Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three Races In Seven Days.

P5.. locked and loaded.
As you know, I have not been feeling well.  My energy and strength have been hit and miss, at best.  This two week block of work has me located in Tyler.  It also included three races in 7 days, two TT's and a triathlon.  Not really what I would call ideal for someone who has been inconsistent with both training and health lately.  Near constant communication with my coach salvaged the situation and prevented another major setback.

I decided that downgrading to the sprint was a good idea.  If on race day the energy was there, great.  If not, I would dig a mighty hole fighting to the end of an Olympic Distance.  Plus, the sprint had an 800M swim and a 40K bike, so it was still an extremely solid sprint race.  Both of the time trials were 4 miles.  Basically, maximal effort for about 8 mins, then limp home.

WHO falls down standing in line?
The P5, Phar Lap, rolled out of the barn for the first TT.  I went into feeling really flat.  I didn't have enough time to warm up so I did my best with a tiny little stretch of road near the race.  I arrived at the start a little later than the other riders who were already in line.  I found my place based on my number and clipped out.  I wanted to make sure that I had a good reading from the Quarq so I pedaled backwards with the foot that was still clipped in.  OK, so I TRIED to pedal backwards.  I neglected to notice that I was standing on the side of a hill with my stabilizing foot uphill from the bike and the pedaling foot.  As soon as I pressed down on the pedal, the bike overbalanced and in full, slo-mo glory, I toppled to the ground.  The act bloodied my knee and bruised my ego.  I HAD to ride well... or slink off and hide.

I ended up with the fastest female time, the fifth fastest overall time and was only separated from third place by about 3/4 of a second!  That qualifies as riding well.  I got to reclaim my dignity.  It also did what I was hoping it would do.  It lit a significant fire under me arse.

The TT was Thursday night so there wasn't really much between that and the triathlon Sunday morning.  In the past, I would have done panic workouts.  I now understand how much of a mistake that would have been.  Instead, I focused on rest and nutrition.  I wasn't fit.  That was not going to change before Sunday.  That ship sailed a week or two earlier.  I also had developed a nasty cough, probably allergy related, that crippled my breathing if I got too winded.  I was particularly bad after the TT and my airway was still raw for the tri.  That meant racing smart was the only viable option.  If I pushed too hard at any point, I was going to start coughing and possibly bring on an asthma attack.  If this happened, I was toast.  I realized that going into the race, my best options were all related to taking care of myself.
No pics of the fish but still a great swim venue.

This morning, race morning was cold.  It was in the low 50's.  I decided that I needed a swim warmup so I went down to the water.  I was alone down there and it was really peaceful.  There were all these little silver fish rolling in with each tiny wave.  They would get caught in the pools at the edges and flip themselves around trying to catch the next wave out.  It gave the lake this cool silver fringe.  Then I spotted a few that were truly stuck.  The next thing I knew, I was rescuing little fishies instead of swimming.  Totally worth it.  I had a belated thought that perhaps a little of their swimming ability might rub off!  (It didn't if you are wondering.)

I warmed up fine, swam to the first turn, sighted the second, then swam back.  My stroke felt good and I was swimming a (sort of) straight line.  When my breathing regulated, I did a few little sprints and called myself ready.  Turns out, the wave information got jumbled and I was all warmed up almost an hour early.  I then proceed to wait... and FREEZE... and wait some more.  When they were about 20 mins from my start, I got back in and swam a bit more.  I couldn't stop shivering.  My wetsuit was better than nothing but it had gotten in my bones and I couldn't shake it.

Once the swim started, I found feet and just focused on staying straight.  My shoulder LOUDLY objected to the cold and colder treatment and I had a few moments of real concern.  I just stayed relaxed and tried to stay straight.  I didn't want to cover any extra ground (or water).  I sighted really well to the first buoy, not so well to the second and even worse to the finish, but I never truly lost my line.  I swam progressively better as the race went on though.  It took me until after the second buoy to warm up enough to pick up the cadence of my stroke.  Not for the last time of the day, I wondered if I would have done better in the Olympic.  Who knows.

The P5 with some of it's victims.
You do not mess with the P5.
I came out of the water knowing that more than half my wave was out in front of me.  I also doubted I had any real run in my legs.  That left 40K of bike to make a statement.  I was strangely calm in T1, hopped on the bike in an almost leisurely fashion, then rode away totally relaxed.  A few hundred yards out though, the animal woke up.  I dropped the hammer and never let up again.   There were some hills at the beginning and end and a 10 mile out and back portion that was on extremely rough pavement.  That portion was the test of the bike.  Within minutes, my hands went numb.  I stayed locked in aero because I didn't think I could change positions without losing control.  Later my feet went numb.  My vision was blurred and I couldn't hear anything but rushing wind and vibrating carbon fiber.  About the only thing really that I was really aware of was a very pronounced bit of feedback from a saddle sore which felt that the locked in position was... unseemly.  Later in the ride, the saddle sore was joined in a duet of pain by my legs which were fatiguing badly due to the horrid road surface.  I figured that my worst run and my best were not really all that different in pace so there was little point in saving my legs.  The bike split didn't seem all that fast until I compared it to everyone else's.  It was one of the fastest of the day.  That road took it's toll on everyone.

Let's see, I can fall standing still.
This should be awesome!
When I got to the dismount line, I thought my legs felt pretty good.  Then I put my feet on the ground.  My legs buckled and I nearly hit the deck.  My run in cleats back to my setup was more than a little scary.  I rolled smoothly through T2, then headed out on the run. I looked at my watch and was moving about 2:00/mi slower than I usually do out of transition.  I was also trying desperately not to puke.  YIKES!! However, I was one of the ones actually running.  I passed a guy who was obviously suffering.  As I went by, I said "jog through it".  Later he came and found me to thank me.  He said he was about to retire and when I said that, he found his legs.

The run was really hilly and the first portion was on a semi- rough trail.  I remembered looking at last years results and wondering why the run times were so shockingly slow.  In the end, I walked for a few seconds to avoid coughing twice but otherwise ran the whole thing and while the time was a little over three minutes slower than my 5K PR, it was consistent with recent training and really a pretty good run for me given the conditions and hills.  After talking to other competitors, most people said the run was 3-4 mins off expected or usual times.

When they finally posted results, they posted the Overall list first.  It looked like I was the fourth woman across the line.  As it turns out, I was.  I was awarded first place masters and got a nice little prize pack, including a bunch of gift certificates, a transition bag, a hat, a water bottle... and I'm not sure what else.  I haven't actually examined it.  Oh, and of course... a medal.

Low expectations but thrilled with the results.
AND great swag!

That leaves one more race... a TT on Thursday.  I guess the fat lady is still waiting to sing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sometimes It's Not Enough

It's been a while since I posted.  A lot has happened but then, such is life.

First, I want to CONGRATULATE Cort The Sport on her Boston Marathon finish.

Second, I want to offer my condolences to the victims and their families.  There are no words to describe the horror of an event like that.  There have been so many good posts and articles about the tragedy, I don't feel that anyone would benefit from my additions.  There right words are out there.  Read them.  Feel them.  Mourn the people who lost life and limb.  Nothing I could say would be enough.

While I cannot hold onto my own issues as true problems in the wake of this, they require addressing nonetheless.

I came out of the last horse show and have had two weeks off at home.  I had a huge, HUGE, HUGE (like really enormous, elephantine, gargantuan... EPIC) block of training planned for those weeks.  I started to really struggle towards the end of the first (easier) week of training.  Then the wheels fell off the bus.  I know the feeling.  I've been there a million times before.  My body refused and the second week of training ended up a big, fat FAIL.  DD (Brian of Accelerate 3 coaching, who uses the online name Desert Dude... hence DD) modified the training daily and got me through it.  By the weekend, I was back to reasonable training form, though looking over my data, I am forced to admit that my paces and speeds were still off by quite a bit, even though I was at least able to do the workouts.  I was still sleeping too much and felt generally poor throughout the day.

When I felt my body start to unravel, I called the doc and immediately went for blood work.  Sure enough, my thyroid levels had bottomed out again.  Meds were adjusted and I am going back for another followup in a few weeks.  It was kind of a relief.  It is truly amazing how willing I am to assume that I am struggling to produce speeds and paces because I just suck.  The idea that when I don't feel good something might genuinely be wrong still eludes me.

In the meantime, I have a race next weekend.  What to do?  I could try to downgrade to the sprint.  I don't feel like I am ready to produce a decent performance at olympic distance and the sprint is practically tailor made for my strengths.  I could scratch from the race entirely.  I could do the Olympic and try not to push the envelope too hard and call it educational.  A week is not enough time for the meds to kick in so I will be working with a weakened body, likely incapable of producing normal results or normal recovery.

Right now, I am leaning towards the sprint because it brings the race down to a manageable distance and finishing that should be comfortable within my current levels of fitness.  I will have to let go of my drive to win or at least improve on this one.  I am likely to push hard even if I plan to coast and it will at least make the race short enough that I am unlikely to dig a hole, or at least a big one.  Chances are that I won't have enough gas in the tank by then to do anything really solid in terms of performance.  It will be a huge mental challenge not to get upset if I don't like the results.  That, by itself, will probably be so good for me that it is reason enough to do the race.

Once again, my body drives home the point that sometimes the will to succeed is not enough.

Fortunately, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Fast Bike, Dead Fridge.

Yesterday was a fun little whirlwind.
All good things in life are aero!

I slept until noon... Ok, before you simply navigate away from the page in disgust, I can explain.  Monday night, I got home after 15, count 'em, FIFTEEN weeks on the road.  By the time I got the camper situated, it was late... like pushing midnight. My refrigerator, which died last week, laughed at the idea that a change in balance might inspire it to start functioning again, but that did not stop me from trying to coax it. It was easily 1:30 am by the time I crawled into bed totally exhausted, so yes, I slept until noon.  For some reason, I never sleep like that on the road.  Being home is the final piece of the puzzle that has to fall into place for me to fully relax.  I needed it and it felt, OH, SO GOOD!!

After waking up and seeing the time, the chances of following DD's master plan for the day were shot.  I was planning to do a time trial that evening so he had me doing a morning run, then taking a nap.  He 86'd the run because he wanted uncorrupted data for the TT.

I had to get the bike into the shop to have some adjustments made and to see if the wheels that arrived were going to work for the race.  So while ignoring the somewhat dubious odor emanating from my very warm fridge, I jumped in the car and headed downtown.  I stopped by Austin Bikes and brought the bike and a cassette to Sol so that he could work his magic.  I was kind of hoping he could tune up the jockey as well as the horse but alas... no.  The workload I had for the last several weeks along with that little overreach after the last race was going to take it's toll.
Smile Sol!!
What's that look say?  Death be unto you and your camera?

**A quick side note:  I have blogged in the past about having a bike shop "home".  In Austin, that home is Austin Bikes.  There are bigger shops and shops geared more towards the triathlete but Sol and his boys know their trade and do it very, very well.  Road or Tri, it's got the best fitter and wrenches in the city all wrapped in great attitudes and topped with an appropriate amount of grease.  It is a fun little bike shop burrito.  They also have this racing team... and they let me play!!!
Goes Faaaaaast!!!

Everything came together just in time and I made it to the TT with the bike all spiffy and ready to go fast.  It was my first time out in my new team skinsuit.  I was really pleased with how comfortable it was, though for me, it felt awkward on two levels.. one, to be in public in what amounts to body paint, and two, to be representing a team at all.
Oh, wow.  Me in bodypaint my new skinsuit!

I rode out on course.  I was a rolling start.  You rode over a timing mat at the start and finish so you got up to speed ahead of time.  There was a lot of traffic and that occasionally posed some problems.  Sometimes you have to square off with the idea that living is more important than your TT time.  Overall, though it went pretty smoothly.

The one true difficulty was the deep front wheel in the gusty cross winds.  The firecrest 808 is supposed to handle more like a shallower wheel.  I am used to a 404 on a 650 circumference which, according to my research, is comparable to a slightly deeper wheel as the rim depth covers a greater portion of the wheel's overall area.  I am not sure that I ever rode the 404s with wind like we had yesterday but the front 808 gave me some substantial trouble.  I ended up coming out of aero for a stretch to gain leverage just to keep from being blown all over the road.  I need to do more training miles on the deep wheels but I also think I will add a shallower front wheel to my arsenal at some point for days like this.

There is a massive learning curve with racing and little events like this one help work the bugs out so that you can go have a good race when it really counts.  I am still developing and even my bike is not even close to dialed in yet so this kind of info is invaluable.  Also, pedaling like a mad thing for 8 miles is bound to sharpen your speed a bit.

At the end, the last woman to ride the course knocked me out of first place.  I sent a text to DD with the results and he responded: "No donuts for you."

Then I went and bought a new fridge.

Already coming out of aero.  There was a sharp turn right after the mats!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's In A Name?

As all of you know, I am a complete nerd.  I name all of my bikes after horses.  TT bikes are universally named for race horses because they both do one thing and one thing very well.  Go fast.  They are not always comfortable or polite, but they are certainly fast.

There is a reason for the nerdy naming... horses, especially racehorses, were so influential in my development as a human being.  A lot of the work ethic, drive, and toughness that I have can be directly credited to the years I spent at the tracks and yearling sales.  It is an environment where backing away from a challenge cannot happen, weakness is not tolerated, falter for a moment and you get replaced.  You work 24/7/365.  If you get sick, you don't have a job.  If you can't perform to standard, you don't have a job.  If you cannot perform the task, you don't have a job.  Whine about it and you don't have a job.  The machine grinds on and you either survive or you get destroyed.  This is true for human and animal.

But there is something (sick) pure and honest about it.  The animals are elite, the handlers are the best.  There is no lovey-dovey kissey-poo on the pony going on... that colt is lethal and he will take your face off.  Don't believe me?  Ask the son of the trainer I used to work for... he lost part of his face to one and the parents (a trainer and a jockey) both felt that he deserved what he got for being stupid.  He tried to kiss a colt on the nose.  It's a different world.  It begs no forgiveness, puts up with no shit.

There is a point when a ride has gone wrong that a good rider knows it is time to jump off.  Stay on board and you'll end up dead.  That, for me, was true of life at the track as well.  I saw the flip coming and I jumped off.

But it left it's mark.  It cemented my particular brand of crazy (sorry coach... it's not going away any time soon) and even though I no longer ride or own horses, I know full well that they made me who I am.  They also still pay the bills.  When I jumped off, I landed in triathlon/cycling so I name my bikes after horses to remind me of where I've been (and how much more a sport can actually cost!)

Soo... Just as I used to name my horses (often after vehicles: Best jumper I ever had was a TB named Mini Cooper), I now name my bikes.  I name them for the horses that have inspired me.  I have a new bike and it needed a name.  This bike needed a special name.  I moved away from my trend of choosing highly recognizable names that Hollywood has elevated in the eyes of the general public and chose the name of my favorite, the horse I personally consider the be the greatest... the best.


"The horse's name is Phar Lap."