Most people do crazy stuff when they turn 40 - the classic midlife crisis type affair. There's buying a snazzy new car (does a 4WD Merce...

Mar 27, 2013

Power to the pedals.

I have been working with Coach Adam and Carmichael Training Systems since October 2010 and it's been a great experience. I think the first year was a learning curve for both of us - me adapting to the CTS philosophy and Coach Adam figuring out the best way to keep me under control. (That's still a work in progress ...) Then a transitional year where I was still focusing on Xterra, but getting lured in different directions. And last year, finally buckling down with a specific focus on the endurance mountain biking. I learned a lot last year and made some really awesome strides in both fitness, skill and speed. There was always something missing, though - and i didn't always get the most out of my workout. I was training on RPE and HR - valuable tools, but still limiting the knowledge and specificity of the intervals. Since the start of our time together, Coach Adam has been suggesting a power meter. As the months ticked by and still no power meter, the suggestions became more direct. There always seemed to be a good reason as to why a power meter wasn't on the list - or at least not high on the list. New fs 26er bike in 2011 - my Era. Then my ht 29er Fate in 2012. Have to have a good bike to race on before the numbers really matter right? And then came deciding which bike would become my primary race bike before getting anything. Having never ridden HT or 29er, the Fate was a bit of a leap. But last December, as a complete surprise, Nick got me a powertap wheel for the Fate. (Have I mentioned how awesome Nick is lately? Cause he really is...)

And now I know exactly why Coach Adam kept hinting and pushing for that power meter. Wow. The detail from my workouts and the numbers are just incredible. Instead of guessing and just going all out or sorta all out, I can monitor exactly how hard I am working. If its a long interval, I don't go super hard in the beginning - instead ramping up to the power range I'm supposed to riding in and holding. For the max intervals, I can analyze my spikes and fades after the workout - how long could I hold the attack before faltering. I can do intervals on the same section of road or trail and compare week to week as to how I responded, how my legs handled the workload and when I started to crack. Race simulation type workouts take on a whole new meaning when analyzing the numbers afterwards. It's more then just HR and RPE now - I have real time feedback on the power the correlates to perceived effort and heart rate. Which also helps when I'm riding the Era, without the power. If my HR is 155 and I'm working hard, chances are the watts are also pretty high, just below threshold. It's combining the knowledge of my body with the feedback if the numbers to improve my strength and weaknesses on the bike. All of the information helps me train better - train right. And training right will make my riding better and more fun - and my racing faster!

Mar 26, 2013

Rocky Mountain Spring...

The first full weekend of Spring. A full slate of fun rides and such just waiting for some sunny weather,- a group ride I kept skipping, a long... But I was watching the forecast the entire week and was mentally preparing. If the weather man was right, I wouldn't want to be riding outside! And sure enough, the snow was blowing, the wind howling and it was cold enough to freeze a yeti when I woke up Saturday. Time to stare at some bricks at CTS! I'd talked to Coach Adam earlier in the week, so had my bad weather workout ready to go. I just needed to get my mind around riding inside for three hours.... And with it being at the end of a training block, I was secretly hoping my legs would rebel and I would have an excuse to stop riding sooner.

No such luck. I got there early to claim a spot and set up the course on the computrainer. Since my workout was a little crazy with lots of things to think about, I needed something simple - and something that I would be able to get the power numbers I needed. Got settled for the long haul - water bottles, some food and my music and my cheat sheet. Yeah, I needed a cheat sheet for this workout! After Cam turned the radio on at CTS, I ditched my headphones - that music was enough. Time to go internal and focus myself on what I was supposed to do. Ride hard, ride smart and get it done. On the first set of intervals, I could feel the fatigue in my legs. But the numbers were good, so I kept going. Each separate block of intervals, I was prepared to bounce off that wall. I never did. I kept hitting my numbers and kept cranking out the workout. There were plenty of other people riding, but it was just me, my bike and the workout. Mental training for those longer races. I did manage to get my full three hours done - inside. Not sure how I managed, since the easy hour recovery rides inside just kill me mentally! And the workout ending wall was just around the corner - I hit it pretty hard when I home. The couch was calling my name and I didn't resist...

With continued wind and cold on Sunday, I had no desire to go running. I was tired, cranky and wanted to go back to sleep the minute I woke up! So Nick and I decided to drive up Old Stage and go snowshoeing. Still a good workout, but protected from the wind. And a lot more fun then a boring road run on iced over roads. Nick's idea of snow showing is not the groomed ski resort trails. It's make your own fun, through trees, the deepest snow he can find and generally exploring. It's a blast because we get to see some things we'd never see if we stayed on the trail. And with the snow, there's really no worry about getting lost! Just follow our tracks back to the car! It was perfect way to wind down the week and start my recovery right.
Nick breaking trail ahead of me

Enjoying the view and the solitude...

Trying to decide the best way up the slopes

Coming down - steeper then it looks!

Mar 21, 2013

Shoulder update

It's been nearly two months since I crashed in Ute Valley and injured my right shoulder. It's not fully healed - I can tell that some movements aren't 100% yet, but things are getting better. I have full range of motion in my shoulder and improved functional strength. I'm able to sleep in my right side again without waking up in agony. Getting dressed isn't a battle and I haven't had to tape my shoulder in a few weeks. I still get some soreness and increased stiffness after particularly long or hard rides, it's even worse if I'm riding my Fate and really have to use my upper body to throw the bike around. But I truly cannot complain at all - I'm still able to ride and do what I love. I've also been slowly increasing my swimming frequency - twice a week again. But not long swims - just 1000 yards at a time. It's a good thing I'm not doing any triathlons this year! Nick and I also have gotten back in the bouldering gym on a regular basis. Still doing the v1 and v2 routes, but starting to play around on the longer routes and the v3 problems. So hopefully everything will be back to normal by June. I just need to keep the rubber side down and avoid the soil sampling...

Mar 18, 2013

Tuesday Night Worlds

I finally got an invite for Tuesday Night Worlds! Okay, so I kinda invited myself along since I was supposed to do a race simulation type workout, but... It was cold and damp and I really didn't want to ride by myself! Nick indulged me and said I could come, but they wouldn't be waiting for me. Well, that's pretty much what I expected, so... Up to me to keep up! I will admit to being really nervous when we rolled into the Chutes parking lot. I wasn't sure I was ready for that kind of ride. The plan was to head up through Stratton, all the way up Gold Camp, then back down on Columbine and into Stratton. All trails I know, but never really ride fast.

We pedaled out into the woods and I was immediately on the back. Not off the back, but dangling. I was keeping close to Matt, surging to catch his wheel then falling off the pace. As long as I was within about two bike lengths, I was happy. It wasn't easy and I was at race intensity the entire climb. Near the steepest part of Chamberlin, right before the junction with the Chutes I lost contact. Made up some of the gap on the flatter part just before Gold Camp, but was not in the main group at the top. Uff dah! And no rest for the weary, either! The minute I crested into the parking lot, the guys were off again and I was left to chase. I made the catch and decided to just hug wheels. Take advantage of the draft while I could. Gold Camp was hard - I was drifting off Shad's wheel, sprinting to catch back up, desperately catching my breath while trying to hold on, then watching the elastic snapping. Repeat and repeat - the entire stretch of Gold Camp. Finally, the elastic broke for good at the last turn before parking lot.

A quick stop for some warm clothes, then the race was on again. I wanted to challenge myself with the descending and climbing on Columbine, so slotted into third wheel - behind Nick and Shad, but ahead of Matt. And drilled it to stay there. I hardly ever ride Columbine fast, but with two guys ahead and one behind, I had no choice. On the gas up the short steep hills, smooth and fast around the switchbacks. I missed one and had to run a little to stay in front of Matt on a climb. But once we hit the Spring Creek turnoff, I was able to relaxed and get some breathing room on Matt. Nick and Shad were switchbacks ahead already at that point, so it was me and my lights alone, racing down the trail. I had to keep alert the entire descent - speeds like that are my race pace. It was fun but super hard riding.

I don't know if I'll get another invite for Tuesday Night Worlds this year, but just the one ride was awesome. Getting faster!

Mar 15, 2013

Experimenting with Rice Cakes

After the last 24 hour race where our fueling wasn't up to snuff due to the craziness around the event, I decided I needed to try something new. I had gotten most of my calories from Snickers bars and cookies and other junk food, but was never satisfied the entire event. I wanted more "real" food, but still something that was easy to digest. The chicken and rice soup always hit the spot, but was a hassle to deal with in the make-shift tent we had set up. With some big races coming up, I decided that it was time to start playing around in the kitchen. I have The Feed Zone Cookbook, but hadn't gotten more then just flipping through and looking at the pictures. This time, I pulled it out with the intent to try a few of the portable recipes.

I'm not a huge bacon fan and I was looking for something with a little longer shelf life then the egg rice cakes. So I decided to try the Chocolate Peanut Coconut rice cakes. All flavors I love and the recipe was super easy... Well, it would have been easier if I'd had a food processor! All I had was a cheapo, ancient blender. I pre-crushed some of the nuts with the hopes that my blender would handle the strain. (There's a reason I hadn't used in forever...) No such luck. I ended up with liquid on the bottom, solid chunks on top and a blender that was smoking. And while the flavor was absolutely yummy, the cakes were so incredibly sticky that my hands were covered in gunk. Not good for riding or racing... I made some additions at home after our ride, but the next day, I couldn't stand the taste. Whatever I did, it just ruined the whole batch. And I was out a blender. I made one more super small batch without the blender - just over cooked the rice and mixed it really hard.

Tried them again on my next two workouts. Hard workouts - chasing Nick and the boys around one day, then some massive intervals the next day. After work, already tired and hungry. And the rice cakes worked great. Tasted awesome, vanished into my stomach despite the high intensity I was riding at. No dryness in my mouth, no stickiness, and no cloying flavor stuck in my mouth after I ate them. I think I'm on something! Now I just need to get a food processor so I can really have some fun in the kitchen and get some bars mixed up for rides and workouts. I'm gonna have some fun and have something really yummy and full of energy whipped up for June!

Mar 14, 2013

Baked Apples with Ginger Almond Whipped Cream

This is more of a fall dessert, when the Jonathan apples are fresh and yummy. But it worked really well with the pink lady apples - nice and crisp with firm texture. The recipe is very simple and can be easily modified for additional servings.

Baked Apples
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Half and core 3 apples and place in baking dish

In small dish, combine:
2 Tbsp brown sugar
6 tbsp gluten free oats
3 Tbsp gluten free flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom

Add to oats mix:
3 tbsp melted butter

Spoon oat mixture into cored apples.
Top with raisins, crasins or nuts of choice
Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and brown sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or ginger almond whipped cream (below)

Ginger Almond Whipped Cream
Chill mixing bowl and beater

Combine in chilled bowl:
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp sugar

Beat with chilled beaters on high speed until firm and peaks form. DO NOT OVERBEAT. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Mar 7, 2013

Smiles, Ice and Stars

Every so often, even when most trails are a mess, you have to escape and get out side. I suffered through a good but data-less workout inside on Tuesday because of the ice and slush on the roads. Yesterday, with springlike temperatures, the last thing I wanted was to spend another hour inside. But where to go? Stratton was a mess, Palmer Park and Red Rocks even worse. Nick was waiting on Todd to ride - they were going to head up the canyon and down Columbine. That trail had the best likelyhood of being clear - mostly south facing and exposed. As much as I didn't want to ride up the canyon on my mountain bike, the rest of the ride sounded like fun. So I tagged along, knowing I had to keep it easy on the climb.

We left in the light of the setting sun, heading into the coolness of the canyon. I had my Exposure lights mounted and all my warm clothes in my pack. I followed Nick and Todd to the mouth of the canyon and watched them ride away. I had no desire to even try to ride their pace. They quickly vanished around the corners, leaving me alone in the growing darkness. It was deserted in the canyon, only a few cars coming down. As the darkness descended, the shadows growing deeper, I switched on my lights. The frost glittered on the blacktop - tiny stars revealing how cold it really was. I could hear the creek bubbling under the layers of snow and ice. All so quiet, still and peaceful. I climbed higher, the cold intensifying with each pedal stroke. I was maintaining a steady tempo so didn't feel the cold. I could see the frozen puffs of my breath with each exhale. Near the top, I saw a fox walking down the middle of the road. The fox was puffed up, its fur fluffed out for insulation. Frost specks sparkled on its pelt, revealing just how cold it was.

But then I reached the top where Nick and Todd were waiting. We bundled up in anticipation of the fun awaiting. There were some spots of slush and ice on the dirt road. Nothing sketchy - but point and shoot fun. We were headed for the middle drop into Columbine. A patch of snow marked the entrance - I was forced to unclip in the snow. Then the drop - down the one rock, then into the single track. Nick's premonition was accurate. Other then a few patches of snow and ice, the trail was in great shape. Best I have seen in years. The gravel scree was tight and fast - the normally loose switchbacks tacky and easy. I made all of them this time under the cover of my lights. I wasn't keeping up with the guys, but I was holding my own. It was the perfect ride. We were all grins and giggles when we reached the end of the trail. Perfect single track therapy with friends! Hopefully enough to get through the next storm that supposed to move in this weekend...

Mar 4, 2013

Colossal Cave, Tucson

 Our one tourist activity in Tucson this year. We decided to go explore the Colossal Cave Mountain Park on the east side of Tucson after we rode on Tuesday. We were bored of sitting around and Nick wanted to see how well the Turtle was running after replacing the fan clutch (Great for a while, then....) Nick had a few reasons - one, we were looking for another kinda off the grid camping spot. And we found some - really cool. We were hoping to be able to hang out there for a while after the race, but that didn't happen. Nick also wanted to see where the AZT went - and we also had success on that front. The AZT goes right through the park and looked like a lot of fun in that area. Again, mostly pictures on this one!

Sundial in the ranch area - it worked great. Nick is standing on the line for February and his shadow is hitting the current time.

Random windmill shot - just thought it looked cool

The view from the cave parking lot. Yes, that is a castle on the far ridge!

Nice, old fashioned map of the park. 

Overexposed Nick inside the cave. It was a cool tour, with some good history of the area.

Mar 3, 2013

A tale of two rides

Location, Location, Location. It's important in more then just real estate! We found that out the hard way this weekend with our two rides. One was super fun and grin inducing. The other? Well, I was afraid to open my mouth because of the mud...

I was planning on the group road ride on Saturday - the weather was great and I was mentally ready to start suffering again. Physically was a different story, so I bailed on the road ride. I wasn't quite ready to get dropped five times because I was still tired from 24 HOP. Went to work for a few hours in the morning, then decided it was time to ride. Nick and I were planning on doing a road ride, but he decided to head south on the Santa Fe Trail. That way I could ride hard like in the group road ride, get some power numbers and we still wouldn't have to worry about cars. We were also pretty sure it would be clear - or mostly clear. Well, it wasn't as clear as we thought! In fact, there was still inches of snow in places and the trail was super muddy almost the whole way down to Fountain. It was still a good workout, but everything was covered in mud. My bike was brown, my clothes were brown and I wasn't drinking out of that waterbottle! It took almost as long to clean everything after that ride as the ride took.

After I got some intel on Pueblo, we decided some canyon fun was in order. Without the turtle, it seems silly to drive down to Pueblo to get a fix of dry singletrack, but we were both desperate. Judging by how busy the parking lot was - the main lot was jammed full, and cyclists were spilling out of the lower parking lots - we weren't the only ones going through trail withdrawal. This was a no agenda ride - no power numbers to worry about, no heart to monitor. Just get out, ride our bikes and have fun. As such, we stayed on the east side of the park, in the canyons. I was riding the right bike for the day and was able to clean everything. I even made a new line in Rock Canyon that I've struggled with before. It took me two tries, but once I figured it out... Every climb meant a fun descent - Pinball, Freeride, Water Tower... We did them all. There were plenty of people riding - but most of them were heading west towards the Limits and VooDoo. Staying in the canyons meant we had pretty quiet trails despite the numbers. It also meant easy bailing back to the car when the wind kicked up. And it got really strong about 10 minutes before we called it a day. I was hoping for a little longer, but not with that kind of wind.

Now it's back to the garage or the road for most of my rides. The fun trails in COS are gonna be snowed in for a while I think...

Mar 1, 2013

Frozen off the trails

I had a great time playing in the snow last weekend. It was a recovery week and I could do whatever I wanted. No stress, no need to worry about training. But now I realize why I hate snow! It's great when it's falling and the next day, but as the temperature rise, the snow starts melting during the day and refreezing at night. A combination that makes the roads and trails slushy and muddy during the day and dangerously icy at night. Ugh. And I will admit to being a complete wimp when it comes to those conditions. I hate riding in the mud - both because of the trail damage and the mess it makes of my bike! Snow is fun, right after it falls. Now? Crusty, hard and icy and just not a great day on the bike. Add in the layers of hidden ice and it becomes just plain dangerous. I want to be riding my bike, not nursing injuries!

Finding some mud and ice free single track isn't going to be easy this next month I think. I might have to become a roadie for a while to get my training in! The roads are clear and Saturday Morning Worlds are calling my name. Let's see how many times I can get dropped this year!