Friday, June 29, 2012

Yikes! I've been a complete slacker this year when it comes to blogging. It's not really procrastination. It's more the fact that I need about 5-6 more hours in a day to get everything done.
So I'll do my best to recount in maybe not so full detail my spring racing to date.

I'll preface this with - it's been a very busy year thus far, in good ways mostly. I'm sure most athletes will concur, it's always tricky finding the balance between work, racing, training, family/friends, and down time. I don't know what down time means anymore.

Late winter, I moved my massage practice to a much nicer location then my previous office which has shown a definite boon in business. I have been particularly motivated to really get my practice to a full-status for me. I currently work a couple days at a law office doing adminstrative work that while has provided me with consistent income, it has dragged on longer than I had intended. As of July 1st I'll be down to one day at the law office. Yippee!! Which will hopefully give me the time to keep growing my business as right now, I'm too busy to do the marketing stuff I need to do.

I also decided this past winter to begin a new hobby - playing the violin/fiddle. I'm sure I'll be more inclined towards fiddling then violining as I enjoy some good bluegrass and folk music. It was a beginners course at a local high school once a week for 9 weeks but put me right into heavy training season. I was reluctant to take the course due to time concerns but I'm glad I did. I just need to make sure I keep practicing which has proved difficult this past month.

Oh, and then I decided to take a beginner fly fishing course, because I have so much free time on my hands. If you've been a long standing reader of my blogs you might catch that when I have traveled to my 100 miler races, several take place where there are a lot of fly fishing tours around. It somehow seems super appealing to stand around in cool water just flicking your my for a few hours the day after riding my butt off the day before. So I figured I better learn how to do that. Of course, I haven't practiced at all since the class. Migth help if I actually had fly fishing equipment.

Don't worry I'll get to the bike racing eventually.

Then I decided to adopt a dog because I thought my adorable, lovable pug would be happier with a playmate and because I have been terribly guilty about being gone so much and he's just hanging out at home all alone. I kind of looked half-heartedly for a while, but then finally found what sounded like the cutest bestest dog - Lucky. And how can you go wrong with an awesome name like Lucky. Well, it didn't quite work out. Lucky was absolutely adorable but he was only 9 months and not quite as 'chill' as I was hoping. He was a cute Yorkshire Terrier/Terrier mix who had a mouth that looked like he was always smiling at you. But the reality check was two male dogs, lots of dominance issues, not really playing with each other nicely, Bruschi who was apparently quite fine being alone was now not happy. Twice the work, twice the attention that had to be given...etc. etc. I do not have a yard to just let the dogs hang out in so it was a rough couple of weeks trying it out and sadly gave Lucky back to the Foster Mom who had had him. I realized also that I have too hectic of a schedule to take on something like that and when I get home I need to be able to relax and unwind and Bruschi and I have our thing going just fine. Lucky truly will be lucky with a family with kids and/or another younger dog who will play with him. It just wasn't the right fit or the right time. Lesson learned.

SO needless to say, the spring has been crazy busy. Training has been a bit rough as working out hard means recovering also equally hard but that requires a certain about of time to be able to do so. I've had a lot of mediocre training weeks mostly because I have been dragging my tail around.

Since the Michaux Cup, I did manage to get my xtr pedals that broke during the race warranteed. It took some 'pushing' but finally got them to honor their warranty on xtr parts (eh hem, 3 years... which I honestly was kind of surprised pedals were included in that as you beat the crap out of them). It was a couple of weeks of fumbling through workouts feeling rather bad about the whole idea of racing. I had a couple melt downs on the trail, in private... I tried to remind myself the spring is always tough for me getting the point of it 'feeling good' again. The pollen was horrendous this year and I definitely was suffering from allergies but remained too stubborn to go get some meds to help me out. (Note to self, try acupuncture before the fall and definitely before next spring.)

I finally had a really good ride the end of April. I rode some trails that I only get to a couple times a year with a really fun group of riders who just like to ride. I left the heart rate monitor at home and just rode. I finally had a blast again :) The day before was a melt down day... Ok, maybe it's coming around.

My next race was a regular cross country race on May 6th - Burlingame in Rhode Island, part of the EFTA series. I wanted to get some shorter races in to get some speedwork going in case I decided to do the Tran-Sylvania Mountain Bike Stage Race again. The women's field was small, but one woman and I duked it out for a few laps. It was painful. I could out ride her technically but then she'd get me on the flat open sections. There really wasn't a lot of technical riding on this course. I finally gapped her heading into a bridge section and tried to keep the gas pedal to the metal. It paid off but not without some cramping and bad thoughts. It was a pretty fun course overall.

The next month after that is completely a blur. Too much going on. It was taking some time for all the goodies to come in to put my Zaboo bike back together. I am of course indebted to my buddy Brian who's house I was at seriously like every other day dropping off parts, picking up parts, bikes, dropping off more stuff, breaking stuff, sending it back... holy crap. I dont' want to drive to Sterling anymore. Ok, that's a lie. My favorite ice cream place is there - Rota Spring mmmm... I ride to eat ice cream.

Just like last year, I get back on my Zaboo bike with a new Cannondale Lefty Fork, new wheels from Stans, new x-king tires from Continental, new Fizik saddle only a couple days before my next race. I had wanted to put my new grips from Ergon on but Brian was wise and recommended only doing so many changes at once. He's so smart. Sunday May 20th, I raced one of my favorite local courses, the Weeping Willow up in Ipswich, Ma, another EFTA race. I have won here the past two years so the pressue was on. I hope the previous day's 3 hr ride with some fast guys didn't hurt me too much. I figured it was good training for the stage race that I, at that point, wasn't sure whether I was doing or not.

The Weeping Willow had a very strong women's field. There were a few cyclocross racers so I knew the start was going to be extra painful since cross racers race crazy hard for 45 minutes, thus starting crazy hard. I actually started fairly well and managed to get the hole shot onto the first singletrack section but lost it after an extended doubletrack section. I was sitting at the back of a train of 5 trying to figure out some strategy. I was also thinking about gee, I don't usually think about strategy like this too often. I was ok with this train and sitting in the back so long as no one broke away off the front. I felt pretty comfortable with the pace so if someone did take off I knew I had more in the tank to chase. No one did. The front rider messed up on a short little climb and lucky enough for me there was a nice outside line that I took as everyone else had to dismount. I got the lead and took off and never looked back, well once in a while but I managed to hold onto the win. Yeah! Three years in a row.

So last minute decision to the Tran-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic Stage Race (TSE) race had me scrambling rather last minute to get ready for it. I was at this point still figuring out whether Lucky would be going back to his foster mom which didnt' get resolved until the Thusday before leaving for TSE. I was chose to camp out versus staying in the boyscout lodge like I had the last couple of years. After getting sick last year, the appeal had worn off. I had just got a new 4-person tent so I would have plenty of space to spread out and not have some musty, varnish smell to deal with and no sharing a bunk bed, no snoring from others, etc. Anyway, lots of pack. I also thankfully had a large pop-up canopy tent to cover my tent and hang out under in the event of rain. And boy, did it rain this year.

The women's field at the stage race was packed yet again with very talented endurance racers. I knew my base of fitness was not as as strong as it was coming into this race last year. I was kind of optimistically hoping I would feel "fresh" but it didn't quite pan out that way. As with last year, I told myself that if I made it on the podium any one day that would be awesome but I had to be fair to myself in that my life had just been so crazy busy that looking at the race as a great training opportunity vs. a chance to show off was the best course of action.

The stage race started Sunday May 27th with a 10+ mile time trial. I had drove down to Stage College the day before and arrived late afternoon and had just finished setting up my lovely camp abode when the skies opened up and it poured. I was like, eh, I've rode the time trial last year. I'll remember it. Ha! I really should have taken a spin on the course but I didn't feel like getting all muddy and nasty. Besides, I'll be riding my bike for 7 days in a row versus the like 4-5 times a week that seemed to be happening the past couple of months.

Sunday arrives. I had the usual pre-race nerves going. I got on the bike a bit early to get the legs moving and at least ride the beginning part of the course. Good thing. I missed a couple turns warming up. I could tell the craziness of the past few weeks had taken it's toll as I really wasn't all that focused, despite the nerves...nerves and not being focused are a bad combination. Anyway, my start position puts me in mid-pack of the women, some very strong ones in front of me and very very strong ones behind me. Holy crap. I got picked off pretty early on. Total bummer but I all I could do was tell myself to keep pedaling. I certainly didn't feel like the stud on fire last year doing this TT. I wasn't terrible but certainly didn't have the edge. I still managed to pull off 4th for the day which I was quite ok with. I was kind of hoping that I could manage to stay in there the rest of the week.

So yes, rain again that evening. The forecast for the week looked horrible. Everything was pretty wet. My tent and pop-up tent were holding up fine so that was good. Although, the rain made for a lot of extended time hanging out in the tent. For once I didn't bring an entire library with me to read. I guess I could have spent that time blogging, but there were no outlets in my tent. I had started reading the Harry Potter series and was half-way through book 2. I was done by Wednesday. I should have gone into Town and bought the Book 3 but it just never seemed to be the right time to do so. So I was stuck reading Fly Fishing for Idiots. Not all the entertaining.

Back to racing, Stage 2 is one of the best stages and one of the toughest, heavy on prime, rocky, rooty central PA singletrack. There was no neutral start out of the campground this year so it was pretty fast paced to start but within less than a mile it's downhill for a while on a pretty beat up jeep road. I was feeling ok but definitely not on my game yet. I was probably mid-pack of the women. I would have preferred to be further up but I reminded myself it was a long stage today, plenty of time to make of some gaps. I starting to tell myself just relax, just have fun... just have fun... just have fun.. Wham!! At the bottom of the descent was a wooden bridge and it took me out. I slammed down hard on my right side and slid across the bridge almost off the side. I was stunned, a bit embarrassed about crashing on a bridge and worried I tore my new shorts. I got up slowly and felt the pain in my hip. Yikes. That's a doozie. I astonishingly didn't rip my shorts at all the bridge was that slick. I pulled myself together as best I could. As I scrambled to get on my bike again another racer went down but seemed less impacted by the fall than myself. I was hoping I could ride out of the pain. Every pedal stroke had a painful moment. I tried massaging it out, but it just wasn't subsiding.

We had a stretch of road for a bit but eventually got to a fairly steep singletrack climb. If it were dry, it would have been ridable but it was too slick and fighting to keep a line was more painful then walking, but walking was more painful than riding. It was in a quandry. It killed hiking up that hill and it went on and on. I was starting to lose it mentally. It finally topped out onto some very rocky singletrack and I tried to pass another racer only to crash again. Not as dramatically but I was in enough pain so as not to be able to really 'save' myself from the slippery slimy rocks. So it was a complete struggle all the way to the aid station at Mile 11. I probably crashed at mile 2 or 3. I was in tears at that point. I knew it was stupid to keep going but I hate defeat. I had dnf'd last year after catching the bug that was going around and having a wicked fever on Day 3. Now, I didn't even make it through day 2. And now, I might not even be riding for a bit. :( Not happy.

One of the ladies did this stage race last year, Vikki, had crashed hard in the time trial and either broke or severely bruised some ribs but she kept racing and ended up 3rd overall. She happened to be at the aid station supporting her teammates (she was out of commission this time around having suffered a concussion in a nasty road crash a few weeks prior.) I told her I had tried to keep her toughness in my head to get through the race but I knew better and bailed at the aid station. She was kind enough to give me and another racer a ride back to camp. I went and cleaned up and hobbled my way back to the main lodge to see if the race doctor was about and lucky enough he had just arrived back from being out on the course. He checked me and said the mere fact I was able to walk meant I didn't break my hip but there was a chance of a hairline fracture, although not likely since I'm 'young and healthy.". I got some ice, took some alleve, and hobbled back to my tent, where I massaged my hip with some arnica massage oil and chilled. I was pretty bummed out. I was truly hobbling along walking. Now it was more annoying that the bathouse was a bit of a walk from my tent abode.

I wasn't quite sure how this was all going to pan out. I figured I would see how I felt the next day so see if it got terribly worse in which case I should get my hip x-rayed and head home to heal up or maybe salvage some stages later in the week and continuing to race. The racer in me, when she pops out, wanted to come back later in the week. I woke up the next morning thinking I'd be feeling terrible but my hip didn't feel too bad. I was still hobbling around walking but the icing and alleve etc seemed to have some affect. I still had no intention of riding the stage at that point. I figured I would take it easy and go for a gentle spin later on in the day. But then while eating breakfast, I thought, well what am I going to do all day. So I (I keep wanting to say 'hopped' on my bike) gently got on my bike - that was the worse movement for my hip post-crash - and tried pedaling around and well I could do it with minimal pain. I decided to ride the stage afterall. It was a mostly dirt road stage so there wouldn't be too many rocks or roots to make me have to rely on the hip too much in case of a hasty getting off the bike. It was a nice day and it was rather nice to just ride and enjoy myself and not have to get into 'race mode'.

So I managed to ride the rest of the stages. I had hopes of feeling really good by Friday and kicking some butt but the injury took it's toll on me more than I probably admitted. I felt rather flat still most of the time and it did really take until Friday to feel remotely like I was able to really push out of my right leg strongly. So I chalked it up to some good training, maybe a bit last luster in the 'racing' pushing aspect but it was what it was. I certainly got to race without all the anxiety. Albeit, I was rather bruised, more on my lower leg than upper.

I finally came around to the riding my bike every day too. I felt like I was getting back into the groove of training etc. It was kind of nice to be able to just ride, recover, repeat and not run around like a maniac in between. But that ended upon returning home. I drove back home Saturday after the final awards ceremony. While the post-race party sounded like a blast, I just wanted to get home in my own bed, with the bathroom like 5 feet from my bedroom and have a full day to unwind before starting a hectic work week.

And boy was it hectic - a very full week of work. My hip got pretty stiff not riding my bike everyday. I am very fortunate though, to have some amzing bodyworkers help me out. I almost didn't try to get an appointment with Biosynchronistics as they usually are booked out 3 months ahead and it's completely luck of the draw to get in on the cancellation list. I had maybe a two hour window of opportunity that I wasn't working to be able to go so I didn't try to get in right away. But by Wednesday I knew it was stupid to wait any longer. I mean I wasn't able to walk 'normal'. That can't be good. I called an had to bag some work to get an appointment but totally worth it. She watched me take two steps and said 'that's not right." Nope. But she unjammed my femur and got me all aligned again. I had my one-a month appointment the following week to make sure everything was still looking good and I was. It took a good couples weeks post-crash to really feel able to stand up and power out of the right hip/glut but I'm back on course now.

It was a crazy busy couple weeks post-TSE race. I had planned on racing the Lumberjack 100 miler in michigan on June 16th. But my friend who was going to go to the race with me bailed on me two weeks out. I scrambled to find someone else to travel with as it's a good 16+ hour drive one-way. I couldn't find anyone and debated going solo but calculated out how expensive that would be and decided it just wasn't worth it. I've done the race already and it will still be there next year. I was pretty bummed about it. However, the week before that I was riding some of my favorite trails and noticed my seatpost was rotating some. Odd. I stopped to check the seatpost clamp and that was tight so I had a sinking feeling something in the frame was broken. I didn't keep fussing with it out on the trails since it wasn't completely broken and I preferred to ride back to my car then walk a long long way. I called aforesaid awesome mechanic friend and explained to him what was going on. Sure enough, I had cracked the aluminum support piece inside the carbon frame to give strength to the seatpost tube. Back to riding the Felt frame, which isn't a bad backup bike. But it wouldn't have been ready in time for leaving for Michigan so.. in the end I guess it worked out.

I instead raced a new race - the Stoopid 50 back down in State College. The course was composed of some of the sweet singletrack that I just rode in the Stage Race and some other singletrack in the area. It was a 70%/30 mix of trails to dirt road. Awesome! I waited until last minute to sign up as I was not going to bother if the weather looked bad but thankfully it was a beautiful, perfect race day.
I felt pretty good and raced a solid race coming in 2nd in second shy of 5hrs which was my goal. It was hard not to lament having signed up for the 100s that I have as being done in 5 hrs certainly seems appealing to me right now. I was like how am I going to get through 8-9hrs of this again? I know I will, but something about that is losing appeal to me. I'm sure it will come around again. I think it part I have been so busy that working that hard in my 'play' time is a bit daunting.

I have a nice break until the end of July from racing. Although that means lots of long training rides. Thus far, the training is feeling better then it had most of the spring.

I will try to be a better blogger the rest of the summer :)