Wednesday, November 30, 2011

But I have all this gluten free beer left!

I made it through my two weeks with no wheat or gluten. It wasn't so bad, but I didn't feel any better or worse or different than before. I feel compelled to add that I largely avoided grains during this time. I ate oatmeal almost every day, but cooked mostly with garbanzo bean flour and ate a lot of potatoes and yams. I think I ate brown rice one or two times. So last night I made lentil and seitan "meat" balls and spaghetti for dinner. Seriously gluten heavy meal. I figured that the real litmus test would be how I would feel after re-introducing wheat to my diet. And this morning I feel . . . the same. *


The obvious:
Confirmation of my initial belief that when I eat crap I feel like crap, but when I eat good food I feel good. Weird. (okay, not really). Maybe (okay, definitely) I'm blessed with an incredibly hearty digestive system, but it doesn't seem to matter if I'm eating meat, soy, wheat, or dairy, as long as it's all in moderation and with proper macronutrient balance. I'll continue to enjoy wheat products in moderation, thank you very much. I'm especially excited to discover that I don't have to give up seitan to feel good. Of course I'm not saying that anyone who avoids gluten or grains is wrong, quite the opposite. If it works for you, rad. But what this experiment has taught me is that wheat is not something towards which I have a noticable sensitivity.

The good:
Every time I eliminate something from my diet, even experimentally, I learn something about my patterns and habits and my relationship with food. I know, that sounds totally stupid, but I spend a whole lot of time every day talking to people about their relationships with food and how to improve them. They come to me to lose weight, generally believing that introducing exercise will be the solution. While it's a fantastic start, everyone struggles with the truth that losing weight is 85% diet. In the same way I can't really tell someone to do more pushups unless I can do them myself, I can't expect to be effective in talking to people about their dietary patterns and habits without having a healthy grasp on my own.

The bad:
I still have 3 gluten free beers in my fridge. I don't know why I thought I'd drink a whole 6 pack in 2 weeks while deep in cyclocross season (or really at any point, if we're being honest here). It's not bad, but it's not nearly as good as the Alagash White Ale that I also have in there . . .

I fear I may have been premature in my conclusion! As the day progressed I started feeling all bloated and yucky. It wasn't seriously uncomfortable, but it was noticable. I didn't eat anything different than what I had been the last couple weeks, except the wheat.


But I'm still going to drink normal beer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Two to go . . .

Day 2.

One of the best parts of racing and riding bikes is getting to travel to places that you normally wouldn't. I feel like in the last three months I've seen more of Massachusetts than a lot of people I've met around here who have lived in Gloucester their whole lives (although Gloucester is known as being a bit of a black hole - some people never really get off the island). It was the same way when I lived in Reno and travelled all over California, Oregon, Nevada, and Utah. And it's not the same old touristy places most people go on vacation - you can't put on a bike race at Disneyland, and rarely do you get a downtown crit in a big city (although it happens - SF, Boston, etc).

The weekend after Thanksgiving I went to Sterling, MA for a couple 'cross races. My races weren't super great by virtually any measure, but it was neat to see the new roads and get familiar with a new area. It seems like there are a lot of races out around there, both road, CX and MTB, so it's good to be able to say, "oh, I know where that is, it's only an hour away" rather than having to consult a map every time I want to go to a race.

Anyway, the races. I don't want to get into course description but suffice to say that they were Tom Stevens designed courses and super fun. On Saturday I got a second row call up which I utterly squandered by missing my pedal and generally sucking. Second row!!! I'd like to trade that second row call up for a race that I have great legs for, OK? Can I do that? Anyway. Like I said, kind of crappy start, kind of mediocre legs. And then I flatted. It was really, really stupid. I pinched it on something, and I thought I felt my tire going flat. There was a little set of stairs right before the pit, so at the top I stopped to feel my rear tire, which felt firm to me. So I hopped back on and just on the other side of the pit I realized that I most definitely had a flat tire. So I had to run half a lap. Half a lap is probably just over a mile. Not far by running terms, but pretty damn far when you're carrying a bike and in the middle of a race. Anyway, by the time I got straightened out I was about to be lapped, so I just rode pretty easy for the rest of the race hoping I'd have something left in the tank for Sunday.

On Saturday night I stayed with the lovely family who owns Milton CAT - our biggest sponsor. It was fantastic to stay with my teammates and get to just relax after the race, rather than driving home or staying in a hotel.

I woke up on Sunday feeling kind of crappy. Mostly just tired, I think, as I didn't sleep too well on Saturday night. The house was comfortable and great, I was just awake. Sometimes it happens, you know? Anyway, the course on Sunday was a little more technical, and super fun. I felt lousy until I really started warming up on my trainer, and then started feeling a little more lively. I had ANOTHER second row start! What the hell? I guess it was a small field and I pulled a low number in the call-up lottery for those of us who don't hold UCI points. But still! I started right next to Rebecca Wellons. That's so cool! Anyway, I didn't have great legs and made some kind of critical technical errors in the first lap, so I didn't have a particularly spectacular race. But I managed to have fun anyway, which, when it comes down to it, is the most important part.

Anyway, my does-not-meet-expectations result for the weekend was fully in keeping with my rather unfortunate patter of good weekend/bad weekend/good weekend/bad weekend. Which means! That I should have a good race this Saturday in Warwick. Right? Right?! I sure hope so. I was really hoping to have two consecutive good weekends this year, and I'll have a chance when racing my last race of the season in two weeks, Ice Weasels.

I'll be sad to have the season end - cross season feels so short when you're not carrying it into January! But I decided that since I didn't manage a UCI point this year, and I'd undoubtedly be starting near the back at nationals, to just skip it this time around. I'm heading out west in two weeks to visit family and I doubt the prospect of coming in "top 70!" at nationals is enough to keep me motivated to train through travels and the holidays.

I did have a good talk with my coach/team director about road season and the lead up to NEXT cross season, though, and I'm excited to start the 2012 planning! I've learned so much in the last couple months, and I can't wait to combine it with a whole year of good preparation.

Oh yes, and I guess I should say something about Thanksgiving. It was nice. Is that enough? No? Okay, I made two vegan gluten free pies. One was a traditional pumpkin, the other was a pumpkin cheesecake (didn't have any cream cheese, of course) with a homemade, GF graham cracker crust. I made my own gluten free graham crackers. They were amazing. Anyway, both pies were fantastic and well received by even the staunchest meat eaters in attendance. Yay!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sh(r)edd Park

Climbing. Maybe I should try breathing while racing. The oxygen might help my judgement.

Yesterday I went to a race the Boston Road Club Cyclocross @ Shedd Park, in Lowell. It was rad. Well, mostly.

The course was pretty fun. I like courses where we can get the climbing out of the way fast. Whether it's a run up or a steep little kicker, I like getting the climb over and done with and then having a lot of twisty descending stuff. Or at least, that's how I feel this week. Ask me about it next Monday and I may have a different outlook.

Anyway, the course in Lowell started with a big parade lap around a field, then went into this little up-and-down u-turn around a tree, followed by some muddy-ish rough stuff. Then you had a fast descent into the barriers, another turn, and a super steep little climb. Twisty kind of loose stuff, then a cool series of switchbacks to get down the hill. Then you went back up it. The second climb was a little looser (originally I wrote "loser", which is funny) but it got a little less steep halfway through so you could really power up the last part, unlike the first climb that wasn't as loose but stayed steep the whole way up. Anyway, then you had another fast descent, followed by a little berm that you could kind of air-out if you caught it just right, before entering the woodsy section, then a little pavement, then more woods, finally onto the finishing stretch that was long and windy. As for the climbs, I rode them both in my pre-ride, but some people were running them and I was a little worried that when I got tired I was going to have to run.

I was feeling kind of yucky and super unmotivated as I got ready and "warmed up". Mostly I just rode the trainer for a few minutes, did some dynamic stretching, then decided riding the trainer sucks and went out and did some super half-assed openers on the road. I had a third row start, which isn't really that bad, but the start was super fast and I got sketched out by all the sketchy people. Or maybe it was just me. So I wasn't super aggressive. The result being that when we hit the u-turn around the tree I was pretty far back. I had this really bright idea that if I stayed on my bike a little longer and took the inside line that I could get around people. Um, that was kind of dumb. I ended up getting knocked over and trampled as I was getting off my bike. Seriously, I have a MTB shoe-shaped bruise on the inside of my elbow where I got stepped on. (AND I ripped my nice Fox gloves - but I'd almost not worn any gloves so in retrospect I'll take the ripped gloves over the missing pinky finger.) Anyway, I was Dead. Last. By a long shot. And my chain was off. Again. I was still feeling yucky and crashing and hurting my elbow and my pinky were a really good excuse to quit, right? Even after I got rolling again and passing people I was thinking that I had a good reason to quit, and I should probably just call it a day. But I didn't!

So I guess it can only get better from there, right? It was a 1/2/3 field, and there were 37 of us. So after my mishap I was in 37th. In the end I passed enough girls to end up 14th. That's pretty cool, right? I rode both of those steep climbs every time, except on the last lap when a lapped rider got off right in front of me. It's cool, it happens. Anyway, I was actually riding pretty strong, catching group after group, and feeling like when I went around people I had really good power and could distance myself from them pretty easily.

My coach/team director was standing around the start/finish area yelling at me, which actually was really helpful. It was windy through there and a couple of times when I was a few seconds back from a group or a rider, feeling ouchy and unwilling to dig too deep lest I not be able to claw my way out of the dark pit of pain, he yelled at me "GET UP THERE, NOW! GO NOW!" And I did and it worked out for me every time. Which just goes to show you that our biggest limitations are our heads, not our legs. I really would appreciate it if someone wants to just follow me around at races and tell me to go harder and quit whining. Although, Cody's tried this to no effect in the past, so maybe the difference is I had the fitness to back it up yesterday, for what really felt like the first time this season. Why? Beats the hell out of me.

Anyway, Lowell, Shedd Park, and BRC - kudos, rad race.

1 Week GF

Today will make it 1 week wheat and gluten free. It's not an experiment I entered into to treat any particular complaint, just to satisfy my curiosity, so I don't really have anything too specific to comment on.

Some observations from the week:

Going gluten free is pretty easy. I mean, the wide variety of GF products out there these days makes it pretty simple. I picked up some Bob's Red Mill GF AP flour (which for the uninitiated is a mix of garbanzo bean flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, fava bean flour, and, uh, I think that's it) and have been pretty happy with it. I've made pancakes with it yesterday and fed them to Cody with no complaints, which is a pretty good measure. I also picked up some GF beer - Bard's, made with sorghum and hops - which was pretty decent. Not a porter or a strong ale, but not Budweiser either. Basically, I don't feel like I'm really giving anything up. And I'm used to reading labels all the time as it is, so checking for one more ingredient isn't a problem.

I had a good race yesterday. It could be unrelated, or be a combination of factors, but it's worth bearing in mind. I felt like my power was better than it's been all season.

I didn't challenge myself to do this with any hope or expectation of weight loss, and my body composition has remained consistent. Non-expectation met.

For Thanksgiving I'm in charge of Pumpkin Pie. I'm going to make two - a standard pie and this: I'm going to make my own GF graham crackers for the crust. Both pies will be vegan and GF. And awesome. We'll be dining with some of Cody's somewhat . . . conservative . . . relatives from New Hampshire (please read the heavy sarcasm in my tone when I say, "and I'm really excited about it" - fortunately, there will be alcohol, and I plan on spending the majority of the day on my bike), and I have no plans of telling them that it's vegan and GF, so I'm excited about feeding them something that they would probably sneer at.

And I guess that's it. The experiment wouldn't be complete if I didn't reintroduce gluten to my diet after the two weeks are up and make observations as to its effects.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Yesterday I decided to challenge myself to go 2 weeks wheat-free. I am most definitely not the kind of person who jumps on the bandwagon of nutrition fads, and I've spent the last several years listening to the gluten-free crowd extol the virtues of their dietary choices. Then there's the Paleo diet, which is no grain/lots of meat. I have a lot of thoughts on that, but as someone trying to avoid meat as much as possible that's simply not a practical choice. My complete protein is largely made up of legumes and grains, so eliminating all grains is out of the question.

I read this the other day:

And I thought, well, maybe I'll try cutting out wheat for a couple weeks, just to see what happens. Understand that I noticed no difference in how I felt eating meat vs. not eating meat, so I don't think I'm particularly sensitive to dietary shifts, as long as I'm getting adequate nutrition and calories. So I'm curious to see what happens. I don't really foresee avoiding wheat as a huge issue in my diet, there's lots of food out there, and I'm used to reading ingredient labels in depth.

On my ride today I brought a Kashi protein bar, then realized it had wheat in it and I was going to feel like a loser falling off the wagon on day 1 of my challenge, so rode for 2.5 hours with no food at all, and then stopped at a grocery store and ate some Sweedish fish and an Odwalla juice thing. Not too sure that it was the best thing to reach for, but I was hungry and still had some riding to do.

Anyway, I'm not doing it to go "low carb" or anything (carbohydrates make up a consistent 60-65% of my daily caloric intake, right now I'm eating a big bowl of oatmeal. And no, it's not certified GF. Chill) and I'm not doing it to lose weight or anything like that. I think experimenting with my diet in a healthy way is a great way to learn stuff about myself and my dietary habits. Just like experimenting with my training by spending more time at the gym or running.

At any rate, I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh, Vermont.

Last weekend I went to Vermont for a couple of regional races. I was staying with Cody's sister-in-law and his wee little nephew, as he and his brother were up in Northern New Hampshire doing a man-retreat (ed. note: how manly is it to bring your iPhone backpacking? Yeah, that's what I thought too). Anyway, I'd decided to go to these races rather than down to those in Plymouth because they had almost $1000 women's prize purse between the two of them. I like to support events that support women's racing.

The course on Saturday was in Windsor, VT, and went all around the Harpoon Brewery (it's kind of like Sierra Nevada Brewery, but in Massachusetts, and not as big). The course wasn't overly technical, but it had some fun sections. There was what felt like a lot of climbing, which hurt. Anyway, I had a great start (for once! yay!) then got passed by a couple ladies. Basically I was in a group racing for 4th for a majority of the race, but I was sucking on the run-up and eventually got dropped there. Hella uncool. So I wound up 7th. The picture at the top is from that race. I also almost wrecked myself on the barriers, but held it together somehow. Oh yeah, and my teammate won!

On Sunday I went to Putney, VT, which is a neat little town on the Connecticut River that has one of the most fun co-op groceries I've been to in a long time. Loved that place. They also have a shop that puts on weekly Wednesday night 'cross races. How rad is that? Yeah, hella rad. Anyway, the course had a lot of fun stuff, including a super steep descent into a big rutted mud section that was kind of sketchy. Unfortunately it also had a big flat section virtually free from turns that went around this field. Boring. And really painful. And as it turned out, the course was super short, so they could definitely have added some turns in there to make it more fun and so that we didn't have to do 8 laps. 8 laps, you ask? Yes. 8. And there was a really hard run-up. That we had to do. 8 times. Anyway, I didn't have as good of a start, but I got with a good group and I was doing pretty well. Then I dropped my chain. It was so stupid, it was on this little stairs run up part, and as I was running my knee pushed my pedal backward and as it backpedaled the chain came off my inner ring. Ok, no biggie, chain back on, get with some other riders, keep moving. Then, on the next lap, it did the Same Thing. Put it back on, but then apparently I hadn't done a very good job and it came off again immediately. This was pretty much where my race ended. I got my chain back on and kept going, but I was so far back from everyone that, well, my motivator broke. I rode around for a few more laps (and dropped my chain AGAIN!) but I was about to get lapped by the leaders and the officials weren't pulling me, so I pulled myself. AKA DNF. But whatever. At some point that whole "stick it out, quitting is for losers" stuff just doesn't apply. There was nothing to be proved. So, yeah. But my teammate won again!

Anyway, I rode way too long and hard today for a tuesday following a race weekend, but it was 60+ degrees out and you gotta get it in while you can. Carpe diem, or something like that.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I have a little confession to make. The last couple weeks, since I skipped Downeast, I've been struggling to stay motivated. It might be the colder weather, it might be a little bit of fatigue, it might be all the warm fuzzy fall fun going on around me the last couple weeks - with harvest parties, halloween parties, fires, pumpkin EVERYTHING. Seriously, fall in New England is pretty special.

Whatever the reason, my motivation to go out and suffer on the bike by myself has been low. Generally when I'm feeling unmovitated I enter this cycle of low motivation > feel bad about being unmotivated > don't do anything at all to keep motivated > feel bad and eat ice cream > low motivation. But these last two weeks, even though I skipped a couple days on the bike, I got out and ran and did some strength training at the gym instead. Staying active and fit and strong > not eating ice cream > increased chances of return to motivated state. And what better way to increase motivation than to have a surprisingly good result at a UCI race? And maybe, the next day, spend 3 hours riding MTBs in short sleeves?

So, on Saturday Cody drove me out to Northampton for the Cycle-Smart International. It was COLD. I broke out my fleece lined long sleeved skin suit for the first time. I probably didn't need to, but it was awfully cozy.

The course was super fun. Started on grass, did a little S turn after the starting stretch then went into this "run" up. It was pretty short, but super gnar. Steep with loose dirt, rocks, and roots. I wasn't running. And the bottleneck it created stopped traffic so entirely that you could pretty much have soft pedalled at the start and still had to wait in line. Even though I wasn't running, my legs are pretty long and I have a lot of practice scrambling up stuff I can't ride when MTBing out here, so I actually passed a few people the first time up. Plus I was swinging my leg over the bike in the rooty descent that led into the run up and coasting in on one foot so I could hop off and get moving as soon as I started to decelerate. Some people were getting off before the little descent and some were waiting until they hit the hill, but my way was totally faster. Anyway, then the course twisted through some trees on some rooty uneven terrain, then there was a fast descent, then the big sand pit. I was really digging the sand pit. From there you twisted around through some grassy turns and some power straightaways, then hit the second "run" up. This one is in quotes because really, you could ride it if you didn't suck. I didn't manage to make it up a single time. Either because there was someone in front of me who screwed me up or because I just couldn't. At any rate, then you had more twisty rooty stuff through the woods, another little descent, barriers, and power grassy stuff before going through the finish. Fun fun fun.

Anyway, I had a pretty good start, made some passes, got passed and ended up with a varying group of 2-3 girls for the majority of the race. I felt really dialed and was railing corners and hammering over the roots with no regard for flat tires, and my fitness was better than I deserved. Overall I felt like my power output was pretty steady, although I lacked the high end to match big accelerations. I felt like someone would accelerate around me and I couldn't match them, but then they'd just kind of hover in front of me, or I could close the gaps by being fast through the corners, which has pretty much never happened to me before. Anyway, I was with two girls in the last lap with a pretty decent gap on anyone behind us when I bobbled the run/ride up and almost fell down the hill. I scrambled up it without too much damage but then I realized I'd dropped my chain and had to stop and put it back on. Rats! The gap that grew between myself and the two I'd been racing against grew too big for me to close in the last half lap, and the girl behind us caught me through the barriers. I dug nice and deep to stick on her wheel, then jumped around her on the finishing straight. Sprinting for 30th. Rad. Or kind of sad, depending on how you look at it. I'm going to go with rad.

We decided to come home afterward rather than stay and race another day. I've been feeling a little throaty and want to stay healthy, and Cody really wanted to ride on Sunday, which turned out to be a great idea. It was 60 degrees and sunny on Sunday and we got in a great 3 hour ride on our favorite trails with some good friends. Killer way to end the weekend.

I think I'll be driving down to Plymouth for a race or two this weekend (Cody's going to Man Weekend with his brothers/friends. They're doing a weekend backpacking trip in Northern New Hampshire. In mid-November. With whiskey. I am, obviously, not invited.) My motivation has returned full force for the second part of the season, and I've got plans to increase that acceleration so I can keep up with those surges that hurt so much in NoHo. But I'm also feeling good about the result I had after mixing up my training a little bit the last couple weeks, and am planning on keeping up the running and strength training in the coming weeks too. It makes me feel more strong and balanced, and we could all use more strenght and balance, right?

There's a pretty OK picture of me racing here:!/photo.php?fbid=270248683019556&set=a.270247473019677.70709.132987496745676&type=3&theater