Friday, January 20, 2012

Riding with Old Friends, on an Old Trail. Ugggh.

After yesterday's ride, I decided I hadn't had enough. The itch to ride has bit me hard once again now that a) I can ride trails again and b) I know that I have a lot of work to do to get back to my previous fitness level. Since the forecast was calling for some heavy rain, I figured they'd likely close the trails so I wanted to get my miles in while I could before it came. So when a couple fellow riders announced they were planning to do their own endurance ride, I happily agreed that I would join them for it, or at least a part of it. My plan was to ride until my legs were toast and then go home and enjoy the impending rain storms headed my way knowing that the best time for muscle recovery is when you have no desire to ride anyway because you feel like you already "got your fill" of pedaling.

I met up with one of the guys and we headed off to the trail. Not long into the ride,  he had a spectacular "superman" crash over a drop off where his pedal clipped a root and sent him flying over the handlebars. As I crested the hill, I saw him flying through the air and then out of my periphery, I saw his bike rolling down the peninsula and headed straight for the lake. Luckily it stopped about halfway down and he was able to retrieve it before it hit the water which was good because it was way too cold  for a swim today.

Moments later, another fellow rider who was supposed to ride with us finally caught up only to be regaled with the crash details he just missed by being late for the ride. Fortunately, it was just a bit of arm road rash with no serious injuries, other than him being a little shaken up with likely some battered pride. We carried on our ride to finish this trail. Now these are some of the same guys who I used to ride endurance with over the summer almost every week. The same guys who I used to lead and who would complain that they couldn't keep up with me. Oh, how things have changed. I am not sure if my legs were tired from yesterday's ride, or if it was that I am sadly out of shape from not enough trail riding, but while I could keep up for the most part, I was working my tail off to do so. To put it bluntly, I was suffering with the pace they were pushing and there was a lot more heavy breathing coming from me than I remembered. I am not used to suffering. I am not normally the suffer-er, I am the suffer-ee. Correction, I used to be the suffer-ee.

At the end of the trail, I bid them goodbye so they could finish their own endurance ride which still required a few more dirt miles to get them back to their own cars. What an eye opener. I am going to keep riding with them and hopefully, it won't be long before I can keep up again without so much effort. Because, quite frankly, I really hate being at the back. ;-)  It's not at all as exciting being in that spot on a group ride as say it is on the last car of a scary roller coaster. Not nearly.

First Endurance Ride of the New Year

Today was my first long endurance ride of the new year on the mountain bike. Being that it was particularly cold and windy today, the first thing I did was bundle up in many layers and then look for my warmest winter gloves. One of the most difficult things about living in a "Southern-ish" state, is trying to prepare for and stay organized for winter rides. That's because winter isn't so much as a season here, but more of a "come and go", type of event during that time that technically is classified on the calendar as Winter to the rest of our hemisphere. Consequently, the big guns of winter cycling wear don't come out that often. Often times, I just can't find them no matter how hard I look when I actually do need to find them. I have one cycling clothing dresser and at any one time, it shares every season's wares. You'll find short sleeved jerseys, mixed in with heavy winter windproof tights, surrounded by mid-season knickers, cycling shorts, wool base layers and everything in between all sharing the same space no matter what time of year it is. It just doesn't make sense to try to have seasonal clothes separated around here because the weather can change at a moment's notice. One day it will be 65 degrees and sunny, the next day 30 with severe wind gusts and then back to 55 and raining. All in the same week. That's our winter.

As a result of this crazy winter weather pattern that doesn't like to stick around too long, I find myself constantly jumping from one season's cycling gear to another, often in consecutive days. Not that I'm complaining mind you....I love those 60 degree days in winter when others are shoveling snow up North.

So because of this, I found myself searching frantically for my good winter gloves. And failing. I finally just got frustrated and left with my short fingered gloves with a pair of small stretchy fabric gloves to pair them with hoping that it would be enough to keep me warm.

Once, I got to the parking lot, I was the only one there. Even though I had invited others to join me, with it being a weekday, I didn't have much hope that anyone else would show up. So, I pulled out my trusty Ipod and got to pedaling. I decided to do a limited edition of the former endurance ride I used to do before the riding break, both literally and figuratively. (See what I did there..."Break". Ha Ha I slay me!!) Anyway, that meant 25 miles round trip on primarily all single track on a beautiful network of trails which link up easily and minimal pavement.

As I began my ride, I decided to take it slow to really get a good warm up. It wasn't long before I was shedding my extra knit gloves and  my extra arm warmers. Unfortunately, my warmup speed seemed to be where the speedometer needle stayed for this whole ride. While I had the endurance I needed and felt as if I could go all day, I felt like I had no power. I just couldn't get myself to hammer fast for any long stretch of trail. I could really see that my ability to maintain faster speeds over long distances and my explosive power bursts for hills have pretty much faded during these 3 months of "other riding" options. It was a really enjoyable ride though even though I felt all slow-like and eventually the amount of clothing I was wearing and the temperature became compatible enough that  I finally I was wearing the ideal mix of not too hot, but not too cold.

My husband even took some time out to meet me for one of the legs of my ride although he didn't have time to ride the whole distance. That perked up my speed a bit as I am always happy to see his smiling face. Once we finished up that portion of the ride together, I still had 9 miles to finish alone to get back to my own car. So I hunkered down and did the last few miles turning up my Ipod to drown out my heavy breathing. I really started feeling tired towards the end. I sucked it up and just kept pedaling purposely not looking at my speedometer especially as I was climbing anything that remotely felt like a hill. I just finished reading Jill Homer's book Ghost Trails about her Alaska bike race. If I've learned one thing from her story, it's that dogged determination can get you through any ride as long as you just keep pedaling forward even if it feels like you are going 2mph. So that's what I did. But, I am pretty certain I was doing at least 3mph. Possibly even 4.
Oh, and another lesson I learned out of that book was that when I complain about riding in the "cold", that I don't know the half of it, but that's a different topic for another day. Truthfully, though, great book. Read it for some great inspiration.

By the time I finished the ride, I was tired, hungry and my legs were sore. All I could think about was how much I really wanted a Snicker's bar and the first store I'd be passing to buy one.  But, the best part of all was that I had a smile on my face once again during the drive home from completing my biggest accomplishment this year so far. Even though I may not be as fast as I was last summer, my endurance is still there and that's a start. I just need some time to work up my speed again over the long haul, but I have all winter to gain back that strength before Spring gets here. And, hopefully when that day comes, I won't still be wasting precious riding time looking for my missing winter gloves and trying to recall the last place I saw my arm warmers.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fireroads and the Regret of "getting sucked in".

I am really lucky in my riding options that are close to me. In addition to the many, many miles of trails I have at my wheel tips within minutes, we also are fortunate enough to have a few beautiful greenways, and a fantastic 7 mile fire road which surrounds a lake.  It is the ideal place to do laps when the trails are closed due to wet conditions and  is perfectly suited terrain for riding a cross bike.

My plan for today was to do 5 laps. The first lap was going well and I even stopped to take a couple photos. The second lap, was relaxing and fun as I took in the scenery.

I  came upon a flock of male cardinals all hanging out together like some sort of a bird stag party. I also saw a crane walking across the more shallow part of the lake. Very cool wildlife day but unfortunately, I could not get my phone out fast enough to photograph them.

Then came my third lap....oh my third lap.
That's about the time when it all started going to hell. I was maintaining a nice comfortable endurance pace when some guy decided he had to pass me. Really? I mean I am out here minding my own business and you see a female rider and find the idea that she may be riding  ahead of you is an absolute horror. So this guy passes me and I see that he is really pushing the pedals hard when he goes by. Like race pace hard. But, he is riding on a mountain bike. And it has some old style rear suspension where the thing is bobbing like a kid for apples on Halloween with every pedal stroke he makes. Clearly, not the most efficient bike for this hard packed terrain. So I let him pass me and keep my steady pace wondering where the fire was that he must be heading to. I didn't smell any smoke. Slowly, I am gaining on him. However, I didn't want to pass him because I had nothing to prove so I hung back a little. I felt silly passing a mountain bike on a cross bike especially on this type of trail.  Then finally, it was evident that the inefficiency of the rear shock on his bike was no match for the rigid cross bike so I reluctantly passed him feeling apologetic. But for some reason, right after that pass, I decided to pick up my own pace.  I hate when people pass me for no good actually for the "gender" reason. It bugs me something wicked. And that's when my competitive nature that I really didn't think I had reared its ugly head. Whoah!

Before I knew it, my nice endurance pace was much higher than it should be and I was breathing hard. Too hard. Dammit! This lap was ruined because now I was riding race pace when I should have been riding endurance. Sucked in!!  By the time I got back around from lap 3, I was feeling the extra effort I just put forth. I had at most, one more lap in me, but there was no way I could do two so my 5 lap goal was not happening . All because of some random individual who I should not have let get to me, but I did. Why, I don't understand. I am learning about myself though regarding my "non competitive nature". See while I will never put forth a challenge to someone because that is stupid and petty, I will never back down from one either. Because that is neither stupid nor petty right? That's just brave now isn't it. :-)

My last lap was way slower than the average of the three before and I could feel the lactic acid now building in my legs. I rode back to my car and felt so foolish for getting sucked in and ruining my own ride.

Next time I  should ride with blinders on rather than sunglasses. I've seen them work on horses and my pack mentality is somewhat animalistic when it comes to the "chase", so it seems fitting. Just call me Mister Ed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Another Beautiful Day, Back to an Old Friendly Trail

Hadn't planned on riding today, but I got home earlier than I thought from a family visit. It started out sunny and high 50's which is amazing weather for January. But as we drove, I could see the clouds were definitely rolling in fast. I checked the weather on the smart phone and decided to try to get a ride in before the rain was expected to arrive by early evening. Due to time constraints, I figured I'd go to the closest trail to me which although is pretty flat,  is really rooty. I love this trail because it reminds me of "home". While we didn't have the elevation there, we did have the roots. Probably why I like them, familiarity and all that. Temps were great and the trail conditions were very nice. This was another trail that I've been off of for almost 3 months. The good news, no major trail changes, and my skill set hasn't lost too much overall for riding rooty sections. I did however realize that my tires really are shot and not just for muddy sections. I guess after 1400 miles on these, some new ones are in order. I think I placed my order on Friday for some new ones at the right time.

The Lone Holly Tree
Normally, I don't like New Year's Resolutions. Far as I can tell, most people make them only to become unsuccessful in their resolve not long into the new year. However, I realize that with every new year celebration, pictures become more and more important if I one day want to remember my rides as more than just a blur. So in that vein, my New Year's resolution this year is to take a little time on my rides to "smell the roses" so to speak. I will stop to take photos if I see something interesting on the trails and take a little more time to enjoy the ride as much as the "ride". So here ya go. A little green in a sea of dead brown that is my trail in winter. I found it pretty, so I thought I'd share instead of riding right by them like I usually do thinking....oohh that was nice, I should have stopped to take a picture.

So pretty...
After I finished that ride, I still had some energy and the rain hadn't started yet. I decided I'd go home and take the cross bike out for a couple short laps at the local park and practice mounts and dismounts for the upcoming race. I am so glad I did. While my mounts and dismounts can be classified as nothing short of  absolute newb, I managed to get off and on the bike several times without falling over. Bonus!! The one thing I did learn today was that I can not run the higher pressure I have been running in my tires off road. Once I took the bike into bumpy dirt and uneven grass, the lack of suspension was rattling my teeth around so bad, I feared I would let go of the bars on the downhill. So lesson of the day was that 80 PSI works for smooth-ish dirt, but is not at all good for the changing terrain that I will probably find in an actual cross race. So now I will start experimenting with tire pressures and hopefully will get something dialed in within the next two weeks.

I also hope to start doing some good long trail rides starting next Friday to start building up my off road endurance base. And if this weather keeps cooperating, maybe I will be lucky and my trainer can start collecting dust. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Last Doc Visit 12 Weeks Later

I saw the sport's doctor today and I made it very clear to him that I wanted to part ways. I told him, it's been twelve weeks, and it's gone on long enough. This thing has got to end. He chuckled a little nervously not sure where I was going with this.  I made sure to tell him it wasn't him, it was me. That I wanted to get back together with my bike already dang it and this relationship was standing in the way. So he looked at my x-ray and told me that he saw some good healing....and paused. Oh crap...I hate the pause. The open ended sentence where you know the words should end, but the thought is not complete. He then showed me the latest x-ray and explained how most of the break was filled in, but it was not completely healed. Arrrghhhh!!!!  He then said something about actual clinical healing vs. X-ray healing not showing the same results,  blah, blah, blah. I didn't hear much after that because I sort of stopped listening.

He said it would continue to heal, but he really wanted me to have at least 3 more weeks to get it absolutely fused. He said there could be a "setback" if  I exerted it the wrong way while it was still in its new bone formation state. *Sigh*.

I agreed to take it easy for the next 3 weeks with my riding, and he made me promise not to do any running. I easily agreed to abstaining from running since I had no intention of doing That anyway. Clearly, he didn't get me. Running....As if ...!!!! I also promised to keep taking extra Calcium which is a snap for me because I LOVE milk. And ice cream. And Ovaltine. And cows....but I think I am getting off topic now.

I left the doctor's office, came home and promptly readied myself and bike for a nice long mountain bike ride. Figured I'd start the ride on the "tame" trail for a nice warm up. Everything started out great and I was cruising along. However, that soon changed.  I guess we have officially hit the freeze/thaw point of the season because as I  neared the end, the trail started to become very greasy and slippery with mud. The climbs were just turning into elevated spin outs and the fun mild downhills more like white knuckling descents. My bike started skidding sideways in many sections and I wasn't doing it on purpose (despite how cool it probably looked). Look she's drifting.....

It was just about that time that I realized I left my cell phone back at the car and riding alone without one really isn't too bright. I turned my bike back around feeling somewhat defeated and pedaled back to the car. My ride was clearly over since my skills didn't seem at all up to snuff for this after being off the bike for so long. I only got about an hour in, but the doctor's warning kept echoing in my head. I didn't want to screw up on my first "official" day back by wiping out in some stupid mud. That would truly blow...or suck...both actually.

So tomorrow is another day. I plan to do multiple laps with the Cross bike on my fire road trails and get my "base" endurance mileage in instead. I am not going to stress about it. I have plenty of time before I have to do my "epic adventure" so I am going to just get my mileage in where and when I can.  Because as much as I liked my sport's doc....I really don't want to have to see him again. And, I think right about now might be a good time to place my order for those Mud tires I want from the local bike shop.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Day of 2012, First Day back on the Trail

Today I ventured out to ride the trails once again. Shhh...technically I don't go back to the sport's doc for the last Xray until the end of the week, but I couldn't help it. First off, it was the first day of the new year, and 2nd it was 62 degrees out. In January! So how could I possibly pass up the opportunity. I know...I could not. Fortunately, the foot did fine.

I took the mountain bike out to one of the "tamer" trails we have which is about 4.5 miles each way.  I had so much fun, but that isn't surprising. A little winded on the climbs, but that could be because a) I was so excited, I was riding way too fast and b) I am still not able to breathe out of my nose. Stupid lingering cold symptoms. I was a little hesitant upon entering the trail since I hadn't seen the trail in nearly 3 months, but the good thing was, nothing had changed. A little muddy in some places, but that is expected at this time of year. Overall, the trail was in beautiful shape and I was happy as a lark to be out there.

I am really looking forward to riding many miles, both solo and with other groups this year.
As expected, there were a ton of people out riding today. Great weather brings out the masses. That can be both good and bad depending on your perspective and/or your frame of mind.
Oddly, by the time I finished the ride, the clouds rolled in,  it started to rain a little, the wind picked up and the temps dropped quite a bit. I think I got my ride in just in time, because it seems winter just found out what day it was.

So here's to a happy healthy 2012 with much riding and great days ahead!