Book Recommendation: ‘The Secret Race’

TSR-cover1

For one of my classes we’re reading a lot about Lance Armstrong and doping in cycling (oddly, not much about it in other sports), so I re-read one of my favorite books on the topic, “The Secret Race.”

Yes, there’s a lot that’s been said on the subject by a lot of people with varying degrees of nuance and sophistication. Out of all that, I would add to my general list of readings I find interesting about cycling and doping: “From Lance to Landis” and the whole USADA investigation. But, “The Secret Race” is still one of my favorites and one of the most detailed descriptions of how things were in professional cycling of a certain time (and still are to a degree I’m sure). Doping is a part of how things were, a large part, but it is not the only part. Losing stupid crazy amounts of weight is a pretty big part too. Oh, and training.

The main reason this doesn’t read to me like just another professional athlete tell-all raking in the money from their own misdeeds is because Daniel Coyle, who wrote the book with/for Tyler Hamilton, is a good writer and a good reporter. He confirms facts and puts in rare footnotes what other information you might need as a reader. The other important reason is that I don’t think Tyler Hamilton is necessarily trying to cash in. I think he’s trying to make a confession of sorts, a coming clean, etc. I think he feels really bad about the lying, but not as much about the choices he made in the first place. Which is interesting. I mean it doesn’t take a psych student to watch his 60 Minutes interview and know that he was wrestling with a lot of demons.

If you really are interested in the sport and in sports, in the questions of how to address doping, instead of just depicting the problem as an individual problem, which makes it easy to dismiss as a moral failing instead of examine as a systemic failing, if you’re really truly interested with an open mind, then I’d suggest reading the book.

At one point, in passing, Hamilton writes/dictates-to-the-writer that he’s known some great guys who decided to dope and some really shitty ones who didn’t. And that’s probably true.

Riding in Malibu

Latigo Canyon - complete with motorcycles
Latigo Canyon – complete with motorcycles. tim/Flickr

 

This is where we rode this morning: the Malibu Mountains. It was a long way up and then down a little bit and then up some more and then down, down, down. Most of the roads were pretty great — no cars, long steady climbs, nice scenery — but then we had to jump briefly on a busy through road and make a left turn off it. And, Justin almost caused a massive seven car pile-up walking his bike in the crosswalk across the highway/canyon road/whatever. Which he wanted me to know: he was completely in the legal right to do.

I also continued to have my same struggling I’ve been having lately. It was hot and I had a hard time breathing, something down here makes my throat all dry and closed up. And for over two hours I saw a heartrate just a few beats shy of what is my all-out one-hour race heartrate. Except we weren’t going all-out one-hour race pace. So, clearly the feeling shitty is not just in my head.

Still, I’d recommend: PCH to Yerba Beuna Road in Ventura up to Mulholland Hwy over to Katan Rd and then down Latigo Canyon. (You can also do it in reverse.)

Auburn World’s Toughest Half: Race Report

I’m kind of pissed off right now and writing this pretty in the immediate, so it is what it is — ie. not super peppy triathlon.

Short summary: I biked like I’ve forgotten how. I’m worried I might have forgotten how. It was so bad that I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to finish the bike when I was only 1/3 of the way through it. Then, as I was coasting into T2 angry and miserable and wanting to throw up/piss myself, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t finish the run and would pass out somewhere and be eaten by rattlesnakes. But, I did finish. Right afterward, I was happy about this. ‘Go me. I kept it together enough, even after everything sucked so hard, that I still passed some people on the run. Yay. This has to be good for Ironman practice.’ However, the results say that I REALLY sucked on the bike and the only reason I passed anyone on the run was because I was so far back. Ugh. Ugh.

Long version: At least I swam good.

I swam a 30:50 (which included running forever through shin-deep muck at the end; stupid drought), which is not really a very impressive time, but I came out of the water so close behind the front two women — one of whom I know is a very fast swimmer — that I actually passed them in T1. So: win.

The thing about World’s Toughest Half is that it’s really tough and hilly. That’s fine. I was (sorta) prepared for this. I mean I didn’t actually look at a course map, but in theory I understood the concept. For the first 40′ or so I felt pretty good. I was racing off heartrate for the second race ever — Wildflower being the first — and I don’t think I understand it. I don’t know. My plan was to keep my HR in the low-mid-150s. That seems about right for what would usually be my half pace (170 watts). I don’t know. For the first 40′ my HR was right in the 150s and I was eating and drinking and powering up the hills and I felt good/ok. Two girls passed me early, but I did a mental check: ‘Should I go with them? No, not this early.’ And, then on one of the downhills my HR went down and it didn’t come back up as much. And, then, more and more. I simply couldn’t keep my HR up and it kept dropping further. I could barely keep it in the 140s at times. And I felt awful. By an hour in, I felt really awful. Was my HR down because I was going easier? I couldn’t tell. Sometimes, yes, I was definitely going easier. Sometimes, I’d stand and go as hard as I could and my HR’d go up to a whopping 148. Sometimes, I’d go harder and it’d go down. I tried to remember how halves are supposed to feel, but I couldn’t remember. It seemed like I was going as hard as I could (for this distance), but my legs simply had no power. But, maybe I don’t know what hard is anymore? The course is constantly up or down and on the ups I was almost going backward. On the downs, I was terrified of crashing.

Besides the fact that my legs were dead and my heart was sluggish and I felt awful, the other major problem was that there were lots of steep descents that went into sharp sketchy turns or long curvy descents that seemed gradual but suddenly would turn inward — and there was no warning when these were coming. There weren’t signs leading up to the sharp turns; there were volunteers at some of them but they were often stationed too late to know in advance or were preoccupied with manning traffic, etc. The roads were also open and full of cars. Some of the roads were incredibly busy actually. And, after a number of close calls and seeing someone almost get hit by a car, I got really nervous. REALLY nervous. I can not crash again right now. You know what happens when you get really nervous in a race that has lots and lots of long steep descents? You lose a lot of time. I was basically sitting up and braking constantly.

For about two or two-and-a-half hours, I was pretty sure I wasn’t doing as awful as I felt. And, I felt awful. I hate races where you’re basically by yourself and miserable. It’s hard to bring the race game face — whatever race game face I had today, which wasn’t much. Then, the last hour, I was actually definitely doing as awful as I felt. I just stopped even caring. I felt terrible. I’m not going to crash myself out in this stupid race. This race is stupid. All these people are stupid. Biking is stupid. I lost my race number stickers. I lost a water bottle of the back of the bike. I went straight through an intersection I should have turned at and had to flip around. I spilled so much gel that it congealed all my other gels packets together. My left knee and my right hip hurt on my bike. My whole bike started rattling on a downhill and I coasted trying to figure it out for a few miles — worried about crashing. I lost all motivation. One women, who only rode about 6′ faster than me, made up 2′ and put another 3′ on me in about the last 7 miles. I was over it. I was done. And, I really really really had to pee for the last hour. I was actually mildly pleasantly surprised that I finished the ride in 3:34, since I thought I had bombed out so hard that it might have been four hours before I could get off my stupid bike.

For a decent amount of time while biking I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to finish the bike. I knew I had to run when I got there — that was the whole point of doing such a long hard race: to practice finishing strong when things suck and are long and shitty — but, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to finish running. So, I told myself: ‘You’re just going out for a run, a nice long trail run. You go for runs all the time.’ And, that’s what I did. I wasn’t racing. I didn’t care. I was just out for a run on the hilly, rocky trails. A girl passed me in about the first mile and said if I needed to get by to pass her back just to let her know, and I said, ‘Yeah, no, that’s not going to be a problem. Definitely not going to happen.’ Sounds like the right attitude.

After walking alone up a long steep road in the sun, I suddenly was on an out-and-back section and it turned out there were people somewhat right ahead of me. And, I wasn’t sucking (too much in comparison). And, also, I was probably going to finish. So, then, I tried to start trying. I passed one girl. I gained on another. I told myself that was good enough, you got close to her, way to go Kelly, you’re not actually going to catch her. But, with less than a half-mile to go, she was right ahead of me. I decided I had to go for it and kicked hard (while trying not to throw up). I went from running like 8:45s to 6:00 pace and freaked everyone out. Perhaps I should have done that the whole time.

The results suggest I biked really really shitty, like 28′ slower than the fastest girls, and then ran pretty slowly too. That was definitely a shitty race.

Obviously, I don’t know why I’ve been biking well in training and not in races. I suspect I’m struggling to remember what race hard is. I also think I haven’t been able to find that race game face, the extra difference between caring when someone passes you and not caring. And, I’ve been having a hard time with heart rate and recovery. There’s been some workouts lately where I’ve headed out and simply couldn’t get my heartrate above 125. It may just be that my heart is crazy, which is true. But, I also definitely didn’t give myself enough time to do nothing after smashing my face in. The accident really fucked me up and my body’s been struggling to recover. It’s been an up and down battle. More down. But, I got through today and that’s something at least.

Biking in the Wind

That’s not a metaphor. Yesterday, I actually biked 4:40 in really, really strong wind with Steve. Lots of people biked yesterday because it was a weekend in May. And, all these people were talking about the wind on the social medias and in person today. The wind was epic-ly bad.

But, I needed to ride 5 hours hard and I needed to ride long on my TT bike, so we did it anyway.

Biking in really, really strong wind is an interesting experience. If you have a power meter, then you could just go the effort you want to go. It doesn’t have to be harder; just go as hard as you were planning. There’s no reason biking in the wind has to be worse. But it is. It is miserable. You spend so much energy just staying upright and focusing on not crashing and remembering to eat and drink, even though that means you have to let go of your bike with one hand to grab the water bottle and you might get blown over when you do. A lot of work is spent worrying about getting blown over.

I couldn’t even hear Steve as we went through Chileno Valley. The wind was ripping. I rode in the middle of the road — since there were no cars out there — and got blown back and forth. My bike would suddenly jump two feet to the left and then come back. I’d bike at a slant against the wind, and then it’d suddenly change for a second. And, when we crested one of the big hill coming back into the wind, I swear my whole bike came to a stop.

But, we kept going.

And, 4 hours in, Steve decided to take my Garmin computer so he could see how I was doing. And, he decided I should ride “hard’ for 15′ because of the aerobic adaption, etc. It was rough. But, we kept going. Eventually, you get home. Eventually. And, then, I laid down on the couch and didn’t get up.

Biking in the wind.

Crazy Things I Thought On My 4+ Hour Ride

Lately, I’ve been doing my hard long rides with Steve. It’s been good because it’s HARD and because Steve and I talk about stuff — mostly about Tupac the Cat. And when I’m not talking I’m mostly thinking: ‘This is way too hard. I’m not going to make it.’ Over and over. Doing my hard long ride by myself today left me a lot of time for thinking. This is pretty much what I thought:

1. I am so good at riding my bike.
2. Oh no. Does my knee hurt? My knee hurts.
3. Stupid fast guys passing me. I hate people.
4. Oh, hey, I know them. Hey! I don’t hate you.
5. I am so good at riding my bike.
6. What if I crash?! I’m totally going to crash. That car pulling out doesn’t see me. And I’m going to flip over my bike and break my temporary teeth. Maybe I can get my hand up in time.
7. Did I just actually put my hand up to practice? I did.
8. Why is that guy staring at me?
9. Oh, I know him. Hey! I don’t hate you.
10. Yeah, he definitely hates me now.
11. Shit, this did not seem that steep the last time I went down it. Maybe it’s steeper when you’re going up. Maybe I went the wrong way? Could I have gotten lost on a route I’ve done dozens of times? Probably.
12. Shit, I was supposed to email that guy who hates me now and tell him if I was going to do the race this weekend. Hmm. I guess he figured out I wasn’t racing. And, he definitely hates me.
13. This is really far up.
14. So far up.
15. Shit, when was the last time I biked up this far? 2011?
16. No cars. Noooo cars. Nocar. NOkaaaar. Nokarnokarnokar.
17. That’s a lot of bikes coming this way though. A lot of bikes. What if they’re fleeing something? Like a giant mountain lion or a murderer? Oh, shit, shit. Didn’t that girl disappear somewhere around here. There’s probably a mountain lion on the loose. Or the Mt. Tam killer. Fuck fuck fuck.
18. Oh, it’s probably just a group ride.
19. Hey, I made it to the top!
20. It’s kind of cold descending. So cold. I’m freezing. Why didn’t I bring a jacket? I hope I can hold onto my brakes all the way down. My fingers shouldn’t hurt in April. Stupid mountain. Stupid microclimates. Stupid tourists.
21. Man, I hate tourists.
22. I wonder if there’d be a way to ban anyone not from Marin from coming to Marin on weekends. But, then, it’d totally disproportionately affect people who couldn’t afford to take off days during the week. It does offer a nice cheapish way to go somewhere for people in the Bay Area. Maybe we could just ban rich San Franciscans on second dates.
23. I am soooo good at riding my bike.
24. I’m totally feeling those sea lions sunning. If I did that right now, though, it might be weird. And also I wouldn’t get faster.
25. I need to get faster. Ahhhhhh. Freak out!
26. Climbing. Climbing. I am climbing. Climb climb climb.
27. No one is ever on this narrow road. They never expect bikes. What if I get hit by a car that’s too far over the line as they come around a turn. I’m totally going to get hit by a car. Fuck. That would not be good.
28. I think that pickup driver looked at me funny.
29. What if he came back and tries to kill me. Because he hates bikes or women or, really, himself.
30. I could totally get away though by going downhill. I’d just descend so fast and weave so he probably would miss when he tries to shoot me.
31. But, what if he turns his truck sideways to block the road, so I can’t go down. It is a really narrow road. And then he’d probably be able to grab me when I tried to get around the truck. Shit.
32. Oh fuck, fuck. Is that the truck coming back to kill me?? It totally is. I’m going to die. I hope someone comes along and I’ll yell.
33. Nope, just a tourist. Stupid tourists.
34. Go go go. Just push the last mile to the top. So fast! I am the fastest.
35. Shit, that pickup truck really did almost hit me.
36. Ride ride ride. I am so good at riding my bike.
37. Only 1:15 to go. I’m basically done.
38. Ooooh, I think the secret bakery that’s only open Fridays and Saturdays when it doesn’t rain might be open now. Let’s just coast over there and get some end-of-ride nutrition….

Another Trip to the ER

Last night I smashed my face into the ground. It was insanely stupid and has little, if nothing, to actually do with training other than that I really feel about to throw in the towel on everything.

(There’s a picture at the bottom, but it’s pretty gross, so don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see it.)

After some swimming and yoga, I was biking the 15′ back from the gym yesterday and had stopped to get some fries from McDonald’s for a snack. And, I wanted to eat my fries while they were still warm — cold fries are basically not even worth eating — so I was cutting through the neighborhood to get home quicker and I cut across the mall parking lot. I never cut across the mall parking lot. It’s not really even worth it; it’s maybe 45″ time savings. Riding along, I was about to take the closest exit out of the lot, but I was pretty sure there was a better exit under the parking structure, so I headed that way. Only the exit wasn’t where I thought it was. So, I was looking up ahead and ‘oh, the exit is over there’ and thinking how I needed to go up on the curb behind the pillar to get out that way. And, then I was slamming my face into the ground.

Evidently, I hit one of those cement bumpers at the end of parking spaces. But, I never saw it. I didn’t see it before I hit it; I didn’t see it as I hit it; it only registered that I must have run straight into it as I was hitting the ground and couldn’t correct the bike.

Usually, I wouldn’t fall on my face. I know how to fall. I’ve done it a lot. If I had rolled at all or gotten a hand out, I would have just been cut up. It wasn’t even that hard a fall. But, because I had no idea what was happening, none of my instincts kicked in. Not a single one. I took the whole fall right to my face and broke off my four front teeth. And, I don’t have any other scratches on me.

I started yell/crying pretty much as soon as I hit the ground. I think I may have said “Fuck” about 600 times in two hours. It hurt, but mostly I was just so pissed. 1. It was insanely stupid. 2. It was all my fault. How could I be so stupid. 3. Fuck. 4. It is totally going to screw up my training — when training’s already been so screwed up. I bet they tell me to run, since I won’t be allowed to swim or probably bike for a couple days. Too bad I can’t run either. 5. It totally is going to screw up my day and my weekend. And, everything was finally going so well. 6. Teeth are really fucking hard to fix once they’re knocked out. I know.

I did one of those 30″ checks, where you try to figure out how bad this is. For a second, I thought I might be able to bike home or bike the mile to urgent care. But, as I was spitting up blood and fragments of teeth, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. Steve was on his way home from Sac, so I didn’t have a car, and it was entirely possible that I would — at any second — have one of my passing out episodes. So, I frantically started dumping stuff out of my bag to find my phone and call 9-1-1 before I could pass out. When I did get a hold of them and said, ‘I crashed my bike and knocked out my teeth and I need an ambulance,’ the dispatcher kept saying, “I’m going to need you to calm down.” And, behind the crying and the swearing and the constant spitting up of blood — so much blood — I was like you know I’m pretty damn calm considering.

I’m about to go to the dentist now and they’re going to figure out what kind of fake teeth I’m getting now. At one point, someone asked if they were going to be able to put them back and I had to point out there really wasn’t anything to put back. The teeth shattered and broke.

The super terrible thing — in terms of commentary on people, not in terms of whether or not this string of events is going to crack my top three worst weeks in the lore of Kelly’s awful times — was that as I was crashing I heard someone on the edge of the parking lot laugh. Very distinctly at me. “HAH, HAH, LOOK.” And, it must have looked pretty stupid. But, then, once I was sitting there with the blood pouring out and crying, whoever it was that saw me crash didn’t come over to check if I was ok. No one stopped to see if I was ok. It’s not that I love people crowding you when you’re having a personal crisis, but what if I had passed out, what if I hadn’t had a phone, what if I choked on the blood. That’s some fucked up shit.

This is what it looked like:
wpid-img_20140403_210002_164.jpg

Cycling is Fun

8609400005_064cef9be8_o

Yesterday, I was supposed to ride to Santa Cruz with a bunch of girls, but Friday night I didn’t get home until close to midnight and the hassle of getting up early, getting to the city to meet people, biking down the coast, getting a ride back, probably be annoyed the whole time, just didn’t sound worth it. So, instead, I slept until 10 a.m. (yay!) and rode with Steve. It was definitely not easier.

I possibly made the mistake of telling Steve that I planned to do a 4.5-5 hour “hard” ride, so he wanted to make sure it was hard enough. I tried to emphasize that I really wasn’t worried about him not riding hard enough. But still. The first two hours were not fun. I saw over 200 watts way too many times and was feeling pretty done by the time we got to Chileno Valley, which is only halfway and where the tourists start to just disappear. But, I kept it together. Ish. Togetherish. The last 20-30 minutes were rough for me. Yet, I made it up and over the hill and home. And, then didn’t move much for a long, long time.

Cycling is fun.

Riding in Napa: Howell Mountain

This is where Steve and I rode yesterday, except in color:

Howell Mountain, from My Climbs.
Howell Mountain, from My Climbs.

We were in Calistoga to hang out, etc. (Though, I suppose, we could have saved the drive since we didn’t actually go to any vineyards, but just to wine shops and wine bars. It’s not like there’s a whole lot of benefit to wine being fresh…)

Then, we rode Howell Mountain yesterday. You should check out all the pictures and descriptions this guy has of the long Howell Mountain climb. Up until now, I had always been relatively unimpressed with Napa riding. Or, rather, everyone kept going on about the Silverado Trail and I kept staring at them like ‘you know it’s just a flat-ish, rolling, pretty heavily-trafficked road that you have to bike in the shoulder, which is often filled with crap?’ But, the climbs out of the valley are actually pretty cool.

It took me about 29′ stop sign to stop sign, which was me going quite moderately hard with Steve. And, if we had kept going, we could have gone all the way up, over to Pope Canyon, etc, etc. So, there’s more to riding in Napa than going up and down Silverado and stopping at wineries. Fyi.

Spoiled Much By the Weather

This is the forecast here for the next week:

Untitled

That’s pretty much as perfect as training weather can be. And, yet, today on my ride in the late afternoon when I went over the hill and it turned from sunny to overcast with a very light drizzle/mist, I was pissed. So mad. Who can possibly bike in these conditions??

The Most (and Least) Popular Sunny Running Posts

In celebration of the first year anniversary of Sunny Running this past Tuesday, here are the ten most popular posts from this year:

All of this seems to suggest that things about how to train or dealing with common training questions tend to do better than things about me (but isn’t it all about me really). Conversely, here are the ten least popular posts — from least to less least — this year, because that’s just how I roll and because it appears y’all really do not like the Tour of California:

What else should I write about? What do you want to read?