Monday, December 21, 2009

Have I Mentioned I'm Excited?

Most of you already know the MMBA Expo is coming up at the end of next month. I have always enjoyed the Expo. It's a chance to catch up with old friends, check out some good deals at the swap meet and hang out with like-minded people (mostly). However, I will say that I've enjoyed it much more since they moved it out of Davison to the Lansing area. Not only is it practically in my backyard, but I don't have to make the ridiculous trek to Davison, which is convenient for no one (except people who live in Davison).

This year, though, I have a HUGE reason to be excited about the Expo. That's because a certain person, who'll I'll just call "DAVE WIENS," is going to be speaking. DAVE WIENS! DAVE WIENS! As in, 6-time Leadville champion, awesome Dave Wiens. As in, the guy who lives a mere stone's throw from Crested Butte (where I will be in 10 short days) Dave Wiens. I have never been excited about a speaker at the MMBA Expo, but this one is enough to make up for all the years past.

More info on the Expo can be found here, but really all you need to know is that Dave Wiens is speaking.

BTW, on a completely unrelated matter, is anyone else starting to get the impression that something is going on between Fat Cyclist and the Runner?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

DIY


I apologize to anyone coming to this site to read cycling-related posts. There just hasn't been much related to cycling to talk about lately. My winter training went well for the first couple weeks, but then I got sick again, got ridiculously busy at work and found lots of excuses to avoid it. My plan at this point is to start up again when we get back from Crested Butte and work hard the rest of the winter, because I do want to be in good shape for Barry-Roubaix. Realistically, though, even if I had been training, it wouldn't make for scintillating reading. I can just picture it now:

Today I rode the trainer and watched Spinervals 2.0, Sweating Buckets. I did a lot of sweating. Then I took a shower.

So, on to the real topic of this post ...

I said quite a while ago that the first hurdle in plan to move to Crested Butte was to get our house ready to sell. Since October when we rented an 18-yard container to throw a bunch of things away, we haven't made any progress toward this goal. It could be because it's so overwhelming—there's so much to do, and I fear it's going to be prohibitively expensive. There's much in our house that is in disrepair, not to mention downright ugly. Here's a taste of what I'm up against:


Bathroom floor tile


Garish color combinations (and yes, the tub matches this toilet)


Precious kitchen wallpaper complete with baby farm animal border

Kitchen counter and backsplash made of, you guessed it, linoleum


Vinyl floor tile in the kitchen


Stained, indoor/outdoor-style carpeting in bedroom and hallway (formerly in entire house)

But lest someone think there is nothing about our house I like, I give you our wide oak trim, which is really quite nice:


But if all you do is whine about how much you have to do, nothing ever gets done. So, I started planning to do these projects incrementally, so as not to overwhelm our stamina or our budget too much. The bathroom really needs the most attention, so I began with that.

Ideally, I would like to make the following changes to the bathroom before we put the house on the market. Luckily, we can do most of them ourselves or by enlisting the help of my dad, who can fix, make or build pretty much anything.
  • Remove hideous wallpaper
  • Paint
  • Install an exhaust fan
  • Replace vanity
  • Replace mirror and light with lighted medicine cabinet
  • Replace rotting trim
  • Build storage shelves 
  • Replace floor tile with linoleum
(That's right. As of now, I'm planning to leave the pink toilet and tub, as well as the sea foam green wall tile and tub surround, but I could change my mind.)

After my first two days of work on it, I have not even finished removing the remarkably stubborn wallpaper (see top photo). I guess I have my work cut out for me. Wish me luck! 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unexpected

After spending the bulk of my existence cursing Michigan winters and snow, I find myself a bit taken aback by my recent emotions regarding our lack of snow. For most of my life, I have thought it would be ideal if we had about two snowy days a year, Christmas and Christmas Eve. And, although I had never been a fan of moving to a warmer clime where there are no apparent seasons, I was ready to bid adieu to winter completely. So I guess I shouldn't be so judgmental about some of my friends and family being skeptical about me wanting to move to Colorado.

However, as I alluded to at the beginning of this post, my thoughts they are a changin'. Recently I've found myself complaining about our dearth of snow. In fact, every time snow has been forecasted, my hopes have been dashed and I've cursed the weathermen. But so unusual is this sentiment that my own brother (who admittedly doesn't pay a lot of attention to details) recently demanded on Facebook that I "man up" because he thought I was complaining about snow when I was complaining about our lack thereof.

I'm not sure what explains this drastic change in feeling. Perhaps it's the fact that I have new winter gear, including a parka and ski pants. It may also be the Christmas presents I'm expecting, such as the warm winter boots. It may even be the new ski boots and the pair of cast-off cross country skis that my mom will be sending my way soon. Whatever it is, it's a little unnerving, but I like it!

It seems kind of crazy that we don't even have enough snow to cover the grass successfully even though it's mid-December, particularly with the amount they've received in other parts of the state. (This person and this person actually have snow where they live.) Maybe we'll get some soon, but in the meantime, I can always dream about this. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

What if I Were a Different Kind of Person?

The other day, when I was hunting around online, I found an open position for an editor of Crested Butte Weekly. Now I know that I have no background in journalism, but I was the editor of a magazine for several years and I have seen the Crested Butte Weekly. I'm not only certain that I could handle the job, I'm sure I could improve the publication.

I had actually seen the posting before, but this one included an actual salary and the detail that the position was full-time, which made it seem quite a bit more palatable. My head was up in the clouds for the rest of the day, working things out, trying to imagine the earliest I could possibly have the house ready to sell. I even wondered if I could find some temporary lodging and leave Chris here to work and get the house ready to sell while I went to Crested Butte to start the job. How's that for getting ahead of yourself?

Later that day, I found out that even though it was still posted, the position had already been filled, so I didn't have to envision any more scenarios about how I would start working there right away. The hope and excitement vanished almost as quickly as it had arrived.

In its wake it left a distinct air of wistfulness. It made me wish I were braver. I can count on one hand the few truly brave things I've done in my life and sometimes that rankles. It's not that I'm so materialistic, but I don't like the idea of things being completely uncertain. I don't need a ton of luxuries, but I like a few, and I have to be able to put food on the table and Pro Plan in the dog dishes.

Just once in a while, I wish I were the type of person who could just pack up and go and not worry about the consequences. My fear is that waiting for everything to fall into place, instead of leading to a move to Crested Butte, could just lead to more waiting.

On the bright side, we'll be there in 17 days, if only for a little while.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Salute to Cyclists (and Other Assorted Ramblings)

(I was going to title this post "Ode to Cyclists," but I remembered that my poetry-writing skills were never that good, particularly for someone who majored in English. And since my strophes, antistrophes and epodes aren't what they ought to be, I decided to stick to prose for now.)

At any rate, something amazing happened in the realm of cycling over the past few days. If you read Fat Cyclist, you already know this, but for those of you who don't, here's the gist of it. Late last week, Fat Cyclist, as he is wont to do, wrote one of his famous open letters. This particular letter was written to Johan Bruyneel. (If you don't know who Johan is, just Google him. That's what DG would do.) In the letter, in typical satirical FC fashion, he asked to be allowed to join Team RadioShack. But his pleas didn't fall on deaf ears, and Johan replied by presenting him with a fundraising challenge, which, if met, would allow FC to attend Team RadioShack Training Camp in Arizona. The amount he needed to raise was $10,000 for LAF and $10,000 for World Bicycle Relief. The real challenge came from the fact that he would have less than a week to do it.

When he and his readers completed the feat a mere day later, Johan upped the ante. A couple other people donated prizes and FC wound up raising more than $50,000 for each cause in three days!

Now because I attended a very impressive social media presentation just this morning, I'm inclined to say that this just shows the outstanding feats that can be accomplished so quickly using social media. And that would definitely be true. It's also true that FC is a phenomenon and he could probably get those who love him (pretty much everyone who reads his blog) to do just about anything he asked. But it's also a testament to how generous and supportive this cycling community can be (and almost always is). I can rattle off a handful of examples of this—maybe not as extreme, but in some ways just as meaningful—that have directly affected me in the last few years as I've surrounded myself with these people.

Some of you may remember that I wrote a couple of articles for an online cycling 'zine a while ago. The editors often asked me to come up with ideas for articles. One of the suggestions I made was to write something about cyclists being a tightly knit community. One of the editors disagreed with me. In his estimation, cyclists are loners, not team players, and that's why they participate in a solitary sport. This is so contrary to my experience that I can't even begin to imagine where he got this idea. In my mind, this FC phenomenon is just another example of how cyclists band together to support one another.

Now for an awkward transition ...

Speaking of incredible behavior by cyclists, can you believe that some people actually ride their bikes on a trail in the dark? On purpose? It's true. This was the plan last Saturday down at Heritage Park in Adrian. Not only did they do that, but I decided it would be a good idea for us to go. As it turned out, it was a somewhat disastrous experience for me. The light I had wasn't quite bright enough for the trail. Besides, taking my first night ride on a trail I had never ridden on before at all was probably not the best idea. And if you think I am hesitant on an unfamiliar trail in the daylight, you should see me at night. Yikes!

Chris and I ended up bailing out of the ride early and waiting for the rest of the group in the parking lot. Still, it made me feel very brave to even try, considering how cold it was. Best of all, we went to a local watering hole, had some food and a few cocktails, and got to hang out a bit with Jake, Nichole, Laurie and Mitch, which we have not done in a long time. So it was worth it after all.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Better Late Than Never



Okay, for some reason I'm not overly thrilled about writing a race report for last weekend's Kisscross finale, so I can't promise I'll come up with anything decent. In fact, I may just give the basics and post a few pictures. Here's the gist of it:
  • I finished second to the last, in front of a tandem that either had mechanical issues, took a bathroom break in the middle of the race, or both.
  • The race was fun in a kind of miserable way. It poured rain throughout most of the C race and was very messy. Slogging through that kind of stuff makes me feel really hardcore.
  • Rick originally told us we had to do five laps, but due to the amount of rain and the course getting torn up, decreased it to four after the first lap. I protested loudly and decided to do five anyway, just on principle. (Or maybe I thanked my lucky stars and cheered in a celebratory fashion. You decide which one you think is more likely.)
  • I know I say this all the time, but I have never wanted to DNF a race so badly before. My legs felt like lead from the get go and I had no idea how I was going to finish. As usual, I knew I would feel much worse if I quit, so I slogged through it.
As usual, Rick and Cathy did a great job with the whole series. We're all lucky they continue to do this.



I did my stair workout.


My teammate Nichole was beating the guys, as usual.


Navigating the Death Spiral


Riding through the muddy goodness


Here's how the Death Spiral looked post-race. Kind of reminiscent of crop circles


And here's how I spent my week. Luckily, the event is tomorrow because it's about to kill me.





Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Why Me?

Excuse me, please, while I whine for a minute (pretty unusual, huh?) because of the unfairness of it all. Normally, I am a person with a pretty hearty constitution, but lately this hasn't been the case at all. Sunday night, I started to feel crappy, but I thought I was just tired from a busy weekend and sore from a huge endo. But Monday morning I woke up with a full-blown sick, just in time for the last week of planning for a work party for 350+ people. The timing is truly suck-tastic.

Now I suspect that the germs I have were passed along to me by my chronically ill, consistently sniffly nephew when I saw him this weekend. Still, that begs the question: Why, when I am normally never sick, am I sick for the third time since October? I have a couple of working theories:
  • I have been running myself ragged for several months now and am just completely worn out.
  • The Aspergillus penicillium growing in my bathroom has lowered my immunity and made me more susceptible to illness.
  • When I examine my recent diet, I find it deficient in any and all major nutrients, which may have adversely affected my health.
I will have to work on all of the above items, but in the interim, I'm still sick and I still have to get through a week that is going to be a bear.

A Kisscross finale race report is still coming, but it may be a couple of days. Right now sleep seems preferable to blogging for obvious reasons.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bike Accidents



Three weekends in a row. Three different trails. Today's was Fort Custer, which I haven't ridden since the Stampede of '08 (right before the wedding of the century). It seemed like a good idea since the weather was nice, I needed to ride and I would be over on that side of the state anyway.


But first, to Kalamazoo, zoo, zoo, to visit the slightly belated birthday boy, Sebastian. That boy loves legos and playmobil. Our contribution was the playmobil ambulance, complete with an indisposed cyclist lying on a stretcher after a bike accident. It necessitated an impromptu bicycle safety speech from Aunt Andrea.


Oh yeah, and that boy, when questioned about what the theme of his birthday party should be, chose "carbon." Yes, carbon, the element. Of course, this is the same boy who spent his sixth year obsessed with DNA. It's also the same boy who could identify all the planets on sight by the time he was five. Love that quirky boy. Call him strange, but he's a keeper.


Then on to Fort Custer, where I met Dave and Kate. Former Michiganders transplanted in Madison, they were back for Thanksgiving weekend visiting. They borrowed some chain lube from me in the parking lot and then asked me to ride with them. Turns out Dave works for that one bike company that I'm not a big fan of, but I didn't tell him that. They were quite a bit faster than me and they waited nicely and encouragingly every so often for me to catch up.


I was actually having a good time. It's fun to ride with other people, especially when they speak your language. Plus, I liked the trail better than I remembered and it was warm enough for short sleeves. And then a bit of hesitancy got me on a sketchy downhill and it happened—my first crash in weeks and my first endo in absolutely ages. It was witnessed by two people I just met who ran back down to see if I was okay. Nice. I recovered enough to smile for my picture, at least, but hours later, I'm still feeling a little battered.

Still, it was a fun ride. Next up is what is bound to be a bittersweet season finale of Kisscross.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Ultimate Small Town, Part 2


So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by life, I slowly began to realize I liked the idea of moving to a small town, but not just any small town. It's crazy how I started thinking about living in Crested Butte as soon as we arrived. I can't begin to count how many times in the space of that week I found myself walking through town, trying to think of something from home I absolutely couldn't stand to give up if it meant living there.

I guess everyone has his or her own idea of what the perfect place to live might be. I certainly never thought my idea of a perfect place would be colder than Michigan with more snow. I thought it would be along the lines of something tropical. This just goes to show how much I've changed from who I used to be.

One of my coworkers recently loaned me the November issue of Ski, which contained an article about Crested Butte. Here are a few quotes from it:

"We have to keep in our mind that we're real, and we're unpretentious. And the people who gravitate to us are that way." (I guess that means I'm unpretentious.)

"If you go to the grocery store and forget your money, someone in line is going to help you out."

"We keep our doors unlocked. When you know 90 percent of the people it's easy to say hello to everyone ... And the 10 percent who are tourists? You might as well say hi to them, too."

These are great quotes, and they completely support the experience I had in Crested Butte. But these are also things that can be said about a lot of small towns. So what makes Crested Butte the ultimate small town? Name another small town where you can find the following:
  • Two different sushi restaurants
  • A restaurant owned by Heidi Montag's mom (okay, this doesn't thrill me much, but I thought I'd throw it in)
  • Stores selling North Face and Patagonia clothes
  • Zero stoplights
  • "The" four-way stop
  • A 15 mph posted speed limit
  • Free buses (with murals painted on them, quirky bus drivers and ski and bike racks) running every 20 minutes
  • Bartenders who hug you when you leave
  • People who cook for you after the kitchen is closed for the night
  • Bikes, bikes everywhere
  • People talking about bikes everywhere
  • A three block ride from the center of town to hit a mountain bike trail
  • A place where you can hitch a ride on a ski lift and ride your bike back down the mountain
  • Kids playing a soccer game at the foot of a mountain
  • So many dog people
  • The bluest sky ever

I could go on, but I think I've made my point. (And only 35 days until we go back. Woo hoo!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Ultimate Small Town, Part 1



"Did I hear you talking about Colorado? Are you going there?"

"Yep. Well, we're going there for New Year's, but we're trying to move there, too."

"I just moved back. I lived there for four years. Where in Colorado do you want to move?"

"Crested Butte."

"Crested Butte or Gunnison?"

"Crested Butte."

"Why would you want to move to Crested Butte?"

"Why, where did you live in Colorado?"

"Denver."

"Oh."

The above is a reasonable facsimile of a conversation my husband had in a bar this week. Though it may seem from this blog that we've moved on, we still want to move to Crested Butte, just as soon as we can figure out how to make it happen. And we still talk about it all the time, particularly to strangers who aren't sick of hearing about it already.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that the time I spent in Denver was entirely in the airport, but I wasn't impressed by what I saw when we were landing. I'm sure that Denver probably has lots to offer, but I'm positive it's not anywhere I want to live. I'll also admit I didn't know this guy at all or anything about his background, but I suspect that he thinks Crested Butte is entirely too small (much the same way I think Denver is entirely too big).

If anyone had told me when I was in high school that I would someday want to live in a small town with a population of about 1,500, I would have thought they were nuts. In fact, until I went away to college and met people from actual small towns, I thought I did live in a small town, even though the population was about 40,000. It seemed that there was nothing there. If we want to do much shopping, go to a concert or go to a chain restaurant that wasn't fast food (think Chi Chi's), we had to go to Lansing or Ann Arbor. I couldn't wait to leave and I couldn't imagine wanting to live anywhere smaller. Many of the people I grew up with felt the same way, and most of them did move away the first chance they got.

But that was before things like the Internet, satellite t.v., BlackBerry and e-mail were a part of my everyday life. And slowly I began to think that living in a small town, and getting away from the traffic (yes, I am complaining about traffic in Lansing—it's relative, get over it), the endless construction and the general bullshit that comes from living in a place where there are a lot of other people, wasn't such a bad idea after all. 

I started to realize this more after we bought our cabin. It was always hard to leave and come back to the city after we spent the weekend up there. The pace was so much nicer, there were fewer people on the roads, you could run into the hardware store and get something on a Saturday morning without fighting crowds of people. In short, it was peaceful.

Still, there was something missing there, and although it many ways, it would be a good place to move, it certainly wasn't the perfect place. 

To be continued ...

Monday, November 23, 2009

What a Difference the Dirt Makes


I was looking to hit the trail yesterday and was scheduled for a 3.5 hour ride. I knew I didn't want to spend 3.5 hours at Burchfield, so I reviewed my options. I could make a second try at Poto, but riding Poto by myself after the trouble I had the last time didn't seem like a good idea. I thought about going to Yankee, but that meant doing at least two laps and I really doubted I could make myself ride two laps at Yankee.


Then I remembered the trail I was talking about just a week earlier—Luton Park. I had yet to ride there, and I thought the lure of a previously unexplored trail might just be enough to coax my husband out the door. When I asked him, he agreed right away.


Unfortunately, we got a later start than we wanted to, and ended up in Rockford at about 1 p.m. The trail is in a county park, but if you weren't looking for it, you could easily miss it. The only sign is of the "no motorized vehicles" variety, and there's no parking lot. We drove by and luckily, Chris caught the sign. We then turned around and went to park in the supermarket parking lot, since the park itself has no lot and due to an agreement with the county, riders are prohibited (discouraged) from parking on the side of the road.

In the parking lot, we encountered Mr. Kisscross, Rick Plite and his wife, Cathy. After chatting with them for a few minutes and getting some advice on how to navigate the trail, we took off down the road for a mile before turning on to the dirt.

The trail was longer than I expected, and contained a lot of varied terrain. There were a few muddy spots and one or two sandy sections, but most of the trail was in good shape. There were wooded areas and lots of that piney goodness I love so much, with some log piles and rock piles mixed in. Oddly enough, there were also sections of trail stretching alongside cornfields. I don't know why this struck me as so strange. I guess it was just because I've never ridden my bike next to a cornfield before (except on the road, of course).


Out on the trail, we caught up with Rick again, marking out some reroutes. We stopped for a minute to catch our breath and so Chris could offer his two cents. We headed back soon after. I hadn't ridden anywhere close to 3.5 hours, but we had a good ride and were tired.

I ended up with about 1 hour and 45 minutes, only slightly longer than my ride on Saturday. However, getting outside on another beautiful day, trying out a new trail and experiencing a rare ride with my husband far outweighed my disappointment in my stamina. What was amazing to me was how much more worn out I was after my ride on Sunday than I was on Saturday. What a difference it makes riding on dirt.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Training on Borrowed Time


 I started my winter training program this week. Monday was strength training, Tuesday was 1.5 hours on the bike, Wednesday was both and Friday was just strength training. I did all that training inside because, as nice as it has been outside, it's almost completely dark when I get out of work at the end of the day. I don't have a light, and there's no way I'm riding outside in the dark with no light.

Luckily, I still have weekends. I have no idea how long this weather is going to hold, but as long as it does, I'm certainly going to take advantage of any outside riding I can do. Yesterday, I was scheduled to do 1.5 hours of E1, which is recovery pace. Since I knew I'd be heading out on the trail for a 3.5-hour ride today, I decided to hit the river trail for a low-key trek through town.


The only way you can tell it's almost the end of November right now is by the bare trees. Everything else seems like early fall. The temperatures were hovering just below 50. If I hadn't been riding so slowly, I would certainly have been overdressed. The grass is still green. I just don't think Mother Nature knows it's almost Thanksgiving, not that I'm complaining.
 

The ride was a welcome change from the trainer. More fun to come today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Surprises


After the good riding and racing I have done lately, I was excited to get out for a day of Kisscross. The weather was pretty warm, though overcast, but the skies started to clear as I made my way to Grand Rapids. My first surprise came after I finished my warm up lap and was getting ready to line up for the start. Someone said "What are you doing here?" and came up and hugged me. It was my On 2 Wheels teammate Nichole! "No," I answered. "The question is, what are you doing here? I'm always here." As it turns out, at the last minute she had been talked into doing her first cross race that day on a borrowed bike.


Nichole is an excellent rider/racer. This year was her first year of racing and I think she podiumed pretty much every race she did. At the beginning of the season, right before Yankee, she was thinking of racing Beginner, where she definitely didn't belong, but decided to race Sport at the last minute. Before this season, I think she had only really ridden on one trail, but that trail was Poto. Needless to say, she didn't have any trouble leaving me in the dust. She finished 4th at Iceman with a time of 2:19, but was bummed that she didn't do better since she was in the lead for much of the race before dropping her chain twice and getting passed.


Since I was talking to Nichole and she seemed very nervous, I started near the middle of the pack with her instead of in my usual back of the pack spot. I quickly got passed when the race started, but not by everyone. The course was challenging and fun. It was set up just differently enough from last year to make it interesting.


I stayed near the back, but there was a girl just slightly in front of me and I thought I had a chance to beat her. I like having someone just in front of me like that because it keeps me motivated to push harder. I finally ended up passing her riding up a hill, but then she passed me on a run up and I never caught up again. I think I had more skill than she did, but she was more fit and I couldn't keep up the pace.


My second suprise of the day was that for the first time in a long time, I didn't get lapped. I was waiting for it the whole race, but as the leaders started to gain on me, I kicked it up a notch and crossed over into the next lap before they had a chance.


I had resigned myself to finish last and pulled across the finish line with the thought that I was last, only to find my third surprise of the day—there were two women quite a ways behind me! I was 10th out of 12 women, 40 out of 42 overall. My teammate, who claimed she had a terrible race, finished second in the women and 10th or so overall. Rick was also testing out timing chips for Kisscross, so we got to see our lap times, which was kind of fun.

It was a nice finale to a very enjoyable weekend.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tree Farming


We had a pretty crappy summer, weather-wise, but Mother Nature is sure making up for it now. I woke to another gorgeous Indian Summer day, and the temperatures proceeded to climb into the mid-60s. It was a great idea for Di, Marty, Nick, Dave and I to meet on the East side of the state to work on the new MMBA brochure, but it was an even better one for us to get a ride in first.

The venue was the Tree Farm. I had never been there before and I was excited to try out a new trail with guidance from people who knew it. I was not disappointed. With 10 miles of singletrack, complete with a pump track, a "crater" and a fair amount of log piles, it's a fun trail. I challenged myself to ride some of the things that were a little scary for me, although I admit I didn't try the crater. (I do try the pump track, though.) Maybe next time, since I definitely want to go back.


It was fun to ride with a group, which is something I rarely do anymore. We rode at a nice, leisurely pace and stopped often to wait for each other (okay, they waited for me). I haven't had that much fun riding since Iceman and before that I don't remember when. Dave, who is the trail coordinator, led the way and told us a bit about the trail when we stopped.

Afterward, we attempted to undo all our hard work riding with pizza and beer back at Dave's office. (No, I didn't drink the beer.) As we ate, we got down to business brainstorming and coming up with copy for the brochure. Well, Di came up with copy and the rest of us commented on it and offered suggestions, when we weren't talking about other stuff. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.


In late afternoon, I headed back home, and to make an already outstanding day even better, watched my Spartan hockey team complete a weekend sweep of the arrogant and blue before a crowd of more than 7,000 screaming fans. The only thing that could make this weekend better is a little Kisscross. Hmm ...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Iceman Cometh and Goeth



A few years ago, Chris and I went up to Iceman to hang out and watch some friends race. The weather that year was phenomenal. It was a sunny, unseasonably warm day. At the time, I remember really wishing I had been ready to race it that year (although at that point I hadn't raced anything yet), just so I could have taken advantage of the weather. I was sure that by the time I was ready to race Iceman it would be freezing and precipitating. I couldn't have been more wrong.



After obsessing over the entire tights issue for a couple weeks (wherein I couldn't find mine and ended up ordering another pair at the last minute, as well as having to drive across town on Friday to get them out of the bike shop owner's car, which was in the shop, and was where he left the box with my tights in it), I found myself again obsessing over them at the start line, wondering whether or not I had overdressed. I'm not sure of the exact temperature, but I think it ended up being about 65.



When we pulled into the parking lot, my stomach was churning. I have never felt as nervous for a race as I did that day. Luckily, I had my own personal pit crew. I paced the parking lot and made last minute trips to the bathroom as Chris got my bike put together, attached water bottle cages and even secured a bento box and filled it with shot blocks (with the wrappers pre-ripped so I wouldn't have to struggle). It was several blocks to the start line and I worried that Chris wouldn't get there on foot fast enough to take my picture, but my fears were unfounded. He made it just in time to catch my nervousness with his Nikon.


Even Frankie Andreu's calming voice giving commentary and answering Tour trivia wasn't enough to calm me down. I felt like a basketcase. As I zipped down the pavement before hitting the dirt, I tried to remind myself over and over that there was nothing technical on the course, and that everything was going to be okay.

By the time we were on the trail, I felt better. There were only a couple people behind me, but I passed a few more as they struggled in the sand. I even felt good enough to joke to a person near me when we saw the 26 sign that I couldn't believe we had already ridden 26 miles. (For those of you who don't know, the signs were counting down how many miles we had left.)

Though it was somewhat overcast at the start, it quickly started to break up and the sun came pouring through the clouds. It was a beautiful day, the trail wasn't particularly challenging and I was able to just enjoy the ride and the atmosphere. My main concern at that point was to make it to Williamsburg road by 2 p.m. I knew if I didn't I would get pulled from the course to make room for the pros. However, it didn't seem like even I could be that slow and I felt pretty confident I could make it.

I loved the course. Absolutely loved it. Singletrack snobs can scoff all they want, but that was my kind of race. Dirt and woods, but no fear. It was perfect for me. I just wished I was in better shape. My attitude was positive, but I kept thinking that if I was in the kind of shape I was for Barry-Roubaix or even Yankee earlier this year, I could have killed that course.

The thing that truly surprised me was how early and often people were walking the hills. Hills that seemed not even challenging, in the early parts of the race, had people bailing off left and right. I personally think it takes a lot more energy to push a bike up a hill than it does to ride one, even if you are in your granny gear and going 2.5 mph, so I tried to ride them as much as I could. I often rode up a hill where everyone else was walking. It made me feel pretty good, so I gave myself a large pat on the back.

After about an hour, it became clear that I couldn't continue with the tights on any longer. I pulled over and ripped them off, right over my shoes, and stuffed them in my back pocket. So much for that.

I didn't stop for the first aid station. At Williamsburg Road, I had plenty of time and knew I would finish, but I just stopped briefly to adjust a couple of things and throw away a few wrappers. With about 10 miles to go I started watching the time. I had determined that I wanted to finish in under 4 hours (yes, I know that's really slow), but I started thinking maybe I could make it in 3:30.

That time became a pipe dream as I slogged through the last five miles. I did end up walking up three hills at the very end because I just had nothing left in my legs. Overall, I felt really good for the whole race up until the last couple miles. Those were extreme torture because I was so close to the finish line and could hear everyone but it just kept dragging on and on.

When I was almost to the finish line, I started looking for Chris. We weren't sure how he was going to make it from the start to the finish with no available ride, but I saw him right before the finish line ready to take my picture and that was just the icing on the cake.

My final time was 3:53, which is painfully slow, but made me happy because I met my goal. I finished 38 of 42 in my class and 3038 of 3372 finishers overall. So, there actually were people slower than me. All in all, I had a great race; I felt good, had no mechanicals and no crashes and I truly enjoyed it. I can't wait to come back and race it again. It's too bad I have to wait an entire year.

 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Knew There Was Some Reason I Wanted to Do This

There have been many times in my life when I have truly wished I was better, but those instances don't often translate into renewed effort. Without really knowing why, I have wanted very badly to race Iceman for a long time, and this past weekend I finally did it. Not only that, for me it was one of the few definining moments in my life. Because this race, like few things in my life have done, really made me wish I was better, and made me wish it enough to actually make myself better. Even though I had a great time during this race and I loved racing it, part of me was sad and unfulfilled for the entire race. I wished with everything I had in me that I had the fitness to push myself the way I wanted to push myself—to make myself ride harder and faster—to truly conquer the race the way I wanted to conquer it.

I did my best, and at the end of the day I was happy with that. But I also got the shot in the arm I really needed. At a time when fatigue, lethargy and the beginnings of apathy were keeping me from riding, training and even racing, I found a renewed motivation to be better. This race made me want to drop 30 pounds, strengthen my core, Bowflex, layer up and ride through the freezing cold and do intervals on the trainer until I'm ready to hurl. It made me want to leave my old self in the dust.

P.S. As soon as my personal photographer/spouse processes the photos from Iceman, I will do a real race report (much to Ali's chagrin).

Friday, November 6, 2009

Banishing Negativity

Iceman is tomorrow. Tomorrow. The day after today.

The scant amount of time I've spent on blog posts recently has seen me whining about how I'm not ready for Iceman, how it's going to be a disaster, etc. If I had been writing more there would have undoubtedly been more of the same.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail pep talk from someone who has always been very encouraging, and it really made me want to get my act together, as far as the negativity is concerned. So I thought about the facts:
  • I don't have as much training as I wish had, and I've lost a lot of fitness since the beginning of the year.
  • I've been sick all week long and all I've done is go to work and go straight to bed when I got home. I haven't had energy for anything else.
But here are a few more facts for me to chew on:
  • Through two seasons of mountain bike racing and what's now my third season of cyclocross, I've never, ever had a DNF, even when I've been absolutely miserable. When I've felt humiliated, demoralized, beaten and battered, I still haven't allowed myself to quit. I know, deep down, that I never would unless I had a really, really good reason, such as a major injury or major mechanical.
  • My legs and my stamina might not be in the shape to conquer this race, but they're certainly in good enough shape to finish this race. I haven't doubted for a second in all of this that I can finish.
  • I have a really nice bike now.
  • This morning I feel better than I have since last Saturday. In fact, besides a slight headache and an occasional cough, I feel almost normal again.
The e-mail I got told me to "banish negative thoughts, focus on the good stuff." So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to remind myself that what happens in this race is almost exclusively up to me. I'm going to remember how much I've always wanted to do this race and let myself enjoy the experience.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pack for Traverse City.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trying to Keep Up

To say I've been noticeably absent from this blog lately would be a huge understatement. Life has been flying by at a high rate of speed lately and I haven't made time to read anyone else's blogs, much less update my own. Work has been crazy busy. On top of my usual tasks, I've been providing some support for my boss, who is trying to get some legislation passed; planning a Christmas party for about 300 people; and organizing a photo shoot for about 50 garbage trucks.

Any time I wasn't at work, I was trying keep just enough housework done to have dishes to eat out of and clean clothes to wear to work. I've been watching a little hockey, riding a little (mostly on the trainer) and getting some last minute supplies ordered for Iceman, which is getting frighteningly close. The weather has been mostly horrible during that time.

Yesterday morning was cold and wet, but I needed to get a ride in before I went to my dad's birthday party, so I did a two-hour trainer ride. So today, when I woke up to a day that was sunny and warm (relatively speaking), why is that I couldn't make myself do anything at all? Not only did I skip the Kisscross race, I didn't even take the dogs to the dog park, or even leave the house until after 5 p.m. Honestly, I think I was just completely worn out. I just hope after the lazy day I had today I can find some energy to get through the week. I have four days of work before I head up to Traverse City to my doom. I hope I survive.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Race Across the Sky

Thursday night, despite having the schedule from hell lately, we were bound and determined to go see Race Across the Sky. For those of you living under a rock, Race Across the Sky is a documentary filmed at the Leadville 100 this year. Remarkably, they showed it in two different locations in Lansing (as well as other places around the country). And just so you don't have to wonder any longer, no we weren't in the movie, even though there were some crowd shots when racers were finishing.

Though I was looking forward to the movie, it ended up being much better than I expected. I'm not going to review the movie here, though, I just want to talk a bit about some of the things I took away from my viewing.
  • Dave Wiens is an incredibly nice guy. This is something I pretty much already knew, but it is obvious when you watch the movie and see the panel discussion before and after. Due to the fact that we  were in Colorado during Leadville and right after it, we heard about Dave Wiens a lot. He's a local boy, which is one of the reasons why they love him so much. But it's not just that—it's also how down to earth and unassuming he seems, even with all the success he's experienced. Now, don't get me wrong, I love, love, love Lance Armstrong, but I don't think anyone could ever call him unassuming or down to earth. I've been reading Dave's blog since we returned from Crested Butte. He lives in Gunnison, so it offered a good way to get a glimpse of that area. But I've found out from reading it (as much as you can from reading something and not actually meeting a person), that he is a really good guy. That was apparent in many parts of the movie, but never as much as when he thanks the volunteers when riding away from an aid station, getting ready to go back to chasing Lance. The race founder, Ken Chlouber, calls this part out specifically in the panel discussion after the movie, but it had already resonated with me, even before that.
  • Leadville is even harder than I'd imagined. I've heard it described on numerous Web sites, including that of Fat Cyclist, who has raced it nearly every year it has been in existence. Even so, the magnitude of gnarly is amplified by seeing the movie and watching people struggle through the course. I imagine in person it's even more so, particularly if you are the one racing. It's an incredibly nasty, tough race. Of course it would have to be for Lance Armstrong to call this the race that made him want to return to racing.
  • There are things that are much, much more disheartening than my last Kisscross experience, like having two knee replacement surgeries then training hard all year for one race, only to be turned away by one of your good friends (who also happens to be the race founder) four hours into it because you didn't make the cut off. It was really interesting to hear the back stories of some of the racers and to hear some of the motivation of those who weren't leading the race.
  • Even I am probably better at changing a tire than Lance Armstrong. I remembered hearing during the race that he had ridden the last bit of the race on a flat, but I had forgotten about it until I watched the movie. After Lance gets a flat with about seven miles left to go, he tries to put air in the tire with a CO2 cartridge (without doing anything else with the tire) and when that doesn't work, not knowing how far back Dave is, and not trusting his tire-changing skills, decides to ride the rest of the way on the flat. That being said, during the panel discussion after the movie, the other guys were ribbing him about it, saying he was looking for the team car to help him, and he took it in a very good natured way. But what was happening with his hair in that movie, anyway? It was crazy looking!
  • I really, really want to move to Colorado even more now, especially after hearing about some of the new races they're trying to organize. 
  • "You're better than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can." Ken Chlouber 
If you haven't seen it, I would definitely recommend catching it on the DVD or the encore event on Nov. 12.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We'll Call It the Race From Hell

Last Sunday, after a long day of going upstairs and downstairs and upstairs and downstairs all day long cleaning out the attic and the basement, I drove to Caledonia for some Kisscross. There was no doubt that I was tired and my legs were sore from all the stair action, but I felt decent when I started warming up. I was a bit uncomfortable given the fact that I couldn't find my tights anywhere and I was wearing my only pair of knickers (the same ones my beagle chewed a big hole in the butt of) with bike shorts. The place where the hole was was rubbing and the double chamois wasn't doing me any favors either. But all in all, I thought I would have an okay race.

I was excited after how competitive the last Kisscross race was, so I did something similar—I picked someone in the lineup I wanted to beat and I thought it would help motivate me. (And no, she wasn't wearing pink.) The race started and I hung off the back like I usually do, but I wasn't separated from the pack. I took the first hurdles okay, but there were too many people right in front of me to get close to them. My form needs a bit of work still, but it is definitely much better. 

Not even halfway into the first lap, disaster struck. (I know that will sound melodramatic, given what actually happened, but it was the beginning of a chain of frustrating events, which made it worse.) I was going down an extremely rooted downhill in a wooded section. As I started up the next hill, I tried to pedal and nothing happened. I had dropped my chain and spent a considerable amount of time trying to get it back on. 

By the time I got out of the woods, I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I think part of me gave up at that point. Still, I kept riding and promptly wiped out when I took a slippery corner too wide. When I got up, my brake was rubbing pretty bad and I stood there for a while trying to fix it. 

At this point, I was starting to get a bad attitude. I kept riding, but I was far behind everyone. I started getting lapped during my second lap. I had two more wipeouts in corners. One happened just as some riders were going past to lap me. One of them yelled "hang in there," which I took okay, but the other one said "careful." I didn't say anything, but I was seething. I guess that says something about where my attitude was. Things that normally would have sounded encouraging just sounded condescending and patronizing.

Another low point came when I was going through a set of chicanes near the end of the lap. Our friend Frank was on the sidelines cheering when he saw his 9-year-old son gaining on me. I have talked about Billy here before and we all know he's awesome, but Frank was cheering for him to lap me and I just felt demoralized.

Little did I know, the worst humiliation was yet to come. I rode my fifth lap with all the other racers off the course. There were however, some racers pre-riding for the next race, which they're not supposed to do. I snapped at one guy who acted like I was in his way. Apparently he didn't know I was still racing because he seemed contrite after he found out, but I just sounded like a huge jerk anyway.

I know I say this all the time, but I have never wanted to quit a race so badly before. It was absolutely the worst race I have ever had, hands down. Still, I somehow made myself keep going all the way to the mortifying finish. When I got to the very end, I came up a hill and saw that the racers were already lined up for the next race. Someone yelled for them to get out of the way and they started parting, Red Sea-like, in the middle so I could ride through them to the finish line. As I was riding through, they all started clapping and cheering. I wanted to disappear. 

Now if that had been my first race, or even my second, I might have found that encouraging. Given the circumstances, I just felt demoralized and embarrassed. 

All that said, there were some good things that happened during this race. Unfortunately, this post is far too long and I am going to be late for work, so I'll have to talk about them later. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Picture This, Only Snowier




In case you were wondering, I do still want to move to Crested Butte. We're still trying to work things out—scheming and planning. In fact, filling that big trash container last weekend was the first in many steps to get our house ready to go on the market. But things like this take time. It's not going to happen until sometime in 2010 at the absolute earliest.

So, what are we going to do in the interim, besides getting ready to move and all the other everyday stuff? Why plan another trip to Crested Butte, of course! In an unprecedented move, I have decided to forgo traditional Christmas present giving to and receiving from my husband and do one of those "let's buy something together instead of getting each other gifts" things I said I'd never do even after I got married.

In a fortuitous turn of events when we were flying out of Aspen in August to return from our trip, we volunteered to get bumped from an overweight plane (no comments from the peanut gallery, please). Not only did we still catch our connecting flight and make it home at the same time, we scored two free plane tickets for anywhere in the U.S. with no blackout dates. So, between free tickets and gifting each other, we decided we could have several days' vacation back in Crested Butte.

That way, we can accomplish several useful things:

  • We can get our Crested Butte fix since we've been pining away for it.
  • We can hopefully make some connections that will help us when we make our move.
  • We can silence those naysayers who claim we won't want to move to Crested Butte when we see what it's like in the winter (this means you, DG).
  • We can finally do something fun for New Year's.
  • I can spend my birthday in Crested Butte!
So, that's the plan. We reserved our tickets yesterday and we already have hotel reservations made. We fly out on New Year's Eve morning at 6. I can't wait!

By the way, for those of you who are wondering, I did end up racing on Sunday. However, it was such an inauspicious showing that I haven't really wanted to think about it. I'll get a recap posted soon, though. It's too horrible not to share.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How I Spent My Weekend



I hope I have some energy left for the race tomorrow.