Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vision Quest


Michelle: my crazy friend (on the left) and Me (on the right)
Way back in March when my crazy friend Michelle forced me to sign up for LJ100 (she didn't exactly hold a gun to my head, but still), I knew training would be an infuriating challenge. 

Up late with my sick kiddo.
My kids are still young. They are night-wandering warriors determined to destroy a peaceful nights sleep. They're giant, slimy balls of germ infested snot that can strike you down with feverish, lung choking illness in just one spray of spittle. You can imagine how those two things alone can throw a wrench into anyone's training plan.

Not to mention all the usual stuff that demands your time: work commitments, soccer games, school programs, blah, blah, blah. We all have deal with it. 

Then I mangled my hand in a freak knuckle verses disc brake rotor incident.
And dislocated my shoulder. 

Excuses. Road blocks. Whatever, they aren't going to keep me from doing what I've set out to do.

Vision Quest

A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures.
The vision quest is a turning point in life taken before to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. He or she will go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness, often in conjunction with a period of fasting.[1] This usually lasts for a number of days while they are attuned to the spirit world. Usually, a Guardian animal or force of nature will come in a vision or dream, and give guidance for their life. (taken from Wikipedia).
This week I had what I would consider my most important training rides.  
The goal: get as close to a 100 miles on single track as I could. 
The trail: Owasippe.

It was a day I have long anticipated, knowing that I would be challenged in ways I had not yet been tested on the bike. The Owasippe trail system was the home of the Potawatomie Indians in the 19th century. I always feel a deep connection with nature and the land's ancestral history when I'm riding there. I couldn't help but think of this day as my personal Vision Quest. The way things have been going, I needed a turning point . . . 

Michelle was planning on riding all day with me. Another friend, Derek planned to ride for a few hours before going to work. Michelle is riding a sweet new single speed that, gets this, weighs 19 pounds. I'm not jealous at all. Sadly, there's been some mechanical issues that cut Michelle's ride short and she had to leave after just a lap and a half. It was a blow. I was going to miss her. With Derek only able to stay until noon, I was looking at a long day of riding alone.

Derek and I managed to get in 30 miles in 3 hours or riding. I switched hydration packs, ate a granola bar and began my solo journey.

Feeling decent the first 3 laps, I was surprised when my legs were slapped with fatigue just a few miles into lap 4. Losing my companions hit me harder than I anticipated. Everything was harder.

I opted for the 8-mile trail in fear that the big climbs on the back end of the 11-mile loop would be too demoralizing to recover from. 

It's funny how Fear changes as you ride. Fear in the first lap is that washed out, rutted drop. 50 miles into the ride, Fear is turning right to begin another lap instead of heading straight for the parking lot.

2 solo laps completed and I was feeling awful. I thought I had seen a moose. I was aware enough to know that there are no moose in Owasippe. Something was off with my nutrition. I kept stopping for no reason. Just sitting on my bike, wishing I was done.

And so I rode back to my car. Loaded my bike and headed home. It was only 2:30 in the afternoon. And I only had 50 miles logged. 

I had failed.

Driving home I noticed that the hydration pack I had been wearing was still full. Full! After riding 20 miles. It should have been near empty. My plan was to take in most of my nutrition through fluids, the fact that my hydration pack was full meant that I was dehydrated and under-fueled. No wonder I saw a moose! My fingers and lips had also turned pale blue, not sure what that meant, but I know that's not good!

Laying on the couch at home my head filled with doubts. If I can't ride more than 50 miles how the heck can I finish LJ100? I was heavy with disappointment. 

Munching away on my cinnamon raising toast with slathered with sunbutter, I decided there was still time to turn this day around. I brushed the crumbs off myself and set out to get in more miles. Initially I thought I would head out on my road bike.

But as I walked out the door it was my car keys I grabbed, not my road bike. I was barely conscious of what I was doing.

I was going back to Owasippe. I had a vision of Chief Owasippe (The Legend of Chief Owasippe) sitting on top of the hill, waiting for me. Where have you gone Heather? I'm here, waiting for you.

I was going to finish what I set out to do. This time I was focused and determined. 3-laps would get me 25 more miles for a total of 75. And although I could feel the fatigue of the mornings ride, I was renewed with a sense of purpose. I had found my flow and Chief Owasippe was my guide.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

LJ100 Q&A with Danielle Musto

A big thank you to pro racer Danielle Musto for taking some time do a Q&A on endurance racing and the LJ100!

Me: Is there Founder’s Beer and dinner left for those of us that finish after 10 hours?
Danielle: Yes, do not fear! There will be plenty of beer and food left.

Me: Now that the most important question is out of the way, We’re in the final weeks of preparation for LJ100, what’s the most important workout we shouldn’t miss?
Danielle: Ideally you want to get in one long endurance ride a week. I'm not saying you need to do a hundred miles, but it's really smart to go out and do a few long rides on your mountain bike. 100 miles on trail feels a lot different then 100 miles on the road and you want to condition your back/shoulder/neck muscles for what it's going to feel like. Not to mention your butt :-) Use the long endurance ride to practice your nutrition/hydration so that everything will be dialed in come race day.

Me: How would you suggest tapering the training in these final weeks?
Danielle: Everyone is different when it comes to tapering, but keep in mind there's not much you can do the week before the race except keeping the legs loose and getting enough sleep. Any sort of last minute hard/long training sessions will just create fatigue for the big day. My coach (Andy Applegate) usually has me do a long-ish endurance ride the weekend before the race and then I start to taper down. I will usually take a full day off, and then do some easy one-hour spins throughout the week. That being said I still do a few short more intense intervals to keep my legs fresh, but they are really short. Again, it's important to avoid creating any lasting fatigue.

Me: So I’ve read that some people take half of an Ambien the night before a big race to help them sleep. Do you have any secrets or tips to help calm the nerves and ensure a rest-filled night on the eve of the race?
Danielle: The night that really matters is actually two nights before the race. So if you don't sleep the best the night before the race, relax. Almost everyone is in the same boat with pre-race nerves. However, there are a few things that I do to ensure I'm as relaxed as possible. First of all, I make sure that all of my gear/nutrition is ready to go. That way I don't go to bed stressed about things I need to take care of in the morning. I LOVE coffee but I refuse to drink any sort of caffeine after 10 a.m. the day before a race. At night I try to get to bed early, put on a fan, and watch a movie. Don't try to visualize the race course right before going to bed. It will just make you nervous and make it harder to sleep. If I feel really awake I will take a melatonin (natural sleep aid). It usually helps make me sleepy. If you are going to take something, I wouldn't try it for the first time the night before a race. Know what effect it's going to have on you. Endurance races start early and the last thing you want to do is feel some sort of drug-induced grogginess at the start line.

Me: What must-haves should we stock at the start/aid station?
Danielle: Regardless of what your goals are for the race (whether it be placing, a certain time, or just finishing) try to keep your pit stops short. Just remember that the longer you stop, the harder it is to get going.  It's smart to have your nutrition/hydration for each lap planned and ready to go. I usually have banana slices and maybe some other fruit available just in case I want to grab something extra. Pretzels, fig newmans and payday bars are also favorite snacks that are easy to grab and break up the monotony of gels. You will sweat a lot throughout the race so it's smart to keep Hammer endurolyte tabs or elete handy so that you can replenish your electrolytes. Other helpful items are a tire pump, spare air cartridges, spare tubes, chain lube, sunscreen, bug spray, chamois butter, tums (in case you have stomach issues), some sort of pain reliever, and extra water. Are you confident that you can ride with sweaty gloves and socks for 100 miles and not get blisters? If not, bring extras just in case. If it's really hot keep a few ziplock bags in a cooler filled with ice. You can put those in your jersey pocket to help cool you off.

Me: How much and how often do you recommend eating/drinking during the race?
Danielle: If it's hot and humid 1.5-2 bottles per hour is a good goal. I usually aim for about 220 calories per hour.

Me: It’s a long day on the bike, do you eat a “lunch” or continually fuel throughout the day?
Danielle: I start fueling from the get-go. Personally I keep it really simple for 100 milers. I use Hydrapaks because that way I can ensure I am drinking enough and don't have to worry about taking my hands off the handlebars (I tend to hit trees when I do that). Because I put my drink mix in my hydrapak I also ride with a bottle filled with just water. I depend on gels for my other source of calories (besides my drink mix) and put them in a soft flask. This way I don't have to worry about fumbling around with gel packets. Fueling continually throughout the day makes it easier to keep track of calorie intake. Trying to eat a full "lunch" could create stomach issues.

Me: For someone that has only ever done XC races (2 hours), I’m concerned about pacing. How does pacing for an XC race different from an endurance race?
Danielle: Hopefully you have done some long endurance rides and have an idea of what sort of pace you can handle for a long period of time. Just remember that you can't win the race in the first hour but you can certainly lose it. It's really easy to get caught up in the start when everyone is hammering away. However, I promise that a lot of those people will come back to you if you keep a consistent pace. If you feel like your eyeballs are going to start bleeding you are probably going too fast :-) If you still feel great at the 50 mile mark then start to push it to the end.

Me: Anything I should I know about the LJ100 course?
Danielle: It's fun but challenging. Because the climbs are relatively short, the downhills offer very little recovery. Also, it can get sandy in sections and after a while everything starts to look the same. Luckily Rick Plite (the promoter) does a great job marking the trail so you never have to worry about getting lost.

Me: What’s the one thing you wish you knew before you did your first endurance race?
Danielle: Where the finish line was. This won't be a problem at Lumberjack :-)

Monday, May 21, 2012

At this crucial juncture

Just 3.5 weeks away from LJ100.

The last few weeks I've been silently struggling. Trying to balance family time, training, work, and managing the household has proven overwhelming.

I haven't been motivated to train.
My diet has gone off the deep end.

And the worse part is, I just don't care.

Experience tells me that this is a sure sign I've taken on too much. I've known for a long time that I am not Super-Mom. Nor am I Super-Woman or Super-Mountain Biker Chic—I'm especially not all three at one time. There are limitations to what I can do before self-combustion. Right now, the dial is in the red and I'm fast approaching incineration.

All this was leading up to a tough decision. While my LJ100 colleagues are ramping up their training to over the next 2 weeks, I will be taking a vacation from the bike.

A weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can breathe again! Until this morning, I was dreading this week. I have doctor's appointments for both of the kids, a vision appointment (I HATE getting my eyes dilated, it screws up my whole day), and I need to get the Camper packed for the holiday weekend—just to mention a few items. The to-do list is monstrous. Now that I've been able to axe 15 hours on the bike, the days suddenly seem manageable.

I'm willing to sacrifice some time at the LJ100 in order to get my life back on track. My general health and my family are more important to me than a number on the clock.

So, for the time being my "training" will focus on adequate rest and eating nutritionally.

>>>Also, stay tuned because the super-fast and LJ100 veteran Danielle Musto will be doign a Q & A on the race and last minute training. I thought I would have a whole bunch of questions to ask her, but my mind is drawing a blank. If there's anything you want to know about LJ100 or endurance racing, post it on the comments section or email me. Thanks!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Injury update

>>>Read the Fort Custer Stampede Re-cap at GTMTBA here.<<<

Shoulder Update

There's not much to report on this week. Monday I had my shoulder popped back in place and was told to take several days of rest before attempting to train. I was in a lot of pain/discomfort on Monday and Tuesday. After soaking in an Epsom salt bath followed by icing it and taking several pain meds, I finally started feeling better.

This morning I attempted an easy 2-mile run. Halfway in my shoulder started to ache with moderate intensity. I walked the remaining mile and applied another ice pack. I'm going to attempt a bike ride this evening (if Chad get's home from work on time--which is about a 50/50 chance). I'm hoping the shoulder handles biking better than it did running. Fingers crossed.

Hand Update

While I was at the doctor's office on Monday, I had my hand looked at. Because it was a puncture wound, the cut closed rather quickly. However, it was not healing properly in-spite of my best efforts to keep it clean and applying disinfectant cream. My hand was aching to the bone, red, swollen, and part of the wound was still open.

The doctor confirmed that there was an infection in the joint. She recommended soaking my hand and then applying Amerigel. I can not believe how quickly Amerigel accomplished what Triple Antibiotic could not. The infection is almost completely gone and my hand is feeling ten times better.

On the positive side . . . 
Crashing means you get a new helmet!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fort Custer Stampede 2012

Fort Custer Stampede. Photo by Jack Kunnen Photography.

Sunday, May 6th was the Fort Custer Stampede hosted by SWMMBA in Augusta, MI. I've written a full race report for GTMTBA that will be published later this week. Watch for it on their website!

Our family used this opportunity to take the Camper out for the first camping trip of the season, staying at Fort Custer Recreation Area (the race venue). We had a weekend chock-full of camping delights: mountain biking, scootering, playing catch, sitting by the fire, fishing, exploring, adventure hikes, and water gun fights.

There is nothing better than camping because you get to do all sorts of things you can't do at home. For instance, I drank coffee in the afternoon. The kids had hotdogs and macaroni and cheese for lunch. Juiceboxes for everyone! And mom and dad may have even had a couple of beers. Hmmm, I just realized these are all centered around food.

Chad and I had both planned on getting some time on the trail Saturday, logging miles for our Lumberjack training. But we were having so much fun playing with the kids that we had a difficult time stealing ourselves away. I managed to sneak out for a 4-mile loop around lunch time. The course was not marked yet and I got lost attempting to follow the map. Chad went after dinner and was able to ride the course that had now been marked.

The Race

Having ridden the course, Chad gave me a few pointers: Ride in your big ring and use your momentum to roll through the new sections of trail! Riding in my big ring on my Trek 8000 is no problem, but I've had a harder time on my new 29" Superfly AL Elite. I'm not good at the details so I don't know if the reason is the gearing ratio difference or the rolling weight of the larger wheels. Either way, I was thinking there was no possible way I'd use the big ring, I'd waste my legs halfway through the race and hit the wall.

Team Brewer ready to race.

Sunday morning, Race day, was here before we knew it. We were all thankful for a relaxed 10 AM start. I raced for GTMTBA and the kids were both signed up for their first ever kids race, representing team Lil' Coasters XC.

After a quick hug and kiss and well-wishes from the kids, I rode away from our campsite and to the Start/Finish, about 1.5 away.

Fort Custer Stampede is fun because it has a bit of everything and it's almost all on single-track trails. I was looking forward to a competitive race. The women's fields are getting stronger and faster. You can not let-up on the crank for a second because its guaranteed there will be someone right behind you fighting to take your place. And that is exactly what went down on Sunday.

Four of us lead out the field in the first lap, keeping a good pace. About halfway through the loop the race takes you through a section known as the "Trenches," dug-out trenches once used as a training facility for combat troops. It's filled with tight, off-camber turns and whoop-de-doos. I cut one of the turns too wide and my front tire hit a tree dead-on, sending me into a flying endo, flipping over my handle-bars and landing on my head and shoulder.

I was shaky, but okay. I got back on my bike and started to roll on the trail. Unfortunately for me the trail immediately went up a sort-of narrow land bridge with a ravine on either side. As shaky as I was, I stumbled and ended up falling down the ravine. Which is typical for me. If there's a ravine to fall down, I will fall down it.

My crash gave the lead women a good gap and the chase was on! By the end of the first lap I had managed to get on the wheel of Marnie, an acquaintance I've met through racing. She was currently in third place. I followed Marnie's pacing for the second and most of the third lap. At one point we were passed by another racer. With just 4 miles to the finish I decided to create a small gap behind Marnie in order to enable myself to maintain momentum through a technical section of trail. Marnie used this to her advantage and took off. I was not able to close the gap after that.

I finished in fifth place. I had a good race. I enjoyed my time out on the trail. It was scenic, the wildflowers were in blossom and the course took us past several lakes and over bridges. I could not have asked for a better day (other than not crashing).

And Chad was right about the big ring through the new trail. Standing up and hammering through the rough and bumpy sections helped me out a lot. It's good to know I can race in my big ring on single-track.

The Kids Race

Unfortunately the Kids Race was going on during my race so I didn't get to see them. But I have heard all about it.
The kid's racing steeds.

Sage finishing up her lap!

Recovery snack.
Chad helped Bear through the 1/4 mile loop that was mostly single-track. Sage's start was shortly after Bear's and she was left to begin the race on her own. Just after the start, Sage and another girl bumped front tires, sending Sage crashing to the ground. Another mom was there (thank you!) and helped her up. Sage managed to finish her lap, successfully finishing her first XC race! Go Sage!


I stayed at the race start/finish to cheer the Sport Women as they started. Then it was back to the campground for family time. The kids had the water-guns out and were in a full-on battle with the campfire. Their little squirts sending hisses and steam up into the air. 

Chad took each of the kids, one a time, to ride the whoop-de-doos on their bikes. I went on a butterfly hunt with Bear while Sage was off riding with dad. Then we switched kids. Sage and I scootered around the campground and played catch.

As the day wore on my left arm and shoulder began to ache. It wasn't surprising, being I crashed on it pretty hard that morning. 

Later I sat by the fire listening to the thunder in the distance, just enjoying being with the family. We closed out our camping trip with grilled hamburgers and vegetables for dinner. 


Sunday night I could not sleep because the pain in my shoulder was too intense. On my way to work Monday morning I made a detour to the doctor's office. Turns out I dislocated my shoulder in the crash. They popped everything back into place. Fortunately, its not very serious. I'm supposed to take 3 days off (completely!). And then I can get back to training, but no racing until Lumberjack.

Best Bear Quote of the weekend:
Me: Let's work on not sucking our thumbs kids. Anyone have ideas of how we can practice that?
Bear: I'm not sucking my thumb!
          I'm tasting all of my boogers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fort Custer Stampede this weekend

Last post this week, I promise!

Everyone is talking about Mud Sweat and Beers happening this weekend. Chad and I drove up for the race last year in 2011. It was a fun and fast course . . . that is until a guy bobbled his front wheel and fell on top of me with 1 mile to go! The crash tore the stem off my tire, instantly flattening it. I was frustrated because I had been playing cat and mouse for first/second place with Marnie (I was doing most of the chasing). I ended up walk/jogging the last mile for fifth place. I can't look back and be disappointed though, I had a great race that day.

Although we have good memories, we decided to do the other race this weekend: Fort Custer Stampede, race #2 in the MMBA's Championship Point Series.

Last summer we spent a weekend camping at the Fort. The kids had a lot of fun mountain biking and exploring the trails at the camp ground. The Stampede gives us a good reason to pull out the trailer and kick-off the camping season at one of our favorite (and close-to-home) mountain biking destinations.

Sage riding over her first log pile, I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

It will be fun to race sections of trail and have these happy memories of the kids riding here bubble up into the forefront of my mind for inspiration.

And it looks like I'll have a chance to chase after Marnie again according to the Start List. She blew past me at Barry-Roubaix, so I'll be happy if I'm anywhere near the last mile when she finishes. The women's Elite/Expert field is going to be strong and fast this year. I'm looking forward to the chance to chase after some of the fastest women in West Michigan. I just hope my hand is healed enough so I can hang on for what is sure to be a wild ride!

With the race just a few days away, I'm getting my typical pre-race blues. I always feel undertrained and underprepared. This time is no exception, especially after all my rides fell through the last two weeks (my hand is too weak to brake and shift). 

Whenever I'm in need of a lift, I like to pull out a little book of verses for athletes. I'm signing this post off with a few words encouragement:

"He gives power to the faint; and to those who have no might, He increases their strength. Even the youths can become faint and weary, and the young men can utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not be wear; they will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:29-31

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homemade Energy Pacs and Hand Massacre (or, I AM a wimp)

Once again, yesterday started hopeful. My parents were taking the kids in the evening and I planned to ride gravel roads in the hills of Oceana County.

I've been working on making my own energy food, experimenting with sweet potatoes. I made a mixture of Sweet Potato, Quinoa, and Lentils lightly seasoned with Salt and Curry (I love curry!).

I've made the mixture before but I had not tried packaging it so that I could eat it while riding. I needed to come up with a way I could package and quickly consume the mix:

I took a "Snack" size zip loc bag and cut a piece about 1.5" wide.
Not pictured: Then used Scotch tape to seal the open edge.
Then I stuffed the baggy with my mixture and sealed the zip loc.
Voila! Homemade energy pac!
Once I had a couple of energy pacs made, it was time to change and load the car! I could feel the hills of Oceana trembling in anticipation of my arrival . . .

Lately I've been dealing with slow leaks in my tires. In my brilliance I thought I would put air in the tires before I left and then check them again after the drive to Oceana--just to make sure there's no leaks or issues pre-ride.

(give me a moment whilst I take a deep breathe . . . )

I'm really bad at putting air in my tires. I know, its a simple, simple thing but for some reason I always have issues with it. This time turned out to be disastrous.

After successfully putting air into the front tire, the air pump nozel-thingy was stuck on the tube stem-thingy. It would not come off. 

Apparently my strength training has been working. I used near-superhuman excessive force to remove the nozel and sent the back of my hand hard into the disc brake.

Dang. That hurt. It really, really hurt. Think, stubbing your toe really badly.

I shook my hand out a few times, looked fine to me and then moved on to the rear tire. Pain is temporary, that's what I told myself.

As I curled my fingers around the pump a gaping hole opened just below the middle knuckle on my right hand, and a pool of blood spilled out. I could see the inside of my hand.

I was hit with a wave of nausea. Fortunately my "survival instincts" kicked in. I keep clear athletic tape and gauze pad in my purse (not for emergencies but for poor fitting 'cute' shoes). I fumbled around with my left hand and managed to grab some tissues to slop away some of the blood before applying the gauze and then I wrapped half the roll of athletic tape around it—ensuring I would never have to see that hole in my hand again.

Now that I had the wound taken care of, I was feeling much better. Still in pain, but I can handle some pain. It was time to go ride. 

While loading my front wheel, I regrettably noticed something that made me dizzy:
Hand juice on my disc brake.
I could see exactly how deep into my hand the brake had cut. Obviously I knew it was deep and had hit bone, but seeing the brake . . .

Perhaps I should go see a doctor after all.

I detoured to the nearest Urgent Care center. I was pretty light-headed by the time I walked myself up to the sign-in counter. The receptionist noticed my hand, commented on how pale I looked.

Yeah. Is all I remember saying. 

A kind nurse quickly ushered me into a private room, laid me down, applied a cold compress to my forehead and brought me a nice cup of water. I can't remember the last time I was so well cared for. As nice as it was, I was trying to swallow back fear, knowing they were going to have to remove the crude bandage covering the hole. And I'd already heard the word "Tetanus" several times and knew I was in for a shot as well.

Once the doctor was finally able to remove the layers of athletic tape, she commented that the "puncture wound has stopped bleeding and is already sealing nicely." 

Huh? Not gushing blood? No bones? Wha?? I snuck a peek. 

Sure enough, where the gaping hole had been was now only a perfect red half moon. 

The doctor said: We'll just clean this up and apply a couple of steri-strips. After your tetanus shot you can be on your way!

Wow, did I feel like a wimp. 

That doesn't look so bad . . .
My homemade energy pacs made for a great post-urgent care center snack—much better than any Gu packet would have been.

Fortunately, I can still hold on to the grip of my bike and I was able to get in 25 miles with a couple of friends last night. However, I am discovering an entire list of things I cannot do: fold laundry, hold a cup of coffee, brush my teeth, twist on the top of a water bottle, empty the dishwasher . . . 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Strength Training

OWASIPPE IS OPEN TODAY!!!! Go buy your permit.

Strength Training, basement/backyard style.

There was one positive aspect that came out of my no-ride week, it gave me time to focus on strength training (which I had been severely neglecting!).

Ever since I signed up for an endurance mountain bike race, the one thing recommended to me more than anything has been strength training. It was told to me that I would be surprised how strenuous its going to be just to hold my head up for that amount of time.

Mountain biking is very different than road riding. You use your legs, arms, and shoulders as shock absorbers. You have to get up and out of the saddle to throw your bike around tight turns and maneuver technical sections. You are constantly moving: side to side, standing to sitting, forward and back. It's an intricate dance, the bike and yourself becoming one unit to fly through the woods.

And soon I'll be doing that for 10, 11, or 12 hours straight (hopefully not longer than that!).

I mostly do body-weight strength training for several reasons. The obvious being I don't have a gym membership and I have very little equipment at home. The second reason is that body weight exercises forces you to use more of your stabilizer muscles. Using body weight is also less stressful on the body than weighted exercises. This is important for me because my low back and hips are a problem area for me. I'm constantly battling back pain, its a fine line between working to strengthen those muscles without overusing them . . .

Here is a list of the some of my favorite strength training exercises I'm using to prepare (only time will tell how effective they are):

  • Kettle Bell Swing—this is a favorite because it works a little of everything: legs, glutes, low back, core, arms, shoulders . . . 
  • Single Leg Squats—Single leg squats forces your legs to work evenly while engaging stabilizer muscles. This is important for me because my right leg is noticeably weaker. By doing the single-leg squats I can't use my left side to compensate for the right. 
  • Side Plank with hand weight—After getting into the side plank position, I hold a 10lb hand weight in my upper hand. I then swing the weight into an upright position (straight up) and then down under my body, twisting my core in the process. This way I can engage stabilizer muscles while working the core. I swing the weight 15 times on each side, repeat 2x.
  • Push-Ups—I just think its cool to be able to do real, bona-fide pushups because I could never do them in gym class when I was a kid. Here is a great resource to help you go from being able to do 1 push-up to 100 (Yes! It is truly possible!!!). Hundred Pushups.
  • Lunges (forward, backwards, diagnally!)
  • Suck-in-the-gut—This was recommended by my chiropractor. Get on all fours, hands in line with shoulders, knees under hips. Then suck in your gut while exhaling, then suck in your gut even more . . . and hold for 10 second. Repeat 10 times. When I am faithful with this routine, I can feel my core engaging and stabilizing while I'm cycling. This is one simple exercise that just seems to lock everything into position for me.
  • The Monkey Bars—I'm a mom. I'm at the playground all the dang time. There's the park bench or there's the monkey bars. Why not get a little upper body workout instead of working on widening my rear on the seat? Am I right? I've had a few kids tell me that the monkey bars are for kids, well, so what if they are. Works your arms, shoulders, grip . . . 
I get most of my ideas for strength training from MTB Strength Training Systems and my favorite chiropractor at DBC Natural Holistic Health Center.