Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hula Hoop Your Way to a Trimmer Waistline!

A headline like that led my mom to buy a sparkly blue hula hoop recently.

The pretty plastic hoop becomes much more than a children's game when it's filled with water--it's a Level III or Black Diamond waist management tool that's way harder to keep going than your typical Level 1 hoop.

I am not a Level III hula hooper. But there's still hope for newbie hoopers who just can't keep the hoop up; you'll laugh so hard watching your friends/family stink at it, too, that you'll still get a belly work out!

So who's best with the belly action? Mom? Dad? Me? I'll let you decide...

(P.S. Sorry the videos are sideways...Lie down to watch these!)

Contestant #1: Mom
video

Contestant #2: Dad

video

Contestant #3: Me

video

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Camino Real Double Century 2009

Disclaimer: If you are a crotch, the following recap of participating in an ultracycing event may offend you, as crotch abuse is rampant in this story. Read on at your own discretion.

Just like a true ultramarathon starts at 50 miles, a true ultracycling event starts at 200. Therefore, in my quest to become an ultra cyclist (and in the future, an approximately ultra ultra + 3/4 ultra cyclist), coachubby, Robyn, and I set out at 6:20 am this past Saturday to rightfully earn the ultra title.

Although no sleep-deprivation training had been planned for months, I unintentionally started this masochistic technique on Saturday morning, beginning the ride on what I'll guestimate to be 4.5 hours of sleep.

At twilight, a group of riders gathered under the very overhang that coachubby had whacked with his bike seat the night before, when he drove under it with the bike on top of his car. (see reenactment, left)

Immediately, I had a few observations about the type of crowd drawn to these events:
  1. Ultracyclists are generally way older than I am.
  2. Ultracyclists have no sense of humor at 6:15am (...or throughout much of the day, I'd find out.)
  3. Ultracyclists do not like pink arm warmers when paired with purple leg warmers, and reflective nipples. (See photo) They do not find this funny. This may have something to do with observation #1. TBD.
  4. Ultracyclists must wear a jersey from the hardest ultracycling event they have ever done to every event thereafter. Plainclothes are not allowed.
  5. (Discovered later) Ultracyclists do not like to acknowledge other ultracyclists participating in the same event, neither with a wave, nor a smile, nor a "hi". They seem to be participating out of a sense of self-hatred rather than one of adventure. But they're still in it for the bragging rights. (See observation #4)
We clipped in at twilight and tried to stay at the front of the pack. This effort lasted for about 20 minutes, then with each successive hill / stoplight, people got split up into smaller and smaller pelotons. We couldn't tell where we stood in relation to everyone else after an hour of riding.

I could tell, however, that neither my Silver Bullet aka Frankenbike nor my outfit were receiving their due appreciation. One rider asked if I had scoured my garage to throw the Bullet and my ensemble together. I laughed, then vowed to kick his ass. Then I couldn't remember what he looked like a few minutes later, in the sea of "Triple Crown" jerseys surrounding me.

(In my defense, the pink arm warmers and purple leg warmers are the only arm warmers and leg warmers I own. They must be paired with the blue jersey, because it is the only jersey I own with 3 back pockets, and the acid pee vest, because it is the only wind vest I own. The Bullet needs no defense; he's the radest paint-stripped, incognito bike on the planet.)

The Camino Real Double Century is a very urban event, with tons of stop lights. Running them is not an option, although a group ahead of us must've thought it was, and was subsequently captured by a motorcycle Sheriff stealthily dressed in a dark green jumpsuit--like a tree . He was hiding in a residential area plagued by multiple stop signs.

Robyn and I immediately moved up in the female finisher standings. Thank you, Sheriff Tree!

With a predicted high of 70 and clouds all day, we couldn't have asked for better weather.

But when we came upon the part of the route that put us out on I-5 for 7 miles, I could've thought of a better route. Like running through Camp Pendleton somehow. Probably dressed like Sheriff Tree.

I've ridden that stretch before, and couldn't believe I came out alive at the end of it. Doing it 2 more times for this ride probably shaved years off of my life. (Although judging by many of my competitors, who have all so clearly done many a ride like this before, I might still live as long as I want, which is 100 years.)

At each aid station, we drew a card from a deck of cards. The cyclists with the best poker hand at the end of the ride got neato prizes. It was a nice incentive to finish the ride.

Coachubby wore his Garmin and informed us when we had hit 100 miles. Amazingly, the first 100 hadn't been that bad. We had only had one flat in our little threesome, and were feeling pretty good.

Then at mile 120, coachubby's crotch began to rebel. Unlike at Ironman aid stations, there was no giant, germ-infested tub of Vaseline at ultracycling aid station #3 for competitors to scoop out petroleum jelly relief and slather it where the sun don't shine. A trip to the bathroom revealed someone had foreseen the 120-mile crotchal riding limit and brought along a little disposable tube of Chamois Butt'r. The used capsule was in the toilet. No help for coachubby.

We soldiered on, beginning to pass smaller groups as we went. It's amazing how 80 miles becomes "Only 80 miles!" after you've ridden 1.5x that far.

When we hit the last aid station, the awesomeness of my poker hand took a nosedive along with the sun and we set out to crush the last 24 or so miles in the dark. Blinkies activated. But we had only brought "legal" headlights--not road-illuminating lights--since we assumed this "urban adventure" would be lit by streetlights at night.

Not so.

In fact, 16 miles were on a 2-lane canyon road. It was pitch black.

Robyn was nervous. Coachubby was nervous descending, but later discovered he hit 37 mph anyway. And for some reason, maybe emboldened by my choice to bring a head lamp in addition to my bike light, I felt a strange sense of calm and euphoria riding at night.

Apparently, it takes 11 hours of exercise for the endorphins to kick in now; a few years of Ironman training have destroyed my body's sensitivity to working out. Or something like that. Had I, or coachubby or Robyn flatted or crashed, I'm sure the euphoria would've quickly turned into panic accompanied by a heart rate otherwise only induced by Red Bull.

We picked off one final rider moments before rolling back into the hotel parking lot around 7:20pm. (With, according to coachubby's Garmin, an approximately 11h30m actual ride time.)

(PIC: Robyn and I pose with road on our faces after finishing.)

WE DID IT!

I was exhilarated. Not only had we ridden that far, but we had also done it on very little sleep. I had also fueled properly, and felt good the entire time. Knowing that I can ride that far without much sleep and on completely dead legs from 2 straight weeks of psycho training is a great confidence booster going in to future ultra events.

My poker hand earned me a respectable bottle of Endurolytes.

Robyn got a flush, and won a ton of money to redeem toward future Planet Ultra events. She also, I believe, was the 4th woman to finish. And might've placed even better if she hadn't stopped to wait for me after every climb, and both I-5 sections.

Coachubby began making a mental inventory of the ointment he was going to buy at Target.

(PIC: How we really felt after finishing.)

R├ęsultats: The Camino Real Double Century is a fabulous starter double. As long as traffic doesn't freak you out, and lights don't frustrate you, there isn't too much climbing, the aid stations are stocked full of awesome goodies, the poker thing is fun, and there are, contrary to everything I just said, some nice people out there--especially the people running the aid stations. I suppose I can't ask everyone to be joking around 150 miles into a 200 mile ride.

Other riders could smile, though. Although even facial muscles get tired, I suppose!

And be ready for chaffeage. Like you've never known. Forget a fancy, expensive bike fit--you'll figure out which side of your bike you favor after riding that far. How? Well, do it. You'll see...

P.S. Why wouldn't my car start? Because coachubby left the lights on!

How NOT To Start Your First Double Century Ultryacycling Ride

The term cluster f**k was invented to describe the horror that was Friday night--the night before coachubby, Robyn, and I were going to set off on our first double century ride in Irvine, CA.

Scenario:
I am PMSing.

I return from an attempted workout at 5:45pm at the two lane pool at my gym where old men hang out in the pool area to catch a glimpse of young ladies, many of whom are there to be seen in their bikinis, none of whom can swim a length of the pool, and thereby wind up floating about in the shallow end in my way.

I am not happy.

Coachubby is loading up the car outside of our place. When he sees me, he says, "Sparky won't start. There's no electricity."

Sparky is my car. The car for which I just paid a gagillion dollars to make sure he would be ok to drive to Phoenix on Tuesday. He worked fine before I brought him to my mechanic, I was just being cautious. Now he won't start?

I can't deal.

We load up and drive to Robyn's house--2 miles south of us. She follows in her car as we spend a good 30 minutes looking for the 405. Apparently, we're unable to find the only freaking freeway in the South Bay because we took off 2 miles off of our normal starting point. Most people can navigate fine within a 10 mile radius of their home. Not us. Not in LA.

We finally find the 405, and head to Irvine. We pick up our packets, which consist of a plastic baggie, a route map, and a card to get marked off at the aid stations to prove we were there. Simple. Low key. Nice. I like it.

Coachubby can't seem to find his way out of the parking lot, and I'm being a righteous beeotch, which isn't helping. His brain, I've decided, turns off when he gets in the car, and I let him know my theory.

Coachubby immediately rams the overhang of the hotel's entrance with his bike, forgetting it was on top of the car.

The bar warning people about the height of the overhang falls.

I am beyond pissed.

We drive to Irvine's Spectrum Center to get dinner at PF Changs.

Coachubby comes 1 inch from hitting the entrance of the parking garage before remembering his bike is still on top of the car. We jump out as everyone behind us honks obnoxiously. Coachubby stuffs the front-wheel-less bike in my hands and goes to park.

For 20 minutes, man after man walks by making the same totally unfunny joke, "Aren't you supposed to be riding that? Oh, well, looks like you can't. It's missing something."

You're almost as charming as the men in the 24 Hour Fitness pool area.

It's 8pm. The wait, the lady at PF Changs informs us, is 1 hour. So we zip on over to CPK, wait 10 minutes, then order right when we sit down.

At 9:15, we get our food.

I want to kill the waiter. On the bright side, our meal is free because the waiter and coachubby share the loss of cerebral function this evening.

Coachubby then gets lost on the 1 mile drive from the Spectrum Center to the hotel.

Finally getting to the hotel at 10 pm (there is no way I'm getting 8 hours of sleep tonight. On top of the no-sleep I got the two nights before because coachubby was snoring in my face.), coachubby goes to pull his bike out of the trunk, where it now resides.

PSHHHHHHHH!

Coachubby flats pulling his bike out of the car. How do you do that? I don't know. Leave it to coachubby to flat without having a tire touching the ground when I'm on the brink of a full-on mental breakdown.

Robyn witnesses the first petty, biotching fight coachubby and I have ever had. He knows now not to fight with me when I'm PMSing. Or when he has just displayed the inability to learn from mistakes made 20 minutes prior to another mistake.

I feel bad for Robyn.

We open the hotel room door and I jump straight into bed. Tooth decay be darned!

It's 11pm. I don't fall asleep immediately.

We wake up at 5am to get ready and drive to the beginning of the ride.

Will we make it? Will coachubby's seat break off and shove his stem up his bum since he whacked the bike on an overhang? Can a PMSing nutcase who normally requires 8 hours of sleep/night to function and hasn't slept in 3 nights finish a 200 mile bike ride?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When Will Google Recognize the Existence of Triathletes?

I know triathlon, in the grand scheme of things, is a relatively new sport.

But if Google can manage to make daily amazing technological advances, can't they add "triathlete" to their spell-checker?

It's a simple request from one triathlete Google-lover to one ginormous superpower company--a request that I'm sure is not above Google-ability.

So to be more concise:

Dear Google,

Please add "triathlete" into your spell checker so as to cease the appearance of a dotted line every time I type the word into Blogger or Gmail.

Thank you.

Love,

Erin

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5 Tips for Long, Cold Bike Rides

Score! It's sunny!
Boo! It's freezing!

It has been deceptively cold in LA these past few weeks, but people on a mission (Ironman, road races, whatever) are still heading out in droves to get their bike training in and they seem to be enjoying themselves.

How is this possible? They have figured out how to dress for the weather, which, at 45-55 degrees, is really not that bad, especially if you compare it to, oh I don't know, the current weather in Madison.

If you've been frostbitten one too many times trying to ride in 50-ish degree weather, you're not alone. It wasn't too long ago that severe "cold wuss" syndrome had me on my trainer way more than I ever wanted to be.

A distaste for working out inside and an REI gift card brought about a quick transformation.

If one of the only reasons you enjoy working out is to be one with the outdoors, it's time to get on the layering bandwagon and back in the peloton. Here are 5 tips to keep you warm and happy for your cold-weather rides, even if they last 10+ hours.

  1. LAYER- Under shirt, jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, wind jacket, wind vest, skull cap, booties / toe warmers, thick socks, thick gloves. It sounds like a lot, but in spandex form, it isn't. Layering will ensure you have enough to keep you warm on descents and at the start of your ride.
  2. Wear a CAMELBAK- If you sweat profusely out of your head (like coachubby) or hands (like coachubby) or all over the place (like coachubby) you might want a second pair of gloves, probably don't want a skull cap at all, and ought to carry a second jersey. These, along with the gallons of gatorade you're going to drink on a monster long ride, can easily be stored in a Camelbak like this MULE. (Be warned, though, your buddies will want to stuff their extra clothes in it, too, when they realize their pockets aren't enough for food and shedding layers.)
  3. Shed and Dress- Shed for climbs or hard efforts, put your clothes back on for descents and high speed cruising. The idea is you don't want to soak your clothes. If you wear them all to go up, you'll turn into a human Popsicle coming down. Purple is not a pretty skin tone on anyone. Except a grape.
  4. Cover your feet (and head and hands!)- Don't want to spend a fortune on booties? Toe warmers and wool socks (try these!) are a great idea. And if you don't give a hoot about what roadies think about your fashion sense, and would like to cruise by them all warm and happy, make your own booties. Take a pair of old ski socks, cut holes in the bottom for your cleats, and put them on around your shoes. They'll keep your ankles and toes nice and warm and happy--and they'll keep any non-triathlete members of the household involved in financial decisions happy, too.
  5. Wear a wind vest- No, it doesn't have to be road-worker orange or yellow, although I am a fan because I have decided to forgo color coordination in favor of visibility. (If someone on the road goes, "Hey, you look like a clown!" smile and be happy that they SAW you instead of hitting you...and then pray they don't hit you for looking like a clown.) It's amazing how such a thin piece of clothing, which can easily be unzipped and stuffed into a pocket (or Camelbak!) can make such a ginormous difference in your comfort, particularly descending. Buy one. You can justify it by saying it's a lot less than a trip to the hospital for hypothermia. Or road rash from crashing because you were shivering so badly.
Happy cold weather riding!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Double Century Training--Can Your Brain Handle It?

Crazy ride ideas pop into my head sometimes. This Saturday's extravaganza was no exception.

Thank goodness for coachubby who, in the spirit of maintaining his manhood, can't back down from the crazy rides, and for my girlfriend, Robyn, who will not only help me carry them out, but royally kick my butt while doing so.

Therefore, the rides can't be too nutty, because I'm not the only one out there doing them. (That's called "Ultra Cyclist Logic". I don't know if it's made its way into the Psych books yet...)

When the weather decided not to soak LA on Saturday, as was foreseen earlier last week, the ride was on. We figured it would be about 10 hours of riding, possibly up to 12 hours of being outside.

This time, we had to build on our last DA ride (disappearing a**), adding 1.5 hours of ride time and about 30 miles. (The last time we rode 150 a few weeks ago, it was relatively flat.)

The route: Leaving Redondo, meet up at the Hermosa Beach pier at 6am in the freezing cold dark, then ride up the Strand to PCH to Latigo, up Latigo, descend Kanan, North on PCH to Mulholland, up Mulholland, down Kanan, South on PCH to Latigo, up Latigo, down Mulholland to Cold Creek, up Piuma, down Stunt, then descend Topanga Canyon and back home.

We made our own pre-dawn to after-dusk ride. It ended up being 150 miles, 10.5 hours ride time, 12.5 hours of being outside. (The extra two hours were accumulated dressing/undressing time for descents/ascents...and watter bottle fill ups, and potty stops.)

Nothing tests mental endurance like the last two hours of a ride like Saturday's. It's like channeling the PMS gods. At some point, the mind goes blank, just wants to turn over the pedals, and anything that gets in its way from keeping the body zooming forward gets snapped at, or will snap its last nerve. And that was only 150 miles!
Link
In a moment of sanity pre-ride, we switched out my 11-21 cassette for a 12-25, thus saving my quads from complete destruction as evidenced by their ability to ride again, and scoot me up a mountain trail yesterday.

What is all of this riding for? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Bring it on, Mulholland Challenge!

Also, this Saturday, coachubby, Robyn, and I will be at the Camino Real Double Century in Irvine. Come cheer, or come ride! The way the weather's been (freezing and drizzly) it's a guarantee that I will be wearing pink arm warmers, a blue jersey, acid pee wind vest, purple leg warmers, and possibly homemade booties (ski socks over the shoes with holes cut out of the bottom for cleats.) Roadies love it...Not really. (Photo coming soon.)

ALSO, stay tuned for the grand announcement of what all of this is for, including the double century. (But wait, there's more!)

Happy training and staying warm!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Calling All Unattractive Spin Instructors

Spin classes are fabulous. It's quite a treat to jump on a bike and ride as hard as you want without constantly looking over your shoulder for cops at t-stops (...I mean stopping at stop signs...) or narrowly avoiding getting hit by Mr. Magoo driving a giant bus.

If the class is taught by an instructor who can choose and mix great beats, pick killer drills, and manage to keep the class motivated without singling anyone out, or getting off of his bike, it might become a solid part of your workout routine.

However, if said class is as fantastic as the class outlined above--and taught by a guy who is genuinely enthusiastic about fitness, friendly, blond, and classically handsome in a Greek statue sort of way--the class may become reminiscent of your high school lunch break.

Women of all ages, shapes, and fitness levels storm my favorite spin class every week for a chance to show off new boobs to this instructor, whom we shall call Beefcake, in workout clothes smaller than my regular underwear. And no, I don't wear granny panties.

These women are always up for the "hover"position, which will allow them to lean over the handlebars in such a way that said boobs will be highlighted in all their eerily standoutish glory.

They travel in small groups (the women, I mean. Boobs do that all of the time.), rushing into the room when the doors open, hoping to get bikes in the front row. They call each other by names like "Sweetie" and "Dahling" while secretly planning how they'll win more attention from the instructor than their friends that day.

The top 10 spots in a class of about 28 bikes fill up fast, at a reservation price of $1. The rest are up for grabs an hour before class starts, and if you're not there at 6am on the dot, you can count yourself out of the interval workout you've been counting on all week. America's obesity epidemic clearly does not live on the third floor of my gym.

And so, in search of the perfect class that does not require spending extra time at my gym (a hub for people to scam on each other, like any gym in LA, I suppose) to get into class, or potentially get my eyes gouged out by fake fingernails, I'm calling on all of you equally enthusiastic, fun, hip spin instructors who aren't Beefcakeishly handsome to start teaching classes there.

In return, I offer you a small group of devoted hard-core athletes who will relish whatever monstrous workout you bark out. Around these parts, even some of those hard-core girls have fake boobs, so you won't be missing out on Beefcake's scene entirely. Promise.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

For the Love of Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake is a delicacy best consumed after a monster long ride. Or the night before a monster long ride. Or in the days following a monster long ride.

During said long rides, I like to envision myself as a professional cyclist in the Tour of California, riding up the canyons north of LA like a pro in contention for the KOM jersey.

Therefore, it is with great sadness that I recently read this statement in a news article about what real professional cyclists eat:

...most cyclists eschew high-fat foods for healthier, balanced eating.

"You may find a few who'll eat a piece of chocolate cake, but not many," said Dr. Marlia Braun, a University of California, Davis, nutritionist and dietitian who has worked with many cyclists and other athletes.

Few pro cyclists have sweet tooths, say the experts.

The above generalization may be made possible by the fact that most pro cyclists are men.

So while Levi or Lance might not be the best cyclists to question in search of a pro cycling chocolate cake lover, perhaps the ladies in the Women's crit would admit to chocoholholism.
Surely there must be a world-renown pro out there who has a healthy love of chocolate.

Or maybe Dr. Braun just had a slip of the tongue, and meant to say, ""You may find a few who'll eat a piece of lemon meringue pie, but not many." That would be quite understandable. Lemon meringue is gross. Link

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Triathlon Just Got a Little More Vain

Many triathletes obsess about their bodies. The body is the machine for tri domination, and having a lean physique makes it easier to tackle long courses at more of a jog than a slog.

But just how vain are we? Has the self-admiration gone too far? How much should we obsess about the bodies of our fellow triathletes before we're officially "creepy"?

Newcomer HotTriathletes.com is taking the obsession of triathlon's tight-bodied adherents to an entirely new level. This website has ripped off (as have hundreds of others) the now globally popular website HotorNot.com, started in 2000, and created a place for insecure amateurs to see how they stack up against their buddies.

Currently, there are several pictures of pros, probably uploaded from promotional sessions against their knowledge or consent.

If you don't have enough self-esteem to look at yourself in the mirror after a workout and say that your body is amazing, not only for what triathlon training has made it look like, but also for what it has been able to accomplish for you in your workouts, then sign up for HotTriathletes.com.

Someone else who is surely qualified to comment on your physical appearance based on the nonexistent universal guidelines of attractiveness will let you know if you should be wearing a baggy shirt for your next run, or a tiny cropped tri top.

White Shorts: Just DON'T Do It!

Maybe your team somehow got stuck with a kit that includes white shorts.

Maybe your girlfriend gave them to you, citing that you have a "skinny cyclists bum" and need something to "round it out a bit".

Maybe you like the look created by the streak of road that will inevitably form up your crack--especially if it's been raining.

All ye white shorts wearers: It's time to rethink your cycling fashion.
(<- diaper)

Besides being notoriously un-slimming, white shorts guarantee that after a few hours in the saddle, you will appear to have pooed yourself.

You know that ring-around-the-collar that everyone gets on white exercise shirts? So, too will you get rings around your legs and waist. And it'll be a long ride home in dirty, ringed non-glory before you can wash it out.

Louis Garneau demonstrated that their high-end white shorts for 2009 actually have an ingenious layer of grey sewn in along the crack region to keep white-short-wearing cyclists from exposing that part of their bodies. They even say there is crab shell protein blended into the chamois fabric so it's antibacterial for life.

Even with these short innovations, DON'T GIVE IN!

Why be all clean and antibacterial if you look like you've cycled thorough a dust storm on your way to your group ride? Why not be all clean and antibacterial and look sharp and clean and antibacterial?
(OK ->)

If you must have white, at least find a style that has black around your nether regions, with the white on the sides. Leave a little something to your riding buddies' imaginations.

And if you're doing an Ironman or other long-distance race, don't even think about white! You're going to pee yourself. Everyone knows that. But they don't know when, and they don't have to!

Enough said.
Or else you might as well ride like this!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Skiing Blind in Mammoth

Snow dumped on Mammoth like it had no other place in the world to go. It made skiing there this past Friday and Saturday an exercise in skiing by feel, rather than by sight.

If the snow let up, the fog rolled in. And if a skiier could get over being cold and wet and having little snow pellets sting every exposed pore in her face, she would be treated to the most fluffy, slippery, fun powder days she had ever experienced.

Fun for her, evil for her quads.

Powder skiing isn't exactly the greatest way to rest sore quads before continuing onto the next "build" phase in an ultra cycling training plan.

But they are always, 100% totally worth the short, intense pain. And powder days are always, 100% totally more awesome than being stuck in LA when it's cold and rainy.

Mammoth's runs are all short. When it's snowing, the top of the mountain with all of the supposedly most rad runs is shut down. Maybe there are some longer runs if you start up there, but I have yet to huck myself off of them.

If you're skiing as a rest week activity--and/or as revenge for two days lost to a Death Salad--Mammoth's short expert runs are just what the coach ordered.

Runs off of lift 22, when covered in boatloads of powder, are bliss. Blind, foggy runs off of 5 will engage your core while teaching you to balance as you ski over stuff you can't see at all because the ground below you is literally attached to the sky surrounding you. Runs to the right of lift 1 offer short chutes and the occasional sighting of intense wipe outs as daredevils huck off of rocks.

And the worse the weather gets, the more the crowds thin out. And the higher you're willing to go up into the fog, the higher your chances of not having to play frogger on your way down.

Mammoth is an awesome getaway for Californians. I'd recommend going on a weekday in order to get in more skiing and less time standing in line for a lunch table or a ride up.

But Telluride is still my happy place. Even during the biggest holidays, Gold Hill never has a line, and the opportunities for creating an epic run of 3000 vertical feet of pure moguls are far greater than at Mammoth.

Just remember: About a 6 hour drive from the South Bay of LA, Mammoth = Recovery. Telluride = Intense Training for those willing to seek it out.

Happy Cross Training!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The First 300 Mile Bike Week--How Long Will Your Metabolism Burn?

What better way to follow up your first 150 mile bike ride than with a run and a 50 mile bike the next day?

This is the mindset to which I'm slowly adapting in my quest to become a rad ultracyclist. It worked last weekend.

Coachubby, Robyn, and I did our first 150 miles straight on Saturday. Boo ya. Out of respect for our quads from the muscle-destroying DA (disappearing ass) ride we did the weekend before (which actually took 10 minutes longer...and was 30 miles shorter), we rode relatively flat--all the way from Redondo Beach to San Buenaventura State Beach in Ventura (sight of the Breath of Life triathlons, where coachubby and I met) and back.

We picked up a fellow Ironman along the way, who immediately fell in love with Robyn (who wouldn't?) and decided to ride with us all the way to Ventura and back. His planned 80 mile ride must've ended up in the realm of 120 miles. Oh, what men will do to spend 6 hours staring at a perfectly toned female tush.

(In this guy's favor, he was very fun to be around, and pretty much pulled us the entire 60 miles from Ventura back to Santa Monica. What's not to love about him? Robyn has his number.)

My question, which would better be addressed to Roch Frey and Paul Huddle instead of to cyberspace, is: Is it possible that such a weekend of long, slow, never-ending biking could result in a sped up metabolism lasting...I don't know...4 days?

Needless to say, this week is a rest week. My quads are finally, on the fourth day of rest, showing signs of life. They may wake from their quad coma by day 7. (Unless I ski bumps all day the next few days. Mammoth, here I come!)

And while conventional wisdom says you should eat for the activity you've done on a certain day, is it possible that all that riding is just now catching up with me?

My mind has been short circuited. Perhaps I didn't get in enough in my 200-mile weekend. All I could think about Sunday night (besides the heartbreaking Cardinals loss) was BBQ potato chips. Monday, it was Dreyer's Loaded Cookie Dough Ice Cream. Tuesday, it was cookie poops (homemade sugar cookies from my German grandma...she gave me enough to feed an army...or just myself). Yesterday, it was chocolate cake.

These cravings have resulted in the disappearance of 1 entire bag of Lay's chips on Sunday, one 1/2 gallon of ice cream on Monday, approximately 50+ cookie poops on Tuesday, and a hearty piece of chocolate cake last night.

If you've seen any of these things, please don't report them to me. I've heard they exist in multiples, and if my strung-out cyclist's body lays an eye on them, there might be more freak disappearances.

I'll go along with the theory that your metabolism continues to burn at a higher rate after exercise...and that after 8.5 hours of cycling, that period is not just a few hours, but several days. I also believe that chocolate cake goes straight to my torn quads and sticks them back together with frosting.

Frey and Huddle would probably rip me a new one for this self-serving conclusion. But my stomach's happy. We'll see how the scale reacts at Monday's weigh-in.

Cycle on!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Taking the Plunge or Off the Deep End? How to Tell if Endurance Sports Have Stolen Your Sanity

I love exercise.

Exercise makes me feel in tune with my body, with nature, and with my friends. Call it an obsession, but I get jazzed wondering just how far I can push myself. Yes, I am addicted to endorphins.

It's offensive when nonbelievers write off a passion for exercise by negatively referring to it as "compulsive". No great athlete could achieve her full potential without being a little obsessive-compulsive about her workouts.


However, even I have been known to question the motives of some friends and their never-ending need to push themselves mentally and physically. I usually call their sanity into question when social activities, like eating dinner with friends, or family time, like eating dinner with family, gets pushed back indefinitely to make way for massages, ice baths, and the third (or more!) daily workout.

So how can you tell if you or your friends are simply taking the plunge into becoming the best endurance athlete you can be, or if you're sinking fast into the deep end, leaving your sanity floating above you? What could make two people doing the exact same workouts be separately categorized into "Plungers" or "Sinkers"?

Four years ago, I developed a very simple litmus test of athletic sanity that has held strong to this day. Ask yourself this simple question:

Is my passion (in this case for exercise and endurance competition) adversely affecting:
  1. my health?
  2. my happiness?
  3. my relationships?
If the answer is no to all three things, you're doing just fine. Soldier on, Ironman, ultrarunner, ultracyclist, climber, adventure racer, etc! But if you can answer yes to any of these, maybe it's time to take a breather and work something out--without going for a long run or ride to clear your head!

There are a lot of subcategories that might fit in the three listed above. Is your passion hurting your finances? That might affect your happiness and relationships. Are you unhappy? Maybe you overdid your training. Backing off might restore your happiness and save you from wreaking havoc on your health.

Here's where the word "compulsive" truly takes on a negative connotation. If your body is destroyed and trying to tell you so by making you moody and unhappy--and you don't back off out of compulsion--you may have a problem (this being the negatively charged "exercise addiction") that needs to be addressed.

For me, at this point in my life, endurance sports have simply giveth. There has been no taketh-ing away. A love of triathlon has led me to my closest friends, and to my husband. It has blessed me with a sense of accomplishment, love and admiration for my body, and the self- confidence I was sorely lacking before taking the plunge.

It doesn't hurt that coachubby shares my exact same passion. It has made our relationship stronger, as we push each other to achieve more than we ever thought we could. (This includes peeing on the bike.)

Endurance sports have brought my family closer; madre's and padre's role as a perma parental cheer squad means almost every time we see each other, we have something fun to do and something to celebrate--and a reason (besides Jesus-related events) to get our bi-state clans together in the first place. Even padre got in on the action when we did a triathlon relay together last July--and won our division!

However, I know that if I made the same exact choices I'm making now regarding my training and race calendar and I had kids (sorry, Sir Gallahad, you're an independent kitty who can take care of himself for hours on end), I would be a Sinker, not a Plunger. It's all about priorities. And the three golden life factors: happiness, health, and relationships.

Have a kick butt, happy, healthy, friend-filled 2009 season!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Tucson's Fabled Mt. Lemmon Climb

I always thought you could tell a true cyclist by where he/she chose to buy a house. No true cyclist, I believed, would buy a house at the top of a mountain, or a home with a ridiculously steep driveway.

How terribly wrong I was.

It turns out a true cyclist--a world-class cyclist--would do exactly that, forcing him/herself to get stronger with every pedal stroke back home. Screw spinning for the last 10 minutes of a workout to flush out your legs!

Case in point: Mr. Lance Armstrong, as cycling lore has it, rented a cabin at the top of Mt. Lemmon while training for Le Tour a few years back, so all of his training rides ended with the 26-mile climb (starting at mile marker 0) from about 2,500 feet in elevation to over 8,000 feet.

While not particularly steep (the grade never surpasses 5%, and it is possible to survive with an 11-21 cassette), there is no respite from climbing for about 20.5 miles.


It may not be HC or "hors cat├ęgorie", but it certainly rates as DA, a "disappearing ass" ride-- unless you stop at the Mt. Lemmon Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven to fuel up on pizza and cookies to begin the rear replacement process. (And to add a few pounds for a lightening fast descent!)

In Phoenix for Christmas, coachubby and I decided we should drive on down to Tucson to give the climb a shot. Little did we know that the day we chose to ride was the first day the road had been opened after a snowfall. The warm temperatures and saguaros and desert landscape at the bottom did not foretell the wet and sometimes icy roads awaiting 13-ish miles up.

With toe covers, leg and arm warmers, a wind vest, thick gloves, a jersey, and a tank top underneath, I was a sweaty mess at the bottom. Everything that could get rolled up, scrunched down, unzipped, and stuffed in a pocket got rolled up, scrunched down, unzipped, and stuffed in a pocket.

With "26 miles" in my head as the distance I had to climb, it was a surprise when a decent descent appeared at mile 20.5. Turns out you don't climb too much more after 20.5 to get to Summerhaven. But don't worry, you'll still get your 26 miles of climbing in since you must go back the way you came.

Coachubby and I passed hundreds of families sledding, having snowball fights, building snowmen, and shoveling snow into their pickup beds for some reason I could not comprehend.

Needless to say, I have never ridden by people reveling in a winter wonderland. Ever. Particularly while exposing my arms and legs to the elements.

The descent was scenic, slick, and fabulous. Everything I was wearing got rolled down, pulled up, zipped up, and yanked from my pocket. I was snug and happy. Even snow families returning to the desert were respectful of my space, and didn't pass until it was comfortable for us all. Cycling bliss.

So if you're going to Tucson and feel you have a little too much junk in your trunk, or just want to pretend you're Lance (or a host of other famous athletes who train down there) and get in a great approximately 4 hour workout (3 up, 1 down), DO MT. LEMMON!

You won't be sorry. Unless you get knocked off of your bike by an errant snowball.

For a comparison of Mt. Lemmon and other US rides (in the West) to Le Tour de France stages, check out this awesome article on Daily Peloton.

IF you're going to the Tucson Tri Fest in March, you have no excuse not to climb Mt. Lemmon!

Directions to Mt. Lemmon:
From I-10 E from Phoenix, exit on Grant road. Turn left onto Grant road (E).
Left on E. Tanque Verde Road. Stay on this road.
Left onto Catalina Highway. You'll see a sign for Mt. Lemmon, and a mile marker 0. You can park on the side of the road here, or ride from town to make the ride longer.