Monday, April 24, 2017

General update (because no races this weekend)

In MABRA land, this weekend is normally reserved for the Tour of Page County. It was one of my favorite races last season! Unfortunately, the race organizer had some personal issues arise earlier this year and wasn't able to put on the race the way he would want it. It will be back next year, but in the meantime there was no road racing for Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. this weekend (although a contingent did the Leesburg Baker's Dozen mountain bike race).

Since I have no race report for you, here's a few notables from this week:

The Whole 30 thing is going well, or at least pretty well. My cravings have come and gone in waves: day 3 I madly wanted bread; day 5 I longed for cheese; over the weekend I wanted a cold beer. I've probably been eating much more fruit than the program intends, but I'm also doing more and more intense exercise than the program prescribes. January would have been a better time to do this. I didn't feel I needed it back in January, though; I was moderate in my consumption over the winter holidays.

Anyway, I eat lots of fruit and lots of dried fruit and lots of bananas and lots of potatoes. I also found that some of the Clif energy food packets are okay for me to eat (no added sugar, no grains). They're effective and tasty, but have the consistency of baby food--it's a little weird. And they don't pack very many calories for the amount of space they take up in my jersey pockets. They provided a nice break from dried fruit, though.

Since I was traveling last weekend and I didn't feel like doing an 8-minute FTP test early in the week, I took an extra recovery week last week (the week before Easter, that is). I picked up where I left off this week, starting with the FTP test on Tuesday. I thought my FTP wouldn't increase by very much, since I'd had two weeks off, and the structure of my training had been spotty for a week or so before that. I surprised myself with an increase of 23 watts, though, which is a little over 10% of my previous FTP!

I could feel my new strength on this weekend's team rides, too. There were hills that we've climbed many times together as a team where I was able to hang and couldn't have before. I'm holding wheels that I couldn't have held this time last year, or even two months ago. My training is working, it seems! On Saturday's ride, I felt particularly strong. During Sunday's ride, my legs were a little overcooked, and I faded towards the end of the ride. The first half of the ride was ideal tempo training, though. I have one teammate who rides so steady, it's almost like motorpacing!

I also broke down and bought a Gatorade on Sunday. My legs were starting to cramp. It seems like the dried fruit wasn't quite enough for both hard rides on back-to-back days. And I'm not sure I'm going to make a whole 30 days (heh, whole 30 days) of this. I'm getting really tired of potatoes and bananas! But don't worry, Mom, I'm eating a lot (really, a lot); just not eating certain things, or drinking any alcohol.

From Carl Dolan (April 9) to Bunny Hop (May 6), there's no racing for me. There is a road race next weekend (American Velo Club's Road Race), but I have to go to a chemistry lab instead. That's a whole month with no racing! I'm getting antsy!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jamie's Diet

You guys. I'm trying Whole 30.

You guys.

Why am I trying Whole 30? Is it because it's a trendy thing that's popular on Pinterest right now? Because I'm a very trendy person. I'm hip to all the latest things.
I'm doing Whole 30 because I haven't felt entirely well for the past few months. I haven't felt bad, or sick. But I haven't felt my best, either. I've had too many moments where I finish eating (or drinking) something and I feel . . . icky. I was much more in tune with how I felt and my body's response to food, exercise, and my environment a few years ago. Partly it's because I don't do as much (or any) yoga and meditation, so I'm less in tune with my body in general. But I've also gotten to a point where I pay less attention to what I eat (and probably too much attention to how much of it I eat). And I drink too much. Whole 30 is my attempt to redirect some of those patterns.

What is Whole 30? If you haven't read or heard about it already, it's a pretty strict clean-eating regimen that lasts for only 30 days. It's also a registered trademark (except they spell it Whole30), so hopefully I don't get in trouble for this post. Like most trendy diets, it was "founded" by an attractive health/fitness professional (Certified Sports Nutritionist, probably also a registered trademark) who's good at self-promotion but whose qualifications seem to consist primarily of being certified, having written a book, and being a keynote speaker about some things.*

In general I'm skeptical about such eating plans (diets, that's what they are; let's call them diets). They are featured in the New York Times or whatever and everyone and their cousin does them for a few years, then they fade into obscurity. Remember South Beach Diet? Or Beach Body? Or Weight Watchers? Testimonials aside, there's little evidence that these diets do anything long-term, and they tend to rely heavily on pseudo-scientific concepts like "detoxification." In short, I think things like Whole 30‒ways of eating that have their own websites, apparel, and affiliate programs‒are silly.

So it's hilarious to me that I am trying it.

Silliness aside (or rather, my perception aside), it's not like these diets have nothing of value to contribute. They work for people, although maybe not the majority. Whole 30 focuses on eating moderate portions of real foods: meat, seafood, eggs, lots of veggies, some fruits, and lots of natural fats. During the 30 days, you eschew grains, legumes, dairy, all added sweeteners (no artificial sweeteners, no honey, no maple syrup), food additives and preservatives, junk foods, and (most importantly for me) alcohol. No cheat days allowed.

Except that I'm going to give myself the option to cheat on race days. In fact, I'm making a few modifications. I imagine (some people will say) this makes it not Whole 30 and I'm not truly committing to the plan and that makes me a weak-willed person. Whatever. This is my body and my lifestyle and I need to modify the plan so that it fits for me.

In addition to eating what I want on race days (only if I have the chance to go hang out with teammates and friends after the race), I will also continue to use Skratch hydration mix, which has added sugar, during races. I won't be using gels, though; instead, I'll be using dried dates and prunes for ride fuel. And I'll probably be eating a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes over the next 30 days; without them, I don't think I'll take in enough carbohydrate to fuel my cycling training.

That's my plan. Whole 30 for the next 30 days, with a few modifications for the amount of exercise that I do. Training and racing will proceed as normal. I'll track the effects of the diet in my training log, including my reactions to foods as I get more sensitive to them. And I'll share my progress and results with you.

*I realize this is the pot calling the kettle black, since I make my living as a certified fitness professional of questionable qualifications. Headmistress Hartwig, I'm just joking. Please don't sue me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Race Report: Carl Dolan Memorial/Howard County Library Spring Classic W4/5

These are the best "podium girls."
I got to be on the podium! Whee!

Carl Dolan was a nervous race, last year. There had been crashes the year before (lots of them, with many injuries). The women's fields, which started out separated by a minute, ended up coming together into one big pack when the women's 3/4 field caught the 1/2/3 field. Rather than neutralizing the fields to keep us separate ("Sort yourselves out, ladies!"), the officials allowed us to race together. It was messy, and stressful, and didn't end well. I think everyone managed to stay upright, but it wasn't one of my favorite experiences ever. And I was taking things way too seriously, so much so that it wasn't fun for me (or anyone else). As a result, I was nervous about Carl Dolan.

But I needn't have been! DC Velo, the club that puts on Carl Dolan, went the extra mile to mark road hazards and fill in pot holes. The officials gave us 90 seconds between fields instead of 60 seconds. And when the 1/2/3 field threatened to lap us, the moto officials stopped us and let them go by, rather than allowing us to all come together.

Perhaps more importantly, the positive racing environment that I felt at Jeff Cup continued for this race! Maybe it's because there's a critical mass of us that know each other well this year; maybe we're all more experienced; maybe it's down to smaller field sizes than what we had last year; I'm not sure why it feels so much better, but I think it's bigger than my own attitude and experience. I hope everyone feels as welcomed and supported in our 4/5 races as I feel.

Anyway, the race.

VWS had two women in the 4/5 field and two in the 1/2/3 field. The fields were separate, though, so we wouldn't be working together. That left the two of us vs. the peloton. We made a tentative plan as we warmed up, but mostly agreed that our goals were to ride safe, ride smart, and enjoy the racing. Carl Dolan features a two-mile circuit with one big climb going up to the finish line and one fast-ish descent going into a hard right turn.

Our VWS plan was to stay near the front and ride heads-up. There were attacks from the beginning of the first lap, which we took turns covering without needing to communicate very much. I looked around periodically to check and make sure my teammate was nearby; I knew if I didn't see her, I might need to cover the next surge. We tried an attack at the bottom of the sharp right-hander, riding off of our awesome cornering skills (I don't think they're that much better than anyone else's, just to be clear). But everyone attacks there, and nothing was going to stay away from that point.

There were a few surges up the hill where I had to dig deep to stay in touch with the peloton. I felt myself sliding to the very back of the pack multiple times! I attacked over the crest of the hill at one point, and stayed away for . . . not very far. Maybe the first quarter of the lap? That was the third or fourth or fifth lap; I'm not sure. I have footage from my GoPro, which I will consult (and post!). I don't remember the details of the race very well; it's all foggy in my brain.

On our eighth lap of ten, the moto officials warned us that we might be lapped and that he would keep us to the right so the 1/2/3 field could pass us. We waited and waited for them to ride by, but they slowed down just enough that they weren't coming by us. Finally, the moto pulled us over into a driveway to let them pass; his concern was that they would finally come past us right at the finish line, making a huge mess as two fields tried to finish uphill with riders attacking too soon and dying and other riders coming past them . . . It was a good choice, and I'm glad they made it. I know there were people in my field who didn't like the choice, but I was very grateful for it.

As a result of the neutralization and because we'd been lapped, the moto told us that we would come around and get the bell. In other words, we would be on our last lap after we crossed the line again. I expected very hard riding as soon as we got going again. And, just to make sure the riding was hard, I put in a hard dig at the sharp right hander (yes, where everyone attacks and no one stays away). I got caught on the climb, and managed to cling on to the pack as they came by. Then I re-positioned towards the front (but not on the front) of the pack and determined to sit in until the last possible moment.

On the back stretch of the final lap, an NCVC rider attacked. It was a good place to attack, too! She got a sizable gap on everyone, and no one seemed very motivated to chase; NCVC certainly wasn't going to chase down their own rider, and my teammate and I were both content to let the other, larger teams do most of the work to bring it back. I sort of expected her to blow up on the final climb, anyway. A Sticky Fingers rider and a Bike Lane rider did most of the work to keep her within reach.

Then we came around the last corner, and I can't remember much. I think I tried to stay out of the wind. A Phase Cycling rider attacked way too early, but I think that was part of their team plan. I remember coming around her as she faded. The pace was hard up the hill. I was barely hanging on, but I knew the pain would be over soon. I found my teammate's wheel and thought, "Oh! This is perfect! This is what we're supposed to do at the end of races!" I was hoping I could find an extra gear at the top of the hill and pick up places, but it was clear by the time we came in sight of the finish line that the only person I would be able to pass with my deteriorating legs was my own teammate. I counted the people in front of me, and estimated that we'd finished fourth and fifth. And that was a good result.

Turns out that one of the riders I counted was a leftover from the 1/2/3 field, though, and the two of us got third and fourth! We both got to stand on the podium together and represent our team. That was a really great, exciting result. We rode smart, we made good choices, we worked together without even having to talk to each other, and we both ended up on the podium. And we had fun!

I wish I could have had more left after that final climb, but I considered it a victory to make it up the hill in touch with the group I was in. Even without a final kick to the finish, I felt like I gave 100% in the finale. I'm very happy with my personal results and our team results on the day. We also had a fourth place in the men's masters 35+ and a fifth place in the women's 1/2/3!

And we had fun!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Jamie's Training Food: Man Bars

I made these for last weekend's Jefferson Cup, and they were a big hit with the whole women's peloton! They're also easy to pack for long days in the saddle:

Adapted from South Your Mouth's Man Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or nuts of your choice)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened, condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
About 1 cup powdered sugar (optional)

Dump. Mix. Line a square (I used an 8 inch) baking tin with parchment paper or foil. Use non-stick foil or grease it up really well; these are going to be sticky! Smooth batter evenly in tin. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes or so. Let the pan cool completely before doing anything else.

Two options here: Cut the sheet into bars, like granola bars; or cut into squares and toss in the powdered sugar. I tried both, and both are good. I liked the unsugared ones more myself, but everyone who tried them was a big fan of the powdered sugar version. I think the sugarless version is easier to eat while riding, though. After all, VWS team kit is mostly black!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Race Report: Jefferson Cup 2017 (W4/5)

Jeff Cup was one of my first big races last season, and I have good memories of it. It's a circuit race, 3 laps of 10 miles each for the 4/5 women. Our race ran concurrent with the 5 men and the 1/2/3 women, each starting a few minutes in front of us. The course is beautiful and rolling, with one sustained climb (there's a Trump Winery at the top, so everyone calls it Trump) that takes an eternity to climb (not really, it's like a 90-second hill w/ average grade of 5%). The rest of the course is rolling, twisting roads, with punchy climbs and some fast turns. The last turn is deceptively far from the finish line, and slightly uphill. It's a great course in a beautiful part of the country, and the race has been run for 27 years--it is dialed in! 

Before the race, I got to catch up with a lot of familiar faces. One of the best parts about being part of a local cycling scene is getting familiar with enough of the women that every weekend is a reunion. It's fun to chat before the race, and helps to calm the nerves. One of my goals for this season is to stay zen and relaxed in all races, with a special focus on not taking it too seriously. After all, we're out there to have fun!

On the neutral roll-out, all three of my VWS teammates came to the front with me. We didn't plan it that way, and we didn't mean to send a message of controlling the race (that wasn't our plan). It was cool that we moved in a unified way without talking to each other about it. And it said to me that the field respects and trusts our team, which is cool.

After the neutral roll-out, we re-staged for the W 4/5 start. I tried to start second row on a teammate's wheel, but got a poor start and had to make up places right from the beginning. I was boxed in on all sides with no teammates nearby--a situation that I wanted to rectify ASAP! Jeff Cup had a rolling closure system this year, which meant we had the whole road to race on. I can't tell you how nice it is not to have to worry about a center-line rule! But we are all so used to racing with the center-line rule, all of the women seemed to forget that we could take the whole road. And so I got boxed in, and stuck behind a woman who was kind of slow up the first few climbs. It took me a while to come around her, but eventually I did and tucked in on a teammate's wheel. I was the B rider for the day, so I tried to stay out of the wind as much as possible.

The first lap wasn't easy, but there weren't any significant attacks. A few women set a moderately hard tempo up front. One in particular, an unattached rider in Specialized kit, was doing tons of work! I kept wondering who she was doing work for. Turns out herself, because she made all the selections of the day and finished in the top group. Kudos to her!

My legs were hurting by the end of the first lap from hard pacing up the hills, so I moved myself as close to the front as I could before the second trip up Trump Hill. I was hoping that would give me room to slide back in the pack without losing touch. As we swooped around the corner before the hill, one of the riders that we'd specifically marked (she won Black Hill last weekend) attacked, and without thinking I followed her. I sat up quickly, remembering that it wasn't my job to chase her down (good thing, because I couldn't have stayed with that surge anyway). I called out to my A teammate to see if she could cover the attack, but she didn't have the legs to go with it, either. Fortunately, we saw a third teammate come by in hot pursuit, and I thought, "Thank god she has it!"

I definitely didn't have it. I don't know if it was the initial surge to cover the attack that blew me out (I don't think so, because I didn't stick with it for that long), or if the pace was just that high going up Trump Hill, but I slid further and further back, away from the lead group, away from the chase group, out of touch with almost everyone else. I suffered going up that hill; I suffered with the pain of a thousand stubbed toes!

I did make it to the top of Trump Hill without puking or dying, and looked around to see what help I could get in chasing back on. There was another woman a little bit ahead of me, and a woman I knew from NCVC a bit ahead of her. I was able to catch on to the closest wheel, then we worked together to pull up to the NCVC rider. A Charlottesville Racing rider (who'd dropped her chain on Trump Hill, major bummer) caught us, and we had four people rolling turns. Then I saw a teammate in the distance, and the four of us were able to take turns pulling up to her. We had a good group of 5, and we were coordinating well, but I was just dying. I had to skip several turns, and I almost lost touch with the group. Eventually I recovered, and we picked up a sixth rider, the youngest in our field--a rider from Rock Creek Velo who's only 13!

We were all suffering to get back onto the chase group (except for my teammate and the woman from C'ville, who were holding the chase together and keeping it organized). I had recovered enough by then to slot in and take extra pulls as gaps opened. After chasing for three quarters of a lap, we got back on to the main chase group near the start of the third lap. Their pace was not easy, though, and rest in the group was a relative thing. As soon as we got up to them, my VWS teammate and the chick from C'ville told the group that we would help contribute to the chase right after we rested up.

Our pace was steady but manageable going into the pre-Trump-Hill rollers, and then I dropped my chain on the first one. I tried to shift it back, but my front derailleur is a big issue for me and it wouldn't hop back on (I have a K-edge chain catcher, too, mind you). I stopped and pulled it back on to the little chain ring, and a bystander offered me a push to get me going again (which made me feel so pro). Unfortunately, my calf muscle cramped when I tried to clip my foot in, and I almost fell over (thank you, innocent bystander, for catching me twice). I was eventually able to clip back in, but the commissaire's moto sped past me, and I figured I was off the back for good. I was so disappointed, after working so hard to get back into the group, to be derailed by my front derailleur.

The women's 1/2/3 field had been neutralized for our race to pass theirs in the second lap (because we are a bad-ass bunch), and now they were getting ready to re-pass me. Their lead moto came up alongside me to let me know they were about to pass, and to stay to the right. They went past, and as they did I saw my chase group up ahead! They had also been neutralized for the 1/2/3 field. I was able to stop with them and get back in the bunch! Best of all, everyone seemed happy to see me, and glad that my dropped chain hadn't ended my race. The NCVC woman who'd started chasing back on with me way back after Trump Hill v. 2 was also able to catch the group while we were stopped. We all had an extra drink and a few deep breaths before they let us go again.

At that point, we weren't sure whether or not the lead group had been neutralized too, but we figured chasing them down wasn't going to happen. Our group committed to riding well and riding safe, but not necessarily easy for the rest of the race. We had a great time, the peloton communicating well and keeping things fast but safe. Coming around the final corner, I found my VWS teammate's wheel; we were both on the same page, I could tell without having to talk to her, that she would lead me out to hopefully place well in the inevitable group sprint that was coming.

The two of us stayed steady and tight, pretty far back in the pack, but with room to move outside to the left when the time came. With around 500 m to go, I told her to start moving me up, and she accelerated around the left side of the pack. Unfortunately, we came around a curve and saw there, in the left lane, two riders down and an ambulance behind them. The pack slowed, unsure what to do, and we eased back in to the right lane, our rhythm disrupted. She was able to regain some speed after passing the ambulance, and I came around her to put in a semi-sprint, but it was only good enough for fourth place out of the chasing group and 10th overall.

Still, it was a very successful day for us! Our VWS teammate who covered the big break was able to sprint in safely for third, so we had a rider on the podium (and none of us got caught in the crash, which was a blessing)! I've never been in such a positive and encouraging race before, either! The chase group communicated and moved together like we were one team. We were still racing each other, but we all respected each other and were committed to having a great, safe race. It was a really cool thing to be a part of! More importantly, I think that our team, the VWS ladies, were a not-insignificant part of that positive racing environment. I look forward to making our team mark on the women's fields not only with wins and podium placings, but by helping to foster a racing culture that is safe and welcoming while still competitive and challenging.

I do feel like I didn't live up to my personal potential in this race, but that just fires me up for next weekend's races! Thanks to all my teammates and fellow competitors for making such a fun and memorable race! And thanks to our team sponsors, who make our racing possible, and the race sponsors and organizers, who make the races possible!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Race Report: Black Hill Circuit Race

In which I get one of the bad races out of the way for the season.

This one didn't go how I wanted.

My training has been going fantastic so far this season. I've felt strong and getting stronger. My FTP is increasing and my weight is decreasing. I felt like I was bringing really good fitness into this race. But I was also using it as a training race, so I didn't even rest the day before; I did about an hour of pre-race openers with an hour of endurance before and another hour after. I had a good dinner last night, a little heavier than normal, and two beers--I hadn't had beer in about a month!

The women's races weren't until 12:30, which meant I got to sleep in a little later than normal. I had toast and peanut butter with honey for breakfast, two cups of coffee, and water in the morning. I did 20 minutes of easy spinning around the course with teammates and then another 20 minutes or so on the trainer to warm up. I had about 20 minutes of sitting around before the race started.

The course was rolling with smooth, flowing turns; it had one long-ish hill and one fast descent, with gentle undulations through the rest of the course. Our team (four of us, today) started together and rolled out near the front of the bunch. We controlled the group up the hill the first time, and the pack held together. The pace was fast but not unbearable. The second time up the hill, my quads started burning, but I figured they were tired from my ride the day before and it would pass. I was falling off the pace a little, but didn't lose touch with the pack. Legs still hurting, I lost contact the third time up the hill. I didn't worry though; I figured I could make up ground on the descents.

I never did. My quads felt tighter, and then my shin muscles started to cramp. I tried to breathe deeply and relax as many muscles as possible. There were 3 or 4 of us off the back, not out of sight of the peloton. I managed to come around one of the other women (a lady from Baltimore Bicycle Club) on the uphill; she said she'd like to work together to try to catch the group, but wasn't sure how. I told her how to trade turns (in between gasps for air), and flicked my elbow for her to come through in the transition from fast descent to long uphill (I figured it would be better for her to try her first turn at an uphill pace, without having to worry so much about getting blown off my wheel on a descent). As we passed my team cheering from the sidelines, they told us we were gaining on the group and could probably catch them!

But close to the top of the hill, the cramps moved from my quads and shins up into my psoas and abdominals. I've had my psoas go into spasm before, and it's nearly the worst pain I can remember feeling (anaphylaxis is slightly worse). In my mind, that's what passing a kidney stone must feel like. I told the woman from BBC to go ahead, because I wasn't going to be able to hold any kind of pace any more (and I felt bummed, because I wanted to help her work on those chasing skills!). Catching the field was out of the question for me; finishing the race was the best I could hope for.

I had the same kind of pain at Rockburn CX last fall. I thought hard about pulling out of that race, but ended up finishing the last lap when I got the bell. The spasm passed, and I was able to start riding hard again towards the end. Ended up coming back from about 20th to finish around 15th. I figured I would try to ride easy for a bit and see if the pain passed. Optimistically, I might still be able to pick off a few riders for better placement.

But at the end of that lap (5 of 10, I think), the writing was on the wall. I pulled myself, rode over to my car, unclipped, and flopped down on the ground. My hips and abs still hurt really bad. Lamaze breathing helped, a little, to make the pain go down, and I did some stretching. After 10 or 15 minutes, the pain had passed. I got my recovery apple and drink mix and went over to finish watching the race with my team.

Even so, Black Hill was a successful day for us! Two of my teammates finished 3rd and 4th (the other had similar problems to me, and pulled herself shortly after I did)! It may have been an inauspicious beginning to the season for me personally, but it was a strong start for the VWS ladies!

In terms of lessons learned from this race, I'm not sure what caused the cramping. It wasn't just muscle fatigue, because the problem was systemic--at one point, even my cheeks were cramping! I'm not sure if it's something I ate (or didn't eat), something I drank (or didn't drink), if I trained too hard the day before, didn't warm up well enough the morning of, or if it was too cold for my body. I'm not sure how to address this problem so that it doesn't happen again. Or maybe it was just a fluke, and I shouldn't worry about it too much. I think I need to do some research on systemic cramping.

The psoas thing is something I've felt before, too. When I was in college (and not in great shape) I seemed to get that consistently when running. I've had it multiple times when running and cycling, including last CX season at Luray and (like I mentioned) Rockburn. I'm not sure what causes it, but I think it's more than just cramping. Maybe it has to do with how far my hips tip forward. I hope that's the last I see of it this season!

Congratulations to my VWS teammates who raced today! Next week is Jeff Cup, and I'm already excited to race again!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Sweet-potato chickpea patties with sriracha-yogurt sauce

Growing up, little hellion tomboy that I was, I did not expect that I would spend any time, let alone multiple hours a week, on a website* frequented by housewives and mommy bloggers. But I really like Pinterest. I spend a not-insignificant amount of time looking at pictures of color palettes, seasonal decorating ideas, cute pet pictures, and cilantro-lime-avocado-quinoa-whole 30-paleo-vegan-friendly-gluten-free-anti-inflammatory recipes. Seriously, all the recipes are like that. Somewhere, there is a random generator with all of those (search engine optimized) words that spits out ridiculous recipes.

There's a class of food and mommy bloggers out there (mostly on Pinterest) that have blogs that all look exactly the same: they're all on white backgrounds with an Instagram-worthy picture in the right-hand column and a cute, quippy "about me" section. They all have beautiful food photography that they've done themselves. They all write several paragraphs of backstory (which I scroll past) about the recipe that they're showcasing, interspersed with these well-lit, well-arranged, composed pictures of food. And almost all of these blogs are written in the exact same voice; I wonder if this is an SEO-approved way of writing, or if it's because they've all learned how to write from each other.

Good on them for having a blog and trying to make money off of it, but if you enjoy snarking at such creatures, you'll probably enjoy watching The Katering Show on YouTube. Hilarious.

I have no well-composed pictures of my dinner (and if you've made it this far, you're already through the backstory part), but I do have this recipe from The Kitchn that I tried a few weeks ago and really enjoyed. That link has a relatively short amount of backstory and only two well-composed food pictures; and it's from an online "magazine," rather than an individual's food blog. There is still an Instagram-worthy picture of the author, though.

Enough of that. Here's the recipe, adapted slightly from The Kitchn's version:

For the patties:
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fine salt

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans (did you know cicero is Latin for chickpea?). Do not use a potato masher to mash them; it will take forever. Instead, dump the beans into a food processor, along with the onion, grated sweet potato (you could probably just chop it in the food processor before adding the beans, because grating a sweet potato takes forever, too), breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, and cilantro. Pulse the food processor until you have a fairly uniform paste. The original recipe also calls for cumin and smoked paprika, which I forgot to add; the patties tasted fine without it, but I'm sure they would be even better if I'd remembered to season them.

I pan-fried these on a non-stick skillet with no oil to keep the calories down. Next time, I'll try baking them in the oven. These are very fragile, so go slowly and carefully or you'll end up with hash. Scoop out a quarter of a cup of the paste, pack it into a tight ball with your hands, then squish it down into a patty shape. Carefully lay it in a skillet on medium heat. The patty will change color as it cooks, from orange to a yellow the color of curry powder. Cook the patty until that color change has gone more than halfway up the side of the patty (should take 3-5 minutes) then CAREFULLY flip to cook the other side. The patty should be golden brown, not dark brown or black; if you get dark brown or black, turn the heat down on your skillet. This recipe made 9 patties for me.

The sauce is easy: mix everything together. We had these like falafel patties, with flatbread (homemade, thank you very much), sauteed cabbage, pickled onions, and the sauce on top.

We got a computer, 26.8 k modem, and AOL when I was 8 or 9 (before that, we had a Commodore 64). The connection was so slow that the only sites we could consistently access were AOL message boards and fan sites. Do you know which ones I spent my time on? Star Trek and Babylon 5. I was a really cool kid.

Monday, March 20, 2017

New Bike Fit!

In the past two years, my body has changed. Part of that is down to being over 30. Part of it is my change in sports--no more running and swimming! Part of it is that I don't teach yoga multiple times a week anymore, and my flexibility from the time when I did teach 5-8 classes a week has now completely worn off.

When I first got my Felt AR5, I had a bike fit at my local shop Tri360 (which has since closed). The fit was from a F.I.S.T.-certified fitter, developed by The F.I.S.T. fitting system is very tri-centric, designed at a time when most bike manufacturers weren't developing bike geometries specifically for cyclists who need to be super-aero but also need to be able to run after riding. Which is to say that my bike fit, while very helpful for the Ironman training and racing that I did right after I got it, didn't suit my new path as a roadie. In fact, when I started road riding and racing again last winter, I re-tooled my fit on my own to be more road-friendly--both to increase my comfort and handling confidence for road riding and to stop my teammates from making fun of my triathlete fit.

But over the course of the past year I've gotten less and less comfortable on my saddle (a Cobb Gen 2 that was great for a TT position, but not very nice to my hoo-ha with a more laid-back road position), and I felt like I was limited in how low I could get over my bike. I tried messing with my handlebar position, my hood position, my saddle set-back; I had an overwhelming feeling, even after short rides, that I could be much more comfortable on my bike if I changed things around, but I was too lazy to put the time and effort into dialing my fit in myself.

So I outsourced the task to my sponsor bike shop, Spokes, Etc. Enter Anna, Spokes's pro fitter!

Anna is certified through Specialized's Body Geometry fitting program. I've been fit by a Specialized fitter before (back when I got my Specialized Transition). I like the Body Geometry system! It seems very thorough, much more so than the system (and yes, I know), like it takes more components of my individual body into account.

Here's a little before and after. See if you can tell the difference.
This is actually from right after I bought the Felt, not right before the fit, so it's not exactly how I had my bike set up before Anna worked on it.
And we live in a different house now. Notice the change of flooring!
There aren't a lot of obvious differences, although the one that stands out to me the most is the different in reach. The stack looks lower in the second picture, doesn't it? That's weird, because the saddle is much higher now than I had it right before. 

Saddle is lower, handlebars and stem are lower and rotated towards me slightly.
The pictures are kind of deceiving, because the only before picture of my bike I could find was from right after I bought it, before I had it fit for the first time. The changes we made this time were 
  • Raising the saddle
  • Moving the saddle back
  • Lowering the stem
  • Rotating the handlebars forward
  • And adding a new saddle
I'm now on a Specialized Power Saddle and it's working for me pretty well. It's still not perfect, because balancing on a few inches of plastic/carbon and leather for several hours is not comfortable. But the saddle seems to hit me in better places, and I've had less trouble with chafing and saddle sores since switching from the Cobb saddle. I can get really low with this fit without my chest and ribcage getting in the way of my legs. Some of the soreness in my piriformis and right hamstring has cleared up, too. This fit has worked out really well for me (and it's roadie-approved)! Big thanks to Anna and Spokes, Etc. for the much-appreciated service!

If you've never been professionally fit, I recommend it. It'll run you $100-$200, depending on the shop you go to, but it makes a big difference in how you feel on the bike. For my money, not having saddle sores and chafing in my lady-parts is well worth the cost (and it's an easy sell for spouses/partners if you have to convince them that you need to spend the money, if you know what I mean). Most shops will give you a free or discounted bike fit after you buy a bike from them, so check into that if you're in the market for a new bike.

I'll try to pull together some information on bike fitting and saddle choice soon, so if you can't swing the cost of a pro bike fit you can try to at least improve your position on your own. With that, thanks for reading!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Coping With the Flu

I was going to go to Williamsburg, Virginia, to race the William & Mary Tidewater Classic (last year's race report here) this weekend, but instead I decided to get the flu.
Check out my stash. Anyone in Big Pharma want to sponsor me?
I had the flu at the end of November, too. Both times, the illness coincided with being in Canada or around Canadian relatives. Those Canadian germs must be really tough! Polite, but tough!
Canadian germs, like the Mounted Police, are tough but polite.
But this post isn't just a forum for me to whine (I subjected you guys to enough whining in the Monster Cross Race Report)--I also want to be helpful! So here is my brief rundown of all the drugs I have taken, and how effective they've been. Please note, however, that this post in no way constitutes medical advice. If you're sick, go to the doctor. If you're interested in my pain and down for a laugh, read on.

For reference, my worst symptom with this year's flu (both times I've had it) is body aches all over. My muscles and joints are so sore that I can barely get out of bed. It hurts to eat, swallow, poop, urinate, and breathe. I also have a sore throat and sinus congestion and headache, but the all-over hurting is really the worst part. Without further ado, here are the things I've tried:

Nyquil (not pictured)
I only got half a dose of Nyquil because Emily had taken it all last week (she'll get me some more tonight). It did a good job of relieving the body aches enough that I could fall asleep. Unfortunately, it stopped working after 4 hours, at which point I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep because everything hurt.

If you've never used Salonpas, they're pain-relief patches that stick on the skin and work like icy hot. These were surprisingly effective, but they didn't cover enough territory. They are advertised to last for 8 hours, but mine stopped working closer to 6 hours in.

Tylenol PM
This is what I took after the Nyquil wore off (since we didn't have any more). I know from experience, having slept through work once, that the sedative part is powerful, so I only took one. But the pain relief part wasn't strong enough to keep me asleep, so I dozed fitfully after taking it.

Really helped with the nasal congestion and sinus headache, but not the all-over body aches. It's the thing that has cleared my head enough to be to write this, though.

I think this is what helped my sore throat and headache more than anything. It helped the body aches some, but not enough on its own to get rid of them.

Alka Seltzer Cold Plus
This is one of my favorites, because it addressed all the symptoms I was having and was fact-acting. However, it wears off fast (less than 4 hours), and you're only supposed to take 2 doses every 24 hours.

Vicks Vapo-rub
Smells nice, and helps a little with the congestion. Emily put it on her feet and then put socks on to stop her coughing (which actually worked, to my surprise), but it hasn't done much for me.

No idea whether or not this stuff is helping. I seem to feel a little better after I take it, but that's probably a placebo effect. It's reasonably well-studied, but I'm pretty sure I have the flu and not a common cold, so I'm not sure I'm the target market right now.

China Gel/Biofreeze
This is the stuff that's been a life-saver for me. It does the same thing as Salonpas, but I can rub it all over my arms, legs, neck, chest, ribs, and back. It's surprisingly long-lasting, too; I put some on about an hour ago, and I'm pretty sure it's the only reason I'm able to sit upright and type right now. The China Gel and Biofreeze have similar mechanisms, but I don't think the Biofreeze works quite as well. I prefer the consistency of the China Gel, anyway. The Biofreeze is cheaper though, by a good amount (China Gel $3.74/ounce, Biofreeze $2.63/ounce).

My plan is to get a flu shot as soon as they start giving them out next year. I've never prioritized flu shots, but holy cow! I never want to feel like this again. From now on, I will always get a flu shot. And if you're unlucky enough to get this particular strain of Canadian influenza (Canadianfluenza, if you will),  Dayquil, ibuprofen, and China Gel is what's helping me survive until the virus runs its course.

No racing for me this weekend. Those of you who are racing, keep the rubber side down!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

PSA: Always Check Before You Ride!

I did an easy-ish ride this morning to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather before the forecast afternoon thunderstorms hit. On the second half of my ride, I started to feel extra tired. I chalked it up to being hungry for lunch, but then I heard a rubbing sound and realized that my front brake had gone off-center. I re-adjusted it and kept riding. It happened again a little bit later, and again a little bit after that. For the last 20-30 minutes of my ride, I was thinking hard about what could cause my brake to keep pulling to the same side, especially since it was pulling clockwise--away from the direction that the cables pull.

When I got home, I dismounted and gave the brake one last wiggle to see if I could feel any play. The brake felt fine, but the wheel moved.

Let me repeat: the wheel moved.

The quick release on my front wheel was loose. I don't know if it came loose at some point during the ride (unlikely), or if it's been like that since I put the front wheel back on after Sunday's ride. But that is a very dangerous problem to have. If my front wheel had come off at high speed, I probably would have been visiting the hospital right now instead of writing this blog post.

Consider this your public service announcement to check your bike before every ride! Here's a list of quick things to check before you head out:

1. Quick release skewers. Be sure they're secure and tight and lined up properly. Check for any side to side play in the front or rear.

2. Wheels and brakes. Give the wheels a quick spin to check for wheel true and brake rubbing. While you do that, eyeball the tires to make sure there's nothing stuck in the rubber. While you're at it, check the tire pressure and inflate your wheels to your preferred pressure.

3. Check the brakes by grabbing the front and rear brake and pushing forward and backward. With the front brake on, the front wheel should stop and the bike frame rotate forward. With the rear brake on, the rear wheel should stop and (if anything) the whole bike should scoot back. Neither wheel should slip against the brake pads, though.

4. Make sure the chain is lubed. Some people lube their chain before a ride, but I usually clean and lube my bike after every ride. Doesn't matter, so long as the chain isn't dry.

You should also wash and check your bike regularly. Ideally, you'd wipe the bike down and de-grease the drivetrain after every ride, but I know sometimes that's not possible. Definitely do it after every wet, rainy ride, though, and try to get it done at least once a week. While you're at it, check the chain for wear (you need a chain wear tester for that job, but they're not expensive). Clean the brake pads and check them for wear. Check your wheels and tires for true and for any little sharp bits that have lodged themselves in your tires. And check the brake track on your wheels for wear.

It doesn't take much time or effort to check your bike, but you do need a little bit of knowledge. I recommend SickBiker and Global Cycling Network, both of which have detailed and informative maintenance guides on their YouTube channels. You shouldn't need to take your bike to the shop for every little thing. And you need to be able to do enough to keep yourself safe on your rides.

Stay safe out there!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Race Report: Monster Cross

Oy. Where to begin?

First off, this race report isn't getting out until Thursday (4 days) because I've had trouble concentrating. I fell and hit my head pretty hard . . . and I didn't think I got a concussion, because it didn't feel like the concussions I've had before . . . But who knows. Maybe I had a mild concussion, or maybe I just feel loopy because the weather's been nice and my allergies are starting for the spring.

So. Monster Cross.

It sucked.

I should have gotten an indication of how things would go down at registration, where they ran out of T-shirts. So in spite of registering well ahead of time, I didn't get a T-shirt. Not that I care that much about another T-shirt, but the entry fee was $70 and included a shirt. Why couldn't you have enough shirts for pre-registered riders who paid for a shirt?

The start was a total shit-show, if you'll pardon my language. There was no direction given on staging. I heard a rumor that the 25-mile people were supposed to start after the 50-mile people, but I doubt many people got that note (and I don't even know if it was true). There were about 500 people at the start, and about half of them were assholes on mountain bikes who were really convinced that they needed to get around me and in front of me as quickly as possible. The first 5 miles were full of stupidity and unnecessary risks. Fortunately, I managed to find a pair of wheels from Rogue Velo that were riding at a consistent pace and taking good lines, so I tagged onto the back of them and followed for the first 5-10 miles (even though they were going slower than I knew I could ride).

After things thinned out a little, I passed the pair from Rogue Velo and told them they won my prize for steadiest wheels and thanked them for that. There was still a lot of traffic, though. I though Carl Dolan was stressful last year. It was nothing compared to a double-paceline on double-track with a bunch of dumb mountain bikers who apparently don't know how to ride next to other people and guys on cross bikes who seem like they've never ridden within 10 feet of another person.

There was one guy in particular (on a mountain bike, of course) who made at least 3 really dumb passes that I saw. He blew past me way too close (without calling anything out to me, of course), then I saw him on two other occasions pass someone with barely inches to spare (almost hitting the other rider) when there was plenty of room on the other side to pass! Stupid, discourteous, asshole behavior, all around.

Can you tell that this whole thing was making me grumpy?

I ended up passing and dropping the stupid mountain biker on the uphills, anyway.

I had about 5 miles of good riding before taking a creek crossing too fast (even though I was warned a few weeks ago about this particular creek crossing) and with a bad line. I tore a hole right through my front tire, tubeless system be damned. I ended up at the top of the next hill with half a dozen other riders in the same boat. My wheel was spewing Stan's NoTubes all over, but it was holding enough air that I felt like I could ride it for at least a mile or so before pumping it up again. Another woman was in the same predicament, and she told me she was pretty sure that we had been 2nd and 3rd until that point. But I didn't really care; I'd decided I didn't want to be anywhere close to the front with the self-important jerks and their dickish behavior.

The nice thing about flatting was that I was pretty close to the back of the field, so I had the trails to myself at last! The bad thing was that my tire was losing air, and I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make it through a second lap. As I pulled over to the side of the trail to add some more air to my flat (again) tire, I resigned myself to pulling out at mile 25.

Miraculously, my tire had sealed and was holding air! It maintained the same air pressure for the last 4 miles of the lap, and I decided to risk a second lap on it. Right at the end of that lap, though, I passed a really, really, really bad crash. Some of my racing friends had pulled over to the side of the trail, and they all looked stunned. I tried not to look, and kept going on the lap. The woman who'd crashed ended up being taken out in a helicopter, and just regained consciousness the other day. Hope she pulls through.

I stopped by my car (which I'd conveniently and unwittingly parked right next to the start of the second lap) to check the air pressure on my tires with my track pump and let some air out of my tires, because I had way too much for confident handling on the first lap. I also grabbed a fresh bottle of water. And then I started my second lap.

The ride was going great, and I was reeling some of the women who'd passed me back in! Then there was a little mix-up with the course. A section of the course had two-way traffic, but the two-way section wasn't labeled in any way. So we were heading out on our second lap, and the front of the field was heading back on their second lap, and they were yelling at us that we were going the wrong way. Me and another guy on a cross bike rode back to the last corner to see if we'd missed a turn, but it didn't look like we had. So we started out the same way again, and met another group who assured us that we were going the wrong way. So we turned around and went back again, picking up a few more people each time. Finally, there were about a dozen of us stopped at the corner, so we all decided to go back down the two-way section and if we were wrong at least we'd all be wrong together. Turned out to be the right decision. But it's another example of really poor race management. First of all, that section was dangerous. There was only one good line to pass, and if two people were trying to pass at the same time from opposite directions, it would have been a mess. Plus, how hard would it have been to make a sign that said, "Warning! Two-way traffic! Keep right" huh? All it would have taken is a piece of poster board and a sharpie. Poor management.

By that point, I'd added 2 miles to my race and all the women I'd passed had passed me back. One of my friends was so frustrated that she just turned around and went back. I think she'd had enough. But I persisted and finished out the second lap mostly uneventfully. Mostly.

I'd had a terrible day, in spite of beautiful weather and surroundings, and I was having a difficult time keeping my spirits up. I was grumpy. So I did the one thing that could make my day complete: I slid out on a gravelly corner coming down a hill into a sharp right turn. There wasn't much blood, and I didn't damage my kit or my bike, but I hit my head pretty hard. No flash of light or anything, but I figured my helmet was a lost cause at that point. I dedicated myself to riding cleanly for the rest of the race, because I really couldn't risk a second knock to the head.

I rode extra carefully on the creek crossing and made it through without ruining any more tires, and extra carefully around the corner where the really bad crash had been on the previous lap. Made it to the final climb within site of a BikenetiCX rider. Spectators were egging us on to sprint to the finish, so we tried our best. I grabbed the guy's wheel, but just as I was getting ready to pull around him, some dumbass on a mountain bike rode right out in front of us. Without looking! On the finishing straight! I hit my brakes so I wouldn't hit him, and that was my race. A fitting end to that day, all around.

I would tell you how I placed, but the race director hasn't gotten them up yet. He sent an e-mail yesterday that basically said, "Shame on all of you for wanting your race results when one of your fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life! You should all be thinking of her and praying for her instead of wanting your race results." Which didn't sit well with me. I agree that her health and recovery is waaaaay more important than knowing whether or not I finished DFL in this event, but what does that have to do with him? Is he at the hospital every day? Is he spending all his free time praying? How does her recovery affect his ability to get the results done? And it would have been so easy to handle this in a way that kept people happy instead of putting their backs up. He could have said, "Hey guys, sorry the results are taking so long. You probably know by now that we had a really bad crash, and one of our fellow racers is in the hospital clinging to life. I'm doing my best to get results out, but they're kind of messed up since we had to stop the race for 20 minutes for the helicopter evacuation. I promise I'll keep working and get the results up as soon as I can. In the meantime, please keep our fellow athlete in your thoughts and prayers." See? I would have so much more patience if he'd said that instead of "Shame on you."

Bah. This was a terrible race. I did not have fun, and I don't think I'm the only one. I won't be doing Monster Cross again.

<--End of rant-->

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Jamie's Diet Food: Almond Flour Pancakes

I've made protein/paleo pancakes before (back in the years when I was eating mostly paleo). They didn't come out well. They were basically a scoop of protein powder and an egg. That's a protein powder omelette. They tasted of chocolate and chalk (chalk-a-late?), and they had the texture of used coffee filters with bits of coffee grounds mixed in.

So when I was craving pancakes after cycle class this morning (IHOP advertises on CNN, yo, and CNN is always on at the gym), I didn't go back to those bad, bad pancakes. Instead, I used the magic of Pinterest to look for a recipe that wouldn't suck. And I found one!

I made a few modifications, which are included below, but this recipe was adapted from one by The Roasted Root. They are surprisingly good. I wasn't expecting much, but these are tasty and have a pleasant texture.

1 3/4 cup of almond flour
2 tbsp flax seed meal
2 tbsp vanilla protein powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Make sure to mix everything together well; it's especially important that the baking powder is evenly distributed. Whisk eggs and vanilla into milk. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir until combined.
  2. Heat a pan or a griddle to medium-low. Use less heat than you think you need. These are better when they're not burnt.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup of mix into the pan and gently tilt the pan to create a thin, even pancake. It takes 3-4 minutes on the first side. You should see brown, crispy edges peaking out from the sides, and there should be a few bubbles on the surface of the pancake.
  4. Flip the pancake over very gently. They're fragile. Cook for another minute or two on the other side, just until the bottom looks golden brown.
  5. Repeat until you've used all the batter.
  • The batter is pretty thick. I used a spoon to scrape out the inside of my 1/4 cup scoop. It doesn't pour well, and half of it will stick to whatever vessel you're using to transfer mix from bowl to pan.
  • I used a crepe pan that I have for some reason (who has a crepe pan?), which has a non-stick, non-Teflon coating. I used about 1/2 tsp of coconut oil to grease the pan, but it wasn't really necessary. These didn't stick to my pan, really, and the coconut oil that wasn't soaked up by the first pancake burned and smoked.
  • These are gluten free, so they don't have the protein structure to hold together as well. That makes them fragile. Use the biggest spatula/flipper that you have and turn them over slowly. I didn't have any break, but go carefully. Think of it more as flipping an omelette than flipping a pancake.
  • Cooking takes longer than regular pancakes. Prepare to do a lot of standing around. If you have a griddle and can do a whole batch at once, lucky you. If you're doing them one at a time, prepare to devote 40 minutes to the cooking process.
  • Try them with apple butter. Om nom nom.
  • This recipe made 8 pancakes using 1/4 cup at a time. Nutrition info:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kit Review: Shebeest Petunia Bibs and Divine Jersey

My kit collection has gotten sad over the past couple of years. There are multiple pairs of bike shorts about which I've said, "I should really get rid of these." This year, I finally had to (because no one wants to see my bum in spin class or on team rides). My beloved Specs Racing cycling kit--which I've had since '08 or '09--has gotten a little too much use. I finally threw out my Specs bibs this year when the seams that held the pad in ripped out, leaving tiny windows into my crotch from front and back. The non-bib Specs shorts are still in the spin class/TrainerRoad session rotation, but they won't hold out much longer. Most of the jerseys have held out much better, but I lost one to a broken zipper this year. I have some nice, new Veloworks-Spokes, Etc. kits for racing, but the Mt. Borah padding doesn't play well with my privates during 3+ hour rides.

All of which means I've needed for a long time to invest in new cycling clothing. In spite of the fact that I have more money now and therefore shouldn't have so much trouble buying new stuff, I find that my tastes in cycling clothing have also gotten way more expensive. I finally learned while training for Ironman Mallorca that bibs in the $50-$60 range are not good enough for my bottom. I budget $100-$120 for a pair of bib shorts now, and look for sales to get the best value. I can't quite bring myself to pay $200-$300 for a pair of fancy boutique bibs, though. Sorry, but you probably won't be reading any reviews of Rapha or Velocio kit from me!

That brings me to the kit I finally bought from Shebeest: the Petunia bibs and Divine jersey in black and houndstooth.

I got a pair of shorts (not bibs) from Shebeest a couple of years ago for Ironman training. They were marked way down on Nashbar, which is how I initially found them. The ones I bought, which have since been discontinued, were labeled specifically for 5+ hours in the saddle. Even marked down, they were the most expensive shorts I'd ever bought, excluding team kit buys, at $99. But I loved them so much that I ended up wearing them for the cycling leg of my Ironman, even though they weren't bibs. They had the most comfortable pad I'd ever ridden, and that's including my Castelli tri suit.

So I went directly to Shebeest for this purchase. I don't love many of their colors and patterns; too girly for my taste. But I found these in black and houndstooth, which looks stealthy but still has a pop of flair.

My first ride in them was a TrainerRoad workout, because they were the only shorts that were clean at the time. But my second ride in them has a two-hour jaunt on my 'cross bike. I still ride the stock saddle that came on my Specialized, even though the faux-leather doesn't allow me to slide on when re-mounting, because I am cheap and I am lazy and I don't want to try out a bunch of saddles to find one that works with my pelvis (which is not at all shaped for perching on a bike seat). It is not a comfortable saddle for me. If I sit on it for more than an hour or so, my butt (and other things) start complaining.

The Shebeest shorts made that a little better. I don't know if I'm ready to ride that stock saddle all the way to Cumberland in the Shebeest shorts, but they made a noticeable difference in my comfort level riding.

The real breakthrough moment with these shorts came when I had to stop to use the toilet on my ride. It was about 40ยบ out that day, so I was fully kitted out with tights and a jacket. As I pulled over next to the port-a-loo, I was dreading the imminent disrobing--take off the jacket, take off the jersey, pull off the bib straps, pull down the tights, find a place to hand the jacket and jersey that isn't on the floor of the john . . . Then I remembered that these shorts don't have standard bib straps; they have a halter. So I unzipped my jersey and jacket about halfway, pulled the halter over my head, and dropped trou. It was a revelation! No more removing all clothing in order to pee!

My first pair of Shebeest shorts were mediums, and they were a little too big. This time, I went with the smalls, which are a little tight. They're not so tight that I can't wear them, but they are noticeably compressive. The bib part is a polka-dot fabric that comes over the head in a halter, and it's attached by fishnet-type webbing. The fishnet part isn't very stretchy, but the halter is so stretchy that it doesn't seem to matter (at least for me). I have some concern that the halter will put pressure on my neck and shoulders during a ride, which may cause trouble on longer rides in the form of extra stress in my neck and tension headaches. The grippers on the legs are silicone woven in with elastic, like Castelli uses on their grippers. I like the feel of it very much, although I do still get some sausage-leg effect on these size small shorts.

The Divine jersey is a summer jersey, so I feel like I can't evaluate all of its benefits yet. I really like the cut and fit, especially around the hips. These jerseys are designed to be more generous for women's bodies, so the hemline isn't as stretchy. Instead, the rear panel below the jersey pockets has a silicone/elastic hybrid fabric that has lots of stretch but still holds the jersey in place. I didn't have any problems with the rear of the jersey riding up. The cut is a little tight through my arms, but the fabric is stretchy enough that it's not uncomfortable. It just makes me look even more muscular.

The fabric of the jersey is shinier, more sateen than I'm used to. I wasn't sure about its breathability at first, but it seemed to do fine, and the feel of the fabric is growing on me. It's very stretchy, though, so I'm not sure how durable it will be.

All things considered, I really like this new kit. I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces on longer rides, and seeing how the bib pad meshes with my road bike saddle.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Lesson Learned: Failure is Better than Success

I had a very rough ride on Sunday. It was the first time in a while I had been able to get out with a large group of my (female) teammates. The plan was to ride a very hilly 50 miles together in Potomac, Maryland. I was looking forward to riding with a group again, although I was apprehensive about things like holding my line and keeping a gap to the next wheel after a season of 'cross and not a lot of team rides.

The first 45 minutes or so felt tense, but then my body seemed to remember how to ride in a pack and it started to get easier. I took a gel about an hour in, and then a Clif bar after another 30 minutes or so. My Garmin told me we were about halfway through; my body told me that I was going to need to slow way down if I wanted to do the second half of the ride.

I communicated with my team that I would need to slow down, and somebody gave me some food (since I'd already eaten all of mine). For the rest of the ride, the team tried to keep me sandwiched so I wouldn't get dropped. I could smell a really strong scent of ammonia coming off of me. If you don't know much about exercise physiology, it's a bad sign when your body smells like cleaning products.

I was able to slow down enough to finish the ride, but the last several miles were really tough. We had brunch afterwards, I took a nap later that day, and I was totally back to normal by the end of the day! Here's what I think (I'm pretty sure) happened: I did a hard TrainerRoad workout on Saturday night. I had a protein shake with half a banana after that workout, but I don't think that was enough carbohydrate to replenish my glycogen stores. Our ride started at 8:30 the next morning, just over 12 hours. My glycogen stores were already pretty depleted, and I blew through any remaining stored sugar in the first hour of our ride by going too hard too soon. I couldn't eat enough sugar to keep up with the demands of that effort level, and the intensity was too high for me to rely on fat for fuel (I'm also pretty sugar adapted right now, compared to my post-Ironman metabolism). The ammonia smell was from my body desperately chewing through muscle and protein (amino acids metabolize into ammonia--not terrific for your liver, but something that your body can process) to meet the energy demands. The only option for my body was to slow down enough to allow for fat metabolism, which is why I had to finish the ride at a dawdle.

Two things, though:

One: in spite of how hard the ride was (mentally, physically, emotionally), it was one of my favorite rides ever. I have never felt so much part of a team--not in football, not on previous cycling teams, not in rugby. Everyone was there to help me through the ride, willing to slow down so that I could keep up. And our team communication felt pretty good, which was so cool! It's hard to communicate and talk when you're all strung out in a paceline! I drove home after our brunch practically floating, because I'm so excited to be on this team this year.

Two, and this gets to the crux of my post: nothing is more motivating to me than my own failure. Today, I taught my normal Monday morning spin class (took it very easy) and lifted weights after, and I have had to hold myself back from doing more training all day long. I can barely stand to sit still, I'm so excited to train more. I know Sunday's ride took a lot out of me, and I need to recover, but I want to go out and get stronger so that I can do better next time! I've experienced the same thing in racing; the races that motivate me the most aren't the ones in which I do well, but the ones where I don't--the pinch flats, the stupid mistakes, the poor fitness, those are the ones that leave me chomping at the bit for the next weekend.

That's how I feel after yesterday's ride. So yes, lesson learned on timing workouts and nutrients; recovering properly and bringing enough food on long, hard rides; properly pacing myself for the effort ahead . . . But my biggest takeaway from this weekend is that failures, big or small, drive me forward. I can't wait to get out and kill this week's training.