Wednesday, March 31, 2010

There's a First Time for Everything

My bike was ready, or so I thought ...

Maybe it was when I was struggling up that first hill thinking "I was sure my cross bike had a triple" that I realized the race wasn't just going to be a disaster—it was going to be a monumental train wreck.

Everything started out okay. I didn't do as much preparation as I intended to, and I certainly wasn't in shape, but at least I got my bike into the shop ahead of time to have it checked over and have the brake pads replaced. I may not have been ready, but at least my bike was. Or so I thought ...

I planned to take the bike out for a spin after picking it up from the shop to make sure everything felt okay, but I never quite got around to it. That was my first mistake.

The line for the port-a-potties was out of control.

My second was how I dressed. I was freezing before the race, and I started with two pairs of gloves, a balaclava, base layer with short-sleeved jersey, tights, bike shorts and a warmish jacket. I can never really get it through my head that if I am warm enough at the start line I will probably be far too warm during the race. Intellectually, I know it's true, but it's hard to make myself follow those rules when my fingers feel like they're about to fall off.

Luckily, Jack saved the day by offering to take some of my extra clothes back to the finish line and drop them off for me. I don't think that was cheating.

It didn't take long for me to realize that my front brake was rubbing horribly. I was already out of the shape and the brake issue clearly wasn't helping. Everyone was passing me.

Soon I was all by myself in that place where I am so used to being, and my battle with myself began. I thought about grabbing a ride in one of the numerous SAG vehicles that passed me. I had myself nearly convinced to just do the beginner loop of 23 miles instead of the longer Sport loop.

I figured out the disposable timing tag thing out without too much trouble, not that I really needed it.

But if there's one thing I have going for me with racing, it's resolve. I finish. No matter how slow I am, no matter what obstacles I encounter, I just haven't been able to make myself give up. I thought about how I would feel, even if I finished, about only doing the beginner race. And I realized that yet again, barring any major mechanical or significant injury, I would remain on the sport/expert loop. And that's when everything went to hell.

As I would find out later, my brake was not only rubbing, it was rubbing on my tire. That eventually caused me to flat, and as luck would have it, I had also forgotten my seat bag with all my supplies for fixing a flat. After about 40 minutes of pushing my bike down the road I finally caught up with the SAG, but not before my run in with the law. You see, a guy from the local sheriff's department, presumably disgruntled from having to spend his Saturday directing traffic not to hit racers at the busier intersections along the course, took issue with me pushing my bike on the shoulder. That's right—he actually chastised me for pushing my bike down the side of the road. The conversation went something like this:

Fuzz (sporting surly, disapproving smirk): Do you need something?

Me (looking quizzical): Nope. I'm just trying to find the SAG. My bike's out of commission and I'm not going to be able to finish the race.

Fuzz (dismissively): Well, you're going to have to get out of sight. You're distracting the drivers.

Me (downright dumfounded): Really?

Lobster bisque saves the day!

But all was not lost, and thanks to some fun conversation from the witty volunteers who brought me back in the SAG, my spirits were quite a bit higher when I arrived at the finish line. Then, lo and behold, I ran into the way cool Ali B., who invited me to eat with her and some other folks at an interesting place called "The Bib." In addition to a strange mix of ceiling and bathroom art, there was good company and tasty food. The labels on the bathroom doors caused some momentary consternation, though. At one point, I was unsure about whether or not to enter the door marked "Gulls." It was all made clear when I spotted the other door, marked "Buoys."

Ali and Glen pondered a photo of some racy artwork from the men's (sorry, buoys) restroom.

By the way, for those of you who didn't realize it, this was my first DNF. Ever. But it was a brilliant recovery, all things considered.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Up, Up and Away

Normally, when it gets just a bit out of control, I talk about it on my blog. When it gets this bad, I don't usually say much of anything about it on my blog, because there is just so much public (well, seven people is kind of public) self-flagellation I can take. Even now, I'm thinking about those very occasional readers to my blog in front of whom I might not want to lay this information bare. But, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures, and now, as I find myself less than two weeks away from my first race, I seem to have hit rock bottom.

Seriously, I've been doing the "I just bought these pants, why are they tight" thing lately, so this morning I decided to weigh myself again. It's been 12 days since I last did it and that time, although the number seemed like kind of a lot, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

However, this morning, when I stepped on that scale I was six pounds heavier than I was 12 days ago! Not to mention the fact that I am a measly nine pounds less than my heaviest weight ever. Hopefully, this will be the wake up call I really need. The one that says "Hey, Andrea, if you want to continue to hang out with the Dorktor and his wife, you need get things under control." The one that says, "Eating pizza three times a week just because the Dorktor is obsessed with pizza is probably a really bad idea." The one that says, "Having cocktails five nights a week (even if it's only a couple cocktails on three of those five nights) is a really counterproductive practice." And lastly, the one that says "If you're going to stay up late, you need to control it enough that you can actually train more than sporadically."

In short, it's time to grow the hell up before things get even more out of hand. I'm so mad at myself right now that I'm seriously considering posting my actual weight up here for all seven people to see. But not quite.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beyond the Ride Recap

Anne had her clinic last night, and I think it was a resounding success. We had 12 attendees for the presentation. Anne did a fantastic job. She is so knowledgeable and everyone seemed genuinely interested and learned a lot. For the most part, I think we also got the demographic we were aiming for, which was the extreme beginner.

Near the end of the presentation, I did my "Accidental Athlete" spiel. Again, people seemed to be interested. I decided to do it off the cuff and not prepare too much and I think that was wise. Sometimes if I am too prepared I tend to come across as stilted and I thought it was more natural than that. Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I was amazed to discover how used to (and not nervous about) public speaking I've become since I got the job I have now and started to do it so much more frequently. Granted, it was only 12 people, but this is the kind of thing that would have seriously frightened me a few years ago. (By the way, I know I look all gangsta in the photo and I don't know what I was doing with my hand, but I swear I wasn't grabbing my crotch.)

Here are a few more pics of the event:

Ever read the book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston? Well, I did, and that title is all I can think of when I look at this picture. I must have been waxing poetic or something.

Thanks to everyone who came out! It was fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tonight's the Night!

Anne's clinic is this evening at 6 p.m. Details here. Tell your friends!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Riding With the Dorktor

Yesterday was a beautiful day for a ride. I ended up down in Jackson on the Falling Water Trail. It was a bit crowded for my liking, but it's nice sometimes to not have to worry about finding a route, traffic, getting lost, etc. And for early spring when mountain bike trails aren't really an option, I've found a bike path is a godsend. If you're with another person, it's also nice to be able to ride two abreast and talk while you're riding, which is something I don't feel very comfortable doing on the road.

As it turned out, I was riding with someone yesterday. It happened to be my first time riding with our friend David. He's an eye doctor and I like to call him "the dorktor." The dorktor is a runner and is in pretty good shape, so I knew he wouldn't have any trouble keeping up with me. I did, however, have to give him a list of things (e.g., buy a helmet, remove his kickstand) he had to do before I would ride with him. As you can see, I didn't hold him to the helmet thing. After he begged me to let him ride with me, I gave in out of pity, but let him know in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't ignore the helmet rule for long. 

It was really pleasant to ride with someone else for a change. I haven't ridden with another person since the fall and it gets boring to just have yourself for company after a while, particularly when your dog has eaten your MP3 player. The other thing that I'm kind of ashamed to admit is that it's fun to ride and talk about bike stuff with someone who doesn't really know much about bikes, bike gear and riding. I'm always around people who know far more about this kind of stuff than I do and it feels good to be the expert for a change.

We ended up with about 25 miles, which is the longest ride I've done in a while. I felt pretty good, but I'm certainly not in the shape I was last year at this time, which concerns me a bit since it's only three weeks until Barry-Roubaix.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

You may remember earlier this winter when I was lamenting our lack of snow. I also commented that I thought it strange that I was wishing for snow. After all, that's not the way I usually operate in the winter. A lot of times I wish for as little snow as possible. But due to an inspiring trip to Colorado and some new outdoor equipment, I was acting not so much like me.

But that was then. This week, something strange happened. The sun appeared, and reappeared for several days running. It was almost spooky. I spend a lot of time starving for the sun in the winter and I couldn't believe it was actually here and that it stuck around.

Something happened when I saw that sun, though. Not the first time I saw it, but sometime during one of the subsequent days of sunshine. I started wishing that all that snow piled up around town would disappear and that it would get warm. I suddenly wanted to put away my trainer for months and months and ride outside. In the sun. In a short-sleeved jersey.

The forecast tomorrow is calling for mid-40s and sunny. It seems like a perfect time to get outside on my bike. Forget the skis.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brave? Not So Much

A couple weeks ago I finally registered for Barry-Roubaix. Yes, that Barry-Roubaix, the Killer Gravel Road Race. Last year, if you'll recall, I decided to do this race not at the last minute, but close. I registered on-site and then I went out and smoked the competition. Okay, well maybe the phrase "smoking the competition" is strong. But it was definitely the best race of my racing career. I ended up beating all the beginner women and something like 18 beginner men. I definitely felt triumphant.

I think there were three main factors that went into having such a successful race:
  • I had trained a lot over the winter.
  • Once I saw myself passing people and being successful, I stepped up my game even more because I was determined to do even better.
  • That race is truly the perfect format for me. There's nothing sketchy or dangerous on the course, so all I have to worry about is riding.
Needless to say, registering for the race again this year was a no brainer. Where my indecision came in was in knowing which group to sign up with. Should I race Beginner again, or should I race Sport? Some things I thought about:
  • Technically, after you win something, it's probably ethically shady to register for Beginner again.
  • This is my third season of mountain bike racing and I've spent three seasons racing Kisscross. Even though I still suck, it's hard to make a case for me being a beginner. Maybe they should have a class called "Sucky."
  • My fitness is not in the same place it was last year at this time.
  • The Sport course is 12 miles longer.
  • I have never, ever raced in Sport before.
  • Moving up to Sport will have little effect on my season since I'm racing mostly endurance races. In endurance racing, all the solo women are lumped together instead of being separated by class.
In the end, I decided to race Sport. And although I thought about all those factors listed above, the real reason I chose to register for the Sport race was fear. After having such a great race last year, I'm afraid that this year's race will pale in comparison. If I raced Beginner, that difference would be obvious, but in Sport it will be a bit easier to disguise.