Monday, July 30, 2007

I am a member of everything

Licenses I need:
CSU skiing
CSU orienteering

...and there are probably a couple more that I'll learn about soon. At least I haven't gotten into double digits yet.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No Pain, No Gain?

It has long been known that the old “no pain, no gain” approach to endurance training is not as effective as a periodized training plan. Running (or skiing, or biking, or swimming, or rowing…) as hard as you can every day will only lead to your “fast” days getting slower, because you are too tired from the other days to put out a good effort. Since that realization, coaches worldwide (I think it was some New Zealand dude who did it first) counsel their athletes to hard and easy days. The easy days must be kept easy, in order to be rested for the hard days. If an athlete is rested, he can go much harder (thus faster) than if he is tired.

What does it take to ski fast? Good technique, balance, coordination, explosive power, the right wax, well-fit equipment, general strength, core strength, giant triceps, the right mental attitude, good nutrition, attention to detail, genetic talent, and… fitness. Ahh, fitness. So many factors go into having a good race, but only one is of critical importance. Without fitness, it doesn’t matter how talented you are, how good your technique is, how fast your skis are—you will get beaten by someone in better shape.

You also need to know how to hurt. How to hurl yourself into the pain cave and stay there, until you cross the finish line. The racers you see with drool hanging out of their mouths collapsing at the finish line—those are the ones who were in the pain cave. They were racing at their limits; above their limits, which is the only way to excel. Sure, you need to know how to pace yourself. But you also need to know how to hurt. Without that, you will be forever destined to mid-pack mediocrity.

The flip side of the pain cave is recovery. Proper recovery is absolutely essential to being able to reach that pain cave. The recovery starts with a cooldown, but it doesn’t stop there. It’s wrapped into your whole life; everything you do affects that next race, be it in a positive or negative way. As hard as you train, the body will not absorb the training without adequate rest.

There are times of the year, of course, when it’s acceptable to be tired. In those heavy volume blocks, your body feels like lead. You drag yourself down the road, exhausted, until finally your body wakes up and responds, albeit sluggishly, to the activity and gives you some endorphins. Four hours later, you finish your workout, gingerly peel the gloves off your blisters, and eat. God, do you eat. It is times like this that you wonder, am I overtrained? Have I put myself into a hole that I can’t climb out of? And then, as you lower the volume and increase the intensity, it’s as if your body is springing back, feeling better and better as you feel more and more rested and recovered and sharp. And when you get that one race, that one perfect race, where it almost doesn’t hurt, and yet you’re flying, you know it was all worth it. This sort of peak doesn’t happen with the “run hard every day” approach.

The hardest part (says I) is getting up in the mornings at the crack of dawn, particularly after daylight saving’s hits. As you’re lying there in bed at 5:30am in the pitch black wishing with all your heart that you didn’t have to get up, you know that your competitors are out there, training, trying to defeat you before you even get to the start line. So you stagger out of bed, get out the door, and find yourself enjoying the brisk morning and the silence of the pre-dawn, as you get to work becoming a better skier.

So no pain, no gain? I think plenty of pain happens on the path to see gain, if in a different sense perhaps than the original intent of that phrase. I don’t know too many elite skiers who aren’t battling some sort of overuse injury. There are times when your body just aches from what you put it through. And racing brings pain to a whole new meaning. Does all this lead to gain? I think so. It makes you tough. After spending enough time hillbounding in the dark in a cold November rain, you feel pretty invincible. After getting up early for two weeks in a row during a volume block, you feel pretty invincible. After sweating through that last interval in July heat, you feel pretty invincible. And when you stand there on the start line, surrounded by people who on paper are much better skiers than you are, you draw on those past experiences where you felt tough, and it no longer matters that they have better skiing resumes. You know you can hurt; you’re confident in that ability, and that is what brings about a good race.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

olympic peninsula

After some touristing activities in Seattle, we piled two parents, a daughter, a boyfriend, two dogs, and a lot of stuff into one little audi, and started driving. We took the ferry over to the Olympic peninsula, and it started raining. Lots of low clouds, and rain. We decided to drive up to Hurricane ridge anyway, to see if maybe we got above the clouds up there, and then we found out that the dogs weren't allowed off the pavement in the parking lot, because this was in a national park. Silly rules. So we drove uphill for 17 miles anyway, only saw one rider (in that weather, the uphill wouldn't have been so bad, but the downhill would have been hell), and popped in and out of the mist until we got up to the visitor center. The mist was beautiful, in its way, but it was raining heavily enough that we decided that having wet dogs on our laps for the next couple hours in the car was not worth a walk in the rain with a universal view.

Headed back down, occasionally stopping to take pictures, and then realized everyone was in desperate need of a nap, so we checked in to a hotel instead of looking for a beach to run around on. Day two, I found a trail to run on (instead of pavement) in the morning, which started the day out right. First stop was this mountain thing my mom had read about in a brochure, which turned out very difficult to find. Got there, though, and there are some awesome forests out there; giant trees and all ferns underneath. I would hate to have been the first people through this area; I would likewise hate to orienteer out there.

Next stop was Rialto beach, and this was awesome. It stopped raining, and the sun came out, and there were these amazing sea stacks. The dogs get so confused by the salt water; Rudi tried to drink it at one point and made the most amusing faces trying to spit it back out. Neither dog wanted to get their feet wet so spent a lot of time skittering around avoiding waves. Eventually we got out to the arch, a giant sea stack that was still connected at the top. It all looked pretty pirate-ish to me. Ed found a piece of driftwood that looked like a perfect bludgeoning stick, and sort of looked like a caveman the whole walk. He claims he was looking for baby seals to bludgeon; its good we didn't see any.

The last day we went to another beach, at Kalaloch rocks, but it was pouring rain, which meant we got to sit with sandy, wet, beagles the whole drive home. We swung by a rainforest, just to check it out, and it was very different than the rainforests I'd seen in New Zealand--very open and light, not at all as dense as I remembered. An abundance of moss hung from anything that would provide a purchase point, and everything was sopping wet, probably because we were walking around a swamp in the rain. Not the sort of place I would try to farm, although evidently people did that back in the day.

Once back in Seattle Ed and I went down to the market to go buy a fish. They'll box up whole salmon for you to take on the plane (or send to someone) that are good for 48 hours. So, we bought a fish. The fish markets are so darn cool there. I wish Boston had something similar. I'm sure it does, I just don't know where to go. So we ended up in Cincinnati to see Ed's sister, and we ate fish. This makes it maybe 5 nights in a row that I've eaten salmon. Man I love that stuff.

Back to Boston on monday. I feel like I need to find some sort of weekday race its been so long. Wish I had been around for mt. snow, I need a good ass-whoopin. Oh well, rest weeks are good too.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Seattle Pictures (part 1)

We took a family bike ride to see the sights. It had plenty of pastry stops. The cool part was seeing the salmon swim upstream at the locks-- through these locks in their special salmon-stream things that people made for them. Most of them seemed intelligent enough to figure out how to get upstream, but some of them weren't so blessed. And then Ed pulled me home. Thanks Ed :)

Other highlights of the trip included a trip to Kubota gardens (hence the large tree that I'm hugging), and this car that we saw for sale. It was totally in my price range, and comes complete with an extra drivers' side door! What more could a girl want?

Mt. Rainier:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


After bashing Northwest Airlines because of their shitty service, I now have to plug for Delta--they got our bags onto our connecting flight in 5 minutes. We had the stewardess make everyone stay in their seats (like that ever works) to shove our way from the second-to-last row of the plane up to the door and then sprinted, I mean like heartrate at 180 sprinted--to the other gate for the connecting flight, where they had already given away our seats because they assumed we weren't coming. And they got the bags there anyway. Fantastic.

Anyway, we're now in Seattle. We spent two days doing touristy stuff, and eating fresh cherries, and hanging out with my beagles. Then we decided to go trot up to the Muir campground on the slope of Mt. Rainier. This is 5000 feet over 4.5 miles. I thought it would be significantly steeper, but it was all doable. The path starts at the visitor center, which is at 5400 feet. Apparently, the geniuses who built the visitor center miscalculated, and built a roof that can't handle any snowload. So, when there are 20 feet of snow on the roof, bad things happen. They go through ~$1000 of diesel fuel per day to melt the snow off the roof in the winter. Seems like a bit much, eh? But that is our national park service for ya.

The trail starts, kind of steeply, and its paved. Yes, paved, like asphalt. This is to keep everyone on the same path, but coming down we saw plenty of tourists who felt like they were privileged enough that the signs saying "keep off alpine meadow" didn't apply to them. Eventually the trail is no longer paved, but still very highway-like. We saw two marmots, the first was doing something normal like running across the trail, but the other one showed no fear of these big clomping human animals, and continued to sit there and eat its breakfast of flowers while we took pictures. It probably wants a cut of the profits from selling its picture for postcards or something. Finally we got past the regular tourist turn-around, and the trail becomes an actual mountain trail, and climbs steeply a bit more. Then we got to the snowfields, where the walking gets much easier.

I love walking in steep snow on mountains. Its so monotonous that you can just zone yourself out and you find yourself in your own little world of thoughts and white footsteps in dirty brown and pink snow. Especially when you're only on a snowfield and not a glacier, this is a very enjoyable way to walk. Lift the leg, swing the foot back and kick it into the snow like a pendulum from the knee, stand up on it, repeat with other leg. Slowly, steadily, rhythmically, side-stepping first one way and then the other, and then you get to the top of the little steep part, and trudge on to the next steep part. Those heavy mountaineering boots that seem so unwieldy on the rocks and dirt are completely at home in the snow, and after a while you feel like you're almost part of the mountain. Its a cool feeling. Around Anvil Rock, this big rocky thing that sticks up next to the snowfield, our beautiful sunny day became a lot more cloudy, and we walked into the clouds that were smashing themselves into the mountain and then whooshing over the top of the ridge. Naturally, it got much windier there, and I started wishing that I was wearing appropriate mountaineering pants instead of running shorts... It also started to get whited out. Luckily we were at the beginnings of a more or less marked path up to the campsite at that point, instead of just people randomly walking up a snowfield, so we followed this path up to the little pass, where there were a couple low stone buildings and people with tents.

We waited for my mom, who is probably the fittest mom I know. I can't think of too many moms who can do what she does, all with a smile on her face and poetry in her head. Its usually about a 10 minute wait every hour or so, so we went inside one of the little stone guide buildings to wait, fed her some chocolate, and we headed down. It was cold and windy up top, so we started out moving really fast. We could see enough through the cloud that I was confident we were going the right way--this was nothing like those whiteouts I've been in where you get completely disoriented and can't tell up from down or left from right because everything is so white. The snow was nice and dirty, it being July and all, with plenty of strawberry snow for variation. The clouds weren't that thick, either, otherwise I don't think we would have gone all the way up. So, we started down, and as it got steeper we did a lot more boot skiing, which is wickid fun.

Then we hit the first butt-slide. This is where other people have slid down on their butts and made a nice channel, sort of like a waterslide, down the slope. We had brought some plastic bags, so we sat on those, and you picked up speed really quickly. It was so much fun! so we went bouncing and whooping our way down the mountain. What had taken ~2 hrs to go up took ~30 min to come down. Eventually my butt got too cold and wet, so I started boot skiing a lot more, but my mom and Ed were having a blast butt-sliding.

It was kind of sad to get off the snow, because suddenly your boots feel heavy again, and you clomp downhill without sliding at all, and its a lot slower. Soon we began to see the tourists on their afternoon walks, most of them looking exhausted and wearing flipflops and stopping to sit down a lot. We saw a couple groups of people who had done the whole mountain; that sounds like it would be a fun trip. There are some tricky crevasses to get around above the campsite, so they recommend doing it with a guide, but my dad thinks he wants to join one of those groups at some point this summer. Hopefully he'll have good weather.

Yesterday we rented road bikes and my dad took us on his favorite 60 miler. We went around lake washington, which is the lake to the east of Seattle. We started out on this bike path that goes along rt 90... just keep pedaling and you'll get home! We got to Mercier island and did a lap on this really pretty windy road that contoured along a hillside with views of the lake in a forest. Very nice. Crossed the other bridge on 90 and loopety-looped around Lake Samammish to another bike path that took us back to Seattle. Nice ride.

Now we're off to the olympic peninsula for some walking and eating and the usual stuff with dogs. Hopefully it won't rain too much.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I realized three things this morning.
1. Its easy to get up early to train if you're excited about the workout.
3. My arms are so sore that its hard to wash my hands.

And now I go to Seattle. So, no races. And, I miss mt. snow. But, I think seeing my parents and the beagles and being a tourist and eating mountains of sushi and getting my legs ridden off by my dad and climbing big mountains and eating more sushi makes it worth it. Good luck to those of you who actually race in the summer!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

So, I normally don't write about training rides/runs, because, well, they're just not all that interesting. Unless I took some awesome pictures, there just isn't much point in sharing my experience of turning the pedals over and over to the giant world of the internets. Because who cares? But last night... that was almost epic. Particularly for a weeknight. Epic things aren't supposed to happen on weeknights!

Christian, a Colby cyclist, is in town all summer, so we got together to ride. Christian is crazy. He might even be described as sketchy by people who have raced with him. Most importantly, the kid can f#*&@n HAUL on a bike. I think my first mistake was to suggest doing a 4hr ride with someone who is decidedly faster than I am. The second mistake would be to actually DO that four hour ride. Luckily, Colin came along so I knew I wasn't the only one suffering.

I planned out a route, ~60 miles, that went out and about and circled west of 495 before heading back east. I even went to the length of printing out the map. This was a good thing. We started a little on the late side, 5pm, and I quickly decided that I do not ever want to ride with Christian in traffic again. He's only been in Boston for a month, so I gotta give him some credit, but seriously, he is going to get killed or badly hurt one of these days. We finally get out past all the traffic onto 117. There is a slight tailwind, but we're moving at 26mph. Which is really fast in my book. The plan was to take this road out to past rt 62 before we hit up some of the smaller roads, and this plan was a good one. And then, on one of the smaller roads, we got to a fork, while we were going down a hill relatively fast, and we took the left fork, and we should have taken the right hand one. But, since it was uphill to turn around, the lazy cyclists just kept riding, assuming that we'd be able to find a way back to our original route. Oops.

Eventually we wound our way back to 117, realized where we were, kept going the wrong way, and then changed course completely, going south through Marlboro. I was cooked at this point. We hit a little hill and it was just explosions going off in each quad. This happened on every little bump that passed for a hill afterwards. We determined that whimper pace is when the heart rate is in level 2 or so, but the legs have exploded beyond help. We got to rt 20 finally, and started working our way home. It hurt. Then it got dark. Colin had a blinkie, I had a white light thingy that almost passed for a light, Christian naturally had no lights, punk. Then Colin's light fell off. Now I was starting to feel kind of sketched out.

We got down the hill into Wellesley, and made it to comm. ave with no mishaps. Rode the carriage road back up the hill, getting onto the grass any time a car came down that street. I don't think I've ever been so glad to get home from a ride. My legs were cooked, but it was more the mental exhaustion of not knowning when a car was going to slam into you that wore me out. Oof. It ended up being 3.5 hrs, ~65 miles, although I clocked 80 for the day after going to work and back. That was SIGNIFICANTLY faster than I normally ride... So yeah, between the darkness, the humidity, the lostness, and the speed, I feel like that almost counts as epic.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

"That was a god damned good show"

According to some old guy watching ~$800 of fireworks go off, in time to music, with the push of a button. Ahhh, the Landgrove fourth of July party. Food, fireworks, and fun. Despite the rain.

And then we took Jackie on her first 40 mile ride, which cinq-tuppled her longest ride ever. There was no crying, and fun was had by all. Although she might just be a good actress. I hope she decides to ride her bike again. Maybe starting at 5:30pm wasn't such a great idea.

And then the car tried to die (again). This is after I backed through some tree branches, caught some branches in Ed's bike (its a big bike!), and broke my roof rack. I didn't think I'd hit the tree branches that hard... I go through them all the time with my bike on the roof and its fine! Stupid rain weighting them down! At least the bike stayed on the roof for the rest of the drive. We'll see how salvageable the rack is...