Learning Experiences From Today’s 4-Hour Ride

1. Pack more food than you think you’ll need. Carrying an extra gel that goes unused is not a hardship when the alternative is spending 3.5 hours wishing you had more food while looking at trash on the side of the road to see if it contains any scraps.

2. When you stop at a water fountain, test to see if it works before chugging the last of your water.

3. Bring money. There is never a bad time to have $5 in your pocket, especially when you are an hour from home with no food or water.

4. Use the ‘pull your bibs to the side and squat’ method only if you want to soak your shorts and glove in pee.

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The flogging will continue until bliss resumes

I was at a dinner party a few weeks ago and ended up in conversation with a girl I’ve always admired. While I was stuffing cookies in my face like there might not be food again (literally, I threw up a little in my mouth from being so full and then ate three more, nothing wrong here), she was telling me about doing hot yoga at a studio nearby and how it has really helped her both physically and mentally. Suddenly it came to me: I had to do hot yoga. Right then. Or at least as soon as possible.

That translated to the following afternoon, several hours after finishing an incredibly cold, uncomfortable 3.5 hour ride. That’s a good time to try a 90-minute hot vinyasa yoga class, right? I prepared by Googling “yoga tips” and reading them while eating the last third of a jar of Nutella.

Armed with an old yoga mat left at my house by an ex, a cycling waterbottle, and a dish towel (since the website said to bring a towel and I figured they meant for dabbing sweat off one’s face), I headed to class. When I walked into the studio, it was like climbing into my oven, except that my pans are not clad entirely in brightly-colored lululemon apparel. My pans and I have that in common. Class started with everybody on their mats chanting three Oms, and I had to resist the urge to giggle and snort. 

Then we started moving and I had to resist the urge to keel over dead. There was a LOT of moving, so much moving that my head felt fuzzy from the effort and the heat. I quickly realized that when they said to bring a towel, they didn’t mean a dishrag to refresh one’s face; they meant bring a huge swath of fabric to soak up the tsunami of sweat pouring off one’s body onto the mat. Within minutes, I was slipping all over, clawing at my mat with fingernails and toes for traction. A nice man (because it turns out that in yoga class, everybody is nice) eventually tossed over a spare towel and saved me from further humiliation. Well, slipping-related humiliation, that is. The yoga practice itself made me feel awkward and gangly and I kept wanting to announce to the room, “I’m good at sports, I swear!”

It was hard to remember that nobody else gave a shit about my yoga performance.

I settled in a bit as the class progressed endlessly and started to enjoy the experience. Sure, I felt like I was going to hurl a few times and my legs were burning, but that’s not unlike the joy of cycling, right? When the teacher called on us to chant three Oms to close our practice, I got a bit emotional from the moment (although that might have just been relief). Then everybody said “Namaste!” and clapped, and I felt almost happy enough to hug the people next to me, except they were drenched in sweat and smelled like old socks.

After that, I was hooked. Yoga made me feel limber, stronger, and refreshed. Think of all the toxins I was sweating out! Maybe I should even do a juice cleanse! Hooray for the natural high! I am so freaking Zen!

I went nearly every day for the following two weeks. When the studio was closed for a day due to snow, I panicked and then did yoga at home for an hour while listening to an iTunes radio station of gongs. Nothing was going to stand in the way of my chi.

Well, almost nothing. The shoulder injury I’ve been nursing for years started to hurt almost constantly. Lifting my arms became problematic, so I compensated by using the other arm more, both in and out of class. The collective fatigue of heavy training combined with 60-90 minutes of yoga each day also started to build, to the point where I had trouble sleeping, felt constantly hungry, and looked like I hadn’t slept in a month. People would comment, “Gosh, you look exhausted…” and I would think Excellent, I’m doing such great work! I even rearranged social plans to fit my yoga schedule and would insist on going to class even if a ride left me so gutted I was sprawled on the couch trying not to barf.

Unsurprisingly, I stopped feeling calm and refreshed from each class and started feeling like I had to grit my teeth and power through it. The teacher would say we were going to hold a pose for five more breaths, and if she started counting too slowly, I wanted to slap her with my dish towel. Other students would take harder variations of poses than I could handle and I wanted to push them over out of rage. You can do a handstand, GOODY FOR YOU. TRY DOING INTERVALS FOR TWO HOURS ON THE TRAINER, ASSHOLE.

I reached a breaking point last Friday. My bad shoulder was throbbing as always, but then the other side started to hurt. Stabbing pains in my chest through the back of my shoulder blade nearly brought me to tears during class, and I spent the rest of the day barely able to breath, laugh, or use either arm. I decided to take the next day off from yoga, and then the following day, and then the day after that.

It has been three days since my last yoga practice. Forgive me, Shiva, for I have sinned.

To be honest, I miss it. Not just for the exercise or the stretching, but for the feelings of calm and happiness it first brought. I squished those feelings with my aggressive approach, like a child who accidentally snuffs the light out of the firefly he loves. I couldn’t just do some yoga, I had to do ALL of the yoga, and now I’ve put my body in the position of being unable to do any yoga at all.

This makes me sad. I want to go back to the studio, sit in the oven, and have the self-control to just stretch, enjoy the moment, and not feel like I have to chataranga better and harder than ever before. It would be nice to find a way to be a normal person that does not feel compelled to take the things I want to do and club myself over the head with them. Not least of all because I paid $50 for a month of unlimited sessions and those sessions are just dangling there in space, droopy and unused.

There is a lesson to be taken from this experience: everything in moderation. This is a concept with which I am generally unfamiliar. Sure, I’ve heard of it, but the execution is difficult. Look at the beginning of this post – all of this started while I was eating myself physically sick on cookies. If only I could learn to have a few cookies, enjoy them, and then step away, I suspect life would be much more enjoyable.

Until then, I will allow my injuries to be my guide. At least until this Ibuprofen kicks in.

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Things my dog thought would be helpful this week

1. It is cold outside, so I took off half my fur and spread it around the floor so we can all be warm.

2. You might not know that the Comcast technician is here since he just knocked on the door, so I will howl and growl.

3. Did you know that he is still here? I know. I will bark incessantly to make sure you know, too.

4. I have been barking and howling for twenty minutes and you do not seem to notice, so I will poop on the rug because then you will notice that the Comcast technician is still here and I have feelings about this.

5. I’ve seen you regularly inspecting the hole I’ve picked in the carpet, so I have made it bigger just for you.

6. You have brought out the vacuum and this is a bad thing, so I will whine and bark to make sure you know this is bad.

7. The vacuum is a menace and I am concerned, so I will bite the vacuum repeatedly.

8. Oops, you did not move your ankle out of the way in time.

8. I am now tangled in the cord. SEE? I told you the vacuum was a menace.

Kobe

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Observations from the Trainer

The trainer has a bad reputation. I’d know; I’ve spent a solid chunk of time this winter on Twitter perpetuating it. It’s an easy target: the trainer is boring, uncomfortable, sweaty, and tedious. It’s cycling distilled to the pure mechanics, absent most of the camaraderie, competition, and stimulation that comes from riding outside. I say most because there is something unifying about sharing the misery of a trainer workout with somebody else, be it physically or only through commiserating. There’s also some perverse thrill in comparing sufferfests: “You did two hours? I did four.”

For the record, I have never ridden four hours on the trainer. I don’t hate myself enough for that. My historical max is 2.5 hours, at which point I basically wanted to get off and slam my head in the door a few times for a fun diversion.

But for all the complaints, the trainer deserves some acknowledgement for what it can do for a cyclist. An article made the rounds on the Internet recently about how a willingness to suffer is more important than talent for an aspiring elite athlete. If there is a better place to suffer on the trainer, please show me. (Do not send me a link to a village of starving children or a battlefield; that was rhetorical.) I truly believe that sitting through workouts on the trainer helps you become tougher in ways that riding outside cannot. How much misery can you take? How much time can you sit and pedal with no outside stimulation, no sense of speed, no excitement? To complete a trainer workout is to ride purely out of dedication and a willingness to suffer for the sport.

When I’m stuck indoors for a workout, I don’t exactly mind because I know I’ll get a more steady, consistent effort and will feel more accomplished when the workout is done. Sure, my spirit is broken and my soul is crushed, but I’m a tougher athlete for it (right? RIGHT?!? please say yes).

I used to pass every trainer ride watching movies or television shows. Now I can’t watch anything. This doesn’t make any sense, but for whatever reason, trying to pay attention to a movie/show feels impossible and irritating. The only things I can watch are the numbers on my Garmin and a blank wall. Literally. My bike faces a wall and I stare at that wall for every second of the ride. If I can suffer and stare at a wall for 1-2 hours, think how much easier it will be to suffer while distracted by the stimulation of a race! This is what I tell myself.

Really hope I am not wrong here.

The trainer has also helped me discover that deep inside my body is a reservoir of onions. It’s the only logical explanation for why, after riding and sweating profusely for over an hour, my previously cocoa butter-scented skin starts to smell like onions. It’s not a very strong onion smell, but it’s there and I’m basically a corn tortilla and some chicken away from being a fajita.

After some conversations at team camp and a shared Facebook video of people making their indoor riding a more magical experience, I decided to pass part of today’s ride by making my own video:


You will watch this and think I look ridiculous and you are not wrong. But I made over three whole minutes of trainer time go by and it was almost FUN. This is how I roll…while stationary.

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Sisterhood of the Traveling Leftover Fish

stradalli-colavita-29

This is the 2014 version of the Colavita/Fine Cooking photo shoot we did at camp last year. Since I became violently ill less than an hour after the photo was taken that time, I was more than happy to sit back and provide creative direction this time around. Plus it was fun to see how long we could get Lenore to pretend to cut an onion.

Stradalli Colavita Lindsay Bayer Ride

Team Colavita out for a final spin at the end of camp. We stopped by Flywheel to support our director, Jame, as he was participating in a class.

Stradalli Colavita Girls

Representing in our Stradalli/Jaco tee shirts while out on the town. Apparently I messed up the photo by being the only one in shorts with legs exposed. Dude, it’s January and warm enough for shorts. WHY WOULD I WEAR PANTS.

Stradalli Colavita Camp

Seriously, though, why wear pants? I don’t even know which part of this photo to love the most. Lenore’s expression? Scoots? The red shoes? So much to choose from, so many laughs.

Stradalli Jaco Colavita Girls Lindsay Bayer

We love our new team shirts. I plan to wear nothing else for the rest of the year. As you can see from the photo above, I mean that literally.

Stradalli RP14 Bike Colavita

Our race bikes for the 2014 season. They used my bike for this photo shoot, so please feel free to silently have all the opinions you want about my bike fit. This bike is a sweet ride – stiff, responsive, and light. I’m sold.

Stradalli Lindsay Bayer Princess 2

Princess (Tom’s dog) is now our official team mascot. Holding her is sort of like cradling a warm, uncooked chicken.

So that was camp and now I am back in Virginia where there are no palm trees and exposed skin is an invitation for frostbite. It’s always a challenge to switch gears between being at home and being on the road; both have upsides that I miss when I’m not there. I already miss everybody from the team and can’t wait to see them again. Camp was a non-stop adventure with endless riding up and down the A1A, too much time spent in our chamois (like, 8-10 hours a day), lots of good food and coffee stops, so much new stuff, and at least a half dozen times where I nearly peed from laughing so hard. If camp is like a trailer for the movie that is the upcoming season, I think it’s going to be a very good year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t end this post by thanking Tom Steinbacher, head of Stradalli Cycles, for making the Team Colavita camp an awesome experience. When I first heard of Stradalli and looked up the company online, I was skeptical; the image was questionable and I wasn’t sure about riding bikes made by a company with an unknown reputation. But now I’ve spent a week with Tom and the guys behind Stradalli and spent countless hours at their HQ/warehouse. I’ve ridden my training and racing bikes hundreds of miles and asked lots of questions about how the company got started, how the bikes and wheels are made, and why cyclists should choose Stradalli. I left camp feeling confident in my bikes and the brand as a whole, and also really lucky to have somebody like Tom supporting our team. He was endlessly generous, providing all sorts of gear, showing us around the town, and taking us out for multiple meals. Female professional cyclists – at least from what I know – aren’t used to getting the red carpet treatment, but Tom welcomed us, spoiled us, asked for our input, and did everything he could to promote our team. That kind of support in women’s cycling is rare and I’m so grateful to have him and Stradalli as part of Team Colavita.

And now I can hook you up with discounts on olive oil AND carbon bicycles!

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