Sunday, August 30, 2015

I survived my first 'Crash Cycle' training week!

I think Rob must be trying to kill me.

Either that, or he figures if this Crash Cycle training doesn't kill me, the Silver State 508 might not be able to, either.

In any case, I'm happy to say that I survived my first week of intense, focused training in preparation for the 508 in a few short weeks. Almost 20 hours on the bike since Tuesday!

It was a pretty tough week, but there were quite a few bright spots along the way:

  • I love riding solo, of course, but I was extremely grateful for the company of friends, particularly in the last hour or so of a long ride. Grateful, especially, to Angie, who met me on multiple occasions, always in the rain, willing to modify her training plan and slow her pace to accommodate mine (and my soggy attitude), always upbeat. And then she bought me coffee afterward. There is no way to repay that kind of support!
  • Loved having other riding partners (Tiffany, Tom, Craig) on some of my tougher days,  and for bumping into teammates unexpectedly during my rides: Deb finishing her long morning ride in the rain, George out for a speedy spin around the Valley, Chappy doing hill repeats on Truxell, Rich on his 'easy' ride which seemed to include some hills that wouldn't qualify as 'easy'. And, of course, the ride into downtown Cleveland last night with teammates, to end my 5+ hour ride in the best way possible.
  • Grateful, too, for Dave's support in all of this. This week, I was either at work or riding my bike. And when I wasn't doing either of those, I was probably using up all the hot water in my super-long shower, eating all the food in the house, or sleeping. The only evidence that I was even nearby was the growing pile of soaking-wet kits piled up in the laundry room. Dave always had dinner and a cold beer waiting for me when I got home.
  • I learned the value of a good NEW chamois, liberally-applied ass butter, and a Bactine/Medicated Gold Bond cocktail apres-velo. I also learned that my older pair of shorts, no matter how much I like them, will NOT be going with me to the 508. 
  • I'm learning how much of a mental game this really is. 
  • Happy that I'm DONE until Tuesday. And just in time, too: Sunday is GIN MARTINI day around here. Cheers!
Ready for a night on the town! David, Me Jason, Angie, Dave, Catherine, Bob, and Dominic (Photographer: Tim Neff)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How a distance-averse athlete trains for a long-distance event

Me and Tiffany racing together in the Team Time Trial in the August Eastern Ohio TT series

I love a fast, short race.

My best days on the bike happen when I have to ride until it feels like my legs are going to fall off and my heart is going to explode, which is usually about half an hour or so into a time trial. 

And because I'm a speed junkie, most of my training efforts are focused on developing power and speed, but not necessarily endurance. Endurance is what my IM friends are out pursuing while I'm back home lounging in the kiddie pool with a cold beer because my race ended at 10 AM that morning.

Now, of course, I've had to change up the plan a bit. The 508 is going to be a slog and a sufferfest, even if I can employ some of those speed-trained muscles to shorten the duration just a bit. Even if Tim and I (Team Hellhound!) have an ideal race, we're still talking about almost 20 hours in the saddle inside of 48 hours - for each of us. (And I can't even imagine doing this as a solo rider). 

The endurance crazies are quick to offer advice, and I know its well-meaning but I also think it's scary and often misguided. One friend suggested I sign up for a nightmare of a ride in southern Ohio called 'The Frank', which promises 100 of the most hellacious hilly miles or your money back. I was appalled by the suggestion. Who would DO that to themselves? It sounds like needless suffering to me. 

My coach, Rob, adheres to the 'Training Bible' philosophy: there's no need to do more than you need to do to accomplish a goal. He's got me doing mostly my same workouts I would be doing to train for shorter distance time trials and duathlons: lactate intervals, long tempo rides, aerobic threshold builds - just a lot more of them. This week starts a two-week 'crash cycle'  for me, which means more hours on the bike this week than I even have time for - but I'll make it work. What I need to train my body to do is to ride hard for a few hours, take a break for a few hours, and repeat a few more times. 

I bumped into Sarah Harper the other day at the Velodrome. Sarah is a RAAM vet, and has competed in other distance events and actually seems to like them. She suggested I may be thinking about getting into distance riding/randonneuring, but I assured her that I was not. The 508 is a once-in-a lifetime thing for me and I am only doing it because it may be my only opportunity to ride with Tim on a 2-person team. I asked Sarah's opinion about training, and she verified what I already knew: there are things you just can't train for. Among these things are sore feet, sore ass/other parts that we won't mention, sore neck/shoulders/back/pretty much everything, numb hands, sleep deprivation, hallucinations, and decaying attitude. All of these will happen during the 508. There's no need to 'train' for them. I already know how they feel and I don't wish to be reminded until absolutely necessary.

In fact, I don't like to think any farther out than what I need to do right now. I have a plan,  so all the thinking has been done ahead of time. All I need to do is follow that plan.

Wish me luck as I start a few training days of long rides and back-to-back workout days. Chamois butter, do not fail me now!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Time to get serious!

Recent text message exchange between me and my Silver State 508 Teammate, Tim:

Me: When do you think I should start training for the 508?
Tim: 10 years ago.

Time to get serious! Race-specific 508 training starts tomorrow, with a 5-hour planned ride in and out of the Cuyahoga Valley. I'll have plenty more of those in the next few weeks. The race is in just over a month (Saturday, September 19th).

We are Team Hell Hounds (2x team). All info about the race can be found on the website, like the elevation map for this race:

I'll be posting more 508-centric stuff as this journey continues.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

And some other stuff happened...

The whirlwind that is my life often leaves me spinning, with little time to take a glance back over my shoulder to remember where I've been.

It wasn't until I took a badly needed (and too-many-times-rescheduled) coffee break with an old friend that I realized I forgot to chronicle a way cool event of the recent past. (Ed, my coffee date, knows me from my Rescue Village days*, is not a FB guy, and likes to follow my antics via this blog**).

The event of note was the Duathlon National Championship race in St. Paul, MN, in early June. No race report here, but some fun things to remember as well as some highlights:

  • I competed in this event at Angie Ridgel's urging. We both did this race (as did Martha Brennan, another SnakeBite Racing team member), and we both loved it (and did well). I wouldn't have done this without her, and I can't imagine a more compatible racer/friend to share this experience with. 
  • We flew into town and stayed with Jill and Tim Marks, who live north of Minneapolis. This is always a treat. I wish these two lived closer. But clearly for us, distance doesn't seem to matter all that much. 
  • The amazing Jill not only hosted us, she volunteered her time for the event (i.e. ALL DAY, even longer for her than for any of us racing). Having Jill cheering on the sidelines as I came into the transition area was out of this world. Jill. Is. Awesome.
  • Competing against nationally-ranked athletes was an eye-opener. Waiting at the start line, the announcer rattled off names and titles of the gals in my division. I thought for sure I was in the wrong group. 
  • I have a lot to learn.
  • Angie, Martha, and I all qualified for World Duathlon Championships next year, in Aviles, Spain. Yes, we're going. 
  • Prior to leaving for St. Paul, an acquaintance overheard that I would be competing in Duathlon Nationals that weekend. She gave me an odd look and said "Do you shoot guns?" I often need interactions like this to put this stuff into perspective.

*My 'fat' days, before I shifted my focus to things more strenuous. Or, as Ed puts it, 'back before you traded your tits for legs'. Ha! Georganne, I thought of you immediately! ;)

**And sometimes the motivation I need to post something, anything. 

Coming into T2
Angie (357) and Martha (356) at the start line

Finish line fun!
Hamming it up at the Finish
Post race posing: Lucky #13 hanging out with 'the Magnum'!

Jill, Angie, me, and a trio of gardener martinis. We live to celebrate!

Podium shot for my age group. I'm #3!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Next Wave

Could this be the next 508 Dream Team?

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I just didn't think it would be THIS soon.

After what seems like years of turning down Tim Marks' (Pileated Woodpecker) suggestion that I race the 508 with him as part of a relay team, I have finally succumbed. Tim and I will be racing as a 2X team in the 2015 Silver State 508 (totem TBD, stay tuned).

My head is spinning, but that's OK. I know better than to try to overthink decisions like this, especially after my mind is made up. After all, I'm now committed - in every sense of the word. The timeframe has suddenly become very, very abbreviated.

My life is truly dictated by endless harmonic convergences, maybe because I'm willing to open myself up to opportunities. And when they come around, I grab hold.

A few years ago, I learned to surf off the warm waters of Maui. I was fascinated by surfing and the surfing mentality (after reading 'West of Jesus', a book that has altered the path of my life). Surfing was everything I expected it to be: challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, salty, and wet. What I didn't expect was how it proved to be so allegoric. There were lessons I learned from surfing that have endless value on dry land.

First, surfing requires a lot of waiting, and watching. The four of us in my little group would paddle out to where we could see the waves begin to break. For the most part, we sat around on our boards, talking and laughing. We watched the horizon, looking for the telltale white foam that meant the ocean was coming up to meet us.

Second, surfing requires you to be ready. We would take turns, one after the other. When it was my turn, the others would back off and let me do my thing.  At that point, it was just me, and my board, and that wave.

I would wait for the wave to get closer so I could set myself up to catch it.  I would paddle out to meet it, turn my board toward shore and, if I timed it right and paddled hard enough, I would be where I needed to be just as the ocean began to lift the back of the board. Then it was all about letting the momentum of the swell propel the board so I could find my balance and stand up. When all the pieces fell into place, I would ride that wave gracefully toward the shore.

Or not. Sometimes I would fall into the ocean. Sometimes I wouldn't get enough momentum to stand up. Sometimes I was in the water before I knew what happened.

But the point is this: When it's your wave, you ride it.

So, yeah, I'm in for the 508 this year. I've watched, and waited, for the moment to present itself, and now it has. This wave is mine, and it's big and it's scary but it's mine and I'll ride it. Tim and I, we're gonna own this thing.
THIS is the Dream Team - because without Jill, none of this would be possible

Other posts that feature Tim (WAY too many, but here they are):

(Yes, this is bordering on ridiculous...)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Synchronized Suffering"

That was Phil Liggett's description of the Team Time Trial, during the Tour de France some years back. I kind of like the idea of sharing the pain with a teammate. After all, what are teammates for?

The Eastern Ohio Time Trial series has become a favorite. Every third Sunday from May through September, those of us who crave the Race of Truth show up to teeny Deerfield, OH, for a blissfully short morning of racing.

The cool thing about this series, aside from it being probably the most low-key race in NE Ohio, is that you can race practially any category you want to: standard class for those without aero equipment, single speed for the truly hardcore, tandem, even stoker/kid. If you wanted to, you could probably enter in a Fat Bike class (and I know somebody just crazy enough to try this).

I like the Individual (ITT) and Team (TTT) races. I've raced the TTT in prior seasons with another teammate, and that was a great experience. This year, I figured I would try to introduce more teammates to the joy of time trailing. I challenged my teammates: I would race the TTT every month, but with a different person every time. Any takers?

For the race in May, my first taker just happened to be the super-human speed machine, George Liolios. Although I'm sure our race was the slowest one he's ever done, it was a memorable race for me (George is one of my cycling heroes). We decided on a team strategy and stuck to it through the entire course, and I have to admit that the last charge to the finish nearly killed me.

Tomorrow, I get to race with Uber-Track Maven Beth Rowell (AKA "Miss June"). I can't wait!

"Miss June", Beth 
And the rest of the Team Line-Up:

"Miss July", Angie

"Miss August", Tiffany
"Miss September", Deb 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Velodreaming: Track Cycling Weekend at the Cleveland Velodrome

Beth (Newell) Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb 2015
The Cleveland Velodrome held a Women's Track Cycling Clinic last weekend. The two-day event was hosted Beth (Newell) Hernandez,  U.S. National Track Team star heading toward the 2016 Olympics, and her husband/coach, Michael Hernandez.

17 attendees, representing local teams as well as out-of-town/state cyclists, participated in track training drills, speedy pace lines, and practice races. There were also plenty of off-the-bike activities: yoga for cyclists, nutrition discussions, Q&A with Beth and Michael about how to incorporate track cycling into training plans.

For me, this was the perfect way to jumpstart my enthusiasm for velodrome cycling. Lots of my cycling friends haven't tried it yet. Some have tried it and found that it was not for them. My take-away from this weekend is that track cycling can be one of the most efficient ways to build speed and power on the bike - for road racing, TTs, crits - even if I may never race on the track. But maybe I will.

I'm hoping to get more of my cycling friends and teammates to come out to the Cleveland Velodrome this year. See what it's all about, maybe give it another chance. I've learned some things from Michael about how to reduce the risk - and the fear - around track cycling. I've even set up a few dates for WOMEN ONLY to come to the track for some testosterone-free training and no-pressure riding*.

Because how cool would it be to see this many women at the track on a regular basis? Pretty freakin' cool...

*June 10July 15, Aug 19, and Sept 9. Check the Velodrome website for details and to sign up (it's free!)
This was about as close as I got to hanging with Beth at the track

All of us lined up along the turns

Hanging around the infield, waiting to ride

Michael Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb, 2015

4-person paceline drills

All attendees lining up along Turns 1 & 2. That's a 50 degree banked turn!

Kristen, Kelly, Beth, and me
Let's do this again!