Monthly Archives: April 2007

V-v-v-velodrommmmmmmme.

I had never ridden a track bike.  Track bikes have a single speed and the gear is fixed.  This means there is no coasting, you are constantly turning the pedals.  In fact, if you inadvertently decide you’re going to coast and stop pedaling, the bike kicks up underneath you and usually throws you to the ground.  Oh, and there’s no brake.  You stop the bike by using the strength of your legs to work against the momentum of the gear to slow down the turning.

This is part of the reason that I had never ridden a track bike.  Frankly, it’s intimidating.  Over the past decade or so many messengers have taken to riding “fixies” in big cities, through traffic and, even though technically you can throw a front brake on a fixie, the purists see this as blasphemy and insist on riding without.

I won’t spend a lot of time ranting about the track-bike-in-traffic phenomenon but I will say this.  It’s dumb.  Why?  Because unless you are a really, really skilled cyclist you are going to have trouble stopping when you need to.  Fixed gear purists will be really pissed off to read that but it’s just where I stand on the issue.  Fixies in traffic should have a hand brake for emergencies.  Period.

The reason you don’t have a hand brake on the velodrome is because when you have large groups of cyclists going 30+ miles an hour in very small, 267 meter circles on a bank that is set at 47 degrees, you do not want anyone to stop quickly.

The velodrome, like a basketball court, is full of lines and “zones” with corresponding rules.  Only on the ‘drome if you happen to violate a rule you’re potentially bringing down a whole gaggle of fast moving riders and you can bet your ass that you’ll probably go down with them.

This is the intimidating part.  Oh, and also the banking.  With both corners banked at anywhere between 30 and 47 degrees (different velodromes vary) it’s almost like you are riding on a wall, parallel to the ground below you.  The Alpenrose Velodrome in Portland just so happens to have a very steep bank, and a very tall wall.  (That shit is scary!)

I’ve been working up my courage to go to the track classes that are offered by OBRA (Oregon Bike Racing Association) and yesterday I took the plunge.  It was the first clinic of the year and the skies were threatening rain, which cancels any activity on the velodrome.

I sat in the car, praying for a downpour.

No such luck.

I wanted to bail.  I mean I realllllly wanted to bail.

Instead I got out of the car, rented a fixed gear bike from OBRA, attached my pedals to it, pumped the tires up to 110 and made my way down to the “skirt”.  (The skirt is the flat, concrete section on the inside of the velodrome – it’s used as a kind of landing strip for getting on and off the bank.)

Four members of Sam’s racing team were there and surprised to see me out in tights, instead of looking at them from behind a camera.

They took a few laps with me on the skirt and gave me their best advice…

“Don’t stop pedaling.”
“Ride as fast as you can.”
“Just go do it!”

My instructor had a bit more to say after we’d been broken into groups based on experience but the gist was the same:  “Don’t stop pedaling, hold your line, go fast.”

Then he took us up on the wall and I soon discovered that the best advice I’d been given all day was “Go fast.”  It’s a simple exercise in physics.  The more velocity, the stronger your G-forces and more likely you are to stay upright instead of sliding down the wall like a schmuck.

Thing is, as you’re approaching the 47 degree bank of the corner your brain has forgotten everything you learned in physics and it’s screaming, “DUDE!  A walllll!!  We’re approaching a wall at extremely high velocity.  You gotta slow downnnnnn!”  So you have to go into override mode and demand that your legs defy this gut reaction and keep pedaling.  In fact, you have to make them pedal even faster.

I’ll admit it.  Shit was scary.

We came off the bank and our instructor wound his way through our line, giving us handshakes.  “How was it?” he asked me.

“It was scary as shit.” I replied, laughing.  (I was mentally making a VERY big check mark in my “Do one thing every day that scares you” column.)

I glanced over at the girl I’d become friends with earlier (we’d bonded over our mutual desire to vomit because we were so nervous).  “What’d you think?”

“That was awesome!!!   I want to go again but FASTER!”

And that pretty much sums it up.

So now I’m shopping for used track bikes and trying to figure out exactly where in the basement they are going to go.  Track bikes for Sam and I will be bikes #9 and #10 respectively.

And so the family grows.

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I am Still Afraid of Kids (and Track Workouts are Still Really Effing Hard)

I’m not fast.

Here I am, all boot-camp-tough, and I can still barely eek out a sub-seven mile. Actually, I’m not even sure I *can* eek out a sub-seven mile because my stop-watch went on the fritz about 200m from the finish. I was out of town for the actual test last Friday so I had to go it alone. I was watching the clock like a hawk and I’m pretty sure I was on pace for a sub-seven but the reality is that we’ll never know for sure.

When the watch blanked out I was so pissed I almost stopped running. Almost.

It hurt so much I cursed. I’d run so hard I wanted to vomit. All these are signs that I put in a good effort and gave it my all and I suppose I should be proud but… enough is enough. I need 6:30. Or 6:40 at least. I’d take 6:40.

What’s my point? My point is that by the end of the summer I’m going to hit 6:30 come hell or high-water. And there is only one way to get faster – you gotta train faster.

I would rather run ten miles than do a track workout. Running a slow or moderate pace is like unimaginable bliss to me. I get euphoric. My muscles sing. My head floats away. I detach from the world. I feel at One.

(Yes, I *am* getting all zen on your ass, by the way.)

Running a fast track workout is like the last scene in Braveheart when they are yanking out Mel’s intestines. Except you don’t yell, “FREEDOM!!!” because you are too busy vomiting into the infield inbetween intervals. It hurts. It hurts so bad it seems impossible.

I had forgotten all of this, of course, and I strolled up to the track this afternoon with my cute little nano strapped to my bicep thinking I was going to have a sweet little track workout and re-introduce myself to what it is to actually have speed. As I approached the track I noticed a large group of kids pretending to stretch out while they intermittently chased each other and/or gossiped loudly. They looked like 6th, 7th and 8th graders.

My stomach turned.

And that’s when I realized that I am still afraid of kids. Why? Kids (ok, ok, I’ll qualify this)… adolescent kids are monsters. MONSTERS. No, really. I am not exaggerating here. They are and you know it. Don’t even try to argue.

Everyone had it rough in middle school – I realize this. But I was especially tortured during those formative years. I had braces, glasses and a perm. I played flute in the band. I got straight A’s. The reason I had braces was because I had a horrific overbite and buck teeth. We were on a very tight budget and I didn’t have anything that could remotely be considered cool. Oh, and I was hopelessly flat-chested (and had not yet realized what a lovely blessing this actually was). You see where I’m going with this?

I was tormented. Ruthlessly.

So here I am. I’m almost 30 years old and I think I’m some kind of boot camp bad-ass. I come strolling up to the track only to discover that my inner 12-year-old is still there and her heart is beating really fast because she’s freaking terrified.

Luckily, my inner-almost-30-year-old took control of the situation and forced the feet to place themselves one in front of another until several laps had been completed. If the Scary Kids were talking smack then I couldn’t hear them through my headphones which was for the best since they were really the least of my worries.

After a good one-mile warm-up I did 6 100 meter sprint intervals. Sprint 100m, walk 100m, etc. As I exploded into the first sprint my lungs and legs reacted with equal horror and I suddenly realized that the road to my 6:30 mile is going to be long (very long) and painful (very painful). In all honesty, I’d intended to move from 100m sprints to do three 200m sprints and then to one 400m “sprint” (you can’t technically sprint 400m but whatever). But at the end of my first set of intervals I found that I was absolutely and completely dead. Cyclists call it “popping” or “blowing up”.

Ker-plow.

I forced a cool-down lap out of my shell-shocked body and sat in my car trying to make sense of what had just happened. Some part of me thought I should be able to just knock out a track workout despite the fact that I haven’t done interval training in well over, what, 8 years? I guess we’re all prone to delusions sometimes.

Sometimes our best efforts are an exercise in humility. I’ll take that and run with it. Literally. And fast.

Reality Check #1 is complete. Nothing comes for free. Prepare for maximum suffering.

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Top Five Reasons to Get Out of Bed (and move your body) in the Morning

I know I always talk about getting up in the morning but I have a really good reason; for most people, it’s the hardest part of getting in an early morning workout. This morning was especially hard for me. I wasn’t really tired, I was just *warm*. And it was 44 degrees and raining outside. I didn’t want to go.

What finally did the trick? Tammy. Which makes her reason number 5 in my Top Five Reasons to Get Out of Bed in the Morning. (And, yes, that’s a pretty shameless headline tactic and, no, I don’t really think I’m fooling you.)

5. Tammy: Last week Tammy and I trucked up the backside of Mt Tabor together. When we leaned into the grade she said,”You have to push me today, Heidi.” So I did. She started to slip back and I made her take 10 quick steps to close the gap. When she rejoined me I told her it was her turn to push the pace and she did. Tammy is a workhorse and true hero material. This morning when I considered staying snuggly warm in my to-die-for Sleep Number bed I thought of her. I knew she’d show up for the workout and I knew she’d be leaning into that hill by herself if I didn’t do the same.

4. Stumptown Coffee: A few weeks ago after a Wednesday morning Mt. Tabor run I drove to the Stumptown on Division. As I pulled in I recognized someone from class parking across the street. I spotted her inside, waved, and said, “This is all I think about while we are suffering up there on that hill: ‘Stumptown, Stumptown, Stumptown'” (This is only a slight exaggeration. I also sometimes think about all the various ways I might physically harm Daniel for putting us through so much pain. But mostly it’s ‘Stumptown’.) Every day after my morning boot camp I go to Stumptown, buy two Americanos, and drive back home where I wake Sammy up and deliver his steaming hot cup of love. We drink coffee in bed together and discuss our plans for the day while he wakes up.

3. Eminem: It may be sad, but it’s still true. Sometimes what finally convinces me to abandon my down comforter is the thought of sitting in my car on the way to boot camp with the heat on full blast and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” cranking at an ungodly volume. Something about listening to music that intense, at that volume, at that delicate hour of the morning just feels really right.

2. Pulling ahead: I have always told people that I love being on the east coast for one reason and one reason alone; if you get up at 4:30am on the east coast you are so far ahead of everyone on the west coast they don’t have a chance in hell of catching up to you. This is a ridiculous line of reasoning, I know. But still, I find it comforting to know that by 6:30am I have already put in a major physical effort for the day. My cross-country coach used to always yell from the window of his van while we were running, “I bet Kennedy [our rival] is working harder right now!” At five-thirty in the morning I feel pretty good about the fact that Kennedy is almost assuredly not working harder than me.

This all probably makes me sound really off my rocker, I realize, but my point can be applied even for those not certifiably insane. Getting it done early ensures that it actually does get done, and it starts your day off on the right foot; with one small victory.

1. Stuff like this:

metolius-85.jpgmetolius-92.jpgmetolius-93.jpgmetolius-39.jpgmetolius-48.jpgmttabor070412-14.jpg

mttabor070412-1.jpgmttabor070412-3-2.jpg

The number one reason why I’ve been motivating early lately? Dawn rocks, people! The world is twinkly and still and soft and brilliant and quiet. Magical. Moving. Motivating. Sunrise is in a league all by itself, I promise you this.

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So there you have it – my current top five pre-dawn motivators. They’re specific to me but the principals are pretty straightfoward:

1. Develop circumstances that require accountability.
2. Build in a rewards system – we are really just like monkeys in this respect, I promise!
3. Establish motivating rituals and then refer back to them.
4. Remind yourself how it will affect the rest of your day – dig deep to recall the post-workout euphoria that launches you in the the rest of your tasks.
5. Remember that seeing the world all pretty and sleepy is a privilege that only early-birdies get to enjoy (go get your worm, woman!)

Sickened by my upbeat attitude yet? Me too. See you tomorrow morning.

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Just Show Up.

The phenomenon of attrition at boot camp is pretty fascinating.  Today we counted 16 women present.  32 people are registered for the class.  Everyone who registered paid either $300 (for all five days per week) or $200 (3 days/week) to join.  It’s a four week program – you do the math (or let me do it for you: it’s about $15 a session).

I’ll maintain that this is an absolutely wicked bargain.  During 2005 I paid $60/hour for personal training and usually had 2 or 3 sessions per week.  Sure, the sessions were more customized for my specific goals (arm and back strength – maximum pull-ups possible for the purpose of beating my sister in a contest), but the costs added up fast.  I made a lot of sacrifices to pay for those sessions – more sacrifices than I feel like making these days.  Still, I need a way to get an intense workout with great results and boot camp has been the perfect answer.

I digress.

We pay money for this pain.  We pay money for this structure.  We pay money to pick Daniel’s little muscley (but very brainy!) brain for nutrition advice and whatever else we need help with. He’s there for us, he pushes us, and he kicks our asses.  He’s keeping up his end of the bargain.

So why is half the class MIA?

He’s pulling his hair out trying to figure it out – and not just becuase he’s thinking about dollars (they’ve already paid, he has the money in the bank) – but because he’s really passionate about helping people create important and significant change in their lives.  It’s not just about bodies, it’s about the way your mind begins to shift when you start to take control of your health.  It’s about the way it makes you feel – about that self-love that rushes through you.  That is an under-rated sensation, I promise you.  It’s the best kind of drug.

What makes you stay in bed at 4:30 in the morning when your alarm goes off?  Sure,  you’re tired.  Of course you are.  Are you insane?  It’s 4:30 in the morning.  Fight it.  Get out of bed.  All you have to do is show up.

On my most challenging psychological days I lay in bed in the morning and give myself a million reasons to stay there.  “I deserve a little break.”  “My body needs a little healing time.”  “The extra two hours of sleep will be better for me than boot camp.”  “Sleep is so important.”

In the end I reason with myself.  How hard is this really?  All I have to do is get up, get in my car, and present my body to the group.  Hell, my mind doesn’t even technically have to be there in the beginning (it will always follow, of course).  All I have to do is show up and I am going to have this dude instructing my every move for an hour.  How brainless is that?  That can’t be hard.  I’m going.

And it’s true.  Just show up.

When you get there, you’ll be glad you did, and your body will remember where it is and why it’s there, and it will wake up.

Daniel is a stand-up guy and I rely heavily on his energy in the morning.   I get there with nothing and tap into whatever he has for me.  Gradually, as we wake up together, the group creates an energy of its own and you begin to feed on those around you.

Accountability.  One of the biggest factors in all of my success and absolutely the only way that I was able to truly transform my body in 2005.

Just show up.
People are expecting you.
People are waiting there to motivate you.

All you have to do is show up.
Get out of bed.

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Sammy Get His Legs Back

Inspiring?

Watching your 36 year old boyfriend fly around a circuit-race course 13 times.

More inspiring?

Knowing that he has lost 30 pounds since you met him and will have lost 40-45 total by the time that racing season is truly in full swing.

Sam is a machine and his legs are waking up. He’s always been an able cyclist, willing to suffer and pay dues, but he is just starting to come into his own. He has not trained like this in almost 10 years and he is starting to rediscover that his legs are stronger than he thinks, his lungs larger and more efficient. He is 36 years old and in arguably the best shape of his life.

I have my beef with road racing. I could produce a long list of stuff that irks me about the sport: the wildly expensive gear, prima donna attitudes, and grisly crashes that leave riders laid up and wickedly damaged for months. But over the past 8 years I have come to see the beauty in it also. And if this is what gets Sam out of bed in the morning and motivates him to drop 45 pounds then so be it. I’m in.

His fitness is reaching incredible levels right now. Although we’ve been eating well and exercising consistently for the past 4 or 5 years, he has never had this kind of power, this kind of endurance. His recovery time is amazing and he routinely impresses every doctor that examines him with his astoundingly low resting heart rate.

I have always been proud of him – his mind-boggling creativity and enviable work-ethic attracted me to him in the first place. But last night I felt a deeper kind of pang, an intense shot of pride that left me dizzy. He’s worked hard for this. It was not given to him.

I thought of him this morning as I ran up the west side of Mt Tabor and the sun began to rise around me. I thought of that searing in his legs and the unthinkable willpower that enables him to push through. My lungs burned and my heart rate skyrocketed and I pressed on, “cranking the notch a quarter turn”, as Daniel the boot camp instructor is fond of saying.

When you hit the point and you think you can’t take it any further, crank the notch another quarter turn. Just try for a little more and see if you have it. I bet you do.

In those make or break moments I think of someone inspiring. For a long time I used to think of Lynne Cox, the famous long-distance swimmer who set records in the English channel, and was the first woman to cross Cook Strait in New Zealand, the Strait of Magellan and, the Cape of Good Hope. (Read her book if you haven’t.) Today at the top of Mt. Tabor I thought of my boyfriend, the Amazing Sicilian Hammer – bike racer extraordinaire.

I channeled the cadence of his pedal stroke and found rhythm in the image. I tapped into his exertion, found power there, and leaned into a Wednesday morning Portland sunrise.

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Measuring Up.

“How hard can it really be?”

That’s the question that I asked myself this weekend. I was thinking about boot camp.

I’ve had a hard time conveying to people how hard it really is. All I know is that it regularly kicks my ass and I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape. I have more muscle mass than most women my size and I’m a runner. I specialize in endurance.

So how hard can it really be? How does it stack up?

Is it harder than my final leg in last year’s Hood to Coast relay? No. Mostly because running 8 miles uphill in afternoon sun on little sleep and questionable nutrition is brutal (and kind of stupid, too). Is it harder than a cyclocross race? No. Not really. Although the more intense days of week four come close.

I can tell you what it IS harder than. It’s harder than running 6 miles at tempo and it’s harder than cycling 35 miles at 17mph. It’s harder in a more intense and more focused way. It’s 45 minutes of super agonizing muscle-searing burn. And it manages to kick your cardio ass all at the same time.

I’m a numbers person. I like proof. I enjoy statistics. I take measurements. I analyze data and make adjustments. I like to have evidence of what is actually going on, not just what I perceive to be going on.

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