Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Winter Training"-The Ultimate Oxymoron

Something I've struggled with the last two years is the notion that if I preferred happy hour, second helpings of homemade mac n' cheese and Law and Order reruns to the self-flagellation of running or riding in the fifth level of hell known as "the Pacific Northwest in December," I wasn't a "real" triathlete. Guilt is truly a pain in the ass.

For 2007 I am going to make two triathlon-related resolutions. First-embrace the off-season. This year I let myself to get (relatively) out of shape in the fall because I was burnt out and hurting after a nine-month season, but still felt guilty every time I chose to relax, shop or socialize instead of working out. And instead of doing the yoga, long walks and balance training I promised myself I would do, I kept slogging through runs that weren't fun and walking out of spin classes irritated and unmotivated. I fell into the trap many athletes fall into: we believe that if we take a break, not only will we lose the fitness we worked so hard to gain, but we'll also lose the motivation to start up again in the spring.

That being said, every year I'm wrong about these losses. Now that my body and mind have rested for a few months, I can't wait for longer, warmer days (notice I don't say "drier"-Oregonians know better than to leave their rain coats home until June) and the camaraderie of weekend long rides. Granted, it will take me a few weeks of hard work to regain the mindset that a ten mile run is "no big deal" and to develop the fitness to back it up, but I know that I will get there in time for Pacific Crest.

Second resolution-embrace myself as a "perfect athlete." Triathlon is a sport that can give people great confidence, but it can also wreck havoc with a person's self esteem. I like to joke that three things are standing between me and my career as a professional triathlete: being employed, dating a brewer and genetics. The third factor is the trickiest one.

You know in magazines where some socialite writes into the fitness columnist all worked up about building up bulky muscle from spin class and the columnist responds that cycling just tones legs and the socialite will look great in her Roberto Cavalli holiday dress. That columnist is a LIAR. That columnist has obviously not had sufficient exposure to those of us with the "backyard" gene. This is the gene that creates a very interesting phenomenon: the faster and longer I am able ride, the less likely it is that my damn pants will fit around my ass by the end of the season. I've seriously thought about getting coaching credentials so I can write my pants off as a business expense.

I can joke about this now because the same legs that have a summer and winter wardrobe frequently redeem themselves by working over skinny chicks at races, both on and off the bike. But what isn't funny is how often my notion about "athletic" bodies frequently finds me judging race success by how many skinny chicks I beat off the bike instead of through my own goals for pace and nutrition. This, obviously, is not a good strategy for developing a long-term love of the sport.

I am going to talk about mental training and positive self-talk to the TNT participants next spring. I don't know whether feel like a bit of a hypocrite or an actual expert on the topic.

That's all for now-I still have to write another email to Santa begging for a metallic hot pink time trial helmet.

Merry Christmas-


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Psycho-Cross and Captain America

Here is a brief introduction to the word of cyclocross.

1. Cyclocross is awesome.

2. As I consistently demonstrated this year, you don't have to be good at cyclocross to have a lot of fun racing cyclocross.

3. You have to love a sport where it is cool for really good male athletes to compete naked on pink bikes and almost everyone drinks beer after they race.

Here is a good link that explains the basics of cyclocross:

(Whoever wrote that courses are 90% rideable does not race in Oregon)

In summary, cyclocross is like a criterium, except through mud, dirt, gravel, grass and asphalt.

Cyclocross, for me, involves four crucial components.

First, you ride your bike. The name of my cross bike is Captain America. It is a red, white and blue 2002 Redline Conquest Pro with stars and stripes bar tape. Cross bikes are different from regular road bikes in several ways. First, the frame, front fork and wheels of a cross bike are stronger to take the beating of the racing terrain. Cross bikes will also have a higher bottom bracket clearances and wider clearances and cantilever brakes to accommodate larger, knobby tires. The geometry of a cross bike also allows the rider to sit more upright in order to shift her center of gravity back and have more control of the bike.

This is me riding my bike at the Hillsboro USGP race. The Course went through several nasty puddles, a wood chip pit and at least a mile of mud soup. It was pretty cool, except for the part where my heart rate was never below 160.

For all of you stubborn triathletes out there, cross is a great way to work on your bike handling. I never understood the concept of just looking forward and letting the bike to the work until cyclocross.

Second, you get off your bike and either carry or shoulder it over barriers, up hills, around obstacles and through unridable mud.

This is what running over barriers looks like (sorry about the links instead of pictures, I'm too cheap to buy all of them and am also completely uninterested in owning 100s of images of myself in neon lycra)

This is what running up long hills looks like:

This is what an unridable mud puddle looks like:

Next, you get back on your bike while maintaining forward momentum. I do not have any pictures of this, but rest assured that this is a skill that one should practice repeatedly to prevent catastrophic injury.

The last component is one that you won't find in any book or on any website on cyclocross. This component is simply called "staying on the bike" or "not crashing." I need some work on this one. I've learned however, that wiping out is a really good way to get your picture taken repeatedly.

Which brings me to another point: wiping out. As long as I've been cycling I've had this paralyzing fear of doing anything that may result in a high speed ejection from the bike. Cross has (sort of) cured me of this fear. If you're going to fall, cross is the place to learn to do it. I'm never really going that fast and the places you're likely to crash are muddy or grassy. There is an exception to this general rule, otherwise known as the Barton Gravel pits. If you ever hear about the woman who took a 15 MPH flying header into the gravel pile at the end of the horrible descent on the Barton course this year, that was me. Lesson learned: when in doubt, brake early and often.

What I like most about cross here in Portland (other than the obvious appeal of a 45 minute workout after a tri season of 5 hour sweatfests), is the culture. Cross riders are the friendliest, most supportive group of competitors I've been around. And the men do crazy things like drink beer while racing and ride in their underwear in a monsoon. And there was a hot tub on the USGP course in November.

This last picture is my friend and training partner Jen and I after the last race of the season. Jen decided to join me at the beginners clinics in September and immediately started beating the pants off of everyone, including me. She's that person you would hate for being so damn good if she weren't so damn fun. Right after this picture was taken we hosed our bikes off, then ourselves.

Stay Muddy-


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Yellow Hornet

Welcome to my grand experiment to creatively channel my obsession with triathlon, cycling and cyclocross into a project that doesn't interfere with my billable hours requirement.

My name is Lindsay Kandra and I am a 29 year old attorney living, working and training in Portland, Oregon. I began competing in triathlons in 2003 to procrastinate from studying for the Oregon Bar Exam. I didn't even own a road bike until two weeks before my first race. Three years later I am the proud owner of two wetsuits, four pairs of cycling shoes, two defunct heart rate monitors, thirteen pairs of rank running shoes, cycling jackets of a dozen different weights and levels of water resistance, zoomers, at least twenty race bibs, a bottomless supply of espresso-flavored energy gels and the Yellow Hornet.

This is the Yellow Hornet. Also known as the "most dysfunctional bike ever allowed in the Allied Aerospace Wind Tunnel:"

The Hornet is most famous for destroying its own back derailleur at mile 4 of the 2005 Pacific Crest Olympic Triathlon. It has munched 2 back derailleurs since that time. The only original component is the front crank; it is a triple that I was too scared to give up for grinding up the back side of Mt. Bachelor at Pacific Crest 2006.

The Hornet is an ornery lass that whines from her bottom bracket anytime forced to go over 16 MPH. Which is basically all of the time.

I still ride the Hornet as I have expensive taste, and, despite the common misperception that lawyers are made of money, I cannot yet afford a replacement. Although I have been accused of keeping the Hornet so that I will always have something to complain about, that is a vicious rumor. In fact, I continue to ride it so that I can have the dubious distinction of riding a bike that is worth less than my race wheels and because I am holding out for the year Orbea releases a hot pink time trial frame.

I hope to use this blog to not only keep myself entertained, but to provide valuable information to my Team in Training mentees and give my race reports a permanent home.

Happy (Indoor) Training-