Friday, June 25, 2010


Landed at home this morning at 3AM, too full for words. More soon, but I couldn't sleep before saying SOMETHING. In short, it was an amazing experience - one I'm eager to repeat, though slightly differently.
Highlights: why "Utah" is a verb, a root beer float, poolside in Congress, Go DEX!!!, amazing weather in every way, adding a cara-cara to my life list, road rash, and so much more that I'm still remembering/processing.
My crew - amazing. Thank you SO much. You rock. We got a lot accomplished.
I've got a fair job of recovery ahead of me, and a couple of fun upcoming races, and an announcement or two over the next few weeks.
In short, I'm doing well, and I'm glad to be home.
Here's the music that brought me home:

In vos, amicus vos.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Luckiest Person In the World - that's me.

I just got back from the RAAM racer meeting. (OK, I got back a couple of hours ago, kicked back, made a few pizzas with my crew, had a slice of chocolate cake. But you know what I mean.) As the racers were introduced we all shook hands and wished each other luck. At one point, I was standing between Jure Robic and Gerhard Gulewicz. And I didn't feel star-struck. I'm part of the race.

And I'm the luckiest person in the world.

For starters, WAY over 99% of the world's population never gets a chance to race a bike, do a "fun" run, or try something athletic at all. They don't have access to clean water or adequate food to support any of the extra effort that goes with being an athlete. I take these things for granted - almost.

I'm healthy. I've been incredibly lucky that way. So many people have to deal with injury or illness. I planned out this training year assuming that I'd be healthy, and I was. The ability to train consistently was a huge mental and physical boost for me.

I'm lucky to have found ultracycling at all. I started on a path to get healthy when my youngest child hit kindergarten. I walked, did aerobics, started running, and got fairly fit. I did a fair bit of running, then got the random cue to try a triathlon from my brother-in-law. I entered my first ultracycling race - the Furnace Creek 508 - because my first-choice race in 1999 - Ironman Canada - filled up before my entry was accepted; if it had gone the other way, I'd probably be a reasonably happy Ironman athlete (who sucks at running and swimming, but is cheerful about it). At the time I got the news about IMC, I didn't know that ultracycling events existed. I happened on it by luck - I walked into Peak Sports where Darren was prepping George Thomas' bike for a race, and we got to talking. One thing led to another, and I decided that Furnace Creek would be my "A" race for the upcoming year. Problem: solved. Obsession: started. Lucky.

I have a network of supportive friends who are not just cheering me on, but doing something about it. You know who you are. My enduring, takeaway lesson from my 2002 RAAM was delivered in Pensacola by Susan Notorangelo. She told me that I had the physical skill to do RAAM, and that I'd put it together when I had the right people around me. She was right. I was lucky to hear that lesson, to absorb it, to believe it, and to have the right people arrive, as if by magic, at the right time.

My crew is amazing - I've been washed over and over again in their positive energy, absolute capability, and humor and camaraderie. We've been on-task and stress-free since we arrived. (OK, Brian may not be stress-free, but he's sure faking it well....)

I have an amazing bike sponsor. Dana (Bent Up Cycles) came up with an amazing amount of resources to help me with this journey. I can't say enough about this. Imagine the leap of faith that a sponsor takes - I'm almost 47 years old, for cripes' sake, AND female, AND new to racing recumbents, AND I've DNF'd the race before. And yet, here I am. The luckiest girl in the world, rocking a pair of hot pink-and-black carbon fiber machines.

I'm lucky that the recent successes I've had haven't come too easily. RAO, Sebring, Davis - tough races and tough conditions. I've had just enough to overcome that I feel tough, prepared, and confident. Not cocky - and fully cognizant that anything CAN happen - but confident. I don't have to worry that I might have to deal with headwinds. I know that my crew and I will figure out how to persevere.

But more than any of this, I'm lucky that I appreciate how lucky I am. I *do* have talent, training, grit, and whatever personal merit I will need to haul my ass to Annapolis. And it would be tempting to believe that I can take full credit for everything that I've accomplished. But - it's not true. I'm sitting in a villa in Oceanside, CA today because of an incredible set of coincidences, starting with being born to a family who could afford to feed me. I was lucky that at the time my path in life intersected ultracycling, I was open to trying something new. Ditto with recumbent riding, when that time came along. Without amazing luck, I'd never have known what I'd have been missing.

I'm the luckiest person in the world. End of story. 

See you in Annapolis,

PS - I'll not be blogging, but my crew will be sending twitter updates to the blog as often as possible. Twitter updates show up in the box in the upper right hand corner of my blog page.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vitamin D - Where the Sun Don't Shine....

First - CONGRATULATIONS are in order. Astute reader Bill Spaeth (Team Raven Lunatics, Arcata, CA, sponsored by FSM) aced the competition in my recent T shirt contest by correctly deducing that an athlete laboring mightily in the sunfree Northwest might be supplementing with Vitamin D. Nice work, Bill!

Yes, sports fans, I've been sucked into the dark, dark world of sports supplements.  But - Oregon is a dark, dark place, especially in winter. In fact, ANY place at a latitude above 40-42 degrees is unlikely to provide enough solar radiation to produce sufficient Vitamin D in the winter months. Salem, Oregon sits at precisely 45 degrees North latitude. Add in that current knowledge about skin cancer and UV damage lead most of us to be very careful in using sunscreen, and there are a lot of Vitamin D deficient people out there.

Vitamin D does a lot in the body other than "just" maintaining healthy bones. I'm already on the hook for crappy bone density - family history AND a lot of cycling (non-weightbearing exercise) predispose me - so I'm grateful for all the help I can get in the bone density department. But - in addition to that, there's good evidence that Vitamin D helps improve athletic performance and is protective against some autoimmune disorders and cancers. It has a very wide range of effects in the body - it's one of the fat-soluble vitamins that acts as a hormone in the body.

The research on this subject is pretty solid. If you'd like to get a look, you can type "Vitamin D athlete" into Google Scholar. (OH! You didn't know that Google has a "scholar" setting? Pretty cool - it ONLY returns peer-reviewed/journal-published information. Pull down "Scholar" from the "more" clickdown on your Google  homepage...voila! Just the information you're looking for, and no commercial sites or "junk" science.) Or you can get some great information here: (written by Dr. Jane Higdon, with lots of references).

The current issue of OUTSIDE magazine has (in addition to a vaguely interesting interview with Jack Johnson) a good "popular science" type review of Vitamin D's uses in the body, and how we're likely not getting enough.

Sun exposure provides a HUGE amount of Vitamin D relative to food. A few minutes' exposure to the sun a couple of times a week provides several THOUSAND IU's (international units) - again, provided that the sun angle  is correct to give you exposure to the UV-B wavelength which is necessary for synthesis. There aren't many foods that are high in D, and some of them, like cod's liver, just aren't a regular staple. An egg - a food that's on the recommended list for Vitamin D - packs in 20 IU. The RDA is 400, and current research shows that that's almost certainly much lower than is desirable for optimum health.

So - since the best available medical advice on sun exposure is still "don't", it almost becomes imperative to supplement your diet to make sure you get enough.

I've been taking 1000 IU once or twice a day since November. I can't swear that there's any difference, but I don't feel like I had the performance dropoff that I normally have in the winter, either. I bought a jar of 250 caps (250 x 1000 = 250,000) and as it turns out, I'll swallow the last one Friday morning on my way out of town.

Next post: WHY I'm the luckiest person in the world. Promise.