Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Just fit enough….

I am just fit enough to be dangerous. No need to worry I am only dangerous to myself. I am certain all of us who participate in any kind of endurance sport have the stamina and strength to pretty much try anything. It's not always the best choice to jump in with both feet. It might be prudent to practice some humility and caution. However, that's so much easier said than done.

In 2007 when I did the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning while acclimating for the Leadville 100M I took the opportunity to watch the Mountain Bike race. It's held the prior weekend. I was immediately all in. I so badly wanted to do that event. It appeared to be incredibly action packed and challenging. When the slam was over my desire still brewed and I bought a mountain bike. Cyclepath here Portland is an awesome store and since my friend Kris is well connected in the community she found me a bike which Cyclepath just happened to have built in my size. I fell in love the girly but bad ass bike and threw my money down. Now invested I was going to learn how to ride. I did some short track racing and a couple of trail outings then winter set in. My bike sat. It collected dust the next year when I didn't get picked for the Leadville Bike Race lottery and then again the following year. In 2010 while in Leadville pacing Micheal I learned you could sign up for the whole Leadwoman which is a series of 5 events in 6 weeks time. One of those

events is the 100M bike race and you are given a slot if you go for broke and do the Leadwoman. I was stoked. I texted Bill and let him know we were going to be sleeping in an altitude tent. I had found my calling for 2011. I signed up the day registration opened.

The Leadwoman consists of:

7/2 - Leadville Marathon

7/16 - Leadville 50M run or 50M mountain bike

8/13 - Leadville 100M mountain bike

8/14 - Leadville 10K run

8/20 - Leadville 100 run

I am so excited but incredibly focused on the 100M mountain bike. They give you 12 hours to ride the course and it's tough. The descents make my stomach gurgle. I don't yet know how to ride a mountain bike but I am learning. This leads me to the title of this entry. I am just fit enough to be dangerous to myself! I hired Matt Hart to help me through this. He is a multi sport coach and incredibly knowledgeable about endurance mountain biking and ultra running. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. My brain is exploding with new information. I am learning so much. At times it's completely overwhelming. To ensure I got my butt on the bike I signed up for a 24 hour mountain bike race in February. It's called the Old Peublo 24 Hr Ride and it's held in AZ. This race was recommended by Kris as a good ride that's not too technical.

It's a 17 mile loop course which is perfect for learning. I plan to see how long it takes me to race 100M so I know how far off I am for Leadville. Given that Leadville will far more difficult this will give me great information about how weak I am on the bike. I am in a serious base building phase on the bike. There is no technical riding as of yet. Currently the focus is time in the saddle and pedal stroke efficiency. This pedal stroke stuff is not as easy as it sounds. If you're a cyclist you know this. If you're not you have to be thinking, "How hard is it"? Well, sitting on a bike for 3 hours (which is my longest ride thus far) is interesting. Focusing on full circles using your hip flexors and quads to pull up and your hamstrings to drive the back portion of the stroke is crazy weird. I am learning terms like "masher" which is what cyclist call runners on a bike. I am total masher. My strong quads and endurance can mash for hours! Well, that won't fly in long haul. It's super inefficient. I am learning all about bike fit. This piece is completely overwhelming. There are so many factors. There's the shoes and the clips and how they positioned. There's the seat height and the forward or back. There's the reach. Sheesh, whoever came up with term it's just like riding a bike needs to be schooled. If I was going to a spinning class or riding for an hour none of this would be a big deal. But, clipping my leg in and sitting my butt on a bike for 3 hours

is a whole other story. I am fit enough to ride hard for long time and my body can handle the task. However, with all the pieces not quite right trouble will brew. After a 2:40 minute ride my right IT Band gave me a serious talking to. In over 25 years of running I have never had and IT issue. I wasn't even sure what it was until I got it checked. I did my ride on an indoor bike at my gym. I thought the bike fit was fine but what do I really know. They only thing I knew was I had workout to do. That's what our kind of fitness brings…reckless abandonment. Sitting on an indoor bike practicing the art of disassociation is cake! Ultra running gives us the gift of disassociation or at least we learn it as we go. Since I am getting schooled quite regularly now my new IT issue is just another test.

I have been injured badly 3 times. The injuries were bad enough to keep me from running for up to 6 weeks. I tore my soleous and was on crunches for a week and didn't run a step for 5 weeks. I ruptured my plantarus muscle and could barely walk for 2 weeks before rehab. I screwed up my left knee pretty bad and didn't run much at all for 5 weeks. I have had other minor stuff but not bad enough to set me back. With all my running experience I seem to know the difference between adaption and injury. It's a fine line right? Sort of like a bell shaped curve and once you topple over it's a fight back to the other side. I would say I am teetering right now. Funny thing is I can run with no issue. This is good. I am getting a professional bike fit on Friday which is going to take 3 hours! This is just another piece of the learning. Who would have thought it would take so long and so much was involved?

Did you know how hard it is to mountain bike in the winter? I am laughing as I type this because it is now obvious to me. It's cold on a bike. The mud and slippery stuff is hard to navigate. As I am out there freezing my butt off (btw: a frozen butt is not a bad thing…lessens the pain) I know this is just helping my non-existent bike skills. I am also learning that most cyclist train indoors. Ok, well how do I put a mountain bike on a trainer? You don't have another bike? Nope! This is when I get the look. Sort of a puzzled you're kidding kind look. Then I get, "How long are you going to be on the trainer"? I tell them it could be 4-8 hours. Then you know the look I get. They are horrified and almost feel sorry for me. I however feel excited! Drake let me borrow one of his computrainers. This is Porsche or trainers and I can't wait. The data and rides you get to do are amazing. But, in order for me to use the trainer I need a training wheel on the back. Needless to say, I have been busy getting this bike thing figured out and I love it. I know there is an inner mountain biker in me. I can see her and occasionally feel her. This is going to be big adventure!


  1. Awesome! Love the crash photo. Hurts the body, hurts the pride a bit too. This is going to be such a fun adventure to watch you undertake. 2011 is going to be great!

  2. Always an inspiration, you are...

    That Leadville schedule is BRUTAL! I think it would be harder than the Slam b/c of the altitude, speed, and lack of rest. But what do I know, I am sure you have it all mapped out and I cannot wait to read about each race. You need to start a new blog just for the Leadwoman Summer. Seriously!

    In 2012 you need to come east and run MMT! (I know, I say that every year).

    Anyhoo, good luck with the cold weather training. That in itself will get you ready!

  3. I think it's very exciting but I can't say I plan to follow your lead.

  4. Nothing like diving straight in! It’s got to be exciting to be doing something different with passion. Looking forward to your progress and adventures! I just know you will be successful at it.

  5. what an awesome adventure you have embarked on! excited to be a part of it all...

  6. Whoa, this is so exciting! I am looking forward to following your progress and your enthusiam, as always, is contagious!

  7. There is one thing for sure - I am never getting on the bike, thank you very much. You go ahead, play:)

  8. 24 hours of the Old Pueblo is a great first mountain bike race (I learned to ride on that course). I've done it for the last several years - it's a fun event! It's not too technical, so it is fast (but I have seen spectacular crashes as well). I also ride exactly the same bike you do (looking at the photo) - you will do great! As background, I was an adventure racer first (and I am a terrible mountain biker), but now run more than ride (actually, right now I do neither - by OP I will be the extremely pregnant chick helping run the medical tent). Good luck with Leadville!

  9. It's gonna be so fun to watch as you hone your skills, get another two or three bikes (;p) and see you race Leadwoman! Have a blast!!

  10. Yeeeeeah, Ronda! That is pretty frickin' cool. I've never heard of the Leadwoman, didn't know it even existed. I'm envious! That sounds like a pretty great way to spend a summer - fun, fun and fun. For me: I love the bike, especially the mountain bike. It's just fallen to the wayside the past few years with all the running. No doubt you will put that analytical mind to use, make a plan and Get 'Er Done! Sounds like you are on your way already. Good luck and have fun with the process!