Friday, December 5, 2008

More weight, please.

Hi! So I got a really interesting comment from Jennifer after my last post asking about weight training and gym boredom. I feel you Jennifer, because for the longest time I only took classes at the gym - any solo workout requiring self-motivation was really hard and really boring.

Here's the thing with the weightlifting I've discovered:

1. Most machines are completely bullshit useless. Those Nautilus machines? A waste of time. Now, they're certainly better than nothing, but unless you are a 6 foot tall man, they aren't going to fit you correctly. Also, why would I spend an hour isolating small muscle groups when I can do full-body compound movements (that work EVERYTHING) in half the time?

2. 20+ reps of anything is too many reps. I can't count that high and I get bored. 6-8 reps is a whole different story. I know I can't squat much weight 20 times, but I'm certainly willing to challenge myself for 6 measly reps. That's practically nothing! I should put more plates on the bar. This is how I think: 4-6 reps is a fun challenge, 15-20 reps is pure torture. (I should add this: I used to do B0dyPump and really loved it, but you can only lift so much weight for such high reps. Eventually you top out and need to go heavier and slower. That's what I did.)

3. Getting strong is fun, but being strong is awesome. When you start lifting as a weakling (which I was) and then six months later you can bang out a set of tricep pushups, it feels fantastic. it's even better when you can pick up a really heavy box without even thinking about it. I still have a long way to go, but the changes motivate like nothing else.

4. For a cyclist (especially for a mountain biker like me who doesn't get in long endurance miles) there is no better winter workout than weighted leg work. Again, no press machine, no stupid leg extension machine, do the real work that will allow a full range of natural motion and will force you to work ALL the supporting muscles in your legs, not just the big ones. I'm talking about squats, lunges and step-ups. My hill climbs have gotten so much better since I started lifting.

5. If the gym bores you but you know you have to build some muscle and improve that bone density (Hi, Jennifer!) please consider a program. For me, doing a program is like having a trainer tell me what to do, but it's cheaper and less flaky. I have my exercises, my reps, my instructions, I just need to go and do it. I really recommend The New Rules of Lifting for Women because it's a great place to start and will give you a base of knowledge about lifting like nothing else. I also like that the first six weeks of workouts only takes about 30 minutes each. (Hint: if it seems too easy, you aren't lifting enough weight.)

6. If a program is too much commitment, that's okay. You can always do something like this:

Working out in a dilapidated one-room shack

or if you're a beginner, this:

A weight-lifting routine for beginners

PS. If you saw Jennifer's comment and wondered what story she was talking about, it's here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Who even counts November, anyway?

Yeah, I missed a month. I haven't been posting here because, as I've said before, it's hard to write about riding the same trails over and over again. I have achieved a few small milestones, though. You know that crazy cement bridge I swore I'd never ride? Yeah, I ride that now. It wasn't a momentous thing, I just kind of rode it one day and ever since then I've felt obligated. I can also ride down the big insane ramp thing, but not so much up it. That just seems harder than it's worth right now. Maybe in the spring.

We've been riding on Sundays, my usual winter ride day, weather permitting. I've been enjoying doing the longer rides (2 1/2 hours is long for me, shut up) with the old gang even if it means I'm hobbling around for the rest of the day. It's worth is to get the fitness in, to get out in the world, to get warm even when it's cold out. Last weekend it was cold and raining, however, and I don't play that. I didn't even leave the house last Sunday.

As for other stuff, I've finished The New Rules of Lifting For Women program and started a new one called Power Training. It's very similar but I get to pick my own exercises which I like because I'll be damned if I ever do another front squat/push press. Hateful. I am required to do front squats which are also hateful, but not as much.

My most recent workout looked something like this:

Squat Jumps - 4 sets of 5 reps
Romanian Deadlifts - 60/6, 65/6, 75/6, 85/6
Dumbell Row (single arm) - 20/6, 25/6, 25/6, 30/6
negative chin-ups - 2
assisted chin-ups - 60/6, 60/6 (meaning, I had the assisted machine set at 60lbs, so I was lifting my body weight minus 60lbs. Woo.)

Then I did a bunch of ab work and 20 minutes of high intensity intervals on the stepmill. Then I scraped myself off the floor and went home for dinner. The End.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Did you think I'd forgotten?

Stop being so grumpy about the lack of posts. I really just haven't been riding anywhere new or exciting. No races, no adventures, just the usual one or two rides a week on local trails. If we didn't have such nice trails around here I'd be forced to go elsewhere, but what can I say? I'm a lucky girl.

We did have one weird thing happen at Powhite last week. K and I were squeezing in an after-work ride and when we got to the top of the hill we heard the sound of gunshots from the neighborhood off to the left. It was one gun, shot after shot after shot. NOT what you want to hear in the middle of a park in the middle of the city. What the hell? It was worse that we couldn't even tell what direction it was coming from or if we were near enough to worry. Bullets gotta come down somewhere. We scrammed out of there and made it home safely.

The light is fading fast, isn't it? A month ago we could ride until 7:30 without having to worry about lights or reflectors and now we have to leave for home by 6:45 because the woods are too dark to see the trail. I have no interest in night-riding (and no funds for a good headlight) so after this week it's going to be weekends only. Sadness. Back to spinning class for me.

It was a great summer, though, and I can ride Northtrail -> Buttermilk -> Buttermilk Heights with my eyes closed. I know all the secrets! Now, if I try to ride it in the other direction it's a totally different trail, so maybe that's what I'll work on this winter. That, and riding Forest Hill again. Too much poison ivy for me.

Here are some photos from, um, August that I should have posted in...August:

Helmet hair at it's finest:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


My bike is getting plenty of use this summer, in case you've been worried. I've just completely run out of ways to write about riding the same trails week after week. My husband and I are boring creatures of habit and we're generally pretty happy riding the local trails over and over again. It's almost never boring except when it is.

I can say with absolute authority that I have LOVED not worrying about training for races this year. Just riding to ride has been so much more fun. (Now, I'm not saying I'll never race again, just not right now.) I'm doing decently well with my riding this summer and I think the weight-lifting has only helped me to be a stronger cyclist - I'm certainly a better climber for it. I'm on Stage 6 of the lifting program I've been doing since February and this stage is focused on working towards doing a chin-up. I can tell you with great confidence that I am nowhere NEAR being able to do a chin-up, but then again, I've never tried before. Even chin-up negatives (where you start at the top of the bar and lower yourself) are stupidly hard for me and I hang there like a sad, limp frog. But I try.

In other news, Kenny and I did actually, honest-to-God travel somewhere different to ride when we had some time off a few weeks ago. Naturally, forgot the camera, so no pictures. We went to Freedom Park in Williamsburg for the first time. Man, those are my kind of trails - no crazy stuff, no scary climbs, just miles and miles of twisty fun single track. We were the only ones out there except for a herd of deer and one adventurous turtle. We spent the afternoon riding and cleared out every single spiderweb for the after-work ride crowd. You're welcome, folks.

And now, here's the other kind of riding I've been doing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Urban Assault, Paula style

Hi kids! Last weekend was the Urban Assault race, the race I won last year. My friend Paula races Expert and she did the race this year even though I declined. She's adept at winning (though she'll protest this until she's blue in the face) and this race was no exception. This girl races to win, rather than my lame strategy of racing-to-maybe-finish. Anyway, because I did not attend, I asked Paula to be my guest blogger today! Here's her race report:

I’m not generally the blogger type but since a few of my teammates have written about their recent Xterra/Urban Assault race experience, I thought I would give it a go. It was HOT HOT HOT on Saturday. Given the temperatures over the past several weeks, I thought I would have been prepared. I guess saying to myself and many others that “the heat doesn’t bother me” came back to punish me with a vengeance. So much for positive thinking…!

There were only two of us in my category but I came to realize that this had no bearing, whatsoever, on my pre-race jitters. There could have been 20 of us, and it wouldn’t have made a difference. That being said, nerves all aflutter, we were off! I, like Brad, almost bought it over the first berm. Now Brad, being in the beginner category, had an excuse, I did not. I should have known better but I was already on the right side and would have had to go around the whole field of one other person to get into a position in which I didn’t have to launch over the berm. Thinking I would lose precious time doing this, I thought I was playing it smart to go right over the berm.

Continuing the race, down the gravel road…hmmm, everyone says this is where you can gain precious time, being a roadie and all. Well, when it feels like it’s 110 degrees out and you are gasping for breath, this may not be the case. Who knows, I managed to pass a few people and climb the stairs, 9 flights. (I had counted them before, I was prepared.) I wasn’t prepared for my first crash though. I had 12 feet of clearance after I crossed the bridge. Normally, this is not an issue. For some reason, I looked right at the concrete wall and my left handlebar clipped it. Don’t ask me why, perhaps hyper anaerobicism (my new word).

Down I went, with a group of Sport guys behind me. Oh well, what good is a crash if there’s no one to see it? Continuing on, I manage to almost make it up the steep clay hill (my definition of “almost” being over the first big hump), out to Riverside drive and down the dreaded rocky descent. I hate this descent, but phew, I made it down, no, on second thought I didn’t, out of nowhere some guy decides to pass me on the inside, takes the turn too wide and plows into me.

Never asking me if I am o.k., the guy gets back on his bike and pedals away. I yell a few choice words after him, I mean the adrenalin and all…they weren’t real pleasant but I got my point across.

Back on my bike, yikes, what is this horrible pain in my side? Have I fractured a rib? Will it puncture my lung? I’m short of breath, I’m dizzy…no maybe that’s just the heat. “I guess it’s not excruciating pain I say to myself” so I decide to continue on. On to Forest Hill, this was pretty uneventful although my ribs are feeling the climbs. I reach the end and, given that I did an endo there last year in front of the crowd, I decide I will not give them a show this year. I prudently dismount to go back into the tunnel. O.k., I’m past most of the real technical stuff, now I can really start to gain some time.

Ouch, what is this pain in my legs? Am I cramping, has my newly-deflated lung robbed my muscles of the precious oxygen they need? Drink, drink, drink I say forgetting all about the two Cliff shots that would have been of great benefit, I continue on. Down that gravel road (again) up the stairs, this time clearing the concrete wall with ease. I finish Buttermilk, cross over the Nickel Bridge, Northbank….legs are really starting to cramp but I am reaching the end…I pick it up here, I mean I want to look like I rode the race that fast the entire time as I cross over the finish line. The heat is excruciating but I am done! Some guy I have never seen before comes up to me with a bottle of COLD water and tells me this is the last one there is…I am too stunned to thank him as much as he deserves…I am finished. (Until next year that is!)

(Note how she doesn't mention she won? That Paula. I'll have photos to post as soon as PhotoBucket stops freaking out. )

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

She updates!

Don't mess with me! I'm covered in poison ivy and spider webs.

I can't believe how long it's been since I added an entry. It's hard to keep up with both blogs and keep finding new stuff to write about, especially since I'm not doing any racing this spring. Last year at this time I was gearing up for the Urban Assault and even though I'm not in any shape to race, I'm still a little sad to be missing it. Not sad about paying $40 to suffer for half and hour in the 90 degree heat on trails I normally ride for free, however. Not sad about that at all.

But, I have been riding! I swear! All of it local because gas is just too expensive to justify driving all over the place just to ride a bike, when we have trails so close to home. Powhite park is always an easy option and a favorite of mine unless I'm the first rider of the day which means getting liberally frosted with spiderwebs. Those spiders freaking HATE my ass. My favorite trail is a tight uphill route with lots of switchback turns, which is prime real estate for spiders. I usually make Kenny go first because I'm selfish.

We've also been hitting the river trails quite a bit, though you have to be really careful to stay in the exact middle of the trail because it's all POISON IVY EVERYWHERE. I know what it looks like now but that doesn't mean that every green leaf doesn't also look like it. I'm convinced that every leaf that gently brushes my leg is poison and...gross. It usually is.

Anyway, just a quick update to let you know I'm still a-riding. I'll take my camera out and get some new photos up soon.

See? I always make him go first.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Stuff and Stuff

Hey! Last night the weather was beautiful and we were feeling lazy, so we rode over to Powhite where the trails drain well. They were dry as a bone! Nice. The ride started out the way most spring rides do, with both of us whining about our legs hurting. The first twenty minutes always suck - it hurts a lot and it's hard and you wonder why you didn't pick a sport like bowling, where you can play and drink beer at the same time. But, as almost always happens, as soon as we both warmed up we started feeling good and enjoying ourselves.

Kenny had a flat (in which the entire valve of his tube sheared off. Dude, how does that even happen?) and after he fixed it we ran into a couple of guys who'd never ridden there before and were a little lost. I love that about Powhite park - it's not directional and there are no maps or arrows. It's so small that you can't really get lost for long, but it does help to know the good trails to take for a flowing fun ride. Kenny told them to follow us and we had a nice little mini-group ride. They were appreciative of the tour and it felt so nice to relax and not be under any pressure to train. Just riding for fun! So much better.

That's it. No great stories, just a relaxed after-work ride. I did finally upload photos from our downtown ride a few weeks ago. certain parts of the downtown trails empty out at Tredegar and on Belle island, so that's where I took photos.

Here's Tredegar Iron Works:

And what it used to look like:

Here's me looking serious for no reason:

Very pretty view from Tredegar down to the James River:

Some of the group:

Weird new rock formations on Belle Isle:

Cool, huh? This used to be a rather sketchy downhill run, but they rerouted the trail and filled it in with all these big rocks. The best thing about this hill is that Kenny found a photo of what it used to look like from the top way back in the day (by day, I mean 1865):

Same hill! Belle Isle has been, among other things, an Indian fishing village, a Colonial-era race track, and a Civil War prison camp. It's a strange little place.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sorry, kids.

I'm here! Still alive! I just took a break and it ended up being a lot longer than I thought. I have been riding, but not a lot, as the weather has not been cooperating. God, could it rain more? No really, COULD IT?

I did recently make the decision to not bother with racing until fall, if at all. I've just got too many other things pulling for my attention and I need biking to be a relaxing thing, not another source of stress. As for rides, its mostly been the usual local stuff and I've really enjoyed the last few rides I did. The weight lifting program I'm doing has helped a lot with general strength, though my endurance has suffered over the winter.

I have photos in my camera from a group ride I did a few weeks ago but I've been so busy with craft show stuff that I haven't uploaded them yet. However, Travis was cool enough to take some pictures:

Jay and Kenny both got flats right here:

JRP april 1

Headed up the hill from Buttermilk North:

JRP april2

Me at the back trying to catch the pack:

JRP april 3

Friday, February 8, 2008

Blah Blah Blah

I just couldn't keep that embarrassing whine-fest as my top entry anymore. It's too pathetic. Wahhh, I had a bad ride! My toes were cold! Time to move on. I skipped last weekend because I had other projects going on but I felt a twinge of guilt about it because it was fairly warm-ish and sunny. Oh, well. Then, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the weather totally slapped me in the face with spring-like temperatures about which I could do nothing. Desk-job-blocked.

This Sunday I think I might go out for a short ride, perhaps solo, just to get my mojo back. There's a group organizing to go back to the park where we rode two weeks ago but I'm not quite ready to have my spirit broken again, so I think I'll pass.

In the meantime, I've decided to do something about the extra bits of pudge I've been carrying around and I went and bought myself this:

It's good stuff. I want to have muscle and this is the way to do it - lift heavy and stop dicking around with all those tiny muscle exercises, Barbie weights and endless cardio. I'm still doing cardio, just focusing more on intervals and less on reading the latest Britney Spears saga whilst dreamily ellipticalling my legs in a lazy fashion. I'm also jacking up my diet with more protein and fiber and less, you know, crap. Less crap is really key, apparently.

So that's where I am now. Probably when the weather gets warmer and the days stay light longer I'll focus more on the cycling, but for now I'm working towards muscle and lots of it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Not My Proudest Moment.

I rode yesterday and I don't really feel like writing about it but I guess I will. I'll just start by saying it sucked. Or, rather, I sucked.

It was a group ride out at a park where we don't get to go very often so I was actually looking forward to it. I haven't ridden my bike in a few weeks and thought it might be fun. So, see, my attitude started out okay, I swear.

We arrived and it was much colder than it felt when we left. The sun was out but it was not warm. At all. I really don't do well in the cold which is why I avoid winter riding, but I really had missed being on my bike so I put on a bunch of layers and decided to go for it.

I knew I was in trouble when we hit the first climb. I asked my legs to dig deep and got nothing back. Static. Crickets. Bad. The first loop we did was an easy one, just to warm up, and I was already floundering. I rallied a bit towards the end of the loop and started feeling a bit better, but my legs still felt pretty leaden.

We headed for a more advance long loop of singletrack and I fell to the back of the pack because I was afraid of holding back the faster riders. I got dropped again and again and again. They'd wait up for me, I'd catch up, and then off they went and I was still struggling. I should really never get all the way in the back because without the push-pull of the pack I have no chance in hell of keeping up.

About five miles in I got a second wind and rode with a couple of other people for a bit, but then it was back to Dropsville. I remember looking up and seeing the back of the rider ahead of me completely disappear from sight and got really depressed. So much of this is mental and riding alone for miles and miles when you are chasing a group is so draining. It's different from a solo ride where your time is your own. When you get dropped you never forget that the group is up there...somewhere, and the longer it takes you to catch up when they stop to rest, the shorter your rest time will be.

So miles of slogging through winter-sad trails, with nose running, toes numb, legs cramping is not my idea of a good time. I was probably a pain in the ass but I was mostly frustrated with how quickly I've lost any cycling fitness and how hard I'm going to have to work this spring to get it back. Damn. Hell.

I was dragging and exhausted for the last mile (I think we did fifteen miles?) and Kenny came to scoop me up and lead the way back to the car. I was too tired and frustrated to do anything but climb off and sit dejectedly in the car while Kenny put my bike on the rack. Sitting there completely rung out and embarrassed, I cried. I have very firm rules about there not being any crying in mountain biking, but yesterday was what it was. I guess you have to have a bad ride now and then so you appreciate the good ones? I'll try and remember that.

PS. On the way home Kenny stopped and bought doughnuts and that helped A LOT towards improving my mood.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


HI. WHAT IS HAPPENING. I know, I am slack, but sometimes a girl needs a break from the old blog ball-and-chain. I have been riding but not very much. I was hoping for a great deal of riding over the Christmas break but that didn't happen because it literally rained every other day and around here you get a stick in your spokes for riding wet trails. Besides, who wants to clean a muddy bike? Not me (or my husband.)

So, yeah, there have been a few rides, but nothing to brag about. I went out by myself on Thanksgiving day and endo'ed over a log, this log:

like, ten minutes after I got there. I landed with the palm of my hand firmly on a very knotty root which hurt A LOT. I contemplated calling for a ride home because gripping the handlebar wasn't really a fabulous option, but instead I stood in the woods and swore a lot until it stopped throbbing so much. I had a really Technicolor bruise to show for it. It hurt for weeks afterwards. Nice.

So, there have been a few other rides since then, but today I'll just tell you about the one we did last weekend. A friend of a friend of a friend has some land out in the country and he did what any crazy person would do - he built a six-mile loop of single track. NICE. A bunch of us were invited to help break it in last Sunday, so off we went. The weather was unseasonably warm which was a nice plus.

The trails were of the "rolling" variety and you know what that means - OW. It means it never ever lets up. That six mile loop was hard work, all of it. There was one great section of big dirt lumps (I think it was originally used for dirt bikes) but other than that, I worked and worked and worked some more. There was no coasting, no rest, just legs and gears. The ground was spongy and power-sucking, which made it all the harder. I hadn't a chance in hell of keeping up with the fast group but really, who cares about speed in January? Not me. Which is good because I'm fresh out, kids.

I had a great time, though. We did two laps and I rode with some nice women and men and it was so much fun to ride somewhere unfamiliar and new. And by new, I mean the trails were NEW. There were no defined lines so you really had to negotiate every inch of it on your own and hope for the best.

My friend Billy was kind enough to take some pictures for me since I forgot my camera (thanks!)

Group shot:

group shot

I look thrilled about this action shot:

on the move

This was the BEST. This sign was at the bottom of a hill right where the trail took a hard left:

That way

And the thrill of finishing a good ride:

rest break