Sunday, April 29, 2012

100 miles of Sunshine and Scenery: The Lilac Century

Thank you to GU for giving me the energy--sans the
stomach ache--to finish this ride strong, and with a good
The night before my first official, legitimate century, I set out my nutrition on the counter and almost felt a stomach ache just looking at it. Two thousand, three hundred calories translated to 10 GU gels, 3 packets of GU Brew, 6 servings of GU Chomps, 3 clif bars, Energy-Ease capsules, and Enduralytes.

Seven GU gels, 3 packets of GU Brew, 2 clif bars, 8 Enduralytes, 2 Energy-Ease and 4 Recovery-Ease capsules later, I now feel like I may be able to call myself one of those crazy triathletes people describe. For some reason, I thought a 100-mile bike ride followed by a 30-minute transition run seemed like a good idea just 8 days after a bike crash that left me without a concussion, but possible spine injuries I have yet to uncover. I'm told now that the spinal manipulations we practiced in class just 3 days after my accident might not have been a great idea, and for the last 4 days I've been feeling what a not-so-great-idea feels like. Yet the flexed position on my bike doesn't provoke the sharp pain in my thoracic spine that swimming does. So, I decided to ride the Lilac Century, a course with about 5200 feet of elevation gain, but tons of scenery and views to make up for it!

Last year I rode the 66-mile loop and nearly died at the finish. I'm convinced my improved nutrition plan is the reason I had enough energy this time, (especially considering my nutrition last year consisted of honey and baked potatoes--pretty obvious). The 100-mile route ended up to be 2 miles longer, but when you ride anything above 70 miles, everything just kind of blends together.

I started out just before 6:45am (yes, COLD) with Kathi Best. The sun still hid behind the night's lingering cloud cover. It wasn't until we passed the first aid station and marveled at the steep rocky cliffs marbled with moss and other grasses that the lead group of Badlands riders caught up with us an hour and 40 minutes into the ride. They passed us, but Kathi and I snuck up on them when they had all pulled off to make a "pit stop." I'd only heard about how guys take a leak by simply hopping off their bikes and letting loose just off the shoulder of the road. What I wasn't prepared for was coming upon 12 of them doing so all at once! I passed them, hoping they didn't see the smirk on my face.

What I really wanted, however, was to tag along with them in their pace line. Roger Thompson's advice about group riding lingered in my mind, considering I'd just listened to his and Dave Erickson's podcast on the Endurance Hour last week about the subject. (The link to it is at the end of this blog). Anyhow, I let them catch up to me and found they had already picked up Kathi. For 10+ miles, we cruised behind black-clad behinds and enjoyed 25+mph over pavement. Going that fast with my heart hardly working? Yes, please!

It didn't take long for me to lose the majority of the pack. After the second rest stop, a steady hill separated the stronger riders from the weaker ones, and I held onto the stragglers before ditching them up the steady grade into Reardan. (Yes, a certain amount of pride comes with beating riders while riding UP the hills, a skill my dad instilled in me a long time ago. I can still hear him saying, "Learn to love the hills"). The aid station at the halfway point in Reardan served as my bathroom break, and then I was off to enjoy the tailwind I struggled through as a headwind on my way out to Reardan. Cruising along at 30mph all by myself felt pretty dang good!

Two loops around Four Mounds consisted of a lot of ups and downs before I charged down Charles Hill. I remember last year clinging to my aero bars thinking how stupid I was for not having my hands anywhere near my brakes. Yet by the time I was halfway down it, I was too afraid to take my hands off any part of my bike. This year, I did have my hands on the brakes, and while I was repeatedly praying, "Please keep me safe," the entire way down, I reached 45+mph and realized there was no way applying any brakes would even begin to slow me down at that point. My prayers quickly turned into, " animals to dodge."

After Charles Hill, I felt like I had reached the home stretch. My legs felt tired, but they still chugged along. I rode past other people who looked far more beat than me, which ultimately inspired me to keep  at it. By this time, my Timex Run Trainer was set at a mode to display only my heart rate and time. I didn't want to have to count down the miles to the finish, psychologically prolonging what already felt like a long ride.

Just like that, 102 miles over the course of 5 hours, 25 minutes for an average pace of a just under 19mph had finished. I packed up my bike, slipped on my KSwiss K-Onas, and headed out for a run. (No, I've learned that in this sport, riding 100+ miles is NOT enough...) My goal for Boise 70.3 is to run 7:30s off the bike. I know 4 miles isn't anywhere near 13.1, but I finished 4 miles at my goal pace without a cramp, a stomach upset, or a mental breakdown. Running (literally) into Craig, Erica, Mike, and Natalie on their transition runs after their 66-miles on the bike certainly helped!

Natalie Gallagher, Erica Zeimer, Kathi Best
and me at the finish. We're done!
This ride couldn't have been any better: Clear skies, sunshine, creeping up on a bunch of grown men peeing, cruising at 30mph with the Badlanders, riding alongside Kathi and Martin over parts of the 100-mile course, finishing off my run with teammates and meeting up with others afterward made my first 100-mile ride that much sweeter. Five weeks to Boise... let the REAL training begin!

The link to Endurance Hour, part of which that talks about group riding etiquette, is below. The segment on group riding starts about 31 minutes into the podcast:

Endurance Hour #16 Cycling Etiquette and Derek Garcia

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Snake River Triathlon

Odds were this wasn’t going to be the best performance of my season. In fact, I went into Oz Fitness Friday afternoon just hoping I could breathe through my nose long enough to swim 500 yards. I dealt with a cold that left me pretty immobile through much of the first part of the week. Despite being able to get back outside running and swimming by Tuesday, my body just wasn’t up to par. And then Thursday rolled around, and it had to be.

Erica Zeimer and I vying for
position at the start.
That’s because Robin DeRuwe from Fitness Fanatics left a much anticipated text message that told me the one thing I’d been waiting to hear for about a week: My new bike had arrived. Not only was it sitting there in the shop, it was ready to go home. The Quintana Roo Seduza was ready to ride, and my mind—whether my body was ready or not—was eager to take off on top of faster wheels.

They say you shouldn’t try anything different on race day. Having surprised myself with my fastest ever 500yd split time of 7:09 on Friday afternoon (despite the lingering effects of my cold and swimming in a pool everyone kept telling me was incredibly slow) I had no misgivings about trying out my new bike down in Lewiston. Truth be told, I didn’t go down there entirely unprepared, as I put about 50 miles on it beforehand just to get the feel of a brand new bike. A brand new toy.

It’s safe to say my bike was probably what allowed me to shave over a minute and a half off my time from the sprint duathlon just under a month ago. My health certainly couldn’t take the credit. I made it up the steady incline for the first part of the ride and then zoomed all the way to the finish. Incredibly responsive and obviously light, I felt like a feather on the stream of wind. The pain in my legs still existed, and my heart rate proved my effort was race-worthy. Yet my mind couldn’t get over that free-flying sensation.

Compared to last month’s duathlon run split off the bike, this one felt incredibly effortless. Again, another great surprise! As if the fast swim and bike wasn’t enough, my run split was just as fast as my first 2 miles of the duathlon. I remember coming off the bike a month ago and feeling my heart pushing up into my throat, causing a wheezing sound only those with respiratory diseases can explain. This time, I expected the same to happen considering for the last few days I’ve done a great job of simulating an ever-flowing fountain. Ironically, my tired legs were the only things giving me that I’m-barely-moving sensation.

Finally into the finish...
Just two miles. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a walk. At least that’s what I kept telling myself. I reached the turn around after just meeting the Thompson’s on their way back to the finish. Emma’s smile pretty much did me in, and I knew I would make the final mile without a problem. On my way back, I greeted all my fellow teammates—Rene Guerrero hot on my tail, Dave Erickson, Erica Zeimer, Amy Wilcox… The list goes on. There at the finish were the Thompson’s to cheer me in as first female over the line. I took a few minutes to gain some composure, and then I doubled back to cheer in the rest of my Trifusion teammates.

Nothing compares to having the opportunity to finish a race I thought I’d only struggle through, only to succeed. Racing on a faster bike sure helped make it fun, but what made this race so enjoyable was having all the familiar faces to share it with on such a beautiful, sunny day. I have the sunburn to prove it!

Trifusion members and their family to cheer us on. What a great crew!
Ben Greenfield took top male finisher. Congrats!

Thank you to Dave Erickson for putting together this video of the race this weekend. Also, a big thank you to Melissa Skelton for taking the video while we all raced.

A big THANK YOU to Robin DeRuwe and the rest of the Fitness Fanatics crew for building up my new Quintana Roo Seduza and having it ready to race. I couldn't be happier with it!

My run wouldn't have been nearly as smooth-sailing if it weren't for the K-Ona S shoes I wore from K Swiss. Such a sweet run!

The Timex Run Trainer keeps me on track by giving me my heart rate data on the bike and run, as well as my bike and run splits.

Finally, thank you to GU Energy, as the gels and electrolyte drinks provide just the right amount of nutrition I need to get me through each race and every training session.