Friday, August 29, 2008

Belated Maybury Race Report

Well, I am finally getting around to posting my Maybury race report. My forearms and hands are burning from all the time I've spent on the computer lately and the last thing I want to do is type, but I did promise a race report for my two loyal readers and we're leaving to go up to the cabin tomorrow, so I want to get it done.

Maybury kind of snuck up on me. I know that seems ridiculous given the fact that it's been on my calendar since spring, but considering the state of things lately, I really hadn't thought about it that much. Which is why I found myself heading that way last Saturday morning without having developed a goal for finishing. It's probably just as well due to the way the race went.

The Maybury race was organized slightly differently than most of the others, and the beginners were slated to start at 9:30, as opposed to starting last as we usually do. That meant waking up early, leaving while Chris was still in bed and stressing out a little about being ready on time. I needn't have worried as it didn't take me near as much time to get there as I thought it would. Jake, our fearless team leader and organizer, pulled into the parking lot at about the same time as I did and we beat the rush at the registration table.

One of the things I've really enjoyed about racing this year is being on a team. Granted, our sponsors turned out to be duds, but it's been half the fun of it hanging out at our team tent with everyone else and cheering on our teammates. I'm the only girl on the team who has been racing consistently, so a lot of the time I'm surrounded by guys, but I don't really mind that.

As I was waiting in line to start, I finally met two of my main competitors in the CPS. I've seen their names on paper, but had yet to meet them. Before the Maybury race, I was ahead of both of them in the series, but only because I had done more races than them. When I saw Charis, who has kicked my butt in several races, I realized that I would never be able to compete with her. She must work out all day. That being said, she was very nice and it was hard for me to hate her just for being in such good shape.

I never really found my rhythm during the race. The course wasn't particularly challenging, but I felt lackluster the entire time. I attribute this to a lack of training as of late. It was dry and dusty and ridiculously hot out there and I was really glad I got to start early rather than in the heat of the afternoon.

It was not a good race and I was already feeling guilty for skipping a funeral (Chris' great aunt) to go to the race. I figured it was my best chance to do well in the remaining three races, since it was probably the easiest course and I didn't want to miss it. I felt crappy the entire time and I've never felt closer the entire season to just walking off a course and DNFing. It was brutal. On the positive side, I did get more points than two of my other races simply because there were only six people who showed up so last was only sixth rather than tenth or eleventh!

I am a little irritated because I just looked at the official results online and somehow, between Saturday and whenever those were posted, my time got about 17 minutes slower than it was on the unofficial results. If that time was right, I was painfully slow. I may have been the slowest person there, though I didn't verify that.

Despite my lack of success, I am really having a great time racing. It's been a great experience for me and has shown me that I am tougher than I thought I was. Part of the reason I stuck to the course instead of quitting when I really felt like it, though, was that I knew I only had to do five races to qualify for the series and if I finished Maybury, I didn't have to do another race. Now that it's over, however, I'm just more determined to do the last two races, if only so I don't end the season on a sour note.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I've been neglecting my blog lately. I stopped posting every day because I was running out of things to say so I was mostly rambling about nothing. However, I do have a race report I need to post, which I'm hoping to get to tonight. This week has been outrageously busy between me finally slogging through most of my thank you cards from the reception and the fact that we're launching a whole new identity (logo, stationery, Web site) at work next week that I'm in charge of. I've been bringing work home every night and almost feel guilty doing anything else. Enough excuses. I will get that report up tonight!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This is going to be another one of those obvious posts, so I apologize in advance. It's just that I've been ruminating (take that, D.G.!) on this subject a lot lately and it seems like it keeps coming up. As any of you who have been reading my blog since last November when I started it, or who have gone back and read the "Introducing the Accidental Athlete" post, will know, the situation in which I find myself now is extremely puzzling to me. I'm not really sure how I am doing things like going on 45-mile bike rides just on a random Saturday or completing a race that last six hours. This is why I came up with the title "Accidental Athlete" for my blog, because I felt like it sort of happened without me realizing it was happening. (I thought the name was really clever until I found out someone else has the exact same name for their blog.) Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I think I'm a phenomenal athlete or anything. I realize that for everything I do, there's someone else who is doing something better, faster, harder. I've only just scratched the surface of the things I want to do with riding and racing. It's just that there's such a disparity between where I was and where I am that it blows my mind sometimes.

You see, for most of my life I had very little confidence in what I could actually do. And some of the things I'm doing now I didn't even know I wanted to do. It's all in your perspective. I used to think two miles was a long bike ride. Now it's barely even worth getting my bike out of the garage for. Again, I'm not counting myself among the super athletes. Although this process has given me confidence, it's also made me realistic about my abilities. I've realized that the things I am doing, though they seem incredible compared with where I was, are things that just about anyone can do if they just try.

When my non-riding (or those who just ride their bikes around the block) friends or coworkers ask me about riding, they inevitably say something like "I could never do anything like that" or "I could never ride that far, long, etc." I particularly hear those comments when I talk about DALMAC (a four- or five-day ride from Lansing to Mackinaw City, which is about 350 miles, depending on which route you choose). It makes me smile when I hear that and I think about the DALMAC I completed in 2005 after putting only about 300 miles in all summer. Granted, it was painful and there were times when it wasn't a lot of fun, but even with having that little training I made it.

I've come up with a standard response to these types of comments that I actually believe very strongly. "You really could ride that far. You just think you can't." That's the reality.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Can't I Have Both?

I noticed about a week and a half ago that the schedule for Kisscross races had been posted. I haven't written anything about it yet because I have been too busy blathering on about other things (and using big words, according to one loyal blog reader). However, I am excited to race again. You see, last fall, Chris started talking about racing in the first Kisscross race. We went to the kickoff ride (where I promptly lost my cue sheet and rode around in circles the whole time) and everyone seemed really nice. I grilled Rick, the series organizer, to find out exactly what Kisscross was, because "racing for beer" wasn't really enough to explain the concept. I thought if Chris could try it, I should too. I remember pre-riding the first course and feeling more nervous about the race after doing so. I also remember standing in the parking lot vacillating between wanting to race and not wanting to race. I was worried I would hold things up, and I did because I was so slow. But I loved it more than I hated it and I wanted to keep racing.

It was during Kisscross that I really learned how much I liked to race. I was habitually last, I was lapped by people and I was beaten repeatedly by children. For some reason, this was not the least bit discouraging. I am anxious to see how my second season goes after racing mountain bikes all summer. I'm not sure how much better shape I'm in and I'm definitely not a lot thinner as I had hoped I would be. Even so, for this season, I'd like to set some slightly more aggressive goals for myself while still keeping it fun.

Though I can't wait for Kisscross to start, it also means the summer is ending. That leads to fall and, inevitably, to winter. Fall is usually nice, but I have a definite love-hate thing going with winter. I understand logistically why it can't happen, but I really wish I could have Kisscross (and hockey) and still hang on to summer.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Longest Ride of the Year

My brother and nephew were supposed to go "camping" with my mom this past weekend in Traverse City, but he had to bail due to an injury he sustained at my cabin, so I offered to take his place. My mom and I like to hang out and we hadn't gone anywhere by ourselves in a while, so we made it a girls' weekend. We also thought we could get at least one ride in, and since we haven't ridden together hardly at all this summer, each of us preferring different types of riding, we thought it was a good opportunity. I use the term "camping" loosely because my mom has a camper, and this was the type of camping where you pull into a spot and plug in, along with having access to a refrigerator and a microwave. We camped at Traverse City State Park, which is right on the main thoroughfare. There is nothing remotely wilderness-like about it. It was truly what I call "camping lite." Nevertheless, we had a good time, and got in what for me was the longest bike ride of the season.

Last year at this time, I'd already done a century, as well as several 50 and 60 mile rides since I was training for DALMAC. This year, the most miles I've put on my bike has been during 6 Hours of Ithaca.

Saturday morning we packed up our lunch and left the park at about 9. I had read online that there was a trail called the "TART" running through Traverse City, and that you could connect to the Leelanau Trail, which would take you all the way up to Suttons Bay. We had a bit of trouble before we left, figuring out what bikes to take. The trail was paved in town and partially paved to Suttons Bay, but there was also a large dirt section. I had originally wanted to ride my cross bike, but Chris was sure that I would be way ahead of my mom, who planned to ride her hybrid, so I took my mountain bike. I also thought I might be able to squeeze in some trail time somewhere, so if I was only going to take one bike that was the one to take.

Early on in the ride, we were passed by several roadies, who looked disdainfully at our bikes and chose not to greet us, presumably judging us unworthy. I realized at that point my mom was having serious bike choice remorse and wanted to shout at them "my road bike is an Orbea!" (Yes, it's true, my mom finally has a better bike than me. A way better bike.) I started to think I had incorrect information on the status of the trail and I said as much, right before we got to the next crossing and it turned to two track. This part of the trail proved to be my favorite. I liked riding on dirt much better (funny how that's gotten to be the case) and the views of the farms, orchards and vineyards with grapevines growing up the hillsides were not to be missed. We took it leisurely, stopping for many photo opps, all the way to Suttons Bay.

This was the first time I've been to Suttons Bay and I had two initial observations. 1. For a town with a longish bike path dumping out into it, it is not bike-friendly. The first thing I saw when I got off the trail were signs everywhere, saying "no bikes or skateboards" or something to that effect. 2. It is not really pedestrian-friendly, either. There are crosswalks, but no stoplights, and traffic is cruising through town so fast and furious, it's next to impossible to cross the street.

Our initial plan was that we'd do a little shopping excursion in town, since they did have some cute shops, but I soon realized that was idiotic, since we were in bike clothes and didn't have any way to get anything we bought back with us. So we ate a quick lunch down by the water, stopped briefly for ice cream and headed back, planning to clean up and drive back in order to shop.

The return trip was a lot harder. Of course, I was a lot more tired and it seemed to have gotten a lot hotter, which it probably had. We eventually made it back, though, and ended up with 45 miles.

Some photos from the weekend:
Loading up the camper in my 'hood

As Captain Obvious, I observed that it takes a lot of gas to haul this thing.

A must visit, particularly if you like free samples. I actually observed some self-control in my purchases this time!

Our delicious Friday night "hobo" dinner

The makings for my favorite cocktail

Walking along the beach Friday evening

Mom at the beginning of our ride—still fresh. Notice how she's carrying all our crap.

The good stuff

Lovely, pastoral setting

One of the many vineyards in the area

More scenery

Lunch in Suttons Bay

Who you callin' a TART?

Brooms along the way for convenient trail maintenance

Spectacular market we stopped at on the return trip

Hiking at Hartwick Pines on the way home

Hartwick Pines

The lovely East Branch of the AuSable

The end

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blogging about Blogging, Part 3

Even I realize how painful this topic is getting, but I feel the need to finish what I originally set out to do. When we last met, I was extolling the virtues of the blogs I read (or try to) every day. My next task is try to emulate them so I can get more readers. After analyzing why I like them, there are a few take home messages:
  • I need to be more witty. (This could take some work.)
  • I need to be more introspective. (Is it even possible I could be more introspective? Doubtful)
  • I need to convince Twin Six to produce cool cycling garb with my blog name on it.
  • I need to take more interesting photos, preferably by moving someplace with better aesthetics than Lansing, Michigan, as opposed to trying to actually obtain any skills in this arena. (Unlikely, since I can't seem to move away from my mommy)
  • I need to become more hardcore, train a lot and enter epic races that stretch my skills to (or past) their limit. (This may be possible?)
  • I need to become good at racing. (Likelihood questionable)
  • According to some stellar advice Danielle left on my blog, I should try to include keywords that seem to make her site popular. The ones I'm most likely to actually use are "poop" and "ass."

So, it looks like I've got my work cut out for me. I think I'll start by going to Traverse City this weekend and taking some more interesting photos. (BTW, the photo at the top of this post is the face G-dog makes when I start packing.) In conclusion, I'd like to say poop and ass.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Blogging about Blogging, Part 2

Yesterday I posted about my warped need to feel that someone is reading my blog. I myself frequent many blogs and there are different reasons I like them. I would venture to guess that 98 percent of the blogs I read are visited more often than mine. However, there are a couple that leave my mine in the dust. On a daily basis (provided something is posted every day, of course), these are the blogs I read:

  • Fat Cyclist—I don't need to explain this blog to most people who are cyclists, but since I have a few noncyclist readers, I will try to give a brief overview of what his blog is about. Fat Cyclist chronicles the life of a a forty-something guy named Elden Nelson who is a mountain biker in Utah. He has a sharp, sarcastic wit that is punctuated with facetiousness. He has been known to write sardonic letters to famous people or companies in the cycling world and post them on his site. He also has a wife (who I think is the most awesome wife in the world) with cancer and four (two boys and twin girls?) kids. He's not really fat, although I think he believes that because he weighs more than he used to. Fatty's site has a tremendous amount of advertising and he is constantly getting cool cycling-related stuff which he usually gives away. He also has a line of tremendously slick cycling apparel produced by the coolest cycling apparel company eva, Twin Six. He uses proceeds from donations and sales to fund his wife's ongoing battle with cancer and, as he says "to buy her anything she wants."
  • Jill Homer—Jill is a biker who lives in Juneau, Alaska, works for a newspaper and rides around in ridiculous weather conditions. She's completed some epic races, such as the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350 mile trek on the Iditarod trail in February. She's tough.
  • Danielle Musto—Danielle is a local (Grand Rapids, about 45 min. away) endurance racer. She has a cool story. Basically, she decided to be a bike racer one day when she was riding with her then boyfriend. She wasn't athletic at all and had no background in riding, but she went out and raced and immediately started tearing up the trail. (This is a little bit of an oversimplification, but you get the general idea.) Danielle lives with her husband Scott and her Greyhound Naomi. She just came in 2nd place at 24 Hour Nationals. She also has a younger sister, Toni, who is an awesome road rider.

These are some of my most commonly visited blogs. I have to think a little harder to tell you why I like them.

I like the way Fat Cyclist writes. I like his wit and his wisdom and the fact that he has an interesting story to tell. His writing is compelling and his is the only blog that has ever made me cry, but of course, that is also because of the hell he's going through with his wife right now. I also feel like he, just like many of the people whose blogs I read, is someone I would like if I actually knew him.

I think the biggest draws for me to Jill's site are the quality of her writing and photography. Being in Alaska, she has cool things to take pictures of every day and I love looking at her photos. She's also very introspective at times and I particulary like to read those posts. I enjoy reading about her training and wondering what challenge she can possibly take on next.

Danielle's site is just real. I have to admit, I'm a little bit of a groupie. I like reading her race reports, following her season and cheering her on. She's so good at what she does, it makes me feel like a winner to cheer her on (okay, I realize this is a really dorky statement, but it's the truth). I also like the fact that's she's local and she's a real person I actual see around sometimes. She's also just really funny and not afraid to laugh at herself.

Yet again, it's 8:00 and I'm still not finished. I promise I will finally put this topic out of its misery once and for all tomorrow when I attempt to compare my blog to these examples and try to figure out how to make mine more appealing.

By the way, there were 21 visits to my blog yesterday.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Blogging about Blogging, Part 1

I have a confession to make. I look at the stats for my blog pretty much every day. Back when I started it last November, I used to just go to my blog and stare at the "0 comments" at the bottom of each post, knowing no one was reading it. However, my husband soon introduced me to Google Analytics, where I could, free of charge, actually see how many visits were made to my blog and where they were coming from. So it's become my ritual when I'm home, to check my stats while I'm eating breakfast. I have learned a couple of interesting things by doing this:
  • Just because no one is leaving comments, doesn't mean no one is visiting.
  • Some days are much better than others, but in general, I get around the same number of visits each day, which is usually somewhere in the teens.
  • Several people I have never met have links to my blog from theirs. They're all bike people in some way or another; most are local (at least in Michigan); and most seem like nice, interesting people. Still, it makes me curious about how they even found my blog and why they think it is worth adding to their blogroll. It also makes me wonder if I should add more people to my blogroll since I currently have a pathetic number.
  • Sometimes people reach my blog from some other site or blog and I have no idea why. There doesn't seem to be any link on their blog to mine, nor have I commented on it or associated myself with it in any way. I guess I'll just be grateful and have it remain a mystery.

Late last month I had quite a spike in the number of visits one particular day, and it made me ponder what drew people to my blog on that day. A couple of days later, I also had some days that were two and four visits (many of which were probably me checking to see if I had comments), so I must have got a lot less interesting quickly. As you may have figured out already, the thought of no one reading my blog does bother me. After all, writing is what I do and I'm used to caring about whether people are reading what I'm writing, whether it's on my blog or something work-related. I have read all the advice on how to make my blog popular and have actually done some of it. I have also done some shameless self-promotion, such as sending links to my blog out to people I know via e-mail and suggesting they check it out.

I'm analyzing this way too much, but I've also been thinking about my favorite blogs, all of which are more popular than mine (some of them vastly so) and why I like to read them. I am hoping this will give me some indication of whether or not my blog will ever become popular. So, I have decided to compile all the information I can think of my favorite blogs and why I think they are popular, then compare them to my blog. However, this post is already significantly longer than I intended and I have to start my workday, so this will have to be continued in tomorrow's post (which will also make thinking of something to write about tomorrow much easier).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's in, It's out

My more astute blog readers (all two of you) will have noticed that after briefly mentioning it in a previous post, I added the 6 Hours of Pando to my race schedule. The even more astute will have noticed I subsequently took it off my race schedule. Although I really wanted to do the race, I decided it was more important to spend this weekend in Traverse City with my mom. We will get in a long ride on Saturday and I will hopefully be able to fit in a shorter mountain bike ride, too. We still have the Drummond Island race on Labor Day weekend, and I am really looking forward to that one. We have also decided to start training with the intention of eventually completing Lumberjack. Chris is shooting for next year, but I think 2010 may be more realistic for me. At any rate, at this point my plan is to do fewer CPS races next year and concentrate on 6-hour races, with maybe a 12-hour or two thrown in for good measure. I'm really enjoying my foray into endurance racing, and right now it's looking like the direction I want to go.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Like to Bike

Talk about obvious statements. This should be a given considering the subject matter of my blog. So why is it something I seem to forget so often? As I mentioned in a previous post, I have spent the past couple of weeks wallowing in self-pity and sloth on my couch. The success of my cruiser rides Friday evening gave me a good reason to get out on the trail on my mountain bike first thing Saturday morning. As I was riding the "Enter Sandman" trail (coincidentally named for my husband, who helped build these original trails years ago), I was enjoying the warmth and the sunshine and catching a little air going over some of the small dirt mounds (have no idea what the actual name for them is). I thought to myself, this is so much more fun and better for my psyche than reclining like a slug in my living room. And this strange phenomenon in which I have temporary amnesia about how much I like to ride my bike doesn't only happen when I'm in pity party mode. It seems to happen somewhat frequently. I'll be on a roll for a while, riding all the time and then suddenly, I can't seem to get motivated to get out there. Of course, as soon as I'm riding, I remember. This is the fun stuff. So, why does it take so much effort to get me out there sometimes?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

By the Way

Our favorite performer at the Great Lakes Folk Festival so far has been April Verch.

Bicycle = Transportation

Due to some stress and the fact that my job is making me miserable, I haven't felt like doing anything lately. I haven't wanted to ride, post, clean the house. Okay, the cleaning the house part is normal and has nothing to do with my stress level, but the fact that I have mostly been unable to get myself on a bike and I have had several good ideas for posts but I haven't been able to make myself actually write them has been pretty disturbing. I'm not going to go into why work is so bad right now. Everyone around me is probably sick of hearing about it and I'm sick of complaining about it. Suffice it to say eight years is more than enough time at that place and I need to get out as soon as it's feasible.

At any rate, we spent some time down at the Great Lakes Folk Festival this weekend. It's always a good time. We enjoy hanging out there, eating the food and listening to good music. It also gives Chris great fodder for photographs. It was his idea to get out our cruisers to head down there since it's not far away and there's really no place to park unless you want to take the shuttle bus. Friday night was really my first time riding my cruiser since Chris bought it for me as a wedding present.

I broke all my own rules while riding my cruiser—no helmet, flip flops, etc.—but I quickly got over my discomfort because it was so much fun. (The coaster brakes took a little longer to get used to.) It was just great to be able to get on a bike and ride a short distance without having to put on bike shorts, helmet, gloves, bike shoes. We ended up riding our cruisers down there and back home two days in a row. Our local bike club even provides a free, guarded bike parking corral, so we didn't even have to worry about locking our bikes up or carting them around with us after we got there. We got a lot of compliments on our bikes, too, since they're so cool looking.

For reasons I won't go into too much (someone else counts on me for a ride, I have to leave for meetings sometimes during the day, I have to dress up, I go home for lunch almost every day), I don't commute by bike. I only live about two miles from my work though, and every time I see a bike commuter (and they're everywhere now) I feel incredibly guilty about the fact that I'm not out there. My jaunts this weekend started me thinking, though, and I think I can at least commute on Fridays and a few other days here and there. It won't save much gas, but it'll be one less car on the road at least one day a week, and it's a start.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Make Friends With the Badger

I understand that no one, with the exception of my brother who doesn't read my blog, would understand this obscure reference to a 1980s Dead Milkmen song. However, every time I look at my new bike, that's all I can think about. We're headed up North to our cabin after a half day of work. We should have a fun weekend. We've got lots of people coming. Before leaving, I just wanted to take a minute to post a photo of my exciting new bike (frame). I'll have to attempt to take some better ones when I have more time.