Wednesday, November 26, 2008


We're headed North this afternoon, so I'll be taking a little break from blogging. Staying at our cabin means we'll have few of the comforts of home. No electricity, no t.v., no Internet, no indoor plumbing. Chris will probably run the laptop out of its battery and I'll still check in on Facebook on my BlackBerry in the rare instances when I actually have signal. Other than that, though, we'll be technology free. I'm planning to get some good snow biking in over the weekend and come back with some decent photos to post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back to the Grind

Finally, after talking about it for weeks, I actually set up my trainer. And wonder of wonders, I figured out how to attach my new saddle. (Yes, it's the first time I've actually done this.) Not only that, I even used my trainer. My legs were feeling a bit sore from the hard effort on Sunday, so I just sat on there for about 45 minutes and spun my legs out while reading a magazine and listening to Radio Margaritaville. After the holiday, I'll start some of our DVDs, but for now I'm just going to ride a little and give my legs time to recover.

I'm actually thinking I might load my mountain bike in the car for our trip North. We're leaving for our cabin tomorrow afternoon and some sloppy snow riding might be just what I need to break the trainer monotony by then.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good Advice?

Today I was catching up on back issues of Shape magazine when I found a couple of interesting bike-related items (which are few and far between in this particular publication).

Advice from Christine Vardaros, three-time member of the U.S. Cyclocross World Champion team, on how to protect yourself during an endo:
  • Protect your head by wrapping your arms around it with hands in fists
  • Tuck your body as if you were about to do a somersault
  • Put your chin to your chest

These may be useful, and I certainly need them, but I'm not sure I'll be able to think quickly enough to do all this while I'm in the midst of a crash.

Advice on when to replace your bike (and other fitness gear/equipment):

  • Frame is dented (!)
  • Rust or kinks in the chain (!!??)

Clearly, whoever wrote this has a lot more disposable income than I do. I'm sure I dented my mountain bike frame the first time I rode it. As for kinks or rust in the chain, wouldn't you just replace the chain?

What's so great about Kisscross?

You name it, it's great. There's just something about the crazy atmosphere, the cheering fans, the cowbell and the fun courses that keep me coming back, even when I continually finish last. Yesterday's race was at Manhattan Park in East Grand Rapids. I was sweating and panting amongst the fancy houses, laughing at the disdainful looks I got from the ladies wearing Rolexes and walking their designer dogs.

The ambience was classic Kisscross. The sun was shining, my toes were freezing and the grass was crunchy with frost as I rode my practice lap. Trombone players in wigs and masks were warming up. After taking off my jacket, putting in back on, taking it back off, finally putting it back on, I rolled up to the starting line. I looked around, sizing up my competition. At the back of the pack, here's what I saw—guy on a commuter bike with rack, seven- or eight-year-old kid, racing type in a team jersey riding a cross bike with a trail-a-bike. I resolved to stay in front of the trail-a-bike and took off.

The pack thinned out pretty quickly. I got in front of the trail-a-bike before the first hill. I jockeyed for position a bit with the little kid, finally passing him when he stalled out going up the hill. I thanked my lucky stars for my gears, shifted and crawled ahead. I felt pretty good about how I handled most of the downhills. At one point, I mishandled a chicane on the biggest downhill and ended up crashing through the tape, but I recovered without biting it.

I was in front of the commuter for a while, but he finally passed me for good sometime during lap three, after I'd already been lapped by many. One girl who flew past, seeming to sense I was laboring, announced cheerfully "we're almost there." "You're almost there," I shot forward, harsher than I meant to. "Oh, sorry," she yelled, sounding contrite.

The trail-a-bike made a planned exit after two laps. It was just me and the kid competing for last place. At the end of the third lap, the kid's dad walked his bike up a long hill for him. Someone from the crowd asked if that was against the rules, but dad said it didn't matter anyway because he was in last place. "Oh no, he's not," I declared, coming up from behind. The kid ended up beating me.

I checked the prize table on my way back to the car, thinking my luck had finally run out. After all, they can't keep giving prizes for last place when I'm always in last place. Then I saw it. It was labeled "Last C Women" and it was the best prize I've won at a race ever—a women-specific saddle. I guess I have no excuses left for not setting up my road bike on the trainer.

I didn't make any progress this year. I finished last in every race and there's only one left to break my streak. But when I'm out there sweating, barely able to breathe, and when I'm back at my car after the race, chugging down my beverage of choice, feeling warm, tingling and flushed from the effort and glowing with the accomplishment, I'm not thinking about how many times I came in last. I'm just enjoying being there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


This is Billy. He belongs to our friend Frank. He's eight years old (I think) and he likes to ride his bike. Billy's been racing Kisscross since I started and he's a fierce competitor. His bike only has one speed, but he just stands and powers up the hills like they're flat.

If Billy keeps riding, he's going to be phenomenal. He's already blowing away any kids his age and some older. He got bored with the kids' races because they were too easy so he started riding with the adults.

Billy doesn't train, he just gets out there and rides. If his dad wants to punish him, he takes away his bike.

I was thinking about Billy today when I was racing, although he was too far ahead of me to see. I used to be able to beat Billy, but now he beats half the adults in the C race. I, on the other hand, was supposed to set up the trainer this week (really every week for the past three) so I could "train." The thing is, training seems to much like work and it's hard to get motivated to do it. Racing, on the other hand, doesn't take much motivation because it's so much fun.

Maybe I need to worry less about training and just ride. Maybe I need to be more like Billy.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Call Me Madam Secretary

Surprisingly enough, after working for a professional association for the past eight years and dealing with all kinds of boards and committees, I have never actually been a member of a board. Until now, that is. Last night, I was elected to the illustrious post of secretary of the Mid-state Chapter of the Michigan Mountain Bike Association. I've also volunteered to work on committees to help organize a chapter race and potentially some other activities.

I'm really excited about it, even though my last foray into volunteering for a biking association was an unmitigated disaster. You see, we had a great (albeit long) meeting last night. There was a pretty good showing of people (at least considering the amount of people I've seen in the past) and everyone seemed enthusiastic about the topics we were discussing. I think we can do some really good things if we are realistic about our goals and have people take responsibility for organizing them. There also seems to be some hope out there of still having a chapter team, but it will mean doing things a little differently.

We have a good group of people involved. (There are only a few girls, which is one of the reasons I'm glad to have been elected to the board. I can represent!)
Jake, the former president and driving force behind our chapter team this year, commented that it was the first time in a very long while that we actually had four different people filling the roles on the board. I think it's outstanding, because I've gotten to know the other three board members from being on the team and I think they'll all be great to work with.

I also have to admit that secretary was probably the only board position I would have considered. It was previously filled, but when Chris vacated his presidency, Chris Mensing moved to president and Brad (previously the secretary) ran for vice president. It worked out perfectly. My husband didn't even get mad at me like he did when I started that other volunteer debacle.

At any rate, look for good things in the future from Mid-state.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fame and Fortune

As my loyal readers know, I left my job about a month ago to pursue a freelance writing career. Since then, I haven't had a lot of success. I actually started a freelance writing blog so as not to bore my bicycling readers with my freelance writing woes. However, this is somewhat related to mountain biking, so bear with me.

A couple weeks ago I answered an online ad for something called Demand Studios, which was looking for content writers for several blogs. I had to send them samples and be approved before writing any articles.

When submitting my application, they gave me the option of choosing a site. I was excited to see that LiveStrong was one of the options. I submitted my choice and a few days later found out I was approved. There's only one problem. I was approved to write articles for eHow and eHow only.

I didn't waste much time worrying about it because, after all, clients aren't exactly beating down my door, and getting paid to write is getting paid to write.

So, here's the way it works. I can look at a list of available topics and choose one I am interested in writing. This was where my second disappointment was realized. Among the 40 or so topics there were to choose from, most went something like this: "How to Remove the Windshield from a '68 Camaro" or "How to Start a Tanning Booth Business in Indonesia." None of these was even remotely up my alley.

But, wait. There's a silver lining. They allow you to submit your own titles for approval. I could ask to write on any topic I wanted as long as the title began with "how to." Great. So, I set about thinking of titles and submitted a few, most of which were approved. I chose topics I could write from what was in my head, without having to do a lot of research.

Then came my third disappointment. The articles I submitted are worth exactly one-third of what their suggested articles are. So, I could still write these articles and get paid something for them, but it was even less than the already small amount for their articles.

All this buildup is only to announce that yesterday I found my first eHow article, with the very exciting title of "How to Dress for Winter Mountain Biking" had been published. Disclaimer: This is not some of my best work. The format they gave me is very restrictive and their publishing tool messed up all the bullets. (I thought they might fix these before it was published, but apparently I was wrong.)

I'm not posting this link because I want to brag about the article. Okay, maybe I do. You see, even though the article isn't great, someone actually paid me to write an article about mountain biking. That makes me an expert, right?

P.S. Please, no disparaging comments from the peanut gallery about what I left out, how this part sucks, etc. Chris, this particularly means you. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today's post is going to be one of those to file under "obvious." I had a massive meltdown Sunday night and stretching through most of the day yesterday. Coming out of one of those always leaves me a little philosophical. So now I've mostly snapped out of it and I want to share some of the perspective I've gained.

I was reading about Fat Cyclist's dilemma this morning and it made me think about the bicycling community in general. In a nutshell, his problem is this. He has so much going on what with nursing a wife with horrible cancer, working full-time, taking care of four kids, writing his blog and putting together four teams for the LiveStrong Challenge that he felt like he had to ask for help. So, now he has 350 e-mails sitting in his inbox from people offering him assistance. It's a problem, but it's an encouraging one.

Although I have certainly never faced the kind of challenges Elden has, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the support of the cycling community. I suppose it's probably like this with other bloggers or other groups of people, but I've noticed it a lot with cyclists lately.

On Sunday, when I went to the Kisscross race, I noticed for the first time how many people know my name. It's weird, but encouraging, to hear spectators shouting out encouraging things to you, personally, when you didn't even know they knew who you were.

There were people there at the finish line, serious racers even, (like this one) cheering for me as I once again finished DFL. And then there's this extremely hardcore and awesome racer who has always been so encouraging to me. That really takes some of the sting out of the whole being way behind everyone else thing.

Then there are the people who visit my blog and leave comments. Some of them I've met while riding, racing or at bike events (Jake, Laurie, Marty) and some I've never met, but they stumbled across my blog somehow and offered words of encouragement (Ali, Di). Still others are people who never visit my blog but inspire me when I read theirs (Jill, Fat Cyclist, Chocolate Girl). I guess the point of this whole thing is that there are some great people out there in the cycling world and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What's the definition of insanity?

Okay, so it wasn't exactly the same thing over and over, and it wasn't the exact same result. I did train a little more, but I didn't meet the goal I set for myself of riding five times before the next race. Still, I felt more prepared for the race. I got there early and prerode the course. I did one full practice lap and part of another. After spending more time warming up, I felt like I was pushing it a bit harder than I have been this season.
So, I still finished last, but there was one person in front of me who was within sight (and probably within reach) for the entire race. Lately it seems like everyone's been so far ahead of me that I can't even see them until they lap me. I thought I could catch the guy in front of me and I tried kicking it up a notch in the last lap, but I just didn't have a lot left.

The next race is only a week away. After that, it's three weeks until the Holland race, which is the last one before the snowcross races. The Kisscross season went by pretty quickly and there's not much time to improve before it's all over. I'm going to make a concerted effort to do what I can to make sure I don't come in last at the Holland race.

It's funny because I was really excited about Kisscross this year and I thought I was going to do so much better. As it turns out, I actually did a lot worse. Part of it was my lack of commitment to training, but I also need to face the fact that I'm at least 20 pounds heavier than I was last year at this time. The bottom line is I really need to get to work.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Dream of Iceman, Part 2

When we last left our story, I had given up mountain biking. After a humiliating experience at Island Lake, during which I crashed hard (or at least it seemed hard at the time) and left the trail sobbing, I decided I just "couldn't" mountain bike. My bike saw nothing but pavement for the next several years. (I should also confess that the reason I bought a mountain bike to begin with is that I wanted a bike, but didn't want to ride "all hunched over.")

Fast forward a couple of years. The guy at the bike shop and I were friends, and he tried to save me from the cesspool of self-pity I was wallowing in by getting me out on the trail. I was having a hard time recovering from a major breakup and he thought it would do me good to come to the Wednesday night mountain bike rides organized by his shop. Here's the only problem—they often went to Island Lake, which I swore I would never ride again.

He was very persuasive, though, and I needed something to get me out of the dark place I had fallen into. I went to Island Lake with the group one summer evening, and I finished the whole trail. I was tired when I finished, and it wasn't without incident. I didn't conquer the trail in a literal sense, but in my mind I had. Standing around in the parking lot after finishing that trail, I felt inexplicably great. (I still feel that every time I finish riding a trail. I guess that's why I still do it despite all the slings and arrows.) I started to dream about Iceman again.

The bike shop guy had raced Iceman and so had many of his friends. I built it up in my head like some mythical, out-of-reach fantasy. About a month after I started dating my husband, we went to Traverse City on Iceman weekend just to observe, watch friends finish and socialize. That year, it was unseasonably warm for November—I recall it being sunny and about 60 degrees.

Now that I've been on a bunch of trails, many of them harder than Island Lake, it's still hard to get the dream of Iceman out of my head. Everyone I know who's ridden it tells me it's not technical at all, but it still seemed out of reach, even after I spent the season racing.

A few days ago, my husband (who has raced Iceman multiple times, by the way, and even stopped to take a nap during the race one year) was trying to figure out why I thought the race was such a big deal. We were discussing a certain endurance racer, and he said something about it not being an endurance race. "What do you mean, it's not an endurance race," I asked, not believing him for a second.

That's when he explained to me that the race is "only" 26 miles. "Only 26 miles? That's more than I could ride!" I was emphatic.

Then he reminded me that I rode about 40 miles at 6 Hours of Ithaca. Oh yeah. So what's the big deal about Iceman? Apparently, it's just a race at the end of the season that's fun because of all the people, hoopla and events surrounding it. Mileage wise, it's not any longer than Sport and Expert classes ride for a cross country race. Supposedly, the only thing really challenging about it are the sandy uphills.

I feel a little disillusioned. Iceman's been in my head as this unattainable goal for so long, it's hard to shake it loose. The race hasn't gotten any easier, it's just that my perspective on what's difficult has changed. I still have to race it one of these days, though. I just do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Dream of Iceman, Part 1

I've been reading a lot about Iceman in the last week. I follow the blogs of a lot of people who raced and I've was anxious to see their recaps. (I even found this article, which I thought was kind of interesting.) I stayed home yet again this year, but one of these days, I'm going to actually do it. For some reason, it holds a tremendous amount of allure for me.

The first time I ever heard anyone talk about Iceman was probably in 2000. I had bought my first mountain bike in 1999 and stopped into the shop frequently for advice, accessories, etc. (including a new bike and Yakima rack when they both got stolen off my car in my driveway a few months after I got them). The guy at the bike shop, who is now a good friend, mentioned Iceman to me when I had no concept of what training for a race would even mean.

I like to make fun of the way I used to view mountain biking now that I am so experienced. (Truthfully, I am not that experienced, but it's still interesting to remember just how little I knew back then.) At any rate, I thought training for the Iceman might be a good goal to set, even though at the time I thought I was mountain biking if I rode my bike across a strip of dirt.

I used to ride this trail at a state park in the area called Sleepy Hollow. It's mostly a hiking trail, but they allow mountain bikes. It's impossible to explain how easy this trail is if you've never ridden it. So, the day came when my then boyfriend, who also fancied himself a mountain biker, and I drove to Island Lake to ride to expand our horizons a little. We rode the easiest trail there, and I literally ended up sobbing on the side of the trail for a while before walking my bike out to the road to ride back to the parking lot. So much for my dream of Iceman! I didn't even get my bike on the trail again for the next several years.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Be a Hater

I know I initially expressed reservations about Lance Armstrong's return to professional cycling. But it should also be said that I am a fan of Lance for numerous reasons, not the least of which is his somewhat arrogant and disparaging attitude. I'm a big fan of people who "tell it like it is," even if comes out sounding somewhat rude. He's also given cycling a lot of exposure (not always positive), and you really have to respect someone who's become famous for cycling, a sport that barely anyone in the U.S. pays any attention to. (Yes, he's done other things, such as have cancer, raise money for cancer, hang out with Matthew McConnaghey and date celebrities, too.)

At any rate, as much as I complained about Lance's comeback, I also admitted that I'd be cheering for him every chance I got. But not everyone is. There's been a tremendous amount of backlash from the cycling community and I've been reading some of it.

Yesterday, there was an article on the L.A. Times blog called "Everybody hates Lance Armstrong—so take a number, cyclists." The article itself is pretty bland, and doesn't contain much news. It mostly discusses what he's been doing since he stopped cycling and how he holds grudges. The most ignorant part of this article, however, was this part: "Yet, instead of shrugging their shoulders and coming to the logical conclusion that Armstrong is an aging athlete who's way out of shape and impossibly unable to become competitive again—and therefore is not worth worrying about—a surprising number of cyclists have chosen to criticize the comeback."

That's a logical conclusion? I'll give the writer of the article the fact that Lance is old by cycling standards (although I find it irritating since he's only two years older than me), but is she forgetting the fact that he's a superhuman phenomenon who dominated the sport a mere three years ago? Or that he has grit and determination rarely seen in other mortals?

Of course, the holding a grudge part certainly seems to be true. That being said, he may be successful just to prove all his critics wrong.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Not Enough

This is a true story of two mountain bike racers who were not very successful last season. Neither of them trained as much as they wanted to or should have and, as a result, both had somewhat disappointing results. They both wanted to be fast, but neither of them did what they needed to do to make this happen. I'm curious as to which one of their outcomes was worse and what will happen to each of them when the next season rolls around.

Racer #1 started out motivated. This racer trained a lot in the beginning and had some relative initial success. As the season wore on, Racer #1 still wanted to race, but didn't train as much. By the end of the season, this racer wasn't training at all, but still chose to keep racing. It bothered Racer #1 to be slow and to have unsuccessful races, but it didn't bother Racer #1 enough to quit racing (or to motivate Racer #1 to continue/step up training).

Racer #2 also started out motivated. This racer trained some in the beginning, though not as much as Racer #1. Racer #2 had the advantage, however, of more natural strength and ability than Racer #1. As the season wore on, Racer #2 became more unhappy with racing. Racer #2 was also bothered by having unsuccessful races, but not enough to train. Racer #2 quit racing before the season was over.

So, which is worse, being bothered by lack of success, but not enough to train more, or being bothered, but not enough to stop racing? Will Racer #2, who has more natural ability, ever be motivated enough to train to make the most of that natural ability or are Racer #2's racing days over? Will Racer #1, who stuck with racing all season despite lack of training, ever hate being slow enough to train consistently? Stay tuned for answers.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Random Bits on Bicycle Safety

Here are a few random items of interest I found this week:
  • Mandatory helmets in Switzerland—Switzerland's transport minister Moritz Leuenberger has not made any friends among cyclists with his plan to make helmets mandatory. The plan is part of a package of comprehensive reforms to improve Swiss road safety, which includes requiring drivers to take refresher courses every 10 years.

I have mixed feelings about this. I never wore a helmet before I bought my first mountain bike. After that I was pretty militant about my helmet until I got my cruiser. I must admit I never wear my helmet when I ride my cruiser. I guess to sum up, I think helmets are very important in most situations, but I just don't feel like I'm in that much danger of a head injury when I'm riding slowly on the bike path on my cruiser. (A particular pet peeve of mine, however, is parents out riding with their children. The kids are wearing helmets, but the parents are not. Whatever happened to leading by example?)

  • Police enforcing traffic laws for cyclists—Police in Santa Rosa, Calif. patrolled high bicycle traffic areas for three hours last Thursday and handed out 27 citations and 13 warnings. (Three of the citations were given to drivers who threatened bicyclists' safety.) The patrol was part of a two-year, $315,000 state-sponsored project to improve bicycle safety. (Original article)

I think this one is a great idea. Cyclists do incredibly stupid things—I see them daily. I also think that if we expect to have the same rights to the road as drivers, we have to follow traffic laws. That means riding on the right side of the road, staying off sidewalks and obeying traffic signals. By the same token, drivers need to be responsible and pay attention to anyone else on the road, whether it is a cyclist, pedestrian or another motorist.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?

I guess it should have been common sense, but yesterday I found out for sure. Intervals really don't work on the trail.

I went out to Burchfield late yesterday afternoon to catch the last little bit of unseasonably warm weather. I was feeling a lot better than I had on Tuesday, so I decided to pick up my plan of doing intervals on the ski trail.

I gave up after the first interval because I realized, at least with my current system, which was a digital stopwatch on my wrist, doing intervals was imprecise at best, and probably completely impossible. There's no way I could look at my watch the entire time I was riding without running myself into a tree, because although the trail is pretty easy and flat, it's still a trail, after all. I was also on my cross bike, which meant I had to watch for particularly large roots and other obstacles, lest I be catapulted from my bike.

Plan B was to just to try to push as big of a gear as I could to make it harder. When I came to a hill (few and not very big), instead of shifting, I just stood up to try to power up the hill. It was a lot of work and I got tired after about 15 minutes. Then I switched to an easier gear and cooled down for 10 minutes.

In total (including my slow warm up), I was only on the trail for about 35 minutes, but I was pretty tired and my legs feel a little twingey today. This weekend, when the weather turns winterish, I'm going to set up my trainer to do some real intervals. For now, though, I at least have three rides down in my goal to complete five before the next Kisscross race.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mandatory Education for Drivers?

I read an interesting article yesterday, originally published in the Irish Times. Now you'll have to excuse my ignorance for just a minute, because I have only recently started reading much cycling-related news and I have no idea what's happening on our side of the pond on this issue.

What originally attracted me to the article was its headline "Call for safe interaction with cyclists to be mandatory part of driving courses." Again, I don't know if anyone is trying to push for anything like that here. Maybe they're already teaching it. I do know, however, that I didn't learn anything about cyclists (or pedestrians, for that matter) when I was taking driver's training all those years ago.

There's no doubt I've encountered some rude drivers on the road. I've had a few try to run me off the road on purpose and I've had some who have passed just too close for comfort. Luckily, I have never been injured by a car while on my bike, but my brother has been hit by a car on his bike no fewer than three times. (Of course, this may say something about the way my brother rides his bike.)

The fact of the matter is, though, I think most of the people who cause problems for cyclists on the road are either careless, impatient, not paying attention or just misinformed about whether cyclists belong on the road and not actually out to hurt or scare anyone. Maybe some education when they were first learning to drive would help this. That being said, I also realize that cyclists who don't use common sense can be a big part of the problem (or in some situations the whole problem). (The Irish group in this article also suggests on-road cycling training should be mandatory to school children.)

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

French Fries and Good Intentions

Yesterday was another unseasonably warm day. After taking care of some work in the morning and taking the girls to the dog park, my husband and I hit the polls to cancel each other out. We didn't have much of a wait—we were out of there in less than 40 minutes. We decided to go out to lunch, and that was where I made my first mistake.

My plan was to hit the trail in the afternoon, so I got all my gear together and headed out to Burchfield Park. My intention was to ride my cross bike on the ski trail (also open to bikes, but easy and not technical in the least). I thought I would do some intervals. Even though the easiest place to do intervals is on the trainer, I wasn't about to ride the trainer on a 70 degree day in early November.

I started a warm up loop and almost immediately felt awful. My high fat lunch sat in my stomach, my back and neck were sore and my butt hurt. My legs felt like lead. Intervals were obviously not in my immediate future.

I don't know if it's because I don't remember the last time I rode my bike three days in a row or because I just needed more recovery time from the race, but I wanted to turn around and go back to the car. I didn't, though, because the day was beautiful and it took me about 20 minutes to get there from my house. So, I stuck it out and did slow loops of the ski trail for about 45 minutes before packing it in.

I ended up riding down some of the trail connectors I don't usually take because they're all grass. It's not really fun to ride on grass, but it's definitely good practice for cross. By the end of the ride, I was breaking a light sweat and felt a good sense of accomplishment. I also remembered what a difference a trail makes. Even riding relatively slowly, I got a much better workout in 45 minutes on the trail than I had in an hour the day before on the bike path.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Summer Makes a Comeback

I thought I'd get on the trainer yesterday and spin it out for a while to recover from the race. It had stormed pretty hard in the middle of the night on Sunday, but by Monday morning, the sun was peeking out. I took the girls to the dog park in the morning, but promised myself if I got my freelancing work done, I'd take a break and ride in the afternoon.
Shortly after lunch, when I'd finished my article (and I'd broken the USB connector off the flash drive I was just thinking I should back up the other day), I realized how lucky I am to be working from home, and I got my cross bike out. Ten minutes later, I was riding, slow and easy, toward the bike path and promising myself that if the weather held, I'd make it to some dirt the next day.
If it wasn't for all the leaves strewn about, there would have been no way to identify the day as Nov. 3. The temperatures reached 70 degrees, and I rode in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. In November.

The good weather brought lots of people out to the bike path (even a guy on a big-wheeled unicycle, who I was not able to get a picture of), but not enough to make it too crowded to ride. I took it leisurely and rode at a recovery pace for about an hour. One ride down, four more to go to keep my promise. If this weather continues, that shouldn't be hard.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Deja Vu

You'll never guess how I placed at yesterday's Kisscross race! (At least this time they had my prize labeled appropriately.) After that very vehement post from the Caledonia race, I went out and did exactly the same thing. I didn't bother to train, and I proceeded to race anyway. What's that saying about the definition of insanity again? Oh yeah, it's doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
I talked myself out of racing yesterday multiple times, mostly because this particular race was my most shameful last year and due to the aforementioned dilemma of lack of training. During last year's race at Richmond Park, I was actually in a lot better shape. It looked like it was going to be my best race of the season. I went out strong, and was near the back of the pack (but not at the end or far off the back of the pack like I have been lately). Then something happened. We came to this sketchy (in my mind) downhill and I couldn't ride it. I walked it on each and every lap and got more and more behind.
I was meeting a friend who lives in Grand Rapids after the race, so I finally decided I might as well go to the race. I loaded all my gear into my car and determined on the drive over there that I was just going to watch. It would be foolish for me to race again.
When I arrived, I looked at the area where the sketchy downhill had been and saw that on this year's course, it was an uphill. That made me feel better. I registered for the race, thinking I could still bail and I would only be out $15, which wasn't that big of a deal. Then I figured I might as well ride part of the course and see how it was. It didn't seem that bad.
Our friend Frank was there, and he gave me some tire advice again, which I took this time. At that point, I was about 25% sure I was going to race. I lined up for the start, figuring I still had time to jump ship. Then our friend Anne, who is awesome and hardcore, came by to offer me encouragement. At that point, I realized I had to at least start the race, but that if it had to be my first DNF, so be it. I also thought that as long as I wasn't getting my butt out riding, I might as well ride during the race since I had gone to all the trouble to get my bike gear on. Even if I only treated the race as a training ride, it would be one more training ride than I had done previously.
When Rick announced the race would be four laps, I cringed, but told myself I didn't have to do all the laps. I finished the first lap way off the back of the pack, but not feeling too bad. At that point, I figured I might as well finish, even if it took me a long time, so I did.

So, I'm going to make a serious vow, right here and now, for my two (four?) loyal blog readers to see. As much as I berated myself about not training after the Caledonia race, I still didn't do anything about it. The next Kisscross race is two weeks from yesterday. I will not vow to be in phenomenal shape for it, because that's unrealistic. I will, however, vow that I will do multiple training rides (let's say at least 5) between now and then.

There's one last thing I want to mention about yesterday's race. Normally, I don't have anything bad to say about these races, because everyone tends to be really nice and encouraging. But yesterday, toward the end of the race, I had a really bad experience.

Rick tends to discourage people from pre-riding the course while the C race is still in progress, but since I'm so far from the pack, I usually have a few people riding with me during my last lap. Usually, they're very respectful and say encouraging things as they pass me. Yesterday, I had a man and a woman in full Giant kits pass me near the finish line. The woman spoke to me, so I know they saw me.

Now I know this race isn't timed or anything, and I was already taking a ridiculous amount of time to finish, but as they got closer to the finish line, they slowed way down, and were just sitting in front of me blocking the finish line. It didn't look like I could pass them and stay between the finish cones, but as I started to try to go by them, the woman did something that added insult to injury.

I have never in my life seen a woman do this, although I have seen plenty of guys do it. You know how you can push one nostril in and shoot snot out the other nostril (presumably, this is seen to be preferable to using a tissue)? The woman did this just as I was passing her. I was not only disturbed because it's a disgusting practice, but also by the fact that it sprayed me in the face. Not a nice ending.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


On Saturday afternoons when there's a Spartan home game, there's a pretty good chance either my husband or both of us are out tailgating, even if we're not going to the game. It's a fun social event and a chance to run into a lot of people. The proximity of our house to Spartan Stadium makes it feasible to get back home in time so we don't miss much of the beginning of the game.
Normally, we park at a free parking lot that's just a few blocks from our house and walk the rest of the way. It's not a short walk—it usually takes us about 20-25 minutes. However, by the time we get to our normal tailgating spot and walk back, we usually don't feel like doing too much extraneous walking to visit other tailgates, particularly since we're usually carrying a lot of glass bottles full of liquid. Yesterday, I was interested in meeting a couple of my former interns (Kari and Kelly) who were in from out of town, and I knew it would be a long walk to the place they were tailgating. (I should explain that I'm not opposed to walking, but it cuts into valuable tailgating time, especially on days that the game is at noon.)
Chris came up with the perfect solution. It's a longish walk, but it's a really short bike ride. Problem solved. We busted our cruisers out of the garage and rode them to campus. Our beverages were carried in a backpack. Not only did we get a lot of compliments on my Nerve Lahaina and Chris' Dyno Von Franco, we didn't have to worry about parking.

This may seem like a fairly obvious solution, but the truth is, we just don't use our bikes for transportation. I know it's silly and ridiculous, so please don't lecture me. It's just that every time I think of riding my bike to go anywhere, it seems either too far or too close. Most things are too close, actually. And, especially for a short ride, I hate the thought of having to get all my bike clothes and my bike shoes on and then be wearing them when I get to my destination.

The cruiser is clearly the answer to these short jaunts, since no bike-specific clothing or shoes are required. I'll have to make sure I remember that and make a commitment to using bikes as transportation more frequently.