Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Only 29 Friggin Days Away

I'm not exactly sure what to think about the fact that in about a month, we'll be packing our bikes and bags and heading to State College for 7 days of frolicking on our bikes. Actually, I try NOT to think about it - it makes me too nervous and the thought process hurts: Am I riding enough? Will I last 7 days of hardcore trail riding? Will my bike hold up? Should I take it for a tune-up before I go? Should I take spare parts? Will there be a kid there I can hire for the week to clean it up and check it over after each ride? Will the food be ok... should I take my own can't-live-without-staples like soy protein? What will I wear? What will cover my jiggly parts? Will we make the cut off each day? Are we riding fast enough to make that cut-off? And on. And on. And on. So what do I do? Just not think about and go ride. This week was an easy rest week and my thoughts focused on work -- it's a bit nutty right now with the new Gov implementing his new initiatives. Folks are NOT getting replaced as they quit, so the work just keeps piling up hirer and hirer on the rest of us that stay. It's starting to get old. Not to mention the fact I haven't gotten a raise now for 3 years for taking on this extra work. It's starting to get REAL old. Biking is my escape from my work madness at the moment. My wonderful boss has been allowing me to take Fridays off to help my mom so I can ride on weekends. He's an outdoors guy and thinks that me training for this race is pretty cool. I'm grateful for that. So today, I'm off and plan to take a lovely two-hour back country road ride on Jake (the cyclocross bike) this afternoon to "escape" from it all. And while I'm doing that, I won't think about too much except dodging cracks in the road and road kill. Not even the royal wedding would keep me from my escape. Thank you bike!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ready for Anything -- Training in Rain, Sleet, or Hail

Mom nature has really been cooking up some strange dishes lately. Last weekend, Donna and Brett had to ride in something like a monsoon in Raystown (I would have been there too if the flu didn't hit); this week was quirky with more rain than sun and yes, we trained in a pelting sleet/rain mix on Friday night during our Stony climb. Saturday was to be a 4.5 hr Swatara ride and guess what it was doing Saturday when we woke up? Donna was a little weary of the mud and cold, so we actually stayed indoors on the trainer on Saturday. Neither of us really wanted to be indoors, but neither of our hubbies are too keen on replacing drive trains from riding in gritty mud either. So we spent 3 hrs on the trainer listening to Coach Troy. It was good. Today, Easter Sunday, the sun shine peaked through a little at daybreak. It was a beautiful sunrise ride. I headed to my local mountain for a short 3.5 hour, 25 mile half road/half trail jaunt. Hubby informed me when I got home we're going paddling this afternoon in the local creek (the water is higher than normal making it a perfect paddling level). So that will be the icing on the weekend exercise cake. The week coming is R&R. My flu bug/congestion is gone and I'd really like to ride since I missed last weekend, but I better stick to the plan, as the coach suggested.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rattling Run Trail

I never knew it had a name. We always thought of the "Stony Climb" as just that, a brutal 45-minute fire road climb from Stony Creek at 508 feet above sea level, to the radio tower on the top of Third Mountain outside of Dauphin, PA, at 1,601 feet. Stony Creek used to be a popular mountain bike destination until the Game Commission shut down the trails to mountain biking and horses about 10 years ago. The Stony Climb and the rail trail remained open with the climb still being all its cracked up to be -- an incredibly good training ride climbing 1100 feet. Donna and I climbed Stony last evening after a hiatus of about 3-4 (or longer) years from these training grounds. The road is still bad getting there, and the climb itself is still long, hard, and beautiful once on top. We both commented how our heart rates didn't climb as high as they used to years ago. Funny how that happens. We were pelted a short bit with icy sleet and the rain never let up the entire two hours. Although it wasn't a washout downpour, we were still soaking wet and cold when done. The temp was 41 degrees. It was an out and back ride, turning around just before the turn to head back down to the rail trail about 7.5 miles from the start. We climbed the rocky section which was interesting -- neither of us ever did that before. All in all, another great training ride with my training partner. It's SO nice to have a buddy to train with. I was just thinking last week how bored I'm getting with the Rattling Creek trails riding by myself all the time over there. The Rattling Creek system is small -- and there's only so many ways you slice and dice riding there and its starting to get old after 10 years. I gotta get out more. I'm really looking forward to riding the farm at Marysville after work starting May 4 and each Wednesday after that up until the Epic. The plan calls for race pace every Wednesday and we're both anxious to test our speed so we can build a little more speed to make the cut-offs at the Epic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Back in the Saddle

After being sick with the 24-hour flu over the weekend, last night was the first day back on the bike with an easy spin on the trainer and today was an easy spin on the road with the mountain bike. Both felt fantastic. Today, especially, I felt strong -- an obvious positive side effect of laying off for a couple days. Tomorrow is a 2-hour ride on the Rattling Creek trails of which I think I'm going to test out some speed and see how many miles I can get on singletrack in 2 hours. I can't imagine it will be much different than what I've been putting in - about 12-14 miles in two hours depending which trails I ride (I've been doing mostly climbing). I think I'll do a half and half -- half singletrack and half snowmobile trail and/or fire road. They say many of the stages at the Epic are a mix, so why not do the same at Rattling Creek.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Post Flu Training

So the flu was short-lived, thank god! The fever didn't stay much longer than a 24-hour period and I still have some sniffles, but very little. The coach says, "Make sure you recover completely, then give yourself 2 days of easy riding to build back into the routine, then resume the training wherever that puts you. Don't worry about making up for lost time. It really doesn't work that way, and you just have to accept that everyone gets sick sometimes and move on from there." I really wanted to spin easy last night but my better judgment said, no, don't. Even Rick said, "what... you're actually going to take that advice??" So tonight I'm psyched to spin easy for 2 hours. It's raining, so it'll be all indoors which is fine by me for the first time back on the bike since Friday. I feel confident the break was not a detriment. It wasn't much longer than a normal rest week and I may replace one of the rest days next week with a road ride since I missed this past weekend. We'll see how it goes the remainder of this week and the weekend. Donna and I are a little concerned about making the cut-offs for the stages at the Epic so we're going to test our speed this weekend at Swatara. We plan to do 3 loops of all the trails in 4.5 hours. That would make it 40-something miles which is comparable to the Raystown loop. We haven't really been riding out of our endurance zones too much, so we decided its time to start crushing a little. Crossing our fingers....

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sidelined - Flu

In 1979, I spent two days in bed shaking, dizzy, head achy, body tingling from head to toe and a feeling of not being concerned about absolutely anything - my hair, teeth, clothes, house, or even the pets. They can live without food for a couple more hours. It was a feeling of total illness - head to toe. Fast forward 32 years later and its back. The good old fashioned flu. This time around though, I'm in the midst of training for a 7-day staged mountain bike race. How will being forced to take time off affect my fitness? Only time will tell. I'm hopeful this will be on its way out of my body by Monday and I can get back on the bike -- very easy spinning to start. This is really sucking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

44 Days to the Transylvania Epic and Counting

Yesterday, Donna shared with me some videos from last year of Stages 4 and 5 of the TSE -- the RB Winter mini cross-country races and Raystown. They're inspiring and scary! Scary you say? To be honest, not once did I think of this thing as an all-out "race." The focus of the past couple months of training and contemplating 7-days of riding has always -- and continues to be -- finish all stages. I'm 51-1/2. Heck, I feel lucky I can ride a bike, let alone do this. The videos show mostly the competitive types and they are riding fasssstt. The women's category this year is at least half stacked with professional mountain bikers who will be racing to win. I started a post on Facebook asking folks to comment on the adventurous challenge of the TSE -- not necessarily the "racing" aspect of this thing. Karmen Woelber, from Idaho, commented she too is in it for the challenge. I'm sure there are others that will join us adventure seekers - the "Joes" as someone put put it. "This is a race that the "Pros and Joes" alike race side-by-side." Yes, the pros absolutely are extremely inspiring and fun to watch. And of course there's the incredible trails we're going to get to ride for 7 days straight. That, in itself, will be phenomenal. And its only 44 days away.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30 Minutes is Really a Long Time

Today's training was a 2-hour road ride with 2 x 30 minutes at 80% of maximum heart rate, spinning easy for 5 minutes between the 30 minute sets. The ride was to be on a stretch of road with few interruptions. Once again, I didn't have the buck to up and dodge the rain drops outside. I hit the trainer. But the trainer is THE workout for 30 minutes straight because 30 minutes is a llooonnngg time to hold your heart rate at certain percentage AND keep your rpms at 70 with road riding in hill country. The trainer allowed me to hold the heart rate within 8 beats at 144 and 152; pedaling to the beat of Tiesto at 68-71 rpms. It was absolutely perfect. My average HR when done was 141 -- 144 during the 2x30 minutes intervals. 144 is exactly 80% of my max. And yes, I stayed on the trainer the duration of the 2 hour period this time. I found two new Tiesto songs I hadn't heard before and they pumped me up for the final 15 minutes when I normally start to fade. Tomorrow is yet another rest day - one we didn't have since last Wednesday. It's time. And Thursday is to be sunny and 65. It's time for something old but new this year -- the Stony climb. We used to do that climb to train for Ole Bull. It's a wondrous workout.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chasing the Turkeys from Their Breakfast

Sorry guys... but I got things to do today so get off the trail and quit scratching and rooting things up. My van was the first one in the parking lot this morning at 7:00 am at the Rattling Creek Trails. Yes, I scared the turkeys. They had one hell of mess in the trail - musta been something good under those leaves. They went flying the second they heard me. Yesterday was a great ride with Donna in Michaux State Forest. We rode for 3.5 hours hitting a little bit of everything -- rocks, roots, logs, climbs, singletrack and fire road. Today's plan said road or trail for 3 hours and initially I planned on doing the entire Rattling Creek singletrack loop, but opted for a 22 mile singletrack/snowmobile combo. It ended up being trail AND road (snowmobile trail is a cross between double track and fire road without the stones) for 3 hours. I was a little concerned how I'd feel after yesterday, but thanks to Hammer Perpetuem solids, I actually felt good when I was done and came home and did this for another 2 hours. I'm dead now. Sitting back sipping coffee, blogging, and will pick up a book shortly.

Friday, April 8, 2011

When Everything Seems Lighter and Easier

A couple weeks ago, Rick and I were at a pool session and I commented about how my boat seemed lighter -- did Rick do something to it? "Jill. It's a plastic boat. They don't get lighter." He loves to make comments like that to make me feel sorta stupid. Getting out on the bike trails this spring I noticed my bike seemed lighter when walking through rocks or carrying it over logs - last night in particular there were some huge logs I had to lift my bike up and over. Damn this bike is light... I didn't replace anything with carbon... what's up? The only thing I did was change the tires. Could those Mountain Kings be that much lighter? Weird. The fact of the matter is for the past 25ish weeks, I've been following Coach Eatough's recommendation of push-ups as the one and only upper body exercise. Yes, I posted before on the benefits of the lowly push-up, but this one is worth mentioning again with the results now apparent on the trail and in life in general. If there's one noticeable gain I can see now from all this training, its the fitness gain made from the push-ups. Logs seem easier to get over. I'm balancing myself better going through rock gardens. And mentioned above, the bike seems lighter when carrying it through rough sections. Eatough recommended adding push-ups twice a week, three sets. Warm up the first set, then do as many as you can the 2nd and 3rd set. Being one who tends to overdo it sometimes, I do push-ups every other day (somethings I skip a 2nd day), for 4 or 5 sets of 20 or 25 depending how I feel. The first 20 are rough; but once the muscles warm up, the remaining sets are easier. My style of push-up is the traditional men's with the knees off the floor. Today, I did 100 in 4 sets of 15 and 20, then the last set at 25. I feel like Arnold. Thank you Chris for the push-up tip.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bring on the Intervals

Tuesday night's interval session brought the legs and energy back to that gee-I-feel-good level. After Sunday's too much bad food episode and Monday's lackluster easy ride, it was really nice to have an all-out sweatfest. Yes, I was on the trainer on Tuesday. It was 42 degrees with a 20mph wind making the wind chill for a road ride a little colder than I care to tolerate for a spring day. Anyways, I'm all for the concentrated workout you get on the trainer. I know, just "Buck up Buttercup" and get the hell out. I figure I'll have plenty of times to buck up come later this spring AND of course during the Epic. For now, I ain't got no buck to up. I'm saving it for later. Wednesday night was rest although I was ready to ride last night. Still feeling good today, tonight is another interval session. It's 8x2min at 85% of max heart rate (that's a 154 heart rate for me). "Short hard efforts on the hills and steady and efficient everywhere else. If possible, choose rocky trails with short hills." I have to hang close to home because hubby has things to do at home, so my only option is the mountain near my house. Luckily, there's a washed out fire road climb that is perfect for these intervals. And when I'm done with the climbs, I can tool around on some virgin trail with lots of logs. It's not much, so I'll do a couple out and backs, then head home. Tomorrow will likely be another concentrated trainer session since rain is in the forecast and mother has my day planned for me (she's good at that!).

Some interesting tidbits of info on the TSE registrants:

58 total

  • 44 men (19 open, 3 in 50+, 13 in 40+ and 9 singlespeeders)

  • 14 women (12 open, 1 - 50+, 1 singlespeed)

  • Only 15 from Pennsylvania.
The women are still batting an average of 25% of all registrants which is phenomenal for a female to male turnout in a mountain bike event. It's funny, I entered this thing because there was a category for old-bat women; but now my attitude is to have fun and just enjoy the ride. After reading about Selene and Cheryl at the Cape Epic, I can imagine Donna and I will have as much fun (and not-so-fun moments, I'm sure) at the TSE. Yes, we plan to ride together for the whole thing as much as possible. Even though we likely won't get an official duo category since no other duos are entered, we'll still ride together. Maybe we can pick up some other girls that are riding this for the challenge too and not really competing like the pros will. That would be awesome. Only 51 Days left! yeh baby...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Casual Monday Evening Ride -- Thinking of 100 Milers

100 mile mountain bike races were on my mind last night as I rode my 2-hr endurance road ride (24 miles, 135 avg HR. I felt slow and heavy from less-than-quality food over the weekend). Donna and Brett signed up for the Shenandoah 100! Anyone and everyone that does endurance mountain riding says this Virgnia race is of the best. Judging by last year's entries (650!), it's obvious. Of course now I want to do one too, but not the 5+ hr drive to the Shenandoah. I'd do the one in my backyard only 1.5 hrs away -- the Wilderness 101. Brett did it and said its a tough one - especially somewhere around mile 60 when they make you climb a piece of rocky singletrack. I've talked about wanting to do this one for many years with my initial goal being when I turned 50. That 50th birthday has come and gone and I'm still waiting to do it. Hubby so sweetly said to me, "you can do whatever you want Jill -- you will anyway." I'd sign up today if it wasn't for one uncertainty -- my mother. She's thinking about getting shoulder replacements which would mean she'd need some help - a lot of help at first. I'll have to talk to her a little more and see what her plans are. Someday I'm DOING the 101. It's a challenge I can't let slip by and this year would be the best bet since all this training is under my belt. Er, I mean, under our belts -- Donna had the right idea.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wrapping Up Rest Week, Contemplating Endurance Week One

Saturday's mountain bike trail ride was on the home turf again - Weiser State Forest and Lykens Watershed on the Rattling Creek trails. I could see snow on the tops of the mountains so I knew the rocks would be slick, but much to my surprise they weren't knock-me-off-my-bike slippy. It was actually kinda cool to see those Continental Mountain King Tubeless tires work their magic -- "Grippy When Wet." They are well worth the $50 bucks a piece. I wish I could get more miles in the time I ride though -- it was only 18 miles in 3 hours. Granted, I climbed about 2500 feet so I guess 6 mph is ok with climbing. It still bums me out I'm so slow. But hey - that's endurance riding, right? Today was a very easy 90-100 rpm spin in the 65-75% of max heart range for 1.5 hrs on the road. I took the mountain bike for the small ring so I could spin the recommended rpms. Now... week 1 of 3 endurance weeks is about to start. No more Monday evenings off for a couple weeks. In fact, no more two days a week off. It's 6 days of riding with trail rides increasing to 4 days a week by the third week. This first week is 13.5 hours starting with 2 road hours tomorrow evening. The temps should be perfect at 70 degrees. Tuesday is intervals on the road and Wednesday will be a much needed break. Thursday is trail night probably climbing the Weiser Deep Hollow trail again (its a GREAT workout), and Friday is back on the road. Saturday will be 3.5 hours on the Rattling Creek trails again but this time I'm not climbing - it'll be all hardcore trail. And Sunday is road or trail and I'll wait to see how I feel by Sunday to decide which it will be. Weather plays a big factor too. Let the games begin!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Little Bit of Inspiration for the Trans-Sylvania Epic

I've been enjoying waking up every morning and heading straight to this live results site to see how our ultra endurance USA girls are doing in South Africa. Selene Yeager (a.k.a. Fit Chick) and Cheryl Sornson (Churtle le Turtle) both are doing the Cape Epic, an 8 day stage mountain bike race that makes the Trans-Sylvania Epic seem like a walk in the park. The overall distance is 438 miles with 47,736 feet of climbing distance compared to the TSE distance of 232 miles and about 30,000 feet of climbing. And to think I think I'm climbing a lot when I do 2,000 feet on a ride. (I got some climbing to do!) Selene is the overall Female winner of last year's TSE and we've run into her a time or two on Pennsylvania trails. We'll have the pleasure of sharing the trails with her at the TSE this year too. Cheryl is a fellow-Michaux rider and an ultra-endurance riding extraordinaire. She's a fan of hundred-milers and gets several under her belt during a season. I must admit, these girls are inspiring. To ride these amount of miles, and climb those distances has to be an incredibly rewarding feat. I can't imagine how they'll feel the last day when they realize wow... look what we just accomplished. Well, maybe I will get that feeling on day 7 of the TSE. Watching them makes me crave biking. It's truly an addiction, isn't it. Donna and I were talking about when this is over, it'll be such a let-down -- nothing on the books to work toward. Hubby is already looking forward to having me paddle with him again and yes, while I miss paddling (I whitewater paddle with hubby in the warm months), I am really loving the biking for hours on end. I'd love to sign up for something else outside the norm right away, but life will be in the way. Maybe when I retire I can ride until my heart is truly content -- like it is now and for the next 9 weeks. Weeds can grow and dust will wait, I'm riding my bike! This IS life right now.