Wednesday, April 29, 2015

50 Miles for Rwanda (or some other African country)


The longest I'd ridden on my mountain bike going into the Rwanda ride was 32 miles. I had all these very good (lofty) intentions of coming off of Ragnar feeling amazing and strong and then having a huge weekend of riding before the 50 mile Ride for Rwanda.

That's not what happened. What happened was I tried to go ride 45ish miles after a couple days of rest after running 16 miles untrained and my legs revolted. I started a second loop of what I normally ride and ended up turning around after pushing my bike up the first hill. And then I tried not to cry and I texted Suzanne who is also training for Leadville (and probably being smarter about it): 

I have such amazing friends. She talked me right off the ledge... 

So basically, when I got to the start line for the 50 mile ride, I had ridden a little over half the distance of the ride. Ever. In my life. This isn't the first time I've trained so half-assedly, so I knew it was gonna be rough. I also don't quit... So I knew it was going to be a long day. 

But I can do anything for 7 hours. It's basically just going to get the mail... for 7 hours. 
"Good Luck" charm coffee at 5 am. If Rosie can do it, I can do it!
And really, that's all there was to it! The ride was almost exactly what I expected. A little bit painful after 4ish hours in the saddle. Soreness in places I'm not sure I knew existed before (my arms and back!), cramping in my legs (and of course, I forgot my salt tablets so I also started to lose my strength of mind), and general fatigue. Most of this is predictable. But there were a few things that were new to me... 

1) I forgot to eat. It's much more difficult to shove food in your mouth when you need to have to hands on the handlebars (and brakes) to maintain an upright position. I got all bonky and angry and felt like I was going to barf and/or start pushing people off their bikes. It didn't go away till an hour or so after I got some food in me. Some stranger also handed me a pill and told me it was salt, so I took it. And it helped! 

2) I am SO MUCH BETTER at descending than I used to be. Guys weren't pining to get around me on the downhills. I was holding my own and it was AWESOME. (This also happened on the uphills, too...)

3) Since I am holding my own on the downhills and the uphills (you know, for the most part), I have decided that I am officially a mountain biker. And that is a rad feeling. 

4) Even though I held my own, I walked parts of some of the hills and struggled through the middle of the race. I learned that I have a long, LONG way to go before I'm ready to ride double the distance at 10k feet.

So, I'm focusing in my training a little bit... I will be applying the lessons learned in this little do-dad to my training for Fire Road. Feeling SUPER STOKED to learn what I got to learn at this point in my training. Here are stats: 

I was so so so lucky to ride with my friends from Two Wheels One Planet (totally unexpected as I usually like to suffer alone). We kept our smiley faces for most of the ride!

We did it!!! 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

CancerBirthdary: 37, Off and Running!


Marky told me back in October that the Ragnar Relay was on my CancerBirthdary this year. Meaning, it fell on April 10 and 11. I was diagnosed on April 10 2012 and my birthday is on April 11. While the timing seemed unfortunate at the time, I have a huge appreciation for it now. Somehow, it just seems appropriate to celebrate the fact that I'm still alive the day before I celebrate that I have life.

For the last few years I have celebrated my CancerBirthdary by rallying 5-10 friends to come climb halfway up Mt Baldy to the old green ski hut, stay the night there - celebrating by making stew on a wood-burning stove, drinking, playing cards, and relishing in the clear, noise-free, starlit sky. It has become an awesome tradition. This year it included rallying 14 people to come run a 30ish hour relay race with me.
A few of us at the hut a couple years ago
We did it right. We dressed as Richard Simmons, didn't take ourselves too seriously. We had experienced, well trained runners and brand spankin' new runners. We were separated into two vans, six runners and one driver in each van, each of us running anywhere from 10-23 miles. I was responsible for a whopping 16 miles (separated into 3 legs). 16 miles is not a problem for me, but I hadn't really run much in the past month - so it scared me. When I initially began my Leadville training I made a point to keep running during the week (because of a pesky little thing called osteoporosis, which I am now at high risk of because of that whole cancer/hysterectomy/aromasin/can't-have-estrogen-in-my-body thing - the impact exercises are super important) and I was running pretty fast and feeling pretty strong! Until I came home from Costa Rica feeling a lot more relaxed and interested in eating during lunch than running... So I was worried about my 16 miles (which turned out just fine).

One super cool part of the whole thing is that I was projected to run just after midnight on my birthday. I was really  hoping I would be able to start running around 11:30 and run (literally) into my birthday... but that's not the way it happened and I'm just fine with that. My second leg of the race started at 1 am on April 11, was 6.5 miles long and lasted exactly one hour. I listened to The Airborne Toxic Event (TATE) while I ran and thought the whole time (in a sing-songy voice) "it's my birthday... it's my birthday... it's my birthday..." Bring on 37! I can't imagine a better way to start it...

I'm so stinking happy to be alive. So thankful to have crazy friends to join me in an adventure like this. And - as always - grateful that my body continues to put up with me. Feeling stronger than ever and overwhelmed by the ability to do what I can, I'm ready to hit the trail for Leadville training.
Team Richard Simmons - in all our glory

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Leadville Training - Buildup to the Rwanda 50 Miler


Alright so now that I've said that I'm going to track my training here, I'm actually going to try to track my training here.

I have been riding a little bit since I found out on Jan 15 that I was selected into the Leadville lottery. I have ridden 717 miles this year and accounted for 49,626 ft of elevation gain. That's kind of rad. But 717 miles doesn't sound like that many...

The Leadville 100 isn't a super technical course. It's a lot of fire roads and a little bit of pavement and a few technical sections (from what I've been told, anyway). The hard part of Leadville is the distance, duration, and altitude (again, from what I've been told). So this is what I'm training for. Long and not-so-slow hill climbing on not-so-technical hills. It's hard to train for altitude in SoCal... So I'm trying to add a few rides/races elsewhere to be able to anticipate what the altitude is going to do to me.

One of those races is the Fire Road race in Cedar City, Utah. It's 100k and starts at 5800 ft and climbs to 9500 ft, twice - with 7500+ feet of elevation gain. I feel like this might be a good gut check to see how training for Leadville is going. So really, I'm training for Fire Road.

In an attempt to train for Fire Road I've decided to do the Rwanda 50 mile ride here in the OC in April and starts at 800 ft and climbs to 1800 ft with 5,556 ft in elevation gain. I feel like this will be a good way for me to know how it feels to be on a mountain bike for 50 miles. So really, for now, I'm training for the Rwanda 50 miler.

I rode my brand new iron steed a couple weeks ago, the day after a 65 mile road ride. I figured it would be a great ride since my legs were mostly fresh (coming off a vacation to Costa Rica and a lot of laying in hammocks). I was stunned to realize that I didn't seem to have the muscle power in my legs that I'd had going into my Costa Rica vacation. I mean REALLY! It was awful! I kept having to get off the bike when I should have been able to ride! I brought up the rear for the entire ride which really causes a mental breakdown for me. I stayed off the bike for the week and tried to run (ah-hem, last minute training for my CancerBirthdary Ragnar celebration) and found my legs were REALLY beat up from Sunday's mountain bike ride. So I stopped running and decided to "wing it" for the Ragnar relay this weekend (I'm responsible for 16 miles of the race... should be interesting.)

On Friday I finally conceded to the constant nagging of my new mountain bike to take her out again. So I did, with a group of friends to a relatively easy trail. Again, my legs didn't have the muscle I'm used to, but this time because my legs were so fresh, I was able to make it up the big gnarly hill. I beat everyone up the hill because I couldn't seem to spin like I wanted. So I was mashing, up the hill. Still, blaming my legs for not doing what I was asking of them. I almost fell over when I finally got to the top of the hill, leaning on my handle bars, trying to find breath and looking at the ground when I realized that my chain wasn't anywhere near the big ring (the smallest gear) and also realized that it wasn't my LEGS that were the problem, it was the rear derailer!
Whiting, after I realized I still had my legs!

I took the bike to the shop to get the shifting situation sorted (which I now realize I can do myself) and took a day off before going back out. Sunday was my longest mountain bike ride ever... 32 miles, 4700 ft of elevation gain and quite possibly the best ride of my life. The bike makes me a beast of a climber and a much more confident descender. I know that time in the saddle is contributing to my improvement - but I'm still shocked at how great it went. I'm feeling really strong and really happy and pretty confident that I can handle the Rwanda 50 miler.

And there you have my first ever training write-up...

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Leadville Training


Since my blog is so popular (no one is reading it), I've decided to document my training here (ah-hem...) I'm not very good at follow through when it comes to this space and I'm pretty sure my version of (coach-less) training will not be super impressive to anyone should they stumble to this place... but the idea of keeping track of my training here has a purpose... 

Here's the thing: Leadville is a big freaking deal. People hear I'm training for it and they look me up and down wonder how in the world I'm going to push this vessel to do 100 miles on a mountain bike at 10,000+ feet. So part of this is about my training, part of this is proving that I can do it, and part of it is about proving that anyone can do it. (Cause if I can do it, anyone can. I truly believe that.)

I started doing a little spin/core clinic at my favorite bike shop, Two Wheels One Planet about 5 months ago. It's been a great way for me to push myself in a different way and make sure I'm getting some core workouts in (I HATE strength training/core training/anything that isn't endurance training). I met Will there, the shop owner, who heard my story and took a liking to it. Will's response to my announcement that I was doing Leadville was the same as almost every other person (who knows what Leadville is): What are you going to ride? Ummm... I have a perfectly good aluminum 26" Specialized that I happen to LOVE and THAT is what I'll ride! After a lot of conversations with a lot of people and a lot of comparing the weight of my (heavy) bike to the weight of other people's (carbon) bikes... I gave in. 

Will was instrumental my bike purchase in a couple of ways...

1) He let me try different bikes. I'd only ever ridden my sweet stumpjumper (which I still love) - and had never experienced life on a 29er or a 27.5 or a hardtail or a carbon mountain bike. So for a few weeks I experimented with a few different bikes. It was probably the most important time in my 5 years of riding a mountain bike. I learned so much about my strengths and weaknesses and what I could expand on just with the purchase of a new iron steed. I have always been a better climber than descender, but a 29" hardtail carbon bike made me a beast on a long slow incline (hello, Leadville!). That being said, the 29" hardtail carbon bike also made me feel like I'd been in a car wreck. Like, for reals. Bones I didn't realize I had were hurting. Ribs hurt. Neck hurt. All the things hurt... After 18 miles. I could only imagine what I would feel like after 100 miles. Also, this fancy hardtail only had one chainring in the front, which made an amazing climber out of me on a long, slow incline, but I couldn't get it to turn on anything really steep... I needed more gears. 

So I went with a carbon 29" full suspension 2x (2 chain rings in the front - more gears, and the ability to get up steep hills, hopefully). She's a Giant Anthem. She's my second mountain bike, but the first one I chose and paid for myself. Together, we are going to make some amazing memories. 

2) Will hooked me up with an amazing deal on my new steed. He also hooked me up with a rack (until I can afford to buy the one I've got my eye on). 

3) The peeps at Two Wheels One Planet have also been instrumental in helping me achieve one of my new year's resolutions - to ride with groups. I've been riding with the TWOP group on Sunday's, swallowing my pride when it comes to tired legs and crappy descending skills and learning a TON. I'm getting better at this whole mountain biking on things other than a fire road thing. 

It's been a really rad, empowering experience to do all of this with nothing but my own motivation behind it (meaning, no male influences driving it). I've never had a shop treat me like I knew what I was doing, or treat me like I deserved to know what I'm doing. I am gaining confidence in the fact that I am a cyclist and quite frankly, I'm getting really strong on the bike. 

So there you have my first post on Leadville training that doesn't actually talk about training for Leadville at all. S'ok. more to come on that...