Friday, April 29, 2011

Amazing trails and technical difficulties

After leaving the MC Escher trail behind me, I headed up to Virginia for a night.  I got to ride on the W&OD trail near Leesburg.  My Facebook post summed it up...

"Yesterday I got a chance to ride on the W&OD trail. Almost 50 miles one way of two lane bike trail, framed by lush greenery, blooming dogwoods, redbuds, cherries, babbling brooks. I think I died and went to bicycle heaven... Or Virginia, as the case may be."

Then we headed to NC where I rode early one morning in the cold and rain.  I think I meee-e-e-e-lted a little, as any good Florida witch would.  I rode out feeling rather proud of my dedication, ahem (OK, I know people all over the world ride in much worse).  I had also forgotten to put in my contact lenses so in addition to the rain making my brakes sketchy and the mist reducing visibility, my own God-gifted vision left road hazards indistinguishable from puddles.  Sooo... I headed down every hill braking hard and then at the bottoms had to face nasty climbs with no momentum built up.  It was then that I got the memo about fixing that little gearing problem I have encountered in the past.  My chain wouldn't shift onto (and stay on) any of the largest rings in my back cassette.  In other words, no granny gear, not even an aunt Martha gear.  Can you say "push that bike up that hill in freezing rain"?....  yummy. 

When I returned to SC, I rode the Escher Trail again but this time, I was thinking outside the box (and I studied the map).  Somehow, the whole place made sense and I went thirty out of forty-five miles without being lost for a moment.  Around mile 25, I thought the bike handling seemed sluggish, but given the state of the bike, I dismissed it with a quick glance at my tires.  As my heart rate climbed, my speed dropped and no gearing in the world seemed to help.  Then I realized that my back tire, while not apparently popped was holding very little air.  Since I have changed that back tube roughly every thirty miles lately, I just rode home on low pressure and resolved that the bike needed to visit the bike doctor as soon as I got home.

Sure enough, the bike was out of adjustment and the tire was in desperate need of retirement.  So I venture out on the bike again today, and hope that Trigger will be feeling up to a fast, fun ride down the debris littered roads of Sunny South Florida.  Home Sweet Home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Biking the MC Escher Trail

Yesterday was a good day for biking in South Carolina so I figured I should not pass up the opportunity.  I headed out to Fort Jackson where I have biked (and consistently gotten lost) a few times before.  My workout was supposed to be 30 mins easy, a 30 min TT (time trial), 20 mins easy.  I knew the base well enough to know that if I went in the main entrance, rode past and checked the big map, turned there and did the loop backwards, it would put me on the backside of the base for the TT.  That meant that I would have reasonably easy hills for the first part to warm up, then climb the monsters during the TT, and have rollers for the final part.  The time trial would not be fast but my handy dandy GPS/HRM would allow my coach to make allowances for elevation and it was really more about my heart rate anyhow.  The back part of the loop was also nearly devoid of traffic and easily had 30 mins worth of riding without any stop signs (you have to come to a complete stop, clip out and put a foot down... base rules.  When there is that much heavy artillery nearby, one is inclined to comply.)  GOOD PLAN.

What actually happened....

I rode into the base, took the wrong road past the guard shack, missed the map and proceeded to take a two-hour tour of every part of the base but the road I intended to ride.  My first wrong turn sent up a monster hill five minutes into my ride.  I was not yet warmed up and could feel the lactic acid burn immediately.  I tried to ride it as slow as I could without losing so much momentum that I ended up on foot.  Then I rode through some areas that had all kinds of speed deterrents in the road and found my body position, speed and bike handling  to be more reminiscent of mountain biking than time trialing.  That led to several more monster hills (lactic heaven) and finally a guard shack exit... "Excuse me sirs, do you happen to have a map?"

I determined that it was three simple turns to get back on track.  I was now 20 mins into the "easy" part of the ride which had alternated between virtually no elevation of heart rate and nearly blowing a vessel with very little in between. 

I turned back, empowered by my map session and headed back towards the center of the base.  It was then that I entered Escher-land.  For the next forty minutes, every turn I made and every road I took ended up somewhere else... or back at this one corner that I think I passed four times.  I began to feel like the roads were shifting, or a matter of perspective, like MC's famous illusions.  Going back the way I came inevitably put me somewhere I'd never been and going away always brought me back to that corner.  ARGHHH!!

So much for the TT.

I got back out into the more rural parts of the base by taking a road that I was familiar with.  Except that the last time I rode it, the WHOLE thing was paved.  I thought I had a stretch of good riding ahead of me, so I began to hammer a little.  I crested a small hill at a pretty good clip and discovered no pavement, only sand and gravel on the other side.  Did I mention that I was practicing my mountain bike skills?  Fortunately, I was on the hoods and not the aero bars, so I managed to keep the rubber side down and turned back to Escher-ville.  Finally (and I am really not sure how), I turned onto the one of the two roads I had been looking for. 

Thrilled to finally have a stretch of good riding, I began to press myself.  At that point, my body was feeling not just lactic acid but the fact that for all the rough riding, I had not been able to take my hands off the bike to drink.  I was more than 1:20 into this ride and had consumed maybe a quarter of a bottle and no calories.  OOPS.


Better luck next time.

Still, it was a beautiful day to ride.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wicked fast ride... and ants.

Well, a nagging heel pain has erupted into a blinding heel pain virtually overnight so RW has jerked all the running out of my schedule for a while and I have to do that which I hate..... STRETCH.  And not just any stretch, calf and foot stretches.  I am not inclined to argue when the pain is bad enough at times to prevent me from refueling after a ride because I am afraid I will be sick. 

After today's ride, I stretched and stretched and stretched some more.  Then I ate my banana. 

Then I noticed that I had done all that stretching while standing on an ant hill.  The little bastards waited until they had all crawled into the cracks and crevices of my shoes before snacking on my flesh, alerting me to their presence.  So after my ride and my stretching, I danced a little jig.  ANTS, ANTS, ANTS!!!!

But still, the ride was fast... 20 mph average, 27 max.  I was feeling good, attacking on hills, and pulling long stretches at a 20-22 pace.  (Yes, I know this was not a race but I am not the only one that gets aggressive on this ride.)  Right as I started to tire, the pack behind us caught up at a long light.  They were fresher and I got to grab a wheel for a while.  The pace stayed crunchy and I felt strong heading up the hills back to the cars.  It was totally exhilarating and I feel fantastic right now.

Tomorrow I leave for DC and Raleigh for a short business trip.  Here's to hoping I can grab at least one chance to ride the W&OD trail near Leesburg.  I hear it is fantastic riding. 

In the meantime, I can't actually put much weight on this foot.  So raise a glass to running... AND WALKING like a Duck!  Cheers!

Friday, April 15, 2011

To Blog Or Not To Blog... What was the question?

I just looked at my last post.  Wow!  Christmas?  Really?  Ok, I am a bad blogger. 

I guess it is time to bring this thing up to date.  The last several months have been my busy season.  To this, I am accustomed.  However, late last year I took a job that would spin me into a different aspect of the industry that has provided my "bread and butter" for many years(equine competition).  I would finally step away from the hands on aspect and transition into the world of the horse show vendors. 

The horse show world is very small and divided into many groups... 1) Professional riders/trainers/teachers, 2) grooms, 3) independent service people like blacksmiths, 4) veterinary professionals, 5) vendors, 6) show management and of course, 7) the clients/amateurs.  All of the other categories exist to provide products or services to the clients.  I have always been in category 1, 2, or 3.  These are physically intense, hands-on lifestyles.  Most recently and for several years, I was doing a job that required working the graveyard shift, living on the road for more than half the year, and ignoring all the damage that the intense repetitive motion was causing to my hands and back.  There were trade offs... money, independence, etc. 

Last fall, I took a job as a rep for a company that manufactures and sells saddles and equipment. That job never really got off the ground.  It required me to train in Europe and relocate to the DC area and after being rescheduled six times, neither of those things ever happened.  Instead, I ended up stepping in at the last moment to man the trade booth when they had to let go of the girl they had hired.  However, I still had my other business to attend, however damaged it may have been by the whole "move-don't move-move" thing. 
End result... a season of 100 hour weeks, little sleep, and little time to work out, all the while laboring under the dawning realization that this job was not going to work.  All the time, knowing that I had wrecked my business for this job... on a gamble... and I was F**ked!  Just before the end of the season (when everyone goes on the road), I pulled myself together and took advantage of the giant job fair called vendor row.

It turned out to be a move well played.  Any sooner would have been too soon, and any later would have been too late.  I landed a job and get to move forward in my life.  Twelve weeks of fear, exhaustion and anxiety ended.  Unfortunately, I was too far gone to recover overnight.  I made it through my training weeks with a smile and faked energy, but as soon as it was over.... CRASHED AND BURNED.

Most (but not all) weeks I managed to get at least two of my scheduled workouts done.  Coach RW was very supportive and patient.  I don't think the biggest detriment was the lack of sleep, or even missed workouts, it was the mental fatigue.  I came out of the season feeling destroyed, like damaged goods.  Even when my body rebounded, I struggled to bring my attitude back around.  I went through a recovery period with a four day migraine and my athletic performance was tragic.  I basically would get up in the morning, work out, sleep all day, wake up for a couple of hours, and pass back out.  I wouldn't normally workout through a migraine, but I tended to have about two to three good hours a day and I felt like it was the right thing.  That aside, I couldn't work, socialize, even walking the dogs was a struggle. 

On Wednesday, my body decided to forgive me.  I woke up feeling a little more solid and promptly cleaned my house.  Wednesday night, I turned in a respectable performance at the track... not stellar, but I wasn't expecting stellar, just fair.  But to me, "fair" was a life line.  There was hope.  I hadn't lost all my fitness.  By Thursday, I felt like my old self.  I had a great day of training. 

I booked a few private sessions with my coach to work on running technique.  If I am going to have to regain some fitness, then I an going to practice with proper technique.  My attitude is back online!

And did I mention that the new job still requires a move?  To Southern California, where I will get to live near my sister for the first time in twenty years.  What is the first thing we will do?  Run Bay to Breakers together.  The poetic sappy bit?  This was our father's first race and I attended the running of that race in the spring of 1973.  I was born two months later... or should I say hatched?

Go west, young duck, go west!