Fast = Fun!

Last night's Tues. ladies' ride was such a great time. We pedaled nearly 32 miles at ~17.5mph average pace. When I looked at my current pace on my Garmin it generally read in the 18-20mph range. NICE! For a change I actually felt really strong on my pulls. Probably doesn't hurt that I'm not recovering from any major running or biking workouts/race for a change. During one of my pulls of a mile+ the gals behind me were all hooting and we agreed that it was a shame that the road we were on came to a T and required us to stop.

The more I ride my bike the less I feel the "need" to run. Part of me thinks I could give up running altogether were it not for the fact that I really loved that monsoon duathlon I did this Spring (next year I would like to do 2-3 duathlons, if they fit into our Summer schedule), as well as the North Country Trail Relay. Running is much easier in the Winter than biking, too. The "nowhere bike" gets old pretty fast. So running is a less monotonous form of fitness during the cold months.

I still believe I never would have taken up running had I started biking, first. I'm just plain "better" on the bike. Running is sometimes a source of great frustration for me. Races are frustrating when people who run half the miles I do can beat me. I can say the race is only a race with myself, but I'm more competitive and less idealistic than that. I would love to get <2 hours for a half marathon and on the volume and type of training I've done MOST runners have done just that on the first or 2nd try. After 4 HMs my best time was still ~2:02.

By contrast my first century ride after only 8 months of riding (half of those months indoors on the trainer and rarely amounting to much more than 50 miles in a week) wasn't at all a struggle. The only difficulty came in the form of 90º temps with high humidity. And having to stop every couple of hours to reapply the sunscreen I sweated off (and my face still got pink, hrm). The actual act of pedaling for 100 miles. No biggie. I rode 25 miles the next day with a few miles of hammering and felt relatively fresh and strong.

I've also discovered that I semi-regret not going for a more "aggressive geometry" bike from the start (instead of the Cannondale Synapse I would have ended up with the CAAD9 with the same components, for the same price). But it didn't seem like a good idea at the time we ordered my first road bike. The longer I ride, though, the more I wish I were less upright. Luckily some adjustments to my position can be made by changing the length and height of the stem that connects my handlebars to my bike. And it's not like I have to ride this same bike for the rest of my life. I saw a fairly comical, but true, statement about most cyclists having N+1 bicycles...in other words, the bike(s) they currently have, plus the next bike they lust.

My next bike will likely be full carbon. Not because I care all that much about having a lighter-weight bike or the shi-shi-ness of carbon (and carbon is not nearly as lust-worthy as titanium...or as $$$). I really don't. My aluminum frame is already plenty light (and I think my current bike is the prettiest bike I have ever seen. I get compliments nearly every time I ride). But carbon would be a good deal more forgiving on our chip-sealed roads. It would absorb a lot of vibration that can really wear on a person after just a few miles. The more I ride, the more I want to ride, but not on our roads. When I have the opportunity to ride on mostly well-maintained asphalt I feel like it's such a luxury.

Part of me still would like a cyclocross bike for it's pure utilitarian-ness, but I'm not sure it would see enough miles on a regular basis. It would be great in the early Spring when the roads are full of sand and crap from plowing and for the occasional cyclocross race, but after spraining my ankle I am a little less gung-ho about attempting that sport any time soon. And a 'cross bike wouldn't be much of a "go fast" or endurance bike. And I like fast and/or riding for long distances.


4% down

We have a cheesy body-fat scale. It seems accurate enough--the scale portion generally agrees with our doctor's scale, within about a pound or so. The body fat measuring part seems to be fairly stable, too. When I was checking on a regular basis it never fluctuated much at all from week-to-week.

So it's probably been about 6 months since I last checked my BF. The only thing about the scale that stinks is that I can no longer change the user profile. It still thinks I'm 34, even though I'm closing in on 38. This probably doesn't matter all that much. Last time I checked my body fat it was 30%. Today it is 26%. So I'm still chubby, but I'm less chubby. And I'm only 5-6% above where I'd like to be.

I've made more progress in improving my body composition in 6 weeks of biking and weight-training (due to that pesky sprain that prevented me from running) than I did in 4+ years of running. Hmmm... It doesn't hurt that biking and weight-training don't cause my appetite to spin out of control, like running does (for me).

My actual weight has been pretty much stuck, but my clothes fit better and I have definition developing in my arms, quads, and abs. The weight doesn't really matter when I am displacing fat with muscle and seeing my "measurements" shrinking. Though I am prepared to have to do some intensive jean shopping come Fall. My waist continues to shrink as my rear and quads maintain size. I have heard that Lucky brand jeans fit "athletic" women well (I've been told this from weight-lifters and cyclists with bulkier quads and narrow torsos).

So I'm thinking ahead to Fall and Winter training. I'm not sure how much running I will do. I do want to be relatively well-prepared to run the Las Vegas Half-Marathon in early Dec., but I'm not going for a PR (wouldn't be likely with that crowd and the training I have lost with the sprain, anyhow). At this point I think my time would be best used riding the "nowhere bike" (road bike on the trainer) and 3 days/week of upper-body weight training. With maybe 15-20 miles/week running--just enough to not have me lose all running fitness. I still want to do some Spring running races.


6 Weeks

6 weeks ago I suffered my first real, completely-on-the-bench running injury. I suffered a grade 2 sprained ankle during my first of 2 legs of the North Country Trail Relay. After the sprain I still managed to run another 9.9 miles to finish my portion of the race...had I stopped our team of 6 would have been disqualified. I figured "eh, the damage is done. Might as well press-on."

Perhaps that was unwise, but my recovery went about expected for the severity of my sprain. And I wasn't good about elevating or icing as much as I should have. I also drank alcohol (Oberon...sweet sweet Oberon) in the first 24 hours of the injury. I pretty much did everything wrong in the first 48 hours.

But I have been pretty good about doing the simple range-of-motion exercises and biking, rather than trying to get back on my feet too soon. I think it's very easy for those who only run to rush back into running after such an injury. Cross-training with my bike really helped keep me from feeling desperate at the loss of fitness. Even though I could not run for nearly 6 weeks, I think my running fitness loss is probably comparable to 3-4 weeks for one who doesn't do something in the interim to stay aerobically active.

The bike time also helped me to maintain my sanity. The thought of 5.5 weeks of no activity kinda makes me twitch. Those 5.5 weeks of fairly intensive biking have served to make me a stronger cyclist. My first century ride felt great--had it been cooler and less humid it would have likely been an even stronger ride. And I have the bonus of new muscles. My quads are less squishy. The # on the scale is still stuck, but my clothes are looser.

Speaking of new muscles...no one told me my adductors (inner thighs) would be the muscles to complain when I returned to running. During my first 2 short jogs since re-incorporating running I have only really had discomfort in those muscles. Weird. I don't even recall adductor pain when I first started to run. Today I have DOMS in my crotch after yesterday's measly 3-miler. *snort*


I'm back!

Yesterday I completed my first run in 39 days. And it went surprisingly well. I had planned to go 2-3 miles of walk/run, but the run felt good...I didn't have any need to stop. My ankle felt stiff, but not painful. Everything felt a bit stiff and I wisely took it slow. Tomorrow I hope to do a short run, again, then hit the bike for a while.

Today I did nothing. The rugrat didn't have Summer camp and it was raining, anyhow, so we sat around and watched Run, Fatboy, Run. A fellow running friend of mine loves that movie and knew I hadn't yet seen it, so she mailed me a DVD. I have such awesome (running) friends! She is one of my many friends from RunningAHEAD.com who I am looking forward to meeting in-person at this year's Las Vegas Marathon.

Today I also felt kinda crummy. Those imbeciles at our online pharmacy (Express Scripts -- we have to use this per our prescription drug coverage plan) never mailed my Qvar asthma medication (or DH's blood pressure meds...somehow all of our automatic refills were deleted from our account), so I had to use a back-up pack of Advair in the meantime. Good gawd, there was a good reason that I switched from Advair to Qvar in the first place--Advair is horrible. It takes my immune system and beats the shit out of it. And within 48 hours of starting I had developed another nasty thrush (aka candida yeast -- common in those with compromised immune systems and those in steroid meds) infection in the back of my throat. I swear that stuff never even ends up in my lungs and sticks to my throat. I gargle several times with water after each inhalation, but I still end up with steroid-induced thrush outbreaks. I think I had 5-6 bouts with thrush in the maybe 18 months that I was on that stuff. Horrible.

I really loathe the idea of ending up on yet another course of anti-fungal meds, so I am ingesting every form of probiotics that I can cram into my gut. Unfortunately this has not worked in the past, so in the end I will probably find myself filling yet another script for Diflucan.

I just hope I feel good tomorrow. Now that I know my ankle can tolerate running I am really eager to start carefully increasing my miles, again. Running Warehouse had a 25% off discount on all sale stuff, so I just ordered another pair of shoes (Nike Lunarfly+ -- I currently wear the Run Avant+, which is virtually the same shoe), too. I only have one road pair really in rotation. I had planned to order new shoes just after the relay, but the sprain put the brakes on that plan.


Ride Report: 1st Century -- 2010 Holland Hundred

Wow...that was 7 hours of pedaling that felt simultaneously brief and never-ending. Similar in many ways to those 4 hour 20 milers while preparing for marathons.

We woke at 4am to take showers (yeah, showers are kinda silly before engaging in an athletic event, but they are also an effective "wake-up"), have breakfast (with COFFEE!!!!) and make the drive to the ride location an hour away--with a stop on the way to drop Dane off with family who were watching him while we rode.

The day started warm and humid. It would end hot and humid. The sorts of conditions that are really not conducive to running for more than an hour, but are manageable on a bike with ample air-flow helping one's sweat to evaporate and do its job of cooling.

The first stop on the ride was only 10 miles or so in...and offered only water. The second stop was closer to 30 miles in, IIRC. This stop had pancakes, fruit, water, coffee, and OJ. The pancakes were yummy, but I really wished for some bacon. Yeah...I <3 bacon!

Before hitting the road again DH snapped a quick shot of Cathy and I. Cathy is a HARDCORE rider (road and mountain) who has accomplished so much in her first year-and-a-half of riding. She and DH could ride circles around me, but they stuck with me for 100 miles.

The next stop was around the 45 mile mark. By this point the day was really starting to get hot. This stop was at a winery...no wine for riders, though. But they had fruit and granola.

We caught-up with some friends (from the JDRF ride team) who were doing a shorter route (I believe they rode closer to 70 miles by day's end), then rode with them a while further from that point.

At each stop was a stack of drawing paper that people could leave notes on for other riders. Our friend Tom is a tall guy with a tall heart. He left me that message.

The miles after the winery stop were the hardest of the ride. 30 miles without a break-point. 30 miles with some really crappy roads (some freshly chip-sealed, some with mine-fields of potholes). 30 hot, sweaty miles. I really valued the Endurolytes capsules that I had packed in my small backpack that I like for long rides (sunscreen is not an option). I only had one very brief moment where I felt a bit of that chilled sensation that is a symptom of overheating. I guzzled water and popped 2-3 Endurolytes at every stop. I also applied sunblock religiously (sunblock is not optional for pasty people, particularly when one of them has already survived melanoma), though my face still got slightly burned. And my lips got burned. Today they are peeling...ick.

Prior to leaving the winery stop a friend snapped this cutesy pic of hubby and I. Yes, we are just as dorky as we look...perhaps moreso.

The 74 mile rest stop was so welcome, though by the time we arrived there was little food left. The only criticism I have of the day was that there wasn't enough protein. At the last stop they were making small soft tortilla/pinwheel sandwiches, but either earlier riders inhaled most of them or they underestimated the amount needed.

I reapplied chamois "lube" at this point, too, though I don't think I really needed to (and I didn't actually have to pee...I hardly peed until the day after the ride--it took me 24 hours to feel rehydrated. Even beer didn't sound good to me until the following evening). I am a huge fan of this chamois butter I found, That Butt Stuff. It works better for me than anything else I have tried.

Prior to leaving the 74 mile stop I made this face. But, really...the last 25+ miles were not nearly as difficult as the previous 25 were.

Around 85 miles we had one last rest stop. I ate a few Oreo cookies, refilled one of my bottles with Gatorade, popped a couple more Endurolytes, and we were off. By this point I was really starting to feel the heat and the distance and wanted nothing more than to be back at the parking lot where we started...and craving a shower.

Going up a sort of long, very deceptively gradual incline a nice guy in a WI Badgers jersey passed me straggling behind my ride partners...asking if I was OK. I reassured him that I was doing OK, just hot and tired and ready to be done. Then I asked him if he was from WI, as I, too, am a cheesehead.

He said that yes, he was also from WI. I asked where he was from and chuckled when he said "Sturgeon Bay." No way, I said. I graduated from Gibraltar (our HSs have a long-standing rivalry). He then asked me if I knew Claire S. Uh...yeah, we are almost related and I used to babysit for her!!! His wife is a first-cousin of one of my cousins. They had just moved to this area 2 weeks ago.

The truly crazy part of the whole thing is that a JDRF friend of ours had told us that there was a guy who had recently moved here from WI and helped paint the road markers for the ride. He also helped direct parking the morning of the ride and left an hour after we did. Out of nearly 2k riders it was so crazy small-world to run into this very person, AND to have such a personal connection to this guy.

And he was asking how riders were doing because he is a doctor (anesthesiologist). Tanner and Claire just moved here when he found a job. Had he not struck up conversation I likely wouldn't have even noticed him...by that late in the ride I was pretty tunnel-visioned.

I finished the ride still feeling reasonably good and was able to maintain ~15mph pace for the duration of the ride (I think 16 would have been comfortable had it been a cooler, less humid day). My butt didn't hate me nearly as much as I would have expected, nor any other part of me. But I was ready for a shower!

I did get a shower (the ride started and ended at one of the buildings belonging to the company DH works for), but the water heaters are turned-off for the weekend to save money. So it was a cold shower...shockingly so. It still felt SO good to get that loose layer of crud and sweat off. Though I still had to take a real shower when we arrived home. And I had to SCRUB to get the lower layers of sunblock and road grime off. Amazing how stubborn that spray sport sunblock is. But it works really well and sure beats the pain and damage wreaked by the sun's rays.

I'm really looking forward to my next century ride. People often compare a century ride to a marathon, but I find the marathon to be MUCH more difficult. The century ride didn't involve cramping. Perhaps a century RACE would be a different story, but 100 miles on a bike sure is more pleasant than 26.2 miles on-foot, at least it is in this girl's experience.


I need sleep.

In 12 hours I will already have been pedaling for 2.5 hours, on my way to my first 100 mile "century" ride. Yikes!

Really, though...I'm not tweaking like I would be were this a marathon eve. Marathons always freaked me out, as well they should. Perhaps if I were racing 100 miles on my bike the 2 events would be more comparable, but this is a RIDE. A supported ride with several rest/food stops. No official start time, no timing chips, no competition, no implied obligation to push one's pace limits.

So I'm mainly out there to have a good time and try not to eat substantially more calories than I burn...heh.

Middle part of next week I am planning my slow and gradual return to running. I think my left ankle is finally ready. It's still a little stiff and achey at the end of the day, but feels pretty strong. Mostly flexibility is what is lacking, but that is coming along, too.


It was so hot...

"How hot was it?"

Uh...it was just plain hot. And steamy. But this was not enough to stop me from completing my first 75 mile ride on the bike--just 10 days before my first full century ride (Holland Hundred).

I was able to maintain an acceptable pace for the distance, even under the sauna-like conditions (so I'm hoping I can maintain the same pace for a full 100 miles in 9 days). At one point my hubby's bike computer thermometer said 90º...I told him that couldn't possibly be right. But it apparently was, since the radio claimed it was 93º by the time we finished.

Lots of fluids were ingested, in addition to a bunch of Endurolytes capsules (glad I had these along. Not long before we stopped for a snack I was feeling that awful chilled/goosebumpy thing that is never good on a hot day), 2 Nuun tablets, a pack of Sport Beans, half a Clif bar (I still think these are kinda icky, but they definitely cure a gnawing tummy by making it feel filled with a door-stop) and the most fabulous cranberry orange muffin...ever. I can't wait to stop at that cookie/muffin joint again during the century ride.

Even though I was good about applying sunscreen every couple of hours (those pasty legs will never again be allowed to have any color other than "raw bratwurst."  1 case of melanoma in our house is 1 too many) I still got a bit pink, at least on my face. I can't apply it above my eyes, since there is no such thing as a truly sweat-proof sunblock and there is nothing more painful (and blinding) than sunblock in one's eyes. My Buff is the junior size and doesn't stay down to my eyebrows as much as it should. Luckily I have a standard adult size one on order, which should help.

The sunblock also was likely getting wiped-off the rest of my face, since I had a cotton hanky to help sop-up the profuse sweat output. Ick.

By the time we finished the layers of sunblock and sweat had truly glued a ton of road grime to my legs and gnats on the rest of my body. I was one HOT mess!

Hubby and I rode from our favorite bike shop with its owner, Mike/MC.  After the ride we returned to the shop and cleaned-up a bit with baby wipes, picked-up our kid from Summer day camp, and headed home for well-deserved showers and shower beer.

The photo at right is not shower beer.  That is leftover-room-temp-brat-beer.  That is from July 4.  It tasted surprisingly good.  But not nearly as good as my icy-cold-Oberon-from-a-bottle tasted after yesterday's steamy trek around Ottawa and Allegan counties did.  We also refueled with a Little Caesar's el-cheapo pizza.  It was too damned hot to cook anything.

I slept like a rock in our chilly bedroom (only room with A/C).  It was heavenly.  And today I don't feel more than very minor DOMS and stiffness.  100 miles...bring it on!