Posts Tagged 'century'

The Student Becomes the Teacher

Or, more accurately, the participant becomes the mentor. That’s right folks! I apparently write a pretty mean essay (or no one else applied), as the “Powers That Be” over at Team in Training have seen their way clear to entrust me with my very own group of participants for the upcoming summer cycle season. Try not to be too stunned here or I may just get offended! I turned in my paperwork this very evening and will join an all-star selection of coaches and mentors in prepping the next batch of TNT cyclists for century riding success. We’ll be training for the Moab Century Tour in Utah this September. The ride is rumored to be absolutely gorgeous and “basically flat” (except for the “Big Nasty” climb that kicks the whole thing off). Really… they call it that.

Giant, hopefully-more-legend-than-actual-devil, hills aside… I’m pretty frikkin’ excited. I’ve wanted to be a mentor since my very first couple weeks of training back in ’07, but have always had to put it off for one reason or another. I’m happy to finally have no new (forseen) marriages, moves, job changes, or broken bones on the horizon, which means I can actually give something back to a group that did an awful lot for me. I was amazingly fortunate to have the mentors and ride support that I did through my two training seasons; I can’t wait to return the favor!

All this means that I’m pretty much bouncing in my chair right now ready to get started. There’s a whole season of ride posts, hill repeats posts and food review posts just *bursting* to be written! Of course the actual training season doesn’t start for another full month, so I have to be content geeking out to bike porn on the computer every day. (Gear people… gear. Where are your minds?!) I’ve been on a (mostly mental, for now) shopping spree for the last week straight; picking out new jerseys, new shorts, and, in moments of true weakness, new bikes. I’ve only actually given in to one jersey, one pair of shorts and a bunch of new tester food so far, but my wallet will be grateful to get training under way!

For now, this week is shaping up to be pretty busy (and kinda cold), but I’m hoping to channel all of this energy into some more self-sponsored training rides come the weekend. I can’t be 100% certain… but more pre-season miles logging (and less gear-related spending) is probably going to make for a better “get a headstart on getting in shape” plan. Probably. Maybe I should do both, just in case…

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The Ride Continues

For all that I learned about eating right while your ride over the last two training seasons, I learned a lot more between rest stops two and three. Its weird how you can actually feel your energy levels ebb and flow the longer you are on a bike. Somewhere around mile 45 or so, I started to feel…off. I wasn’t bonking yet, but I knew that if I didn’t eat something soon that I wasn’t going to finish this ride. It was the middle of a rolling climb, so I fought for the top before pulling over.

I inhaled a few shot bloks, chugged some sport drink, and climbed back in the saddle. The weather had cleared up entirely, fog giving way to 70 something temperatures and not a cloud in the sky. I shed a couple layers of clothing (stuffed conveniently into back pockets. Why don’t normal clothes have pouches?), pedaled easy for 10 minutes or so, and was feeling good as new in no time. There really is something to this eating thing (apparently)!

The next 10-12 miles were straight into a headwind, but I felt great. Where I’d been lagging a bit before, I was now able to take my pulls on the paceline like it was nothing despite the nasty wind gusts. If anything, I was having to hold back to keep from taking off and gapping the line when it was my turn! The road condition worsened and my arm started to ache (let’s not even mention the annoying bike squeak), but overall the ride could not have been better.

Well.. all things in moderation or… all good things must come to an end. Pick your catchy saying. You knew this was coming, right? About 3 miles before rest stop three, my energy level was just gone again. I’m not sure if it was the wind, the sun, or some combination of the two (or possibly my overly enthusiastic attitude) but I went from feeling great to convinced I was going to faint in a matter of minutes. The thought of seeing Charles at the next stop really kept me going. How disappointed would he be if he waited for hours at that stop, only to find I’d been SAG’d out (or even just waylaid for awhile) just a few miles away? It simply wouldn’t do. So, I reigned in my pace, was thankful when other teammates did the same, and managed to hit the rest stop without collapsing.

Rest stop three was chaos. I managed to find a spot to lay my bike down (which was a challenge, despite the giant airport hotel parking lot) and stumbled exhaustedly to the food tents. There I was greeted with possibly the longest line I have ever seen (that wasn’t for a new gaming console in front of a Best Buy – people like their Wiis). Who’s bright idea was it to make a line anyway? The random elbowing and crowding had worked fine up to this point. As luck would have it, just as I thought I’d faint before actually getting any food, a girl carrying an enormous tray of PBJs and bananas walked by. Apparently the ride volunteers also realized that it was only a matter of time before a line that long led to riots! I snagged half a sandwich (which I never do), scarfed it down instantly, and stole two banana halves before heading back to the group. I was hungry!

Sometime during the frenzied inhalation of shot bloks, I realized that I hadn’t yet found Charles. I’d scoped out the obvious locations – potties, food line, TNT SAG crew – and he was nowhere to be seen. I wrestled my iPhone out of the Camelback only to discover that he had somehow lost his car keys in the hotel room, and would take a cab to meet me at the finish line. Bummer! I was so counting on seeing him to give me that additional motivation to finish out…guess that was going to have to come from me or something now. So sad! I continued stuffing my face for a full 10 minutes or so, took a few pictures, and even saved a cyclists life (by offering up an extra pouch of my borrowed Cytomax) before the team was ready to roll again. To be honest, I still wasn’t feeling that hot coming out of stop three. I no longer felt like I’d actually faint at any moment, but devouring that much food and chugging all that water in such a short time span left me nauseous at best. Lucky for me (although possibly unlucky for them), several teammates were also starting to show some wear around the edges – so we set a pretty tame pace for the next few miles.

Somewhere after that rest stop, Ron and I split off from the group. The hills weren’t treating me well and I didn’t want to hold up my team while I spun it out (and waited for the nausea to pass). Entertainingly enough, he and I rolled passed Devan and crew a couple miles down the road; they’d gotten a flat and were changing it out on the side of the road. That was the last time we’d spot Team Wolverine for the rest of the ride. A little more climbing and whatnot and we were the next break point. With only two people to keep track of, rest stop four was pretty short. I pulled off my shoes and massaged feeling back into my toes – I’m a horrible toe pointer – while the cutest kid I’ve ever seen offered to fill my water bottles. He could not have been more than ..seven… (I’m actually quite bad at ages), but he handled those Crystal Springs jug like a pro!

Ron and I picked up a nice tailwind coming through a 20ish mile flat span in Foxen Canyon which sped my recovery quickly. In no time at all we were flying passed cyclists, part of the time with Ron pushing the two of us faster than most singles could go! Ron and I hit Solvang’s answer to Altamont (you remember…short, steep and dirty) at the end of that nice flat stretch, and struggled up mightily. I would definitely classify that particular hill as a “gut popper”. We did make the top in the saddle and were rewarded with an absolutely fantastic descent. I stood a little to relieve the saddle-sore (hey man, we were over 70 miles in at this point!), and enjoyed the cool rush of wind. You seriously couldn’t find a cloud, and last temperature check was over 80 degrees! In March! (So much for that rumored hail, right?)

How do you Title a Post that Spans 100 Miles?

The short answer is, you don’t. When a post spans over seven hours of saddle time, more like nine hours total time, over a hundred miles traveled, everything that happens in between simply cannot be covered in one witty title post. Unfortunately. I know how much you all look forward to my alliteration. Anyway, let’s get to the task at hand (trying to sum up this monster ride), and hope that I don’t end up splitting the post into multiples, thereby negating all the crafty intro/prep text I just typed up.

Team Wolverine, as we C’s were dubbed (no, I was not present at the naming and take no responsibility for our “winter animal” name choice. And don’t get me started on what on earth a winter animal is in the first place. Do they die out during the other seasons like flowers? Moving on…), were scheduled to roll out of the Marriott at 6:30am Saturday morning. I hopped out of bed around 5:30 and, after fighting with the evil hotel alarm clock for a full five minutes (I told you they couldn’t be trusted!), was ready to leave by 5:45. Well crap. I walked out into the hallway, thinking I’d go buy a bagel, realized I didn’t have shoes on nor did I know where the bagel place was, and quickly returned to the room. I did get a glimpse of my team motivational floormat though, so not a total wasted trip. Gotta love anything that can make you smile on no sleep at 5-something in the morning! After a quick room search revealed no mini-fridge or snacks, I settled for hastily made hotel coffee as my “breakfast of champions”.

I slurped down the vaguely horrid hotel brew and managed to sit still all the way to 6:10, at which point I had to go to the meeting spot. Yes, even though it was approximately 25 feet from my door. Better to fidget in the cold than in the room…I guess. Perhaps not surprisingly, I wasn’t the only one who was early. I joined ranks with Angie, Rich and Ron and waved hello to our team manager and head coach. After forcing down a granola bar at Ron’s insistence (you cannot start this ride on an empty stomach. So many rules!), I lined up with the rest of the crew for a few team pictures. Or, as I like to call them, the “before” shots. Seems more ominous that way somehow. Two emergency trips to the room for ear-warmers and long gloves (it was cold!) later, I was ready to roll.

The morning fog seemed to thicken around us as we hit the road. By the time we’d made the turn onto the first long stretch of road, my glasses were completely and utterly covered in water drops. As we started our first descent, I had condenstation rolling down my helmet, down my glasses, onto my face. So crazy! Pair that with what can only be characterized as a “really rough” stretch of pavement – 10ish miles of it – and the first section of the ride should have been torture. But it was my first century, and even roads causing awful jarring sensations up my bad elbow couldn’t get my spirits down. As we climbed the next “little” hill, the sun started to break through the mist. Right as I started to get annoyed with the cold and wet weather, I was treated to a view from the side of a hill, over the fogline, just as the light came out. It was awesome. Of course, it was also a descent, and the best I could do for a picture was to grab one back at the general area from the next stop sign. Le sigh.

The route cruised along Highway 1 for a bit before sending us to our first stop at mile 23. Actually it was only mile 20 for us…TNT starts at the hotel rather than in Solvang and then does the entire route up to the finish line. Technically, that’s a full 100 miles, as the entire route is 103.4, but the TNT veterans claim that you haven’t really ridden the Solvang Century until you’ve hit the finish line, eaten dinner, had a couple beers, and then ridden the last 3.5 miles back to the hotel. Well, the beer part is probably unofficial. Gluttons for punishment is the only phrase that comes to mind on the whole “false finish” arrangement! Regardless, the stop almost seemed to come to early. Yeah, it was over a quarter of the way through the ride, but I wasn’t ready to break.

Lucky for me, the route planners and team coaches know more about century riding that I do. More rest stops is better than less. Or so I would learn. Coach Devan not only stopped the group at the stop, but made sure that we were all eating and drinking properly. I managed to choke down a couple banana segments (seriously, it was too early for eating!) and laid heavily into the Cytomax in my bottle cage. I was wearing the Camelback full of regular water for the ride, but gimp-arm still wasn’t strong enough to consistently, safely pull the bottle from the frame while moving. Gotta consciously load up on those electrolytes at the stops! I earned a few glares taking pictures of teammates (too early? Bah! They’ll thank me later!) before we headed back out on the road.

The miles between stop one and stop two all sort of blend together for me. My energy level was still pretty high, and I attacked the climbs on Highway 1 with a vengeance. The uphill struggle was rewarded with a phenomenal descent; super smooth pavement and a wide shoulder. Even throttling the brakes like I have been since the accident, I cracked my season speed record by far (up to 36.5, I think). I can see why the organizers put a “Watch Downhill Speed” note on the route sheet! I’m betting some of those experienced riders (or possibly a well ridden tandem) could blow by that 55mph posted limit without trying.

We turned off Hwy 1 towards the second rest stop, at which point I discovered…the squeak. Now, my bike, for all its problems, had never had a squeak before. Loud popping noises when tires blew? Yes. Grating noises on concrete when I’ve fallen? Sure. But horrid, high-pitched creaking like a demented cricket? That was new. All I can claim to remember of miles 32-37 is how desperately I wanted to reach the next stop and have my bike looked at by the mechanic. All I could remember for the rest of the day was how little worth waiting in line for that mechanic actually was. Twenty minutes and a lot of cyclist muscling later, the bike had been oiled up and declared “fit to ride”. Thirty seconds on the road after the stop and I swear the squeak was worse. So goes life. Notice there are no pictures from this leg of the journey…

I should have expected this. (Well, technically I did expect this…see first paragraph note.) The post is already almost too long to be bearable, so I’m making the first split here. More to come after the break!

All Shook Up

Charles and I pulled into our hotel, the Marriott in Buellton (approximately 3.5 miles from Solvang), at about 2:30. By the time we got checked in and pulled all of our bags into the room, I had about twenty minutes to get changed and outside for the Shakedown Ride. The weather was much warmer than expected, and after all that gear planning I was struggling to find options that would work. With a little bit of cursing and an awful lot of rushing, I made it with at least three minutes to spare. Just in time to mill about lazily and wait for the latecomers. Sweeeeeeet. See how good they are at milling? It’s a skill.

Somewhere around 15 minutes past roll time, I’d tracked down Kate for pasta party tickets, heard at least six people’s “drive to Solvang” stories, and verified that the Garmin would work in Solvang…just not under the hotel’s awnings. Ten more minutes went by as Coach Matt gave us an overview of the importance of the Shakedown ride – namely where to spot the ostriches – and we were finally ready to hit the road. At this point, you may be wondering what the heck a Shakedown Ride is. Totally natural, as I haven’t actually mentioned shaking or riding up to this point. Basically, its a quick jaunt to town to confirm nothing on your bike was horribly damaged in transit – gears all shift, tires aren’t flat, brakes are intact, etc – with the added bonus in Solvang of ostrich farm viewing. (No, of all the pictures I took this weekend, none of them were of kick-ass giant birds. I suck.)

The ride was even shorter than I imagined when someone first explained it to me. We rolled passed the exciting part of the ride (birds) almost instantly, and were in the heart of Solvang in mere minutes. To be fair, the heart of Solvang is rather cute. If you’ve never been there, its this little Danish-esque town somewhere northwest of Santa Barbara. Supposedly there are lots of cute shops around, but we didn’t really get time to look around. Maybe after the ride was over…too much to think about beforehand!

Everyone grouped up at the site of the century finish line to socialize for a bit (check out my mentor and I ready to rock this ride in the pic on the right). The energy was palpable. People were excited and somewhat nervous. At least I was. Sometimes I project. Or so I’m told. All of the sudden all that training for months and months (almost years in my case!) started to feel real…like I’d actually given up all those Saturday mornings for something. Not to mention all the fundraising! Hard to believe in less than 24 hours it would all be over.

Angie and I hit the local bike shop on the way back. I was bound and determined not to beg for Cytomax unless I had to, and she had a hole in the sidewall of her tire. Not a good way to start out a 100 mile ride! She was able to get the tire replaced, but with all the other cyclists in town (estimates put total riders over 5,000 people) I was S.O.L. on sports drink packets. Looks like begging was in the cards for me. So lame! The two of us headed back to the hotel together, pumped and mostly prepped for the big event.

Making a List

Trying to pack for a ride at 10pm the night before you leave is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Trying to do said packing knowing that a good portion of my bike gear was likely still in boxes was even less so. I suppose that its ever so slightly better than packing the morning of, right? In my panicked attempts to pull everything into a reasonable number of bags for a two day trip, I kept rolling though a mental list in my head (that I really should have written down) and checking things off as I found them. Some sections fared better than others:

Clothes

  • Two pair of bike shorts. The long ones, as it might be cold – Check
  • TNT jersey. Crap, missed sendoff ride, so don’t have event jersey. Will take training jersey and hope to find Kate before actual ride – Check
  • Two undershirts, as will be cold in mornings at least – Check
  • Two (matching) pair of socks. Rummage through many laundry baskets and bags. – Check
  • Leg warmers. Well, they have a hole in them…but… – Check
  • Newly washed foot covers – Check
  • Shoes. Found in Charles’ truck – Check
  • Jacket. Remembered Friday morning as was getting into car when I spotted it sticking out of laundry basket – Check
  • Ear warmers – Check
  • Long and short fingered gloves (dunno how cold fingers will be!) – Check
  • Something to wear when not on bike. Right…good plan that – Check
  • Assorted toiletries thrown into plastic baggie just before leaving – Check Hope Charles grabbed the toothpaste.

Equipment

  • Helmet – Check
  • Garmin – Check
  • All important Garmin charger – Check!
  • Tiny camera for photo-logging first century ride – Check
  • Charger for afore-mentioned camera – Borrowed and Check
  • Water bottles. Emergency tearing through bags found one…so – half-check!
  • Sunglasses – Check
  • Contacts. No freakin’ clue where those are. Decided would ride blind; my vision’s not that bad, I think – Big Red X
  • Dirty Evil Camelback – unfortunate check
  • BIKE. The last thing to make it into the truck…but a definite necessity – Check!
  • Floor pump – Check

Food

  • GU. Managed to find one mint-chocolate and one espresso love. Hope to borrow/buy more on site – Half check
  • Shot Bloks. Three bags split between bento box and evil camelback. – Check
  • Clifbar. Can’t find them. Assume were thrown out in move (as movers apparently catch on fire upon touching foodstuffs) – Big ol’ X
  • Cytomax. Well crap. Also apparently thrown out. Could live without Clifbar, but will need to find/borrow drink or will never finish ride. Stress about this for a full 24 hours – No check. Possibly negative sign instead.
  • Water. Not really food, but closely related. Will have to hit store somewhere in Solvang. Assuming psuedo-Danish drink bottled water – No check

Two suitcases, two laptop bags, one gym bag, one purse and one bike later (plus that darn camelback), the truck was packed. With emergency dog sitter acquired (big almost-oops there!) and her tests passed, we headed out around 9:30 Friday morning for two nights in Solvang. Hopefully all boxes in the house will be unpacked before the next attempt at one of these things (assuming there is a next time, of course!).

Fun in the Sun …Mostly


So my trip to Honolulu to cheer on my TNT teammates in their century ride has come and gone. It was definitely a bittersweet experience to be there, but not to be a participant.

The trip started out well enough. The flight was uneventful – if slightly uncomfortable due to narrow seats and no where to put the cranky arm – and the hotel check-in was smooth. I went swimming long enough to discover the effects of salt water and chlorine on newly healed skin. OMG ITCHY! Friday was a free night, so everyone split out to do their own thing. I wasn’t involved in bike pick-up or the following morning’s shake down ride, so I can’t give too much detail on what happened there (although I assume it was fairly uneventful).

Perhaps our pre-ride Pasta Party at the Marriott was a warning of things to come on the actual ride. Gussied up participants and their friends (cyclists not in spandex? No way!) arrived at dinner on the outdoor terrace to a frighteningly enthusiastic welcome of whistling, banging and shouting. It was actually a bit of an intimidating experience…I felt like someone might jump out at any moment and point me out as an impostor who never finished training, and the elated cheers would quickly turn to some form of mob justice-style beat down. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and, yellow ticket in hand, I passed the Team in Training censors uneventfully (albeit with a slight bit of hearing loss).

Almost immediately after picking up my pasta and taking a seat, the weather started to change for the worse. Humidity increased while I tried to find the penne under all of my grated Parmesan cheese, and big fat rain drops started pelting me before I could even think about dessert. Within minutes the sky had opened up into something short of a downpour (but decidedly larger than a sprinkle). The festivities were ended rather abruptly and a host of drowned riders retreated to their respective rooms to rest up before the ride. “It never rains like this here!” Suuuure.

Race day way pretty eventful – at least for the participants – from what I understand. While I split my day between cheering at the finish line and taking pictures of animals at the Honolulu Zoo, my teammates struggled through any number of obstacles. Second hand, hearsay-style stories indicate that it rained (borderline downpour) for the first part of the race and was horribly hot and humid by the afternoon. A couple people crashed out – and were thankfully OK – and even more had flat tires and other mechanical issues. It seems as though the rain washed everything with tire puncture potential directly into the path of my teammates, who were unfortunately unable to detect and avoid what they couldn’t see. I’ve honestly never heard of so many tire changes in my life!

Based solely on what I heard at the finish line, it would seem that this year’s Honolulu Century was “beautiful but… frustratingly hot/wet/crowded” (depending on who you asked). Now, reviews of this ride from last year’s participants only ever included extremely positive reactions so I was a bit shocked to hear all of the negative responses to “How was the ride?” I had a hard time reconciling this discrepancy, but several theories have emerged.

Theory 1: Cyclists are most cranky when barraged with questions immediately after riding 100 miles (shocker there) and are likely to exaggerate any small to moderate setbacks as part of their frustration. Eventually they calm down and recall their accomplishment (aka the payoff for all their suffering) with more fondness than they were able to muster directly post-ride.

Theory 2: People give their most accurate reviews at the finish line. Time dulls their memory of the pain and problems, leaving only happy-fluffy-bunny memories in their place, thereby allowing the sport of cycling to continue. This phenomenon is something akin to mothers forgetting the pain of childbirth thereby continuing the business of procreation.

Theory 3: The ride is usually just better. This year was a fluke of bad weather and unfortunate circumstances. Previous reviews are more accurate for typical Honolulu Century rides.

My guess is that I won’t be able to accurately decide which theory is correct until I finish my own century and have someone immediately afterwards poking me for reactions. For the time being, I’ll have to be content knowing that while I couldn’t ride this year, I may, in fact, have dodged a bullet of a bad year ride. (Hey, it makes me feel a little better for riding the sidelines!) The rest of the my Hawaiian adventure passed without incident – or at least incidents related to cycling. Regardless of the trials before or during the ride, my TNT team deserves a big “Congrats!” for their fundraising, training and performance. So… “Congrats!” …”Go Team” …and all that jazz.

Medically Sanctioned Torture

On countless TV shows over the years, physical therapy has been equated to legalized torture. Large women (usually Swedish) grab aching appendages and yank them into unheard of positions “for your own good”. Patients’ pleas for mercy fall onto deaf ears as these Nordic giants go unflinchingly about the business of rehabilitation. Only upon full recovery – miraculously achieved within a half hour episode – do patients see the light and shower their torturers with praise. Given such auspicious expectations, saying that I was unexcited about “torture-therapy” might be a wee bit of an understatement.

As such, I walked into the physical therapy office Tuesday morning with an almost overwhelming sense of dread. My ears pricked up waiting to hear the screams of fellow torturees. I finally decided that the PT office walls must be insulated in order to keep patients from fleeing before their appointments, thereby cheating Kaiser out of yet another $10 copay. After shading in a picture of “where it hurt”, ranking my pain on a scale of 1 to 10 (!@$#ing unimaginative ranking system!), and answering questions about my sleeping habits, a diminutive older Indian woman came to take me back to the torture chamber.

As she walked me through a series of questions and exercises, it became apparent that my fears of a bruiser-therapist were unfounded. Sort of. There is some truth to the thought that size does not equal power. While my therapist did not have the statuesque blondness or accent of those women on TV, her soft spoken, quiet demeanor was but a calm facade for her skill at pulling my arm into a variety of interesting, hitherto unimaginable(aka painful) positions. With weird plastic protractor in hand, the doc bent and flexed my broken arm repeatedly, noting angles which meant nothing to me but apparently spelled my imminent doom (or an obvious lack of flexibility…whichever).

We then moved on to the “How Many Hurty Exercises can Jamie Remember” Game, which I am expected to practice at home, at work, on the road, etc. I won’t go into all the details of the routine, but suffice to say there are numerous styles and iterations, and all are less than comfortable. After having one to many “I’ll do that one when my arm doesn’t hurt so much” thoughts, I came to the conclusion that I’m going to have to suck it up. Realistically there will never come a time when my arm feels good enough to do these exercises easily. That’s the point of physical therapy, right? Siiiiiigh. So…I’m trying, but it certainly doesn’t feel any easier yet.

There are a couple of bright points. For one, my PT doc was significantly more impressed with my range of motion that the surgeon which made me feels much better about my bicep curl progress. I’m also fully enjoying daily hot showers (minus any arm covering apparatus), which help relax some of the tension doing the evil exercises builds up. And lastly, for the next five days – starting tomorrow – I get to do this torture routine in between enjoying all the delights that sunny Hawaii has to offer. Yep, it’s time to head out and play cheerleader for my cycle crew in Honolulu (such a hard life, no?)! Wish us luck – GO TEAM!


What do we have here?

An often sarcastic, occasionally humorous journal of my training adventures in preparation for the Livestrong century ride. I took up cycling back in '07 in hopes of meeting new people, and, with the help of Team in Training, making my small positive difference in the world -- and haven't stopped spinning since. Follow along as my Trek road bike and I try and hash out our differences, hopefully with me upright and in the saddle.

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