Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First ride on my Crux!

The dam at Lake Accotink Park
After a course of heavy-duty antibiotics and Vicodin, I'm completely over my root canal from a week and a half ago. I go back to the dentist tomorrow to close my crown up. Since the pain wore off, though, I was finally able to get out on my new bicycle!

One of the best parts of living in Northern Virginia is the terrain. Even in the developed, suburban area where I live, there are still parks full of greenery and quiet trails. I headed to one on Wednesday to remind myself how to ride off-road.

I took a few little spills, got mud and sand (and a little blood) all over my legs, and completely ruined a white jersey. It was a successful outing! You can see the highlights, which is mostly footage of me falling or nearly falling, below. I still haven't figured out how to record good footage with my action cam, so I didn't include the whole ride. If you'd like the full 45 minutes of footage (and I don't know why you would), please send me an e-mail; I'll gladly share it.
On Friday, I tried a trail that's closer to my home--the Pimmit Run Trail. I did many miles of run training there last year and the year before. The trail is too technical for me to ride, though; I only went a few miles before aborting the mission and coming home on surface streets. After that, I set up cones in my backyard and practiced flying mounts and dismounts. I'll post that video this weekend.

Until next time, spin & smile!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


I promised last week that I had an announcement related to the upcoming cyclocross season. Well . . .
I got a new bike!

That's a 2017 Specialized Crux E5. The groupset is Shimano Tiagra, with stock wheels, cranks, bars, stems . . . it's not a high-end bike. But it has disc brakes! And mud clearance! And good gearing for cross! So it's enough that I can go out and have fun. I may have mentioned that my goal for the cyclocross season is to hurt a lot during races and drink a lot immediately after. I can do that just fine on aluminum and Tiagra.

I had an emergency root canal on Thursday (only two hours after I picked up my Crux at the shop), and I've been resting with the help of Vicodin ever since. So I haven't even gotten to ride it yet, other than hopping on to adjust the seat height and angle a little bit. The pain is subsiding a little, so I hope to be on it either this evening or tomorrow sometime.

Many, many thanks to Jack at Spokes, Etc. (VWS's sponsor shop), for getting me set up with a brand new bike! If you live in the greater DC area, I highly recommend stopping in at the Spokes on Quaker Lane (near Shirlington). The crew there is friendly and knowledgeable, and they can help you with whatever you need.

New bike! Yay!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skinny & Co. Unboxing

Got a box in the mail from Skinny & Co. last week. When I opened it up, here's what I found:

I'll be using the products this week. Look for my review next Friday!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

End of Road Season, 2016

"And with that, the road season ends with a whimper."

That's a comment from my teammate, Sean, regarding the cancellation of our last road race of the season. Not enough registrants, apparently. There wasn't a cat 4 race for the women, so I wouldn't have been racing anyway. Based on what I've heard from other athletes, though, this road season has been a departure from seasons past, in terms of schedule; there have been multiple races canceled or not scheduled, relative to previous years. It will be interesting to see what happens to the MABRA racing scene, going forward.

If I had known that Tysons Corner was going to be my last road race for 2016, I would have taken it a little more seriously. As it was, my season also ended with a whimper.

I had three well-defined goals for this season: find and join a team that I like, start training specifically and exclusively for bike racing, and figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are on the bike.
I have a white helmet on order.
I accomplished the first one. I've been riding and racing with Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. since February. I accomplished the second goal. I started off training using my own plan, as I have in years past. I discovered after a couple of months that I don't know as much about bike training as I do about triathlon training, and I was too lazy to do enough research to figure it out. I ended up switching over to TrainerRoad about two months ago, and have been satisfied with the results so far. My FTP has increased by 21 watts, about a 10% increase. Mostly, I appreciate having an assignment each day. When I write my own programs, I don't trust them; I end up changing them on the fly, which defeats the point of writing them in the first place.

As for the third goal, I still don't feel that I have a good sense of my strengths and weaknesses. I know that I need to continue working on my handling in the pack, especially when I'm tired. I need to improve my awareness and critical thinking when I'm fatigued (I had the same problem when I was playing rugby, which is why I eventually moved from scrumhalf to flanker). My sprinting power is pretty good, although I'm not yet confident enough to control that maximal power at the end of a hard race. I think I'm good at sitting on the front of a group and pushing the pace, either to catch a breakaway or to force a selection. I lack the ability to combine those two things, though; I have trouble putting in a big dig, like in an attack, and then maintaining a high power to stay away or bridge across. That also ties into my mental toughness, which needs a lot of work. I hope I can use some of that knowledge to define goals for next year, although I'm not mentally ready to dig into yet.

I have about a month before I start CX racing. Goals for that are to experience extreme pain and then drink extreme beer. I should have a big announcement related to CX soon. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food: Broccoli Soup

Emily's doing this thing called the Dukan Diet, which (I think) is sort of like a low-fat version of Atkins. It focuses on lean proteins and low-sugar vegetables, with some allowances made for whole grains and fruits in the maintenance phase. Since I do most of the cooking, I'm showing my support by coming up with interesting things to eat within the bounds of the diet, so she doesn't get bored with the bodybuilder version of "riding paniagua": chicken and water, water and chicken. This is one of the things I came up with.
Tastes better than it looks.
1 bunch of broccoli crowns (about 1 lb)
4 cups of chicken or veggie broth (I used boiling water and chicken bouillon)
1 whole onion, sliced
1 teaspoon of cooking fat (I used bacon grease, but you could use any cooking oil)
Salt & pepper to taste
Spike all-natural gourmet seasoning (or other generic spice mix) to taste

Slice onions. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions to the oil. They should bubble and hiss softly; they shouldn't spatter or spray. Let the onions sweat in the oil, stirring regularly, until they're soft and translucent and a little brown. This can take up to 20 minutes, but the longer you let them sweat, the tastier the soup will be in the end.

While the onions brown, chop the broccoli into small pieces. I used a food processor to pulverize mine. They don't have to be really fine bits, because they're going to end up pureed anyway. But smaller pieces cook faster.

When the onions are where you want them, add 4 cups of broth (or water and chicken soup base) and the chopped broccoli. Cover the saucepan and let it come to a rolling boil. Add salt, pepper, and Spike seasoning (or whatever you're using). Turn the heat down to a simmer.

Use an immersion blender to blend the soup. If you don't like soup with texture, strain the soup through a fine mesh collander. Otherwise, your soup is ready.

Obviously, this soup would be even better with cream and cheese, but then it wouldn't count as Jamie's (and Emily's) Diet Food. Even without cream and cheese, the soup is pretty good. Not particularly filling, so I recommend it as a side dish, or with a nice salad.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trihardist Vlog Preview: A Short Ride on the W&OD

I bought myself an (inexpensive) action camera! I have some ideas of ways to incorporate it into the blog: I'd like to make some free video cycling workouts; I feel like my audio workouts are a little behind-the-times, now that there are so many cool tools like Zwift and Trainer Road and even GCN's training videos! It's time for me to innovate. I also have ambitions of doing a vlog like Cycling Maven and Vegan Cyclist do. And of course I want to take footage of my races like all the cool kids!

This is my first experiment with the new camera. Let me know what you think, and if there are specific things that you would like to see now that I can do more video!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Race Report: Tour de Tysons (Cat 4 women)

In which I blow up spectacularly on the last hill, maybe a minute from the finish.

This race is so close to home for me, I could have ridden to it in less time than it took to drive. I didn't ride, though, because I had to return a teammate's sandbags (I'm always sandbagging) for the team tent. I was more careless than usual in my race prep as a result, and ended up forgetting my jersey. N00b.

A teammate lent me a jersey (size X-small), so I didn't have to ride the 1.1 miles home and back to get mine. I warmed up about 15 minutes on the trainer. It was uncomfortably hot, but the occasional breeze kept the temperature bearable. I got about 10 minutes on the course, which gave me a chance to take a look at some sketchy pavement in the second-to-last turn. I had been apprehensive about the pavement, which a teammate had reconnoitered earlier in the week, but the race directors took good care of that within the constraints they had. It ended up not being a problem.

I knew the race was going to be hard because of the heat index. It was only 30 minutes, though. I figured I could survive for 30 minutes. I got a great start and led the first lap, fast on the downhill, nice and easy on the uphill. Other women came around me on the second lap, and I let them. I stayed in the front half of the field the whole time, keeping an eye out for significant attacks. I wasn't in danger of getting dropped on the climb, but it was really uncomfortable for me every time. I was able to re-position on the downhills without having to work very much.

I was wrong about surviving for 30 minutes. I made it about 28 before blowing up. I was sitting third or fourth wheel coming around the second-to-last corner into the final hill. My teammate asked if I could lead her out, and I said yeah, I think so. The pace didn't even increase very much, just a slight acceleration; I didn't have to stand and stomp the pedals to keep up. But the road was so hot and so unprotected. It was out of the wind and we were moving too slowly to generate a breeze. Something in my body said, "Nope." And my brain went along with it and said, "Nope." I think I might have even said "Nope" out loud. My body told me to stop and I listened and gave up. Barely pedaled up the rest of the hill. Came around the last corner ashamed and tired. Another woman tried to come around me and I accelerated just enough to hold her off for 15th or 20th or whatever. Pulled past the finish line and into the shade to dry-heave a little, with my legs shaking. Poured water over my head and got back on the bike for a cool-down lap.

I'm disappointed that I gave up so close to the end. It's not like I was going to die if I dug a little deeper. My body was on the edge, but it was my mind that shut me down.

Lessons learned: it's standard operating procedure on hot days for cyclists to stick socks or pantyhose full of ice down the backs of their jerseys, so the ice rests on the neck and cools the whole body. I probably need to do that. I struggled with heat exhaustion on a really hot ride on Thursday, too, so I need to be smarter about managing that; some of the lingering stress from that dumb move might have impacted my performance today. And I've read that women have higher basal metabolic rates between ovulation and menstruation, so that might be impacting my ability to cope with heat.

But the biggest thing is my mental toughness. I don't have enough of it. When the race gets really uncomfortable, I'm liable to pull the pin and give up; I don't care enough to hurt that badly. And maybe I never will really care enough to push past that kind of pain, and I'll join the Cat 4 For Life! club. But probably I'll get frustrated that other people are beating me, and I'll get stronger. Mental skills training will be added to the training schedule, in upcoming seasons.

My teammate ended up on the podium in fifth place, though! So still a reasonably good showing for the VWS women.

I don't have any pictures of me from the race, so in lieu of a race pic, here is a picture of the sandwich I made for myself afterwards:

And I still feel pretty nauseous from the heat. I'm gonna go lay down for a while.