Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I'm a superstar!

Well, not really. Kris Dobie got these new fancy flash thingies, and wanted to test them out, so I took my cross bike out to a park and we played around. I feel like such a hotshot now.

Jaaysus look at my bicep. I shall flex, and my competitors will quake with fear! Or laugh, because they don't have to carry that shit uphill.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ski Camp Wrapup

The NENSA camp ended today, with a 7.5k (for the girls, 9.3 for the boys) time trial up Franklin Falls road. This is the course that the US ski team uses, and it goes uphill. Jess did this one back in the June camp, but I'd never done it before. We started warming up and I noticed that my hips were still pretty sore from the no-pole intervals we'd done two days ago (six hours of training ago). I also noticed that my left quad was super tight, but assumed that would work itself out, as it had just been compensating for my gimpy right knee. I guess playing ultimate frisbee is a bad idea when you can't really run without limping.

After about 25 minutes of warmup, we all line up, in surprisingly humidity-free weather. Everything looked so sharp and in focus. I guess thats what happens when you aren't looking through a fog. Will said "GO", and we all took off. For about three strides, I thought I might ski with Jess. I quickly figured out that if I didn't ski my own race I wouldn't be finishing this one, though, so I backed off. I definitely felt the past week of training, even though I hadn't felt too tired doing the actual workouts. I figured everyone else was just as tired, so I tried to V2 as much as possible on the gradual winding uphills in the beginning. I kept tipping over towards my left side, still no idea why that was happening.

It felt like the short flat part before the climbing took forever. It was like I was going through the motions, putting power into the motions, and nothing was happening. Its like when you push the accelerator in my car... you give it gas but it don't go nowhere. Eventually, despite feeling wobbly and weak, I made it to the uphill section. This is sort of when the problems really began. First my left calf cramped up. I fought down the panic that it was my shin (the compartment syndrome one I just had operated on), and loosened my boot a little. Soon afterwards, as I tried in vain to push in a strong, rhythmic tempo off both legs, my hips started to seize. I thought I could work through this one, but it quickly became faster to doublepole up the hill than to V1 it.

The first section of climbing leveled out, and I thought maybe I could recover on the flat part and do some V2. This is when my left quad gave a feeble squawk of protest and stopped working. I managed to not fall down, and proceeded with project straight-legged skate. This doesn't work very well, so soon I was double poling again. The hill kicks up pretty steeply about halfway through the course (I think), and this was pretty bad. I maybe have been at a standstill at some point. I started alternating 10 strides of V1 and 10 double poles. My shoulders were pretty tired, but they weren't cramped up into the knots that my hips and legs were.

The climbing finally flattened out, and my double pole started to move me forwards again. I tried to keep my attitude a little less negative than it was tending towards, and that probably staved off the tears of frustration. There is nothing like training really hard and being unable to perform. Yeah, it was a long camp, but everyone else went through it too. I guess I could blame the antibiotics.

Anyway, I rolled across the line, trying not too look too pathetic, although I think Tom caught some of the double pole pathetic-ness on camera. ah, well, I swallowed my pride when I decided to come to this camp sick. My knee has now swollen to about twice the size of the other one, so I think some time off and lots of ice and ibuprofen is in order. I think it was probably the 2 hr hike/run followed by the 1.5hr "recovery" run (we got lost and 45 minutes got doubled by mistake) followed by spenst and ultimate frisbee was just a recipe for disaster... will I ever learn?

This camp was good though, because it is always motivating, if sometimes in a negative way, to see what other athletes are doing at any given time of year. It was too bad that there were so few girls, but Jess and I had a good time anyway. I felt like I learned a bunch, picked up some valuable technique changes I should make before snow falls, and I've reaffirmed my need for some quality rest. Especially before cross season and ski intensity picks up... Very glad I'm not racing GMSR this weekend...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pictures from NENSA camp

At the top of Cascade mt:

The setup:

The flip:

Someone jumping off a giant rock into Ausable Chasm:

Paul having a classic "Paul Stone" moment:

REG camp part 1

So I'm up in Lake Placid, enjoying the humidity and heat with about 15 other skiers. Its been super humid, but that might be just because we're training while the sun is up or something. At least the swimming holes are good and the water is cold...

I've been taking it pretty easy--using the shortest possible option for workouts and keeping strictly in the zone I mean to be in--and doing this at a training camp really, really, sucks. You finally have a chance to ski with people, and you have to cut yourself off... at least I figure this is probably the smartest decision I've made all summer (not training too hard).

The first day we got together and did a short classic rollerski, followed by some strength. Friday was hill bounding and ski walking intervals in the morning, and then a distance skate ski in the heat of the afternoon. Saturday we did a distance double pole with some accelerations to max power in the morning, and went for a hike/run in the afternoon. Training posts are boring, I know, but I find it interesting to see what elite skiers do at a camp :). We eat, we train, and we rest... its glamorous, let me tell ya.

The OTC hasn't changed since I was last here, still great endless food and posters from like 1970 that I wish I had hanging on my walls. The coaches here are Janice Sibilia, Chris Cook, Paul Stone, and Andrew Johnson just arrived last night. Most of the skiers are college skiers, there are three guys still in highschool, and a smattering of post-college skiers (if Dave Chamberlain can be called post college).

So, yeah, training, woot! Pictures of people jumping off of giant rocks to come.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More stupid decisions

Tomorrow, I head to the Regional Elite Group (REG) camp in Lake Placid. These camps are awesome--some of the best coaches from around the country come and coach you for six days, and you get to train and hang out with other like-minded skiing fiends at a facility specifically designed with athletes in mind. Its a pretty great setup. On the agenda are multiple technique sessions, intervals, a time trial, a trail run, OD rollerskis, strength sessions, technique analysis... these are a packed six days.

You'd think, given my last couple weeks of wimpiness, that I'd be over the whole whining thing. Well, apparently the reason I felt so crummy yesterday was because I have some sort of bacterial throat infection... they ruled out mono (thank god), and ruled out (95% certainty) strep, but whatever it is, they said that after 24 hours on antibiotics, I'm not contagious. Which, to me, means I can go to the camp. Smart? No. But since I don't think I've made a smart decision yet this month, I'm going anyway. Not only did I have to pay money for this camp, its way too valuable an experience to miss. We'll see how I feel... As long as noone else gets sick, I'm happy. Nobody touch my gatorade this weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Race report... HA!

I set myself a 20 mile curfew from my house last weekend. Basically, I was doing too much racing, too much travel, too much training... and I got sick. And stayed sick. And realized what I already knew: I was doing too much.

So having a gimpy knee all last week gave me an excuse to train only 6 hours. I don't think I've had a week this low (not counting April) since possibly sophomore year of college. I slept in and ate strawberry waffles on Saturday. And then I took a nap. I contemplated going for a ride, and ended up taking another nap.

Sunday, I went peach picking. They charge you extra if you overfill your cardboard box of peaches, so Anna and I made sure we got our money's worth by eating 3-4 peaches each, repacking our box twice to make sure we had the maximum number of peaches in there, and stuffing a couple extras in our pockets. Cheating the system? Maybe, but I don't think I'm any stranger to that...

Then, we went rollerskiing. We did the two hour CSU loop. Anna mostly no-pole skated because of her gimpy shoulder, I mostly double poled because of my gimpy knee. It was a very relaxed, mellow sort of ski. And now its Monday, and this is the first Monday in a very long time where I haven't felt completely beat by the previous weekend. Its nice, in a way. But I can't wait to race again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

24 hours of Great Glen - the long version

Well, I lost the race for us this past weekend. Basically, I did a lap that was long enough for two, and didn’t count because I didn’t have my timing chip on me. So, yeah, a whopping 2:50 lap for one of our night laps, and the other laps were around an hour. So much for being in the money… but the race was a fun time anyway, and nobody seemed to want to draw and quarter me at the finish. Tracey was there too, despite having had a baby 8 weeks ago, as well as many other people that we all knew.

International Bicycle had two women’s teams, a sport team and an expert team, and a bunch of guys on various teams. I was on the sport team with Rebecca, Hannah, and Anne. It’s amazing how not having to start a race at the race start time leaves you feeling so relaxed. Well, that lasted the whole four seconds it took for me to run from Rebecca’s handoff to my bike. By the time I reached the top of the switchbacks in the field, I felt ready to rip. Of course, there were still a lot of people all around me, since pretty much everyone was on their second lap. I don’t play well with others. Going down some singletrack, I clipped the back tire of some guy who fell in an awkward manner in front of me (ok, maybe I was pulling a roadie move and too close to him…), and I smacked my knee pretty hard on his bike. This would go on to bother me for the next 24 hours.

Its funny how I’ve never noticed how much uphill the Great Glen trails have when I ski there. In fact, I’ve always found Great Glen to be a little too flat for my tastes. I guess I just can’t climb on a bike, because daaaaamn I was sick of those hills by the next morning. I managed to not fall off the little 4-inch bridges, and the only really scary part was “the plunge”. This was a steep, divotty, scary downhill, that ended in a 90 degree turn to the left. I have issues turning my bicycle.

At least I don't ride this bicycle.

We were pulling single laps during the afternoon, because we figured that would be fastest. I figured that my second lap would be one of my fastest laps, since I had now seen the course, but I was still fresh, and very much in hammer-mode. Of course, Alex being Alex ate far too many goldfish crackers between laps, and when I got on my bike again, boy did my stomach not want me to be racing. My banged-up knee was also throbbing a little, even though I had iced it and taken some vitamin I. Despite these minor inconveniences, I raced as hard as I could, riding much more cleanly through some of the slightly more technical sections than I had last lap. I even rode the plunge cleanly. My third lap was in the dark, and I had a great time. I guess riding at night at the Fells was a good idea, because I felt comfortable and confident the whole way round. My original plan had been to ride the night laps at a comfortable distance pace, but my competitive side kicked in, and I still hammered.

Through the night, we decided to ride double laps, so I had until 2:00am before I rode again. I got up without a problem at 1:15, and decided to go check with the timers to see when Rebecca got in so I’d know how much time I had to eat and change and all that. I got down to the tent, and saw Rebecca running around frantically. She gasped out to me that her lights had burned out, and she’d had to backtrack to the start. This, according to the rules, gets you a nice fat DNF, so I got worried, but the timers said they would let it slide since Rebecca had been so close to tears. She asked me if I could go out, because her lights needed to charge, and not having too many options, I raced back to my tent and got dressed. I shoved a couple gels in my shorts and took off, hoping to make up part of the 38 minutes we had now lost.

The lap was going pretty well, after I had calmed myself down enough to think about what I was doing. I was feeling confident in my abilities, so I decided to ride the plunge. Next thing I knew I was sliding downhill on my face at mach 1. My first instinct was to get my bike out of the trail, and then I had to sit down because I had banged/punctured my other knee, and it hurt badly enough that I was hyperventilating. My light had broken off of my helmet, and after about 20 minutes of trying to re-attach it (the fixture does NOT look broken), I decided that I was either too stupid to do this, or it really was broken. At least the light still worked. So I taped it to my handlebars, but realized it was pointing basically straight up. I then re-taped it, and walked down the rest of the plunge. I tried to get back on my bike, and it took me four attempts before I finally got it, but I kept steering into the woods. I figured it was because I couldn’t see, but soon I realized that my stem was crooked by a good thirty degrees. Oops. Luckily, when I got in, Anne was dressed and ready to go, so I went off to fix my bike, my lights, and myself.

I decided that I needed some more punishment on this course in the dark, so I woke Hannah long enough to tell her I would take her double night laps, although after my 1:23 lap, plus the 38 minute pause between Rebecca and myself, it would probably be light by the time Anne finished. Tracey had an extra helmet mount that fit my light, thank goodness, so that was fixed, and baby wipes took care of most of the blood. The back wheel was badly out of true, barely moving past the brakes, so after straightening the stem I took it down to the neutral support. I was waiting for them to fix my wheel when I saw this guy storming by. He was bitching to his friend about how he had just ridden a double lap without his timing chip, and so both laps were both scratched. I thought to myself, thank god I had my chip on, and reached down to my ankle just to make sure. OH, SNAP! Yup, I just rode that horrendously long lap without my chip.

So, when Anne tagged off to me, I was pretty upset. Fightn’ mad, as some might say. Screwing up something that other people depend on is one thing for which I have zero tolerance. I took off, and just hammered until I couldn’t see straight. This may have caused a couple crashes, which just made me angrier. I was so mad that I had screwed up the race for my team that I was still steaming as I came through the first lap, and luckily nobody was there to take over because I needed another lap to cool down my head. As I rode my second lap, the sun came up, and a bagpiper came out and started playing some sort of squeaky song, and I was riding fast and clean and I wasn’t mad anymore when I tagged off to Hannah.

I tried to get another hour of sleep, but it was too noisy, so it was more just lying there with my eyes shut thinking about how much my legs hurt and my hips were spasming. Rebecca and I decided that after Anne’s lap, we were just going to hammer the rest of the laps and try and get one extra, but it turned out that there was another team that was accidentally being listed as beginner that was actually sport. We went out and hammered anyway. I had been turning 52 minute laps when I was fresh, and 56-57 minute night laps (if you ignore the 1:20 lap), but I was hoping to get a sub 51. It didn’t happen, I rode a 56, and my poor bruised knee was making some bad noises and worse feelings if I tried to apply any serious power to my pedals. Rebecca got in five minutes after noon, which was fine by me because I was limping so badly at this point that I don’t think I could have handled another lap.

So, although I had kind of badly screwed up, nobody cared too much, or at least they hid it really well from me. I had a great time, and I absolutely loved my team, both the sport one I was on and our expert team too. We shared a giant tent with a couple other teams, that were also super nice, and I didn’t meet one nasty person out there. There is a great sense of camaraderie when you’re on a team, even between the teams. And everyone admires those crazy solo riders. I’m done beating myself up, but I was not a happy camper for a while. I have no idea why I took off the chip; I think I had wanted to wash my ankle or something. But that was just an unacceptable mistake, which was why I couldn’t believe I’d done that. Next year, that damn chip is going to be surgically implanted under my skin. I guess that competitive side of me just won’t let this go for a while. Great race, though, and I can’t wait for next year!
Karen's boyfriend being chased by a great white shark...

The "before" pictures:

Colin, Nils, and Linnea all looking thrilled:

Me and Tracey:

The lemans start: 100m from the gun and Boobar is already way out front:

CTodd before the pain hits:

The little tent ghetto by our big tent:

Inside the big tent:

The "after" pictures. Notice how smiley the people on four person teams are, compared to the two person teams...

Our expert team won!

Monday, August 13, 2007

24 hours of Great Glen--the short version

So I think this sums it up:

Things that hurt:
-right knee from hitting it on someone's bike and bruising it badly first lap
-left knee from crashing on it/puncturing myself
-right forearm from re-opening the road rash from last week
-forehead from the bruise when I slid down the hill on my face
-hip where its bruised from crashing on it
-neck and shoulders from either crashing or more likely muscling my bike over wet roots
-lower back from just riding hard for 7 hours

Things I broke:
-helmet (yes the new one I just bought on wednesday)
-helmet mount for my light

Things I lost:
-one rear brake pad
-my timing chip (but only for one lap thank god)
-my mind

Hours slept: 2.5
Number of crashes: between 8 and 25, depending on what you call a crash
Number of times I had to adjust my front brakes: 4
Number of times I had to bring my bike to the pit: 2
Number of times I got passed by Boobar: 4
Number of times I beat Tracey's lap times: all my laps
Number of IBC riders: 14 (including our teams as IBC)
Number of ibuprofen tablets taken: 9
Miles ridden: 59.5 (although only 51 official ones)
Approximate number of calories eaten: 7000
Gallons of water drunk: 2.5
Number of mechanicals on the trail: 0!

Overall: Great time!!!! I can't wait for next year. Although given the rate I'm going through helmets right now, I think I better give racing a break for a bit...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Great Glen Prep

The 24 hours of great glen is this weekend. I've never done a 24 hour race before; I've done 12 hour ROGAINEs (no, nothing to do with the hair product) with Ed before, but that was only 12 hours and it was on foot. I guess that is considerably harder than 6 hours on a bike (I'm on a team of four). But I'll save those harder/easier comments for afterwards, because who knows, I might wreck myself as I have a tendency to do on that bike. Its funny though, I would much rather ride my mt bike than my roadie, despite my propensity for crashing. In any event, I'm super psyched to do this race, and not just from the racing standpoint--my team is amazing, and we all get along great, although we'll see if that changes after 24 hours together! Shoul be a great time. We'll see how I feel afterwards...

I thought it was just a bike race. Then I got the two page, color-coded, excel spreadsheet outlining all the stuff we need/want to have there. Wow. There were little check marks by people's names, indicating that they had to supply certain group things. My name was checked by the "baked goods" row. Ok, I can do baked goods. I (and my team) were imagining something like a batch of cookies and a batch of muffins. Just food that tastes good enough that you can eat it after you're sick of bars and gels. Well, I made the mistake (perhaps not a mistake) of telling Jackie I was going to bake things, and we started baking last night, and continued for a good six hours.

We ended up with zucchini lemon muffins, carrot spice muffins, maple walnust banana bran muffins, blackberry scones, lemon bars, oatmeal cookies, and chocolate cherry chocolate chip cookies. Holy cow.

So all these delicious baked goods make me want to not pack/clean my bike/fix my bike/study for the GREs. All valid things that need to get done. And I want to just sit here and eat blackberry scones. I'm going to have to make more of those before tomorrow at the rate these are disappearing...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Jess and Alex go on a Vermont adventure

After the Concord crit, Jess Snyder and I drove to Vermont, to get her skis evaluated by Zach Caldwell before he goes west, and then to do some serious ski training. We decided that the best plan would be to do a super duper long distance workout, because thats kind of fun, in the twisted skier's mind. So, we decided to start with a run, then ski, then bike to finish off as many hours as we needed that day. The run section vaguely followed this, over the top of the Peabody-Holt mt saddle, onto the Catamount trail, hitting up with the Danby road in the White Rocks Recreation Area, and then down down down down down into Danby. We stashed our skis by a dugout in Danby, and then skied along these roads, mostly uphill, through Walingford, East Walingford, and to the top of the pass into Weston. There, our bikes were locked to a tree by the side of the catamount trail again, and we switched out equipment again and biked home (route).

Mandatory "before" picture

We drove the loop before we started to put all our stuff in the right places. Mostly, we were just worried about having enough food. It took about an hour and a half to drive the whole thing, since we were going to be covering about fifty miles (on foot). The run started out in the shade, and we were up pretty high in elevation, so it wasn't too hot. Jess wanted me to remind her to drink out of her waterbottle enough, so I made loud, obnoxious slurping noises every time I was planning on taking a drink. It worked pretty well. We came over the top of the saddle between the two mountains, and descended into Green Mountain National Forest.

The part along the Catamount trail is gorgeous, and there were no bugs. Eventually we had to negotiate a little beaver dam damage, but otherwise the run went smoothly. Coming out of the woods onto the Danby road, we were still in the shade, and we started taking some "action" shots.

When the road turned from dirt to pavement, we knew we had come to the downhill section, and for about 20 minutes we went steeply downhill. Eventually we crossed a stream, and temptation was too strong; We took a five minute break to ice our lower legs and refresh ourselves before skiing.
We got to the dugout, and the skis were still there! That is step one. Got on the skis and started out north along rt 7, which is pretty flat, so we did a lot of double poling at first. Eventually we got into Walingford, and wasted a good 10 minutes searching for a place to fill up water bottles there. I guess being sick has its advantages; you're thirsty all the time, so you drink a lot. I always felt like I was full to bursting with water and gatorade, which was mostly a good thing.

The ski soon started uphill along a really pretty river on rt 140. It was still pretty shady, which was good because it was really hot down there. I should mention that we were trying to carry our running shoes with us on the ski, so that we wouldn't have to return to Danby (its harder to get to than the area where we dropped off the bikes). So, our waterbottle belts were so heavy that it took me a good 20 minutes before I felt comfortable enough to stride. We had water bottles, gu, bars, gorp, two shoes, sunscreen, a camera, money, and a shirt, all tied around the waist. Although a little bulky, it was less cumbersome than I would have thought.

Eventually we got up to East Wallingford, and after some more "action" shots, realized we were out of water. There are no gas stations or general stores in this town, so I was worried we would have to do the last eight miles or so without water. Luckily, there were a bunch of rednecks drinking beer on a front porch, and they were more than willing to give us water. "DANBY??? You came from DANBY??? Sheeeit, ah spent all day on a roof, but you rode in from DANBY!". They seemed suitably impressed, but it may have been the sports bras.

After a long stretch of stride-able uphill, we were finally at the bikes. We had been pretty good about being level 1 nazies, but we were still tired from running and rollerskiing for almost six hours.
We decided that the prudent thing to do would be to just go back home, rather than try and fit in a real ride, since we wanted some dinner and Jess had to drive back to Rochester that night. All in all, it ended up being about 6.5 hrs, most of which was skiing and running. Great day! (although my head could definitely have used some more ibuprofen at some point...)

Here, Ed laughs at us as we try to explain what we just did... for fun.