Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spending some time on the course

So, this weekend was the last BIG training weekend for me for Race Across the West (coming up on June 17th) and stacked in with a big 3-Day weekend last weekend of 513 miles. But this weekend was me, girl alone, vs. the route that crosses Colorado.

I headed out to Antonito on the south east corner of Colorado Friday night. Got in to my hotel around 9:30, asked the innkeep if I could leave my car there and told him I'd be back on Monday. Quickly to bed and the alarm started going off at 6:00, though my pedals didn't turn til 6:45.

Saturday: Got up and pulled Artemous from the car. Loaded a backpack with raingear, credit card and ID, food, cell phone, and my new SPOT device. My plan was to ride the RAW course backwards to Durango, CO and spend the night there. Started out with a 20 mile gradual climb, followed by 5 miles of steepness to cross La Mangia Pass (or what I like to call Bite Me Pass). The weather was cool, but not too bad and my attitude was pretty good. Went down the other side (WHEE!) into Chama, NM. There's a steam railway between the two (tourist attraction) that unfortunately crosses the road a few times. WHAM. Hit one crossing at 45mph hard and I felt it. Stopped and saw my rear wheel was no longer true. Loosened the brakes and groaned a bit but was overall glad the damage wasn't worse. Saw a big plume of black smoke and cars pulled over on the road and it turns out this was opening day for the railroad.

Stopped in Chama for a cappuccino and watched the sites... townsfolk dressed in historical clothes and street fair atmosphere.

Left Chama to head towards Pagosa Springs. The route here was small rollers for about 20 miles then big rollers (a 1, 3, 4,and 5 mile climbs). Very pretty, lots of baby cows and horses. Got into Pagosa Spings around 2:00 and decided to have some pizza. As I was leaving the skies were starting to darken and that when things started to get interesting. The next 50+ miles were rain, hail, rain, and more rain.

Missed a turn, which gave me a shorter route than planned, but now I got to go across another pass with lots of dead deer on the side of the road. Scenic? Would have been without the deer and water. Made it to Durango at 7. (155 miles, 10:40 ridetime, 12 hours real time) Checked into the hotel and first showered the bike, then myself, and ordered in some Chinese delivery. Watched the game, and Drew (who got a late start) drove in around 9:30.

Sunday: All night it rained. Drip. Drip. Crap. And, my nose decided to start in on the fun. Drew decided to head back to Denver at 6:30 am and see if he could find dry land. I sat in bed like an abandoned puppy... wanting to go but knowing I needed to stay. My head was stuffed up, throat sore, ears sore, and did I mention it was raining.

Decided to go easy on Sunday, waited until the rain stopped at about 11 and rode the route out towards Cortez, CO. Misread the map and after an hour I was really discouraged by how hard I was working on a downhill. Looked again and it was uphill. Okay. That's better. Crested the hill and found I had to work the downhill too due to a strong West wind. Gave up after 24 miles, turned around and flew up the hill, then down 18 miles into Durango. Ate well, to bed early, tomorrow was the long day back to Antonito. (51 miles, 4:01 ride time)

Monday: Up and out the door by 6am. 5 mile climb out of Durango then made the turn (I missed on Sat) and did a nice roller section followed by 30 mile easy grade climb back to Pagosa Springs. Then the big rollers... uh oh. BIG storm brewing behind me. Found a RV park store right as the storm broke. Hung out there for awhile chatting with the owner... he has cats... lots of them... He started creeping me out asking why a "lil thing like me is out here all alone" so I thanked him for the shelter and headed out. Now the little rollers, the sun came back out, and I'm back to Chama. Stopped at the same gift shop for coke and cheetoes (dreaming of real food, but it is Mem Day evening in Chama NM). The store owner says that if my crew stops there he will give them some free fudge for me to eat at the finish of RAW.

Time to climb. 20 gradual miles, 3ish steeper, drop 5, then 5 miles to the top of Bite Me pass. Here we go. Hit the steep section and the rain drops start. Hit the first summit (10,100) and it starts to snow.
CRAP! I stop and assess the situation and I'm just screwed. Nowhere to go but continue. The drop was cold, but the next climb warmed me up.

But then badness. As I dropped off Bite Me pass my hand and feet froze, as did my brakes. I could barely control the bike, going 45mph. Finally stopped it and pulled off my wet gloves. This helped thaw my hands a little, I pulled my arm warmers down over them and continued on.
It's not like I had any choice.

Finally made if off the steep section and then it was an easy cruise into Antonito (20+ miles, 20+MPH). My feet were ice blocks, and I was a shivering mess when I hit the hotel at 8:30pm. Asked the innkeeper if there was any food around, and the restaurant nextdoor had just closed but he called and they threw together a cold ham sandwich for me (bless them! Wonder bread, American cheese and ham never tasted so good). Showered and crawled into bed.
169 miles, 12:34 ride time, 14+ hours road time.

Tuesday: Woke up with a good solid cold. Ears, nose, head all stuffed up. Coughing, sneezing, the works. SICK SUCK! Decided to ride the last climb towards Taos easy, just so I could feel it. Then, coast back to the hotel. (45 miles, 3:10). Drove the last part of the course into Taos. Had a good lunch (poached eggs on Spanish rice... YUM! I wish I knew how to make poached eggs!). Thought about riding the tail of the course but a look at the sky changed my mind fast. Bought a cool amber bracelet to remind myself where I am going... then drove home.

Now: Hmm... got a pretty serious spring cold going full steam today...
glad to have seen/felt most of the last 275 or so miles of the course...
really really glad I will be racing with a crew... Artemous will be visiting the shop again tomorrow for a cleanup, wheel truing, and 170 cranks... time to recover/taper/start the freak...3 weeks til race time...

Thanks for reading...
OCN: 5784 miles this year...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The leash...

You may have noticed the new links on the left... they are my virtual leash. Drew got me a Spot, which will track where I am and update a map every 10 minutes or so. Should be really handy for RAW, and also for this weekend. I'm doing a 4 day ride down on the bike course and will be solo for a good bit of it, the Spot will help give us all piece of mind.

Another new link is the twitter feed. Christie will be tweeting during the race, and they'll show up here. If there is time/service she'll also be doing blog posts but the twiittering will give more real time updates.

Training update. Yup, doing alot of it. I had a 3 day back to back long ride weekend last weekend. It was tough, but good. Artemous (2) is sweet!

I'm pretty tired, but can see the end of the big training and I think that bright light in the distance is the train that is RAW screaming towards me.

I'll leave you with a picture of my heart... or at least 4 big pieces of it...
OCN: 5351 miles so far this year...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recovery week...

I've been enjoying a nice recovery week. The pups are having fun playing with each other, I've discovered another yummy recipe (a cold shrimp/avacado/tomoato/lime mixture on fresh wheat tortillas), the house is gradually becoming clean again... and... tomorrow is Saturday and I get to turn off the alarm and sleep in as long as I want!!! It's been too many weeks since I have done that.
Artemous 2 should be arriving soon (thank you Kestrel!), and I will be all ready for my next big training push. May 16th to 26th looks like a doozy and by the end of that set I should be ready to go. The race is less than 6 weeks out... have much to do to get ready!
OCN: 4676 this year... yeah, it's been a seriously low mileage week!

Monday, May 4, 2009

24 Hours of Misery, I mean Davis

Short story on the race this weekend... I got 2nd of 4 women in incredibly bad conditions (50's and solid rain through the day which finally relented at night, only to start up again a half hour before the finish). I wasn't pleased with my total mileage (~290), and I'm not thrilled by how badly I hurt today (from cramping on the downhills in the wet cold), but at least it was a really good mental toughness race.

The long story...

We arrived at Winters, CA on Friday morning and it was raining. Had a nice lunch, went to the hotel to unpack our bike boxes, got in a short ride (1 hour in, oh yeah, the rain), checked in at the race and stashed our bike boxes under someone's RV (they said we could), good dinner and to bed early.

Woke up Saturday morning and looked out the window and it was DRY! Thus the debate began. What to wear. The skies looked like they were clearing, forecast was 30% chance of rain. Hmm. Drew was doing the 12 hour race, and I was doing the 24. We decided to start in normal tights and a light rain coat, and stash rain pants in a drop bag half way through the day loop in case conditions changed. They started the race in a TT format, I was at 6:34:45, and Drew at 6:35. Time to go!

Rode easily and happily through the orchards. This is going to be a great day. A big 162.4 mile day loop to start. Hit some climbs, but it's all good. Starts misting a bit. Crossed over a cool dam.
Somewhere in the first half hour it started raining for good. No worries. One gal screamed by me, and another was right in front of me on the first big climb of the day. I tried to keep her in sight, then caught up to her on the downhill. We introduced ourselves (she's Patty Jo... an older gal with a huge ultracycling resume and lots to talk about) and spent the next flat section chatting (you are allowed to ride with another racer for 15 minutes and we took advantage of it). Hit the next climb and we repeated her getting ahead, me catching up on the down.

The course was truly scenic, going through the mountains next to Davis. I was soaked, and cold but trying to have fun. My whole body cramped up on the downhills even as I tried to spin easy to stay loose. Sucked down the Nuun but the elecrolyes couldn't save my muscles from the cold rest/wet/work triad. Got to the first aid station (~50 miles in) and enjoyed a PB&Honey sandwich. There was a triathlon going on so got too see the pointy end of the bike leg as I continues on (getting passed by guys wearing next to nothing tri suits and slowly turning blue). Came to the biggest climb on the course (~10 miles with some good steep pitches) and shivered my way up it.. Really made the wrong call on clothes.

The 2nd aid station was about 3 miles from the top. Got there and the aid station folks stared dressing me in trash bags, then Patty Jo walked over. She'd had enough and called it a day. Pulled out a bag of clothes and the three of them stripped me to shorts and a sports bra and then proceeded to dress me in all of Patty's dry clothes. From this point on I could not complain about the cold! If anything I was too warm on the climbs (and she's a bit taller than me so I looked a bit like a papoose). She and her crew offered to be my support crew (Drew and I were part of the few soloists without crews) and of course I said yes! Headed up the rest of the climb and they waited for me at a tricky turn on the downhill.

Saw them ever hour or so after that, I rode on staying warm and laughing at the absurdity of the weather. Came an intersection at around 100 miles and Patty Jo's car was there and she and Drew got out. Eh?? He missed a turn, got in an extra 20 miles, and when he finally got on course he ran in to Patty Jo and a few other support vehicles at this intersection and asked for a ride home. Patty Jo said she was crewing for Leslie, he had a "My Leslie?" minute and her crew went back in another vehicle and now she and Drew were my crew.

Downhill. 5 mile climb. Aid station (with Cup of Noodles). Turn to what should have been 30 miles of loveliness but was spoiled by a headwind, bad pavement, and the ever present rain. Finally made it in off the day loop in just under 13 hours. Yikes. I was WAY behind plan.
Took a long (30 minute) stop to change back into my own clothes (had my nice rain gear in the car), at some veggie soup, lubed up Artemous and headed out on the first of many night loops. The night loops were 18.4 miles and pretty quiet as many folks dropped out or switched over to the 12 hour race. The only gal left, Sandy, was miles ahead of me. She was trying to qualify for RAAM (400 miles at a 24 hours race), was local and trained on the course, had a great crew, and came at the race ready to do it... conditions got her as well and while she had a better day than me she did not make it.

So the night loop. Pretty much flat, 2 sections (2 miles each) of icky pavement, one section (4 miles) into a headwind. The rain stopped and most of the night was dry... by 5am the roads were even dry except for some puddles... All in all not bad. Around 4am I started getting sleepy. Shut my eyes on the bike a few times and jolted awake. Came in off that lap and tried to drink a shot of instant coffee with sugar (BLECH)... knew I needed to so something because falling asleep while riding wasn't the thing to do. Got a Vivarin from someone... Did the trick! Went back out still sleepy but able to stay awake.

I held my focus pretty well through the race, never just pedaled it in, but was never able to really make up the speed I had lost. Went out on my last lap with intent, crossed the 13 mile mark at 6:34 (you get credit for the last mile you make), and then the skies opened up again.
I was drenched and just had to laugh as I soft pedaled the last 5.5 miles to the finish.
Changed clothes, boxed up the bike, and spent the day travelling to get home last night. I'll unbox Artemous tonight and do some serious cleaning.

Another not so confidence building kind of day. I was 50+ miles short of my goal, 30+ short of my last 24 hour race in February. This week is focused on recovering. The weekend after next is a good challenge weekend (back to back 200 milers) and I can only hope the weather will be good, I can have good solid rides, and will start thinking about how I am going to rock at RAW and stop calculating just how little I can sleep so that I can make the cutoffs...

Tired and flat but hoping the optimism will return, Leslie

OCN: 4660 this year
And.. how to not smile at least a little at how maddy is spending her days at Drew's office...