Thursday, May 15, 2008

what are the chances???

It looked innocent enough from this end. Colin and I were doing an early (to him) morning ride in the beautiful Wissahickon . . when . . .about 3 minutes into the trail, I came upon this sight:

Another log rollover thingy, or so I thought, a lot like several others that would be coming up on the same trail. This was a new one I had not seen before. All of the rollovers they had put in on this trail, as well as the jumps further down closer to the Inn, could be rolled over, or jumped over, depending on how aggressive you were feeling that day.

You know I told Mike once that one of the things that separated the expert racers from the sports is that the experts did not need to pre-ride a course before the race. “That’s not necessarily true,” he said, “it’s still really helpful to pre-ride at least the beginning and end of the lap.”

What I meant to say was that more experienced riders do not need to slow down over unfamiliar terrain. They have faith that whatever the race promoters throw at them, they can handle without having to dismount. When we were beginners we used to come upon something tricky and stop, analyze, practice VERRRY SLOWLY, then analyze and practice some more. We spent half the ride trying something again and again. These days it is such a pleasure to just ride over or through just about anything that comes my way, well, almost.

So Wednesday morning, I was feeling good. I was getting ready for Mike’s 70-mile epic Rocktober Challenge, and was just going to take it easy and ride with Colin, who of course is super-strong but not a mountain biker. I can catch him on the technical bits.

So there it was. Colin was in front of me. He avoided the jump. Later he said he looked back it at from the other side and thought to himself, “Andrea will probably go over that, maybe I should tell her that it a steep drop-off.”

Andrea does ride over it, thinking my wheel would just glide over another mound of log and mud. So I did not lift my front wheel as I would if I were jumping it. I rolled . . .then my front wheel dropped, fast. My instincts told me not to hit my breaks. I remember thinking, crap, this is not what I expected but I’m going to make it…but then . . . wham, I endo-ed, hard, and landed squarely on my head, slam. Shit, I thought, as I felt crushing pain in my head and neck, if I walk away from this one I am going to be happy. Then the second impact hit my right shoulder. That hurt. The pain knocked the wind out of me. All I could think of was it was going to be hard to catch Colin when I finally picked my sorry ass up and found my bike.

I jumped to my feet. It hurt so much that I had scared myself, and Colin rode back up the trail towards me as I dusted myself off and shook my head, trying to get my bearings.
“I’m all right”, I said.
“you sure?”
“yeah, let’s go.”

So we kept going. I was out in front and Colin said later that I had an adrenalin rush from the fall because he had a hard time keeping up with me. Now that was because he was still warming up and he had just eaten ten pancakes, but whatever, I was moving. The pain in my shoulder was intense, and I thought maybe I should stop, but it was a beautiful morning and I was determined to get a ride in before work. But as I would pull up the front wheel to clear rocks there was an increasingly sharp pain in my shoulder.
“This really hurts!” I called back to him,
“we should stop then, we can go back.”
“I’m fine.”
“you are holding your right arm totally different than your left.”
“that’s because it hurts to use it,” I said, pedaling slower now and attempting to drink from my water bottle with the right arm. I could not reach the water bottle without crushing pain. Fuck. For the first time I thought I may have hurt myself bad enough to jeopardize the camping trip and race this weekend. I had just persuaded Max, with his broken collarbone, to come with me. I had procured a camping site next to VisitPA and it was going to be FUN. But mostly I just did not want to stop riding. It was a beautiful morning, about 60 degrees and rising to 74.

So we kept riding, and my shoulder got worse and worse. Finally 25 minutes had gone by and we stopped. I was torn but the pain was ridiculous and I needed to ride back. I made him promise to keep going; I did not need an escort back to my place. I also did not need the guilt of ruining his ride. He made me agree to ride back on Forbidden Drive instead of the trail. I did, riding with only my left arm, my right dangling at my side. I rode for 10 minutes and came to a downed, big tree running all the way across the drive. I would have to lift the Yeti over it. So I casually picked it up as usual and cried out in pain. damn, I really f’ed this thing up. I knew then that I would not be doing a 70 mile race on Saturday. I clumsily lifted it over with my left arm and kept riding, deciding to take the trail for the last half mile to avoid the traffic on Ridge Pike. I started up the gravel climb with one arm. I had to walk up the golf course hill, I could not muscle the bike like that. I remounted at the top, and in a minute I came upon the log that had been my demise, this time from the other side.

There, lying on the trail where I had not so gracefully landed, was my pink Motorola razor. It rang. No shit. I picked up the phone, it was none other than brother Colin.
“you are going to kill me,” he said, “ but I broke my chain and I can’t find the universal joint.”
“does this mean you need a ride?”
“ok, but I’m not home yet, and my car is in the shop, so I am driving the red F250. Where are you?”
“right where I left you.”

Wow, what a great ride it had been for the two of us.

I rode home, which meant I had ridden for 50 minutes after the fall so my shoulder was good and pissed off; I tried to take off my jersey but could not, so I changed into shorts and found a map of the Wiss and figured out how to get to him via car. He drove back, and on the truck ride home I called Dr. Todd Schwartz, orthopaedist extraordinaire and teammate. He said he could squeeze me in in an hour.

Colin drove. Todd said I was probably just bruised, but they would take x-rays just I case. Funny thing was I had just talked to Todd on Monday about Max, who sustained a bad crash 3 weeks earlier. Leaping off a rock jump. On the same stretch of trail.

The xrays showed a break on the tip of the collarbone. My heart sank. No riding outside for 4 weeks. No racing for 6 weeks. When I thought I needed to take some time off last week, this was not what I had in mind. I had never broken a bone in my life. I've never even had a cavity!

I could sit here and bitterly complain about my shitty luck (more on that later) but you have to laugh at the whole thing. Max gets a mountain bike and tries to relive his motocross days by riding really fast up to a jump and then leaping off, getting as much air as he can. He forgets to lift the front wheel on the last go-around, lands on his shoulder, and shatters his clavicle in 3 places, a very bad break. 3 weeks later I ride over a jump and endo because I don’t lift my front wheel, not expecting a sharp drop. So if I had jumped my log, I would have had no trouble. If Max had rolled down his jump, he would have had no trouble. The moral of the story?

Step 1: Look at the damn thing before you ride it, especially if it’s a mere mile from your house. You'll know when to jump and when to roll.

Step 2: If you don't do Step 1 above, lift your dang front wheel, just in case.

And lastly, with all of the extra time I have now that I am not driving to races and doing 6-hour rides, I can stop and marvel at the beautiful irony that life occasionally throws my way.

I mean I could not make this stuff up, you’d never believe me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the return of the tuesday night party?

those salads look marvelous

Thanks for a great time last night. It was really cool meeting Dominique and Francois, and hosting them at 3434. Having people over made me do my spring cleanup around the yard and porch, and having fresh flowers in the house was a nice antidote to the hangover I woke up with this morning.

Colin's lasagna was awesome, surpassed only by that bad-ass gluten-free chocolate torte! Damn. And who knew that the latest side effect of Golden Monkey is that it causes one to climb on their own furniture in an attempt to enhance a budding career in photojournalism.

But most importantly I am really proud that I have such an amazing group of friends; you all arranged your schedules and overcame your various personal issues to come together at my table and share a few hours, and some good food and wine......thanks and let's do it again before too long.

Happy birthday Annie! can anyone count how many candles are on that cake?

. . for anyone wondering why they did not get an invite, the guest list was roadie-heavy and pretty much out of my hands

more pics here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

cadence state college camp, day 4 sunday

when we got up on sunday it was raining. I was very tired, and I lay in bed and talked to Max, then went downstairs for breakfast, and everyone was rushing around so they could get on the bikes and get in 50 miles before they had to be back at 12. I thought about going, knew I would not be able to do more than an easy recovery ride, and did not feel like riding by myself on this cold and miserably wet day, so I told them to have fun. It really upset me not to ride at all, but my body was telling me something; I needed to listen. I actually tried to nap for another 45 minutes but only drifted in and out of sleep amidst my thoughts.

So I packed up all of my things, and headed off to Saint's Cafe for a latte and some more writing. I was there for 2 hours when I got the call from Annie that they were home, finally. I got back, we loaded up the bikes and our things and headed back to Philly. On the way Annie, Holden and I talked about training, recovery, dogs, and how to warm-up properly. We even got lost once. I drove Annie to work, then drove Holden home, then pulled up to my house to see this beautiful sight:

. . . in the few days since I left my garden had burst into bloom. And this was only the beginning, my wisteria, clematis, climbing rose and peonies were all coming along nicely. What a heart-warming surprise to come home to. As Candide said, "we must cultivate our garden"; that is the meaning of life. When one door closes, another one opens, we just need to accept this change and let ourselves pass with open minds and hearts through that door.

for all the pictures from the weekend, click here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

cadence state college camp, day 3 saturday

andrea & coach kuhn

Annie and I were supposed to meet Ryan at 8:15 for coffee. I was dead tired in the morning, and when I woke up there was this text from Mike:

I want you 2 skip coffee. Much more important for you to sleep an extra 45 to 60
min than get caffeinated.

The sad part is, I was already awake, so I could have pulled off getting to coffee at like 8:30, but Annie was finally going to come down and eat breakfast, and I needed some fuel myself, so I went down there, had a spot o'tea, as well as eggs, oatmeal, strawberries, and orange juice. But no weak hotel coffee. This proved to be a mistake. You see Max does not even like to talk to me in the morning before I have had my coffee. He thinks I am grouchy. I think I am just quiet, but whatever. The bottom line is, once I drink the coffee, the world suddenly seems a kinder, gentler place and furthermore shit just does not irritate me as much. And that's a good thing. Lately, my temper has reared her ugly head, and I have hurt both my wrists punching things in a moment of white rage; the result of a feeling of powerlessness. Fortunately for me, Max is teaching me boxing, and has urged me to take out my anger on the hit mits and pretend they are his head. How sweet!

I don't want to go on and on about the ride today. Basically my legs were not recovered, and it was tough for me to keep up in the warm-up, but since it was my warm-up dammit, I took it easy and made them wait. But once we hit the first rollers it was just brutal, and I feared that I would not break through it. I tried though. Mike talked to me, Holden talked to me, but I was falling farther behind on the hills and I was pushing until my legs were numb. They were getting tighter two hours into it, not looser. I wanted to scream and get the hell off my bike. Why was I spending so much time on my road bike anyway?

So I told Holden that I wanted to head back to the hotel. We stopped at a rest stop where this picture was taken, and Mike and Holden tried to figure out how to get me back to the hotel without getting me lost or hit by a car. It turned out that I had to do one more 5 mile climb with the group to get me to a road where I could safely get back. It was a death march. An absolutely beautiful road and the perfect climb for me, long and windy with a gradual grade, but today it was Mount Misery. When I got to the top I bid them farewell and started a long descent. When I got to the bottom, I felt relieved. I could pedal the 10 miles back and just enjoy the scenery and not worry about keeping up or slowing anyone else down. So I stopped and took some great pictures :

really cool old abandoned gypsum(?) factory

this might as well have read 154 miles, the way my legs were acting

scene were I stopped and saw a Great Blue Heron

and meandered my way back to campus, through campus, and back to the Marriott. It was a stunningly beautiful day and I was lucky to be able to enjoy it in good health. I was going to get back, shower, stretch, and find myself a coffee shop in town and do some writing. There was this great coffeehouse called “Saints”—the very same joint where I stood up Ryan this morning, and I set up camp there.

(By the way Ry, I am truly sorry that due to self-absorption brought on my by my bitter dissapointment I assumed that Kuhn had called you and told you we would not be meeting you, that was truly lame and I would have been pissed if a friend did it to me, I owe you a beer, even tho by the next time I see you you will have forgotten about it)

It was nice to have some time alone to coax the cacophony of negative thoughts in my head into an epiphany of sorts. My life had turned from a honeymoon at the end of 2007 into an extremely stressful uphill battle in terms of my career, my athletic pursuits and my financial and personal life. Maybe uphill was too linear a term; really in all of these pursuits, especially my emotional life, it was more like a rollercoaster, and the uncertainty was making me crazy.

Annie interrupted these thoughts with a phone call asking if I was okay. Yes, of course, I would come back to the hotel and meet them all for dinner at 5:30. That was not completely true. I wanted to get into my car and go back to Philadelphia and see Max. I had heard via email from Chris that Max had hurt his back mountain biking, and I wanted nothing better than to spend my Saturday evening with him and Gryphon, Madison, Chloe and Diesel, our little pack of hounds.

When we got into the lobby, the choice was to go out to dinner or order in so we could take advantage of coaching on power file analysis and a demonstration of some basic bike maintenance. Everyone wanted to eat in except me-- outvoted. We ordered from Ruby Tuesdays, Annie and I got a bottle of red wine and a six-pack of Harp for the group, and we sat in the room and watched Mike messing around with that sweet new Cannondale SuperSix he got for being the fearless leader of VisitPA. I finally got an idea of how to adjust a derailleur; might come in handy when I don’t have a mechanic anymore.

Holden talked about the importance of ignoring the PT and learning to really cultivate your ability to perform by perceived effort. This is something I struggle with, and I said that I felt like I treated my body more like a child that needed to be disciplined rather than a highly trained vessel with emotional, intellectual and physical needs. In other words, these needs require that I shut up and listen once in a while, rather than try and control. I really feel that I need to develop that trust and innate understanding of my body’s needs and this was the key to becoming a successful athlete rather than merely a recreational rider.

We then looked at the setup in TrainingPeaks and the various charts and graphs pertaining to power & performance. Mike had analyzed our power data from Friday and Saturday and pointed out some interesting things, although I found it valuable, any talk or comparison of my power data was conspicuously absent, since my numbers were so much lower than they should have been.

It was getting late, and everyone headed off to bed. Mike and I discussed my baffling underperformance this weekend and tried to piece it all together. I had rested before the camp, taking off Monday and Tuesday. I had eaten plenty during the camp. My TSS scores on Wednesday and Thursday were not off the charts. I had been sleeping well, although probably not quite enough.

“What about your sudden weight loss?” he asked.

“yeah, well I did lose 5 pound in 3 days, but I have gained a couple back. I don’t think it was the weight loss itself so much,” no, I was thinking, just the extreme distress and despair that came when the only person I have ever really loved in my entire life decided that he needed to cut me loose. I think those three days were some of the worst of my life, and I have not been right since, even though Max and I have since patched things up. “I have not had one good workout since then . . . ” I said wistfully, biting my lip.

“Didn’t you go on some extreme workout the next day, when you weren’t eating?”
Yeah, I did, a 3.5 hour hard mountain bike ride when all I had eaten all day was a bar and some coffee. I killed one-brake Jake at Belmont, and by the time it was getting dark and we did half the Wiss, he made me stop and turn around since I was so upset. “Go home and live to ride another day Andrea” he had said. But I did not want to stop riding, as exhausted as I was, because I knew once I got home my mind would go into overdrive. I’ll never forget those words.

“There has to be something else though,” Mike said. It still just did not add up.

I told them I would not be riding with them in the am. It was supposed to rain, and I knew it would be more of the same if I tried to do the 50-miler. Everyone else was hurting as well, except maybe Annie the Giant, who was bitterly disappointed this afternoon when she got back form the 87 mile ride and Holden was too tired to take her swimming. Mike told her she was nuts and to get some rest.

So that was Saturday. I was hoping I would feel well enough to take the mountain bike out Sunday, but knew it would probably not happen. So it as off the bed with heavy legs and an even heavier heart.

the group sans moi at the end of their epic ride

Friday, April 11, 2008

cadence state college camp day 2, friday

So Annie and I only got about 6 .5 hours sleep. I crawled down for breakfast and had more of the same: scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, a waffle, orange juice, and more weak coffee. I was stuffed though, and had to hurry up and get ready for an 8:30 am departure, which did not actually happen until 9am, so that gave me a bit more time to digest.

Holden led us out to the TT course, and my legs were telling me they needed an easy warm-up. They were complaining loudly. Holden was spinning not terribly fast, but when he got to the hills he kept the same pace, which meant my power was spiking to 270 just to be able to draft him. I did not have enough coffee, so I was a bit cranky, and I thought about a rebellion. Finally I heard Annie complaining to Mike behind me that she was not feeling great, so at Mike's urging we decided to spin at our own pace to the TT course. That was 27 minutes into the ride. 20 minutes later we started our first warm-up efforts. I picked up the pace and looked down at the Power Tap, thinking I would start at 175....185...195 etc. up to 240 watts. I was pushing hard, my PE was up around 8.5 and the PT said . . no joke . . 85 watts. WTF??? So it went like this, me trying to push some power out of my legs for a 3-min effort and me legs telling me to f'off. Holden told me if that is the case in a race warm-up, to back off, never push yourself to do a warm-up effort if your legs are tight and stiff, rather just gently push the power up as gradually as you can to get them primed for the race effort. I tried this.

I went 2nd in the TT. The two riders behind me, first Annie, and then Mike W, passed me like I was one of those ubiquitous cows on the side of the road. For the first 5 minutes I was able to keep it somewhere in the range of 190 watts, barely. But when the hills kicked in my legs just would not move. I had Mike coaching me, then Holden, and I was trying, really pushing hard, but I could barely get my watts up over 150. It was awful. I tried not to get too negative about the whole thing but of course that same soundtrack played in my head, the one that wondered why I was still doing this despite disappointment after disappointment. By the time I finished the TT, in 34 minutes, I was totally gassed and was ready to spin back to the hotel. That was so painful, frustrating, and unfortunately all too familiar for me on these camps. California in 2007 and again in 2008 the same thing happened: on the third day of hard riding, I have a field test and I can't perform.

I am still a fairly strong mountain bike racer, but not strong enough, in my mind, for someone with a coach and a plan who spends 13 hours a week training. Mike did say that I was often on these trips with others of stronger ability and they tend to last longer into the week than I do. And you know I give him credit for saying that, because in some ways coaches have to be part coach, part salesmen, part cheerleader, and it can’t be an easy gig. They rarely tell you that you suck, of course that might have something to do with athlete retention and job security. But the question in my mind is why, when I work so damn hard, am I always one of the weaker ones in these camps? It seems like the expectations going in are that I will be one of the stronger ones, and then...yes, by day 3 I am smoked.

Why do I want to keep banging my head against this wall again and again? With all the money I spend on coaching and training at Cadence, and all the money I spend in entry fees, bikes, bike parts, equipment, nutrition, etc. There are so many other things that I could be doing with my time, including writing, reading, working in my garden, cooking, going to art galleries, going to concerts, nurturing valentinebaby into a viable business, fixing up my house, learning to speak spanish, writing a cookbook with my 90 year old grandmother, seeing my family, traveling, and on and on. All of these things and many more have taken a back seat in my life while I chase this dream to race my bike. I have no desire to take it much further. I am not going to become a pro or start my own team. I just wanted, for the first time in my life, to clear out a little space so instead of being pretty good at a whole bunch of things I could be really good at one thing, or so I thought. I really was never that good at clearing my slate though. There is just so much more to life than the bike. Not that I am going to stop riding or training--no way--I will always be a cyclist at heart. But chasing points and doing the entire series and racing every weekend, I've had enough. I need to get more balance in my life.

So I took it hard, kind of like I did here; Only there was no Colin to cheer me up. I went back to the room and called Max, who spent many years racing but decided, finally, that he wanted to have a more balanced life and gave it up. Like me he has many varied interests and finally, the sacrifices that he was making to excel in his sport ate at him enough that he changed his life, utterly. I want to do this I guess, but I am not sure how. Many of my friends are cyclists, they all race: their spring, summer and falls ebb and flow with the race calendar. Many of them don't do too much else. And that's OK, but I would never be happy with that; even if I were good enough to be a NORBA pro. I would always feel like I were missing out on so much. So there is a part of me that is incredibly frustrated that I am not reaching my goals, and another part that is relieved that I am not doing better because it makes it that much easier to say goodbye to this tortured lifestyle.

After lunch and a nap, or in my case lying in bed half-sleeping half thinking about all of this crap, we were supposed to meet in the lobby at 2:30. Kuhn, Mike W, Ryan and I were going to go mountain biking, and Annie, Holden and Patty were going running and swimming. Mike told me I could not go mountain biking, that I needed to rest up for the big 80 mile mountain climb effort of Saturday. I was crushed. I had taken my poor neglected yeti all the way up to state college for nothing, I literally gave them the keys to my car and watched them pull away, while I went back to the room and wrote all this crap down.

So I already talked about breakfast, on the ride I had one sports bottle, 1 gel, and 6 m&ms, back in the room for lunch I had a recovery shake with soy milk, some of this awesome greek yogurt with raspberries and peak protein granola, and later a banana and a whole-grain sandwich and some peanut butter and dark chocolate spread. Also some triple-cream brie and some crackers.

I stretched my legs, which were incredibly tight, I mean they were throbbing when I was trying to sleep, and then I took a shower and typed some more. Coach Kuhn called at 5:30 and asked if I wanted to join him at the pool. So I threw on my makeshift bathing suit (don't ask) and headed down there. We watched Annie and Holden, (who got kicked out of the Penn State pool because of a power outage) try and do back and forths in the hotel pool without taking a breath. Mike and I had probably one of the best heart to hearts we have ever had, because I told him all of my frustrations for once, he asked me a lot of questions, and we came up with some potential solutions. I need to take recovery more seriously, I need to eat to fuel my body, and I need to not worry about my performance next to the group if they are doing something that is going to prevent me from going hard at the next effort. But I don’t these aren't the main problem.

At one point, I looked at Mike and said, "it must be really frustrating for you, as my coach, to have high expections for me and to keep seeing me fall short time and time again." He agreed, and said that clearly my training plan was not working, and we needed to try something different. He suggested that maybe I go with a one day on, one day off training plan, where the days on would be very intense, but there would be one or two days of rest in between. This sounded reasonable to me, because my main problem seemed to be my inability to recover from hard efforts, especially multi-day or back to back efforts, as quickly as my peers.

"You know my LT has been the same for a year now." I said. "That might be true, but you are a way better technical rider than you were last year, and that is going to make you a faster racer," he countered. Damn, and I was trying to be negative here, throw me a bone.

We met up with Von Leech, and dinner was at another lame college-town smoke-filled mediocre food and service joint called Champs. They did have good beer, and a unique beer-delivery system which Ryan demonstrates here. We had a nice time eating, drinking, and inhaling cigarette smoke with a bunch of kids 18 years younger than me. I mean, surely, there are restaurants in this town where people go to get away from the college kids. Smoke-free even! Well maybe that is just me being cranky.
For dinner: 1.5 pieces veggie pizza, small roast veg salad I shared with Ry, some fried calamari, 1 glass wine, 1/2 beer, 2 scoops artechoke-spinach dip, and later, 1/2 of a small choc. chip ice cream from coldstone creamery

And so it went. I got through another Friday at another Cadence camp; I am fearing a bit for my legs on the ride tomorrow. I think I need to turn the light out now, it's midnight. enough.
annie and I before the ride

Thursday, April 10, 2008

cadence state college camp, day 1 thursday

Thursday morning I got up and had the $9 breakfast buffet at the hotel. Not quite the spread at the Agoura Renaissance in Agoura Hills, CA, but I was able to make my own waffle. The coffee was incredibly weak, but since festivities were not going to start until 1pm, and I was going to Wegman's to get some food for the room, I could get my fix there.

While I was shopping, Annie and Holden went swimming in the Penn State pool, and apparently a few of Holden's records have not been broken yet. Annie said his picture was all over the place. Luckily for us, Annie took a picture of Holden, circa 2000, sportin' some big hair, and we have it for you right here.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, 1 large waffle w/butter & syrup, orange juice, coffee. Then I drove through town and went to Wegman's and got (for the room) soy milk, some triple-cream brie and gluten-free crackers, granola, this amazing greek yogurt, and vitamin water in lieu of gatorade ('cauz gatorade is high-fructose corn syrup crap which gives me a stomach-ache), I mean I would not drink that stuff if I were dying of thirst, unless of course it's the only thing they're serving up at the checkpoint of a 60-mile race, and in that case I suffer through it.

At 12:15 we had a meeting in the lobby and discussed our goals for the camp. I thought about some goals. Not cracking after 2 days, making new friends, working on my climbing technique (currently nonexistent, I just get up 'em), how to attack hills, aka how not to be passed on hills, etc. I figure now that the doc doubled my prescription of the inhaled steroid for asthma, I should be able to kick it a little harder when the pavement tilts up.

We then set up the bike stands out in the driveway. Afterall, Mike & Holden were doing double-duty as mechanical services. The weather was gloriously warm and sunny; we were basking in shorts and short-sleeved jerseys, although apparently we were going to get rain the rest of the weekend.

I think I was the only one that put sunscreen on; everyone else got a pretty good sunburn on their arms. Holden actually worked on my bike, it turns out triathletes do know how to clean a chain. We headed off to preview the TT course. The TT course was a 10-mile loop with 3 turns and a rolling profile. Once on it, Mike Williams got the first of 3 flats. That's right, 3 flats on the same wheel. This was unfortunate for me, because I don't fare well when there is constant stopping. As a result my legs felt pretty crappy the first time through.

We talked about technique, practiced taking turns as efficiently as possible while avoiding the 6 dead animals strewn throughout the course, then rode it again. In case you were wondering, there were 2 squirrels, an opossum, a woodchuck, and a deer that I think no one else noticed because it was off to the side and almost comletely decomposed, and some other thing I could not identify. The second time my legs felt much better, and I was able to push harder through the rollers, until Mike told us to chill out and back it off. I had packed enough bars and gels for an easy 40 mile ride, but actually after doing the course again, and taking a dirt road back with a ton of potholes, I actually bonked at mile 41. I mean we were only few miles from home. I had to stuff down a mocha clif shot just to be able to ride home. It ended up being 47 miles in all.

When I downloaded my power tap data, it turns out my TSS was a lot higher, 172, than it was after the wednesday night ride, 148. My energy expenditure was 1118 kJ. Not surprising that I bonked after eating only 2 bars, and 2 gels, 2 bottles of weak sports drink. I could have used one more bar I guess, and I thought I was in the hole a little. Annie ate one gel and one bar the entire ride. Damn, think how powerful she would be if she ate more, she seriously kicks ass now.

We got back at 5, and decided to meet in the lobby for dinner at 6. Everyone was starving. We went to Fascia Luna for dinner, one of the few restaurants in state college where Holden DID NOT work, and Annie found out, after we had waiting an hour for a table, that there was absolutely nothing on the menu that was gluten-free. Even the risotto had gluten in it!? So she had a salad and went back to the hotel room and chowed down on the carbs I had procured at Wegman's, many of them gluten-free and chocolate-flavored.

We were joined by Levi the Saris rep, who was pretty damn funny and convinced me that I needed to srping for the new PTs that just came out for disc brakes. I wanted to get one for the Yeti, but cash is a little hard to come by these days, not like when I was livin' large in 2007. While he was telling us a story about his younger days he kept referring to the US as "the lower 48." Where did you go to high school?, I asked.

"North Pole high school."

"is that in Alaska?" I asked, feeling pretty stupid. Hey give me a break, we don't own the whole f'in North Pole.

"Yeah." wow, no wonder he was so funny. It's amazing how growing up somewhere WEIRD makes you seem so refreshing to us pedestrian lower-48 public school types.

So that was Thursday. Annie and I went back to the room, and I proceeded to check email, write this blog, and generally stay up way to late since we had to be up at 6:45. The plan for Friday was ride easy to the TT course, do the TT, ride easy back, andf then in the afternoon the tri-geeks would run and swim, and Kuhn, Mike Williams, myself and perhaps Leech would tackle Rothrock State forest. I was incredibly psyched to be able to check out the trails up here, and went to bed looking forward to Friday.

cadence state college camp, prologue, wednesday

Well, after a good amount of drama, the camp was on. You see a few weeks ago, there were 10 of us signed up for this little cycling camp in the heart of Pennsylvania, and apparently in the weeks leading up to the camp, most of them folks canceled. This one was injured, that one felt intimidated, this one had to go to jail, you know the drill. Excuses, excuses I say. Needless to say Cadence now has a cancellation policy.

So last night at 10 pm Annie and I were not exactly sure we were going, but I packed anyway, since it takes me hours to pack. Hours.

Fast forward to this morning. I get a call that we were leaving at 12. It was 11, and Annie just started to pack. So at 12 I headed first down to Colin's to get some fresh pancakes for the trip. I had eaten some cereal for breakfast at 7, and then a handful of pecans at 10:30, and of course 2 cups of coffee, but lunch turned out to be . . . 3 pancakes, and a frozen frappucino from starbucks on the turnpike.
I pick up Annie & Holden, and we spend 20 minutes trying to figure out how to put 3 roadbikes and a mountain bike on my car rack. How is this for ingenuity?

The trip out here was nice. I drove. Holden fell asleep, and Annie and I chatted about life. We stopped once, and since it was 2pm I knew I should have eaten some lunch since we had a hard ride at 5:30. But Annie and Holden weren't eating. There was nothing decent at the rest stop except junk and some lame looking sandwiches. Besides, I had Colin's Uber Pancakes.
It should be stated that I did not want to drive up to state college a day before the camp even started to do even more riding than I could cram into a week. My modus operandi on these excursions was to come out early and burn myself out before camp even got into full swing. I had heard about this "state college wednesday evening ride" and was told it was FAST. So I called up Von Leech, this is his hometown afterall. He said it was like the Drives Ride in philly but with hills. Shut the f' up. I called up Annie and said I did not feel real confident about doing the ride, and maybe we should just go up on Thursday morning. But Annie and Holden said that there was no way it could be that fast, blah blah blah. Do you see where this is all going?

We rode 20 minutes to wait on a driveway next to a large barn. On the 20-min ride down to the meeting place I started realizing that riding through clouds of dust, manure and fertilizer was not so great for an asthmatic. And it started to rain, and damn was it windy. There were about 16 of us in all. As we were chatting before the start I was reminiscing about the last time I had been to state college. It was when I ran away from home in high school. I needed to get away from my uptight catholic parents, so I ran away to state college where my sister was a sophomore, and got my first taste of fraternity parties when I was . . 17.

". . yeah....hmmm. . . I guess it was . . . 1987." I said wistfully.

"Damn, that was the year I was born" the rider in the Bianchi kit exclaimed. Mike, Holden Annie and I started to laugh. I wanted to punch the kid. " were really underage at the time, " Mike said, trying to make me feel better. Yeah I was. I think I was the reason they started checking IDs at frat parties, but that's another story . . .

So we were off. Like a mile cruise and then full-on paceline, I pulled through once and then, setting up for the second time, a gap opened a bit, I pushed hard to catch up but both lines just pulled away from us in a rush--they just punched it and split the whole peloton in two.

When the whole thing broke apart, and I was kind of in the front of the second group. Mike, Holden and Annie and I, along with 2 other girls were working together to bridge but then I was off the back when one of the girls could not hang on. I felt like shit and my legs were screaming the whole time. This ride was tough, just like Ryan said. So I ended up riding as fast as I could, especially behind Kuhn, who is like a fucking freight train when he gets moving--damn--30 mph like it as nothing and I was hurting badly but just kept concentrating on the "" on his ass and trying not to focus on how bad I as bonking. If I stayed inches from his wheel (there was quite a headwind) I was able to hang on alright, but if I freaked and let another few inches open up my power spiked up to like 270 watts. I was ok, until the bigger rollers did me in. It went like this for 40 miles, pushing hard, and sometimes falling off. All in all it was a sufferfest,.
Annie fared much better than me tonight, but I realized that I did not eat all day. Somehow she can pull that off, but not me, I need my fuel. So in my attempt to keep track of what I eat on these camps, I have decided to record as much as I can, today I had . . cereal at 7 am, some pecans, coffee, and 3 of Colin's pancakes. And half a bar right before the ride. No wonder I sucked so badly . . .

Later for dinner we went to Chili's and had $2 margaritas, and all sorts of food. I ate 2 of my fajitas and left the rest of them at the restaurant after asking for them to be wrapped. We even had a fridge in the room. Lame.
I was really happy when I finally hit those covers, damn, after the long drive out here and the wednesday night death march, yeah it was great to turn the lights out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

what not to wear to a funeral

Shelly went to work at the salon Capelli a few weeks ago and knew she had a long day ahead of her; but she had just enough time to sneak out of work a few minutes early so she could go home and change into something more appropriate for her friends' father's funeral she would be attending later. Unfortunately a number of her late-day clients were late, including myself, and she ended up having to go straight to the viewing dressed in her typical ready-to-rock-n-roll attire . . .

Apparently she wore her coat the entire time. But after all, the dead don't really care what you wear; in fact I bet unlike the ones they left behind, they are someplace free to relish the irony.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

colin's new favorite website


So he nailed the douchebag part, but isn't there someone missing in this picture?

cadence camp day 6, sunday

final hours in the lobby

I got up late, feeling like crap . . . and we were supposed to be on our bikes at 8, it was 7:10. Not much time to eat and digest and get my shit together. I was half hoping it was pouring out and instead the ride would be postponed. But the sun was out. I crawled down to breakfast and the team was already there. I ordered my pot of coffee and told the guy at the omelette station to make me the usual. The usual being an omelette with spinach, tomoatoes, onions, mushrooms, ham and cheese. I also had a bowl of oatmeal, plus berries and yogurt for later. OJ, and lots of coffee. I made the mistake of looking in the mirror on my way to breakfast. My eyes were puffy with deep circles. Damn, I looked like death.

Colin said that we were going to have a choice: ride at 9 in the rain or listen to a lecture that he and Brian were giving. Brian walked by as I was trying to figure out if I should blow off the ride. The pros of not riding: I would be able to relax, finish my breakfast, read, write, get my stuff together for the airport, listen to a lecture from 2 professional coaches, one of whom was a 3-time Olympian, and most of all rest my very tired legs. The cons: I could hate myself for not riding my final day in california.

“Brian” I said, “do you think I should ride? My TSB is about -57 right now….” I smiled. Then it occurred to me that several of us had been riding since Tuesday, perhaps we were all pretty smoked. “then again,” I said, “perhaps everyone’s TSB is pretty low right now—do you think?”

“Nah,” he said, “just a few people, maybe 3.”
“You mean 2 others and me?” nice. well actually it turns out that only 2 people plus a coach rode. The rest of us were tired and in no mood to ride 50 degree rain, which seemed inevitable at some point.

So the camp was over, I finished breakfast, stood outside while Colin demonstrated cornering, and then showed us what not to do by eating it cornering through a sandy puddle in the parking lot; giving himself an avocado-sized splash of California road rash across his hip and ruining a lovely new pair of Cadence cycling shorts. He had a nice gash on his elbow as well. Ouch. I will spare you all a picture of that. One thing he did NOT do when he went down was put his arms out, which is what you are supposed to do I learned (that is NOT put your arms out) since extending the arm is the fastest way to a broken collarbone. I can’t imagine sliding out on the road and not putting an arm out, although many times on the mountain bike my front wheel washed out so fast I did not have time to react at all. Falling in the woods is cake though, and so far I have never ever gotten road rash, which is pretty amazing since I spend 80% of my time on the road, something I need to change. I miss my Yeti!

After packing up we watched the final of the Tour, and headed to the airport. We took off in the Citation X, and Randy opened up the Veuve Cliquot and started pouring.

Then came wine, jack & coke for Jamie, beer, etc etc. Check out my most awesome omelette:

Try getting that on US Air. The way back was one big party, as we attempted to postpone that painful dose of reality that waited for each one of us, whether that entailed work, children, or other responsiblities we had the luxury of blowing off for 6 days . . .

The Citation X even managed to break the sound barrier at one point (an alarm went off) and we got into Dover, DE in 3 hours, 48 minutes. Here is the sunset over the left wing visible shortly after takeoff.

All in all I had an incredible 6 days. Great scenery, great food, great riding, great coaching, and most of all great comrades. I am learning my own limits now; not that I won't try and push them when I can, but when I can't I need to be proud of myself anyway.

It's really not all about the bike.

me and Laurel Wassner, pro triathlete and roommate, who gets paid to ride her bike . . .

cadence camp day 5, Tour of California

Saturday am the plan was to get up and ride to Moorpark, to watch the final major climb of the Tour of California at the VIP tent. First we met at a grassy field and played some bike handling drills.

Those were my favorite. We had to stay in a small square and try to knock each other off our bikes, keeping our hands on the bars and feet on pedals. The second time around I ended up winning. I guess this weekend it was all about the small triumphs.

Anyway, for the actual ride we met up with a large group leaving from Sundance Cycles down the road from the hotel, 2 vans with a change of clothes in tow. The sun came out and the scenery was beautiful, but the group was a little shaky and slow. We did separate from them towards the end and put in some hard efforts, one long hill and some speed work on the flats. My legs felt OK, I was keeping up pretty well but I knew I was in the hole and was just buying time.

When we got to the Amgen VIP area I changed into jeans and rode on my bike up this really steep climb with sneakers on , that was a bitch, I almost had to get off the bike and walk. A $25 donation to cancer later we were watching the tour from way up on the hill: check out this scenery:

The only problem was that is was cold up on the ridge and I was not dressed properly. After the barbecue a bunch of us walked down to the road to get closer to the action as the pros went by. That part was awesome!
the race leaders flanked by BigHairSuperFan

Afterwards we we changed back and headed home. Now the adventure begun. We were no longer riding with a local club, so we had to figure out a route back. Colin mapped something out, but we ended up missing a turn and doing an extra 6 miles or so. The sun wend behind a cloud and the wind blew harder, and it would start to rain on and off. We had 2 flats. We were getting cold and tired. I was off the back of the first group somehow, but way ahead of the second and third group, and suddenly I realized I had been riding alone for awhile, 3000 miles from any roads that I knew; my legs felt like lead and I was getting cold and tired. And I had heard a rumor that the people behind me were going to get home via van. Where did that leave me? I could not see the first group and I was getting tired of pulling into the headwind by myself. I was riding past beautiful pastures framed by a backdrop of verdant mountains but all I kept thinking of was a hot shower and some food that had once had a pulse. Meat that is. I felt like I could not choke down another bar or gel.

Finally all that pushing paid off because I managed to catch the lead group on Agoura Road a few miles before the hotel. I downed some yogurt, berries, granola, and a rice cake with peanut butter , took a shower followed by a stint in the hot tub with Laurel, Colin and Ken. We went back and forth from the pool to the hot tub in an attempt to get some circulation in the muscles. Then another hot shower. I knew I was not going to be good for much on Sunday, but it seemed a lot of the camp participants felt the same way, and the forecast for Sunday was rain rain rain, so there was a chance the ride would not go off on time anyway. good, more sleep.

Afterwards Ken, Colin, Laurel and I went to Padri for some Italian food and wine. I was dog tired, wondering how the hell I would ever make it up the Yerba Buena climb on Sunday. 9 miles of winding mountain road straight up into the clouds. I was in bed with the laptop, updating my training peaks and screwing around on my email. I was also trying to figure out why Max was so pissed off at me, but realizing finally that the web was offering me absolutely nothing to help solve this mystery, I finally put out the light.

Cyclingwise, today had not been bad. Actually taking into account watching the Tour, it was pretty awesome, but I have to say the ride home was something of a deathmarch at the end. It was only 72 miles all in all, but it felt like 120.

cycling fans are a bit odd . . .

Friday, February 22, 2008

cadence camp day 4, friday

Dianna addressing the group before the morning ride . . .

Today was my demise. Plain and simple. I could not hang with the lead group to save my life on the 2 mile climb leading up to the 3-mile uphill field test. I was just beat from the get-go. I was really upset about it but my legs refused to perform, and I had to be happy keeping my power between endurance and sub-LT. The same hill, Mulholland, that I tackled with confidence on Wedneday kicked my ass today. I was supposed to average about 209 on that climb, but instead I averaged 187. Afterwards when the groups split up I cut the ride short and headed back to the hotel with about 8 others. I really had no choice, because Brian said that I was tired and if I rested up I should recover for the weekend. I hoped he was right.

Back at the hotel I was visibly upset, which I guess is lame that I let my poor performance ruin my day, but then again I am on a cycling camp. I could be in Mexico somewhere sitting on a beach, but this week it was all about riding the bike. I think I squeezed out a couple of tears. Being the good friend that he is, Colin refused to leave me alone until I told him what was wrong. We looked at cyclingpeaks, and he reviewed what I had been doing for the past month. And he brought up my performance management chart. What it revealed was that I am in the hole right now, at -36 on the PMC. Colin says that when he is at -40 it is fruitless for him to even get out of bed, much less train. Those parameters might be different for me, but even so it explained a lot. S0, I need to recover a bit before the hard day tomorrow and Sunday. Recover . . . like take a few days off. Since that's not going to happen, I need to dig really deep, make the best of it, and try not to beat myself up too much.

Later it started to rain. We decided to bag the technique ride we were going to do and resume in the morning. So we sat in the lobby and reviewed everyone's power data, like a bunch of true cycling geeks. Sam's driver sat at the bar and watched TV. Sam, the other guy on the trip with a chartered jet, had a car follow us on the rides in case Sam could not hang. The rest of us just had to ride a little faster. Anyway, I typed away at my laptop and chatted away with Ken, the strongest rider of the camp participants, a marine, former White House staffer and EAS Body for Life winner in 2004. We both are coached by Mike Kuhn. He and a friend have produced a documentary, "Inspired," about all of the people they have helped lose weight, overcome disabilities and turn their lives around. It will be done in a few months and they are submitting to Sundance. You can watch the preliminary trailer here.

Ken gearing up to make Colin work for a living

Friday night was the big party at Jay & Terri Snider's house in Pacific Palisades. The party was enough to make you forget you sucked on the bike during the day. We were greeted warmly by our hosts and their staff, and ate and drank delicious food in front of a raging fire (it was 50ish, damn cold by Cali standarads) The party at Jay’s was interesting, not just because of the beautiful house, the 12-year old magician, the warm but elegant atmosphere, but also because I happened to mention to Jay about my perceived gluten intolerance. He told me Ed Snider, his father, has Celiac disease. He himself has stopped eating wheat gluten, and when Terri came over to join in the conversation she showed me all of the gluten-free items she had bought for Jay in her large walk-in pantry, which was about the size of my whole kitchen. Terri was such a vivacious, gracious host, and Jay such a stand-up great guy, that it really made you forget that the two of them had so much wealth. And I will never forget those chocolate-covered strawberries, the size and succulence of ripe plums. (yeah I made that word up)

the view from the rear patio

more photos here