Thursday, July 30, 2009

Race Across Oregon--A Bonk For A Better Brain

The good far outweighed the ugly in RAO, a fact that does not probably seem apparent from my first two race posts.

Shortly after the first checkpoint, when I felt like a roasting slug, I came upon Mr. Bonk, the guy with the "best name in cycling!" as race director George Thomas said at the pre-race meeting.

A skinny guy whose face I never really saw, Mr. Bonk decided at the last minute to do RAO, as evidenced by the handwritten name on his crew's van. (The rest of us got sleek, printed numbers with our names on them. I felt like a pro.) He was wearing what looked like either a homemade aero helmet, or the very first one ever created.

I rode up along side him for a few seconds--very important, sacred seconds--during which he said something to the effect of, "Those guys went out way too fast. I'll bet they all drop out. We'll see who's still around at 3pm tomorrow!"

"YEAH! YEAH!" I said. They went out way too fast. I'm pacing myself just perfectly. As long as I stick to my race strategy to not really stop ever, I'll be toasting my own victory by sundown tomorrow.

I was renewed.

I rode on for 200 glorious, happy, thrilling miles, through the 98-degree heat. Up countless climbs. Into headwinds. I was slightly irked to see a windfarm--obviously, this route was always windy. And somehow, it managed to always be windy in my face, with one notable exception: a 4-ish mile steeper climb. The wind was at my back, but I wished it was in my face, because it was hot!

I began to see other competitors. I rode up along side a very young man and we chatted for a minute.

"Is this your first time?" I asked.
"Yeah. My dad's doing it, too."
"Who's your dad?"
"He's riding a recumbent."
"Bananaman is your dad!" I blurted out.
Youngin' seemed confused.
But he won style points for having a Prius as a SAG vehicle.

I rode almost the entire day hopping around Mr. Bonk, and Doc Martin, known to my crew as "Beefcake". I choose "Doc Martin" because his van said "Martin" on it. They choose "beefcake" because his son, who was crewing for him, was huge, in an I-can-bench-press-half-of-these-skinny-cyclists kind of way.

The race was practically on the longest day of the year, and after 15 hours of riding, I was excited for nighttime. It would be cooler, and there would be less to focus on. Not that there was much in eastern Oregon to look at anyway.

We pulled into the check point around mile 206, which also happened to be one of the few places with a gas station along the route. It seemed like everyone in the entire race was there, filling up their cars and stomachs. I changed shorts, shoved enough potato chips into my mouth that my crew decided they should buy more, believing I'd finish off a bag right then. My "salty" stash of food had been raided. The "sweet" box had not even been looked at.

I was trying to stay on a mostly liquid diet, particularly because it was hot. And to my astonishment, I never once cramped, and I had to pee regularly--and at this point, I was in front of Mr. Pee-Bag! Every time I had to pee, someone had to hold up a towel so I wouldn't moon my competitors. All that time I spent squatting hadn't taken away from my race.

I felt rad. No pee-tube needed.

I hopped right back onto the Bullet, smoking competitors out of the gas station, and rode into the night.

There were several climbs, but they were peaceful, and the sight of the flickering orange lights of other peoples' support vehicles in the distance was encouraging; I was not alone.

A few teams passed me at some point.

My crew had to stare at my ass for 11 hours straight. (Mandatory riding within headlights from 7pm-6am.)

I was rocking it.

At some point, the scenery must've changed, because we were back into wooded mountains. It cooled off to a pleasant temperature, and we started to see deer everywhere! I was paranoid that I'd whack one on the very long descent before the next checkpoint.

Coming into Dale at mile 286, I was starting to get tired. My shoulders hurt like a biotch, which confused and surprised me. Shouldn't my legs hurt more than my shoulders? I had blisters on my palms.

I took a 15 minute pee/stuff-my-face break, and while I was stopped, Doc Martin blew through. That was it. I was going with him. I hadn't seen anyone for hours, and I enjoyed simply being within eyesight of anyone.

We zigzagged up mountains and into the morning.

I had planned on having a 300-mile party. It would be my first big stop. However, I'd already used my big stop in Dale, and 100 meters out of the 300-mile mark, a ridiculous storm blew--IN MY FACE! It started to rain, and the wind made it take an eternity to get to the 300 mark, where my crew threw a rain jacket on me, and took off--mandatory ass-staring was no longer enforced at that time.

I was ready to cry. The morning was beautiful--wherever I had ridden to was far more scenic than almost all of the first day's ride, but I was ready to fall asleep, the wind was trying to knock me over, and I had what the crew called "rollers" but were really mini-mountains for several more miles before I got the mental break of a right turn.

Just before the turn, I took my first nap by the river.

And that leaves us where I started the last post.

RAO was an epic adventure. I got to meet most of the people with whom I had been riding at the banquet on the 13th, and find out that Mr. Bonk made it 20 minutes before the cut-off. So did Sandy Earl. Doc Martin decided he'd finish no matter how long it took. It took him 54 hours.

And that's when I realized this: You're out there. Your crew is out there. You might as well finish, even if it's not official. Over 2 straight days of crispy-fry temperatures, cruel headwinds, and zero flat-recovery miles. Doc Martin turned out to be the most inspirational character of the whole pack. He credited his son, Beefcake, for getting him to the finish.

I told him I'd have to get one, then maybe I'd finish next time. ;)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Post Race (Across Oregon) Depression

I read about people getting down on themselves after competing in an Ironman. The newly depressed competitors had put all of their time and effort for months into achieving this goal, and once it's gone, they feel empty.

I had never experienced this.

Until now.

After my first Ironman, I had my wedding to look forward to. Then after the wedding, another Ironman. Then after that, RAO.

I have an exciting year at my dream grad school ahead of me now--one that will include competing in collegiate triathlon. This is my next big thing to look forward to.

But lately, I have been bummed. Super bummed.

I have never, ever quit a race before once I started (save for 1 xterra that I started with a broken foot. I didn't run). I have raced injured and sick, and I always made it to the finish line, often in good time.

Perhaps I had been setting my athletic goals too low, if they were always so easily achievable. But it has been haunting me that I dropped out of RAO with 141 miles to go and 14 hours in which to do it. Totally doable.

However my brain had never been asked to exercise for 48 hours straight, and at about 29 hours into RAO, it started to crack. I finally understood that it is entirely possible to fall asleep while riding my bike.

After a 30-minute "nap" that constituted laying down in the minivan around mile 310 while my crew sat by a creek and was subsequently eaten alive by mosquitoes (even while peeing...butt bites!), I decided I'd make it to the next aid station, then take a real nap.

I took a 5-hour energy, which did nada. "Oh shit!" I thought. (Only later did I realize there's no caffeine in normal 5-hour energys. D'oh.)

Close to 11am, I pulled into the Spray check point. It took me what seemed like (and was) an eternity to cover the downhill-sloped rollers to Spray. When I arrived, we checked in, parked the minivan under a tree, changed my clothes (yes, "we" changed my clothes. I couldn't do it alone.), and I lay back down in the minivan. For almost 2 hours.

I wish I could say I slept, but I'm not good at sleeping. And I had never considered that strategic napping was something a 48-hour racer should seriously consider.

My competitors started to trickle in.

My crew didn't know what to say to me at this point. I verbally bashed my Silver Bullet, who had been nothing but nice to me throughout the entire ride--I had no saddle sores whatsoever. I said he had a fat ass.

Finally, after my crew shoved ice down my pants and strung some more ice in a t-shirt around my neck, I climbed back on. My shoulders hurt more than any other body part.

My stiff knees took a few miles to warm up again, but they got into a nice rhythm. Other crews had weed-sprayers filled with water and doused me. I'd have rather jumped into the beautiful river to my left.

Then the sustained climbing began again.

I went one mile up the mountain. My legs stopped.

"I'm done." I told my crew.

"What!? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to the next check point." I glared at them, then went another mile. My legs stopped.

"I don't want to climb another inch."

"What!? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to mile 400!" I glared at them, then went another mile. My legs stopped.

""Why did you stop? You're hauling! Keep it up. Come on, let's make it to the top of this climb!"

"I don't give a shiz about this climb any more. Or mile 400. I'm gonna pass out."

Coachubby and my crew didn't know what to do. We stood there. My competitors slugged by. I was baking. My brain needed sleep and was trying to shut all systems down against my will. My legs were trying to keep going, but the Big Kahuna was continually trying to off them, cutting their power supply.

I had terrible asthma--excercise asthma that is induced only, it seems, after over 28 straight hours of exercise. I wonder how many people have this kind of exercise asthma and will never know it. I took several puffs of the emergency inhaler I picked up after experiencing the "tube breathing" phenomenon during the Eastern Sierra double.

I was coughing meaty, gross coughs. Like coughing up a lung. Who knows, maybe I was.

Finally, I came to a stop next to a mile marker.

"This is 376 miles into the ride, right?"
"Yes," said my crew.
"What about 400?"
"I couldn't care less."
"I just don't want you to hate yourself later. I want you to know that even coming this far is an amazing accomplishment, you know that, right? We're behind you and proud of you whatever you want to do," said coachubby.

I handed him the Bullet.

And now, almost 3 weeks later, I hate myself for having done that.

Coachubby knows me too well.

This, too, shall pass. Soon, I hope. Being depressed is a motivational death sentence.This is why I haven't been blogging much recently. (Well, that, and coachubby and I had an awesome vacation driving down Highway 1 from Oregon back to LA the week after the race!)

So there you have it--the RAO race report sans the middle, which will come soon. The middle 240 miles were the absolute best ever. Heavenly cycling.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Great White Shark Spotted off of Malibu

A friend just sent me this.

Great White Spotted at Malibu!

The caption opines that the shark sightings increase during grunion spawning, but I'm opining that after several years of hearing about the Hermosa-Manhattan Pier to Pier swim and Surf Festival, the sharks are getting smarter about finding feasts.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Race Across Oregon-- Mind vs. Body

Brain failure came approximately 376 miles and 34 hours into the race--I will not count my longest ride by 131 miles and 11.5 hours as an actual failure failure.

But let's back it up.

Date: July 11th, 2009. 0500 hours.
The plan was to wake up at 0400 hours, eat a Skinny Elvis, and roll to the race start in front of the beautiful Best Western in Hood River, OR.

That all went as planned, except I hadn't been asleep, a requirement for waking up. I was up all night with my stomach twisted in knots--a feeling I haven't had since racing on the swim team my freshman year of high school.

Hours earlier, Race Director and multiple RAAM finisher, George Thomas, asked me if I was nervous.

"I only get nervous when I have to go fast," I said. Don't ask me where I pulled that out from. What an asinine thing to say.

At that point, let's say 6pm on the 10th, I wasn't nervous. Nervous hasn't been a part of my race vocabulary for years. Excited to kick ass, yes. Nervous? No.

I got nervous the instant I lay down to sleep. Even Stacy and Clinton from TLC's "What Not to Wear" couldn't calm me through makeover magic.

And so I rolled up to the start in my pink arm warmers, bright blue hand-me-down jersey, and Frankenbike aka Silver Bullet ready for a nap.

Let's back that up even more.

I'm addicted to endorphins. And while my muscles and right knee very much appreciated and very much needed the three week taper I took after the Boggs 24-hour mtn bike race, my brain reeled from endorphin withdrawal.

Mr. Thomas led the pack of solo riders out the first 9 miles of the course in a neutral start. Evil, self-defeating thoughts that have never, ever entered my brain during a race were at the forefront of my mind the instant my right knee started to hurt like a biotch whenever we went uphill.

I was almost dropped on the little HC climb in the first mile.

However, the neutral start offered some happy-inducing perks, like picking handles for my fellow cyclists that these riders would unknowingly carry throughout the entire race: Mr. Pee-Bag, a young guy with a suspicious tube coming out of his pants, taped to his leg with an opening by his foot, and Bananaman, an older man on a recumbent with a huge yellow fairing.

A self-proclaimed Doctor riding to my right told me he did not find Mr. Pee-Bag's decision medically favorable. I agreed.

The peloton's camaraderie and the gorgeous, forest scenery began to pick up my spirits.

Then Mr. Thomas stopped, and the race started. Straight up a mountain. For over 20 miles.

When I spotted my crew for the first time, around 7am, I was ready to ask for a prescription-only dose of Advil. Not the best way to start any race. I took my mind off of the evil knee by studying other people's crews, their vans, their setups, and their peeps. The riders were still close together at this point, so there were crews cheering everywhere.

(My van & Crewmember Tom)

I pretended to be Lance on Mt. Ventoux, cutting through the crowds. Except this climb was probably hors cat├ęgorie n├ęgative--like so gradual it wasn't a graded climb. No matter, the endorphins were kicking in for the first time in 3 weeks, and I was rocking out.

(My crew on 1st climb: Coachubby, Robyn, Tom)

Then came an almost 40-mile descent during which I was crushed by everyone who lagged behind me on the climb. I pointed out one, VW Bug-sized pothole in the beginning, only to be skunked seconds later by at least 4 people. And I thought I had made my Bullet so stinkin' heavy with its aerobars and a honkin' 11-28 cassette.

I was sad, which was a huge surprise; why did I suddenly care where I was 4 hours into a 48 hour race? I'll be the underdog who comes from behind to take the win! No, you won't, you're descending like a slug! Stupid brain! Stop it!

I had told my mom, who drove to Oregon with me, that the race was going to be all mental--that it could only hurt so much, and we were all physically capable of finishing, but the mentally toughest would persevere.

She kindly listened to my pre-race babble, thinking I was a nut job mentally and physically for entering.

But I sincerely believed I was as mentally tough as they come...until this moment; my brain was being a twit and it was only 75 miles into RAO.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Race Across Oregon Didn't Kill Me--I'm Back!

And older.

As of yesterday.

But only in numbers.

OK, and maybe in joint mobility after attempting RAO.

Should you have been checking the time stations on the RAO website, you might have noticed that after Spray, OR (yes, some place along the route was called Spray. And yes, jokes were made. Hydration jokes.), I disappeared.

(Me and my superhot crew minutes before the race start.)

Well, I didn't actually disappear. I did keep going.

Just not all the way to the next time station.

Full report coming soon, including head winds in all directions, 98-degree heat, freak storms, and special nicknames for all riders within my vicinity. Like Mr. Pee-Bag, Bananaman, and Mr. Bonk. OK, that last one was actually someone's name.

Thank you for all of your support!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Race Across Oregon- All Systems Go!...

...except for one very stubborn, cruel knee who will be beat into submission with Advil and Bengay. The quads are coming around. My lungs are ready.

It's time to see Oregon. A lot of it.

We've picked up the minivan, organized a ton of stuff all over the living room, and given the Silver Bullet a final tune up and some color (blue bar tape and tires!).

Now all that's left is to load up the minivan, pick up my mom from LAX, and get going to Oregon early tomorrow morning.

Coachubby will be flying into Portland Thursday afternoon where my mom will be traded for him, then it's off to Hood River, to be joined by my crew, Robyn and Tom, Friday night.

It's showtime!

Tune in to the RAO blog for updates on rider position and fun race updates next weekend!

I'll be back on the 20th.

P.S. Getting ready for this adventure has made Ironman look like a bargain basement endurance event. Yikes!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

24 Hours to Destroy a 25 Year Old Knee

Smart athletes can tell the difference between pain-pain and injury-pain.

Apparently, I'm smart on the inside, but have a tremendous ability to override reason with narrow, misguided focus.

The pain started somewhere around midnight during the Boggs 24-hour mountain bike race.

It was a 24-hour race, it was supposed to hurt, right?

Deep down, I knew it wasn't good pain. But I wasn't going to not ride for 24 hours. That was the point of the race.

I kept riding. My knee got worse.

I rode hills for the first time since Boggs today in an effort to gauge just how evil my knee is actually being.

I passed an older man on a fancy LeMonde in a fancy Ironfly kit while pedaling up a steep incline. I thought I was really chugging along, passing Mr. Fancy.

"Hi!" I said.
"You're doing great!" he said as he pulled up beside me, matching my effort.
"So are you!" said I.
"I'm 86!" says he.

Thus, I realized my 25-year old knee had gained approximately 60 years of wear and tear in 24-hours. (Either that, or my mtb saddle was too low...and the knee will heal.)

Now, 10 days after Boggs, I'm praying the lasting, point-specific pain in my inner right knee will somehow heal itself in the next 9 days, even though it hasn't in the past 10. 9 days are all it's got.

To prove my dedication to healing the rogue knee, I have iced it with peas, and done things against the very grain of my being, like taking Advil more than once a month, and sitting in icy-water. I hate cold. But I love my knee more. It should know that.

When the 9 days are up, it's showtime at Race Across Oregon. I'm asking my kneeright to at least hold off of the injured-pain until mile 526. Please, oh please.

And for fun, check out the only photos taken at Boggs. Coachubby spent the rest of the time making me pb&potato chip sandwiches.


Can you find me?

Just before the start.

Thank you, sir, may I have another loop?

Pre-race meeting. Spot the Erin?

Qeee chilling before getting dirty.