Sunday, February 28, 2016

Race Report: William & Mary Tidewater Time Trial

"But Jamie," I hear you say, "Wasn't this race supposed to be a road race, not a time trial?"

Yes. Yes, it was a road race. But circumstances on the day led to me performing a 15-mile time trial solo, instead of covering attacks and trying to match sprints.

The morning was cold, well below freezing. Emily and I got a late start from the hotel, so I was already stressed about the schedule. Then there was a long line of cars waiting to get into the park ($4 parking fee, only one poor, overworked ranger collecting cash). By the time we parked and I picked up my number and got my trainer set up, I had about 10 minutes left to warm up. I had planned on 30-45, especially since it was so cold!

The race began with a 2-mile neutral roll-out. That gave me time to warm up further. I had one teammate at this race. We stayed close together through the neutral roll-out. The pace was variable through the early stages, even after the neutral roll-out. I felt bad for grabbing my brakes all the time, but there was no avoiding it in that bunch. We were about six or seven wheels back, so I can only imagine what it was like in the back of the pack. I imagine that's why, within the first few miles, I heard a skid and a crash behind me. I don't know how many women went down in that one, or if it broke up the group much; I didn't want to look back to see.

 This course had a hill big enough to have a name: the KOA Hill, named for its proximity to a KOA campground. It was there, on the first hill of the day, where my race went to seed. A girl two wheels in front of me (inexplicably) went down. Maybe she was in too hard a gear for the climb and lost momentum? I don't know. But she went down, and the girl behind her went down, and I got unclipped in time NOT to go down, with Robin (my teammate) shouting, "Don't stop, Jamie!" But girl #2 had her shoe caught in my spokes (which is the closest I will ever get to being like Wout van Aert). After we got disentangled, I made my big mistake: checking to see if everyone was okay. Everyone was fine, and my bike appeared fine (although I realized later that my speed and cadence sensor got knocked around, somehow), and in the space of those few seconds I realized I had probably just screwed myself out of ever catching on to the peloton again. I got back on my bike as quickly as I could and started chasing like fire to get back onto the pack.

I can't remember if I could see them after cresting that first hill. I know I didn't see much of them for the rest of the race. A few times, I saw the lights of the police car and the neon yellow jacket of the motorcycle official. Once, they looked to be well over 400 meters away. The second time up the KOA Hill, they looked within reach. But there were half a dozen cars between me and them, and they were out of sight again by the time I got through the cars (actually, I only got past two; the rest sped away when the peloton turned a corner).

So I ended up time trialing as hard as I could for an hour, trying to catch on to the group again, knowing that it was pretty much impossible. I passed three or four women who had fallen off the back of the pack, a group of collegiate men from the field that started 10 minutes ahead of us, and a few cat 5 male racers. Not sure what happened to the other women who got caught in the crash. I briefly considered packing it in after the first lap, since I was unlikely to catch the group. But I figured I might as well get a good workout in, since Emily and I had driven down for it.

The results aren't out, so I have no idea where I placed. But Robin got second, so that was pretty cool! Another of my teammates won the men's cat 3 race outright. So the team had some sweet success. I think all the cat 4 men were just grateful to have gotten through their race without crashing. Sounds like there was a lot of squirrely riding going on out there.

I really wanted to find out where I'm at in my cycling training, to get a better sense of what to train going into my first build phase. I'm disappointed that all I really learned was that I can time trial pretty well. Which, duh, I'm coming out of 10 years of triathlon training. I really don't need to work on my time trialing, at this point. And I'm sad that I wasn't at the end of the race to help Robin out. Based on what I saw of the pack early on, and the people I blew past later in the race, I think I could have hung strong with all of the women until the end.

What I learned, though, is not to stop when a crash goes down in front of me, especially if there's nothing wrong with my body and my bike. I also learned, based on the data I have from my time trial, that my threshold heart rate is probably 5 BPM higher than I thought. I wish I had a power meter, so I could see what kind of power I sustained for the 45 minutes or so that I was on my own. I averaged 18.8 MPH throughout that, and that's with a couple little hills.

I hope I'll have better luck in my next race. I didn't get the vindication I wanted. I'm eager to try for it again soon!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

William & Mary Tidewater Classic

The first start . . . the one before the thunderstorm
Next Saturday, I'm doing my first bike race in four years. The last road race I did (I think it was in 2012, but it might have been 2011) was . . . unpleasant. I didn't write a race report for it, at least not one that I could find. But it involved me swerving a little in the pack (of 7 female riders) because I wasn't paying close enough attention and a snotty girl in K-State kit tattling about it to one of the officials while the race was stopped for lightning. Oh yeah, there was a thunderstorm, too. And then when I tried to talk to her about it and apologize she basically said, "F you, you did it on purpose, learn to hold your line." Not that I'm bitter about it or anything. In addition to the you-know-what from K-State, my teammate's ex-girlfriend entered the race with the sole intention of trying to show her up (which was stupid; last I heard, my teammate was the state road champion in Arkansas and The Ex . . . was not champion of anything). The Ex tried to sprint and break away, it opened up an attack for another group, The Ex got dropped, four women got up the road (K-State got fourth out of them, so suck it, K-State) and I finished fifth in no-man's land. And did I mention there was a thunderstorm? And the official pulled me aside to tell me that people had been complaining about me? Yeah, it was a bad race.
"I hate you and I wish you would die."
As a result, I'm slightly nervous about doing my first road race in five years. Actually, I'm extremely nervous about it. I've been having stress dreams about bike racing. I'm worried that I'm going to get into the pack and suck: that I will either not be able to hold a line and a bunch of people will shout at me (or tattle to the officials about it); or that I will get dropped on the one big hill; or that I . . . actually, I don't have any other rational fears. I'm generally afraid and stressed about it.
That girl in the green overlapped my rear wheel in a turn and went down. She probably took most of the skin off her leg . She was out of the race. But I didn't go down. That's how good my handling skills were, thank you very much.
My handling on team rides is solid. I know I shouldn't be worried about that. I'm good riding in close quarters. I'm not a squirrely triathlete. But I have that conversation with the official at my last race stuck in my head, and it makes me doubt myself. What if I blow up early and get too tired to handle my bike properly? What if some snotty wanna-be from K-State decides to make herself feel better about her sub-standard riding by shouting at me to hold my line?

You know what? I'm looking at this the wrong way. This race is my chance for redemption. I'm stronger, and I handle my bike better now than I did then. I think riding tons on my own last summer improved my handling skills, ironically; there's no substitute for saddle time when it comes to being comfortable on your bike. Commuting on my bike has helped, too. Lots of cornering, and it's good practice at being hyper-aware of your surroundings.

The race is 20 miles--2 big loops, 1 short, punchy hill--for swag, upgrade points, and pride. I (along with at least one other woman from Veloworks-Spokes Etc) will be supporting one of my teammates for the win; we're hoping to help her cat up from 4 to 3 by the end of the season. I think she's going to drop us both on the hill, because I think an attack is likely to go there. But I'll hang with her and help her as long as I can. Maybe it'll come down to a bunch sprint, and we'll get to do the lead-out we've been practicing. We'll see if I can hold my line at 1200 watts!

Look for my race report next week.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"In Soviet Russia, Weather is Under You!"

I only wish that were the case. I've been under the weather for over a week now, and home sick for the past two days. I think I have a sinus infection. It feels like someone is standing on my face. I also feel like someone has been hitting me in the back with a baseball bat, but that may be because I've been sitting down much more than usual.

This is the first sinus infection I've had since college. I haven't had one (at least not one that's bad enough to bother me) for almost 10 years. I used to get them all the time--at least once a year, all through high school and college--but they stopped at about the time I started doing a lot of yoga. I think all the deep breathing helped keep my sinuses clear enough that no nasty little buggies could grow in them. So there's your pro tip for the day: do yoga and pranayama to prevent sinus infections!

I haven't been doing as much yoga in the last year or two partly because I'm not teaching yoga (and I'm too lazy to do it without that motivation) and partly because of the way everything ended with my "guru" (let us not speak her name, for it is evil). In spite of that, I tried to bring myself back from this illness by natural means: yoga, pranayama, neti pot, goldenseal, and lots of capsaicin. That was last Tuesday. And yesterday, like I said, I woke up feeling like someone (someone really fat) was standing on my face.

So I have abandoned the touchy-feely, au-natural crap in favor of decongestants (not helping), Excedrin (also not helping), and good old western medicine (we'll see). I have an appointment with a doctor at 2:45 today, and I'm hoping that the evil pharmaceutical industry will be able to help me out.

The worst part of this whole thing was that I have had to take it easy on the training. Last weekend was the first weekend since Snowzilla that there weren't mountains of snow for us to be crushed up against. So the rest of the team went out for a nice ride, and I stayed at home and watched the cyclocross world championships with hot tea and a quilt. I'm still sick this weekend, and I'm afraid I've missed the last decent riding-outside weather that we'll have for a while. And I have all the usual fears that having two weeks mostly (I've still been teaching cycling classes at work) off the bike will destroy my fitness, and I'll be a sad sack of under-cooked grits when I try to get back to actual riding. Add to that the fact that the racing season basically starts in two weeks, and I have an almost overwhelming compulsion to try to ride through this illness.

But I know that will make the recovery longer, and that I will serve my fitness better by resting instead of riding and blah blah blah. Which is why I'm sitting here writing blog posts and making funny graphics instead of outside (or on Zwift) training.

Hope your February is shaping up better than mine, whether you're under the weather or the weather is under you.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food: Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Doesn't that look appetizing?
This is a tasty breakfast for days when I'm meeting my team for a long-ish ride (I have trouble calling 3 hours long, compared to my 8-hour rides last year). I do my short (60 minutes or less) morning rides fasted, and have breakfast after. That's usually zucchini frittatas, which I'll post next week.

I use quick-cooking steel-cut oats, which come par-boiled to save cooking time. Old-fashioned/rolled oats will cook quickly, but they will digest more quickly and cause a greater increase in your blood sugar. Same thing to a greater degree with quick-cooking rolled oats or instant oats. In summary, if they're quicker to cook, they'll be quicker to digest, and you'll run out of energy from them faster.

If you want to do true steel-cut oats, not the quick-cooking kind, I recommend making them in a crockpot the night before. Use a ratio of 4:1 liquid to oats, rather than 3:1. And you might want to grease the inside of your crockpot, or else you'll need a lot of elbow grease to clean off the dried-on oatmeal.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal

1/4 cup chocolate almond milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup quick-cooking steel-cut oats
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp all-natural peanut butter

Combine the water and almond milk in a small saucepan. Add salt Heat over high heat until it just begins to boil. Add the oats, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Stir every minute or two for 5-6 minutes. Add peanut butter at the six minute mark. Cook for two more minutes, stirring every minute or so. Remove from heat and let the oatmeal sit for a minute before you eat. Add a banana if you need more calories.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jamie's Diet Food

Cyclists are mostly skinnier than triathletes. Since I'm a cyclist now, instead of a triathlete, I need to get skinnier. Also, I put on about 8 lbs. after my Ironman. I need to lose those extra pounds, plus some.

There are a few tools I've been using to help. As a part-time housewife-type person, I'm responsible (or rather I take responsibility for) planning meals and grocery shopping. So I start with a simple spreadsheet, with meals for the week laid out for both Emily and me (since we eat different things for many meals). From there I go to to help me generate meals for the week. It helps me plan within narrow parameters of calories and macronutrients for each day. With a premium membership, you can plan different meals for each day, but I tend to eat the same thing every day in spite of that. If I have leftovers or something specific I want to eat, I enter that, then generate other meals to fill in around it.

I buy all the ingredients I need for my weekly meals and do all the cooking on Saturdays and Sundays. It's much easier to stick to a restricted diet when it's easy, and with this set-up, I never have to make the choice to cook something healthy; I just eat the healthy stuff that's already in the fridge. I use MyFitnessPal to track my calories and exercise.

The diet has gone well so far. I've lost about 5 lbs. since I started monitoring in late December. My goal is to be down to my racing weight (I'm shooting for 130-132 lbs., which is the lightest I've been since middle school) by March, then stop trying to cut calories and focus on eating for performance. For the first time last year, I restricted my weight loss to base phase, and my training was better for it. I have enough fitness and training know-how to realize that your body's not great at splitting focus; if you're trying to lose weight, you don't gain as much fitness, and if you're trying to gain fitness, you shouldn't try to lose weight. But last year was the first time I actually put that into practice, and I noticed the difference in my fitness, especially late in the season.

I do notice that I'm cranky by the end of the week, and it's harder to motivate myself through hard workouts. My theory: I use so much willpower staying within my eating plan that, by the end of the week, I don't have the mental energy necessary to push through hard workouts. I eat more on the weekends (partly necessitated by long team rides that are, for me at least, pretty tough), which keeps the crankiness at bay. Mostly. But we still use the word "hangry" pretty liberally by Friday. Emily's dieting too; there's lots of hangry to go around by the weekend.

I'll post some of my favorite recipes that I find/come up with, in case you're a (relatively) fat triathlete trying to keep up with skinny cyclists, too.