Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Weekend of Racing Close to Home

This weekend was a nice reprieve from the rigors of school, work and life in general. I planned about a month ago to race some cyclocross Saturday and mountain bike Sunday and I was fortunate enough to have my plans hold up. While my time probably would have been better spent getting ahead on homework, I would have been miserable and bored. Having made it through the weekend, I can honestly say that I feel like I made the right choice. Yesterday's cyclocross race was 5 minutes from home at Mansfield Hollow State Park. It was my first "official' cross race of 2011 and the only other cross course I've raced at besides there a few years ago is the DAS course at Owen Bell Park in Dayville, CT (this year's race is Dec. 11... prereg now at It was an awesome day. I went to cheer on my fellow teammates in the morning and went back for the women's race in the afternoon. I stuck myself in with the Cat 1/2/3 group knowing that my inexperience would make for an interesting race. The course was AWESOME! It was long and tough and super fun. I don't think cross is my favorite thing in the world, but it's something to do when there're no mountain bike races going on. I got my butt kicked thoroughly, but was only really 4 minutes off the leader (Karen Potter aka super awesome person/racer). I was kind of shocked that it went by so quick; it seemed like we had just started and I had finally warmed up. I usually race better after an hour of racing, so I might need to rethink my warm-up routine before I race anymore cross. So, in all, the day was fun. I had a blast cheering on my friends, and they all did really well themselves. While I was at the race, I got to talk to one of the race director, Ron Manizza. What a cool guy. When I told him I live nearby, he started telling me about all of the places that I could go ride, and there are actually some I haven't been to yet that are right here in town. I told him how much I liked the course, and he told me that there is some real cross history there dating back a century. That's right, they raced bikes there back then too! Very cool. My race today was EFTA's Treasure Valley Rally in Rutland, MA. The course was a true mountain bike course. There were more rocks than I've EVER seen in a race, and some endless climbs and hairy descents. While it was the toughest course all season, it was definitely one of the best. I like a good challenge, and this was definitely that. They had the elite racers do 2.5 laps which cut out one of the long descents and one of the long climbs, but by the third lap, I was grateful. I ended up giving someone my co2 pump on the first lap expecting him to catch up and hand it back at some point, but he must have dropped out of the race because I never saw it again until I had crossed the finish line. Good thing I didn't flat (I forgot to bring a tube too... dumb). I ended up in 3rd with wicked fast Karen Potter ahead in 2nd and the super awesome Mary McConneloug in 1st. It was very cool to meet Mary; she's a really nice gal and VERY very fast. Now it's time for a break. I'm done with the long hours in the saddle unless the ride has the label "fun" attached to it. I'll do some tinkering with that cyclocross thing and attempt to enjoy it. I might even get some homework done now too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

As if you wanted to know... but I'm going to talk about it anyway because I can.

Periods. No, not the punctuational ones. I bring this up because, as an "athlete" (so weird to call myself that), I find that the dreaded monthly cycle of hormones tends to effect my performance on the bike.

I know this may seem a strange topic to blog about, but I'm sure I'm not the only female on the planet who feels a little "off" when they are trying to perform at an A-game level during a visit from Aunt Flo. I noticed this a few years ago myself, but with all of the riding/training I've done this year, I'm noticing it again. It seems pretty fair to say that I'm finding a real correlation between the way I feel on the bike and the way my hormones are doing their thing.

So, to explain, I've broken it down so ya'll know what I'm getting at:
WEEK 1 - we'll call this "the week after" - I feel ok on the bike. I'm not overly tired, but I don't feel overly powerful either.
WEEK 2 - "normal" - I feel normal... maybe a bit more on the strong side.
WEEK 3 - "A-game" - I feel focused and strong and I can ride like a maniac.
WEEK 4 - "game over" - I feel depleted. I feel like I have low wattage... very big let down after "A-game" week.

I was curious whether or not my findings have any bearing in the scientific world, so I searched some medical journal sites. Basically, there is no scientific evidence on vo2max or lactate threshold that shows women's hormonal changes having any effect on athletic performance. The only area where there is a measurable effect came when women were in the hormonal stage that slightly alters their body temperature and they worked out for a prolonged amount of time in high temperatures. Essentially, if it was hot out during the week before their period, they got tired faster than they would have if they were in a different point in their cycle.

I guess I'm a quack. It's all in my head. Having my period is just my excuse for not being in my "A-game." OR, there really is no quantifiable way to measure whether the hormones are having an effect on my cycling... my quacky theory is this: hormones come from the pituitary gland in the brain (your head), therefore, it SURE IS all in your head. Maybe all of that hormone secretion going on up there is also making me perceive myself to be more tired, even if my muscles are working at the same physical level they always are. I can't seem to find any studies involving that.

So, to you men who don't have to deal with hormonal fluctuation in regards to your athletic performance, be grateful. Also be grateful that you can pee from your bike. To you ladies, is it all in your head too?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Road Riding... It's been a while.

I finally got out and did my first actual "group" road ride of the year. In fact, it was my first road ride in months. I got to a point this summer where I was out riding on the road but wishing I was in the woods the entire time, so I stopped training on the road and started riding my a$$ off in the woods. I always thought I needed the road to get fast in the woods, but that's a big stinky lie. I did just fine and was tons happier hiding in the woods for the rest of the summer. That being said, I will still try to ride the road next spring/ summer for fitness, but I'm not going to make myself the way I used to.

So, today was the Ashford Metric Century, which had a full century option that I intend to do next year (Andy Chambers tells me it's the hardest one around)... I like pain. The weather for today said "spotty showers." Our first "spotty shower" hit before we left the parking lot. I say we... this was the three QVV members I found in the parking lot to ride with. We took off in a bit of rain, and it got heavier as we went. Within the first mile or two, one guy got a flat. We did a team effort to change it, and upon filling the new tube (which wasn't really new, but patched) with air, it went flat again. The second effort was better - meanwhile it was POURING.

It poured for the first 14 miles. At that point, there was an option of splitting off to do the smaller 25 mile loop or staying on course for the 62+. Two folks peeled off (I can't blame them, it was miserable), and two of us continued on - as did the rain. It poured through Woodstock and into Brooklyn. I think the rain finally stopped as we reached Brooklyn. All through Pomfret though, the water washed down the roads in rivers. It was insane. People must have thought we were lunatics riding our bikes in that nonsense.

Overall, the route was hilly, the aide stations were REALLY well stocked (so many cookies), the people were friendly, and I had a great time. I guess I can't really call it a group ride, because it was really only me and another person the whole time... and most of the time we were split up because we don't ride at the same level, but the ride itself had a LOT of people registered. Proceeds for the ride are benefitting the Ashford Rec. Department.

So, that's that. I finally got back out on the road. Oh yeah, best part? I got to borrow Donnie D's ( specialized roubaix pro. I was thinking I would hold it for ransom... I kind of like it.