Thursday, March 3, 2011

Come on Spring!!

It's been a long time since I have posted to my blog. I have been meaning to update it for a while but this winter here in Massachusetts is beating me down (as it is most folks here) and leaving me with minimal motivation for anything, much less being overly inspired about the upcoming season. But alas, spring will come and maybe our trails will be clear by June.... ugh

I took a long break after the Shenandoah 100 last year. I did do a 12 hour race in Maine with Doug which was a lot of fun, but after that it was a long stretch of riding just when I felt like it with no agenda or purpose. It was great. I had a lot of fun. When I was making riding plans with my buddies they were like, really, no grueling 6 hr training ride?? You won't get after us for yip yapping... Nope! I have to admit, I didn't miss not racing cross. I surprised at how long my fitness stayed with me since the weather was pretty cooperative here through Christmas pretty much. The trails were really dry and in great shape so I was still getting in some decently long rides on the weekends.

It was all fun until Thanksgiving weekend I did a really randomly stupid thing -- I tore an extensor tendon on my middle finger at the last joint on my left hand -- ie, I had no ability to straighten my finger at the last joint. When I realized it was a tendon, I was horrified. I work as a massage therapist - how was I going to be able to work? Tendons take forever to heal. I googled it right away and it's called 'mallet' or baseball' finger. Six to eight weeks in a finger splint!!! So, I saw an ortho first thing Monday morning to get said finger splint for said injury and to get an x-ray to make sure no bone got pulled off with the tendon, which is not a good prognosis. Thankfully, the x-ray was clean. The doc said it would heal in time (time being the key word), but to do my best to not bend it all in the 6-8 wks. It was such a pain in the butt working around that. After a couple days of splinting it, I realized I was going to have to wrap a thin layer of gauze around it as the splint was plastic and keeping too much moisture against my skin which could get nasty if I didn't take preventative measures. I had to learn to type without my middle finger (I'm just starting to get used to using it again to type with and it keeps messing me up.), drive, grabbing anything was awkward, it's my brake finger for biking... and of course massaging was interesting. I certainly used my right hand a lot more. When I had a follow-up checkup on at just over 6 wks, the way the doctor said it was healing up made me realize there was a chance that just splinting it might not work and that I might have had to have surgery. Needless to say, I was quite pleased I didn't have to have surgery, but I could tell it still have several weeks of healing to do. It was probably almost 9 weeks before I started massaging without the splint on and being a bit bolder with using it. It felt really weird. It's mostly healed now, but I still have to regain full flexion. It's still swollen across the joint and weak.

So riding in December I was a bit more backed off to say the least and only riding on the weekend caught up with me. It was back to specific training in December, although a slow buildup to get back into the swing of things. It was a tough transition to getting back on the bike 5-6 days a week, and that including trainer workouts. It took a few weeks, but I was feeling back into the groove somewhat. Then, mid-December or so, my friend (who I won't name here, you know who you are ... :) ) was helping me swap out some tubeless tires and well, he was filling one up with an air compressor and I was putting on the 2nd one right next to him. The tire seemed to pop/bead a lot right away so I was surprised he kept putting air in with the compressor and just as I was thinking "I should move back"... BOOM!!! The tire explodes off the rim. We were both in shell shock. It was so unbelievable loud. He was holding his hands funny and I was like, uh oh, he's screwed them up bad and we're going to have to go to the hospital. But thankfully he didn't - I think they're a bit screwed up tendony wise. Anyway, holy cow. Our ears were ringing and I got a feeling of being car sick sort of. Very odd. We much more cautiously put the tires on and put the one on that had blown and it rubbed funny on the brake, and that's when we realized the tire blowing off it had warped the rim to the point of being ruined. :( So I had to get a new wheel (which turned into a new wheelset, a nicer wheelset, but still ouch to the pocketbook.) So, now I had a messed up finger and a messed up ear. I couldn't hear that well in my right ear. I had it looked at and was told there was a spot on the eardrum with lines coming out from it kind of like a crack in a windshield. It could take 6-8 wks to heal and get back to normal. What's up with this 6-8wks?? It was really ringy/toney for awhile and kind of felt clogged but it seems to be at least 95% normal now. Craziness.

I spent Christmas week down in Maryland and got in some great 3-4hr rides a few days down there. Then it was back home for a long, horrible stretch of winter. It had actually snowed quite significantly Christmas weekend here but it mostly all melted by the time I got back home. I rode outside the weekend after New Years on some icy trails and well that was only the beginning of my snow riding this year.

After that it snowed, hmmm, like every 3-4 days, like a foot or more of snow each time!! With no melting in between. Unbelievable! The first storm, you're like, ok... It's pretty, shoveling isn't that bad, and hopefully the Cape (cape cod) didn't get too much and it will melt fast. (The Cape typically doesn't get as much snow and the soil is sandy so it drains well when it melts.) HA ha hahaa.... I was ready to put boards across the top of the snowbanks along my walkway so I wouldn't have to keep trying to heave it up the probably almost 5 foot snowbanks to be able to walk my dog everyday. It was pretty wild, kind of a cool site, but also pretty terrible for a bicyclist. The roads got all narrowed as the plows even had a hard time plowing back all the snow. I can't remember the last time we have had this much snow on the ground and snow cover for so long. It's March and we still have about a foot of snow on the ground.

So typically, if there's this much snow on the ground and it stays as cold as it did, we can ride snowmobile trails, but even that too a long time to come to fruition as most of the snowstorms dropped really light fluffy snow that took a long time to pack down well enough and to harden up to be able to ride on top without sinking. I did a couple attempts in desperation and usually ending up riding back on the nasty, sloppy road. The snowfall did finally abate and the snowmobile trails became more rideable. In fact, there were a couple of days that the conditions were just right that I could ride on top of the snow just about anywhere in the woods. But that's a rare occasion. I did get a couple winter hikes that were nice.

I was back down in Maryland the end of January to race Snotcycle. Of course, it snowed down there too - a good 6 inches or more the Thursday before the race. I went down to visit Doug but thinking we wouldn't likely be racing. He assured me they would figure out some way to hold the race. I was like, yeah right. There's no way. I know snow and what you can and can't ride in. So we drive to the race Saturday morning. It's frigid out. My race wasn't the 3rd group to go. There were a couple categories that started before me and probably half dnf'd as they were sick of running the 8-mile lap that is usually super fast terrain. I rode down the driveway start of the race and it quickly turns into a field, and yup, I was off the bike pushing my bike through the snow. I was this is stupid, especially with my finger just about done the major healing phase. I figured since we were there I'd try do a lap. I'm no runner so that was going to be interesting. It took the first guy to finish from the earlier groups just about 2hrs to do one lap! hmmm.. So I started the race with not too big a women's field, maybe 8-10 of us. But the men had just started and we bumped right into off running our bikes too. It was silly stupid. I guess I kind of put on my race face and I don't like to run. It was useless to try to get on the bike and even go down a short downhill (which really, there weren't too many hills) as you'd have to kick the snow out of your cleats on your shoes and hope you actually clip in and get some balance...From everyone running there was somewhat of a path getting created it but it was so narrow it was tough to get going on the bike and even if you did manage to get going, it was equally difficult to hold a line and not get off into the thicker snow. Eventually, towards the 2nd half of the lap it became a bit more rideable and I was more determined or had figured out better how to try to stay on my bike. So, I got going somewhat and came through the start finish area in about 1'25" or so.. I can't remember exactly. I was totally thinking they wouldn't make us do a 2nd lap and thinking that, I hadn't brought any fuel with me except a water bottle. So when they said my category had to do another lap, I was like, oh, huh.. I better drink some water, and maybe it won't take quite as long as the last lap did but I was dreading it. The competitiveness in me must have taken over. But, I was actually happy they made us do a 2nd lap as it had started to warm up a tad so the running path had gotten packed down to a smooth packed surface now so if you could stay in the narrow path you could actually move along quite nicely. So, the 2nd lap was actually a lot of fun, especially after suffering so much the first lap. Anyway, I ended up winning it so I can retire for the season now a winner :) Ha! I was a bit sore from the running the next couple of days. But hey, the post race beer was mighty nice.

So back to Massachusetts...oh right... snow!
It has been incredible hard to stay motivated for the season and doing hard workouts on the trainer and not getting to at least get one ride in outside to remind yourself of why you do it. I did 'enjoy' a nice suffer fest with a couple local racers on some snowmobile trails a few weeks back. It was soooo cold that morning. It was ~8' F when we started. I thought many times of bailing those first 5-10 minutes. I had to stop and put heat warms in my gloves. It did warm up and I did warm up trying to keep up with those two. It was a good hard workout but somewhat of slog as the top layer of snow was just enough to have to constantly work hard to get through. It was a good workout and outside, but not what I'd call a ride that put a smile on my face. The next two weekends, I tried to do my long ride on the Cape but the first weekend of that there was still a lot of snow and a lot of ice so, it wasn't quite a good workout or particularly enjoyable. The next weekend was ok - a bit more rideable but still large sections of snow that we had to push our bikes through and random icy spots so you just didn't feel comfortable getting a lot of speed going.

But finally, finally, last weekend I went back down to the Cape (which is where we'll be probably for another month to do long rides) and had a very good ride that put a smile on my face. It had poured on Friday and then finished up with some nice crusty, snow/sleet mix even on the Cape. I was driving down there thinking man, we just can't get a break. I figured it still had to be better than the previous weeks and it was. Even occasionally, we'd go through a section of completely dry ground and the sun was out and it felt and even smelled remotely like spring. But I am not fooled. It's still a ways off here. My coach has tried to console me noting that I will be 'fresh' in July/Aug/Sept instead of starting to feel burned out by then. I was like ha... whatever... I have some big races early season :( I'm coming to terms with it. It's just going to take a bit longer this spring to build up the base for the 100s so I should maybe try to mentally focus more on the later season races and while I'll still give it my all early on, know that it is what is. Maybe I'll surprise myself. But, I'm trying to be realistic too as the trails locally really are going to take a long time to clear of snow and to go through a thaw muddy phase, and since there is still so much snow around, even as it warms up, the road are going to be really wet with snow melt for a long time. I really should get some fenders.

I will be quite happy when summer really truly is here. I hope we get as nice as a summer as we had last year, especially after all this suffering this winter. There have been many many days I've been close to packing up the car with as much as I can fit and heading to Arizona. Some day!

Well, my race schedule this year will look pretty much like last year so long as gas prices don't totally skyrocket like is being threatened. Then I'll be bagging the races that are long drives (most of them) and staying local as I don't have much of a race budget to begin with, unless a miracle happens :) I like miracles.

Till the first race!