Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Once More Into the Furnace

Well, the season wasn't supposed to end this way - I was supposed to be crewing for Del and Greg as a 2-man team down in Death Valley this weekend. Unfortunately, Del had a pretty bad crash, and his shoulder is broken.

We had a tough few days waiting for the news - would he be able to go down at ALL to accept his accolades? He's being inducted into the Furnace Creek Hall of Fame - the hard way - 5 solo efforts, no DNF's - AND a Death Valley Cup to his name. In other words - tough as nails. Fortunately his orthopedist gave him clearance to travel (but not ride).

That leaves - Greg. A pretty tough guy in his own right. So - we're switching gears, going to get him a solo finish. His totem is Oregon Sasquatch. Be looking for us out there. We'll be looking for you.

I always look forward to the 508 - it's usually the last stop on my annual tour (Davis 24, RAO, Furnace Creek). If I've not run into you at one of these events - do come next year.

I positively enjoy crewing! Hey - I got royally crewed at not one but FOUR events this year: Davis, Lewis and Clark, RAO, and Ring of Fire. Payback is sweet! Problem-solving, getting into your racer's head, staying ahead of time, weather, and terrain - a worthy challenge.

This will be my last weekend off of serious training for a while; The Season starts in earnest as soon as I get back. I've been kinda-sorta loafing since the Ring of Fire - bike commuting, a couple of unstructured fitness rides a week, and the occasional trip to the gym...the last being heavily slanted toward sinking into the sauna.

Now it's time to turn my attention toward structured workouts, strength training, intervals, and the like. Nineteen weeks to Sebring. Which is sixteen weeks before RAAM. When you break it down, the time goes FAST.

And - if you're going to be racing down in the Furnace, and you think it will make you ride faster, I *will* show you my tattoo. Probably. Mention you saw it on my blog...

Ciao bella,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Better than perfect?

Great day at the races! So many of my fellow racers had bad days - heat exhaustion, cramping, vomiting, worse - that it's almost embarrassing to admit that I had a PR on the course. By...quite a bit.

In 100 degree heat.
On a recumbent.
With something like 14k' of climbing.

My race support was excellent - I was well fed, well hydrated, and my core temperature never got close to redline. Thanks Robert (and Zoe and Cog - my all-star canine cheering squad - they were the GOOD dogs who didn't run away...unlike our pal Harlem, who made the Great Escape from the Team 2LiveCrew support vehicle).

I felt good from the get-go - I am SO glad that we pre-rode the course two weeks ago; it made a huge difference in my confidence level. I passed my 1:00 before the top of the climb at mile 3 - upright guy, full-on TT bike.

We kept it simple: I rode the bike, Robert did everything else. He didn't totally discourage me from thinking - if I had an idea, he would listen - but he did make it clear that I hadn't been hired for my brains, at least not that day.

The ride went on without incident; there were definitely times I wished for a bigger gear. We put an 11-28 cassette on the bike that morning, replacing the 12-26 that was there. Dumb move, Earl! For reasons we didn't have time to explore, I couldn't hold the 11T cog. So I had a 12-28. Still not a bad upgrade; I made AMPLE use of the 28.

One cramping moment of any consequence - on one of the steeper bits of FR44, just as the temperatures were starting to soar. We ramped the electrolytes a bit (actually just accelerated the next scheduled dose), upped the water, and went into core-temperature relief mode...much ice dumped in the jersey. I discovered one MORE benefit of riding a 'bent - you can dump ice down your shirt, have it totally exposed to moving air, and you don't have to worry so much if your shorts get wet - you're not likely to chafe as you would be on an upright.

Spent much of the descent into Dufur (OK, Robert, there's the Hunter S Thompson title for you: Descent Into Dufur....) totally spun out. Bummer - that's always been a working descent on the upright, and I've always had a blast pushing, pushing, pushing. I guess that coasting, coasting, coasting is okay, especially if you're catching racers.

The climb on Dufur Gap was okay! It was my undoing last year (on the upright!). After that, it was party time again, down Hwy 197 at breakneck speeds (disclaimer: no actual necks were broken in the setting of this course record, not to let the cat out of the bag...) and around to Hwy 216 (freshly chip-sealed, thanks). We saw Linda Bott quite a bit about then - it was fun and motivating to race her through this stretch.

Robert had been giving me periodic time/speed updates; I'd always been close to my goal, but, say, 1 or 2 miles short (55 miles at 4 hours instead of 56, for instance). Now he asked me, "Tell me again how many miles you want?" "ONE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT!" "OK, how many MORE do you want?" Oh - my. This was the first time I'd gotten that news - that I might actually be gaining on my goal pace. So I refocused yet again on best-pacing.

We finished the day loop in 8:01 - essentially 14.0 mph - so all I had to do to keep on track for 168 was to finish 2 short loops, then do two "bonus" miles before time expired. Naturally, those two miles would be straight up, so the more time I could give myself, the better.

We did a sub 1:00 pit, me picking up two bottles of fluids, a couple hundred calories of solids, and as much cold water as Robert could dump on me in :30. I was bone-dry by the top of the climb, but it had done its job: I wasn't cooked, and I got to cool off a little on the descent.

Somewhere around the 12-mile point on my first loop, I saw...Chris ("Tater.") Heron - Team Huffin Herons (brother and sister Chris and Carly Heron) were two members of my support crew from RAO. Their mom and dad were out on the course cheering. Jan had been my support person for my very first ultra race. Full circle! Woo-hoo!. Chris didn't take to being caught, especially by me, so when I hollered, "TATER!", he looked back and took off. I caught him in the flat section along River Road - we were both flying; I was just flying...faster.

Came in on the first loop in 1:45 - woo-hoo! An even shorter pit this time - Adrienne was along for the ride - 2LiveCrew was out on their first night loop, too, so she dumped water while Robert did ice, bottles, and food. Took on a Monster Energy shot - 200mg caffeine - did the trick.

Second lap: 1:46 - I had :33 left to get as far as I could. I made 5 miles. I tried SO hard to get something more going on those steepest two miles - just couldn't get myself to go above steady-state. Decided not to push it. Got to 3: 9 minutes left. From 3 to 4 - barely climbing...4 minutes left. To 5 - almost a minute on the clock, but I was NOT going to get to 6. So I sat there and watched time expire, just took it in.

And then I headed down. No particular rush. Literally rode into the sunset. Shower, burger, root beer float, join the night shift to support the 24-hour racers. A day well spent.

I'd figured if everything went perfectly, I'd do 168 miles, beating the womens' course record of 130 by enough to be respectable. I did 171. "Better than perfect" is a great way to end the season.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ring of Fire! Ring of Fire!

Well - here goes! Best wishes to ALL competitors this weekend - be it Ring of Fire or Hoodoo or something else. I've been hearing a lot of chatter about ROF this year - a lot of new folks - and a lot of folks who are challenging themselves to go further or faster than they've gone before. Hopefully just the right amount of pressure to keep everyone on their toes and at their best!

Folks I'm looking forward to seeing - gosh, EVERYONE! - but especially some folks who are traveling quite a ways to get here and race for their first time - Lew, Chris, and Brian.

Brian already stopped by Bike Friday on his way up to Eugene. He's looking great - the summer of training has put him in a really good place, I'd say! - and he seems relaxed and ready. He's doing a 2-person team with Mark B., who's done more crazy things already this summer than one can count - and that's just the ones I know about.

Everyone else, I'll see tomorrow - unless I get to Maupin after you're in bed, which will be the case if you're smart (hint!).

I'm feeling pretty calm. I know that I've got a big job to do - 168 miles is going to be a tough one, but I'm putting that number up on the wall and shooting at or above it. I'm looking at this race as a good indicator of how far I've come on a racing recumbent since Lewis and Clark, waaaaaaay back in May, and how far I have to go to get ready for RAAM, a mere 9 months from now (aaaack!)

I've talked to some folks who are way more nervous than I am - but in some ways probably far better prepared. Chalk it up to experience? Or maybe the Race Across Oregon endorphins haven't quite faded, yet? Or maybe because it's "just" a 12-hour race I'm not as mentally daunted...but on the other hand most of my problems in RAO came in the first 12 hours. Suffice it to say that Robert will have his hands full, crewing.

The weather looks good - as close to perfect as one could imagine. We might even get a mile or two of tailwind!

After my 12 hours is up, look for me at the start/finish. I'll be the tired-looking woman handing out York Peppermint Patties...and quite possibly sipping sake (but you can't have any of that 'till you're done racing).

In the end, Ring of fire is a "sink or swim" race - hopefully no one ends up as shark bait:

Here's to a safe passage through the Ring of Fire.....


Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Bike Commute ROCKS

I've been meaning to brag about this for some time. Simply put - my bike commute is cooler than YOUR bike commute. Sorry - but it is. I get to ride about 10 miles (perfect distance when I'm in a hurry, and I can easily make it longer if I want) through some great rural side roads, then along a bike path that goes through one of the largest urban wetlands in the US.

The other day an OTTER was hanging out in the slough, where the herons and turtles all play.
Not a shabby way to start (or end!) a busy workday at Bike Friday.

Since the BTA's Bicycle Commuter Challenge is going on this month, I just thought it was important to let you know.

My Commute

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Maupin ho!

I conquered Maupin this weekend. I've been trying to contain the "bents cant climb" hysteria. Really, truly, last weekend's ride SHOULD have been plenty for me to go with on this - but I decided that I had to see for myself that I'd not be facing the Worst Case Scenario of recumbent self-pity - a cold start from a dead stop, heading up a steep hill that gets quite a bit steeper just before you get out of sight of the start line - and having to get off and walk the last 50 feet of it.

Long story short, I made it around the Maupin loop TWICE without even remotely approaching the Walk of Shame. The town was buzzin' with the rafting crowd, big buses and vans pulling trailers, etc - good reminder that these folks will also be out during the latter part of the race.

The weather was pleasantly hot (ok, it was hot) - another good reason for a race simulation - so I was able to make good use of the new race bag on my bike - it holds the water bottles where they're easy to get to.

Climbing speed was adequate. Not quite as fast as the Fuji, but overall I'd say not enough slower that repeated bike changes would work out as an advantage, at least over the distances I was climbing last weekend.

For those who must know - i.e. anyone who's signed up for Ring of Fire, you'll be gratified to know that we'll not have to suffer the indignity of a Race Across Oregon event without the benefit of fresh chipseal. Highway 216 (at least the eastbound portion) has all been freshly "sealed" - so no worries about excessive speed (okay, maybe in the corner before the guardrail...) - the road surface will absorb all that energy for you.

My out-there goal is 168 miles in 12 hours. That's a day loop, 2 short loops, and 4 "bonus" miles. That would be 14 mph, and about 13000' of climbing. Energy output estimate: 7200 kcal, or 600 kcal/hour. That compares to roughly 550 kcal/hour output during the 47:43 effort at Race Across Oregon this year.

The difference? I'll be ALL BENT, which is more efficient on level or downhill grades, so I'll not expend as many kcal/mile. And there ARE some level and downhill grades in Ring of Fire. Hopefully not all of them will have wicked headwinds - though I noted with amusement that during my trial I was riding into the wind for 20 of the 26 miles on the loop.

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