Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sunday I went out to Palos for the team's 'Take a Roadie Off-Road day." Cyclocross racing last year is the extent of my off-road experience, so it was super fun to ride the trails for 3+ hours. I rode my cross bike - which on one hand was great: I got a lot better handling that bike over, under and through all sorts of stuff. On the other hand my cross bike has extremely iffy brakes, so I was inhibited on the downhill sections. The chances of me losing control and riding right off the path, into a tree or a ravine because I could not stop the bike, slowed me WAY down.

And then I got lost - but that was my own fault. I wasn't even lost, I just lost contact with my teammates and wasn't sure which path was the one to take back to the parking lot. I picked one and rode out until I got to this crazy 30 foot ravine and decided that wasn't happening on the cross bike. So I turned around and chose another path . . . that took me in a big circle back to where I started. Finally I decided to go back the way I came - and eventually met up with someone looking for me [Yay Pat! You rock!]. Turns out that path was also a big loop and took me about 150 yards away from where I'd been lost. Heh. The route out of there was twisty enough that I would never have found the way on my own.

Happily for the guys looking for me, I was easy to spot. Everyone remembered seeing the tattooed woman on the cross bike.

All the off-roadies were amazingly patient and encouraging. And the BBQ at Seegs home afterwards was a blast.


As for my injury, I had an Active Release session yesterday and that went well. The doc thinks my piriformis has enough scar tissue built up that it isn't moving properly against the other muscles and my sciatic nerve - which is why I'm feeling the pain traveling to my lower back and down my leg. Active Release helps breaks up the scar tissue.

I also had Coach adjust my bike fit. I'd never gotten my new saddle in quite the right position and I think that is the main culprit in my becoming injured. This morning, my leg and hip felt tight and occasionally painful, but not anything like it has been.

Of course, I was being careful to stay in my endurance zone and not push too hard this morning. Coach does NOT approve of me riding harder than I'm supposed to ride on endurance and active recovery days. And he's right - I don't have the energy to really do a good hard workout when I'm supposed to because I ride tempo and chase down any rider who goes by me when I'm supposed to be recovering. My legs are never fresh.

I have to change my mindset - I have to be more disciplined. More is not always better. I have to let go of my pathological need to prove to all the random pathletes that I can ride away from them. I have to let go of my need to win the great commuter race down Milwaukee Ave. It will have to be enough to just KNOW that I COULD crush their pathetic spirits under my wheels. This will take more mental toughness than spinning drills or TT intervals. Arg.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I have a new stem - angle is MUCH more comfortable. Added benefit: the brakes work better. I'm heading out to Palos for "take a roadie off-road day" tomorrow. Should be fun! I don't have a mountain bike, so I'm riding my cross bike - the ride leaders say this will be fine. Some other teammates aren't so sure. Oh well - what's the worst that could happen?

Team ride today. Slow ride to HP, then a fast ride up to Old School and back. I got popped off the back a couple times, but conveniently placed stop lights kept me with the group. My fitness isn't exactly where I want it, but it was a GREAT workout.

I raised my seat slightly and my hip/leg thing felt much better. Still tight, but not painful until Evanston on the way back. And then, boy howdy did it hurt! Every pedal stroke was like knives. Nothing for it but to ride home, so I focused on breathing (that helps) and kept going. At home, I stretched and used the roller. Something is really wrong, I think. F!

I have an active release appointment on Monday. That's worked well in the past.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pain, pain, pain, when will it end.

Still struggling with this stupid hip thing. I keep thinking its getting better, then I ride and its just as alarmingly painful as before. The massage has helped, the ice and ibuprofen help, but I think its time for the next step. Active Release has really helped me in the past, so I'm going to call today. After that, AthletiCo. Or my GP. Arg.

In the meantime, I've been thinking a lot about the cross bike. Number one thing to change is the stem. I used one I had, and its the wrong angle - which put my handlebars in a position that has aggravated my elbows and made the bike feel weird to ride. New stem today!

I'm researching brakes [thanks for the offer, Allen! - I'll send you an e-mail], and I'm going to use the carbon seatpost and saddle from my road bike. Wheels will make the biggest difference - these are my options:
- Mavic Ksyrium elite clinchers. I used these last year.
- have cross tires glued to my HED stingers. These are my primo road race wheels - do I dare use them for cross??
- find a cheap and relatively lightweight set of tubular wheels - like the Easton EA70x. Definitely need to be cheap - but will cheap tubulars be any better than the Ksyrium elites?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

After a month-long, coach-imposed hiatus from racing, I entered the 8/12 Soldier's Field criterium. I had so much fun four weeks before, I felt strong and attacked from the line. This time, still recovering from a cold and five weeks off my peak, I was not so ambitious. I sat in a lot and concentrated on improving my pack skills - rolling smoothly through the corners without touching brakes and etc. I put in a few digs and had no problem staying with the front group. There were two other cat 3s this week - all the women race together, but the cat 4s are scored separately from the 123s - and the three of us were watching each other. It came down to a bunch sprint, I sat second wheel through the last lap, saw the attacking start through the last corner and made my own move - I focused on pedaling faster rather than mashing through ever larger gears, and lost less ground in the sprint than usual. I took fifth overall by a bike throw - the first time that has worked for me! It was fun! Maybe I'll get the hang of this sprinting thing yet. I was second of the 123 women and won a gift card for a free Chipotle burrito.

Thursday, I drove up to Northbrook to race track. It was only the second time I'd been able to get to the track this year and I was really looking forward to it. I set up my trainer and camp chair, put on my skin suit and paid my fee. I got on my track bike - a bit tentatively at first - and started to pedal around the track, warming up. There was a paceline I was considering jumping on, but as I rode round and round, my right hip really started bothering me. I'd felt something there the last lap or two at Soldier's Field, so I'd stretched it out and used the foam roller on it. But the more I pedalled, the worse it got. After 20 minutes, every pedal stroke increased the pain. I got off and texted my coach. Then I got back out there. First lap was OK. Second lap, not so great. I tried a sprint, and put myself into agony. I pulled into the infield. Coach texted back - sit out tonight. Arg.

Friday I had a massage. There were huge knots in my piriformis and my illiac was like piano wire. Nothing was moving smoothly. I came out of the office feeling bruised and beat up. I spent the evening in the embrace of an ice pack and ibuprofen.

Saturday. Downer's Grove. I wasn't sure what to do. I hated to pass up the last 3/4 race of the season - a race I could do well in. But I really didn't want to make my injury worse. I rode out to DG with Courtney and Jannette. We kept to a pretty relaxed pace - but I still found myself riding one-legged. There was less pain, but I felt like my piriformis had been bisected and laid open. It felt raw. And it affected my whole leg - there was shooting pain in the front of my hip, an ache down my hamstring, discomfort in my quad, tightness in my calf, and cramping in my foot. It was tough to let it go, but I ended up not racing. I cheered through my frustration at not being a part of the action. However, it was FANTASTIC to see my teammates, Courtney, Dana and Natalie, all finish in the front pack!

I rode home alone - my companions wanted to stay and watch longer than I was able to. I had the tailwind, and was able to crank up my speed a bit. Keeping a steady pace lessened my discomfort. I was delighted to make it home in 83 minutes - and it was great to ride somewhere OTHER than HP for once!

Sunday, I rode Old School with the girls. Mostly steady, with a few small digs here and there - Heidi attacked up University Hill and I tried to counter. Sitting on the front into the wind or pushing uphill, I could feel my hip protesting, but it was really doing better. Monday, I spent an hour on an elliptical trainer, just to move my legs a different way.

Today I hit the Lakefront Path with my TTT partners for some paceline practice. I have the aerobars clipped on and my TT seatpost pushing me forward. SO WEIRD. We practiced at endurance pace, just trying to get used to each other again. Once I realized I only have to use the aerobars when I'm on the front, I was able to relax into the process. Hip and leg feel very tight, but doing better. I'm stretching out at my desk throughout the day. I'm going to try racing track tomorrow.


I've been contemplating my cross bike. Peter Allen has the same frame as I do - a larger version even - and his bike is much lighter than mine. Yes, its partly the wheels and partly that he has a single chainring while I have a double. But I think I can make my bike more comfortable and more efficient than it is.

My first step will be a new stem. To cut costs last year, I used some components I had laying around. And this stem is just wrong. Wrong angle, wrong material. I want something much closer to the geometry on my road bike.

I went with Ultegra shifters and deraileur. I'm used to Shimano and it was way cheaper than the dura-ace. I could possibly sell the ultegra and upgrade with some SRAM through the team deal. Or maybe I should spend that money on lighter wheels? Tubulars? I have the HED stingers . . . I guess I could have cross tires glued on. Paolo did that.

And I don't like my brakes. I have the euros - the triangle is HUGE - so they shed mud and muck really well. But they don't stop my bike - or even slow it very much, especially on pavement. The Ultegra levers just weren't made for cantilever brakes, I guess, so I have to grab really hard. And even then, I almost hit a pedestrian.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almost over the cold. My energy is pretty good. Thinking about racing Soldier's Field tomorrow and thinking about avoiding Downer's Grove on Saturday. I'll see what coach has to say.

Right now I'm feeling disappointed in my season thus far. I haven't seen any improvement. Not sure what to do about it.

Looking forward to the Team Time Trial.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Still sick. I feel 5% better than yesterday and 10% better than Wednesday. Should I race on Sunday? I want to, I've really been looking forward to it. But the time trial I rode on Wednesday morning didn't go well - I simply couldn't make my body work as hard as I know it can, and it wasn't for lack of trying. Afterwards I was completely destroyed. Completely. Not the usual I'm-going-to-hurl-unless-I-pedal-very-slowly-for-ten-minutes-and-then-I'm-OK destroyed, but a furious, sobbing mess unable to pedal faster than 9 mph for several hours.

I've had that experience once before: my second year at training camp I woke up with a bad cold on the second to last day - the day we were scheduled to ride up the backside of the Wall, a notoriously difficult route with some 20% grades. I ended up having to walk my bike up one steep section, and at the top was beyond furious at my 'failure' and beyond miserable with the cold. I basically went and sat by myself in the bushes and sobbed for no reason.

A low point, for sure. One I have no desire to repeat on Sunday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm sick. I hate being sick. I hate missing races and workouts. I hate feeling all trembly and sweaty in the wrong way when I do any sort of intensity. I just want to lie down and sleep for three days.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Eileen's 'into to cyclocross' clinic is this evening. I'm going to head out early to practice my flying dismounts and remounts - I haven't done anything like that since December. And I wasn't any good at it then.

I'm already excited about 'cross season!