Jul 29, 2014

Hike-a-bike

Usually, it's something to be avoided. The dreaded hike-a-bike. Instead of steady pedaling up fun trails, hike-a-bike involves pushing, carrying or dragging my bike up unridable trails - or trails that would take more energy then it's worth to ride. Most people - myself included - try to plan routes to ride our bikes, not take them for a stroll. But...

There are two seperate hike-a-bikes seperating aid station one and aid station two during Vapor Trail 125. A short, maybe 10 minutes to the roof of the continent over the Alpine Tunnel. And then dreaded Canyon Creek - 30 minutes at least of shelping my bike over rocky steps and up boulders. At night, at 12,000 feet.  Those two sections are both challenging under any circumstances - it will be a different world at night, with miles under the tires already. Hike-a-bike is a skill, like hucking off rocks or finding the right lines thru tight trails. But it's not a fun skill, so gets neglected until absolutely needed and then we find ourselves cursing the same machine that will provide hours of fun.

We wanted to make sure that doesn't happen. So instead of avoiding the hike-a-bike and searching out fun singletrack, this weekend was all about the hike-a-bike. On Saturday, we had a nice plan on the map with two separate sections of hike-a-bike. The first, in the shadow of St Peters's dome, was actually mostly rideable, but that wasn't the point. The point was to get comfortable pushing or carrying my bike. I know that the Stumpy carries a little differently then my Camber, but the general idea is the same. That was a pretty easy little chunk of hiking, but Nick warned me the next would be harder. And it was - a wide, rock filled trail marked by cairns, leading straight up the slope. It was like a mini canyon creek, but without the altitude! And it was hard - finding solid footing among the loose rocks, and figuring out how to drag the bike up the slope. Practice for later...
Pushing my bike near the top of the second hike-a-bike. Practice makes easier...


The trail led to an overlook reviealing views of the city and surrounding mountains. We could see the next trail we wanted - across the valley. We needed to get on one of the jeep roads to get back to the trail. But it was a network of faint roads back there - we took a few sucker trails, but finally made it to the trail junction. Just like at canyon creek, the hike-a-bike would be followed by a fun descent. We ended up taking St Mary's down instead of Pipeline - it was getting late and storms were building..
 
Nick surveying the spiderweb of trails and roads from the top of the hike-a-bike


Jul 24, 2014

Into the inferno...

Okay, it might not have actually been that bad. But it was bad. I'm better at managing heat then I used to be, but yesterday was kinda nuts. It was already 90* when I got home from work and the hottest hours were yet to come. I knew it would be rough and had frozen one water bottle near solid and had plenty of ice in my hydration bladder. I was off into the shimmering heat of Chyenne Canon - planning on two trips up for my workout. I was sweating before I got halfway through Stratton, a glistening sheen of moisture on my arms. And then I reached the gate and started up the first time. That glow of sweat quickly became rivulets streaming down my face and back. The air was heavy and still with the heat, like the blast from an oven. I started out strong, but as the salt caked my jersey and the sweat stung my eyes I was struggling. Despite being on my Fate and having the low MTB gear range instead of my road bike, I couldn't get the cadence up. It should have been easy to just spin up the black top, but it wasn't. At the gravel parking lot, I sucked down some fluids - so happy for the ice in the bladder - it was still cold! Then back down to the bottom to do it all over again. Hoping for smoother and more focused - but it wasn't happening. Started slower, but with the goal of bringing up the intensity as I climbed. My glasses were coated with a salty sheen from the sweat pouring down my face. The canyon walls reflected the midday sun down onto my back as the blacktop burned into my face. Halfway up and I was dying - fighting against the bike instead of being one with the machine. I'd opted to ride my Fate for the traction coming down - there were piles of gravel all over the road from the rain last week. I wouldn't have wanted to hit any of them on my road bike! But for the climb, it was not fun. Workouts aren't supposed to fun, but riding my bike it supposed to be enjoyable. And with the furnace conditions I was facing in the canyon, it wasn't. I reached the top again and went in search of shade.

I still had an hour or two left to ride. My previously frozen water bottle was lukewarm, but I polished it off. I needed the fluids badly. My arms were crusted in white and my sunglasses needed a scrubbing before I could continue. I wasn't looking forward the rest of the ride - my legs were aching from the workout and the heat. But off I went - to be treated to some empty trails, which led me to a longer then planned ride. I guess I was the only one stupid enough to try to ride in the middle of the day! I did bump into to some friends and rode with them for a little near the end - we all agreed it was a little toasty out... Heat training is good, but that was a little crazy. Unfortunately, there are a few more hot days forecasted. Have to keep focused on the goal, not the conditions. 

Jul 23, 2014

Consistency

A hallmark of endurance racing - consistancy over time. Consistancy was one of my goals at the Ascent Cycling Series CMSP 50 mile race. It was nine laps of a 5.2 mile course - one with a decent amount of climbing, some very technical rock gardens and a fun descent. So consistancy would mean staying steady on the climb, smooth thru the rock gardens and safe on the descent - over extend on any section and the next one would suffer. Especially in the last few laps. Another goal was to meet or hopefully beat my time from last year, even with another five laps to ride. We raced four laps on the same course last year and I'd finished in 2:24:51. So - there were a few things I was looking at during the entire race, besides the usually hydration and food.

One thing I did differently this year was a slower first lap. I hadn't had a chance to preride and I didn't know how the recent rainstorms would have affected the trails. With nine laps at least, there was plenty of time to learn the lines - so that first lap was more a preride then anything. Kept it steady, figured out where the ruts were, how to maneuver over the rocks and where to watch out for things. (If only I had been able to remember that darn tree on Boulder Run - almost every lap got smacked in the right thigh...) As a result, I came through the first lap in about 35:30 - two minutes slower then last year's first lap. Had I only been doing four laps, I would have been concerned at that point. But I'd made a concerted effort to stay well below threshold for those first few laps - hoping to either build into a faster pace at the end or just stay consistent. I'd also seen my lap times drop precipitously over the last three laps last year. I knew I would have a much better race riding smart.

And consistency was the name of the game. Laps 2-5 were all within one minute of each other. I came thru lap four at 2:24:47 - seconds away from my four lap time from the year before.Perfect. Kept the climb under control and smooth on the technical stuff. Even with the fatigue from the distance, I was still riding most of Cougar's Shadow. I did slow down more then I wanted on six and seven - was walking the entrance into Cougar's at that point. I also think the heat and humidity was starting to affect me - I was drinking nearly a full bottle on each lap. I'd also made a mistake starting my fourth lap - I'd opted to roll through and not grab the full bottle offered. I though I had more in the bottle on my bike then I really did. As a result, I'd ridden most of the lap without any fluids. Whoops. I don't know how that honesty affected me - outside of the mental aspect. But I was able to recover from that error and stay focused on the race. 

So after looking at the results from last year and this year. I'm pretty happy. I didn't have any power data either year - my hub was being repaired at that time last year and I rode the camber this year. Opted for the heavier, but more fun bike since there's plenty of rocks at CMSP. But based on all the other variables, there's been good improvement in both fitness and technical ability over the past 12 months. I need to keep focused on the improvement and stay healthy - just over seven weeks to go! 

Jul 17, 2014

The crash after the high

When I was running marathons, I'd read about it all the time - the emotional letdown after finishing an event. Never had an issues with it it then - maybe because I always had another race coming up quickly and I used most of them as training for a few key events. When I had great race, I used it more as a learning experience for the next race. What went wrong, despite having a successful race. What worked - in training, recovery and nutrition. There wasn't time to have the let down after a race - it was already time to build up for the next. If I had a bad race, it was the same thing. I always had another marathon in the cue, another shot for redemption. The few really bad races were always followed by some great races and I was honestly reaching way outside my ability levels at that time. So even with the crappy races, I was still pleased with my progress towards the long term goals. I never reached those long term goals, but it was more due to me modifying my goals. It was a similar story from the triathlons. Sometimes I had no goals besides just finishing, other time high expections that I somehow managed to reach. Each race a stepping stone to something else - which kept me focused. 

And now, a month after 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest and I finally understand. I have another big event in September - Vapor Trail 125 - but the last few weeks have been strange. I took the needed recovery in the first few weeks - sleeping and doing what I wanted. Still riding the emotional high of finally reaching one of my ultimate goals. It was great - congratulations from all over, my name out there in the articles. People knew who I was - on almost every ride, someone would stop me and ask about the race. But with any high, comes the crash....

The first hint of the coming crash was during the spectating at the USA Cup at Pulpit Rock. People I knew were racing and doing well. Why wasn't I racing? It was a home course and I should be representing. But while mentally I felt like I should be ready, I knew I wasn't. And that frustrated me - recovery was the primary goal and I felt like I should be recovering faster. And the next two weekends - two big races with lots of friends toeing the line. I did get some solid training in but still could sense the deep fatigue. Still tired, stiff and just not 100% and by now - I should be. I've never needed this much time to recover after a race. I saw another friend having fantasic race at the Breck 100 - and she'd ridden just as much in June as I had! I love that race - I wanted to be there, riding over the continental divide three times. Frustration because I wanted to race, wanted to feel spunky and recovered again.

But the final piece of the emotional crash was the anonymity of the weekend. I can ride my bike - I have the technical skills to keep up with many guys. Yet every time we caught a group of men over the weekend it was the same thing. "Oh shit, a girl is getting ahead of us. That's gonna just ruin the rest of the ride." Did it matter that we'd just caught them? Obviously I'm moving a little faster then they were. Did they even realize that we'd not taken the shuttle up, instead climbing to the divide? No - but that wasn't the point. Deep down I knew, but I was hoping that there might be a glimmer of recognition - that girl's in the blue and yellow of Procycling.... But there was none of that. Just the traditional pony tail factor that I've been dealing with for years. 

Ugh. I'd had a great weekend, showing some fabulous fitness gains coming off 24 Hours in the Enchanted Forest. I'd gotten on some new singletrack and put together a few more pieces for Vapor. But the reaction of the guys on Silver Creek soured it - what more will I have to do to finally earn the respect of other riders? Maybe it's not so much a post race let-down, but still. I've put some much work into the last six months, have achieved something very few people ever will and still remain an "obstacle" on the trail. How much longer will it take before people see the ponytail and don't automatically assume that I'm going to be in the way, that I can't ride or that I shouldn't be doing what I'm doing? 

Jul 16, 2014

Lentils and Collard Greens

This year, I've been trying something new - a CSA share full of veggies and such. More on that later - but one issue I've had is how to use up some of the awesome greens I've gotten. Example one - collard greens. I've never cooked with collard greens before and the few experiments I did with the first batch weren't all that tasty. Then a coworker suggested steaming them overnight with bacon - getting the flavor of the bacon and softening the greens to point they could be eaten. Now, I didn't see the point of just cooking the collard greens if I could make a full meal with little fuss. Hence the lentils. Cooking is an inexact experiment and art form in my house, so this is more of a guideline then a recipe. I was also trying to use up a few of the items from my box besides the collard greens...

In a slow cooker or crockpot, combine:
- about 1.5-2 cups of lentils
- six (or more - depending on how meaty you want it) slices of uncooked bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 5 cups water
Salt, chipolte pepper, tumaric, and other seasonings
Cook the lentils and bacon overnight on low. 

The next morning, give the lentils a stir and add:
- two bunches of collard greens, washed and chopped - you can use more or less depending on how much you have to use
- two leeks (or other onion like green), chopped
- one garden onion, chopped
- bulb and greens of fennel, chopped,
- 1 cup chopped parsley
-  a few garlic scapes chopped fine (just found out what they were!)
- clove or two of garlic, chopped
- another 1-2 cups of water. 
Garlic scapes -who knew? Learning about some interesting things with my box...

Turn cooker up to high and bring to boil while getting ready for work. Turn it back down to low, give it another stir and add 1-2 cups of wild rice, depending on how much liquid you added earlier. Cook for the rest of the day. The lentils will get nice and soft, the collard greens palatable and the rice will absorb the water, while making a complete protein for the dish. Like I said before, cooking is an experiment in my house - feel free to make any modifications you want or add different spices. Carrots near the end stage of cooking would be yummy. I also used some fresh basil this time .