Thursday, September 28, 2006

Counting calories

Thursday, 28 September

I took the Lance Armstrong approach to eating today. Just for today. I weighed and wrote down everything I ate and then did the math. Partly I wanted to know how many calories I consume, partly I wanted to see how much protein I'm getting. I quit eating meat and fish about 18 months ago, and I pretty much shun protein powder, so I wondered whether my nutrition is adequate.

So, the numbers. About 2400 calories total. I thought that was a lot. Especially since I didn't pig out on almonds or peanut butter, like I usually do. 31% of those were from fat (30% is the recommended amount). Depending on what scale you use, I need to get somewhere between 46 and 55 grams of protein per day. I got 69. I take a multivitamin every day that I remember it, so I wasn't going to count up vitamins and minerals. But I ate 4 servings of vegetables and 6 servings of fruit--and more than 4 servings of dairy. Olive oil may be great stuff, but it sure jacks up the fat intake fast, and I'd rather get that from dark chocolate, which gives you more antioxidants than anything else on the planet.

In hindsight, I think my ability to ride for 12 hours at Ring of Fire proved that my diet is not too far out of whack. But it was good to see where the numbers are. I guess the next step is to figure out how many calories I burned today by riding 13 miles, walking 4 miles, riding the trainer for 30 minutes, and lifting for 20? 30? minutes at the gym. That's for another day when I feel like a science project.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Sunday, 24 September

One beautiful day in autumn 2005, I set out on the Seattle International Randonneurs' 100km populaire with some friends. We missed a turn and, in retracing our tracks, piled into an unmarked road hazard, and our outing adjourned with me in an ambulance. I have since ridden several times on that stretch of May Valley, but today was the 2006 edition of the SIR 100km populaire and I was determined to complete the whole thing on my bike and thereby banish any remaining demons lurking in my subconscious.

The weather was at least as beautiful as it was for last year's event. I'm not sure the ride organizer was thrilled to see me, but I pointed out that I had brought a different map reader with me and so was less likely to go off course--or at least not in the same place. After yesterday's 61-mile TT, what I needed was about an hour of easy spinning to get the legs ready to go, but within a mile of the start on this ride you are headed up Cougar Mountain via the zoo (the other name of this ride is the mountain populaire). This sorts/strings out the group PDQ. My husband/map reader (who gave away his route sheet to someone else!) sprinted off up the hill to be the first rider at the first check point, but he waited for me. Then you go down Lakemont, up Newport to the 4-way stop, then up Cougar that way, then down to Coal Creek and along to May Valley. We got in a little group, which was nice because "real" randonneurs have nifty little packs on their handlebars with a nice space for the route sheet, so we didn't have to pull ours in and out of our jersey pockets every 0.4 miles.

I was immensely relieved when we made our turn OFF the May Valley road and headed south. We literally went over hill and dale, including Tiger Mountain, Lakemont, Issaquah-Fall City, Tolt Hill, Duthie Hill, and to the finish at the top of Mt. Olympus Drive in Issaquah. Although the composition of the group changed a little bit, there was a core of 8-10 of us who stayed together for the whole ride. I nearly got dropped several times in the first half of the ride (these guys had "rested" yesterday in preparation for this adventure) but then started to warm up. By the time we left Carnation to head back to Issaquah, most in the group were starting to fade, so the tempo on the climbs got slower. Except Mick, who kept riding away from us all.

I have to say that this particular group of randonneurs liked to ride all over the road. Never mind the single line to the right. One guy in particular liked to patrol up and down the traffic side of the group. And he was not a particularly good bike handler. Every time I got boxed in behind him on a climb, I would have to dig deep to go around and pass him to keep my sanity.

But it was a good, hard ride and, most important, I finished on my bike and came home in my car. I'm still wary of road hazards, but who isn't?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My last 2006 race

Saturday, 23 September

My last race of 2006 was another long time trial, although not long by ROF standards (see previous entry). I did the bike leg on a relay team at the Black Diamond Half Ironman. The hardest single moment of the day was getting off my bike after 61 miles and running, in cleats, with my bike, through the transition area to tag my team's runner.

I thought I had the funnest part of the day. Counting all the duathletes and iron folks who got started on the bike leg before me, I had at least 35 people ahead of me on the road. I didn't even notice the rollers in the first 5 miles because I was so busy passing people (no drafting, no riding together). Then the rabbits were far enough apart that they'd motivate me to reel them in gradually. I passed several men who couldn't bear the thought that they been passed by some old lady (they wrote my age on my right calf and my race number on my left). So they'd have to pass me back. And slow down. So I would of course have to pass again. And in all cases but one, I never saw the guy again. :)

I try not to say bad things about other cyclists on this blog (I save that for comments on others' blogs!), but I have huge rant against a group wearing LAKEMONT CYCLING CLUB jerseys. A group of about 8 of them were out on a training ride on our straight shot into Enumclaw. Yes, they had every right to use that road. But they could clearly see that they were in the middle of a competitive cycling event, and simple courtesy would have suggested that they might consider getting out of the way--by, say, riding single file to the right. But no. These guys couldn't keep a pace line running smoothly. Sometimes they were 3 abreast. Sometimes one guy would attack (like when they saw an old lady pass them) and then they'd be strung out all over the road. Then some slow dude would get on the front and the pace would drop to 18 mph and so I'd have to pass again. It took me several miles to get around them for good, and I heard other racers suggesting that they learn how to share the road. Word has it that their skills (or lack thereof) sent a racer into the ditch near the top of Mud Mountain.

And speaking of Mud Mountain, it wasn't much easier today than it is during the Enumclaw stage race. But it was kind of fun to pass all the encouraging words left on the road from this year's version of that race. If anyone wants to know the roster for the Starbucks team, it's all painted right there. No phone numbers, though.

When I did this race in 2003, I hopped off the bike and into running shoes to do the half-marathon that was the other leg of the duathlon I had been talked into entering. I was ecstatic with my bike time that year: 2:59 (I had NEVER ridden 60 miles in 3 hours). This year I thought it would be nice to have the same time, being 3 years older and not having done a speck of training for this race (the 12-hour TT doesn't count...really). I ended finishing in 2:49, the fastest women's time of the day. And I think I was top 10 overall on the bike. Of course, most of the other competitors also swam first in frigid water and then ran a half with a huge ol' hill in it. Still, not bad for the last race of the year. And I decided today that I have changed my mind and I am NOT going to buy a pink helmet. I saw way too many going way too slow--not precisely the image I'm cultivating, eh?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

12-hour time trial

Saturday, 9 September

Hours: 12
Miles: 183.2
Calories consumed: 2340
Elevation gain: 15,000+ feet
Scenery: priceless

Back in July, Martin and I won an entry for the Ring of Fire time trial in Maupin, Oregon. I suppose I could've gotten the most out of my free entry (Martin bailed on me the minute we won this "prize") by signing up for the 24-hour version, but since I've never done anything longer than STP and RAMROD, I decided to settle for the lesser prize of just 12 hours on the bike.

A few years ago, my husband started me in this habit of trying something new and completely different at the end of a racing season. The first year it was an "endurance duathlon" where I did a 61-mile time trial and then ran a half marathon. Never again. The next year he told me I should race tandem at masters nationals when a friend issued the invitation. I thought that idea was even more whacko, but it turned out to be the happiest move in my cycling "career." So a 12-hour time trial was just this year's crazy way to finish the season.

This was the second year of Ring of Fire, brought to us by George and Terri, the amazing duo who put on Race Across Oregon, the Deschutes TT stage race, and other challenging events. This was the race's first year in Maupin, and I think it has found a happy home.

We started out by doing a 111-mile loop, then did "laps" on a 26-mile loop until our 12 hours were up. There were mile markers on the little loop, so when your 12 hours were up, you just noted the last one you'd passed and reported that number when you got back to the finish. (Note that this means I really rode 190.2 miles; I had to ride 7 (thankfully flat) miles to get to the finish after my time was up.) The first 80 miles were so much fun and so beautiful that I figure the last 100 were just the price you had to pay for the privilege of racing the first section.

You started climbing from the line. Out of the hotel parking lot, over the bridge over the Deschutes River (even the bridge was uphill), and then 3.5 miles through the town of Maupin and all the way to the top of the ridge. There were a couple of rolling miles on the top, then down a 2-mile descent to the Tygh Valley. After that, it seems like we climbed until we got to mile 60 or 62. Not quite, because there were some shortish descents, but it was mostly climbing on beautiful, empty forest service and BLM roads. Some had no centerline. The views of Mt. Hood were incredible all day.

Around mile 62, you started descending. And descending. And descending some more. 20 miles down to the valley that Dufur is in, then flat tailwind for another 8 miles or so into Dufur. Then we hit the section that just about broke me. We got on Highway 197, which is a big ugly road with some traffic (it doesn't seem like much when you're driving on it). There was climb of at least 3 miles [I measured on the way home: it's SEVEN POINT TWO MILES!!] and you could see the whole thing in a straight line ahead of you. The heat and light combined for a mirage effect at the top, so you couldn't really see where the top of the climb was. Finally, there was a long windy (as in gusty, not twisty) descent, you were back in the Tygh Valley, and turned onto a rolling road, down a fun descent, across a bridge over the Deschutes, and then it was flat for 9 miles along the river into Maupin.

The short loop then repeated the beginning of the long loop to Tygh Valley and then turned onto the finishing section of the long loop. That meant a 3.5-mile climb at the beginning of each short loop. And the short loop was beautiful too. The Tygh Valley is irrigated, so the valley floor is green, against the backdrop of the golden brown hills of eastern Oregon. The descent to the Deschutes was through a tiny little canyon, and the gorge the Deschutes is in is pretty spectacular. There were rafters and fishermen on the river all day, so you had something to watch as you powered along the 9-mile flat (eventually) tailwind stretch to the finish. This loop was a stage in the TT stage race, and they were happy to tell us that Kenny and Dave Z. did it in 59 minutes. My times were 1:42 and 1:43--but I had no aero bars or aero wheels, and had ridden 111 miles before I started.

There were 3 sag stops out on the long loop, and I had sent a package of food and drink mix to myself at each one. And I left my cooler at the finish line, which I passed at the end of each lap. So access to enough food and water was never a problem, and the folks at the aid stations were so helpful that I don't think I was ever stopped for more than 60 seconds. One thing the race does not provide is "facilities," but there are miles of lonely roads in the big loop and plenty of pit toilets along the Deschutes on the short loop.

The biggest mechanical problem I had was that my computer died at mile 88. Maybe it was just as well not to know how slowly I was creeping up that hill out of Maupin on my short loops. About 7 hours into it, I started down the path to becoming mentally unhinged. I couldn't focus, it took me whole seconds to remember where I was (in big terms, like eastern Oregon), and I just wanted to take a nap. But the rest of me was working fine. I eventually snapped out of that like someone had flipped a switch, but then my back started to hurt every time the road went uphill. By the last lap, the muscles in my back tightened the muscles in one leg, which in turn tightened everything around my left knee, and I could not get out of the saddle. I have never ridden so much in my 34x23.

Yes, it was a race. We started at one-minute intervals, and I even got a holder for my start (it's a TT, after all, right?). The other two women started ahead of me, and I passed them both on the first climb out of Maupin. One of them passed me back while I was stopped at the first sag (she didn't stop), but I passed her right away on a short downhill section and never saw her again. The 24-hour riders had started before us, with a 15-minute gap between them and us. But I caught the first one of them at mile 20. Just after I first saw him and started to reel him in, one of the 12-hour men came flying by me. Eventually, I think, 3 more 12-hour men passed me. The first guy to pass me passed again on my last trip around the short loop!

My biggest physical fear going into the race was that my stomach would get tied in knots. This happened to me once at Columbia Plateau, and I was so uncomfortable that I could hardly pedal. But I had no "issues" with my stomach in this race. Sure, nothing sounded very good after a while, but I tried to drink a lot (9 bottles--including 1 coke--in 12 hours isn't a lot, I suppose) and ate fig bars when nothing else was palatable. I had some trouble with sunscreen in my eyes at one stage, and I almost had to stop. Those three tubes I packed around all day were just extra deadweight on the climbs. My feet were uncomfortable by the end of the day, and I can tell exactly where the stitching was on the edge of my chamois.

The plan for Sunday? Eat, read, sleep. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

... & better still

Monday, 4 September

The new stage 4 at Eugene Celebration was a road race on a circuit of about 19? miles, with each lap featuring a couple of miles of false flat, 2.5 miles of good climbing up McBeth, several miles of descent down Fox Hollow (also known as Kill Hill when you go up it), another half-mile of climbing up the back side of Saturday's feed hill, and a flat/slightly rolling but windy stretch of a big, wide open road. It was kind of like the road race at the Enumclaw stage race in that we did 2.5 laps, finishing at the top of the big climb, which meant 3 times up the hill. Being not too attentive, I thought until sometime late on Sunday that we did 1.5 laps, and adding that extra climb into the mix got me worried. Our race was delayed by 35 minutes, which gave me even more time to fret.

At the start of the day, I was in third place in GC, eight seconds ahead of Kristi. I was two minutes behind Miranda and Lee, who had lapped us in the crit, and didn't hold much hope of jumping ahead of them. On the first time up the climb, Jill (a cat 4--but not for very much longer) and I rode at the front; I let her set the pace and even let her half-wheel me a little to try to keep the race from splitting up too much too early. The problem was that the tempo allowed us to have a conversation, which I guess must have eventually annoyed Lee, and she attacked about 800 meters before the top. That shattered everything, and we were strung out all over the road by the turn to the descent. I was fourth on the road, but Miranda caught me quickly and then we caught Kristi and Jill before the bottom, but Lee was gone. They let me set tempo up the short hill, then we all worked together pretty well in the flat windy section. There was a chase group 30 seconds back, which kept us motivated although we soon realized we were never going to catch Lee.

At this point, I was thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to ride the last lap by myself if I got dropped on the climb (ever the pessimist). But I guess it was a climb that suits me well. Jill rode away from us a little bit, but Miranda and Kristi just stayed on my wheel. They never moved next to me or past me, but I could hear both of them shifting behind me. Somewhere in here, two Broadmark guys off the front of the men's 1-2 race passed us; Ian looked like he was hanging on for dear life. And then eventually I couldn't hear the women behind me any more. They both dropped back in the last kilometer of the climb.

In one of those classic moments of miscommunication in bike racing, I asked our chief referee as I went past the finish line how far back the 1-2 pack was because I have bad memories of being swarmed on a fast descent by a group of guys. The reply was "you are two minutes down from the leader in your race." Um, that's not what I asked--or even what I care about at this stage. So I looked over my shoulder going around every single bend on the descent. I did finally see the pack coming, and they passed on a straight stretch. There were two more riders strung out behind them, but instead of passing me, they got on my wheel, so I knew Miranda and Kristi were back.

We rotated down the rest of the descent, I pulled up the shorter hill, Miranda pulled down the other side, and then we worked together on the flats. Jill (now very secure in her win of the cat 4 race) apparently got lonesome riding 100 meters in front of us and drifted back to cheer us on, offer to help, etc. I think the rest of us were pretty tired at this stage, and the wind had definitely picked up. We got a sort-of time check on the group behind us; they were out of radio contact. Eventually we were told we had 2.5 minutes on them. We came across the weirdest sight in this race: on a slightly uphill, slightly-turning-to-the-left section of road, there was a pickup truck on its side in the ditch. It seemed that it had just happened, and two people were walking around looking puzzled. But we were so focused on what we were doing that not many details sank into my brain.

This is where I got to thinking that I had a job to do the last time up the climb and I couldn't blow it. I have been beaten too many times this year by women who jump in the last however many meters of a climb and outsprint me to the finish. I knew I had to not let Kristi get back those eight seconds if she tried to do this. Jill took off again at the base of the climb, dangling again just 100 meters ahead of us the whole way up. Miranda was on my wheel, and Kristi was on hers. I really focused all the way up on trying to pick a gear that would allow me to at least try to accelerate if I had to. I tried to keep the pressure on when the grade flattened out a little bit and also to keep the speed up in the steeper bends. And I tried to keep track of where the two women behind me were. Miranda was glued to my wheel, and every time I tried to look back I couldn't see past her. But about the times that I would shift, I could usually hear two more shifts behind me.

What to do. If I tried to jump and go really hard for a short distance to get a gap, there was a chance that I would settle back into a slower speed and Kristi would come past and I'd be unable to accelerate and get on her wheel. It didn't matter if Miranda passed me because she already had two minutes on me. The 1K sign was in a more-or-less flat spot, but then there were several steep pitches before you could see the crowd gathered at 200 meters from the finsh, which was just around a bend in the road. I was sure Kristi was going to attack when the road pitched up. But she didn't. So I tried to go that little bit harder to keep her from doing it. At about 500 meters, I figured I had to go even harder to hold off an attack. As we got to 200 meters and the bend in the road, I was still going hard but thinking there was no way she would get eight seconds back in that distance. Nobody came around me, we crossed the line--and there was only Miranda behind me!! We had dropped my GC threat and she rolled in about two minutes later. I told Miranda that I kept trying to look behind her, and she said she climbs better if she can just stay focused on the wheel in front of her, so she would follow me when I pulled out to try to get a look at the road behind. I guess it was better that way because it sure kept me motivated!

I held on to my third place in GC, having been beaten by a super-strong Canadian that nobody knew and by Miranda who is about the nicest person there is to have beat you. It was a hard stage because there was a headwind even on the descent so you had to pedal all the way down. You had to drive the pace on the flats in order not to get caught by a chase group. And you just had to get up the hill however you get up hills. It was fun to have so many people on the course in the last kilometer of the climb. It was a great event for the last road race of 2006!

Better & better...

Sunday, 3 September

It was just that nice kind of a day. It started with a time trial and got better from there.

I’m at the Eugene Celebration stage race in (you guessed it) Eugene. This is a low-key, end-of-season event put on by a one-time, record-breaking tandem partner of mine, and the fields are never big (20 cat 1-2-3-4 women started). That’s not to say the fields are not competitive, and this year’s edition of the race is bigger (4 stages) and improved (tomorrow could be epic).

So how does a day just keep getting better? The time trial was so short (3 miles) that it hardly lasted long enough to remember. We had preridden the course after yesterday’s road stage, but I guess we weren’t really paying attention because we missed the variations in grade on the way out. In the race, I got to milepost 1 (yeah, they put up mileposts on 1.5-mile dead-end roads in Oregon!) before I had really even settled into a rhythm, and very soon I could see the turnaround. It was mostly slightly uphill on the way out, so it was fast on the way back, mostly 55x 11, 12, or 13. My time was middle of the pack, but at least I managed to beat all the cat 4s. One frustration I had at this race was as soon as I sat down after my start, it seemed like the saddle was low. I have problems with the carbon fiber seatpost slipping, so I measured it when I got back to the car, and sure enough, my saddle was 2 centimeters too low. At least now I know I should measure it before every race…and I have a handy excuse for a mediocre ride.

This was a double-stage day, but my crit wasn’t until 5:00, so there was plenty of time for lunch, a nap, hanging out, good conversations, and watching the masters crit. So now how do I think a day gets better when a crit follows a time trial? Well, the crit course at the Green Hill technology park is more like a flat circuit race. There are 2 corners and two sweepers, and the circuit is about a kilometer around. The race started out fast, and three riders got away. One of them was dropped very quickly (“I can’t do that for 40 minutes!”), and the break eventually lapped the field. There were some surges and sprints for primes in the pack, and I guess we were strung out single file a few times. But I never felt like I was in danger of getting dropped. I chased down two attacks, but I think it was needless effort. For the first one, I forgot that it was a prime lap, and two riders took off halfway around the circuit. I towed the pack back up to them, and Jan launched from my wheel to take the prime from the two who’d lapped us. For the second one, I didn’t realize that the woman who attacked had been lapped by the pack and was probably just trying to take back a little time. I was happy to get pack time in a crit, I almost never rode at the back, and I was sometimes at the front of the pack. It was an accomplishment for me. Sal told me that someday I’ll turn into a crit rider and everyone had better watch out then. Take note, masters crit nats 2025!

And after that, we went to the Laughing Planet for a great burrito with black-eyed peas, chard, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and BBQ sauce. It was really tasty and not heavy at all. But we made up for that healthful meal by walking across the street to the Sweet Life patisserie (which I’m pretty sure I mention in most every blog entry from Eugene) and indulging in…the sweet life!

[Saturday was hardly noteworthy. We left home at 6 a.m. to get here, poked along on I-5 in Ducks football traffic for 100 miles from Portland to Eugene, and raced at a mostly uneventful 54-mile road race on oh-so-familiar roads. It was another 95+ degree day here, and I had some real issues with the heat in the second half of my race. My legs were fine, but I couldn’t focus very well and it was almost scary to ride in the pack. I tried riding at the back but discovered it was better on the front. We had some issues with water hand-ups during the race, and 4 riders DNFed, in part because of the temps, but there was not much else to write home about. We’re staying at a Motel 6 in Springfield, and what’s noteworthy about that fact is that it makes me appreciate all the other hotels I’ve stayed at this year a little more.]