ATC with a bad taste in my mouth and will not return.

Why do these shops make a whole bunch of assumptions about where you fit in the cycling heirarchy? I like to shop at places that want to help me meet my goals, not those who make me justify my existence or are just plain discouraging. Yay for friendly bike shops!

Friendly bike shops:
Jack and Adams - Austin
Willy Bikes - Madison
Revolution Cycles - Madison
Bike Barn - Santa Barbara

Sometimes friendly bike shops:
Nytro - Encinitas
Bike Works - Kona

Friday, February 29, 2008


- does it take one sunburn each year to remind me to use sunscreen?
- do i keep having things come up that disrupt my training?
- is my life in complete chaos?
- do i sleep with a stuffed animal?
- does positive self-talk only go so far?
- do people cover up their insecurities with big talk?
- do i let it bother me if someone tells me i'm a psychopath?
- are people sometimes in the wrong place at the wrong time?
- do people betray their best friends?
- do i forgive so easily?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

looking to fayetteville

I'm back to the grind in Austin and planning to keep it as my home base for the next two months. It's rough getting back to regular life after a week like last week. My life is pretty easy, but it's nice not to have to think about anything but training. I got my bike all put back together and am ready to take it for a spin again tomorrow. I put on my Zipp wheels so I can give them a try for the first time. I've had them sitting in the closet for two months. My next event is the Fayetteville Texas Stage Race on March 15-16, and includes two road races and a time trial. After the camp I feel more prepared because now I have a clue about how the events work and how to strategize as a solo racer.

And now for a few of my new favorite things -
protein sources: dried tvp eaten raw, nutritional yeast
facebook app: pandora radio
place to swim: barton springs pool in austin
energy bar: luna black cherry

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Day 6 - long ride

Today was the last day of camp and we had the choice of riding 85 or 65 miles with either the "fast" or "faster" group. It was cloudy and cool with a 40 mph wind; not the ideal riding conditions. My coach Terra told me to ride quality over quantity today. My legs were tired to start and I knew it was going to be a day of slogging through the miles, none of which would be particularly high quality no matter what the distance.

Guest coach and Olympic cyclist Rory O'Reilly rode with my group and he gave me a few tips. He said don't rely too much on my power meter instead learn to know how my body feels at certain effort levels so I can dial those in without any technology. He showed me how to descend efficiently on a rough surface. He showed the group how to effectively ride together into a 40mph headwind to help each other as much as possible.

About 50 miles in, we stopped for a lunch of Clif bars and Clif shot blocks. Attack of the sugar bombs. I wasn't feeling great and all I could think about was eating some real food like a nice omelette... or steak (I'm a vegetarian). I was in need of something besides sugar and did my best but then about mile 55 I melted down emotionally and started crying, which is a sign of nutritional bonking I have learned. I couldn't keep up no matter how hard I worked. Rory helped me get up the steep climb we were on and then I stopped at Jill's van and she gave me some cheese, soy milk, and nuts from her own personal stash. It didn't take long and I felt better. This gave me just enough energy to get to the 65 mile point, at which I bailed out, put my bike on the van, and rode the rest of the way back in the nice comfy van with Jill. This was the happiest moment of the day and I know it was the right decision for me. My legs were done. One other rider bailed with me.

Hunter had to leave camp a few days early because his mother had a stroke and it is good that he did because she passed away today. She was the cook at last year's camp in Bedford.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 5 - Watch Tour of California

Today was the Stage 5 Tour of California Time Trial in Solvang. We had a day off with no organized rides planned, which gave us lots of time to take in the race. I don't really follow professional cycling itself so I went into today not knowing much about any of the athletes or teams. I am ending the day knowing A LOT about who is who in the sport, how races work, how to spectate, and how things work behind the scenes. Since this was the time trial, it's really not too much different than watching the bike in a triathlon.

I woke up leisurely, ate my breakfast, and went to the hot tub to stretch myself as well as I could. Then I went out for an easy 75 minute spin on the time trial course. It was raining on and off so my bike got all dirty and I got covered in mud. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth all the cleanup time for such a short ride.

Our hotel is about a block from the finish line of the time trial and the festival. I spent a lot of time at the festival going to all the vendor booths and talking to people. Some of the highlights were seeing all the Zipp wheels at the Zipp booth, looking at the Slipstrem Felt DA team edition bike at the Felt booth, seeing Chris McCormack's Specialized TT bike that he rode at IM Hawaii this year, and just being saturated with all the bike excitement and energy. The Herbalife booth was having a contest on their computrainers to see who could have the fastest 1/4 mile sprint time. I gave it a shot and posted a time of 29.81 sec - my average power was 360 watts which was higher than anything I have done all week at camp! Funny how I did that on a badly fitting bike with platform pedals and in jeans with no warmup. Well it turned out that at the end of the day I missed women's 5th place for a prize from Rudy Project by only 0.1 seconds!!! Maybe my new specialty should be sprinting in street clothes.

The race itself was totally inspiring. I got right up to the front at the starting platform and saw all the pros preparing themselves from less than 10 feet away. It was awesome to see their routines and their bikes. All the top guys wear radios packed in the tip of their aero helmet so they can get feedback from their following car. Who knows what else you could store in that helmet. Taken out of context, time trialists look pretty goofy with their lycra suits, pointy hats, and tricked out bikes. Almost all of them used a disc wheel on the back and deep wheel on the front. Today was the first ever real life racing test of the Powertap on a Zipp disc wheel and will determine the upcoming release schedule for it. The most common bars I saw were the Easton Attack TT and the Zipp Aero Vuka. As the athletes were in line to start I saw them massaging their muscles, doing deep breathing, stretching hamstrings, flipping through their gears and getting it to the right one to start, and sitting down to focus. The focused calm is exactly how it needs to be done.

The finish line was very close to the start so it was easy to jump from one to the other. As they came in one by one, they were moving so fast you could blink and miss them. The crowds were at least 4 deep down the shoot so it was a little hard to see. They had some large screen monitors with live course footage going and finish line closeups so it was almost easier to watch that. I hung out with Patrick from the camp and he's an expert on this stuff. I got filled in on details of all his favorite athletes. He pointed out small details of form that distinguish the top time trial specialists and was able to answer all my questions about what was going on.

All in all, it was an awesome day. We finished it off with dinner at a nice restaurant and as we were eating the entire team Rabobank came in. This may as well be the Tour de France. They got me, I think I am on my way to becoming a cycling nut.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Day 4 - Time Trial

Today's ride was two laps of the Tour of California time trial course. Lap one was an easy group ride to get familiar with the course. The second lap we did an individual time trial. This is my event and the rolling course was a lot like Wisconsin so it suited what I am most used to. Some parts were flat, some parts had short rolling hills, and there were a few big climbs and descents.
I loved this. I love being out there mostly by myself pushing as hard as I can. It felt like a triathlon. I set a personal best for this distance today (13 miles) and I wasn't even using any aero stuff, so all this training is paying off. Today is Colleen's 48th birthday and my side goal was to go under 48 minutes no matter what... no problem there. Party down.

I got off the bike and immediately went out for a 6 mile run. Amazingly enough, I felt great. I am tired overall but my run muscles feel good. I am lower on protein and sleep than usual but somehow my body is able to knock out workout after workout. I love how I feel when I get to this part of the year when my fitness base is so good that this is possible.

Hunter's mom had a stroke so he had to go home early and now Adnan is running the camp. We are getting to the end and have two less intense days ahead. The hard stuff is done.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Day 3 - lots and lots of sprints

I have never done sprints before today, but today was an epic introduction. We went out to a road with very slight incline and did 3 small ring sprints, 6 big ring sprints, 2 team lead outs, and 2 race finish scenarios. These are killer hard efforts but oddly I am feeling stronger as the week goes on even though my legs are getting progressively tired. Adnan says that is common for endurance people.

The small ring sprints were the easiest because I like high cadence stuff. I got my legs up to 136rpm. I have trouble standing during sprints and even more trouble leaning out over my front wheel but that will take some practice. In the lead outs it only worked with me as the front rider, since I was the slowest rider in my group. Basically I would sprint as long as I could to start pulling the paceline and then pull off and let them go. Of course the rest of them would have been going at a moderate pace at that point. For the race scenarios my job was to sprint out and get the other team to chase me and then have my teammates stay on their wheels as I dropped back. I put out my best effort of the day on these and I pushed it so hard that I tasted blood in my throat for a second. It really hurt but our team won. For the first run, my chain fell off in the middle, I had to stop and fix it then get back on my bike and I still was not the last rider in. Like I said, I really pushed it to the maximum. The supposed "cooldown" ride back to the hotel was a threshold tempo ride for me and I continued a strong effort for those last 10 miles.

Things are getting better as everyone in the group gets to know each other and the egos settle down. People are starting to get tired. I'm learning how to do what I need to do and still be a part of the camp. It is totally geared for the guys, which is annoying at times, but it allows me to work really really hard... like they'll say, roll into the sprint at 28mph... ok, what if 27mph was the top speed on my last sprint?

The team things were good today because I made sure I was given a role that would suit what I am capable of. I went on a short run this morning and my run muscles are feeling good. I listened to music to get myself excited for the day. The lunch situation was bad today so I got myself out of there and went to the natural food store and had a delicious lunch there by myself. [they took us to a wine tasting literally 20 minutes after our killer hard ride, and the lunch consisted of the same meat and cheese sandwiches on white bread that they have had every single day... i don't drink alcohol at all, but even if I did I would not be drinking within the first 30 minutes after a hard 3 hour workout when my body wants carbs and protein. why aren't they serving us athlete food with some nutrients? how do they expect us to recover?]

I had a good nap this afternoon and am feeling ok. Tomorrow is a 15 mile time trial, which I am thinking of as a sprint triathlon without the swim and run :) Maybe I will do the other two events on my own to complete the day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 2 - big climb

It was a new day today. I regrouped mentally and had a completely different experience than yesterday. I got my own compact crank on and my own powertap fixed. I had a plan for how to approach the day and my technical issues were gone. The ride today was 45 miles with a steep 12 mile climb up Mt Figueroa. My plan was 150 watt warmup (no higher no matter how fast the group goes), give my best threshold effort for the climb, then see what I have left and do a 120-160 watt cooldown to finish the ride. Hunter told people to use the first 20 minutes of the climb to do a threshold test. I chose not to do that because I didn't want to use up all my energy and not have anything left for the remaining 1:30 of the climb. That proved a good strategy because the hill was hard. I felt calm all day because I knew I had a backup plan if the group thing didn't work out - do what I need to do for me alone ignoring social expectations and don't care what anyone else thinks. This is pretty much how I approach life so I know it works.

The group stopped to rest when we arrived at the base of the hill and I kept going. This gave me a good 10-15 minute lead on everyone else. I knew it would only be a matter of time before each of the guys came by me, and yes, they all did. This was kind of fun because I got to say hi to everyone. Adnan told me this climb would be easier than Mt Lemmon in Tucson, or Volcano in Hawaii, but I disagree. This was steeper than either of those and for sure the hardest climb I have ever done. It kept going forever and took me 1:45 to complete. My speed was 6-7mph for a lot of it and in my easiest gear my cadence was 55. With my head start I was the first female to the top and to the bottom. The views were really something... we were above the clouds. We rode by Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch on the way down. I was not the last one back today. The lunch was basically over and the pizza was cold, but oh well. I sat on the floor during the presentation, stretching, using my Stick, and eating the fruit and hummus that I brought for myself.

All in all it was a good day. I rode most of the day alone and did exactly what I wanted to do. I feel so much more comfortable on my own rather than riding with a group. When I am by myself there are no weird speed social dynamics, and I enjoy the ride a lot more. Triathlon seems to suit my introvertedness a lot better than group riding.

The dinner tonight was strange... a casino buffet. No vegetarian protein to be had. Most people were disappointed with it. I don't get why they are not giving us athlete food that helps recovery. Well, at least I had no trouble getting full tonight. I ate a load of vegetables. I had a nice time talking to a few of the other campers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Day 1 - hilly "easy" ride

I get to be a guinea pig tester for the new Quarq power meter! The unit attaches to the spider of the crank arm, and the head unit is a Garmin 705 (sweet!). They are similar to the SRM in how they work. I also have my Powertap installed at the same time. Jim, the owner of Quarq will be comparing the data that I get from both. It's pretty awesome that I get to be a tester before these are even available on the market. The only slight downside here is that to install the Quarq I had to switch out my compact crank for a standard, which means I won't get my easy gear on all these hills. ... but I will get the extra hard gear for the downhills. The other campers are a bit jealous that my bike setup was perfect for me to be a tester.

I am back from our first ride, eaten, showered, and now sitting down to releax for a while. It was 45 miles today with a few good climbs and lots of rolling hills. It was a beautiful ride despite the cloudy haziness of the day. I was pretty much in back for the entire ride, with some long stretches by myself. Sometimes on the flatter parts I was able to stay with the group. The standard gearing proved problematic so I am going to switch back to my compact and opt out of the Quarq testing. It was much better than the powertap though, always there and with very similar numbers, and the large color display on the Garmin makes the Powertap seem downright primitive.

I had a complete emotional meltdown in the middle of the ride and had to stop and lay on the ground and cry for a while. I couldn't breathe to keep going. Adnan, one of the coaches, stayed with me to finish out the ride. I think all the stuff I have gone through in life in the last 6 months came out when I got dropped on a big hill. Things about being at this camp alone as a rider this year while remembering being at last years camp as a spouse visitor are coming up painful. After my meltdown, I finished the ride very strong averaging around 18. I've cried a lot today and feel quite vulnerable. Hunter came up to me at lunch (after hearing about it from Adnan) and said "Remember, we are here to train. We are here to train." I'm sure he has a good idea what it is all about, though I was vague with the details to Adnan.

I am doing my best to be kind to myself and non-judgemental. I am letting the emotions be there. Even though I am not as fast as everyone else, I look at my watts and know what is a good effort for me. If I am sustaining above 180 watts then I know I am putting out the best effort I can. It would be stupid to try to maintain a z4-z5 effort to keep up with people because I won't last long doing that. Adnan assures me that on day one people go out fast to establish a group "hierarchy" and by the end things are a lot more evened out because they get tired and then the endurance riders are still going just as fast as they were on day one. So I am just going to stick in there and do each day at the watts that I can do.

I noticed that the guy with the most expensive stuff is one of the slower male riders and he has bad bike handling skills. People with big (annoying) egos can be totally insecure on the inside. And then there's me with my heart on my sleeve bringing up the rear end but using probably at least as much emotional strength to stay there as the front person is using physical strength to stay in front. Things come out even in the end no matter the path each person takes to get there. I feel calm in that.

Coaches notes: I need to tilt my hips forward more so that I am using my glutes (imagine that Terra!), and I need to keep my upper body down and relaxed. Basically... my running weaknesses are also my bike form weaknesses. Yeah, and the mental stuff too.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

arriving at bike camp

I flew from Austin to Solvang California today for a week of cycling camp. This is a complete and total luxury that I am treating myself to. I am taking an entire week off from work and all I have to do is train like a professional cyclist in a spectacularly beautiful location. Sometimes when I stop and think about how lucky I am, I can't really believe that I am this lucky.

I have moments of sadness wishing that I had someone to share all of this with. I have moments of feeling almost guilty that I get to experience the beauty and joy of being here with the only purpose of riding my bike. Solvang is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been with its lush green, its colorful flowers, mountains, valleys, farms, vineyards, stunning views in every direction, and friendly biking roads. The town itself is quaint like a small village in Denmark.

The biking looks like it is going to be tough. I am going in with a naiveity about exactly what elevation changes we will be covering and what the routes are for each day. Do I really need to know or can ignorance be bliss until the moments when my quads are screaming for relief? I am only thinking about tomorrow, and only in enough detail so that I know roughly how much nutrition I need to put in my bottles. I don't want to overthink or worry about any one day. I have done hard rides before and I can do this. I plan to give it my best effort at all times and I will only judge myself based on knowing if I gave it 100%. I am not concerned with my skills relative to other riders because I am at where I am at right now and this week is about me getting stronger and learning about being a cyclist. This may be easier said than done, but I intend to make it an important mental practice this week.

Tonight I had dinner with the other campers and got a chance to meet everyone briefly. I think I do come in with the advantage that I have been riding outside a lot recently. Some people here have bikes and wheelsets that cost more than my total net worth including my car, bike, and all of my savings. If I were a white male in my 40's maybe I would have that too, but even though it can be a bit intimidating I think I am doing ok for a 30 year old single woman. I feel very lucky just to have the chance to be here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

chilling out in austin

I'm training in Austin Texas this winter, and who knows, I may just stay a while. There is a record amount of snow (for all time) in Wisconsin and I was getting a little cranky having to bike on the trainer and run on the treadmill all the time. The weather in Austin is ideal for training - 70 and sunny nearly every day. Well, except today when it is 45 and rainy. That's not a problem because it is allowing me to take a little breather from my usual early morning Saturday training and lay in bed with my laptop surfing the web. My window is open and I am listening to the birds sing and the rain drops fall, and feeling the cool air on my nose and fingers while the rest of me is warm under my down comforter. I don't get mornings like this very often. Usually I would have already gotten in 50 miles on the bike by now.