Monday, June 27, 2016


I suppose this should technically be a race report, so here's what happened at the Shenandoah Speedway Points Race:

Got a poor start and spent the first five laps making up for it. Positioned poorly going into first sprint, came across line out of the points. Flatted before the next sprint. Didn't bring spare wheels. The end.

I probably could have found a spare front wheel, but I didn't really want to. I didn't want to do the race at all, actually. I paid $30 and drove 2 hours each way to do 8 laps on a race track. At least there was beer.

This post is really about me being burned out. In previous years, I would either get sick or hurt when I overtrained. I guess cycling affects me differently, because I feel cranky and unmotivated instead of sick.

Point is that I've pushed my body (and mind) too far, and now I need a break. Emily has orders not to let me sign up for any races for at least 2 weeks. I'll see how I feel after that. It may be that I lay off until cyclocross season starts. In the meantime, I plan to do a little running, do a little swimming, watch a lot of rugby, and ignore cycling.

See you in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Race Report: Tour of Washington County TT and Crit

In which I redeem myself and then hang on by the skin of my teeth.

I elected not to stay overnight in Hagerstown. Emily didn't want to travel for the weekend. She spent the first week of June in Seattle, I spent the second week in Wichita, and she's in San Francisco this week. So she was (understandably) not feeling the weekend trip vibe. I caught a little bit of flack for signing up for a weekend stage race. So I elected to drive up and back on Saturday, then up again on Sunday morning. It takes a little over an hour to drive up there, and my TT starting time was 7:19:30. I woke up at 4:40 and left at 5:05 to get to Boonsboro in plenty of time to warm up for my TT.

Also, the drive to Washington County is about an hour and ten minutes. I've learned that I have about 45 minutes from the time I start drinking coffee to the time I have to go the bathroom in an emergency kind of way. Fortunately, I made it to the port-a-johns in time to avoid humiliation.

The 10-mile TT went well for me. I started 30 seconds after the GC leader (reverse alphabetical order by last name, not by road race placement) and one minute after one of the few athletes who finished behind me in Saturday's race. I saw them both at the turn-around, passed my one-minute rabbit at around the 8 mile point, but never saw Angela (who ended up getting first in the GC) again. The time trial was hilly, and I did it in 2:13.1, with an average speed of 21.3 MPH. Not bad, considering the terrain. I got third place and moved up to fourth overall in the GC.

My car has been leaking oil since I came back from Wichita, so I stopped between the TT and the crit to buy a couple of quarts of oil. Put them in the car, bought some food, drove to the next race venue with the intention of taking a nap. As I turned off my car, I thought I saw the oil light come on. And I thought, "Oh crap." So I got out and peeked under the car and it was spewing oil. Okay, not spewing, but dripping pretty steadily. And I was so worried about it! What if it was going to mess up the car to drive it home? What if I got stranded in Hagerstown and couldn't get home EVER? What if I ruined my car and had to buy a new one? Basically, my recovery sucked and I hadn't eaten enough food and I was really tired and stressed from all the racing . . . I couldn't sit still so I started riding the course, thinking the whole time about how I was going to get home . . . I literally made myself sick with stress over the stupid car thing. By the time we started staging for the crit, I thought I was going to throw up. I'm usually pretty mellow about stuff like this, but for some reason I could not get out of my own head going into the last race. I lined up wanting to fall off and get pulled and be done with it.

Then the racing started.

As I mentioned in the road race report, the cat 4 women raced with the 1/2/3s. Same thing in the crit, and there were some really strong women entered. Tour of Washington County offers a yellow jersey, a sprinter's jersey, and a QOM jersey, in addition to pretty good prize money. There was a good 1/2/3 field at this race. Before the crit, several of the girls were talking about Clarendon and Philly. Clarendon is on the domestic pro calendar and Philly is a women's World Tour race. These girls were good.

They took the pace off hot from the whistle. From the second turn, I was already thinking, "Oh no, I'm never going to be able to hang on for this." I needed to finish within about a minute of the 5th-place cat 4 girl to maintain my GC standing, and I thought I saw her in among the 1/2/3s, so I hung on to the back of the peloton for dear life, dangling on every turn. I lost track of time and space. My only thought was to stay in touch with the group for as long as possible. Angela and Theresa, who were in first and third in the GC, were in front of me within view. I looked back after a time--no idea how long--and the only thing behind me was the moto. There were several times where I dropped off the back of the pack and fought my way back on. There was even one time when the moto passed me, but I took a few corners well and accelerated enough to come back into touch with the main group. I was hanging--just barely--but hanging. It was the hardest racing I've ever done.

Theresa, Angela, and I all fell off and got gapped at one point. I was hanging onto their wheels as they fought back up to the group. I was so gassed that I couldn't help them--it was all I could do to hang on! Then (and, based on what happened next, I can only assume that everyone slowed up significantly) we came around the final turn on the course and I somehow managed to slingshot around Angela and Theresa and pulled back up to the main group! I even shot up the side a little bit and got back into the pack!

Then we turned the first corner on the course. By chance, I looked down at my Garmin. 7.85, it said. Halfway through the race. At that point, my mind broke. I could not overcome the thought that I hurt so badly and it was only halfway through. My brain told me that I couldn't do the second half of the race, and I listened.

The gap opened. Angela and Theresa came around me and chased back on. I gave up.

I drifted off the back, gasping for breath, but knew that I would have to keep pedaling at least enough to get back to the start/finish line, and probably past that before the officials would pull me. So I kept pedaling, taking the turns as quickly and smoothly as I could, trying to recover through the straight aways.

On one of those straight aways--this was probably two laps later--I noticed that Angela and Theresa had popped off the back of the 1/2/3s. They were within sight. I'd like to say that I decided then to chase back on, but really I just wanted it to be over. The officials left me in, though, so I figured I could at least try to bridge up to them; I wouldn't have objected to being pulled from the race, but there was no way I was going to quit without the officials making me. Spectators--not just people from my team, but from EVERY team--were cheering me on, calling my name, shouting out time gaps . . . But they couldn't see me slumping over my handlebars on the backside of every lap, gasping for breath like a chain smoker on an autumn walk.

The officials finally pulled me at four laps to go. Theresa and Angela hung on until two to go. Angela got first, Theresa got second, and I got third. None of the cat 4 women finished all 21 laps of that crit with the 1/2/3s. They drilled us good. I'm so glad that bike racing isn't my job. Makes me want to be a cat 4 FOR LIFE.

Hanging in the crit for as long as I did vaulted me into third place overall, with Theresa in second and Angela taking the win. It's cool to place well in the race, but it was a real bummer to have supplanted my teammate, Kim, who kicked so much butt in the road race. She had an extra 15 miles in her legs from finishing the road race, while I got pulled after the third lap. We talked after about how it might be a legitimate strategy in future years to drop off the back in the road race and make up the time in the TT and crit . . . But you never know. Bike racing takes fitness, but even with the best fitness, it's a gamble. Lots of fit riders never win a race. Sometimes it comes down to luck.

Overall, it was a good weekend. I'm glad I could represent my team, Veloworks-Spokes, Etc., and that we had someone on the podium. And I got a trophy! Even though the courses were tough and the racing tougher, I plan to be back on the starting line at Tour of Washington County next year with my fitness, recovery, and mental fortitude dialed in.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Race Report: Smithsburg Road Race

In which I try something risky/stupid and it doesn't pay off.

The race was 5 laps for a total of 41 miles. The tech guide described it as "a bit faster than in the past years . . . best described as rolling with some short but significant hills." I would call the hills a little more than significant. There was also a sprinter's jersey, which I had my eye on, and a climber's jersey, which I did not. The day was beautiful--perfect for racing with no wind and mild temperatures/humidity for this area and season.

Field was relatively small for the women's open and 4 fields combined, probably 30-35 women total, and we had the whole road to play with! I got a decent start and positioned well through the first lap. I felt strong. Kept pace with the pack pretty well. Came across for 4th in the first sprint for points. I had great feelings about the race.

Maybe I felt a little too great about my prospects. On the back third of the first lap, I was sitting third wheel in the peloton bringing back a lone rider who got maaaaybe 5 seconds on the pack. The pace slowed as we made the catch and the time felt right to counter, so I did. I got one other girl away with me and the pack was sitting up, so I buried myself to make some time. Little did I realize that the pack was sitting up because we were coming to the first big hill on the course. I hit the base of that hill already gassed. The entire peloton passed me and pooped me out the back. Two significant hills followed that first one, and I couldn't recover enough to catch back on.

I got well and truly dropped.

Passed three other women on the way through the first three laps. At the end of the third lap, the officials asked me if I wanted to be pulled. I asked how far ahead the main group was. "About 10 minutes," they told me. "Yeah, I'd like to be pulled." So I did 25 miles instead of 41 and I'm still having trouble going down stairs now. My three laps were good enough for 6th place, apparently, so yay? People make up 10 minutes in 10-mile time trials all the time, right?

If I hadn't made that attack in the first lap, I'm not sure I could have hung on to the pack anyway. There was carnage, from what I saw watching laps 4 and 5. Two of my teammates hung with the second group and got third and fourth out of the 4s though! My third teammate had a rough day: dropped, then lost, then flatted. She finished 9th and will still be eligible for GC awards, which means she can still start the TT and crit tomorrow!

I've given myself permission to make lots of mistakes this season. I'm happy as a 4, at least for now. I've decided to focus more on experience than on results (although results are awesome too). So I don't feel bad about my performance today. Although I felt pretty stupid going up those backside hills by myself for the third time.

Tomorrow, time trial and crit! Stay tuned!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Quick Update

I spent last week in Wichita, so I haven't been online much. I raced Ride Sally Ride in both the women's open and the women's 4. It was my first time doubling up with two races in the same day! I ended in the top 10 in the 4 and managed to finish with the pack in the open (although it was so painful I wish I would have been dropped).

Last Saturday I rode with some old buddies in Wichita and got my legs ripped off. But I never would have done that particular ride when I lived in Wichita before; I wouldn't have been anywhere close to keeping up! I'm much faster now than I was then.

Last Sunday I rode to a donut shop in Wichita for a recovery ride. I broke my chain along the way. I'm very disappointed in Wichita; I was stopped on the side of the road fixing my chain for about half an hour, and no one so much as slowed down to see if I was okay--including two or three other cyclists! Shame on you, Wichita; shame on you. I've had cyclists, runners, walkers, and motorists stop to see if I needed help here in the big city. Where's the Midwestern charm?

Tomorrow begins the Tour of Washington County Stage Race, with a 41 mile road race. This is another combined women's field, but there's no center-line rule! There's also a TT and criterium on Sunday. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food: "Paleo" Granola

It's been much harder to keep my weight down this year, since I'm not doing nearly as much volume as last year. I also want to try to stay lighter this year, because that's what cyclists do. I've been more successful than I anticipated on hilly races at staying up with the climbers, but I think it will be that much easier if I weigh less.

As a result, I've been leaning back towards a paleo eating style. I don't really subscribe to the theoretical side of paleo (although I used to, and you can read some of it in my archives) . . . I know more about human physiology now, and the paleo/primal movement strikes me as one more movement that's more about the tribe than about the science. There are some good principles, but it seems mostly like a chance for people who need to feel special to tell everyone else how special they are. I feel the same way about vegans. Go ahead and start penning your hate mail, now. Diatribe over.

Anyway, I may not be part of the great primal evangelical movement anymore, but I still like a lot of the ideas behind it. Eat as many whole, natural foods as you can; focus on lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits; have some nuts and seeds, minimize grains; enjoy things in moderation; and remember that diet is only a part of a healthy lifestyle.

Since it's hard to do lots of endurance training when you eat lower quantities of carbohydrates, I've also been doing some nutrient timing. On Tuesday, when I had some hard Trainer Road intervals on the docket, I had some pasta with my lunch and a sandwich for dinner. On Wednesday, when all I scheduled was yoga and an endurance ride, I stayed away from the grains in favor of extra veggies and some fish. I eat some calorie-dense foods, but I cluster them around my hard workouts.

For breakfast, I've been having nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit on yogurt. Then I found this paleo granola recipe on Pinterest. I just finished making a small batch to make sure that I like it. And I mostly enjoy it. It feels a little heavy, probably from all the nuts and seeds. I don't like it as much as real granola. Maybe it needs more salt, or more vanilla. Here's my version, if you want to try it:

Jamie's Paleo Granola

2 cups almonds (chopped or slivered or whatever)
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut
2 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp almond meal
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

3 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 275*. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Combine dry ingredients in a big bowl. Warm liquid ingredients in a saucepan on the stove (don't put honey in the microwave). Combine and toss. Spread mixture on baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Race Report: Meadow Farm Criterium (Women Cat 4)

Improvised podium in the wind and the rain
When I first started refereeing rugby, I began with 15s. That's the traditional form of rugby, in which team plays 15 people per side. As a referee, that means keeping track of 30 people, staying out of their way, positioning so that you can see the ball, and making sure that everyone is obeying the laws of the game. The pros have the aid of assistant referees on each side line and a television match official who can examine some plays that a referee might miss, not to mention players who know the laws well. In the low-grade games they allow beginner referees to officiate, you get none of that. Needless to say, it's a difficult job. And you get yelled at if you don't do it well (I didn't do it very well, especially at the beginning).

After a few months of refereeing 15s, I refereed at a 7s tournament. In 7s, each team fields 7 per side. That means there are fewer than half the number of people in a 15s game. The matches are faster and more expansive, with fewer pile-ups and better lines of sight for the officials. It's way easier to referee 7s than 15s. I wish I would have started with that; it would have allowed me the space to learn how to manage the game better, and that experience could have carried over to my 15s game.

That's how this weekend's race felt. The field was only 7 women deep on a flat course with open, flowing turns. It reminded me of racing in Kansas, where the women's fields were smaller, except now I have more skills and strength on the bike (because I'm not simultaneously training for swim and run). The small field size allowed us to hone our tactics, and the turns were technical enough to allow practice without being too risky. And the race was only 30 minutes. As I tell my cycling classes, you can survive just about anything for 30 minutes.

I had one teammate with me, and she and I decided that we would put the hurt on the rest of the field. The plan was for her to take the pace out hard (which she does really well) and try to keep a break to the end while I sat in. If she came back before the end, I would counterattack and try to stay away for the rest of the race.

Robin sprinted from the start and got a gap with one other cyclist (a junior from the Mermaid Winery team). One of the women was off the back from the start, leaving four of us to work together. The other woman from Mermaid must have had trouble clipping in, because it took her a lap or two to get up to us. I was sitting on wheels and not working. The group I was in wasn't able to work very well together, probably because I wasn't taking any pulls. One cyclist, who looked pretty young, didn't understand why I wouldn't pull; the other woman (Marie, from US Military Cycling) was trying to explain that I was just doing my job, and they would have to work around me, but they weren't able to trade pulls very well. At one point, the younger girl pulled through too hard and dropped Marie. I pulled Marie back to her wheel because I'm nice and it was more fun with the three of them together.

The other Mermaid woman (Giselle) managed to bridge up to Robin's group, but the younger Mermaid girl (Samantha) dropped off the pace and came back. With her in the group, they were able to get more of a rhythm going, and I took a few turns on the front. We had picked up one of the juniors (they started 30" ahead of us, another thing that made this race fun), and he ended up in our rotation . . . sort of. With about 4 laps to go, I ended up on the junior's wheel, and no one came around me. So I slowed waaaaay down; everyone else had realized that Robin and Giselle weren't coming back in the last 3 or 4 laps, or whatever we had left at that point. With those two safely off the front and everyone else sitting in on my wheel, I figured I would take a chance at going off the front myself for a third place, rather than leaving it to a final sprint.

The course was dumbbell shaped, with a big loop on one end and a big box on the other, connected by a divided straightaway. On the first half of the big loop with two laps to go, the young girl who didn't have much experience with tactics tried to take a flyer off the front. We all covered it, no problem, and I ended up sitting second or third wheel (don't remember for sure) coming into the right turn onto the straightaway. I went wide on that turn and kicked hard on the straightaway. Carried the speed into the next right, then a flowing left. After that, straight into the wind for about 100 m, then another left. I had a gap of at least 50 m by the first time I looked back, with my heart rate seriously in the red (I saw the number 186 when I looked down). I kept grinding, trying to keep the heart rate right around 180, especially through the tailwind section on the second half of the box. Hit the finish line and got the bell for the last lap.

As I took the right-hand turn into the loop, our team tent got caught in the wind and blew almost directly into my path. It didn't quite hit me, but the wind was getting mean and nasty. Looking at the weather data from yesterday, looks like the strongest gusts were over 40 MPH. But I know wind pretty well, and it felt more like 50 MPH to me. I was worried that the other girls, sheltered in their little group, would be able to catch me in all that wind. But every time I looked back, they were nowhere to be seen. I was also worried that the officials were going to stop the race early, because the weather was starting to look really bad. But they let it run to the finish, and I came across the line all on my own to take third place.

Robin got second. I think she had done so much work at the beginning that Giselle was able to ride her straight off her wheel. Still, Veloworks-Spokes, Etc., women went 2-3!

I am really pleased with my performance yesterday. Tactically, it's the best race I've ever done. I did exactly my job in the group, saved my legs, and timed my attack perfectly to get away and stay away. And I won $25 from my team and got to stand on the podium (sort of)!

The question now is if I can take some of the lessons learned in this 7s match (there were literally 7 of us) and apply it my next 15s match, probably Ride Sally Ride in three weeks.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Week Off

No race report for me this week. I'm home sick. I had everything all packed and ready to go last night, in the hope that I would wake up feeling better this morning. But no such luck.

One of my teammates got third place in the women's 4 field this morning, though! Way to go, Kim!
Cat 4 Women's podium at Poolesville Road Race
I've missed a full week of training with this stupid cold. I hope to be back to normal next week, so I can resume my training. I signed up for Trainer Road on Monday, but I haven't been able to do any of the workouts so far!