Friday, August 30, 2013

Furnace Creek 508 Study Guide

I always love the anticipation associated with participating in a new event.  The interwebs make it easy to while away the hours viewing photos and videos and reading race reports.  Yeah, it's great to read the official data (maps, GPS, rules, etc), but I like the real-life stories of folks who've experienced the event.

Now that the reality has set in that I'll be riding my inaugural Furnace Creek 508, I spent some time today clicking around and sharing other riders' experience.  I thought I'd share with my friends + fans.

2012 FC508 blog from Jim (my tandem captain).  I'm happy to report that Big Bertha has been retired:

2012 FC508 blog from Paul and Wanda the other tandem on our team:

Stunning photos and time-lapse from Scott MacDonald Photography:

FC508 YouTube Collection, because a video speaks a million words:

I can't thank Gary Brustin and Jan Medina enough for supporting me in my Furnace Creek 508 quest.  Without their support this wouldn't be possible.  I'm really looking forward to this event.  I can't wait to add my blog and photos to the interwebs for eternity.

Wondering how this came to be?  Read my original Furnace Creek 508 post here:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This Just Got Real!

I've done some incredibly crazy things in my riding career.  Some really impulsive things.  Some things that, if a coaching client asked my opinion, I'd say "no way, Jose!"  Like what, you ask?  How about riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the California AIDS Ride when I hadn't been on a bicycle in decades.  Or the time I agreed to race a 24-hour mountain bike race even though I could barely ride a mountain bike (and had never ridden one at night).  Or building up a touring bike and riding solo self-supported around New York for 3 weeks.  Or attempting the Death Ride when all I'd been doing that season was road racing (and no long endurance).  Yup, these might all be considered crazy.....or stupid.  And sometimes the result is less than magical.  Once in a while it's amazing.  Let's hope the latter is true for my next challenge.

Less than a week ago, one of my cycling friends from my hometown of Elmira, NY, contacted me about an opportunity to join the record-holding two-tandem relay team at this year's Furnace Creek 508 on October 5th - 6th.  My initial reaction was that I would be happy to help him find someone to fill the team.  Both the riding and funding to participate in this event were beyond my grasp right now.  But somehow, over the course of a few hours during our discussions on Facebook, I agreed to do it, assuming I could find personal sponsorship to cover the expense.

So, I contacted my personal angels, folks who have supported me in my crazy dreams for many years, and thanks to the generosity Gary Brustin and Jan Medina, I funded this latest endeavor.   Now I had no excuse not to participate.

So, let me tell you what's crazy about this event.  It's called the Furnace Creek 508 (as in 508 miles).  The route begins in Santa Clarita, CA and ends in Twentynine Palms, CA, via Mojave, Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek, Badwater, and a bunch of other similarly significant-sounding desert towns.  It's one of the premier ultra-cycling events in the world.  I've known many folks who've done it in the past and they're all serious endurance bad-asses.  I see the crazy rides they do and think "why would you want to ride a bike for 20 or 30 or 40 hours at a time in the dark and the extreme heat and the rain?"  Luckily, as part of a relay team, I'll only be riding 230 miles with 17,000' of climbing.  Since I completed the Death Ride in July (125 miles with 15,000' of climbing), I could see that the mileage and elevation were within reach......if I'd actually kept my endurance up the past 6 weeks.  And, since it's a relay, there are breaks when the other team is riding.  So really, it's only 4 segments of an average of 65 or so miles, right?  I can ride 4 65-mile rides over the course of a day and a half.  No problem!

But, to add to the fun, I'll be riding this event on the back of a tandem.  With a man I've never met.  Maybe he won't notice if I'm not actually pedaling?  Yup.  A tandem.  Now, I've tandemed exactly twice in my cycling career:  once in 2002 with a man I'd gone on one date with (and decided there would not be another date after that experience) and once in 2006 with a man who was riding a tandem solo from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the Panama Canal.  The latter filmed his adventure which was later featured at the Banff Film Festival, so I got to see myself on the big screen.  But that's not exactly the resume of someone who's ready to undertake a serious (or seriously crazy) endurance event as stoker of a tandem.

So, all the stars aligned and I just got an email welcoming me to the team.  And it all makes sense now.  I've got my work cut out for me in the next month, but I'm in good hands.  My tandem partner is the legendary Jim Ryan of Seattle.  He's a 9-time Furnace Creek 508 finisher (solo, 4-man, and 2 tandem).  He's a FC508 Hall of Fame member.  He's a FC508 record holder.  He's ridden other crazy endurance events like Race Across the West (RAW).  And he seems like a really nice guy.  In last year's race, he met his tandem partner for the first time the day before the race and they survived.  Heck, they set the record for their division.  Joining us on the other tandem are Paul Kingsbury (owner of Kingsbury's Cyclery in Elmira, NY) and his fiance Wanda Tocci.  They were the other tandem on last year's record-winning team.  I've ridden with Paul once before (not on a tandem) and he assures me we'll have a great time.  Joining us will be our support crew, also veterans of the event.  What could go wrong, right?

So, for the next month, I'll be logging the big miles.  I'll be climbing the long climbs.  I may even meet up with Jim in Oregon for a training weekend.  And I'll make sure to update this blog with training updates as I prepare for what might be the craziest, most impulsive event I've ever ridden!

Yup.  This just got real!  (gulp)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Powered by Fritos.....CCCX Mountain Bike Single Speed Win

I don't write race reports very often but what the heck!  I don't win races every day, either.

On Saturday, Team Velo Girls mountain bikers headed down to Ft. Ord (Monterey, CA) to race the final in a season-long, 8-race cross-country mountain bike series.  This long-running series is put on by by Keith DeFiebre of CCCX, and I've been racing it on + off since 2005 (when I barely knew how to ride a mountain bike).

Last year, I decided to try my hand at single speed mountain bike racing.  It seemed like a good fit for me at the time, since I couldn't race the beginner category (I'm really not a beginner) but the sport category is filled with uber-serious mountain-biking chicks whose technical skills put this roadie-who-mountain-bikes to shame.  Short mountain bike races (about 90 minutes) fit well with my weight-loss goal at the time since I wasn't able to deficit calories and ride long durations.  In 2012, I raced the first 3 races of the series and then my roadie life of coaching, racing, and training for the Death Ride got in the way.

Honestly, I don't mountain bike nearly as much as I should.  If I dust off the bike (or dust up the bike) a dozen times a season that's good for me.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy mountain biking, but it doesn't alway fit into my coaching + training schedule.  But interestingly enough, when I pulled out my mountain bike this spring, I found my technical skills were pretty good this year.  I wasn't riding as conservatively as in the past.  I'm not sure why this is, but I wasn't fighting it.  And I was feeling fit and having fun, so I looked at the race calendar and realized the only race of the season that would fit into my schedule would be the series finale in August, so I committed to racing it with my teammates.

In preparation for Saturday's race, I pulled out my Sycip single speed and did a few rides.  As suspected, I was fitter and stronger than last year.  I was able to ride a harder gear and still manage all the climbing at Arastradero Open Space Preserve on the Dirty Velo Girls rides.  It felt easier than last year.  And, with the harder gear, I was riding faster, too.  All good.

Single speed mountain biking is fun.  It presents a new challenge for me as I have to think about optimizing my gearing (not too hard because you can't climb, but not too easy because you lose time on the flats).  I have to capitalize on momentum (you can't brake on the descents leading into the uphills or you suffer on the climbs).  I have to think about when to recover so I have the energy needed for the challenging bits.  So, for someone who's ridden Arastradero for 10 years, which can get kinda boring on a geared bike, it adds a whole new element of challenge and fun.

I was excited to get out and race with our four Team Velo Girls mountain bike team members:  Julie K. Cristina, Jessica U., and Simone.  These girls have been super-active this year, racing a bunch, leading beginner rides as well as our weekly Dirty Velo Girls rides.  They've been recruiting, encouraging and supporting women who are new to the sport.  And they've had a ton of fun doing it!

I was excited to race on Saturday because it would give me an interesting perspective on how my fitness had improved in the past year and a half (since my last single speed race).

And I was excited to race just because I love racing.  I also love my friends who race mountain bikes (and don't get to see them often enough).  And I love the fun, supportive vibe at mountain bike races.

I had planned to change my gearing to a smaller, harder cog for Saturday's race, but I didn't have time this week to change the gear and test it out, so I stuck to what I had on the bike (the gear I had raced with last year).

My alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday and I was ready to go!  I ate my usual breakfast of hot quinoa with apples, raisins, cinnamon, coconut milk, chia seeds, and coconut.  My cooler was packed and I snacked during my drive to Monterey.  I drank a couple of bottles for good measure to stay hydrated during the race.  I downed some GU Chomps and GU energy gel during my pre-ride (and during the race).

I arrived in time to pre-ride the course once on my geared bike (to progressively warm up and save my climbing legs) and then finished my hour-long warm-up on the single speed, riding the opening climbs a few times to bolster my confidence.  As I age, my warm-up is more and more important, and I find that 45-60 minutes is just about perfect.  I really liked the course:  swoopy singletrack, lots of sand to keep you alert, the awesome berm section, and lots of climbing.  I knew I could climb faster than many of the girls due to my gearing.  I was concerned with the extended flat sections because I knew I would lose time there.

And then, the familiar, standing at the line waiting for the race to begin:   smiling, laughing, chatting with friends and other racers.  All the women, regardless of age group, start together in the race, which is great, because it increases the pool of women competitors.

The opening climb felt great, although I lost time on the lead group of girls because I didn't have the gearing to keep up with them.  Bummer, as one of my goals for the race was to stick with Simone, our rock-star climber, until the first descent.  Cristina and I climbed together and I realized she had a harder gear than me.  She was climbing really well, and I started to think she would dust me on the descents and I'd never see her again.  We stayed together for the first half of the first lap, until I was able to pass another racer and lost her.  But with her harder gearing and her ninja technical skills, I kept expecting to see her right behind me again in no time.

I saw teammate Jessica ahead and made her my next target.  I caught her on a climb and we stayed together for a while until I was able to out-climb her on an extended climb near the end of the first lap (thank you SS gearing), but she was never far behind and knowing she was there kept me motivated to ride hard.  I had to dismount and run part of one long, steep climb, as Jessica inched ever closer.  With Jessica looming, I railed the descent because I knew she was at an advantage with her gearing and skills.  I'm pretty conservative and was impressed that I went balls to the wall, and then promptly bit it.  Luckily, I landed pretty softly, jumped back on the bike and jammed to keep her out of sight.  There's definitely an "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" tactical advantage to mountain bike racing so my goal was not to let her see me again.

As I started my third lap, I saw teammate Julie at the top of that stupid-steep climb.  She was my new target now, and try as I might I just couldn't catch her, but she kept me motivated through the third lap.  I passed some guys and kept pushing hard.  I got sloppy a few times and reminded myself to stay focused.   I was able to finish 30 seconds behind Julie.

I rolled into the finish, first in single speed, and ahead of about half the field of geared girls.  I felt great.  I toyed with the idea of racing again on my geared bike with the sport girls, but my schedule was tight so I passed on the idea.

All in all, a super-fun day and I met all my goals (except for sticking with Simone):

#1 -- support my teammates

#2 -- have fun

#3 -- improve on my last single speed race a year and a half ago (my average time was more than 2mph faster)

#4 -- race smart but aggressively

#5 -- don't get lapped by the fast guys

#6 -- win (yup, that was my goal)

Team Velo Girls at CCCX #8

The team had a GREAT day at CCCX!  Simone, Julie, and I took the WINS in our respective races.  Cristina picked up 2nd and Jessica placed 4th.  Simone, Julie, and Cristina also WON the series and Jessica placed 3rd overall.  Congratulations to my super-amazing teammates on a GREAT season, and thanks for letting me come out and play in the dirt with you on Saturday.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cyclocross.....the craziest sport in cycling!

Everybody's already buzzing about the upcoming cross season.  Race calendars have been posted, clinics are on the schedule, and I just saw the poster for this year's top-secret outlaw series in San Francisco.  Folks are dusting off their bikes, gluing on their tubulars, and dreaming about beer hand-ups, dollar grabs, Spooky Cross costumes, and the top step on the podium.

What's this crazy sport called cyclocross?  What was, at one time, considered an off-season sport for roadies and mountain bikers to maintain some high-end winter fitness, has grown to become a focus sport for many bike racers.  From September through January, folks will toe the line for the most intense 30-60 minutes of racing you can imagine, riding on all types of terrain (sand, grass, gravel, pavement, mud, ice, and snow), leaping off their bikes and jumping over barriers, shouldering their bikes to run up hills, and hanging out with other bike-loving folks in a very spectator-friendly environment.  With local races at venues all over Northern CA, you can't find a better way to spend a Saturday or Sunday this fall/winter.  Cross is also a very family-friendly environment and many races even have events for the kids!

You'll find all the deets on norcal cyclocross here:

Favorite series like Bay Area Super Prestige, CCCX, and Surf City return with awesome racing.  New this year is the Norcal CX Series, which incorporates some long-time favorite races like the Lion of Fairfax and Stafford Lake, and introduces some new races like the Kitten of Vallejo and the San Jose Cougar.

Matt McNamara of Sterling Sports Group

If you want to start racing cyclocross, or to refine your skills and take your racing up a notch, there are skills clinics and organized cyclocross rides offered throughout the fall.  The first of these clinics is our own Savvy Bike Skills 103 (cyclocross skills and tactics) on August 24th, guest-coached by Matt McNamara of Sterling Sports Group.  This is the 11th year we've offered this clinic, with a variety of guest coaches, and it's always a participant favorite!  Matt is a top-notch coach and a really funny guy who's been racing and coaching pretty much every discipline of cycling for more than two decades.  We're thrilled that he's coaching Bike Skills 103 and encourage you to register for this co-ed, 4-hour clinic.

Whether you race or spectate, I think you'll find cyclocross is just about the most fun you can have on a bike!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Midsummer Musings from Coach Lorri

Whoever created my schedule this summer was crazy!  What's that you say?  I put together my own schedule?  Well that explains everything.  Indeed, I'm crazy.

Since mid-June, I've spent more time away from home than at home.  My life has been a constant go-go-go.  And, of course, the bike has been an integral part of that action.

In June, I spent two weeks in beautiful Markleeville, CA, home of the Death Ride.  I held my 5th Annual Alpine Altitude Adventure camp with a great group of riders and also rode the Alta Alpina Challenge on one of the hottest days of the year.  I rode my favorite mountain passes, practiced yoga at studios in Carson City, Truckee, and South Lake Tahoe, visited the farmer's markets, hiked with my dog, and did some advance work for The Specialized Women Sports Camp where I'd be coaching in August.  I even went stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Tahoe for the 1st (and 2nd) time ever!

Lorri and Annie at the Death Ride

July was non-stop action, with another week in Markleeville, capped off by my fastest Death Ride ever!  I somehow slipped in a bunch of Savvy Bike clinics, bike fits, and on-the-bike coaching sessions, as well as prep for the 8th Annual Menlo Park Grand Prix presented by Kit Order.

Janelle Kellman of Kit Order with Lorri at the Menlo Park Grand Prix

The day after the race, I spent my 48th birthday with off-load and then hopped on the redeye for New York to spend an amazing week visiting long-lost family and friends and attending my 30th High School Reunion.  I rode my bike 6 days in 6 different places, including a group ride and a ride with a high school buddy.  I met with cycling and fitness friends to work on plans to bring coaching programs to NY next summer.  This was the first real vacation I've taken in a long time, and I even completely ignored work and email for a few days.

Lorri and her nieces riding in upstate NY

When I returned from NY, I had one day at home before heading up to Truckee to coach the road cycling programs at The Specialized Women Sports Camp.  What a fabulous weekend of clinics, riding, yoga, SUP, and seminars in a stunning setting.

Lorri and her athletes climb Donner Pass

And now I'm back and ready to settle in for a while, with awesome Bike Skills clinics, AIDS LifeCycle Training Ride Leader Certification clinics, bike fits, on-the-bike clients, and even some road and mountain bike racing to finish off the summer.  I've loved every minute of my crazy summer, but I'm thrilled to be back home in Northern CA -- the most perfect place on earth to ride a bike!

Life is short.  Live each day fully.  Enjoy summer.  Make memories!