Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Just another reason to slow down on a ride.
As many of you already know, I am somewhat of a luddite when it comes to technology. My natural tendency is to resist anything new that is overwhelmingly more complicated than practical. However, once convinced to give this new stuff a try, I am usually completely sold on it and wonder why I lived so long with out. Just for chuckles, some of the things that I resisted that have made huge changes in my life are: tubeless tires, disc brakes, computers and cell phones.
This past winter, I updated my heart rate monitor to a Garmin Edge. This piece of technology was long overdue and been something I had been resisting. When my man gave me one for Christmas, I happily accepted. As soon as I got it up and running, I realized it worked great and I was able to download data for more accurate records. Many people told me to try Strava. I found it so easy to use, even for a luddite like myself. After a few weeks, and still somewhat naïve, I started noticing little crown and medal icons popping up and thought what is this all about? … and there you go, the Strava hooks were placed into another rider.
So, I don’t think I ever became obsessed, but after 20 years of racing, a little Strava motivation was a welcome training tool to get me through the winter. However, one thing I did notice is that when trying to challenge a segment, many other things would get in the way. First there was snow and ice in the trail, then blown down trees across the trail, or a flat tire, social group stopping, giving directions to a lost hiker, stopping for wildlife. The list could go on, but why bother. I think you get the idea. Nearly every ride with Art somehow turns into trail maintenance, whether I like it or not. It’s part of what we do as being Stewards to both the park and Jorba.
I suppose Strava and I are not a perfect fit. At first, I thought I was a bit too easily distracted with my riding to concentrate on my Strava goals. Then I thought a little deeper, and decided that a cyclist or mountain biker probably should not be too distracted by Strava while out riding. You can call it priorities, but I call it common sense.
I’ll admit that the whole concept and technology behind Stava is pretty amazing. You can create and share routes, make goals and create world wide competition. However, I can see how some could loose track of reality. I plan to use it as training tool when it is appropriate, but I hope to not let it run all my rides. There is more to riding than what can be interpreted electronically. I still like the happy little surprises that pop up when I get home, letting me know that I am indeed still a big deal to somebody, even it is just because I am out riding a bike.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Last Saturday was the High Point Hill Climb TT. I am not, never was, nor do I plan to become a road racer any time soon, yet I made a last minute decision to enter this road race again this year. Each year, I find it harder to motivate myself to “train” and usually just ride my bike for enjoyment. In the winter and spring I need to find ways to motivate myself enough to get the riding in to cover my training needs. Training races are one option, and that was my thinking for why I signed up to race my road bike 5 miles uphill. To the average person, the thought of riding your bike up hill for 5 miles must sound like torture. I will not deny that I suffered some during the 28 minutes it took me to get to the top, but the race itself gave me the motivation to push harder than I normally would push while out riding.
It was a beautiful day and much warmer than last year. I felt good in the morning on my warm up and I had high hopes of improving my time from last year. Although my start and finish felt better than last year, I still hit a wall in the middle, where I felt like crap. I was disappointed to be a few seconds slower than last year. However, I did not let that ruin my day. It was a great training run, and the sun was shining with awesome trails all around me waiting to be ridden. As soon as results were posted, Art and I headed over to Wawayanda with our mountain bikes to pre-ride a lap on next weekend’s H2H new race loop.
The promoter of the race, Black Bear Cycling has built some new single-track and it will be used in next weekends race. This is just another reminder of the kind of progress that the PayDirt program has made for mountain bikers. It encourages racers, race promoters and mountain bikers to get involved in the future of mountain biking. The end result: new and improved trails for mountain bikers to ride and race on. Thanks to all the racers that have supported this program and to those involved in building the new trails at Wawayanda. Riding this new single track on Saturday was the highlight of my day.
My Sunday was spent building a new trail at Ringwood, which will also be used in an upcoming Eduro race. I can honestly say that I got more satisfaction from the trail work on Sunday than from racing my bike up hill for 5 miles. Would you expect any different from any real mountain biker?
Monday, April 22, 2013
Pre race snapshot: a race day is still a day in the woods.
"Roots as big as the Crown" Photo by Art White
Campmor H2H Chain Stretcher:
Sunday was the first race in the 2013 Campmor H2H Series: “The Chainstretcher” at Blue Mountain Reservation in Peekskill NY. If you have not ridden at Blue Mt, you need to do so as it has some of the best flowing technical trails in the tri-state area. You can bet that the promoters, WMBA made sure that this race challenged many racers and put a smile on many faces.
This year’s course was one of the best courses at Blue that I can remember. It was similar to last year, but they changed the opening single-track and replaced a nasty eroded road descent with a fun single-track that included a rock garden and several optional rollers, which I took every lap to increase the fun factor. One thing that I love about mountain bike racing is that it not just about finishing first, but it’s about rising to your best level of riding skills and being one with the course. Being fast may seem like the only goal, but there is always additional room for personal challenges and bonus style points.
I’ll admit that the trails at Blue are tough for an early season race with the many hills, logs and rock lines. My legs were talking back to me the whole race and not really giving me what I had hoped for. However, the “fun factor” experienced while riding these trails seemed to over-ride any negative thoughts that I may have had about my fitness or lack off fitness. I was really glad to have the technical trail entertainment to get me through this first race of the season and remind me once again that I am a mountain bike racer.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Last Saturday was my first day of intensity training in 2013. It also happened to be my first race of the year. Although jumping into a fire is not a totally bad idea, this was not in my master plan. I usually start upping my intensity around March 1, and work up to a short track race and then a XC race. This year, although in better shape than usual on March 1, things got messed up.
If I can back things up a bit: I started Norvasc, a blood pressure medication at the end of February right after my trip to Arizona. Norvasc is not a banned in cycling drug, for all the anti Lance fans out there. A few days later I experienced some fatigue and felt quite lethargic with my riding. I assumed I was over extended in my training and took a week of rest. …. then another week. After 3 weeks of sleepy, lethargic 1 hour recovery rides, I ended up back at the doctor and being taken off the medication. Apparently, I experienced some less common side affects that the drug company did not list on the pharmacy sheet.
Uncertain on race day of what day four off the meds would do for me, I took the start line to test my health and to attempt my first day of intensity training. I used caution with a mass co-ed start and lined up in back. Once I cautiously worked my way into the single-track, and it was quite a squeeze down at the first turn, I was forced to sit in a bit to wait for safe passing room on this very tight, wet, narrow course. I did rub a few tires and elbows, as to be expected with this type of course.
It eventually opened up for me and I glanced down to see numbers on my heart rate monitor that I had hoped to see on March 1. It was such a relief, that it almost brought tears to my eyes. While most racers on course were wanting to vomit in pain, I was teary-eyed with happiness. It felt so good to be healthy and able to race, I never noticed any pain or effort. It was like business a usual as I worked through my usual lap 2 stomach cramps and then the diesel kicked in as it usually does. I felt like I powered into the finish and was handed a block of wood and a beer.
Elated with first race day feeling, I headed out on a 50 mile hilly road ride the next morning. I had not been able to ride more than an hour or so at a time over the last 3 weeks and here I was out for back to back days and a 3+ hour ride while feeling good. I can not wait for the snow to melt, so I can get back on some rocks. Oh yeah, and I do have to go back to the doctor and figure out what to do for my blood pressure next, but for now, I am out riding and enjoying.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The appalachian mountains never stop to amaze me with their verdant beauty: dirt roads twisting and winding though mountains of towering rhododendron and laurel. Water gushing, and seeping through every crevice. Steep banks filled with galax and moss. The forests are extremely lush and remind me why so many choose to call these mountains home.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
As the winter rolls on, the anticipation of spring grows ever so strong. By the time March arrives, us mountain bikers want spring so bad, that we start to believe that it is actually here, when it is not. And then, right on cue, March inevitably bites us on our backsides, forcing us to accept another month of winter. Being a trail builder makes this time of year even more difficult, because I want to ride in the woods more than ever, yet daily freezing and thawing of the ground makes most trails a mess. My best judgement steers me to facing the chilly winds on the road bike.
My solution to this dilemma is to leave New Jersey and chase some sunshine in a foreign place where the sun shines strong and the trails stay dry more days than not. Destination: Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson Arizona. A mini blizzard on arrival made for some beautiful contrasts in the dessert. Hard to believe, but five inches of snow was completely gone at trail level in a day or two. Wildlife sightings over those fews days were incredible. A hawk with a broken wing, unable to reach his nest, had created a war for nesting in the big pines and coyotes were wondering through the yard multiple times a day.
A few days later I was enjoying a variety of single-track in shorts and short sleeves. The injured hawk went missing, and was most likely eaten by coyotes, picked over by ravens and feathers used for nesting by birds. Just like the snow that came and went, supplying moisture for life, life itself is completely absorbed quickly, feeding itself. Life goes on in this harsh but beautiful sunny place. There is perfection in the system.
My visits to WOW in Arizona are always appreciated. ....Back in New jersey, recharged by the sun and the beauty of the desert, I wait for spring alongside the daffodil sprouts in my back yard. As an athlete, I have great appreciation of the seasons. Just like our bodies needing rest to grow, the seasons supply rest for the forest and all it's wildlife. I am glad to be over the hump of winter and waiting for the next stage ahead.
Monday, February 11, 2013
Once again I sit at my computer updating this blog on a rainy day, only this time the rain is falling on top of nearly a foot of two day old snow. I was lucky to get 2 awesome days on XC skis, before the weather and conditions took a shift. There are few things about winter I like, but a big snow can be a nice change from the bike, as I like to XC ski.
Yesterday was beautiful with blue skies and the sun reflecting off the snow. I finally dialed in the kick wax after much frustration and had an awesome day on my new skis, with some great people. Henry ended up delaminating both soles of his ski boots, and finished his ski in his socks. It was such a beautiful day that I think he still had a great time. He said the pavement near the parking lot was hot to walk on.
Sorry to see the snow waste away into a less desirable form somewhere between slush, crud and ice. I imagine I will be looking to make friends with my trainer once again. ... and the winter rolls on.
Monday, December 31, 2012
A Few weeks have passed since my last post and Art is healing well. He is actually getting around with a cane now, and things are looking positive. Although he is still not supposed to adduct his leg to the side, he has already, in theory, schemed a way to mount the trainer. I imagine it is just a matter of time before he starts getting on a bike in some form. I will also add that it was quite convenient that Art and his doctor scheduled appointments that made it impossible for us to go to Nationals. This is all good, just incase the idea came to mind again. Being that Madison is reporting a minus five degrees today, I think I am okay with sitting out this race, even if it is Nationals. Brrrr cold! What was I thinking anyway?
As soon as I let go of the race, I seemed to be re-energized, almost like the race had been a weight holding me back. I was able to get out for some outstanding solo mountain bike rides. I was riding longer and more confidently, cleaning sections I had not cleaned in months. Cyclo-cross is a welcome diversion and change of pace that I not only enjoy, but welcome. However, in my heart, I am a mountain biker first, and the experiences that transpire in the woods never stop to please or reward my soul.
Last week, while out mountain biking by myself in some pretty cold conditions, I suffered a cut sidewall on my tire that caused me to walk five miles back to my car. I was down on myself for failing to repair the flat, but I did not have the right tool or the ability to improvise to get things fixed. Because it was so cold, I just wanted to keep moving. So I walked out letting my failure weigh heavily on my shoulders. I did not feel so bad when later that week a well known bike mechanic admitted to walking out with a flat and called his wife to pick him up part way. I guess it can happen to anyone, and the best I can do is to try to learn from any mistakes and try to be more prepared next time.
A ride with a five mile walk, is still better than none. I am actually thankful to get out that day, as real winter kicked in a few days later, covering the woods with snow. Some people were out and about with their fat bikes, which I think are pretty cool, but with a wall full of XC skis, I grabbed my skis instead. This brings me to next subject: kick wax. After 35 years of skiing waxless skis , I have recently invested in waxable skis. I gave it a few humble tries and never got it quite right. I suppose I need to experiment until I reach enlightenment or zen in the old world tradition of ski waxing. Waxing, like driving a stick shift car is a bit of a zen thing for me, and I am not ready to give into letting go of my connection with things or even the perceived control in everything just yet.
..... 2013, still trying to keep connected, and of course, Cross Country and Super-D Nationals!
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
watch out... I'm in charge of bike maintenance for 6 weeks!
Last Sunday was Limestone Cross, the last stop on the MAC series schedule. I have been following the MAC series in support of the open women’s 45+ class. The MAC has been leading the way for female masters by offering this class, and it has gone from 2-3 racers to nearly 20. I compare it to men’s 55+ which has also taken off in many areas. Women and men alike are staying active and racing as they get older, which is very cool. Some of them actually kick butt and race competitively with elites, but for many of us, a master’s class offers an appropriate competition experience.
Weather predictions were for light rain on top of a few days rain that had already fallen. I was pretty certain that the course would be moist, but I watched the weather forecast closely the day before to keep an eye on temps. If we were expecting heavy rain with temps dipping down towards freezing, I would certainly have opted to stay home in bed. Two or three degrees could be the difference between a sloppy race and hypothermia. I have been close to there twice and did not want to re-live that experience. Luckily temps held steady in the 40’s, so the race was on for me.
Everything was going well and on schedule as part of my pre-race routine. Then as I was getting ready to head to my start, Larry stopped by the truck and told me Art had crashed on his hip, could not walk, and would I take the truck down to pick him up near the start line. Art was done for the season and he knew it, yet he insisted that I stay and do my race before we went to the hospital. As you read this, you must be thinking that we are crazy for this type of thinking. I was prepared to leave the venue when Larry delivered the message at the truck, and yet I let Art convince me that I should race. Perhaps we are crazy, but if you follow any of my racing, you will know that my first national champion title came while Art’s leg was in a cast. I guess we just enjoy supporting each other as much as racing ourselves.
Distracted and minus part my warm up, I took the start line and raced. The course was pretty fun and it supplied my only wet cross course experience this year. It has been so dry this year, that I feared being out of practice, yet I thoroughly enjoyed the handling aspects of this token wet race. The temps and light rain were, for the most part, very comfortable. It was a few moments to rip my lungs out, burn my legs, challenge my balance, run around like sugar crazed kid and forget about what lies behind or ahead.
A little disappointed not to hang and socialize at the last race of the series, we were both faced with the reality of getting Art to the hospital to face the facts: another broken hip. Luckily all the parts from his replacement hip looked to be in good condition, but he was faced with a 6 week heal. Art knows the routine well and will be back on the bike soon. Some may wonder if we should not race in fear of these things, but people are known to get hurt in the bathtub or on the couch while hardly being alive. Some of us just need to feel alive.
In the mean time, I am registered for January Nationals in Wisconsin. The predictor puts me in second place, which means less about my racing ability than it does about the need to get more ladies my age out here racing. I doubt that I will actually go, but who knows?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Monday night, 7:30 … lights out. Going to bed for what seemed like an ordinary adventure camping trip night for me turned out to be much more for many. When I finally got online a few days later, I discovered houses had burned, hospitals evacuated, coastal homes gone and much of the tri-state area was without power.
As I walked my neighborhood streets, trees and branches piled up, and tangled power lines hanging, all I heard was generators as far as I could hear. The sound resonated and burned into my head like a disturbing dream. Not because the storm was so bad, but because it reminded me that our society is so dependant on gas consumption. ….Gas being something that will run out and very likely has been contributing to the acceleration of global warming and could have been a factor in causing a storm like this.
On one of my many walks after the storm, I saw a couple that had dragged their generator out onto the lawn and were blowing leaves with an electric leaf blower. Not only are we a society that drives cars everywhere, but we have forgotten how to rake, sweep, walk, ride a bike or do anything by hand. We have always been a move ahead to progress type of society, but perhaps we need to take a step back and rethink some paths, before we take the wrong path too long. I am uncertain if big business and politics have brain washed us all or if we are just in denial, but Sandy has caused some concern, and perhaps that is a good thing.
So a few weeks have gone by and I have ridden my bike only a few times. Art and I have begun to work on cleaning up the trails. I know there are many people who’s sanity depends on riding a bike, so trail work may take the place of a few races right now, and that is okay too. Many people have been inconvenienced, frustrated and even turned bitter. I hope we all can move ahead to better places with better solutions. Thanks to those that have been helping others to recover from this storm. Pay it forward is a good place to start!
After failing at warming pizza dough over the water heater pilot light, a double boiler did the trick.