Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross Day 2

Sunday morning came fast and furious after a night of bike cleaning, cyclo-cross kit washing and attempts at rehydration. I guess it was much hotter than we realized on Saturday – I had a wicked headache after the Saturday race that continued well into the evening…

Saturday night ended up being very chilled out – more salads and fruit from Wegman’s and some tasty pasta made at home. There was a Chopped marathon on so I kind of become glued to this for longer than is healthy…

Anyway, on to Sunday. We were up and out of the hotel in good time with lots of time to do some recon laps of Sunday’s race course. There were some small changes but nothing that was really a game-changer. Still very muddy with the big difference being that the mud run came right after the start and the course essentially ran in the opposite direction. Lots of time to relax before the race and I even had time to read a bit and momentarily lose a shoe… Marc was up first and I didn’t get to see any of his race since I raced next but he had another good day (although an early incident has left him with a black and blue finger).

I’ve written a race report over on the Race Reports page but in the event you don’t want to click over, here are the Coles Notes:
– lethargic start and first half lap
– got my head in the game and passed a whole lot of people to move up into 8th
– made a series of small mistakes that cost me time/space/distance and energy
– lost four spots
– fought back and finished in 10th
– my turning was much better with cleaner lines that allowed me to pedal and accelerate
– energy management (for the most part) was better – I used both chainrings this time and was aware of my cadence
– I was able to recover at times on the course
– running was not the best
– I should have changed my bike – Marc said I was likely putting out 60% power due to the mud in my cassette…
– I need to beat the mental hurdles I insert during the race – ignoring my breathing, ignoring the lap card that tells me I have to race for five laps, ignoring the feeling of having my shoes nearly sucked off

All in all, a good day on the bike.

Apart from the racing, the best thing about these weekends and the entire cyclo-cross season is connecting with our racing friends. It is amazing the bonds that are forged out there on the cyclo-cross course and over the season when we’re all slogging through mud, snow, ice and giving it our all. It was great to see so many friendly faces and to hear the cheers for “Go Canada” “Come on Ottawa” – this really is super.

After a pretty quick exit from the race course we were on the road by 4ish for the drive home. Thanks to some Starbucks coffee, a can of Mountain Dew and some filling eats at Cracker Barrel we made it home in decent time. We were welcomed by a very happy fat grey cat (Murphy our 17 year old kitten!) and I had a great package to open from Lolë. Can’t beat a package of new clothes after a weekend of racing – I tried on all of my clothes and I’m pretty excited to show off this fine line of Canadian clothing at the races and out and about – thanks Lolë for the support.

As for today? Well a recovery ride and some hot power yoga are on deck – for some reason my ribs and chest feel like they’ve gone ten rounds in the Taekwon-do ring – guess the running, the slogging and powering through the mud have woken up some under-used muscles!

Thanks for the words of support, the speedy vibes and the cheering – it really does make a difference! (Huge thanks to Marc – couldn’t do this without him!)

New Kit!!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook have likely already seen this, but if you don’t follow me on these social media channels (addictions) then have I got a good photo for you.

On Thursday the friendly FedEx man arrived with a cardboard box. And in this box was my brand new cyclo-cross kit for the 2011-2012 season. Boy oh boy does it look hot! The purple is awesome (my favourite colour). I’m super stoked with the clothing. This year I ordered a super duper warm winter jacket – this is the ultimate jacket. It is neoprene with fleece inside – yes, I think it will keep me darn toasty for the season.

Before I post a picture of the new skin suit, I need to send out a big thank-you to Sean at Champion Systems Canada for the amazing support and patience. I also need to send a big shout out to Allison for the great design – if you’re looking for a designer – she is the one you need.

Alright here is a picture of the new short sleeve skin suit (yes I need to post the back of the skin suit as well as show you a picture of the long sleeve skin suit – I’m slow with the connecting the camera to the computer step…)

So Very Close

Oh, spring is so very close. It is almost here. I can feel it. The sun is blazing these days and I love the sound of melting snow. (Yes melting snow makes a sound…) To top it off, I’m going to get myself outside for my ride today. With a high of 9 celsius, this is the perfect temperature for a first spring ride of the season.

I’m starting to feel my body coming around. Finally! I know that it takes time to rebuild fitness and strength but I think I’m on the way to feeling close to my old self. Mentally I really just want to ride more, run longer and go to more yoga classes. This is a good thing. I’m over the fatigue that I was battling in the first few weeks of getting back to training. My appetite has returned and my body is telling me that it wants to go.

The weekend of training was pretty good. A hard and challenging run on Saturday thanks to the melting snow and layer of slush. Wow – my legs were burning. Awesome! Sunday I had a date with my rollers and some tempo intervals. This was my first time doing intervals on the rollers – good news is I didn’t fall off and I learned that the faster I pedal the easier it is to ride the rollers.

I’m stoked to get outside this afternoon to get a good dose of Vitamin D and the feeling of wind in my face. Keep your fingers crossed that the promised warm temperatures do actually happen. There is talk of a ride to Merrickville on Sunday…

Thank-You Young The Giant

On Tuesday, Marc sent me an email with the MP3 file for Young The Giant’s song My Body. He also excerpted the following lyrics into the email:

My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more
My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more

Marc knew I would see this before hopping on my bike for an early morning tempo ride and then rushing off to the hospital for my weekly iron infusion. Some days this guy of mine is just so smart. The song and lyrics couldn’t have come at a better time. I got through the work-out but let me tell you 200 watts didn’t feel as friendly as it did this time last year. But I did it and got through it.

At the hospital I learned that the new medicine I’m taking is working and the measurable inflammatory responses in my body have dropped significantly and I also learned that I’m still severely anemic. Progress but with still one big barrier to feeling 100 per cent again. As I walked to my car, my eyes started to tear up. I was just so happy that the medicine is working because the alternatives to this medicine would have ended my bike racing career forever…

When I turned on the car, what song was playing on the radio? Yes, you got it My Body by Young The Giant. Funny how things work sometimes. I’m listening to the song now and you can click  here to listen as well.

My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more
My Body tells me no, but I won’t quit
Cause I want more, cause I want more

Ride, Stretch, Eat, Yoga, Live

This basically sums up life right now: ride, stretch, eat, yoga, live. My days are spent with these four actions as my motivators and my mainstays. Not such a bad way to get through the day. I admit that “live” is a rather broad term. I use this to sum up all the parts of my day that make up the “stuff” of life – things like reading, lounging, hanging out with Marc, chilling with friends and simply just being.

The riding part is pretty simple. Check my program and get down to business. Of course it would be much more pleasant if I was able to ride outside. This time last year I was happily pedaling up, down and around the streets south of Barrhaven. Not so right now, nope stuck in the basement on the trainer and rollers. In a way, considering that I’m technically still in a recovery phase (though I don’t want to admit this), it is probably best that I’m riding in a stationary mode.

Stretching always start with earnest. I have a foam roller and a few favorite stretches to work out the kinks in my hamstrings, psoas, glutes and quads. But the problem for me is it is easy to build the foam rolling and stretching into my routine when I’m riding in the basement  – the foam roller is there and the cushioned flooring makes it a pleasant place to stretch. I know that as soon as I get outside this rolling and stretching routine will fall by the wayside. So my goal for this year is to continue my rolling/stretching routine. Maybe I’ll have to leave the foam roller and yoga mat in the garage and do a little bit of outdoor rolling and stretching.

I think I need to change things, eating really is the easiest part. Who doesn’t like to eat? I love to eat and I love to try out new recipes and foods. I’ve learned over the years the importance of food as fuel and also remembering to enjoy food and the pleasure of eating. I think for some athletes, the pleasure of food disappears when there is a focus on performance and often some obsession with weight-management. Now, I’m quite focused on my weight management but I’ve also learned what I like and what works for me. If I have a craving – I give in. This is because 90% of the time I’m eating a clean and natural diet. Throw in the complications of ulcerative colitis with learning to eat for performance and happiness and eating can be a bit complicated. Luckily I’ve found my groove with the food and everyday I look forward to the tasty eats in my kitchen.

Ah yoga – I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy yoga. I particularly enjoy hot power yoga. There is nothing quite like feeling your body lengthen and relax in a hot room. The heat is so soothing for my muscles and more importantly I’m sometimes lucky to have my mind go quiet and I can simply just be. I’ve recently started taking yin yoga – this is done in a neutral temperature room and the focus is on holding seated and on-the-ground poses for three to five minutes. It is so super useful for athletes who often end up with muscle imbalances and chronically tight areas – such as the hip flexors or hamstrings.

Now for the really fun stuff: live. I’m super lucky to live a rich life. I have a lot going on and I always seem to have a full plate of options in front of me. There are always more books and magazines to read. Lots of time to relax and hang out with Marc and my friends. I really feel like I can choose any road presented to me and I’ll end up happy and content. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. It seems like my “to do” and “to get around to” lists are always growing and interesting.

Ride. Stretch. Eat. Yoga. Live.

The best part is not knowing what is around the corner…

Friday Afternoon Inspiration

Each one of us needs some inspiration once-in-awhile. With large parts of Canada and the U.S. being blanketed with snow today and this weekend, it can be hard to keep up the motivation to hit up the trainer or the rollers. This is when a bit of inspiration is useful.

This article sent to me by Ken Hoppner is an example of such inspiration: Back In Racing Form After Dropping The Fork. This article tells of João Correia’s return to professional racing after many years of working an office job. It is an interesting story and one that reminds us that really anything is possible – it is all up to you.

Perhaps you’d like your inspiration to be more of the visual sort? Well, the classics season kicks off on Saturday with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Omloop Het Volk) race. Check out cyclingfans.com for the live feed of this race. And if you still need more, tune in on Sunday for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. Watching these races will make your trainer/roller rides feel a little less bumpy and bone rattling.

If you’re still not inspired, there are lots of excellent cycling blogs to read or perhaps you’d like to read something longer like a book? First off we have a personal favorite of many cyclists: The Rider by Tim Krabbe – a short and easy ride about the clutches of a road race. And of course, there is always my book: An Unlikely Elite. I’ve received a few comments from readers who have said it is “motivating” and “an emotional roller coaster”. My book is available for free (though a donation to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada is deeply appreciated) and is in two formats: EPUB or PDF. Download the PDF here and the EPUB here.

As for me and my inspiration? Well, to be honest I don’t really need any inspiration these days. Having my 2010-2011 season end early due to sickness is all the inspiration and motivation I need. Not being able to ride, train or race showed me how much I value it. So I’ll be up with birds on Saturday morning for a 30 minute trail run followed by a 60 minute ride on the trainer.

Keep on keeping on – spring will be here soon…

Is It Spring Yet?

I’ve been home for two weeks now and I’d like it to be spring. Now. Not tomorrow or next week. Now. This white stuff is nice to look at but it makes riding outside hard. The trainer is okay but my brain is slowly turning to mush watching the television and pedaling to nowhere. Sure I have the rollers to keep me occupied and to give me something to work on. But still… I could skip all of the excitement the rollers bring and the guilt-free television watching for an early spring, dry roads, and an end to the snow.

It is times like this when I hear Tim’s voice in my head “But why do people live in such a cold place?”. Good question Tim. Wish I could answer it.

Complaining and moaning aside, I did get in a very good training session this morning. I waited until it was a balmy minus 11 (minus 18 with the windchill) and set out on a 30 minute run. This was my longest run of the season. Happy to say I ran farther than I expected and my legs and lungs felt pretty darn good. This slow and steady approach is paying off. When I got inside I did a quick change of the clothes and hopped on the trainer for 45 minutes of easy/moderate paced pedaling. Chased all this with some rolling out on the foam roller and some stretching.

Definitely a good training session. I’m nearing the end of my three-week training block of getting my body reacquainted with structured training. I’m looking forward to what is next. I’m expecting it will be a mix of more moderately paced rides/runs with some longer efforts combined with a bit more intensity. Whatever it is, I know that coach Steve has a good plan sorted out for me.

So my parents were here on the weekend and they saw the big box of Clif products we have in our kitchen… So of course, I let them sample the tasty goods. I think my dad is hooked on the Clif Kid ZBars (even though they’re made for kids, they make the perfect light snack) and my mom was intrigued by the idea of the Luna Caramel Nut Brownie bar (yes, mom a bar that tastes good and is good for you). All this to say, that I think we’ve got a couple more converts to eating natural and organic bars instead of the overly-processed stuff found in on the grocery store shelves. I couldn’t get them to try the Clif Shot Bloks or Clif Shot Energy Gels though… Next visit I guess… (I heard through the grapevine that Luna Protein bars will be gluten free in 2011 – yay!)

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today. I think I’ll go look out the window to see if spring is here yet…