Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm a Believer

The song lyrics 'I'm  not afraid of anything, I just need to know that I can breathe' (Avril Lavigne) have been on my mind during my entire preparation for Leadville. Those of you who have been following along might recall that I got short of breath DRIVING to Leadville last year. This has been weighing heavily on my mind and I have been doing everything I can to prevent that from happening again. Recently, I was in Leadville for 5 days of training and course reconnaissance. Instead of slowly moving up to elevation I went from sea level to Leadville in one day. Well, that is not quite true because I have been sleeping at altitude and training at altitude in the comfort of my own home. Imagine my delight when I discovered that my princess canopy bed  actually provided benefits other than isolating me from outside noise allowing me to sleep soundly. Yup, I found out that it also prepared me well for my time at altitude.

Up over 11,000ft and feeling fine!

I was still breathing heavily on the climbs, but I do that at sea level. I was able to keep up during camp and slept well at night. No shortness of breath at rest, no headache, it was a miracle. The guys at Hypoxico had prepared me wonderfully to ride and race at altitude. I may have been a little, okay more than a little, skeptical that sleeping in this contraption was working. I kept trying to get Me Hearty in there to see if he felt the effects of altitude, neither he nor the dog would oblige, so camp was the first evidence I had that I actually had been up over 10,000ft every night. 'Now I'm a believer, Not a trace of doubt in my mind'. 

View looking down from Sugarloaf climb

Once I discovered that I would be able to breathe, all my other fears vanished and I could take in the magnificent views from the course. Just looking at the photos makes me want to fill my lungs with clear mountain air.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Post Leadville

The Leadville Trail 100 is still 18 days away and I am already getting asked 'what is next?'. People, can't I just get through this HUGE endeavor first. I appreciate that everyone has so much confidence in my abilities that they just assume that I will conquer this event and be ready to move on immediately. I, on the other hand, think that this over 40 body is going to need a chance to recover. They argue that I can take advantage of my current fitness by racing fall triathlons. Problem with this plan is I currently have no swimming and running fitness. Last time I did a triathlon, which I admit, was way back in May, it involved more than riding a bike. Perhaps, in my time away from the trigeek world things have changed? Instead, I am hoping that I will take full advantage of my fitness by racing my mountain bike over 100 miles at elevation in Colorado on August 14th. If I successfully complete that task I plan to do a whole lot of this.....

Afternoon naps

and maybe some of this...

I'll probably only have one a time though, lesson learned!

and if I earn the silver belt buckle I may be inclined to finally go and do this....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Little Engine

One of the popular activities for tourists in the town of Leadville, Colorado is to ride the historical train.

Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad

Being that I was in Leadville and I was a tourist, I too took a train ride. My train was fast moving and flew past beautiful scenery. I was aboard the Carmichael Training railroad. There were many times that I was repeating to myself 'I think I can, I think I can' as I hung on for dear life to the big engines up front.

Train of Boys, that's my elbow sticking out back there!

On race day, I will be looking for a big steam engine to attach this little caboose to as I chug along. 'I know I can, I know I can'. Chug a lug a CHOO CHOO!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Dear Columbine Mine,

I really enjoyed making your acquaintance the other day and I accept with pleasure the invitation to return on August 14th. Please know, that although I was able to spend extra time in your company on Thursday, our next visit will have to be much shorter. On the day in question I have several other timely appointments that I must keep. Thank you again for a lovely time and I look forward to enriching our relationship in 3 weeks.

Top of Columbine climb 12,500ft

Dressed for the Descent

Racer #861

PS, Please let my friend Jen (#1170) get home from your party safely this year! Thanks!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

I am currently experiencing my very own rocky mountain high. I am in PBville, which is what all the cool people call Leadville. The scenery is just breathtaking, as is the altitude. Being here brings back lots of memories of the years I spent living in the Canadian Rockies in a little mining town. Back then I took the majestic mountains and crisp air for granted, now I truly appreciate it. It feels like I have returned to a place of my youth, maybe my body will get tricked and think it is young again!

Not sure if I have to climb that mountain
View of Turquoise Lake from Sugarloaf climb

'But the Colorado rocky mountain high, I've seen it raining fire in the sky, The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye, Rocky mountain high'.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


It is always good to have a contingency or In Case of Emergency (ICE) back up plan. Yesterday, I set out to do my long hilly ride with intentions of adding a climb up the east grade of Palomar mountain. I set off early, because it was forecast to be hot, hot, hot! I guess mother nature noted my complaints about the lack of summer we were having and decided to turn it up a few notches. At 8am I saw my reflection in a window I was passing and thought to myself, 'I look hot', and not metaphorically! Yup, it was going to be more of a mental training day than physical. Right from the start of the ride my back was tight and my left knee was not happy. Was this my bodies way of telling me even a racing mule can get old? Well, guaranteed I am going to experience soreness and tightness somewhere at Leadville, so better learn to deal with it now.

I.C.E. -love what you can find at convenience stores!

Luckily, for me, my friend P who had just completed the Death Ride (129 miles, 15,000ft of climbing)  told me that she got through it by staying in the moment, and taking some Advil. Usually, I don't recommend taking Advil while training but I am now a convert because it worked. The Flexall cream had a great cooling effect as well as helping with the tightness. I had to switch to plan B though, with a combination of the heat and the tightness I didn't want to push myself to injury by climbing the east grade. Plus, I didn't think that my friend Heidi who had told me to call if I needed anything meant, 'call if you are stupid and climb a mountain and then can't walk, let alone pedal home!'.  There was still plenty of climbing without the mountain.

On I soldiered, with my bottles filled with ice. At one point I stopped for a refill, of you guessed it, ice and I ran into another fellow cyclist. Turns out he is training for the Furnance 508 (508 miles, in death valley with 35,000ft of climbing). I love that there is always something more difficult and insane than what I am doing! Anyways, he had a thermometer on his fancy bike power meter, computer that read 104 degrees. Just another reason to not have one of those gadgets. I didn't need to know the number, I knew it was hot! I ended up riding his wheel all the way home, well, when I could stick to it. He was so nice, he waited for me a few times at the top of climbs, guess it is true that misery loves company!

Immediately post ride, I went and bought a bag of ice. The people at the store only gave me a few strange looks when I was hugging it to my body.

Time for an ICE bath!

Thankfully, I didn't need to call my I.C.E. person but I did need lots of ice. You can just imagine what song was going through my head for most of the day. Come on now sing along 'Ice, ice baby, too cold, Ice, ice baby, too cold, too cold, Ice, ice baby'.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Racing Mule

I have often heard that to be a great athlete, you have to be born a great athlete. This means that you need the genetic makings of greatness. Of course you also need to have the desire to be great and the work ethic to do the required hard work. Not everyone with the required genetic makings achieves the height of their ability but if you have the right combination you are golden. A thoroughbred who has the desire to win is unstoppable, but without the desire and drive, they are not a race horse. Unfortunately, I was not born a thoroughbred, I more resemble a mule. The common saying is that you can't turn a mule into a race horse but you can turn it into a racing mule.

Now, we all know that it is a long shot to put a mule up against a race horse, but what if the mule didn't know it was a mule? What if, the mule hung around with the race horses all the time and did morning workouts with the thoroughbreds? What if the mule didn't know that being a racing mule meant it wasn't equal to the race horse? What if- gasp- the mule believed that the label racing mule was to be held in high esteem? In certain situations a racing mule has a distinct advantage. One of those situations conveniently happens to be the Leadville 100 Trail.

Leadville Mule Pack Train

Above, I give you exhibit A. See any thoroughbred racing stallions in this picture? Didn't think so! It appears that mules have a long history in the region surrounding Leadville. Mules have characteristics that make them far superior in the mountain ranges. Sure, you have never seen a racing mule win the Kentucky derby (yet), but Mine That Bird wouldn't have earned his keep with the prospectors! A mule has harder skin than a horse and as a consequence does much better in extreme conditions. Those race horses are pretty sensitive creatures, might even consider them divas. I know this because I have witnessed it first hand on many a flight to Ironman races. The race horse can't stand to have the air blowing at them from overhead and finds the captains announcements WAY too loud. They seem very susceptible to illness and stress, while the mule is much more resistant. Mules are known to have more endurance and be more sure footed than a horse, which they get from their donkey sire. They also have the vigour, strength and courage of a horse. Most importantly, we all know how stubborn a mule is. Combine all of these characteristics with a strong desire to race and betting against the mule doesn't seem like a very intelligent thing to do.

I am aware that no amount of training and effort will morph me into a racing thoroughbred. I do know that I have been doing the required work and I have enough desire to make up for a lack of natural talent. When the call to post comes on August 14th, you can bet this racing mule with have the bit firmly between her teeth and will be off. A friendly reminder for all you racing thoroughbred neigh-sayers out there, a mules kick can come at any time, from any direction and is a very forceful.

I visit this guy often when I am riding, he's a kindred spirit!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Light Girl

Remember the children's game red light, green light? The one where you would run towards the kid who was it until they said 'red light' and then you would have to stop instantly or be put out. I get to play that game all the time. The only thing is, I get red light, red light, red light and very rarely do I get green light.

I have to admit, when I am alone I don't really notice that I get all the red lights. When others are with me, they sure notice. I am surprised that anyone will ride with me, or drive with me for that matter. Me hearty says he schedules extra travel time to a destination if I will be in the car with him. Apparently, I get every red light all the time. The other day, the kid who is 'it' must have been on a bathroom break because I got a green wave. I hit every green light on the way home. I noticed this because I didn't get a chance to sit and admire the sign twirlers on the side of the road, or stop and catch my breath. By the time I got to the last intersection with a light I was pedalling hard just to win the game. I don't expect the state of the universe to change permanently. I know I will still be labelled the red light girl but on this day I enjoyed surfing the green wave.

If for some reason I have to stop during my race in Leadville, I have plenty of practice starting again! 'Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude'- Thomas Jefferson.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Me, Myself and I

On a mountain bike ride recently I realized that I have become that rider. The one who a few years ago would have really impressed me. If the me of two years ago was on the same trail as the me of now, she would look in awe at some of the things I ride up, over and down. I remember watching riders go flowing by as I struggled or even stopped and walked sections of trails and thinking, 'wow, I hope someday I can ride some of that'.

There was a particular section of a local trail where I was always terrified. I did try to ride it one day and ended up going over the bars in an endo, and severing my front brake line in the process. I wasn't the type of rider at that time who should be riding without one of her brakes! I still have a scar on my elbow that reminds me of that mishap. Today instead of the scar reminding me of what I couldn't do, it reminds me of what can be done if you put your mind to something.

The Fateful Endo spot

This is now one of my favorite sections of my local loop. I can't believe that I was ever fearful of riding down it, and that I worried about needing brakes! On another day a few years ago I was running a local trail and saw some guys riding it. I was in awe that they were riding on that trail, it seemed technical enough to run. I couldn't even imagine at the time that I would ever attempt to ride my bike there. Guess what, not only did I ride it recently, it was FUN!

View of the trail from the other side

Improvement does not always happen instantaneously or linearly. There are days when I think I have mastered a new skill only to have to relearn it another day. The lesson I have learned from the me of the past is that I can do things that seem insurmountable by taking it one pedal stroke at a time. It is too bad that the future me can't go zipping by me on the trail now. I am pretty sure that I would be impressed! When I look at my many scars earned in the process of improvement I cherish them for,  'what you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this moment'. Without those scars me, myself and I would still be looking on in astonishment as some other rider rode our trails!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mid 70's

Living in San Diego on the coast I have come to expect the summer weather forecast to always be, sunny and mid to high 70's. I guess I have gotten a little spoiled over the years, okay maybe a whole lot of spoiled. Well, lately I have been thrown for a loop. I have seen mid 70's quite often as of late, but never in relation to the outside temperature. The mid 70's that I keep seeing is when I am doing my altitude training on the stationary bike trainer. At least I think that is what I am seeing on the monitor. It is much easier to focus on the stars that are swirling in front of my eyes.

What I see most of the time

I am currently doing my training at 12,000 feet and have been sleeping for over two weeks at 10,120 feet above sea level. The relevance of this is that I am now sleeping a mere 32 feet below the town of Leadville and am training 500 feet below the top of Columbine mine. I am training at this altitude for 30 minutes at a time, hope the stars don't turn into a meteor shower in front of my eyes when I am up there longer! In just over a week I head to Leadville to do some training on the actual race course. I am sure I will be enlightened at that time as to whether all my sweaty, lung bursting sessions have done the intended job. Until then, I will continue to produce my own version of mid 70's days and hope that at some point this summer the sun makes an appearance in Sun Diego!

 'Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get'.-Mark Twain

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bottled Inspiration and Motivation

I have secret motivation and inspiration for when I need to dig deep at Leadville. I have never been good at keeping secrets so it is no surprise that I am spilling the beans. Here is the secret, I will not be riding alone at Leadville and I will not be riding for myself. I will be riding in honor of three people who fought a gallant battle with cancer. Each of these three  people touched my life and will prompt me in their individual ways to reach the finish line.
I will be riding in memory of Bill and know that he will be with me every pedal stroke of the way. When I need to dig deep I will have to look no further than the example of courage he demonstrated when faced with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Colon Cancer in 2008. Bill was a fellow triathlete, my neighbor and the husband of my good friend Jess. I was in absolute awe of the stoicism and the graciousness with which he faced this disease. In June of 2008, he barely made it to his own wedding due to an extremely high fever after a round of chemotherapy. Bill had single minded determination to make it to the alter and I will model that in my quest to make it to the finish line in under 12 hours. I will be reminded of his courage and his lack of selfishness in his final days and draw on that strength each time I take a drink from my bottle. I'm pretty sure he has the power now to grant me a tailwind when I need it too!

Click on the link above to tell the world who you ride for.

Bill on his wedding day June 2008

Bill before his last half ironman

I will also be drawing on the incredible strength of two women in my life who have both survived breast cancer.

I honor my mother in law not only for overcoming breast cancer but more importantly for raising the most important person in my life. She did an amazing job and I am grateful everyday that because of her I have me hearty in my life. He was a teenager when she underwent chemotherapy and treatment. I know it was a horrible time for the whole family but it helped shape him into the compassionate and loving man he is today. Not only that, it made him learn to cook and clean, and for that I am eternally thankful! She recently celebrated her 70th birthday and is a long time cancer survivor:)

Happy 70th Myrna

I will also be riding for my beautiful cousin who battled and beat breast cancer two years ago. Growing up she was the closest I had to a big sister, and even though she doesn't know it, she was my role model. I tried to emulate her in every way I could, even down to the big hair. She always had such great hair! I know I was the typical nuisance of a three year younger cousin, but I am forever appreciative for all that she taught me. All the important stuff, like a deep love for AC/DC and Loverboy music! Not to mention some sweet dance moves I learned in the basement. As I ride I won't only be motivated by her extreme grace during her cancer treatment, but also by her patience with her annoying younger cousin.

Even more beautiful bald!

Sticker on all my bikes

I hope that in my journey across the sky I do justice to the spirit and courage of these three people. I know that nothing that I will encounter on race day will be even close to the monster they all had to face. I thank all three of them for being my source of bottled inspiration and motivation!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebration Time

Yesterday was the last day in a big two week block of training for me. Note, I said for me! Pretty sure that it would be considered an easy week to the big boys of cycling. I still felt the need to celebrate. Hey, anything to get me through. It seems that the whole nation wanted to celebrate with me. There were parties everywhere. I am not quite narcissistic enough to think that everyone was observing the beginning of my recovery week, but it was great that I was surrounded by festive people. The entire nation was coming together and celebrating independence with parades, barbeque's, picnics and firework displays.

As my legs turned over the last few miles and I saw all the revelling beach goers I realized, riding a bike has always been a symbol of independence for me. Once I was able to ride a bike, I had a sense of freedom. I could get places on my own power and enjoy the autonomy that afforded. After all these years, it seems fitting to celebrate the ability to ride a bike as far and as often as I want. I don't think that the firework displays all over the country were too much for my sense of accomplishment!

Fireworks in Waikiki

'There's a party goin' on right here, A celebration to last throughout the years, So bring your good times, and your laughter too, We gonna celebrate your party with you!'. Imagine dear readers, if the end of two big bike mileage weeks calls for fireworks, what the party at the Leadville finish line will be like!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Roadside Angels

A few days ago I got a flat tire while I was riding. Actually, I have been getting lots of flat tires lately. I was wondering if I was getting more than usual since they seem to be occurring so frequently. I realized that they are probably happening no more than regularly, I am just riding more miles and therefore, the flats are closer together in time. Well, that is what I have convinced myself is happening. Being that I fancy myself a handy mechanic, I quickly removed the thorn that deflated me and put in a new inner tube. I was pumping it up when the valve stem broke off. No worries, I have a patch kit. Can I just tell you, a patch kit is of no use if the glue is dried up! Now I was stranded on the side of the road wondering what Macgyver would do? Just then the roadside angels appeared in a truck with a bike rack on the back. They had a floor pump but didn't have road tire tubes with them. As they tried to assist this damsel in distress we got to chatting. I told them I was training for Leadville. They actually knew what this was, so when we couldn't fix the tire on the spot, I got in the truck with them and they took me to their place of employment. When we got there, I knew for sure that I had been rescued by road angels because they took me to heaven!

Heaven -aka the Ellsworth warehouse!

While I was getting a tour of the warehouse a nice guy fixed my tire for me. I am pretty sure they had to mop the floor after I left, I was salivating profusely over all the beautiful bikes. I had the privilege of seeing the new carbon fiber road and triathlon bikes, I even got to touch them! All I can say is AMAZING! If I was a regular girl, this would be the equivalent to being in the Tiffany's warehouse. Everywhere I looked I saw bling! Ellsworth has amazing bikes but they also have amazing people working there who care about cyclists. To me, on this day, they were truly heaven sent!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Big Mike

Five years ago on July 2, Big Mike was headed out for his Saturday long bike ride. He was riding in a bike lane when he was struck from behind. The driver of the car that hit him was drunk. Really drunk. Mike was air lifted to the hospital and began the long, and by long I mean REALLY long, way too long, process of recovery. He was in the hospital in a medically induced coma on a ventilator for months. He had over 20 surgeries in total. He finally got released in November. That's right 5 months later. When Mike was released it was hard to call him Big Mike. He was a shell of his former self. One thing that hadn't changed was his infectious enthusiasm for life and overwhelming positive attitude. After the severe head injury he had suffered and all the pain and difficulties he had faced, and still had to face, this guy oozed happiness and love of life.

While Mike was in the hospital fighting for his life his friends, me included, dedicated all of our races to him. If Mike couldn't be out there doing what he loved, we would do it for him. I raced carrying a key chain sized red fin. I had spent hours upon hours swimming behind Big Mike and he always wore one red fin. That red fin got me through many a rough patch in races. Really, how rough is a patch in a race when you compare it to real life rough patches?

Mike returned to riding his bike. He couldn't not. That is what he does and loves and no one, not even a drunk should be given the power to take that away from him. In August of 2008 he made his return to racing but doing an aqua bike. He can no longer run, it is amazing he can even walk after how bashed up his knees were. I was lucky to witness first hand Mike return to the race course. Times like these remind us what it is all about.

Big Mike and his wonderful wife Cindy

After the race we all headed out for dinner. Mike enthusiastically ordered a beer. When the waitress brought the drinks to the table and put a beer down he said 'beer, what a great idea, who ordered that?'. He was thrilled to hear it was him. We are grateful that we still have Mike in our lives, short term memory loss and all! I'm going to go out for a ride now, and I'm going to love it, because, everyday that we get a chance to ride is a gift. Just ask Big Mike!