Monday, August 29, 2016

Race Report: Dirty BikenetiCrit

That's me! Face full of dirt, with my teammate Tina on my wheel.
This was a new kind of race! It was a criterium, but on dirt. Road rules, cross vibe, and free beer after!

I signed up for this race about a month ago. I also signed up for an online chemistry class, and the first lab meeting was on Saturday. It was supposed to run from 8 to noon, and my race was at 11. I'd given up on the hope of getting to go do the race, and was prepared to eat the $30 entry fee.

But then, wonder of wonders, we got out of lab at 9:30! A glimmer of hope emerged. I raced home, threw everything in the car, and drove to Haymarket as quickly as possible. Checked in and got my number at 10:45, ready to roll with 9 minutes to spare!

So I got no warm-up, and I didn't pre-ride the course. I rolled off the line with no earthly idea what was coming next.

The women's fields raced combined. A few of the ladies took the pace out hot, and I managed to catch onto the back. I had a teammate ahead and a teammate behind. I hung in well enough, at the beginning, but wasn't taking the right lines through the gravel corners. In road racing, you get used to following the wheels in front of you, if you know them, but not all of the wheels were reliable on the loose stuff. There were a few times where I missed a corner and had to push hard to catch back on to the lead group. With about 5 laps to go (out of 9 or 10, I don't remember), I went wide in a corner and fell off the lead pack. Drilled it to bridge back on (with two other riders on my wheel), realized I could pull the pin and finish the race or keep going and blow up in the heat, and pulled off. The girl behind me didn't appreciate losing her free ride. She said something as she came around me, and it didn't sound nice. But I was more interested in finishing the race without throwing up.

So I let the lead pack go and treated the rest of the race as an interval workout. Ended up lapping a few stragglers and passing a few for higher placing (including the wheel-sucker with the witty remarks). Ended up 5th in a field of 19, and that was stone cold at the start without a pre-ride!

Great race. Well run. A terrific warm up for the cross season. I hope they do it again next year! I'd definitely do it again!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Product Review: Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil

This is a review of a product that was sent to me by the manufacturer, Skinny & Co. I'm not being paid for this product review, but I also didn't pay for the product. It's a freebie. You can view my unboxing of the product here. Now let's get started.

Skinny & Co. make fancy coconut oil products. Raw, pure, vegan, extra-virgin, wild-harvested, single-source . . . any other catch-words I can include? It's coconut oil, so it's also gluten-free. They also emphasize their charitable work in Vietnam, whence they source their coconuts, and the fact that they recycle a lot.

The packaging is pretty cool. They sent me five of these little jars that are quite pretty. My only complaint is that it's hard to tell which one is which. All the jars look the same, and the product name does not stand out very well. So far I haven't put facial oil in my oatmeal or anything, but I could see it being a problem with this packaging. In this box, I have the coconut oil, body butter, sugar scrub, oil pulling, and facial oil.

If you've read this blog for a long time, you know that I went through a raw foods phase. I'm over that now, and I'll tell you why: it's really hard to do, it didn't make me feel any better, and it's based on scientific quackery. That's part of why I'm skeptical when it comes to the health benefits of things like single-sourced and cold-pressed. But I also really like coconut oil, so I've tried all of the products (even the oil pulling) with an open mind.

All of the products except the sugar scrub look just like this
Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil
Surprisingly, I already had organic, extra virgin, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil in my pantry (because that's the coconut oil that Trader Joe's sells). This coconut oil smells like the Trader Joe's kind, maybe slightly less coconutty. Tastes a little better on its own than the Trader Joe's brand, I think. I've put it in smoothies, and oatmeal. It adds a nice flavor. Seems like a good product.
And this is the sugar scrub.
Skinny & Co. Sugar Scrub
This is my favorite product of the five I've tried. It has a strong flavor of brown sugar, which makes me really want to eat it. The sugar is pleasantly abrasive and washes away easily in the shower. It's a nice alternative to exfoliating products with stupid microbeads, which I don't like to use because of the environmental concerns associated with them. Once the sugar is gone, the coconut oil in which it is suspended remains to leave my skin feeling very soft without feeling greasy. Love this stuff.

Skinny & Co. Body Butter
This is coconut oil with some essential oils so that it smells nicer (and maybe blah blah blah something about the health benefits of essential oils). Except that Emily and I both hate the smell. It smells strongly of black licorice, so I assume there's anise oil in there. It's a nice product, and I like it as a moisturizing product, but I do not like the smell. If you like black licorice or anise, though, you will probably like this.

Skinny & Co. Facial Oil
I was excited to try this product, too, because the skin of my face is frequently dry. It also has lavender and chamomile in it, so I thought it might be good as a natural sleep aid. Unfortunately, it has the same essential oil blend as the body butter, and that anise smell overwhelms everything else for me. I like the way it makes my face feel, though. I can't speak to how well it removes make-up, because I don't wear make-up.

Skinny & Co. Oil Pulling
Have you heard of oil pulling? I hadn't. I've done some research on it, though, and found that it's a traditional practice in Ayurveda (much of the empirical research that's been done on oil pulling is from India). I probably read about it in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika and didn't even realize it. In Ayurveda, it's traditionally performed with sesame oil, but Skinny & Co. sells coconut oil, so they advocate using coconut oil (preliminary research shows that coconut oil is also effective, though). I followed an online guide for how to oil-pull for the first time this morning. Coincidentally, I had a root canal on Wednesday, so my mouth hasn't been feeling awesome. I hoped that the oil pulling would help soothe my gums and make my breath better. It hasn't made any difference so far, but the studies I've read suggest it might not make a difference until after 5-8 days. It's kind of gross, though, and time-consuming. You're supposed to swish a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 5-20 minutes. Not seconds; minutes. That's a lot of time when you have appointments starting at 5 a.m. I wonder if it's equally effective if you do it before bed.

That's about all I have to say about Skinny & Co. I like the product well enough, although I probably wouldn't have gone out and purchased it on my own. Health and beauty products in fancy little tins aren't really my thing. I do like the sugar scrub, though. I may even keep using that.

For more info on Skinny & Co., you can visit their website here. If you have other questions you'd like to ask or are a raw foodist who wants to attack me as a heretic, please do so in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First ride on my Crux!

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

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

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

Until next time, spin & smile!

Sunday, August 14, 2016


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

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

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

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

New bike! Yay!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skinny & Co. Unboxing

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

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

Sunday, August 7, 2016

End of Road Season, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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