Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Week #21: It's an Adventure!

What a great achievement it was
To get a hotel room this late
I bet they charge by the hour here
The kind of place where you should bring your own UV ray

It's not a big problem with me, love
You don't look that hygienic anyway
I'm only here because
I want to twist the structure of my average day

I heard that song last week, found it strangely appealing, and had been meaning to download it to my phone. So when we arrived at the Travel Inn in Dekalb, IL Saturday evening and took in the scene, I couldn't help but let those lyrics slip back into my mind. Of course, that is the most pessimistic interpretation of the situation, which is really quite the opposite of how I really felt. I do have a weird phobia of hotel bedspreads, but that applies to any place that doesn't use duvet covers that get washed between every guest. However, I was very excited to be joining Dustin, Corinna, and Jesse on the journey to the Gravel Metric, and since I was the last-minute crasher to the car and hotel party, my gratitude for being included was definitely outweighing my usual level of neurosis. That alone is an awesome feeling. From that was born my slogan for the weekend: "It's an adventure!"

The room was tiny, with two double beds each shoved completely against its respective wall, one being smashed against the heating/cooling unit, with just enough space to walk between the two. We still managed to get all of the gear and bikes in there somehow, although my bike had to spend the night in the bathroom. A bike leaning right next to the toilet offers all kinds of opportunities for humor, though, so it was totally worth it.

This picture actually makes the room look bigger than it was.
See the bike on the dresser? Yeah, it was like that.

This has been in my desk drawer since Barry-Roubaix.
I am invited? Me, really? How could I resist?
So after an evening of bike prep and general silliness, I got a surprisingly decent night's sleep, and woke up ready for my first self-supported, self-navigated gravel event. And by "ready" I mean that I had to buy chamois cream and gels from North Central Cyclery an hour before the race, and was begging help from my travel companions to unscrew the top of hydration pack (hands are still jacked) and get my queue sheet holder set up in the parking lot before the race. In the end, I made it to the start line looking almost gravel-pro and feeling good.
Dialed in. Just like a real gravel racer.
The first half of the race went pretty well, although I learned that headwinds are an even greater weakness for me than climbing. I think I get used to not having to experience those much in Bloomington. I struggled to keep up with the main pack on the roll out, but started feeling good once we hit the gravel.

One of the highlights for me was when I looked down and saw that I was going over 20 mph on flat gravel while trying to bridge up to a groupetto of guys on fat bikes, and just couldn't quite do it because they were going too fast. The second highlight was passing a large group of people stopped at a seemingly random group of trees for an impromptu rest stop. One guy offered me a flask as I passed by, and while I love a good flask pass, it seemed a little too early in the day for it. I just hoped to find him again with fewer miles to go and take him up on his offer. I later found out that they also had two liters of wine with them and had stashed beer at random places on the course. I found this a little confusing, as even some of the employees of the host shop got lost because the course was secret beforehand, but those people knew where to stash their beer. Anyway, I consider an event where I say, "Man, those fat bike guys were fast" and "Man, those drunk people were fast" within a 30 minutes space a good day.

Unfortunately, I was never able to catch the fat bike guys or the drunk people, because I got hopelessly lost in section of a state park where we rode through mowed grass lanes with lots of off-shoots for about four miles. When I found a road again, it was completely the wrong one, and when some people who'd been behind me offered to just lead me back to Dekalb by whatever quick route we could find, I totally agreed.

We made it back as best we could, and it wasn't too eventful. At one point the others stopped to check the map right in front of a cemetery, and I found it just too ironic not to take a picture. Getting lost and taking pictures in front of cemeteries. It's what I do.

Anyway, despite not officially finishing, it was a great weekend. I had so much fun and talked to a lot of great people. When I got home Sunday night, I realized my abs were sore, and that it probably wasn't from the race. I think it was from laughing so hard so many times during the weekend. So despite a couple of bumps along the way, this adventure was absolutely worth it!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Week #20.5: Bonus Footage

This week's update is pretty late, because last Thursday I was having a particularly bad day at work after several nights of three-ish hours of sleep per night in a row and various other circumstances. Although things are kind of busy at work right now, my boss basically convinced me that I needed to back off from the go, go, go, crash pattern on which I've been operating lately and take some time off from work. I'd already asked off for Friday because my mom was coming to visit for the weekend and I wanted to get one good long ride before she came. I ended up taking Monday-Wednesday of this week off, too.

Even with six days off, I was still kind of go, go, go, but I still managed to get nine hours of sleep most of the nights, so that did wonders for my mental health. The go, go, go was pretty beneficial, too, since it was at least 80% doing things that I wanted to do and seeing people that I wanted to see.

I got to ride BCSP twice and Versailles once, although I still never got more than 30 miles in a single ride, due to time constraints, rain, etc., which was a bit disappointing. I've got to start pushing up to more like 60 or so soon for the 6 hour series. I also got to do touristy stuff with my mom and spend a lot of time with friends, so it was a good time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Week #19: Handicapable

I would love to tell you that my hands are all better now, but alas, I'm really not sure if they have improved at all in the last week. I was able to do a couple of road rides during the week and use the shifters semi-normally, but it took a lot of concentration and effort. Regardless, I made some good steps towards getting back into my groove and accomplished a week that at least looked something like my routine prior to the Death March. Then I looked at my calendar and realized that, after a visit from my mom next weekend, I will have about five weekends off from racing for the rest of 2013. That is if I do all the remaining DINO races after the one I'll miss this weekend, which is the plan as of now. However, it seems that me and DINO never go without our share of mixed feelings, and this season may come with more than most. So I think the theme from here on out will be to stick to routine as much as I can, but also to continue to go with the flow as needed.

The biggest positive note of the week is that I was able to get out and do a 50-mile gravel ride with Dustin and Corinna, which was exciting because I hadn't ridden with them in nearly two months and hadn't been on gravel since Barry-Roubaix. I can't believe how much time slipped away without my noticing. We did the route that we attempted on our first ill-fated ride together, but this time we finished successfully, despite Dustin experiencing shifter problems and me crashing within the first five miles. After that it went smoothly.

It was a hard ride for 50 miles, with strong winds and lots of chunky gravel. I was glad to have the "weekly ass-kicking" sensation back after missing it for so many weeks, although I was a little disappointed that it only took 50 miles to induce. I managed to get through the whole thing despite my "handicap", and by the end of the ride, I was so used to my awkward shifting method that I barely even noticed it anymore. It probably helped that the route was pretty flat (flat does not mean easy in gravel-land) and a lot of the time I would just mash up the little risers to avoid shifting. Good singlespeed training, I guess.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Week #18: Not So Normal

My main goal for last week was to reestablish a normal routine now that I'm fully set up in my new house and done with traveling for a while. Let me just say that I failed miserably. This was due to several factors, the greatest of which was that I did nerve damage to my hands at the Big Frog, and now I have sort of tingly/numb fingers, poor fine motor control, and really weak grip strength. On top of that, all of the stress of the past weeks finally go to me after I got home from Big Frog and I found myself getting hit when overwhelming bouts of exhaustion, stomach aches, and general ennui all week. Pair this with numb hands that currently won't allow me to operate SRAM road shifters, and all attempts at training went down the drain, with the exception of a SS mountain bike ride on Thursday night.

I also had to deal with the messed up bike from the Big Frog, and I spent all week procrastinating about going into the shop to get some Muc-Off with which to clean my bikes. I finally broke down and went in early Thursday morning, got them cleaned Friday night, and discovered that my geared bike was pretty much screwed. That pretty much scrapped any remaining thoughts I had of racing the DRT time trial at BCSP on Sunday, but that was fine since it got cancelled, anyway. I was hoping not to have to take a bike into Adam's shop for repairs quite this soon, but I had to do what I had to do and took it in this morning. Hopefully that won't be too weird.

With racing off the table, I still had a pretty good weekend. I went to Indianapolis so that my friend Sarah could do some acupuncture on my screwed up hands, and also just because I'd been wanting to go up and hang out with her for a while, anyway. I think the acupuncture helped some, but she thinks it's basically inflammation that will take some time to clear out. Now that things have calmed down, I need to focus on managing stress, getting better sleep, and good nutrition to try to give it a better chance to heal. For this weekend, though, it was enough to go out to dinner, have some drinks, not mountain bike because of the rain, and walk around the neighborhood touring open houses. Maybe not the best thing from a training perspective, but good for the soul.

One good thing that interfered with my training this week was the arrival of my new kitten, Clementine aka Clemmie. I missed my Tuesday night weight workout to stay home with her and Mushu for their first evening together to make sure they got along okay. Mushu spent a lot of time hissing at her for the first few days, but they are starting to come around, sleeping together and playing a bit.

So this week is once again going to be another attempt to reestablish normal. I went so far as to post the above note on my refrigerator to help me manage the household on top of work and training. I figure it's best to break it all into small chunks and not let thing pile up. I'm going to go on road ride after work today, even though I still can't shift normally. I have to take my hand off the bar and punch the shift lever with my fist to go to an easier gear, but I guess I'll make it work. I'll get all of this stuff figured out eventually.