Thursday, June 25, 2009

A testament to the benefits of Spinning

Recently one of my spin students, Elliot, shared a little piece he wrote for the Airport Club newsletter. It was about his recent completion of the SF->LA AIDS LifeCycle Ride and how spin class had really helped prepare him for this huge endeavor. I enjoyed the piece a lot – not only because it was so fantastic to read of his success on the trip, but because it is so wonderful to hear the impact we as spin instructors can have.

I love to teach spin for a variety of reasons (I always was a bossy little kid so I'm sure there's something in there about enjoying being in charge!). One of the biggest is that I truly feel that over time, people DO benefit from it. Whether it's the benefit of being ready for a big ride like the one Elliot did, or they see an improvement in their climbing, or that they just feel BETTER because of the increased cardio health and strength, all are successes in my book. When people share them with me, it really helps me to see that I’m doing my job well and that it’s so worth getting up at the horrible hour of 5:00 times three times a week (and fighting my way through commute traffic after work once a week), not to mention the hours I spend carefully planning workouts and thinking about good songs to put with them.

Thank you to all of my students who manage to make it to those early morning classes or make it to the gym at the end of a long day and bring such positive and committed energy. No matter how I feel when I show up to the gym, I always leave feeling so much better and with a big smile on my face.

Below is the short piece Elliot Daum wrote. Enjoy!

Having recently completed the SF to LA AIDSLifeCycle ride, I want to extend my gratitude to the Club for all the support and encouragement I received along the way. I especially want to thank the spin meisters for all the training tips and the conditioning boost, especially during those dark and rainy winter months when long rides become impractical or merely dangerous.

If you are contemplating such a ride, check yourself in to the spin class ASAP. The translation from the stationary spin bikes to the road is remarkably true, particularly if you follow the excellent instruction of the class leaders. You will find that the transition to the road will start to gel in ways that will surprise you.

Once I began the long days between here and L.A., the lessons and the voices came back to haunt me in the most positive ways. Mary’s exhortations to “keep my knees over my feet” and “go, go , go!”, Anna’s constant challenges to turn th dial up, stay with her, and “n-i-i-c-e! encouragement, Sarah’s peremptory “Stand it up! Spin it out!” and, of course, Paul’s drill sergeant orders and demands for “100%” all stay with you on the ride. The form and the motivation keep coming long after the music has died and the Club is hundreds of miles away.

Also I found Anna’s “core” tutorials to be of enormous assistance as both body and mind come to learn how the conquest of long steep hills requires much more than quads and hamstrings.

The entire experience was a most positive one in all respects. It’s a great cause, a marvelous experience and a terrific way to get in shape. And the Club members and staff surely helped make the actual ride a joy. So “Stand it up and spin it out!”

Elliot Lee Daum

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round #2: The Cytomax Benicia Criterium - next Sat!

2 Wheel Crit pre race

2 Wheel Criterium – Pre-race
I seem to be looking very tentative here…
…"wtf am I getting myself into??!”
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

What I haven’t said here is that I pulled out of my first crit (The 2 Wheel Criterium in Rohnert Park on 6/7/09) after 6 insane laps. Upon seeing the “6 to go” sign I thought “ugh. I can’t do it.” Then changed my mind. “YES YOU CAN. YOU CAN DO IT AND YOU WILL DO IT, SARAH. HTFU!”

But as the pack rounded the corner we began to string out and I found myself falling off the back. Again. This time, as I shifted up and prepared to step on it, I had a pit in my stomach as if I was about to puke any second, not to mention my right quad screaming in pain and in that instant, I just gave up.

It takes a lot for me to give up. But for 20 solid minutes, I was not having any kind of fun. At all. In fact, the idea of staying with it for another 20 horrifying minutes was in itself enough to make me puke.

I realize I’m giving crits a bad name here. It’s not that they suck that much. But I really had no idea what I was doing out there. Blindly, I just assumed people would be nice and keep a wheel open for me to grab! Naively, during the 2nd lap I attempted to make my way up through the pack along the right side and before I knew it, they had all jumped BEHIND me. NO! I didn’t want THAT! When I attempted to drop back, it was as if I could hear all the other women thinking “HA! ROOKIE GIRL! You tried to move up and now YOU’RE on the front, girlfriend! Mush! Mush!”

Sarah 2 Wheel 3

What a rookie I was.
Photo credit: Nick Gaetano

Mush, I did. Except it was a prime lap, which is a lap where they give prizes to the first three people across the line (they’re like mini prizes for people who may not win but like to attempt some sprints across the line midway through the race). As we rounded the second-to-last corner, my ears began to pick up a slight ‘whoooosh’ and sure enough, the Cat3/4 women began to surge past me and I was about to be chop liver if I didn’t hang on. Yet I had no ‘get up and go.’ So I did get up, but I didn’t really go.

Pretty soon I was off the back and going across the line a good 25 yards behind the entire pack. Mortifying and also disheartening. This was a local race and all my buddies were out there cheering for me and here I was, behind already – only in LAP 3! UGH!

Sarah By Herself 2 WheelI would guess that it’s usually rare to have a solo photo from a criterium.
Unless you’re off the front or off the back. Here, I’m off the back…
…and hurting as I try to catch up!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Still, I HTFU’d and used everything I had to catch the group again, about 2/3 through the third lap. I was pretty much redlining there, too. After two more laps of hanging on for dear life and still falling back, I’d had enough for one morning.

One thing that absolutely attracts me to this sport is the strategy that is involved. It is not simply telling your trained body to move it. It goes far beyond that. There’s teamwork, plotting, strategizing, and also practicing the art of being firm in your position or forcing your way in. I really like that.

What is not quite so comfortable is the element of high intensity that is involved with this. Not only must I refocus my training on teaching my body how to surge better and more often, but also how to be comfortable with higher intensity for longer periods. I am constantly preaching to my spin classes, “get OUT of your comfort zone! A little pain is OKAY!”

Now it’s time for me to start walking the talk.

I’m actually okay with that. As I said before, I wanted a new challenge. Not only a new racing challenge, but changing up how I train. This accomplishes both.

So, onto next weekend! I’ll be racing in the Cytomax Benicia Criterium. One thing that’s kind of cool is that I spent tons of time in Benicia all through high school, so it’ll be like racing on my old stomping grounds – nostalgia always adds a little bit of motivation, right?

As for what I learned from last time, I will attempt to be better at:

-Finding a wheel early and IN THE MIDDLE TOWARD THE FRONT
-Maintaining my position, EVEN IF IT HURTS
-Staying in a higher gear and not pedaling at such a high cadence
-Know that the pace is going to start out strong. Therefore, WARM UP FOR A GOOD, LONG TIME. This is crucial and I think a HUGE reason why I felt like such sh** at the first race. Definitely not enough warm up and I think I paid for it. It generally takes me about a good hour to start feeling great on the bike.
-Celebrate the little victories
-Know that if I fall off the back, just keep racing. Unlikely they will pull me off the course so I might as well keep riding.

Sarah 2Wheel 2 Next time, Sarah – STAY THERE!!
Photo credit: Veronika Lenzi

Okay! Let’s DO THIS!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getting it together

Originally last weekend was supposed to be a catch-up of sorts. Catch up on housework. Catch up on emails. Catch up on blogs. Catch up on my own writing. Catch up on revising the year’s goals (yet again).

Somehow, however, all that catch-up went out the window. I DID manage to pare down the email inbox and get a lot of responses in. I was also able to meet with my friend and cycling coach Tim to discuss what the rest of the year might look like. It was *so* helpful. He said “so, Sarah. What ARE your goals for the rest of the year?”

Lately I’ve been avoiding that question. After my first few races a lot of confusion ensued. Racing is stressful. Difficult. Challenging. It also has a way of either making you feel like you’re on top of the world or like complete crap. How badly did I want to do this?

In complete honesty – racing bikes is harder than any triathlon I’ve ever done. Well, sort of. It is important to remember that triathlons – especially the longer ones – have definitely had their moments. If I go to the memory bank and look in the dark corner underneath all of the other, happier, prettier moments, I can start to remember some of the not-so-happy times. Ones where I felt like quitting. Where my body just couldn’t go. When I had tears coming down my face because of cramping. When five more miles of running seemed like a near-impossible feat and it was all I could do just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Yeah, it’s been pretty tough at times.

But with bike racing, there’s something else that can hurt besides the body that never seemed to phase me in triathlon. It’s called my ego.

(My race report from my first crit is still in editing phases. I’m working on not just unleashing the first draft of race reports onto my readers but rather, revising and making each one more of a writing project.)

Part of the reason I did not finish was not due to my screaming quad pain or my heart rate blowing up beyond my wildest dreams, but because my ego got the better of me. It’s completely embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. More on that in the race report.

Bike racing has made me push and suffer harder than I ever did in triathlon (at least on the bike, anyway). It’s made me pick up the (very fast) pace before I was ready to. It’s made me dig, dig, DIG down HARD and ignore the pain and pure shock my muscles felt and instead try to find a little more to give.

Yet, the road races were kind of fun. Fun in that “wow this is SO hard but maybe if I just work a little harder and train a little better and seriously work on selling my bike and buying a better one and if I just commit a little more and focus a little better…maybe I will get better” sort of way.

With the crit, however, it was all just hard. My body hurt and my ego was bruised. It wasn’t really that fun. In fact, after the race, I was downright miserable. And then the “Uncle Rico Effect” began to set in.

Remember Uncle Rico from “Napoleon Dynamite?”

Ahhh, visions of past grandeur. Or should we say, delusions of past grandeur?

As the going gets tough, my mind begins to wander this path over the last four years. “You know…I was pretty good. For training at the level I was training (in other words, working full-time and putting in 12-15 hrs/week), I was pretty strong and competitive. I took THIRD OVERALL AT THE UKIAH TRI (reality check: uh, small local race, hello!)! Damn straight! I came close to a sub 5 half-ironman. HELL YEAH!”

This kind of thinking makes me laugh at myself. Somehow my mind begins to delude itself into thinking that I did it all effortlessly and in fact, I was pretty competitive and maybe, in fact, I should just go back to tri because I’m better at it. Yeah. Oh and that even though I’m kind of sucking at bike racing, you people should all know what an amazing triathlete I was, and that, you know, if I actually decide to really train for bike racing I will be amazing at that, too.


WTF? Go away, Uncle Rico Effect!

Let’s get it straight. Triathlon helped me to see that:

I am a good athlete (especially when I train well).
That I can complete goals.
That I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to.
That no matter how much I run, I will never enjoy it the way I do swimming and cycling.
That I am not as Type A as I thought I was.

…and a few other things. But those are some of the big take-away things. What I’ve realized is that I need to be more confident in myself and my abilities and in the end, nobody gives a damn how ‘good’ you really are unless you’re going pro or whatnot.

What matters the most is that you’re having fun and you enjoy the challenge you’ve set out for yourself. I chose to race bikes this year because I wanted a NEW challenge for myself. Something different. Something centered around what I love most.

Now, just because I’ve realized this is quite possibly the hardest athletic endeavor I’ve ever undertaken, I want to backpedal? No. Not an option.

It’s time to stop being a baby and suck it up and throw the ego out the window. Triathlon came somewhat easily to me and now I’m faced with doing something I know nothing about and it’s time to put on the big girl pants and just get out there and race. Again and again. With experience comes knowledge and also more know-how when it comes to surging and digging REALLY deep!

So, that’s that. I’m getting it together. The race schedule is just about set. I’ll post soon – a mix of crits and road races for the rest of the year. Instead of running back to triathlon and being comfortable, I’m going to stick with the challenge and go for it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finally - a post (and a rock & roll spin list!)

So this is a spin list in the guise of a post. I'm working on a couple longer pieces but things have been hectic since we got back from Mexico. Catching up on email, regular mail, work - all the fun stuff that one gets to do after relaxing for a week. It was worth it. No swine flu, but likely giardia - how's that for bringing something back? It's not horrible but my stomach still isn't 100% again. Ugh. We'll find out in a couple days.

On tap for future posts over the next week (promise!):

-Why is fear so paralyzing?

-My first criterium race report: a big fat DNF!

-Product review: Skweet!

As for this post - one of my spin students is such a good sport about 'my' music. He really loves rock & roll but I can never seem to play enough of it for him. I throw him a bone here and there, but some days (especially recently) I'm really in a dance-remix mode and the chance of hearing anything resembling a guitar riff in that 60 minutes is pretty much nil. Those are the days I actually have to prep him: "So Sean, I'm sorry to is not a Sean music day."

Still, he is such a good sport! On Monday I said "okay Sean, Wednesday I am dedicating my spin list to you. No dance remixes!" The smile on his face was priceless. As I got down to putting a class together, however, I realized that being a child of the 80s, I know little of rock and roll. Sorry folks! Not my fault! My ears are always open, though, to new ideas and I try to listen whenever people throw suggestions my way.

In spite of some good 'classics,' however, I realized my iTunes library was lacking. I Googled "rock and roll spin list" and found Cynthia's website - "Spinning Music." What a great find! I took a lot of the suggestions for my class tomorrow from her list. Thanks, Cynthia!

Spin class 6/10/09 - focus is on cadence, hills and sprints at the finish.

->Warmup - 6:00 - Sympathy for the Devil (The Rolling Stones)

->Cadence work - 10:00 -
2:45 - Where Are We Runnin - Lenny Kravitz
4:20 (ha) - Smokin' - Boston
3:30 - Born to be Wild - Steppenwolf
[alternate 1:00 on/1:00 off, spinning with a max cadence at a resistance of 4 - a hard flat. You should be able to spin 95-110 without getting HR way up - in the 65-70% range]

-> Hill Climb - 6:00 - Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin
Every two minutes add a little resistance; pick ups out of the saddle for 0:30 at 1:45, 3:45, 5:45

-> Recovery - 2:00 - Fortunate Son - Creedence Clearwater

->Another Hill Climb - 9:00 -
4:15 - Sex Machine - James Brown
4:45 - More Than a Feeling - Boston

Here you are switching resistance every two minutes going between a 6.5 and 7.5 - medium hill to steep hill. HR stays constant at 80-82% but cadence will vary as you switch.

-> Recovery - 2:25 -Break on Through - The Doors

-> Flat cadence work - 3:40 - Rock & Roll - Led Zeppelin
Resistance will be at a 4.5-5 (hard flat to very small hill); working on alternating cadence between 85-95 and 95-105

->Short hill climb - 3:20 - War - Edwin Starr
Resistance will be at a 5.5-6.5 (small hill to medium hill); working on alternating cadence between 60-70 and 70-80 - in the saddle the whole time

-> Flat cadence work - 3:00 - YYZ - Rush
Resistance will be at a 4.5-5 (hard flat to very small hill); working on alternating cadence between 85-95 and 95-105

-> Recovery - 1:30 - YYZ - Rush

-> Sprints! - 4:30 - Welcome to the Jungle - Rush
4x 0:20 sprint / 0:45 recovery

Recovery -
2:37 - For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
4:45 - Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd