Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skyline Sufferfest 2013: the Ride

see our preparation and the backstory for this ride here
First off, I'm going to spoil the ending for you and tell you that I didn't hit any bears. But I did see one! Beau and I were riding along and saw a couple cars and a photographer, stopped, in the middle of the road. We slowed down to see what they were looking at, and saw a bear waaaaaay up in a tree. Chilling and munching without a care in the world. I mean, how do those tiny branches support a bear's weight anyway? We watched it for a bit and I wish it could've been a better angle to get a picture. Oh well.
So Friday night, our friend/riding partner Randy talked himself out of doing the double century. While we were happy to accommodate his crazy plan, it was a relief to be able to push our wakeup time to 5:15am to be on our bikes by 7:30am. More sleep AND no riding in the dark!
Our SAG driver dropped us off just before the north entrance of the park. According to the thermometer in the car, it was around 30' at the base of the Shenandoahs. We pulled on our earwarmers and gloves, stuffed some HotHands into our shoes, checked our tires (all 6 tires were brand spanking new!), and were on our way. The first 5 miles are a long gradual climb and actually felt a little easier than I expected. It may have been something to do with the prescence of hot chocolate waiting at the top. The cold was completely bearable if not pleasant when climbing, but not quite as comfortable going downhill.

the beginning
The first 40 or so miles passed quickly. I know this part of Skyline well, having ridden it quite a few times. We got to Skyland, the highest point of the road and where our SAG vehicle was waiting, and scarfed down a TON of food. My cocoa banana oat muffins were a hit, especially with a smear of peanut butter on them. I also took to scoops of peanut butter dipped in granola. The intense hunger of long hard bike ride is awfully reminiscent of my thru hike.
The next wayside was at mile 50ish, and I have never felt as tired after 50 miles as I was at that moment. Like, can-barely-pedal-another-foot kind of tired. Sitting in the grass at Big Meadows was the first time it occurred to me that maybe I was in over my head. Maybe I wouldn't be able to do the whole 105 miles. Our super human strength riding buddy, I'm sure, would have been fine to get going as soon as we finished our bathroom breaks. But Beau and I needed more of a break. We sat in the grass for a bit, munching on bars and Shot Bloks and trying not to imagine what the next 55 miles would be like.

Randy pointed out that the next 25 miles really weren't that bad. A trick I learned thru hiking (where I looked at a profile elevation map of the trail approximately 43,209,423,098 times) is to cover up the map with your hands, and only show the next chunk of miles you're focusing on. Like blinders on a horse, when you just look at task immediately on hand, the rest doesn't seem so overwhelming. Magic!

So all I thought about was mile 75. Every tenth of a mile my odometer ticked up was a little victory towards my goal of getting to mile 75. Randy was a champ and led the pace line the entire way, encouraging us every mile. Eventually we got to mile 75, and then pushed up a big climb to the next wayside at mile 80, and then I was all about counting down and praising every mile passed as another mile closer to the end. 
We got a nice sunset, and lucky for me our bathroom break needs were all on different schedules so I was more than happy to break and snap this photo while the men stepped into the woods.
Finally, finally, we got to mile 100 and were rewarded with a glorious speedy downhill to the finish. It was JUST starting to get dark, and we finished at about 6:00pm. And then there was BBQ on the way home and pulled pork has never been so delicious.
 While we were riding along, I asked Randy to rate his perceived difficulty of the day's ride, with 1 being a short ride on the very flat W&OD trail, and 10 being LOTOJA. He thought for a moment and responded, "Probably a six."
Six?? Seriously?? This is the hardest ride I've ever done and you're calling this a six?
But the next day, he emailed us and changed his statement a little. He uploads his Garmin data into a software program that takes into account the intensity, power output, and duration of the ride and spits out a Training Stress Score. For LOTOJA, the TSS was 811. The Skyline Sufferfest was 750. Here is the approximate guide for interpreting the TSS:
  • Less than 150 - low (recovery generally complete by following day)
  • 150-300 - medium (some residual fatigue may be present the next day, but gone by the second day
  • 300-450 - high (some residual fatigue may be present even after two days)
  • Greater than 450 - very high (residual fatigue lasting several days likely) 
So yeah, I'd say Skyline was a little more than a six. :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Skyline Sufferfest 2013: Preparation

Hey I have an idea! Let's cycle all of Skyline Drive on Saturday.

Isn't that like, over 100 miles?


And over 10,000 feet of climbing?


And isn't it supposed to be cold, between 30 and 55 degrees?


What time will we need to get up to do all this?


Then I am IN!

So that's the plan. And actually, there is more craziness than just this. Normally we wouldn't need to get out that early for a century, but there is a third member of our party. He is kind of the one pushing this whole endeavor, and he plans to do the whole thing... twice. He just rode the LoToJa Classic last month, a grueling race of a similar distance but half the elevation gain. We will have a SAG vehicle with us the whole way packed with everything we'll need. Then, when Husband and I finish, we'll get in the car and turn around to support our riding buddy as he continues on.

I've professed my love of Shenandoah National Park before, and while I've walked the whole way on the AT, I've only cycled on the northern 30ish miles. Take a look at the profile map:

I should take comfort in that I'm already pretty familiar with the hardest part. But this will definitely be the most challenging century we've ever done. And let's be honest, we're not all that conditioned. We did get a good 70 mile ride in last week, but the weeks before that were a bust due to rain, a crash (woops, I guess I didn't mention that before..... we crashed our bikes!) and moving. But here we are. We'll figure it out, we always do! If we run into trouble, our trusty SAG vehicle will be right there to assist.
This week I've been making lists like a madwoman to get everything ready. We'll be taking practically every item of clothing we own to give us options for layering. And food! I made up a batch of some cocoa banana muffins, adapted from here, and tried out a new basic peanut butter protein bar recipe, and made up some Sea Salt Chocolate Power Bites from the Feedzone Cookbook. (Does anyone want to buy me this?). I also packed a plethora of other options, like fruit, string cheese, yogurt, Chex Mix, Clif Bars, Larabars, Honey Stinger waffles, Gu, granola, peanuts, and Gu Brew for drinks. Not to mention there are 4 stores and restaurants we'll be passing so... yeah. I think we'll be good on food.

sometimes I feel like my whole life is a series of lists
I'm fairly confident I have everything we'll need, but I'm nervous that something will go wrong tomorrow. Maybe something on one of our bikes will fail. Or it will just be straight up too hard or too cold and I'll quit at mile 60. Or, like my mom texted me this week, "What are the chances you would hit a deer or bear?"
Probably small, but at least I would have an awesome story to tell afterward.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"the Ultimate Guide to Eating Paleo" infographic

I don't eat paleo, but I thought this infographic was neat for, you know, information. In graphic form.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fit-tastic Friday Links

The Nacho Dorito --- The New York Times [Potato chips? No thanks. Cool Ranch Doritos? I have a hard time stopping with just one! This explains why...]

Yoga by Equinox -- Equinox Youtube channel [I stumblied upon this while looking for something else and was fascinated by this woman's awesome skills.]

Sugar Wise: How Fruit Stacks Up -- [Anyone else surprised that grapes are so high and pineapple is so low?]

Skinny, by Kate Savage -- emBody Blog [An old post about body image, conformity, and social expectations from a blog I love dearly.]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Banana-Oat-Whatever Muffins

Whenever there were overripe bananas at my house growing up, someone was bound to make up a batch of Cocoa Banana Muffins. These little guys were easy to make and froze well, not that we really needed to because they were eaten so quickly. And the ingredient list is pretty good, so I'm sure my mom felt okay about me taking 1 or 2 or 5 in my lunch box.

In my quest to eat less processed food, I remembered this recipe and thought how it would be better (and cheaper!) to stock the freezer with banana oat muffins instead of grabbing a packaged granola bar on the way to work. I started making changes, adding different flavors and reducing sugar. For the past year I've consistently had a batch of these Banana-Oat-Whatever Muffins in the freezer and, while they all come out a little differently, they never disappoint.

(all measurements are definitely approximate)
Mix together:
- 3 or 4 mashed over ripe bananas
- 1.5 c oats
- 1/2 c whole wheat flour
- 1/2 c sugar, if you're feeling it
- 1 T baking powder
- 1/2 T baking soda

Then add liquids:
- 1/2 c applesauce
- 1 egg (but I've done it without; it's fine!)
- splash vanilla
optional: 1/2 c milk

Mix until just combined, and go crazy adding whatever else you want!
- craisins or raisins
- chocolate chips or M&Ms
- coconut
- chia seeds
- nuts of any kind
- diced apple
- peanut butter
- avocado, mashed
- canned pumpkin
- cinnamon
- cocoa powder
- protein powder

Bake at 350' for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yield is about 1 dozen muffins.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Keeping Safe while Running or Cycling: Lights & Reflective Gear

As fall is now upon us, early morning runners have to readjust to running in darkness. I bring you.... running and cycling safety! Blinky things and bright colors!

I have a hard time understanding why some people get uneasy when they hear that I frequently run when it's dark out or that I sometimes bike to work. Oh, and when I told people I would be thru hiking the Appalachian Trail solo. That incurred a lot of concerned looks. To a fault, it takes a lot to make me feel the "stranger danger" and I frequently have to remind myself how easy it would be for a car to take me out on my bike or when I'm running across an intersection.

You can imagine Husband's efforts to try to make me be safer in my pre dawn excursions. Here's how I light the night:

Headlamp- the Petzl Tikka 2 found here. I didn't realize until 2 months into my thru hike that it has a high and low setting in addition to the flashing white, solid red, and flashing red. I like a traditional head lamp because it has a variety of uses. When running, I wrap it on my wrist so I don't get a sweaty forehead. You can wear it as intended on your head while hiking, walking, running, or hey, when the power goes out. If I need it when I'm on my bike, I adjust the elastic and wear it over my helmet.

I snagged arm bands similar to these from the deal site at for a few bucks. This particular one is found here at REI. It took me a little to get used to them, because they don't stay up on your bicep like I was expecting. Considering I only invested $6 for the pair, I'm cool with it. There are 4 settings: solid, flashing, super flash, and epileptic seizure inducing flash.

For cooler runs and rides, I love my EMS Women's Shell jacket (seen here). EMS tends to have a good sale rack, and that's where I found this. At the time I debated about the purchase, not sure if it was a need or a want, but I ended up getting one for me and one for Husband and they've been great! It's very thin so it works well to wear over anything to make me more visible.

I recently got this Nathan Streak reflective vest. It's so light and brethable I don't even notice I have it on. Similar to my fuel belt by the same brand, I have to wear it on the very tightest setting to fit, so I wonder how tiny people would fare.

I just got this bike light by Magicshine for Christmas last year, and MAN is it bright. Bright lights for cycling like these are pretty expensive, and this one will give you the biggest bang for your buck. It has a bright and super bright setting.

(PS- I still need a good red light. If you want to see a really awesome comparison for tail lights.. holy cow. See here.)

Bring on the winter!