Thursday, December 3, 2015

Prepare for Nothing: a user manual.

"Always be prepared" - Girl Scouts of America

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. At least when it comes to living an active gutless life and keeping my sanity, I take the absolutely opposite approach.

Have you read a million forum posts and words of wisdom from various self appointed authorities, ostomy nurses, and medical suppliers about how you should always carry backup supplies with you everywhere you go? Have you made a supply kit for every bag you own, your locker, your office desk, and maybe even one to go in your sports bag or your cycling saddle bag?

Wait, how much do you put in your backup kit? Is one bag enough? Why not bring three, or five?! And then you'll need baby wipes, a washcloth, maybe a full tube of paste, some adhesive, scissors and so on.

Soon you're packing a camelback/backpack/waistpack just to go on a simple training ride for an hour or two (or four?), or you look like you're growing a tumor out of your flanks because you've got so much stuff jammed into your back pockets! And, then you realize you don't have space for your keys, cleat covers, and energy gels!

You could spend your whole life worrying about the "what if...", and preparing for it to the point where it holds you back from doing what you love. Can you keep up with your friends when you're wearing a camelbak on a road ride and they aren't? No. Can you focus on your interval training when you don't have enough energy gels to sustain you because you ran out of pocket space? No. Can you ride efficiently when you're wearing a big flappy club cut jersey that you bought just for the bigger pockets? NO!!!!

Furthermore, with all of this perseverating on being prepared for every possible situation, you are programming your brain to worry worry worry... and sadly, there are a lot of well meaning but misguided community members and professionals who will reinforce this unhealthy behaviour and encourage you to do so.


Stop thinking about the possibility that something could possibly go wrong and ride your damned bike!

Did you even notice that falcon up there in the tree? Or that little waterfall we just rode by? Or were you too busy planning out exactly when you needed to stop to check that everything was still sticking on fine for the second time in as many hours?

Are you giving your workout a 100% effort? Or are you too concerned that sprinting out of the saddle and tensing your abs could possibly, maybe, even just once, cause a problem? Or, maybe you are worried that if you sweat too much your appliance edges will start to curl?


Do your workout and forget you don't have all of your guts just for one minute, if you aren't in the habit. In fact, put everything else you've got going on in your life out of your mind and focus on your training. Training time is time to let your mind go blank and enjoy the feeling of velocity and exertion. Soon, you can work up to three and then five minutes of forgetting about the bag and enjoying the ride.

Before you know it, you'll be going for full hours at a time without a single thought about your appliance.  You can retrain your brain to stop worrying. I know you can do it.

All of this anxiety about ultimate preparedness has been holding you back. Just let it go.

Next, unpack the emergency kits from your cycling jerseys. Take the supplies out of your saddle bag and get a smaller one to hold only the normal essentials; tube, levers, CO2, patch kit, spare 20$. And, for God's sake, leave the camelbak at home unless you are going on a long mountain bike ride in the woods.

Now what? Go on with your life. In all likelyhood, nothing terrible will happen. You'll have fun and get a great workout in.

The unexpected does happen. Occasionally. That's why it's unexpected. Life happens. And, you have to let it happen sometimes. You cannot prepare for everything, and trying to do so will only keep you from enjoying the spectacular, spontaneous and incredible adventures you could be having.

Do spend the time to come up with a routine that makes your appliance adhere securely for the needed amount of time between changes, and know how long that time is for you. Maybe you can go only one day, in which case I'd advise you to try a new routine or trouble shoot your issues. Maybe you can go a whole week between bag changes. Whatever it is, stick to your winning routine and trust that you've done all of the preparation you need to do.

You're all set. Go ride a bike, and take only the normal bicycle things that a person without an ostomy would bring. Have a great ride!

Nobody said you can't wear unnecessary things... just skip all of the anxiety and excessive supplies, and have fun!

Note: In the past 5 years, I have trained and raced consistency in road, track, cyclocross and mountain disciplines. I've crashed numerous times, including a couple of very serious wrecks that have broken bones. Only once in all of that training, racing and crashing have I had an issue with an appliance coming off during training or racing. I've certainly chosen to change my bag sooner than I would normally after a few days of high intensity and long training in high heat conditions, but other than that I've had no issues. What is an acceptable number of incidents per year? Only you can decide that. For myself, when I head out on a ride or go to a race without supplies, I accept that at the very worst, I will have to ride back from the absolute furthest point on my ride a bit icky and then have to shower. And, that's ok. It wouldn't be fun, but it's not earth shattering. Life goes on. And only once has it happened, and that was under extremely unusual circumstances (missing a downhill remount in cyclocross practice and landing on the rear wheel of the still moving bike).

What else have I been up to?

It's been a long long time since my last update. So, I'll fill in some of the blanks.

I'm still racing and training, and I've been racing in the elite field for a few years now. I won a USA Cycling development foundation award in 2014. I've attended two rounds of national competition and am preparing for my third this summer at elite track nationals. I'm now a member of the USA Cycling Sport Committees, as I was elected this fall. And, I've caused a bit of policy stir a few years ago as well.

While I've been quiet on ostomy issues, I've been doing quite a lot of writing about gender and sports. You can read about all of that here:

I'm still me, but I've come out of my single-issue closet and am a more complete person now. It's an adjustment for everyone around me, and I'm thankful for having amazing friends.

Happy racing and riding!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some advice for those starting to ride or new to training

Friends and facebook "friends", or folks in facebook groups, frequently ask "I'm training for a 100 mile ride in June. What sort of training plan should I use?" or "does anyone have a training plan? I want to start training for a 100km ride next month!". 

So, you want to start training. Great!!! 
And, you want somebody to send you their training plan or tell you what you should do? My answer to you is both simple and not at all simple.

1. The simple answer: Any riding is good riding. Any training plan is better than none.
- This is the simple, happy-making answer. Maybe it's the one you really wanted to hear! By this answer, anything you do on the bike is the right thing - regardless of whether you are structuring your own riding time, or you've found/paid for a generic plan with guidance. 

Sadly, this is the cheap answer. It is true that any activity will make you more fit than none, but a generic training plan does you a disservice if you truly want to maximize your fitness and achieve your full potential. 

The saving grace of this answer is that it IS a great place to start. Just go out and ride your bike!

Do: Have fun! Keep it free flowing and enjoy the routine of being outside, on a bike, having fun, sweating.
- Start out at an endurance pace for 90-95% of your time on the bike, especially if you're starting out over the winter. Ignore everything you're reading or watching on TV about HIT sessions for the first 300-500 hundred miles. Nice, long rides at a pace you can comfortably speak at is the best way to build your aerobic capacity and focus on your form. 
  • Are your pedal strokes nice and smooth and round? Are your elbows bent and your shoulders nice and relaxed?

2.  The not so simple not-really-an-answer: There is no universal training plan. 

- Everyone is different! People come to the sport with different levels of fitness and past riding experience or experience with other sports. Anyone who lends you their training plan, or any website that advertises a one-size fits all couch to century type of a plan is cheating you of the best training experience - if you are really, truly serious about seeing improvement and having fun on the bike.

     Do: ask yourself some questions and answer them honestly. Then, consult with a licensed cycling coach (no, not a personal trainer or spin instructor!) about your goals and get a plan tailored to your specific needs.

1.     What is my baseline fitness?
    • Couch potato? walking the kids to school? marathoner? or, maybe a marathoner five or ten years ago?
      • if you have past sporting experience, especially successes with endurance sports, your body tends to remember. You'll probably see your fitness shoot up quickly with any training.          
 2. What are my goals? 
  • Limited to this one event? Using this event as a springboard to launch a new year round fitness campaign? Looking to race? 

 3. How committed am I?
  •       How many hours do I have per night to dedicate to training? How many hours on the weekend? How many days per week can I realistically be on the bike?
4. What is important to me in developing a plan? What s
  • Examples: A plan flexible enough to accommodate Sunday rides with the guys/kids/dog, etc.
    • I am new to riding and nervous about riding on the road.
    • I have a GI/heart/lung problem and need to ________________.

5. What kind of relationship do you want with a coach? 
The less experience you have with training, the more benefit you will get from frequent contact (even every other week) with a coach, which provides time to troubleshoot problems, ask questions, and pick their brains of all of that accumulated cycling wisdom!
  • Ex:  Personally, I find that I do best with frequent contact and accountability to a coach who is also my friend. I need some moral support, but I also need somebody who's going to lay down the law and tell it as it is if I start slacking/underachieving.
I swear, he didn't put me up to this, but if you want a really amazing coach, check out my coach at Human Vortex Training! He does online coaching too, for those who aren't local.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Velodrome time!

Just a short photo post ahead of a real update!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Indoor base miles.

Ug. Cold and wet does not a good ride make. So, I'm indoors doing some steady endurance miles on the trainer this week.

For those of us who are training to race (versus year round fitness), we try to go through macro and micro cycles of intensification and recouperation. During the winter, we go into base miles mode, which means a lot of lower intensity, steady, long rides in a purely aerobic zone - that means no sprinting, no going so hard you feel like you're going to keel over, no challenging your friends to a dual on two wheels up a hill. Just steady, mellow, long miles.

It's a time of rest, both physically and mentally. There is something beautifully meditative about a steady aerobic effort. Or, on days when you're feeling a bit cabin feverish in the apartment (like me, today!), it can be mind numbingly monotonous. But, being social as I am, I always enjoy company on the bike. Even when that person isn't riding, and is taking unflattering iPhone photos of me looking sweaty on the trainer in the living room!

Here it is, me at my frumpiest, doing some base miles in the living room in the NYC apartment.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A long way to the top

Since the crash in August I've been plagued by knee and hip problems, not to mention the lingering, renewed Crohn's issues over the past year. It's been a (litterally and metaphorically) wobbly path back to cycling, with a lot of ups and downs.

I've worked up to finally doing some real distances again, but am still distrustful of my knee's integrity and shy away from any real torque or out of the saddle riding. My base miles are still low for this winter and my fitness is behind where I need it to be leading into the next racing season. I've got a lot of work to do, but it's looking up. I have a referral to a new physical therapist; one who worked wonders on a cyclist friend who was told they'd never walk again.

And, one more promising sign is that this weekend I did a relatively fast ride from NYC to Bear Mountain in Harriman State Park and back, which includes 6000+ feet of elevation with a 5 mile climb in the middle. It almost destroyed me, but I survived and even said, "Oh, this is it? I thought it was longer" at the top of Bear.

Here's to continued kneehab to come. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be fun. Right?

The view from the top of Bear Mountain, NY.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Muckity muck.

Warm, cold, warm, cold, rain.... Snow, warm?

We've had some nutty weather over here in the NYC area. All of the snow melt has made for some very muddy riding earlier this week before things froze again.

Here's some lovely photo evidence of my rather impressive dirt tan lines!

sock lines!

dirt tan lines for December.

cycling mud masque, anyone? With a side of bleary, road salt splattered eye treatment.