Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's a Race Jill, Not a Ride!

When I signed up for this thang, I thought since it's endurance riding, it would be a casual pace. NOT! We are all out racing and pushing ourselves. The first day was a time trial, so obviously we went fast. Donna was 12th and I was 13th out of 15 girls. Remember, half of them are professional athletes so we were both very pleased with our finishes. No DFL! (Dead ____ Last!) Yesterday was long and hot. It took us 6.50 hours to finish and we ended up 11th and 12th. Again, happy. I may not post too much cause donna is more technologically connected than me, so please check her blog too for pictures and updates. www.donnabrett.blogspot.com

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Departing Thoughts

In 6 hours I'm off to State College to compete in one of those memorable lifetime events. The last time I did something like this was in Hawaii, 6 years ago - I ended up qualifying for a World Competition of the Xterra off-road triathlons -- and I felt the same way leaving for that as I do now. Nervous, anxious, a little scared, apprehensive (am I really ready??) and excited at the same time. It's an odd feeling - one that makes the head spin with zillions of thoughts if you allow it. 8 solid months of serious training is about to be put to the test. One thing I learned between Hawaii and now is to not think too much about it and just savor each moment, which is exactly the plan. I'm about to bake some Root cookies for me and Donna to enjoy as we laze around watching the racers roll in this evening and tomorrow before the first stage. We'll be mingling with some of the nations best endurance mountain bikers - I'm humbled at the thought. But vacations have another meaning -- to relax and unwind. And my idea of unwinding is on the bike seat (or in my kayak). So there's no doubt this will be a worthwhile vacation. If Donna got her laptop working, I'll be making updates to the blog. If she didn't, I'll update you next Sunday. All in all, we're off to see the Wizard - the wonderful wizard of oz!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joe's Final Exam

From taking that first step to figure out how to stand to taking a driver’s test to move us from childhood to becoming an adult, we are questioned and tested on our abilities. Tests are a necessary must to continue the forward momentum of life. We are constantly examined from pre-school to grad school on every word and thought driven into our skulls. After school life ends, we are tested by the real world. Our bosses analyze our performance using money as a reward or punishment. Our kids test our authority more often than not. Spouses test our patience and tolerance. Just how long can YOU put up with pee on the toilet seat? Did you really NEED to buy that $400 pink flamingo lawn ornament? It’s all just one big test. For the past 32 weeks, I’ve been studying for next week’s final exam – the Trans-Sylvania Epic – the 7-day mountain bike “race” I entered last October. At first, my brain tested my physical ability to even attempt such a thing. Do you really think you can endure 7 days of mountain biking? Do you think you can get through it without any injuries? You aren’t a kid anymore you know. How do you expect to recover fast enough to continue riding? Once I aced that mind-boggling self-criticism examination, the physical testing came into play. Weeks and weeks of winter bike riding trials and tribulations seemed never-ending. Snow and sub-freezing temps forced my butt indoors. Then the test became how long can one tolerate spinning in one place without moving? It was nothing but riding bike for hours on end. Twelve and fourteen hour weeks in the saddle became the norm, not the abnormal – all while testing my need to maintain a full-time job as a “Joe” and endure a two-hour commute every day. The test also was on toleration of one sport with no variation – something I haven’t done for over 8 years. Would I be able to do absolutely nothing but ride bike? Won’t I miss trail running and paddling? Priorities were tested. What once was top priority became mediocre and put on the “can wait” list. Experimentation of numerous combinations of foods and calories became yet one more test. Was I eating enough? Was I eating the right foods? What if I tried this “diet” or that one? Next week will be the final exam for this year’s semester. The test will be over a seven-day period and cover all my studies over the past 8 months: the training plan, the bike, the physical ability, the diet, the attitude, and of course one of the reasons I entered this thing in the first place, my age. All will be scrutinized, examined and quizzed. I’m really looking forward to graduation and getting my final grade. I got my hat and gown ready and the bottle of champagne for the graduation party afterwards. It’s time to line up for the commencement procession. Bring it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Only 3 Days of Rain Now for the TSE

They changed the forecast... only 3 days of rain predicted! I'm really not relying on any weathermen at this point -- just getting a kick out of seeing what they are predicting.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rain in the Forecast for the TSE - Really?

I cannot tell a lie -- I went off the training plan yesterday. Yes, I did the 3.5 hours of "endurance ride at 70-75% of Heart rate (exactly 75% at 135 average) at a pace I'd be riding the TSE (I thought of Donna pushing me the entire time so we make the cut-offs! I pushed hills and pedaled like hell on the down hill and flat sections), but I did it on the cross bike on back country roads. Why? Because I'm preserving the little bit of tolerance of wet conditions I have remaining for the Trans-Sylvania Epic. AND, I cleaned my bike real good and gave it a thorough going over (Rick helped) and I don't want to ride it anymore before the Epic. I had this feeling rain would be in the forecast - we can't go for 7 days without rain at the Epic -- and when I looked at the long range forecast this morning, low and behold, they are calling for rain 6 of the 7 days. BUT -- that ain't a problem! We've been training in rainy conditions, so BRING IT! We're ready! After all, it's mountain biking and a little mud ain't gonna hurt a thing. Today I'll hit the local mountain on my back-up bike - the niner - for a two hour stint. That bike will then get a thorough cleaning for its trip next week. We're in the final 5 days of training. Wow... it's almost over. It's been one hell of a journey!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nine Days to Go - If We Ain't Ready by Now...

When we ran into Mike Kuhn last weekend while pre-riding Stage 2 of the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, he asked, "How do you feel? Are you ready?" I wasn't sure how to answer and my spur-of-the-moment without-much-thinking answer was. "I don't know. We've been following Chris's training plan pretty much to the T and while there weren't a bunch of super-long rides on there, there were certainly consecutive days of 2-3-4 hour rides. So I guess I'm ready, but I won't know for sure until the Epic."

But after riding all of Stage 2 and about 8 miles more (almost like doing the Stoopid 50!), my answer would now be. "YES!" I'm proud to say I feel ready. It was a stretch to get through the 50-mile day, but after eating, resting, and getting up and doing another 2.5 hours the next day and still feeling ok, yes - I feel ready. And now that we are in the taper, we're both starting to get re-energized and come race week, we'll be ready to ride like crazy women. I think we're gonna pull this thing off!

On a different subject- how 'bout that Gropenator!? (Arnold). Ha!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Final "Long-Ride" Weekend Before the TSE

Mist on the mountains, chipmunks, flowing and sweet singletrack, comfortable temps, and good friends to ride with. What more could you ask for?? The Dubya's and me headed to Rothrock State Forest this weekend to get our final long-ride weekend in before the Trans-Sylvania Epic. Scott and Jen Hildebrand joined us for Friday afternoon's 2.5 hour ride. The trails in State College are U.N.B.E.L.I.E.V.A.B.L.E. They are very well built and maintained and I think Donna and I will be having SO much fun on them for 7 days that we'll forget the fact we might have aches and pains and worries about making the cut offs. Saturday, we rode all of Stage 2 and some. Greenwood Furnace is about a 3 mile ride to the course, so we got the 43 mile stage and the 6 and something miles to and from the camp leaving us with 50 miles under our belts on Saturday. FIFTY MILES. All in one day. The Stage had maybe 1/2 fireroad/hardtop road and 1/2 singletrack (I'm guessing). We spent 6.75 hours on our bike seats. I just realized the Dubya's are half way to their Shenandoah 100 goal with this ride! At mile marker 40, I was ready to call it a day and Brett really wanted to do Sassafras to the "new trail" to Pig Pile. I was tired, but pushed on for 10 more miles and was very glad to have ridden Pig Pile to know what to expect in the race. The "new trail" is a connector between Sassafras and Pig Pile and has some amazing rockwork on it. Somebody puts a LOT of tender loving care into those trails. Our training has been very kind to Donna. I was having some trouble staying with her as we tested our speed to make time where we could so we are sure to make cut-offs. There was this crazy downhill section near the Boy Scout camp that I was praying the entire way down. Donna was running it like a professional downhiller and I lost sight of her about half way down. I was skeered! I guess the reminder of my $6,000 front teeth from a bike accident held me back a little and come race week, I will likely do the same because I was only a minute or so behind her and we typically catch up to one another at other sections. It started raining Saturday night and we packed up Sunday morning and headed home, hoping the rain would stop enough for us to get our 3 hr endurance ride in on Sunday. I eeked out a 2.5 hr road ride before getting rained upon. Today is a rest day, tomorrow is an easy ride day, and back at some high intensity stuff on Wednesday and Thursday. The weekend is less hours as is next week. We're starting our taper for race week. Yeh! It's so close now I can taste it. And how do we feel?? Ready to ride for 7 days! I think we'll pull this thing off!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Almost the Two Week Countdown to the TSE

It's hard to believe its almost here. After over 8 months of training, the Trans-Sylvania Epic is around the corner. The lists are made and packing has begun, but am I physically ready for this thing? Was the 20-week Eatough winter training plan and the 12-week Transylvania Epic-specific training plan enough? Will the 8 pounds I gained during that 8 months of training be a detriment or complement (there's a little muscle in there, I think!). Will I be able to accomplish a feat never before attempted: 7 days of mountain bike riding, er, "racing"? I'm a Joe, so I can't say I'll be "racing" for 7 days. My racing skills of years ago are rarely tapped these days and endurance riding is a welcome change. There were a couple XC Simulations in the training plan, but they were painful. So what are my thoughts on each day unfolding? Day one shouldn't be much of a problem at 10 miles - especially in a time-trial prologue. I like day one. Day two is the most difficult they claim at 43 miles. But its also open to the public so we're happy there may not be a cut-off. Stage 3 is 47 miles and to be honest, from there on out I can't be sure what will happen. Stage 4 is 42 miles of Lake Raystown - my LEAST favorite stage. You heard that right. I don't care much for the Raystown trails. They are very un-natural to me and I despise getting air. And because I won't be going fast to get air, there's a possibility I won't make the cut-off. But we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Stage 5 is mini cross country races at R.B. Winter - one of my favorite places to ride. I sure hope I have legs left by then so I can enjoy the trails in RB Winter. Stage 6 is the famed Rothrock Tussey Mountain. Again, hoping I can muster up some legs and energy at this point of the race to do that stage. And finally, the 7th stage is Bald Eagle Little Poe which I understand is a fun ride because by this last day, most "racers" are ready to just "ride." Huh -- they'll ALL be Joes on the 7th stage. I'm very, very much looking forward to the experience. I'm a sucker for a challenge and this is truly one to remember that will go down in the record books. I try real hard not to think about cut-offs or even "will I finish." The thought process has been focused on just doing what it takes to be ready for it, then just go do it and take whatever is dished out. If I feel good - I'll ride my heart out! If I feel tired - I'll SLEEP (and eat) when I'm done riding. I'm anxious to see this all come together. And of course I'm ready to ride this thing with my training pardner for the past 8 months -- Donna. I think we'll both be in celebration mode the entire week! We made it. We're going to the Trans-Sylvania Epic.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Using That Little Ring

Yesterday's 3-hour endurance road ride followed Saturday's 4-hour endurance mountain trail ride which was a BUNCH of climbing. So what route did I decide to do yesterday not really thinking it through? You guessed it - one with even more climbing. It's a lovely back road ride in Lower Northumberland county, Pennsylvania, along the Mahantango mountain to the Susquehanna river. I had forgotten how hilly it is and after Saturday's climbing ride, each hill was agonizing - even on a road bike. I recall when I bought my road bike, I hesitated because of the 3rd little ring (it's a touring bike, not a "real" road bike). But boy-o-boy was I a happy little girl to shift down into that tiny little ring yesterday on each and every hill. Today, the legs are screaming. I'm super-grateful we have two rest days this week. Thanks Coach - you know what you're doing, don't you!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nuthin' Like Michaux for Training

The trails of Michaux State Forest have come a long way since my first race there in 2002. I recall rocks - and lots of them - in 4-wheeler torn doubletrack with washed sections and mud holes a foot deep. I remember worn in trail from years of use with banked corners. Yesterday, we rode Michaux for 4 hours and the newer trails nowadays are pristine, flowing, less rocky, and oh-so-sweet. I couldn't begin to tell you trail names other than Vista, but we were on some lovely singletrack intertwined with doubletrack, fire road, rail trail and road. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed. I think it was 4 or 5 times we went up and down the sides of mountains. What better way to prep for the TSE. The Dubya's did a fine job of laying out a route even though we ended up re-routing the end at the 3 hour marker 'cause we were all a little giddy at that point and just wanted to get home and eat steak. Yesterday was my last training session in Michaux. (:() Next weekend is Greenwood Furnace and the following weekend will be close to home to catch up on domestic stuff because the following two weekends are the Epic. Today is a 3-hour road ride. I really wanted to get out at 6:00 am so I could enjoy the day with my mother, but we were fogged in so the ride will be this evening. In exactly three weeks, we'll be suiting up for the prologue, the first day of the TSE. Three weeks will be here before we know it. Holy training-session Batman - the Epic is almost here and 8 months of training is coming to end. What a journey.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"XC Race Simulation"

Thursday evening's training session was our first of four "XC Race Simulation" sessions for the final Race Prep Training from the Chris Eatough training plan for the Trans-Sylvania Epic. I honestly can't recall the last time I rode at race pace - riding so hard I hit a new max heart rate of 182. We were to do 2x30 minutes at 85-90% of our max heart rate. Can't say what my average heart rate was during the 30 minute intervals, but suffice it to say it was more like 95% most of the time. We climbed hard, descended fast, and screamed bloody murder at spots. Riding fast certainly boosts the fitness level. Only three more of these until the race which is good because they are not easy! (And to think the pros will ride that pace or faster the duration of the Epic. They ain't human.) Thursday's ride was at Swatara State park which is sort of like the Raystown stage with shorter and less steep uphill sections. The next three sessions will be at "The Farm" which is also lacking rocks, but has some steeper, longer climbs. The Farm should be a good place to do these XC simulations too. We'll get to finally see how we compare with others at race pace because some of the Mountainside folks should be riding at the farm on Wednesday. Friday was an endurance paced trail ride and I couldn't get on my local trails due to hunting. So I rode the berm of the roads, fields, and up farmers stony driveways. It felt like a pretty good trade off. Today is a 4-hour endurance ride in Michaux that will simulate one of the stages at the Epic with a good mix of fire road, climbs, rocks, and singletrack. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Dubya!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mountain Bike Training - On Rail Trail??

Families love riding bike on rail trail. Fisherman take their poles and tackle boxes on their bikes up rail trail to choice fishing holes. Summertime hikers love rail trail. And 7-day mountain bike racers train on rail trail. Huh?? Wouldn't you guys want to be riding rocks, roots, and climbing your asses off with only 4ish weeks left until the big week?? Wouldn't you want to be riding stuff that simulates the 7 mountain trail stages that will take you 3-5 hours to finish? Yes... and our time is coming for that this weekend and next. But last night's plan called for "Road:"

"Long effort. 1x60min at a tempo pace (80% effort). The burn should be there throughout, but under control and tolerable. "

Donna was hoping to hook up with a group road ride near her home that didn't pan out and I was planning on a Shippen Dam Road road ride (near Millersburg, PA and part of the Millersburg Crit weekend). But when Donna's group ride didn't happen, I thought maybe she'd be interested in doing the Stony Rail Trail. Coach Chris said at one point we could ride our mountain bikes on fire road in place of road ride and rail trail is comparable to fire road. The obvious benefits to rail trail are aboslutely no interruptions, a very consistent level (flat!) with no rolling hills or disruptions in your heart rate, and you can stay within a few beats of the recommended heart range the duration of the tempo ride. It was perfect. We rode a solid hour in our prescribed heart ranges. Well, mine was higher at about 86%, but I was ok with that 'cause when I trained for racing with the Wild Blues Team, I was nearly always in that range. I was feeling the burn throughout as the plan recommended. Donna's range is a little higher than mine so I had to work a little harder and at times I had to draft her to get the heart beat down a bit (thank you Donna!). I think I had a bit of dehydration going on too from not drinking enough all day. That will make the heart beat a little higher too. Rail trail training at tempo is ideal and don't ever let anyone tell you it's not. Last night, we averaged 13 mph on our mountain bikes. My average heart beat was 152 until we were finished (155 during the hour at tempo). It was yet another good training session. (Feeling great today -- the true tell-tale sign of how good the session was).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chili's Great Adventure

I used to adventure race and yesterday reminded me why I did it. F.U.N. It gets you out of your routine -- outside the box. It gets you bloody, frustrated (in a good way), a little skeered, and almost always stiff the next day from using muscles that aren't used to that kind of activity. My 3-hr ride was local (to save gas money!) on the local mountain which has a serious network of ATV trails (there's a club that socks guests $50 bucks a day to ride there!) and old mining trails. Of course I got lost - yet again. I wanted to do this loop that included an ATV trail up and over the mountain to an old logging trail that's about 10 minutes from my house. But I wasn't sure which trail it was. So I had to trek up 1/4 of the mountain to see if I had the right trail (there are a bunch of confusing trails on the ATV section). The first try bumped me into two hikers which is very rare to see on these lands. It turns out they are locals who are very familiar with Rattling Creek. The one guy turns 91 next week! I was impressed. The second try was another dead end like the first. And the third trail I knew wasn't correct, but it was a new road that I wanted to see what was there. It almost looked like private land that someone tried to set up a camp of some sort but vandals destroyed it. Next to it was a pipeline that I knew led straight to the trail I was looking for -- at the bottom of the other side of the mountain. "Look Jill -- there's an obvious path up to the top. Just a couple rocks to climb over and a log or two -- but it can't be that bad." Ha! Who was I kidding. 45 minutes later, my legs were bleeding from the thorny weeds, my ankles were killing me from having to plant my feet into the ground so I wouldn't slide on my ass (it was STEEP), and my shoulder was hurting like hell from carrying my bike the entire time. There was no way to set the bike down - it was too steep and too rocky. Yes, think Wigwam going up and then turning around and go back down. Double the length. I was never so happy to see an established trail in my life. I was also never so happy to get home in one piece. It was quite the adventure. It certainly took the boredom out of a routine ride by myself. Rick was getting a little worried -- he didn't know how long I'd be and Bear Valley isn't a place you want to be messing around (old open mine shafts too). He was happy to see me. I was happy to see him!

No Hundie This Year

About a month ago, Donna signed up for the Shenandoah 100 which made me think about doing the Wilderness 101 which I wanted to do for years. This year, with all this endurance training base, would be the year to do it. Yesterday was the last day to sign up before the price went from $130 to $150. Last weekend, I paddled an hour or so with hubby and he went for a bike ride with me this week and I realized how much I miss doing stuff with him. We haven't really done anything together since I started training for the Epic. Missing hubby, coupled with my weed patch of a garden, along with caring for dear old mom, told me to skip the hundie and get back to my other life. So life after the TSE will be normal for at least three weeks (recovery period). Then I'll likely ride when I feel like it or have time. Paddling is on top of the list during recovery. I can't wait to paddle with hubby again! I miss my boat!