Monday, June 9, 2014

Rock Stars

****WARNING***** 1800 words of bike-centric goodness ahead****

You might want to grab a coffee and some cookies before you read this missive....

On Saturday, May 31 my hubby Andy and I found ourselves toeing the line in our first attempt at the Dirty Kanza 200, a 203 mile gravel road race in and around Emporia, Kansas.

I wish I had written this report the day after the race, when I was flying high from the incredible energy of the community and the event. Now after a week back at work I am struggling to frame all the thoughts I know I should capture. (or maybe it’s just that I’m out of practice…)

The excellent organization of the event, and the town’s enthusiasm for it, deserve several blog posts in itself. Before we even got into town Thursday night we saw what a big deal this event was – it had its own giant billboard on I-35 somewhere between Kansas City and Emporia! We were also among a handful of riders issued our own trading cards. I have to admit, it sure makes a gal feel special. All riders got a complete set at registration, but the general public had to visit various businesses to compile the collection.
billboard!
our trading card was in fine company
Knitter's fantasy!

Our Friday was a whirlwind of CTS group ride, packet pick up, pre-race meeting, pre-race trading card signing, pre-race CTS dinner (complete with much needed race day tactics and nutrition advice), oh and don’t forget work because I couldn’t really take the day off. 
Super fun Friday morning shakeout with about 30 CTS athletes
Racer meeting was held in the Granada theater, a restored superfly art deco theater
No sooner had I closed my eyes than we awoke in the wee hours of Caturday morning, ready to roll out of town with 700+ other riders.

Some might think that a giant peloton filled with cyclists of varying abilities jockeying for position on treacherous gravel roads would be terrifying, but it was just part of the landscape we maneuvered with ease. Rocks flew and dirt puffed up around us in a giant cloud, but finding the right line and maintaining position didn’t seem to be a challenge. We even took our turn at the front with a monster pull. (that was fun!) We went backwards whenever we hit a climb, but they were short and manageable. Around mile 20 the group split and we found ourselves in the gapped off side. I figured we would settle into our all-day pace from there, but Andy would hear none of it. We spent several miles chasing furiously, flying up and down hills past riders who had also been shed from the group, nonchalantly zipping around stampeding cows running beside us, in front of us, and everywhere in between. How we didn’t hit one I have no idea. All around us was the green countryside of Kansas, filled with cows (“the black ones are the runners”, a local told me) and cattle guards and fences and cornfields and not much else, ribbons of gravel road undulating before us.

We caught back on to the lead group of about 35 around mile 30, and it felt worth it. We were moving FAST and it didn’t seem all that hard. I thought the rear tire felt soft but I am often paranoid about that so figured I was wrong. At some point (mile 40?) we hit a wide, thigh deep water crossing that most ran through. The leaders attacked on the hill coming out of the creek and we were dropped like the snake I accidentally picked up in the garden the other day. We probably lost over a minute on the short hill coming out of that water crossing! So we settled into all-day pace, and I was secretly relieved. We weren’t even a quarter of the way through a distance I’ve never done before, and metering my energy was high on the list of things-to-do.

At about mile 44 we learned my paranoia was real – a slow leak in our tubeless rear tire. Boo! I convinced Andy that our Stan’s sealed it so we topped it off with air lickety split and went on our way. A few miles later we were topping it off again, praying it would hold till the first aid station not too far away at mile 50.
At aid 1, the CTS crew was already swamped with other CTS riders having similar issues. Our refueling was distracted and less than optimal, as Andy was concerned with getting a tube put in while I was filling up our camelbaks. Once the bike was a go, we rushed out of the aid station to try to regroup with whoever we could, picking up Andy’s boss Chris Carmichael along the way.

The landscape that followed was rolling and rocky, in the land known as the “Flint Hills”.  If there was a downhill, Andy was bombing it to try to maximize our speed. In hindsight, when rolling around on stuff called “flint”, a sharp substance used in the Stone Age for tools or cutting edges, best practice is probably to focus more on a good line than maximum speed. Our second flat (a pinch) came about mile 70 right after we hit a rock really hard. We changed it relatively quickly, but the wind in our sails was considerably diminished. Having learned his lesson, Andy approached the downhills pretty conservatively after that flat.

No matter how vigilant you are, sometimes bad luck just happens. We were at mile 80 on a wide open road, rolling nonchalantly downhill, when “kaboom!” emanated from underneath us, and the thomp thomp thomp of our immediately deflated rear tire reached our ears. Sidewall tear. One tube left. No patches.
The tube we had left wouldn’t hold air. We were f%cked! Andy was clearly seized with hopelessness. Despite numerous testimonials, he had underestimated the flat danger (we were on a mountain bike! We never flat!) and not brought enough supplies. We tried to beg from passing riders – most didn’t even look at us. One sweet guy stopped, realized he was on his last one, and apologized that he didn’t want to give it up. [I saw him after the race – he wound up using it not too much later] Someone threw a road tube at us, and we were able to make about 4 miles before that went flat. At this point we were just about out of electric tape to protect the sidewall tear. We wondered if this was the end for us. After about 20 minutes of unsuccessful begging (I better never lose my day job!), salvation came in the form of last year’s tandem winners Scott and Angie Rake, who gave us not only their last tube but also some patches. (talk about sportsmanship!!!) Former DK winner Lance Andre, himself having a bad day, stopped to offer up a tube and duct tape and hung out with us as we finally were able to properly fix the flat.

As nice as Lance was, he gave us ominous warnings about torrential rain (the sky was crystal clear blue and filled with beautiful puffy white clouds) and not making the “Race to the Sun”, aka finishing by dusk and winning a special prize. So, once we fixed our flat we tore away, leaving Lance far behind. Oopie! If we weren’t going to win I wanted that prize, dangit!

The next fifteen miles were completed warily, in near constant fear that our tire would fail us again. Soon enough we had a new distraction – no liquid! During all that time stopped, we fell off our eating schedule and drank more than we anticipated. With more than 10 miles to go Andy’s camelbak was dry. We had about half a water bottle between us.

We reached aid 2, mile 100, dejected and a little grumpy. My energy was still pretty good, but we were down an hour! Fortunately Andy had put spare tires in our drop bags, so the ninja CTS crew changed out the tire while we stocked up on food, reloaded the camelbaks, took THREE water bottles, and stuffed pantyhose knee highs filled with ice down the backs of our jerseys. The Rakes had over 20 minutes on us; we figured we were Racing the Sun, and any other tandems out there, at that point.

Mile 100 – 150 flew by. There is little that I remember from that section, but it included a 10+ mile long road that went straight into a headwind. We were flying, and the Apples in Stereo’s song “Energy” was playing over and over in my head. “And the world, is made of energy… and there’s a lot inside of you and there’s a lot inside of me”

We ate like champs and drank everything we had on us, but in the later part of the leg definitely needed some respite. We happily rolled into the last aid station at mile 151, where we learned the Rakes were just 5 minutes ahead of us. 5 minutes! We could do that! And the instant that hasty thought swept into my brain, all tasks I hoped to accomplish cleared out. We filled back up on liquid, but forgot the chamois butter and ice sock and I ate nothing except a scant handful of pretzels.

We tore out of the aid station as if we only had 15 miles left in the day. Although I usually need a computer program to do math, even my addled brain knows that 49>15. By a lot. Right about mile 165 Andy started cramping. I still felt great! We slowed considerably and had to coast. I tried to convince him to just let me pedal, but he couldn’t do it. He would try to let me pedal, then would contribute, then cramp, and then we’d be coasting again. Meanwhile, “Energy” played over and over on the turntable in my head, to no avail. Ultimately, he overheated to the point that his upper body went numb. We wound up under a shade tree, waiting for Andy’s core to cool down. I stared at brilliant white puffy care bear shaped clouds wondering just how long it would take him to get back on the bike.

After about 5 minutes, we remounted, Andy humbled. Racing was over for us; surviving was the only thing left to do. And so we did. It’s amazing how far you can go if you just keep going.

We rolled onto the last straightaway at 13 hours 39 minutes, 2nd tandem on the day, 95th & 96th riders across the line, greeted by a wall of frenzied, cowbell filled noise rivaled by few events I’ve done. I should have felt accomplished, but I just felt… empty. Can I have a do-over?


Hats off to the DK200 crew who organized a fantastic event. It is such a joy to see a whole town rally behind 1000+ lycra clad invaders. And a million thanks to CTS for providing support crews and mini-community. Many lessons were learned or reinforced, not the least of which is that you can always be an example, good or bad.
We still brought some cool stuff home.
And that's that! Goal race 2014 accomplished. Mostly. Will we do it again? If the stars align..

After taking a week off, I'm ready to get on the bike again tomorrow. Next event (Ore to Shore) is just 9 weeks away! 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

April Fools

My most recent post, proclaimed to be my last, wasn't written on April 1st, but I'm calling shenanigans anyway.

Aren't we all fools in April, anyway? Aren't we all fools?

Last weekend I rode a bike for the longest distance ever in my life, 203 miles. Funny that I need a day long event half the country away from home to remind me why I should keep up with this little hobby o' mine.

I want to write about it before I forget.

I will post it. Stay tuned....



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Killing it

I logged into Blogger, for the first time in over 4 months, to announce the death of this blog.

And then, I poked around and looked at many of the things I've written in the 8 years I've been blogging. Holy caraapp, 8 years!

I started blogging in 2006 because I was already writing race reports (since 2000!) and sending them out to sponsors and teammates and my little mommy, so why not just post them for all the world to see? And then it morphed into a post-whatever-mom-would like to see sort of blog, while keeping sponsors sorta kinda happy. But I'm not really a bike racer anymore. Tough to admit, but no sense continuing to ignore what has been waving its flag in my face for several years.

I was riding through the forest tonight (if you want to avoid people in the woods on the first warm dry evening of spring, stick to the fire roads), and for some reason a prominent thought was "that blog needs to come down." Why? Well, I know why.... but I don't really feel like posting the why. Which is one of the reasons I shouldn't have a public blog anymore!

So, I think I'm done. (I think?) Reading the old posts makes me want to not stop writing, but I don't see why I should continue posting publicly. Over the next few months I'll start taking posts down and will eventually just leave a placeholder in case I ever want to start back up again, you know when I'm a grumpy retired lady with nothing better to do than post awkward pictures of me and my cats.

Thank you all for reading.

only awkward people pictures
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Plus ca change...

Plus c'est la meme chose! 

"The more things change, the more things stay the same...." Or so the French saying goes. 

And like my boss's boss, who can express a million sentiments in just a few words, that phrase screams volumes. It pretty much sums up my Thanksgiving weekend. (Alas, I have not yet developed the "read a million meanings between the words of my one lined message" skill...)

Change: Busier than ever at work, with a challengingly fun project under foot
Same: Carving out down time erases the stress and makes me whole; I sure am grateful for the four day weekend! 

Change: While many Americans were out celebrating Consumer Day, er, Black Friday, I worked diligently on my own version of Buy Nothing Day to get rid of meaningless clutter. 3 trips to the Goodwill dropoff, woot!
Same: There is still clutter. Just less of it. But more concentrated.

Change: Andy and I cleaned up our front room so that we would actually use it (before, half of it was his music area, the other half was clutter, and a kitty tree)
Same: well, it's still the same room. But it's a heckuva lot better place to be!

Change: Year, hours.
Same: Still ridin' bikes. I guess we're lifers.

One more week in Ashevegas before I return to California for another whirlwind trip of office visits and working sessions and HOLIDAY PARTY. If you have to travel in December, leaving the cool climes of Western North Carolina for the balmy West coast is not the worst thing to do...

Two "before" snapshots of our front room (now renamed the Library). The orange and yellow of the walls set me on edge every time I went in there... which might be why it was so neglected.

Lots o' clutter... I hesitate to post this... but oh well. Here it is.
Artie supervising Andy's painting efforts...
Voila! Same room, different look. We finished Friday, and we've hung out in here every night since. Artie is curled up next to me on the blue futon as I type....
 

And so here is my official Thanksgiving 2013 post. It feels like, more so than ever before, I have so much to appreciate. WOO the f' HOO!






Saturday, November 23, 2013

A new hat

I'm on my way home after a last minute trip to my parent company's accounting HQ in Palm Desert.

I just ate the most delicious rice and sausage wrap from an Asian place; the prediction in the attached photo awaited me in the fortune cookie.

I don't know exactly what lies in store for me professionally... But it's trending toward improving my already awesome experience. What a great week to have started reading Lean In. (now I just gotta finish it!)

(p.s. Andy started blogging again... So I gotta keep up!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lookout, world!

Something's coming! (it's not me)

I"ve started bunches of blog posts in the past couple o' months, the best of which was entitled "O2S 2013: Forecast Calls for Train"... all in various forms of not-being-finished, although the O2s one just needs heavy editing down to sound bite size.

Life is a crazy whirlwind of working, playing, and living right now. Working being the primary thing, THREE GIANT PROJECTS plus my daily duties. Somehow it remains excitng and interesting and I have a very strong, pretty much confirmed suspicion it's because I work with a lot of mighty fine folks.

I've gone to a couple of cx races since the season started in September, and gotten my butt handed to my royally. Apparently you have to train to be fast? I knew this, I think. ;-) People ask me what I've been up to this year and I honestly can't remember... seems the days bleed together into one long stream of happy go lucky not much of anything, and I ask Andy "what am I doing", and he says "living", and I think "okay!". Because really, it is. Damn fine! 

Since getting DFL in the first two races (and strangely enough not really caring!), I've been riding a little bit every day, and getting further and further away from last every time I race! Probably won't be winning any races anytime soon (unless, of course, no one shows up), but at least I'm solidly mid-pack now. Lined up on Caturday and heard a very talented rider go on and on about how she hadn't ridden for 7 weeks and how she got injured and blah blah blah and thought "hmm.... this would make a great episode of shit bike racers say!" and of course she went on to kick my ass. All of which I took in stride.... it was a good day to be out and about and racing bikes and seeing cool peeps, and that's all i'm going to say 'bout that.

Kevin Hessler took this photo of me flailing, er, i mean railing at Pisgah CX. SINGLESPEED, baby! 'cause December 8 will be here before you know it...

Andy and I went to a gravel grinder called Wilson's revege a coupla weeks ago. I won the "cake" edition, which is a win but hardly counts as the participant level was light, but Andy managed to get THIRD in the open men, in his second single bike race all year.

And the new Brett Dennen album, which comes out tomorrow! Woot!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

My summer vacation

Kids are back in school now and what's the thing you always had to write about in the first week back? What you did over your summer vacation! (The ubiquitous answer of 'nothing' rarely works in our case)

We've been back in town for a whole week, after taking a 10 day vacay to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 10 days! I haven't done that since 2008, when I thoroughly enjoyed a short gap of employment. At my last job, I was always stealing a day or two on either side of the week... And often working on the road. In retrospect it doesn't seem worth it (duh), but I found myself gladly doing similar things on this trip. (Perspective is a grand thing)

We had multiple reasons for going to Marquette, Michigan for this trip: my mom grew up there (and she & dad now own her childhood home there), we still have lots of family hanging about there, it's freakin' beautiful, and there were two athletic events two weekends in a row that piqued either me or Andy's interest.

I *want* to write (at least) four different blog posts about this trip. They would be about the following subjects:

1. Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Race, tandumb style, of course (this was my 10th participation; doesn't seem to get any less fun)
2. Lakenenland (www.lakenenland.com), creative sculptures that surely belong on some road trip tv show
3. Marquette Trail 50km Relay, during which I run the longest period of time in my life, with zero training
4. Marquette Trail 50 mile race, in which Andy scares me more than he ever has before

If said posts do not get written, know that all were super fun must of the time (with one glaring exception at mile 44 of Andy's run), and we made it home safe and sound to find our kitties thoroughly spoiled from our ninja kitty sitter's lavish affections during our absence.

We were home late last Sunday, and threw ourselves back into the daily grind with fervor. After hosting Andy's 'rents this weekend, I haven't had much time to think about what the next few weeks hold. Sometime this week I will do an old skool paper n' pencil training calendar, tho, 'cause I'm not entirely done with the bike racing thing... Stay tuned!

My sister, my bro, and me on August 10 in Lower Harbor Park, Marquette, MI, in front of a giant plywood cutout of the Upper Peninsula. We were crashing the first ever 'Yooper Day' festival (Yoopers being people who live on the U.P.), which appeared to be mostly a food and tshirt vendor celebration.