Thursday, July 31, 2008

The ups and downs

I guess I consider myself a serious athlete. I throw "serious" in there because there are definite sacrifices that I make in life in order to ski faster. I don't think I'm locked into this life, but it is one that I've chosen, at the expense of a different life. I'll keep my day job though, thank you very much.

Ten things I hate about being a serious athlete:
10. Training in cold rain
9. Social life? What's that?
8. Putting on a wet helmet (I guess thats not endemic to serious athletes...but it is something I hate!)
7. Training in the dark in November
6. Getting out of bed for morning workouts when I'm tired and its cold out
5. I can't live as car-free as I'd like without sacrificing performance
4. Resting
3. Serious lack of teleskiing, climbing, hiking, and other fun outdoorsy things
2. [Constant] overuse injuries
1. Sacrifices on my time with Ed

Ten things I love about being an serious athlete:
10. I love seeing the year-to-year (heck, day-to-day) improvement, knowing why it is happening, and being able to plot it over time
9. Races give me a healthy outlet for my hyper-competitiveness
8. The satisfaction of doing intervals and hitting every split and every HR goal
7. Being in shape--like, really in shape
6. Beating people
5. That tired, empty feeling you get after a long OD
4. The structure that training brings to my life
3. My competitions allow me to travel the globe, satisfying that travel urge
2. I can eat all the food I want
1. Following through with something I am passionate about

What did I miss?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

I had some very special visitors this weekend. My mom drove all the way from Rochester, mostly so I could see the dogs and just bask in their cuteness, but also just because a girl likes to see her mom occasionally. We didn't exactly do anything, making it a great weekend. Most of these shots are from our walk out in Hale Reservation in Dover.

Her majesty, Tira.

His Highness, Rudi. "I am king of this rock and all I can see from it! Now you will share your picnic with me."


Apparently my civic is a better transporter of building materials than Ed's truck. We're pushing our cart full of wood towards my car in the parking lot of Home Depot in Southie (where Ed's new office is), and this random dude walks up.
Random dude: "Sir, can I help you with that?"
Ed: "No thanks, I've got all the help I need"
Random dude: "Who, her?"
Ed: "Yeah"
Random dude: "Damn straight!"

And thats one of the light-up floor thingies that Ed works on.

"What is this thing? Do I eat it?"

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thunderstorms + rollerskiing = bad

A band of thunderstorms was supposed to be moving through Concord right around when we were going to hold practice, so Jamie, in his infinite wisdom, cancelled practice. Being young and stupid, I sent out an email to the group saying I would still be there, since I wasn't scared of rain, and not too scared of lightning, but could people please tell me some reason to be scared of lightning?

Luke says my email saved his workout. I got there late after picking up Mari, and Bob, Jimmy and Chris and Luke were already there, and the rain had diminished to a light drizzle. We got lucky, I suppose, because the rain was mostly done by the time we were doing intervals. But when I got home, I had a bunch of responses about why training during a lightning storm is a bad thing. I've pasted some of them below so I can share this knowledge.

Mari, me, and Luke, after a tough workout that went well into darkness... reflective bibs were worn during the workout, but taken off due to the flash of the camera.

Matt Truehart:
While I agree that skiing in the rain is great, and I like thunderstorms even better, the empirical scientist in me must dispute your pole argument. I'm assuming your poles are carbon fiber, in which case they conduct electricity quite well (much better than aluminum if I remember correctly). It has something to do with electrons within the carbon weave or between the fibers or something, but it only conducts in one direction, i.e., down the pole shaft. Your tungsten-carbide pole tip is a relatively good conductor as well. Since I'm thinking about it, I guess it might be possible (but probably pretty unlikely) to build up a static charge from friction in your rollerski wheel bearings, which would make you just a little bit more susceptible to a lightning strike.
Last week literally 5 seconds before we were about to start an OD ski, lightning hit the library tower here at dartmouth, so Ruff told us that we'd "better get going."

Doug McCartney:
my 2 cents from what i've read - no one ever melted in the rain (except perhaps the wicked witch of the west). As Will says, working out in the rain makes you feel very powerful.

however thunderstorms are dangerous. lightening likes the highest object, but it isn't always so. it can skip the steeple and hit the person standing next to it. it also can travel through things, along the ground, and over to you. simply put, lightening can kill. however, the old story about a car being safe is definitely true, but not because of the tires. it's because the lightening travels around the outside on the surface of the car and to the ground. so the best place to be is in a metal cage (ever been to the science museum?) But it has to be a complete metal cage all around you.

And if you can't get back to the car and you get caught out your best bet is to head to the open and crouch down like a catcher, make minimal contact with the ground (your feet), and be as small and short a target as possible. most importantly, never be near a tree or a tall object - it better to be wet than dead. Remember, an exploding tree is just like shrapnel.

but in the end i agree - it sort of sucks to be scared. have fun.

Irina Kotlova:
Alex, You sound like Russian!

No fear that somebody will sue you in case something goes wrong.

Rob Bradlee:
Thunderstorms are dangerous. A couple was killed in Maine last week when they went outside to get the dog.

Skiing in the rain is absolutely necessary if you are a serious athlete. However, most of the kids at the Thursday night workouts are newbies and skiing in the rain might make them decide to quit.

Jennifer Saffran
I used to think that the hesitation about being outside during thunderstorms was for wimps until I had some close calls. First, a co-worker of my husband's got killed by lightning up in VT. He was camping, and inside a tent. He had told the wife and kids to wait in the car, but he went back in the tent, for some reason. Lightning struck the ground near him, travelled, and killed him instantly.

Also, two childhood friends of mine got hit by lightning. One died. The other got thrown about 25 feet.

Colin Reuter:
cars can't see shit.

Scientists--if lightning is traveling through the ground, and you're on rollerskis, will it arc from one wheel, through the shaft, and back through the other wheel? Or will it just go right up your legs and into your body?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Urban Rollerskiing

As a coach of junior athletes, I'm supposed to be somewhat safety-conscious when I rollerski, to set a good example or something along those lines. You know, use skis with speed reducers, wear an orange vest, always wear a helmet, don't run stop signs, walk down scary hills, wear your kneepads, elbowpads, buttpads... ok, maybe not the pads. Those pads are pretty useless, any time I've fallen on rollerskis I scrape up my hip or my face and hands. But if you polled elite rollerskiers and elite road bikers, I'll bet a larger percentage of road bikers get road rash than skiers. Probably because we aren't doing rollerski crits, but, well, my point is that you just don't fall that often on rollerskis once you know how to do it, and if you aren't some crazy teenager trying to set speed records down Watchusett.

Since moving to Boston, I found that I had to develop a style of skiing that would jive with my new environment. I started "urban rollerskiing". It involves bad pavement, lots of cars, and residential streets. Around Newton, its actually really nice to ski all over the neighborhood streets in the early morning. Unlike bicycles, rollerskiers have the distinct advantage that the cars have no clue what the heck you're doing, so they slow down. This isn't out of the goodness of their hearts, its due to the gawk factor. You know how traffic slows down to gawk at a bad accident on the highway? Same thing, except there is (hopefully) no blood, gore, or firetrucks to keep their attention, so they move on. They just don't know what to expect.

This might terrify some of the more timorous rollerskis out there. But really, its not so bad, downright tame, actually. After a while, though, I decided that I needed something a little more hardcore. I was going to rollerski to work.

I live 7.3 miles west of where I work, by the straightest bike-able route. I thought about my bike route for a while, and realized that would never fly with rollerskis. Due to the whole "no brakes" thing, the minor inconveniences on a bike (bad drivers, doors, red lights, pedestrians on cell phones, road work) became major obstacles. But! There is a multi-use path along the Charles! All I had to do was figure out the safest way to get to and from this path, and I was golden!

My first roll on the path found the path itself to be pretty nice, and several long stretches of the path had been recently repaved! However, the entry and exit from the river path takes nerves of steel. Actually the exit isn't so bad, you just clumsily negotiate cobblestone sidewalks in Boston and can ski in a couple of the smaller streets, plus I'm at my destination so that makes it all better. But getting from my house to the path... well, I almost shat my pants the first time I did it.

I figured out how to avoid the rotary of death using sidewalks, but then you have to get down charlesbank road. This is a road used by commuters (the type in the four-wheeled boxes of steel), with no shoulder, bad pavement, and a stop sign at the bottom of a hill, into what is essentially a highway. FUN! This is a spot where I thought I scraped my nipple off last fall, by trying to snowplow to a stop and skidding one ski over some frozen leaves and sliding for a while on my chest. After that, I've started trying to negotiate the even sketchier sidewalk and running down the hill. Luckily this is a short stretch, and then you're on the freshly paved, smooth, car-less river path. Oh heavenly fresh pavement. I'll do anything to dig my tips into your smooth yet porous surface!

sketchy bridge over the masspike on sketchy charlesbank road.

Do I hobble along on the sketchy sidewalk or do I brave the traffic and ski on the sketchy pavement?

This pavement almost makes it worth it.

After about 10-11 miles of smooth pavement interspersed with stops for the bridges, its time to get off the path. I take the footbridge across Storrow, and the "I rollerskied through downtown Boston!" part of the story takes place. My favorite part is always skiing past the homeless dudes sleeping on benches in Boston Common, they're always awed by the coolness than is rollerskiing. At least, thats how I interpret things.

checking out the city from under the bridge where the trolls live.

After crossing this bridge over Storrow, true urban rollerskiing begins.

Boston Common and what comes after.

And to all those people saying "Now doesn't that look like fun!", or, "Awwww, sweet!"--rollerskiing isn't nearly as cool as it looks.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Attempt at self portrait while hill bounding

First try. I kid you not. I then proceeded to waste about 20 minutes trying to get a side view to work. I mostly ended up with this:

Or this:

And then I spent many, many hours cleaning the whole apartment. I feel so calm and relaxed when I walk into a clean room. Its such a fantastic feeling, I think I'll try this clean house things more often...

My advice to budding amateur self-portrait-ists: go with the straight on view, its a lot easier to get a good shot.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Double header of racing!

Attleboro Crit
Early last week, Julie sent out an email to figure out who was planning on going to Attleboro. Normally I ignore those emails since I'm not too interested in road racing these days, but for some reason, I felt like doing a crit. Maybe holding the bake sale at Wells ave got me in the mood, maybe I've just been hanging out with roadies or something, but I decided that was a good idea. I was already planning on a rollerski race on Sunday, so why not get into the swing of two races in a weekend already?

Saturday morning rolls around, Giulia and Julie pick me up, and we start down I-95... except that its closed, thanks to an oil tanker that apparently went boom and made big flames. The cop blocking the exit wouldn't tell us why the highway was closed, at first he wouldn't even say that the highway was closed, just that the exit was closed. Some people love their jobs, you can just tell...

After winding around some neighborhoods in Needham and Dedham, we got back on the highway and made it to the race with just enough time for a 10 minute warmup. Luckily we could warm up on the course, because I haven't ridden my road bike to do anything other than commute for about a year. The race goes off, I get into my pedals on the first stroke and find myself near the front of the pack. We go around some corners, I'm terrified of the girls around me and my heart is pounding, so many people! All turning together! On bikes! Bikes are dangerous! After a lap or two I can finally relax, I play with moving up and back and back up just to see what it feels like, note some of the sketchier handlers, and start to get bored. We didn't really have a plan, Julie just said to cover anyone who goes off the front, attack if I feel like it and she'll try and counterattack. Ok, I'll attack then, that sounds like fun, plus then I don't have to deal with other people trying to ride me into the sidewalk.

I go up the hill faster than the other people and use my mad "watts" to put like a two second gap on the field, and they catch me on the downhill. I guess I have to work beyond just the hill? I try this a couple more times, mostly out of boredom of riding slow, the pack is starting to get strung out, Cathy is up front a lot, also driving the pace a bit. This is good, its getting to be more fun. A Colavita rider goes off the front, she dangles by ten seconds or so for a couple laps. Then coming through the start/finish, I see an NEBC rider on her wheel. WTF? How did she get up there so fast? Shit, someone's gotta shut down that break before it becomes a break, and the other girls are somewhat stuck midpack. I sprint hard, and then realize that this was a lapped rider. Why was she on the Colavita girl's wheel? Doesn't she know the rules? Mad that I just sprinted for no reason, I sit in the pack as we reel in Colavita. A prime goes, I sprint for it but end up fourth. Apparently not riding ever means you have no legs to sprint. I'm not surprised. An attack ("attack", in 3/4 racing...) goes just after, I go with Cathy and the tall girl in blue and we string it out some more. Our higher than "lets just sit in a pack and ride in circles together" pace has dropped most of the sketchy handler people. This is getting to be fun.

Things kind of blur for a while, then its four to go, I know I want to spread things out enough that its not just a pack sprint, although Julie might like that, we didn't talk about it much. I pedal my bike up the hill on the inside, suddenly find myself at the front so I go hard across the top, its spread out again. Then Cathy is at the front again, my legs are hurting. It bunches up a bit more, then its last lap and I suddenly find myself on the outside of the field going up the hill. I don't like this spot, its not a good one, but I figure I'll just go really fast up the hill get around people. Then the girl ahead of me swerves left, hard, bumping with the girl next to her. Choice words, major slowdown, and I'm stuck behind it. Grrr. Make the corner, get around those girls, sprinting hard, I get back near where I want to be, still on the outside though. The really tall NEBCer decides to take the third to last corner way wide, I am apparently too small and quiet to register with her, I use my mad curb hopping skills to... ride up someone's driveway, through their front lawn, back into the pack, albeit back of the pack. Somehow there is a small gap between me and the front of the pack, we're on the downhill, I'm sprinting hard again. Still in an outside position, I don't like this outside thing, its how my last crit ended badly, all race I've been hitting the apex of the turns on the inside, going from mid to front in a move, but I can't now, and my juice is just about out. Final corner, pedaling through it, no power to be given. Weak attempt at sprinting while two weak girls whoosh by, and then its over, legs burning, out of breath like a cross racer.

Overall, I had a great time. I like racing with teammates, Julie ended up 3rd, Lizi was close behind after a sweet leadout (I hear), and Giulia was somewhere up there too. Would have been fun to be able to sprint, but I never claimed to be smart, and I spent most of the race sitting at the front or in the wind stupidly. Thats what you get for never road racing... Maybe I'll have to break down and do another race.

Climb to Mountain Top Rollerski Race
Saturday night I drove to Weston, got there, slept, woke up, drove to Rutland for the first NENSA rollerski race of the summer. V2 generously gave NENSA some matched skis, so that competitors can race together without somebody having faster skis than someone else. I warmed up for a while, and discovered that those nice NENSA bibs that are wind proof and full-body sized and so nice in the winter are... not so nice in the summer. Ilke and Katrina Howe were the real competition, although Keely Levins was there too, as well as another girl on Marwes who was somewhat pushy at the start.

We start out and Keely is leading, with Ilke and Kat just behind her, and the Marwe girl behind me to the right of that column. I want to get out of the wind, but on the first climb Kat is getting gapped, so I don't want to get behind her, but there isn't really room between her and Ilke. Ilke said I was boxing her in there, which is good, given the speed with which she took off at the top... geezum I wasn't ready to actually race! So as she takes off, I realize I have to go with her, or I'll never see her again, so I take off next, gapping Keely and Kat. I chase for what feels like forever, but is only a km or two, and finally catch up and we work together taking pulls trying to our age and experience to stay away from the younger gals. I'm working hard, it feels like a pretty maximal effort, despite my HR being somewhat low. This is a long, 7km false flat, and I can tell that my muscles are tired. It is taking a conscious effort to keep good form, and I am sweating a lot despite the cool 72 degrees. In fact, I'm projectile sweating, with the sweat coming off my head in giant drops to land on the pavement and make a splash. I'm a little worried about the how much I'm sweating and not having any water and knowing that soon I'll be going uphill with less of a breeze, but thank god some volunteers were handing out water 500m before the climb started.

We turn onto the climb, and I'm thinking that I really could have used just one more downhill before going up this thing; I drove it prior to the race and it is one hellacious 4km climb. I saw some guy walking a mt bike as I was driving, it was that steep. We start V1ing, and Ilke immediately has a gap on me. With a hill this long, you just can't bury yourself in the beginning, you have to ski your own race, so I let her go and just start counting off strides to each side. I'm switching every twenty, keeping everything in motion with my breath, and I find that I am slowly reeling her back in after about 5-10 minutes. The climb keeps going up, though, and I find myself working harder and harder to keep the same tempo. The pavement changes from nice new pavement to old cracked pavement, and each crack is throwing off my balance, kicking my rhythm off its track, the internal radio is blaring Lincoln Park but its stuck on the line "but in the end, it doesn't even matter..." which is less than motivational. My HR isn't that high, but my legs are screaming, the road flattens out a bit and I try to V2, it works, surprisingly, I check behind me and don't see anyone. Then it kicks up again, and now I'm really hurting. I'm faltering, staggering, not skiing smooth at all, Ilke is peeling away from me like Charlotte Kalla from Virpir Kuitinen.

I give myself a mental kick and get my movements back in tune with my breathing, this kicks my tempo back up and keeps my skis moving. Back on track but its way too late, Ilke is at least a minute ahead, skiing strong, knowing shes being chased and very motivated to stay away. I finally see the 200m left sign, and that was like manna from heaven. It flattens out here, too, so I can finally V2 and use my arms primarily, since instead of legs I seem to have mozzarella string cheese, thats been left out too long in the heat. I cross the line 50 seconds behind Ilke, a minute or two ahead of Keely, and Igor is standing there with some water. I down the whole bottle before I realize how thirsty I actually am, I go for more as I start cooling down slowly. Tough race, but rewarding to have worked that hard. Very glad I went up there!

Josh Dillon, Ilke's boyfriend, was nice enough to take pictures with my camera. He was also filming the race with Ilke's flip, doing the double handed thing, hence the blurriness.

The mid-men's pack on the first hill.

Women's "pack" first hill. I'm on the skiers' right, in the front, black shorts red boots.

Ilke has much better pictures from her flip on her blog. I'm the one on the skiers' right in the front (black shorts, red boots).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bike and Build

Oh my! Two posts in one day! Alex must be wanting to go home right now...

My friend Sharon is doing this crazy thing called Bike and Build, where a bunch of young people bike across the country and build houses as they go. Its pretty cool, although they're being pampered with full support and stuff. I figured I would give a shout out to her blog, since if you're reading this you're probably looking for something, anything, to pass the time this Friday afternoon...

It's a little late now, but you can still donate to the bike and build cause. Definitely a good cause.

I promise, no more useless posts. Until next week.

More gratuitous [roller] skiing pictures

Paul Stone was driving around with a camera during one of our OD skis at the Lake Placid camp, so here are some rollerskiing shots of me and Kat Howe.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I realized two things today. That I can't turn my bike to the right and that I can't be trusted to pick out a matching outfit in the morning. At least I got something for the top, something for the bottom, and most of the requisite undergarments...

In the spirit of more garmin pics, here is one from Cutler park. This is a park in Newton, it does the trick for those of us who don't live by the Fells but still want to ride bikes. I figured I go all Colin on you and annotate the picture, to make exploration of the park easier for anyone so inclined. These are great trails for goofing around on a cross bike...

And in other news, I'm racing a crit in two days. When was the last time I rode in a pack? Oh yeah, like two years ago. Here's to the rubber side down...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Garmin pictures from last weekend

This one is from a mt bike ride in VT. 1800ft of climb over 9 miles, I don't know if that is a lot, but it felt like a lot.

This one is from a run. 2347 feet of climb.

These two are from a rollerski (I don't know why I felt the need to put up two pictures, I guess just so you can see the hill from both sides?). 3961 feet of ascent over 26 miles. That also felt like a lot.

And finally the garmin picture from the hike we did in Lake Placid. We did a loop, but the battery died while out there, which is why it looks like we didn't do a loop. The big peak we went over is lower wolf jaw.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A screw and glue party!

Because how else does one attach excessive amounts of fireworks to a board?

First you do the actual attaching of fireworks to boards.

Then you go ride your bike all day. I rode this scary log thing, and given my mortal fear of logs, I'm darn proud of me.

Then you go to the picnic, byob. Who brought the damn athlete to the party??

Then Ed's cousin Rob makes the little kids churn ice cream. And forgets how to count as he's counting off their ten rotations...

Definitely the most popular guy around right now

Dee hands out the sparklers.

And then, things go boom.