Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I don't like being late

People who know me will confirm my general punctuality. I hate that feeling realizing that there may be others waiting on ME. I do not like shuffling quickly looking disheveled to meet someone. I am generally an early person. This dates back to my infant years. I teethed early, potty trained early, walked 3 months early, began reading before Kindergarten. Why? Because I do not like to be late and apparently I did not like this feeling even before I had a true concept of time.

I have a great amount of appreciation and respect for cycling. I can say without a doubt that cycling is that ONE thing that can actually wear me out. It is that one thing that I constantly have to work on. So when I decided to race, it seemed natural except for one thing: I'm late. (Hopefully, you read the first paragraph to understand this is NOT what I like).

When I get on the line, a lot of the women around me have been racing for years...some since childhood. There are those few who have not raced that much...here...there...maybe one, two or three races a year. There are others who have not missed a race and thankfully to an imaginary pot of gold, a wealthy spouse, never ending trust fund, or lucky scratch off lottery ticket, they can afford a cycling lifestyle of leisure, travel and training. Then, there is myself...a self-proclaimed weekend warrior that trains when I can but it's only so I can finish a race...not because I expect to be the next pro women's racer in Louisville, Kentucky. The level of dedication and skill to attain that is quite a bit out of reach.

You would think having a cycling b/f would be an asset. He's got years of experience and certainly the love for the sport. Just imagine all the idle tips I hear on our rides together...all the useful examples, the cheering at a race. Well...reality is...he is completely and utterly burned out on cycling. If he were a candle there would be no wick left to burn. He has the time and the talent but since we have been dating, we have actually had (2) rides together. Of course, if I asked him for advice, he would always leave it up to my choice anyway. Again...the consequences of being late.

I know what you are thinking...."man, she is biiitchy today"...and it's not about being bitchy. I would NEVER have clipped my foot to a pedal unless I didn't want to. I generally make up my mind to do something...and do it. I rarely wait around for others to give me approval or switch an imaginary green light. I go. I do it. I try it.

I just have to wonder what it would be like sometimes if I had started this 10-years earlier...thank goodness they have not invented time machines. I would be in one in a minute if I could. C'mon Willy Wonka...help a girl out.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Maybe next year...

Racing through the beach...
All the talk leading up to this weekend was about the USGP. Louisville finally opened the cyclocross dedicated course overlooking the Ohio River and people were so anxious to get their tubulars out there they could taste the fresh sod planted firmly between their teeth. One month ago...I think I remember being pretty excited to ride the Green Monster...which EVERYONE talks about. (FYI: The Green Monster is NOT a real, live monster, it is actually a stair case followed by a steep slope that you must run up carrying your bike, remount, and ride down--NO real monsters are every harmed during this race). This is always noted as one of the hardest races of the season.

However, life, as it does, got in the way, smack dab in the middle of my training (how dare you life!). My job requires that I work long days and sometimes this interrupts my training. You cannot do a cyclocross race without some training throughout the week. If you attempt to do this because you believe that you are some star athlete, a true badass blessed with amazing physical strength, I promise, you will F-A-I-L. You MUST practice for cyclocross racing or the only thing you will see on the start line are the rears of others pulling out in front of you leaving you in a cloud of dust.

The new course has definitely been the carrot dangling in front of cyclists for weeks now. We have seen all the bulldozers, volunteers and signs going in. We are one of the ONLY cities in the country with a cyclocross course. As I became a spectator on Saturday, I realized very quickly, this course is nothing to laugh at. The sandpit is actually a replica of Myrtle Beach (not really but some people said it felt like it) as it stretched on for quite a distance. The run ups nearly required mountaineering supplies and if I thought it were just my imagination....even some of the pro's dismounted to get to the top of this thing. So, if I doubted myself for even a second believing that I could have rode the course cold and unprepared...within 10-minutes of watching the first few races, I realized I made the right choice and saved myself excruciating embarrassment and pain.

Cyclists feel the need to give VERY elaborate excuses as to why they are not racing especially when confronted by other cyclists (gulp!). There is a lot of pressure to perform for yourself, your teammates and others.  However, I did not even have the strength to do that (nor the desire). I could have feigned illness, injury or even emotional distress but I opted for honesty instead...saying, "I didn't want to." There is something to be said about being a spectator not having the pressure to warm up, race, and then recover. My Sunday ride was a true training ride with repeats, sprints, and delicate spinning to close out the 2.0+ hour ride. It's just a hobby afterall...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cyclocross turns you into a D&^%!

Forget excited happy cheering faces as you lap your way through some manmade obstacle nightmare frought with ruts, potholes, walnuts and natural log crossings! Forget about people smiling and wishing you well telling you how good you look or reminding you that you can make it across the finish. Those fans are rare and for the most part…DO NOT EXIST! Cyclocross racing is about being a real a$$ (insert other derogatory body part here) to all your friends (the term "friend" is subjective meaning they may be real friends or only weird stalker types you have accepted a request from on Facebook). Even if you are in first place with a 20-second gap on the nearest contender…you will likely hear something to the effect of “STOP SUCKING!” or “You are going to get lapped!” as you try to maintain your lead. This robust and barbaric activity is not limited to the fans…it is accepted as part of the cyclocross culture on and off the race course.


Smack talking starts with the sound of the whistle

Not actual commentary but somewhat close...  
If I had to trace the origins of such banter, I would say it was a bunch of Vikings. Basically when I think of anything barbaric....I think of Vikings so that's how I relate the two. Who else but a group of bearded burly men hell bent on proving their manhood could only have conjured up the carnage, pain, and dire stress one voluntarily puts their body through called cyclocross. Okay, the Vikings had absolutely NOTHING to do with cyclocross but you have to admit, it would be really bad a$$ if they did.


The cyclocross scene is a menagerie of odd personality types from the happy go lucky family guy with wife, 2-3 super cute kids in tow, and a dog wagging his/ her tail to the hardcore biker guy who drove over 4 hours to race and hour and will probably sleep in his car before hitting the road back home to eat a can of Spaghetti O's he has had in his trunk for a week. He will not smile or talk to anyone because he must affirm his seriousness of the sport and general “bad-assness.” Either way….when the race is on, smack talking slicks up the ruts and tight turns much faster than any rain storm. I know what you are thinking…”what about the women? Do they do that too?”The answer is YES…yes, the women are JUST as rude to each other.

I'm pretty sure this was the EXACT thought going through my head at that moment
The docile sweet creature known as “woman” is generally thought of as nurturing, caring and incapable of being mean. NOTHING could be further from the truth on the cyclocross course where shouts, spitting, and name-calling start from the first pedal stroke after the whistle. That “idealistic” view of women that we are helpful creatures is nothing but bologna on a course where at any minute you will crash, fall or wreck your body into a tree. Even when a fellow rider falls and you see her slap her head against the ground (it bounced), you keep going and hope to not be tangled in the mess of legs, hair, and bike parts.


So this means during a race, every side is yelling obscenities, insults, and preying on all of a riders weaknesses. As if the embarrassment of a skin suit weren’t enough to show off ANY bodily flaw…try having someone suggest they have to adjust their shutter speed because you are going too slow. Try having someone within inches of your face say “you might want to start pedaling today so we can get home before dark"...When racing I have found it is best to laugh briefly and NOT engage in any further chatting as that will destroy your breathing. You will get your turn when you get on the other side of the tape.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I need your help lady GaGa...

I am presently looking to adopt a game face (or the poker face as Lady GaGa sings) if I can find one that suits me. If someone has one lying around, I will be happy to take it off your hands so long as it is a good one meant to invoke pain and emotion in pictures. I have been so concerned with pinning my number on the correct side, slathering on enough embrocation, warming up, eating, drinking and getting to the line on time that I have neglected to bring my game face to the start.





Apparently, my game face comes out on the course, around lap two far away from prying eyes and professional camera lenses. This is a cyclocross race FAIL. I have heard that rumor women do not have game faces...this is false and I must put this lie to bed for the next race.


You will hear people yell at you to "smile" on the course throughout the race while ringing a loud cow bell in your face (I swear its more fun than it sounds). It is a bit of irony that accompanies the sport. It's hard to think about turning the corners of your mouth upward when you feel like your lungs and legs may completely explode off of your body creating tissue shrapnel across the race course. It's hard to smile when you look ahead and see a ghastly sand pit and women piling up in it like dead fish. Yet, I seem to be able to pull that off okay.


Spectators seem to love it more when you really show pain. Perhaps it is that human connection or pure sick infatuation with pain and emotion. Either way...I need to do a better job of expressing myself out there besides having heated dialogue in my head.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bumpy Roads Ahead...

Yes, Dansko podium shoes. So what?
No one can really prepare you for the abuse your body takes during a cyclocross race. By abuse, let me FULLY iterate from a woman’s perspective. In the women’s CAT3/4, a 30-45 minute race will be nothing but rough gyrating paths, painful twisting, and pure technical bike riding. Everything on your body hurts including your knuckles from resting on the hoods of your shifters. The best re-creation of this is to place your body in a washing machine and cycle yourself through a full wash, spin cycle and all. Only then could you adequately begin to understand what it is like to race in a cyclocross race. The much appreciated recovery periods are short straight-aways that generally lead into more painful things like barriers and run-ups. The ONLY reprieve is the end of a race where you can finally remove your body from the bike and collapse on a grassy knoll.

I’ve never been so happy to hear a bell in my entire life. The bell lap is the last lap, noted by a loud ringing (DUH!). At this point, I can no longer see straight, my mouth is an arid desert and I pray I remember to clip out before I smash into a log barrier. My remounts are slightly off camber, sloppy and haphazard. At times, my left foot never clips back in, or at least I stop listening for it due to extreme oxygen deprivation. The last lap is the lap where distance MUST be maintained. I refuse to look under my arm to see anyone behind me. If someone is behind me, I will likely hear his or her puffing and sighing over my shoulders. I do not need to see where they are. I just need to finish.

The best feeling of the entire race is the first 10-minutes post race. Ideally, there are friendly faces there, hugs are exchanged and someone has water (it may be a complete stranger BUT I will take it with NO questions asked!). After guzzling a few drinks, removing the hot sweat soaked helmet and unzipping the body suit…I feel STELLAR. I feel like I could ride another 4-5 laps….but this feeling quickly fades and then my stomach takes over grumbling with emptiness that reminds me I have burned and sweated off far more calories than I took in before the race. I usually succumb to the worst foods because I’m starving in the worst way. I justify mayonnaise because I feel after exerting every fiber in my body, I deserve a little gluttony and mayonnaise seems the perfect indulgence. It’s warm creamy goodness accentuates every bad fat you can think of.

While I joke about this season being a crash course…it truly is. Every race is another adventure with some lesson learned. This weekend’s lesson was a bit of a reward…”how to pose for podium” which I FAILED miserable partly because I was so thirsty desperately eyeballing a dude’s iced water bottle 20-yards away and partly because I really did not think about the picture until it had been taken. There’s always next weekend.

Monday, September 20, 2010

If you can’t podium, join em!

I was pretty excited when I went to bed Saturday night. The second cyclocross race of the season was only hours away (literally a 2 hour drive) and my legs were strong from a brief tour ride in the countryside earlier in the day. All the items on a checklist were accounted for including: new tires glued, bag packed, hydration mixed, skin suit cleaned, socks, helmet, sports bra, sweat band and shoes packed. My post ride snacks were securely placed in the official post ride snack bag ready to be consumed after a 30-minute race. I was ready.

When we arrived to the venue…the track looked perfect…an old golf course gone cycling with constant rolling hills, off camber sections, one run-up and obstacles. Anyone coming OFF the course was covered with silty dust. The course was so dry, that the dirt had turned into a fine powder creating rather slick turns. This called for less air pressure so the tires could grip the ground and corner properly. I warmed up my normal 30+ minutes and was ready on the line for my call up.

WHIIIISTLE! We were off behind the men and the juniors. I was surrounded by a huge group of Michelob Ultra girls all pedaling with their matching kits. I am not sure how I feel about a light beer as a sponsor but in terms of name recognition, etc…it was a presence at the race (they WERE one of the sponsors afterall). I took off with a lead group into a tight left turn dismounting for the barriers…1….2…back on. Then….I felt something….but ignored it for a while…unitl I reached the run-up where I could officially tell that my front tire was deflated. I immediately thought I was imagining this…so I rode into a tighter corner to confirm…my tire was airless. Um…um…what to do? Well…NOTHING. You cannot race really nice wheels without fully aired tires…so there in my first lap…I too deflated with my tire. Why had I not used the pit? That’s a good question with a longer two-part answer.

1. I did not know the rules of the pits. Sure, I saw people taking extra bikes and wheels over to the pit area but I really did not know why or how the pit should be utlized. I should have asked and confirmed.

2. My position. I was in a VERY bad place on the course where I would have to run a good section before I even reached the pit. The time I would lose would have been a loves labor lost.

So left with few options…I had to pull out under the tape on the back side of lap number 1. I DID NOT EVEN FINISH my first lap. I will not tell you about the raging amounts of disappointment I felt because there are not words to describe it. I did not even have a good story for my team…no wrecked bike…no mangled limbs…just a lazy, limp, flat tubular tire that would mock me as I rolled it through the grass with little gasps of air escaping. I had NOT even broken a sweat…made it through the course…seen the other fun parts…NOPE.

So what did I learn? As with most races…I am responsible for myself. I should have inquired about the pits…I should have checked my tires again before the races. I should have been prepared for a mechanical failure. My only solace to end the day was my latest find, which is Blue Moon beer in a can. The can works GREAT for racing and hand-ups (if needed). I figure if I did not win at my race…I won at selecting a beer. The smallest victories produce the greatest results.

Monday, September 13, 2010

FREEEEEDOM!

With four hours of sleep Friday night, we still managed to be the second customers at the coffee shop Saturday morning (6:38AM) and if there was going to be ANY indication of how the weekend would progress, I should have perhaps taken notice when the barista said, "we are low on sugar!" For those of you who know me and my never-ending coffee addiction, you know I take (4) Sugar-in-the-Raws along with half of a dairy cow. ANY deviation from this recipe results in shivering, quivering, disoriented thoughts throughout the day. This was indeed my sign that the weekend would NOT be sugar coated.

It's ONE thing to race a race. As a participant, all you have to do is show up...pony up your entry fee and pin your number in the appropriate place. When you are part of a team HOSTING the event, this means ALL of the grunt work, magic, and sweat comes from YOU, the teammate(s). In all of my event planning years (nearly 12+), I have NEVER planned, hosted, or participated in a cyclocross race...so it was ONLY natural that I am thrown into the deep end which included assisting the boys with mapping out, riding, and not falling on the proposed course of pumpkin stems, roots and run off pond sludge. If that were not enough, I also found myself hosting podiums, being the podium girl (sans sexy bikini...something I am sure ALL participants are thankful for), and calling races. Wait a minute...I haven't even RACED the course yet.


Riding the course on Satuday...learning the ropes of hosting a race.

On Sunday, with a few more hours sleep, breakfast in the stomach and coffee made juuuuust right...I felt way better approaching a course I had never ridden with my bike atop the car. In all my haste to pack up the appropriate snacks, clothing, gear, beer (2 kinds for discernable pallets), chairs, back-up clothes for rain...I neglected ONE major element...A HELMET. It is not a surprise that the officials will not let you TOUCH the race course without a helmet. My realization to this detail did not occur until I was one-third of the way through my coffee and 45-minutes from home. Kicking myself would only bruise me. Thankfully, a team mate who also shares a smaller cranium offered up his ULTRA light helmet which fit snugly on this chicks forgetful head. WHEW!

Now with only 1-hour to race...I was being barked at to warm up my legs. Literally, in my wandering thoughts, I almost neglected this too. Thankfully, I rode circles, paraded all around the course and then enjoyed a nice course pre-ride which assured me that this course was rough....and by rough, I mean I could sustain punctures or major organ bruising should I fall. I made the note in my head to NOT fall because I was also wearing my teammates helmet which I promised profusely NOT to destroy ruining his race for the day. The call to the line was quick and as expected, few women show up for cross racing....even fewer finish but I felt better when I learned how confused a girl was about the course...my last thought before the whistle was "stay away from this chick."

Once the whistle sounded, in a horizontal line (referred to as a Braveheart start which only caused me to yell FREEEEEDOM in my head during the start), we made a dash over roots and stems to corale at a tight right 180-degree turn. I did not get the hole shot but I also did not get a bad place either because behind me I could hear the ramblings of near pile ups and wrecks. My goal was to get a lap done...and I did including the barriers, including the steep down hill which if I HAD wrecked there, I would be wearing rotten apples, fermented apple juice, and bee's. Coming into the second lap, I decided to go up a gear in the straight away when I realized...I COULDN'T....the shifter was frozen into 2 smaller gears. It was not a reason to quit...ride until something falls off the bike or off my body. Neither had occurred, so I pressed on. I made the two gears work as best I could...sometimes spinning too much on the straight aways but holding tight turns with NO dabbing.


First turn, tight 180-degree

The last lap, I was with 3 women...I took a brief spill on an off-camber section near the muck pond. I was back up immediately and did not check the bike over because nothing was hanging off and there was not time...then a pile up behind me which I could only hear. I did not even look back...I continued to the finish straight away where the officials waved me through the finish line. I still had legs left. I still had lungs left. Then as I bent over to check my derailleur to discover I STILL HAD A BIKE left as I removed a LARGE pumpkin stem that had LODGED into my derailleur . That was an EASY fix.

I continued to walk around the property with my parents missing my podium call but collecting some apples for a 3rd place win. Since I was only doing the race to finish, I was happy with 3rd place...I was happy to finish and not completely embarrass myself. I was happy that I could ACTUALLY do it. This may sound strange BUT cyclocross racing hurts and it is not a cute, girly sport. Bruises and scrapes are the norm...or in our case on Sunday...sunburn. There was a lot of pressure to "prove" that I could ride the course, ride my bike, or even get over the barriers. I did all three and identified my areas for improvement. You have to start somewhere...and now was as good a time as any.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This time next week...

Oh life...how it gets in the way of the hobbies I love. This past week has been a wash for bike riding which has caused a considerable amount of grief in my world. Work required I step outside of the 9-5 ritual and life demanded that cohabitation take even MORE time to unpack boxes, organize dish towels, and throw out more trash. So, I am left with 6 days to get ready to ride a bike I barely know on a course I have never seen, smelled, felt, or rode on. Nerves? What nerves? I will simply chew my nails down to bloody stumps to prevent nerves from actually settling in.

Did I mention we do not have team kits? Nope! Nada!...No team kits because there was a small delay ordering those. I guess this means I have to worry about what to wear too...I'm limited on clothes...more limited on a budget. Cycling requires an extensive budget which few of us riders have. The best we can do is fake it and make our clothes last as long as possible which includes stitching up shorts and hand-washing jerseys.

Did I mention my tires are not glued yet? The boyfriend, who is an expert at tire glueing (this IS a skill, trust me) has not had the time or resources to complete this task. Now we have tires hanging, stretching throughout the house and soon to be glued.

Did I mention I do NOT have a routine before a race? If this were a foot race...I have IT down. I wake up at 6:00...eat oatmeal with nuts, berries and flax seed...I drink one-cup of HOT coffee...I drink a cup of water. I use the bathroom (is that more than you wanted to know...well...sorry). I dress...oil up the legs...apply anti-chaffing cream...stretch...lace up the shoes and head out. This time...my routine will become NEWLY established. I have NO idea what I will do for a routine...or if I will even repeat it later.

Did I mention I could not ride this past week? WHAT IS THE ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU MUST DO BEFORE YOU RACE ANYTHING? PRACTICE...PRACTICE...PRACTICE...and WHAT COULD I NOT DO ALL WEEK LONG? PRACTICE!!! (insert grunting, growling disappointing sounds here).

Did I mention the tools we need to complete building the bikes and glueing the tires are clear across town? In order to move them...we are going to need 2 cars, strong forearms and more patience.

So other than barely being able to train, a lack of appropriate clothing, unglued tires, no established routine, missing tools...I THINK I AM READY FOR NEXT WEEKEND!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Dollhouse

The new formal dining room
In my early 20’s if I were to announce that I was cohabitating with my significant other, my parents brows would have raised in unison to share their unanimous discontent. The dissatisfaction stems from a generation that believed a commitment, a ring, and or wedding ceremony needed be in the works for cohabitation to occur. Fast forward to present day with the remnants of a failed marriage lining their basement and I found my parents brows neither raised nor shifted slightly when I announced my cohabitation plan for 2010. Instead, my parents opened their basement door urging the removal of old objects and offered to store large pieces of furniture for a future, larger home.

As I made announcements to my friends about our unwed living arrangement, many were supportive and yet, they could not help but ask about an impending wedding date. Thankfully, I have reached a place in my life where I no longer feel the “pressure” to produce a socially acceptable answer (Sorry, Emily Post). I simply respond with the truth that if we reach that point…GREAT…if not…then we all move on without lawyers, division of property, and 2 families torn apart because the fairytale did not work out. It happens. While I would love to believe that I have found someone I could wear a diaper around in my later years, the reality is…I may not have found that and only time will tell.

My salty, sarcastic disposition comes from my front row seats of marriages that have occurred in the past two years. I have seen the manic crazed hype built around a few hours for two people who may or may not be able to make it work. I have seen couples who’s “starting off” is already faltered by sly comments made from siblings, family members or Facebook posts. I now understand that you marry because you believe you can work through all the obstacles that come along. If marriage were a video game…it might be like “Frogger” where you are carefully dodging cars. You have only so many lives before GAME OVER.

Living together requires a level of commitment beyond handholding and cheek kissing. Everything is negotiable from a formal dining room converted to a bike room to which direction the toilet paper should rotate. If these simple ideas, tasks, and chores cannot be worked out…it is safe to say a marriage would only be as good as the Titanic and a survival rate of 1 in 3 are NOT good odds. I feel my odds are in my favor as I supported the dining room conversion and I could care less about the direction of toilet paper. Here goes nothing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Now What?

I finally got the cross bike last week. To my dismay, the bike was not ready to ride off the showroom floor. After several hours of re-cabling, various adjustments and the purchase of a new non-setback seatpost, the bike was finally deemed “road worthy” and then it sank in…the thought…”now what?” I have a cross bike, now, what do I do with it? I believe the response in my head was: “RIDE IT!”

I set out on a maiden voyage, which actually included a spin around my super flat, traffic clogged, stop sign infested neighborhood. If someone were to ask me if anything feels different, the best thing I can tell them is YES, EVERYTHING is different. All spacers have been removed from the stem creating a center of gravity much lower than my road or mountain bike. I am back to using SPD pedals which take a wee bit more torque to remove the ankles securely and swiftly. The brakes have loads of clearance for all the sand and mud I will encounter but this also means on the road that I roll to a stop unlike more traditional disc or v-brakes. The saddle is a wee bit more padded than I am used to but none of these things are deal breakers. It is a new bike and each bike requires that you get used to it.

I am obsessed with comfort on the bike. I do not like hip, elbow, or toe pain of any kind. My first few rides are normally obsessive as I work to feel the slightest hint of pain and prepare to remedy it. Having a boyfriend that knows how to fit people comes in quite handy. Yet, this bike has not required tons of adjustments and wrenching. My first park rides were comfortable and fast. The lowered stem really helped on corners and descents. I have spent part of this summer bummed that I can climb with great efficiency…but I descend like a bird feather. This is NOT helpful or cool.

The next challenge…lifting this bike over barriers. Like most women, my upper body strength is like that of a moth or gangly bird. My height is already working against me but now I have to heave a bike over a barrier and get back in the saddle with a great amount of efficiency. Hmmmm. I have no desires to turn my upper body into a ripped machine…I just have to be able to get the bike safely over the barriers…or risk slinging the frame into a group of racers. I will not win any friends there.

My first race is a little under a month away. I feel somewhat prepared but disgustingly anxious at the same time. Preparing for a foot race is EASY; All I have to do is run. This is different…VERY different. I hate to disappoint others, embarrass myself, or God forbid, wreck someone.

As if that were not enough….track season is getting closer…and closer…and closer….

Monday, August 9, 2010

Good is enough sometimes…

I picked up cycling as a “divorce recovery.” Basically, I wanted to take one failure and turn into a success. I put time and energy into the bike for this reason. While there are millions of divorcees around me on a daily basis who act like it was not a big deal in their lives; It was and is a big deal to me. When you divorce, your lives move on and you find a lot of empty space that needs filling. I could have spent that time wallowing in my own misery but that would have been extremely unproductive. I promised myself that I would not fold into the background, that I would try new experiences with or without someone, and I would be good at the things I tried.

Some people choose knitting as a hobby, quilting, basket weaving, golf or even scrapbooking. I wanted a hobby that pushed my limits physically and mentally. I wanted to sweat. Everytime I found an obstacle on a ride, I worked on a way around it. I worked to improve. My first “real” season on a bike, I was bruised, battered, scraped, and tired. A 30-mile ride seemed impossible. Yet, after a while, it steadily became easier and now my challenging rides must tip 60-miles to truly tire me out.

I’m not great on the bike. I do not walk around pretending to be great expecting attention for my cycling conquests. I am not some racing prodigy who is going plow through my competition with the force of a heard of bulls. I am not physically designed well for cycling. I am short and if cycling is not enough of a challenge, finding clothing and a perfect bike fit are. I’m never going to take a race series by storm and annihilate all of those around me. No, instead, I am going to go out this year, race, have fun, accept the risk (yes, I may crash. I may get hurt) and smile all the way with what remaining teeth I have after a few crashes (I have great dental insurance). I will NOT be reminded that I have only barely raced before. I will not be told that I am not good enough and I will NOT accept people’s criticism, skepticism, or disbelief that a 5’2”, 106-lb chick can race. Anyone can race. All you have to do is sign up and pay the fee. I don’t want to race to beat another or to show off my machismo (do women have machismo?)…I want to finish a race. It is VERY important that I finish a race.

I do not take failure lightly. I do not quit easily either. Even in Kindergarten, my mother insisted I was an overachiever. It was not because I desired to be liked by the other kids. I never cared about that. I liked the sense of accomplishment. I liked the sense of knowing I could do something even when others thought that I couldn’t. The rides on the bike that have resulted in grunting pushes to finish have also given me time to clear my head, accept who I am and not dwell on a so-called “mistake.” So while others race to get podium finishes, meet hot women (or men), or express a primal urge to compete, I will race this season because I can. I will never be great…but I will be good and sometimes that is the best I can do. It’s a lot easier keeping promises to yourself when you finish what you started.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'll Snitch on Myself...

There are a FEW ways to watch the Tour De France in Louisville:

1. You can pay approximately $12 extra dollars a month for a slightly upgraded cable package that basically includes Versus and a host of other USELESS channels that you will only use to give your thumb exercise with the remote when you are bored with commericals.

2. You hopefully have a friend who has paid the extra $12 and you offer to cook them dinner, do their laundry, or care for their animals all from the comforts of their oversized couches (with the Tour in the background).

3. You locate a bar in town that is showing it. You are lucky to find a well positioned stool.

4. Find a local bike shop willing to host a dozen or so bicycle enthusiasts for several hours.

I chose option number 1 for a FEW reasons:

1. I like to lounge around on my couch in my plaid flannel pajama pants that I have owned since I was 18 (no joke…these pants have lasted longer than any relationship I’ve had). I like to eat a Klondike bar, some movie candy, or sip on a tasty beverage. It seems worth the $12 charge to have my OWN private bathroom only feet from my couch.

2. While I have some friends with cable, I cannot bring myself to employ the use of their couch for nearly a month so I can watch bike riders carve through France. I feel this crosses that invisible friend threshold line and I would not likely be asked over for holiday parties.

3. I hate bars. I hate bar food. I hate drunks. I hate sitting at a bar bending my neck upward while dodging mindless chatter of strangers around me. The bar is NOT an appropriate venue for the Tour.

4. My local bike shop does not have a couch and this is a required provision with watching the Tour. I will further have to engage in conversation about every detail of every rider. I just want to watch the race, not disect it piece by piece.

So I spend the extra hard earned funds, fully aware that it is an “extra” in life. It is not a necessity. For three weeks, nearly every morning I can wake up and turn on the tour. Most stages start at 7AM or 8AM…which means I can sit back, drink coffee, not get dressed, not shower and enjoy a stage of the race. Even if I do MISS a stage…no worries…they will show the stage at least 2 more times throughout the day and end it all with a recap show. That is quite possibly the BEST part of the entire 3 weeks. Not only can I watch any stage I want…but I can also choose when and how long I watch it.

All of that said…I must confess, instead of watching last nights recap show…the preview for the steeper mountain stages, the individual interviews with the race leaders, or even the cycling commercials showing sexy bikes…I watched SOMETHING ELSE. There we were, sitting and taking in the time trials from the beginning of the race when I remembered that Hot Tub Time Machine was now on Demand. So instead of listening to the strategy some of these cyclists are planning to use for the upcoming stages, we watched a group of men travel back in time to the 80’s when their lives were hip and they were cool.

Yes, we chose a mythical hot tub over a century old bike race. I’m embarrassed enough for all of you (the movie was very funny though).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Feeling the Heat

For some reason this summer, hell has truly opened up its doors thus engulfing everyone around us in a crock-pot of heat and misery. The interior of my car has exceeded 120 degrees with a digital thermometer. I could potentially fry eggs on my passenger seat instead of getting a bagel on the way to work. With this apocalyptic heat wave, riding has taken on a new challenge. Short 20-milers feel like century rides near the end. It is nothing to suck down 2, 3, or even 4 bottles of luke warm water on a ride. Once I am finished riding, I must attempt to peel my kit off in sopping wet layers only to immediately put them into the washing machine before the salt forms a crust around the seams creating a faded look on black riding shorts.

As if the winter were NOT enough punishment enough to cyclists, this summer is a horrible sequel to an attempted hobby known as "training." Winter precluded rides because of the numerous snow, ice and wind chills below zero. Your muscles do NOT work when they are frozen. Now, we must contend with 96% humidity, arid oxygen, and blistering sun. It's safe to say that when you are out on your bike, you look for lava vents to open in the roads at any given moment. To surmount ALL of this pressure, then I have to think about racing. If there were ever a time I felt in a frying pan, this is IT!

It was a large enough feat to commit to one team. This decision was made only after I spent days literally making pro and cons lists, carefully surveying every friend with a bike, and even consulting my family, who has NEVER raced bikes. It is a well known fact that I am a "commitment phobe." This is what a failed marriage does to you. You become overly independent and the fear of commitment seeps into your everyday activities. I am lucky to commit to any specific brand of toilet paper, let alone, a bike team. However, I made the choice...to say yes and race. Once I committed to the cross team, I came upon an opportunity to join another team…a track team in Indy. Hmmmmm. For some reason, this decision took less thought perhaps because I adopted the attitude of ‘why not?’

Now, I am flooded with raging thoughts in my head which can all be edited to one question…”WHAT HAVE I DONE???!!!”…I love the bike. I am good on the bike…but now I have to race in front of others, in front of other cyclists, friends and family. Then again, in 2005, I stepped on stage to pour out dialogue in front of a crowd of several hundred…so I can do this. Right? (It would be good to nod your head here…please). If anything, I get 2 new bikes out of this experience. Any cyclist loves an excuse to purchase ONE bike let alone TWO. I will learn from this experience…how to handle my bike better…how to deal with other riders…how to coordinate my kits with my bike…how to avoid pile ups…how to handle my nerves, quivering stomach, and mouthfuls of grass and track.

There are those people that NEED pressure…they thrive on it. They also have heart attacks and protruding veins with intent stares. I appreciate a little heat…I appreciate a little pushing…I appreciate a little competitiveness. It does not cause me to excel though…I am a planner…I like agendas and control. When I have neither…I feel quite untethered to the world. Of course as the saying goes…"if you can’t take the heat…"

I am not ready to leave the kitchen yet.

Fall Fashion Preview

Forget purchasing the tweeds and earth toned textured fabrics of the upcoming fall season; The main staple in this girl’s wardrobe is SPANDEX. The orders are in for skin suits, bibs, shorts and jerseys. Track and cross season require the same wardrobe planning as cocktail soirees and debutante balls (sans taffeta and parasols). Every detail is important from accessories (shoes and gloves) to hair (pony tail or do I work the sporty mullet?). Helmets are the new sheik” must have” ranging in colors and vent styles along side padded shoulder cross suits designed to make lifting more manageable (I beg to differ). Who knew that cycling fashion also offered functionality?

Decisions…decisions…decisions. While the skort is NOT appropriate for women’s racing (or riding for that matter), there is also the worry of “after the race” attire/ look. The boyfriend can simply use a wet nap and fresh clothes to spruce up. I, however, will need a full entourage bag with hair accessories, spray detangler, make-up and perfume. It’s okay to express bodily odor on the cross course or the track…but not on the sidelines cheering your team mates on with your fists wildly shaking cow bells. Besides, these days there are at least 4-5 cameras ready at anytime to snap, upload, and tag a Facebook photo before you can blink (Learning to untag yourself is also a task to accomplish!). I do not want to be caught sidelining with mud, grease, and sweat gracing this temperate skin.

Even the bike needs to be a part of the wardrobe. Nothing can ruin a look more than a severely mismatched bike, skin suit, and helmet. Perez Hilton would have a field day noting the destroyed crank sets, bloodied shins, and sweat stained kits. Thankfully, he is way too busy this season following the Hollywood elite. For now, the cyclists are safe to make small faux pas in fashion as only a handful of dabbling bloggers will catch and report them to the world (the readership of Perez Hilton and the average cyclist blogger are no doubt VASTLY different).

At any rate, I have saddled the task of forming a new and complete spandex wardrobe that I must make look cute but not too cute. It must look cool but not too cool. It has to be functional but not militaristic. If I were a pro, I would have a stylist whose job revolves around these key principles while I focus on riding. Alas, I am not a pro nor will I be dressed like one. My only fashion commitment at this juncture is the sure fact that I will have my jersey on correctly and my bike will be clean. My largest challenge will be pinning my number so they are straight.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I NEED MEAT!

Hydration and nutrition are two of the most important aspects of cycling. Timing, portion control, and calories become a necessity on any ride longer than 10 miles. Forget Gatorade, Kool-Aid or a Snickers…the science behind proper body fueling is noted by athletes world-wide.

As my training is progressing, I have started the task of hill repeats which is just what it says, repeating a hill with a set amount of trips up and down…up and down…. Within our park system, Louisville is home to many hills, one of which is, Cochran Hill a snake-like hill slap dead in the middle of the park. Repeating it burns your calves, your hamstrings, and your caloric intake.

While proper nutrition guidelines suggest the consumption of appropriate proteins, no sooner than I had finished my seventh trip up and down the hill did I desire one thing….MEAT. In fact, on the 6 mile trip to return to the car, all I could picture in my head was a heaping plate of MEAT. By meat, I mean BBQ…smoked and delicious coated in a sugary sauce thus possibly defeating any restorative powers to my twitching muscle fibers. Combine the heaping plate of meat that I did consume in record time at a local BBQ joint with the sugary goodness known as a “buttermilk pie” and you have a satiated cyclist void of hunger and possibly considering never eating again.

Every cyclist has pre, during, and post-ride foods that are their signature foods. I have seen cyclists consume Big Macs, pizza, and fried chicken (not all at the same time). I have also seen cyclists consume broccoli, baked chicken, and nutritional bars made up of 40 or so chemicals meant to restore muscles and hydrate the body. High end performance foods are always recommended by the pros. However, I am not a pro. I am a girl training to have a successful cross season and when I finish a ride, I am not about to crave a peanut butter soy honey bar and an electrolyte energy water. Hell no! I am craving proteins…heaping, smoking amounts of fatty proteins. Dare I say, I need it slathered in sauce and by sauce, I do not mean a Gu gel, or a HammerGel gravy, I mean, sugary, molasses laced, preserved BBQ sauce. I think it is safe to assume, I probably will not be asked to join some SUPER serious road team anytime soon.


Memorialized


The kick-off to summer is usually Memorial Day weekend which includes one paid day off and a total of three days of cook-outs, friend hopping, and endless snacking. This tradition was not deterred by occassional storms or relentless humidity which kept your clothing constantly "damp."

The weekend became a "new parent weekend" as the boyfriend and I navigated our future parenting skills with one golden retriever who is void of ANY usual adolescent behavior. While I was prepared for furniture climbing, shoe chewing, constant rough housing, carpet "accidents" and incessant begging for all human foods, we were  met with quite opposite behaviors. He prefers the leash, is quite even tempered and rarely barks unless his needs are not being met socially (he likes to greet EVERY dog and EVERY person). Even his separation anxiety is limited to a few minutes of barking and whimpering. He enjoyed a Saturday morning at the farmers market and greeted the locals as if he had been doing this tradition for years.These wonderful absent puppy habits allowed the "new" parents to sleep in Sunday and avoid dressing until the noon hour.

Buddy checking himself out before a walk through the neighborhood

It is important to take a break from parenting and thankfully we summed up the courage for a friend to attempt clipless pedals again while also battling overgrown trails on the mountain bikes. Vines, grasses and thissle bushes seemed dead set on slowing down a quad female bike group but we exceeded our own expectations by plowing through the trails and dodging an onslaught of sweaty runners. No one wrecked...no one dry heaved and this we agreed was a good end to the ride.


Self portrait in HOT sun...

Post bike ride bliss was followed up with the FIRST seasonal dip in the chilly pool. A loaded recyclable bag of tortilla chips, melted chocolate, strawberries and other salty, ooey, gooey snacks provided the post ride food buffet necessary for an afternoon in the sun. The sun, however, hid behind a massive dark cloud which never dumped rain directly on us (whew, thanks!) but aborted our chances for severe sunburn (we are thankful for this). Swim lessons and learning to float in a device that resembled an oversized diaphram provided ample hilarity.

Swimming with a large diaphram-looking device 

Being  new parents, getting used to doggie schedules, discussing optimal food options, treats, and potty breaks made for an exhausting weekend all in all. The best way to shut things down was with a grill, some gin and tonics, and a dog panting with the rythum of a freight train.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Feed and water daily...

This is THE year for my hostas at home. Three years of steadily growing tiny two-leaved plants have resulted in a harvest of hosta plants on steroids filling my front yard to the brim with greeness. My pride runneth over. Secure in the fact that I could grow a few plants, I have escalated my prowess to animals.

Victor Hugo (the cat, not the author) is a staple in my house. In a room of 150 cats at the local shelter, I came to know Victor and the past three years have been an easy, breezy walk in the sun. Victor's activities include long naps, eating, taking even longer naps and making biscuits on my stomach (kneading activity done with his paws while purring vivaciously). Thus, people come over and marvel over my plus size, over friendly, easily amused cat. He is void of the "normal" cat behaviors such as hissing, urinating on favorite furniture, and generally despising the world. This makes him a fun attraction at my home like a carnival ride. Seeing that I enjoy challenges...I am once again adding another complexity to the rearing mix.

First note....Buddy is not MY dog. My boyfriend has longed for a dog for sometime. Since the first night we met, I have heard about a golden retriever he helped raise into his senior years. Leave it to me with one afternoon of googling, plotting, planning to find "Buddy", a spry 2-year old golden retriever bursting at the seams with energy. Buddy is being housed in middle Indiana surrounded by Amish farms, small towns, and a collection of rusted out American autos. This past week we drove 1.5 hours (yes, hours) to visit Buddy. I had every finger and toe crossed that the union of he and the boyfriend would be a happy one. Thankfully within seconds of meeting Buddy, we found him upside down smiling up begging for belly rubs. (Whew).


Two VERY happy boys...


Tonight he comes home...and he will be a wealthy dog because he will have 2 homes for living comfort. He will live with the boyfriend the majority of the time and visit his "relation-not-yet-decided" feline sibilng. My duties as an “alternate rearer” will include walks, park strolling, running, playing, and coordinating social events for him including play dates and dog parks. I am pretty sure he will request I do his Facebook updates since he lacks thumbs.

I would be amiss if I told you that we also want to train him on the trails. The boyfriend has wanted a trail dog for sometime and this dog has the spunk for it. This will require some work and dedication but I am certain that if I can grow hostas from a single celled life form, convert a cat into a social being similar to Frank Sinatra, multi-task a household with laundry, cooking and decorating, take care of a relationship, I can work with Buddy and welcome him into the fold of successes.

Now, children may be a whole different story...


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The comedy of errors known as vacation...


Early in the throws of winter, I attempted a weekend away to the North American Handmade Bike Show. This trip resulted in $1,349 worth of work on a car, many exhausted hours in an overpirced hotel lobby and true hatred for Virginia or West Virginia. In fact, recent conversations have concluded that me and my signifigant other DO NOT think of those areas as states anymore due to the enclave of negative memories. Like he said, "Virginia is for f&*kers!" (he was angry when he said it).

You can imagine that there was some hesitation, nerves and even jitters about this next trip. A longer drive with a fully loaded car of bikes, bike parts, clothes, lotions, creams, and snacks all eventually headed to Brevard North Carolina. The long weekend agenda included nothing but bike riding, hiking, nestling in oversized chairs, and truly relaxing. Attempting to relax when you think your car may blow a vital part is extremely difficult but as the miles wore on, we seemed to settle into a rythum with myself as the navigator and the boyfriend as the wild Indy-car driver.

Suprisingly, the drive was without hazard other than a missed exit and squealing tires to reach said exit. The oversized rig that was cut off behind us did not even apply his horn but that might have been because his nerves filled his seat and he was too distracted to press on the wheel. Besides, we were FULLY aware of our mistake! We attempted a wave when we stopped sweating. The trip was divided into a brief overnight stay in Knoxville, Tennessee which is landscaped with churches, firework shops, and fast food stops. Before settling in for the evening, we treated ourselves to some spa treatments working our the knots in our muscles and minds. The night was spent in a cozy, quaint and off the beaten path bed and breakfast overlooking the French Broad River. The quiet and tranquility felt wonderful and being able to sit in a swing watching the sunset definitely defined vacation.



By Thursday, we were on the road to roll into Brevard and a cabin with 7 other adults (by age only) all ready for an epic weekend of riding and hiking. This weekend did not disapoint in the area of being EPIC. First, the boys on a wild race pace mountain bike ride neglected to account for one of our crew...a taller than average guy with a super calm personality. Our shaken nerves were hampered with an enormous rain storm  and a winding two lane road with drop offs longer than a skyscraper. As we drove (and walked) up and down the busy road hoping to find him, we only found frustration with the lack of cell phone service and relaxed sense of urgency among the locals who told us they had not seen a tall guy in a bright jacket ride by (WELL! DID YOU LOOK?!). Finally as the rain tapered, there, riding up the road was our lost bunkmate surfacing unscathed and calm as a bug in a rug. Cheers, high fives, and even tears met him at the cabin followed by a lecture from a distraught, angry, and now relieved wife (STAY TOGETHER ON THE TRAILS PLEASE!!!).



On the next day with the weather cleared, it was the girls turn to ride the mountains and we did. After carefully plotting our route and detailing our description in the event the rangers needed to be called for a search party, we left the cabin towards DuPont National Forest. The onset of the ride was some of the most picturesque hills and scenery I have ever laid eyes on. We dreaded the last 10 or so miles due to the fact that the ONLY way to return to our cabin was to ascent a 12-mile stretch of road known as 276 or Geer Highway. The road is a two lane, narrow, curvy, hilly invention that serves as the only throughfare through the area. There are no short cuts but we were ready for the challenge. I was overly thankful for the "granny gear" I had, although it was slightly different from my old cassette. My embarrassment of riding in the granny gear diminished when I knew the other rider was also feeling the hills. My accomplishment was nearly reached until my encounter with a Subaru Forrester.



On a tight turn approaching a "slow car turnout", I became aware of two old ladies crawling up the hill in their car. When clear, I waved them on from their crawling pace but quickly realized they were not going to pass me. In a second attempt, I waved them on but still did not hear the accerlation of their engine. As I approached the next curve, I planned to stop and make them pass but when I turned my head back to the left to secure my point, I realized not only were they NOT going to pass...they were NOT going to avoid me and their mirror smacked my kidney. In the best efforts to compose myself, I straightened my wheel and prepared to turn into their car as we were approaching one of those dangerous guard rails. Then, they passed...slowed (I thought they were going to stop to check on me)...and sped off. It was then, I sprang off the bike. My helmet came off and I immediately dismounted mid-hill. We had the last 5 miles to go...but my nerves had bonked. Thankfully my ride partner retrieved the car and we returned home, safely.

I later learned that the boyfriend, who had gone out on his own EPIC ride, also found the mountains to be challenging heaps of rock and had to battle acid reflux, awkward cross bike gearing (rear cassette needed more gears), and muscle cramps which sporadically occured throughout the ride, mostly on the uphills (nothing like an added challenge). His hydration choice of a beer was probably not the PRO choice but he also refused any rides from people. Lessons learned.



You might think with a lost husband, a clipped cyclist, and a bonked roadie, we would call this weekend a bust. Instead, we celebrated with a 6-mile hike to an amazing bald rock face known as John Rock. The female only hike included a confused left turn which lead to an uphill, stair studded climb marred with moss, waterfalls, and hemlock. The climb was well worth the woes and sweat soaked clothing. The summit opened up to a rock ledge overlooking a hatchery and Looking Glass rock. It was an instant distraction from a clipped cyclist, a lost mountain biker, over energized husbands, cramping boyfriends, and too hot to sample coffee or tea. The reward after a quick 30-minute downward hike was Dolly's Dairy Barn which is overloaded with democracy. Literally hundreds of flavors caused quite the confusion for decision challenged, starving women craving carbs.



That evening, our last by the roaring fireplace (it was 75 degrees outside) made for a quiet night of couch cuddling, leg rubbing, and the realization that we had to return to our real lives the next day. All of the excitement...all of the adventures folded back into our minds and made for good conversation on the way home (which we did in record time thanks to me understanding that I own a "race wagon"). Until next year...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Percolated

As we all know, I love my coffee. Coffee and I have a love affair spanning nearly 20-years. A vital and necessary part of my morning is the obligatory coffee stop. When I change jobs, one of the first tasks is to locate my nearest local coffee spot and train the counter person to get it juuuust righhht. My order is always simple, ONE 12-14 ounce cup of java with a minimal of one inch of room (so technically I drink 11 -13 ounces of coffee)…4-Sugar in the raw packets and please have a carafe of half and half chilled. Any deviation from this recipe will cause me to have a fit like a toddler in a toy store who is told not to touch anything. I will melt down and possibly find myself kicking and screaming. Coffee addicts MUST have their coffee THEIR way. There is no compromise or contentment unless…the cup…is perrrrfect.

In the past several years though, Louisville has seen a wide birth of hometown java hot spots all peddling their roasted black beans (black gold). I pride myself on trying all of them judging the coffee on taste, texture, and lid. Cheap lids come off in the car and create a mess…which also causes me to have a toddler fit. Something has happened though…an awkward turn of events has resulted in ample coffee shops and a realization of my decreasing coolness.

You see, some of our coffee shops are also segregated social hot spots each with their own niche. If you are a reader, you will likely be found at Heinie Brothers which has two locations with two book stores nearby. They have tables and wifi so you can fire up your kindle and enjoy some strong coffee. It is a Louisville original. If you are more of a younger social bug with a sweet tooth, there is Sunergos, a true hip place with the best caramel latte in the city complete with the friendly design in the foam (I am a big fan of the oak leaf). The shop also shares a wall with a bakery boasting a maple bacon donut and I will warn you…do not judge the donut until you have bitten into it. It is delicious. If you are the person who likes the hidden shops, there is Red Hot Roasters which is now operated by one half of a divorced couple (he has another coffee shop and the dog across town). It boasts a drive thru and once they REALLY get to know you, it is guaranteed they will make your coffee perrrrfect. Most recently if you were a coffee drinker who also liked to sample a wine bar, you could enjoy a place called Blue Mountain but unfortunately the trendiness of the location, the bar, and mood lighting proved too high an expense and it recently decorated its door with a cheaply printed, “sorry we have closed” sign.

Then, there is the “OTHER” shop. It is for the cool, hip, trendy youths. The skinny jean wearing, tattoo boasting, pierced nipple crowd that spends a majority of their time modifying their mod wardrobes and being ironic—but, they also enjoy coffee. You can imagine that this is not the shop for the reader or the socialite also wishing to sample a merlot. On one given morning, I dared venture into the fully restored building to purchase a cup of coffee with scolding eyes bearing down on my name brand purse. The staff has an attitude like their coffee…strong. For the person who values the true taste of coffee, this place rocks but you have to prepare yourself for a walk down the judgment aisle and you might want to invest in a quality pair of skinny jeans (wait! Is that ironic?! Crap).


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yuppie Evolution

Vacation is officially marked on the calendar for 2010. I have turned in all the appropriate forms for the new job. It is official. A group of bike/ outdoor/ fire pit enthusiasts are gathering in Brevard, North Carolina mid-May for a long weekend of biking, hiking, and cardboard burning. A congenial meeting which assigned all of us with various tasks yielded the understanding that sometime between the ages of 22 and 33, I have become a full fledged yuppie.

In my early 20’s, I owned a dilapidated Volvo wagon with double digit rust spots. It did NOT have a CD player…but it had a rad tape deck. The leather seats were cracked in such a pattern that after hours of sitting, your legs look like they had been grilled and in the hot summer sun, they may actually make a sizzling sound. The air conditioner sometimes worked, other times it blew out musty warm air from vents that smelled of wet creek bed. Otherwise the crank down windows were always available to send a breeze your way. A vacation during this time consisted of the following tasks:

1. Place a twin size mattress in the rear of the car. By folding down the rear seat and gently modifying a twin mattress, I basically drove a hotel on wheels complete with a 360 degree view. The cost of the hotel was around whatever gas was for the day….$1.02/ gallon.

2. Load the floor of the car with salt/ sugar infused foods. Standards on long road trips included: Doritos, Triscuits, Chocolate covered donuts, Double Stuffed Oreo’s, 2-3 jars of peanut butter, cheap wheat bread, and a 5lb bag of trail mix from Sam’s Club (you have to have at least ONE healthy thing).

3. Map out the route. No external communication devices were to be had. There were NO CELL phones on trips…no GPS…no I-Phones for back-up entertainment. I had to sit down the night before, map out a route and places to stop to call and check in with the homestead.

4. Pack one bag. One bag rule. If two people were traveling in a car with a mattress and 10lbs of oreo’s under the rear seat, then clothing and toiletries were limited to ONE bag, usually an LL-Bean backpack with my initials on it leftover from grade school (no joke….this thing lasted through the second year of college).

5. Destination optional. Sometimes there was no real destination. Sometimes the drive just resulted in park sleeping and roadside visits. Other times, the evenings ended with Phish shows or Indie Rock Festivals still holding onto grunge.

Well, things have changed….it is official. I am a yuppie. I am a peace loving, travel craving, expensive hobby enthusiast…YUPPIE…

Results of Sunday night planning meeting/ dinner:

1. The newer Volvo with polished leather seats, dual climate controlled air conditioning and CD player will be loaded with bikes. It will be covered with road and mountain bikes. Forget the modified mattress, bikes come first. Bikes will be polished and loaded appropriately for the car, of course.

2. Reservations made at a B&B. Forget camping or sleeping in the back of the car swatting off night creatures…instead, we will be stopping halfway in Knoxville, Tennessee for a night of pampering with Egyptian cotton sheets, home cooked breakfast and a deep soaking tub.

3. Don’t forget the coffee grinder and traveling coffee bar. One thing that came out of this meeting…MOST PEOPLE LOVE THEIR COFFEE…and we are far too refined and adult to drink Maxwell House. Instead, I am to bring my grinder so that every morning the first sound we hear atop the mountain are fresh oily beans being ground for the most perfect cup of roasted java. Also in tow will be organic sugar, organic half and half, and biodegradable stir sticks. I may throw in some cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the perfect cup of coffee.

4. We don’t need no stinking maps! Forget maps, within minutes of the email with the physical address arriving in our in-boxes on Monday, I plotted the route in the I-phone complete with turn by turn directions and satellite mapping. Honestly, if we get lost it is because we are illiterate and we deserve to get lost.

5. We need more luggage. Not only do we have to pack enough bike clothes for the weekend…shorts, bibs, jerseys, socks, etc…we have to pack clothing to hike, have dinner in, and of course, more casual “walk downtown like a tourist” clothing. If something is truly soiled, then our full size washer and dryer can handle it and even steam out the wrinkles if necessary. Asides from this, there are also a host of hair care products and skin care that MUST make the trip.

6. The food….Oreo’s are good…but we devised a menu complete with waffles, chicken parmesan, and a full American breakfast. There will be no fast food run thru’s here. No, instead, we will use the newly remodeled gourmet kitchen to crank out delicious food. A large industrial sized pan of Espresso brownies and host of other desserts will replace the multiple boxes of Little Debbie cakes of yesteryear.

Am I ashamed? Do I feel I have sold out? No…my needs have changed. Some may use the word…”evolved”…I need comfort when I travel. I have worked hard and deserve not to have to spend my free vacation time worrying about running out of gas or replacing a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I like hot showers, clean clothes, good food, and a car with air conditioning. If these things make me a yuppie, so be it…I have been called worse.


You’re gonna do what?

It was bound to happen. I have been riding bikes long enough that sooner or later, it was going to happen…the racing bug has bitten. I have been around enough cyclists and in the saddle long enough that I want to race. I talked about racing two years ago only to quickly talk myself out of it for fear of utter humiliation. Wait! I am not a shy person! Why did I do that? Maybe it was because I did not have enough money to pay the registration fees…that sounds more like it.

With the realization that I will be racing, comes the reality that I have to face some challenges…

1. I am 33-years old. There are racers out there that have done it since birth (you have to have pity on their mothers) or from the moment their leg muscles developed. My legs are only 3-years into it. I raced BMX in my teens but I was under my parents health plan which afforded me more resiliency and bravery to try erratic maneuvers. Now, I pay my own premiums, I have deductibles and my bones are more brittle. Casts would have to be set for 8-10 weeks instead of 4-6. Part of racing at my age is also being fluent in my own body language. I need sleep, recovery food, regular hydration. Unlike my teen years where I could go for 2-days on a box of Cheese-Its and a 2-litre of Coke, I now need a more mature schedule and diet. I require a bed on a regular basis.

2. My height. Not only do I want to race, but I want to race cross. Stop staring at the screen. Yes, I want to race cross and right now you are recalling that I am barely 5’2”…and that my inseam is roughly 24.65”…and you are picturing the barriers…and then me attempting to hop the barrier with a bike on my shoulder. I have looked into leg lengthening surgery but it is costly, painful, and S-T-U-P-I-D. However, my height and weight in a sandpit is ideal…I am not sinking down anywhere and if I am toting a carbon bike…I will barely leave a footprint.

3. My gender: I am a girl. I am a girl who wants to race. The starting line for females at cross races are missing ONE THING…MORE RIDERS. Not a lot of women want to race and in this area, there are very few. The ones who do race are pretty good. This is intimidating. Girls are mean on and off the bike. I am not too shy but utter humiliation is generally NOT what I strive for. I am going to face plant, wreck and wrench my body in front of everyone.


There are some things working on my favor though…

1. I have a good team (Bob's Red Mill, yes, the baking mix). I have a team mixed with quality racers of all ages. They have good intentions (AKA: Win). They are quality riders. Although, I am not sure what to do with 50lbs of products that we will receive. How many muffins is that really?

2. I am competitive. Without a doubt, put me in a sports situation, and I am a competitive, 5’2” beast (can a 5’2” chick really be a beast? Probably not…but I would like to think so. However, I am more like that gnat in your face than a weight on your back). I will have no problems elbowing my way to the front. I am not afraid of crashing. Years on the mountain bike make this a certainty but most of the time after a fall, you pick yourself back up and get right back on. Less skin=less weight= better performance (not a proven formula, FYI).

3. I am a much stronger rider now. Compared to 3-years ago, I am much stronger and focused on proper riding. I prefer long rides...I love to climb and as a result, I have endurance.

4. Did I mention I am competitive? Yes, I did, see above.

5. I will be coordinated. Our kits will be coordinated and that does matter on the course. If you fall, you want to look good doing it.

As if all of these things were not factors to consider, then consider the added stress that the boyfriend races and has since birth (yes, he is one of those riders), so besides overcoming my physical/ mental deficits, I also have to worry about not completely embarrassing myself in front of the boyfriend. Sure, I am secure at 33, but I am still a girl who wants to impress her boyfriend and who wants to eat a face full of sand in front of their significant other with cameras looking on? No one, but it will happen.

Other than those things I mentioned, I only have a few things I have to do to get ready which include (1) purchase a cross bike that fits, (2) learn to ride the cross bike, (3) learn to race the cross bike, (4) race the cross bike. Other than those FEW things, I am ready. Well, in my head I am ready and sometimes things in my head do not turn out as I pictured them in reality. Either way, I will have 50lbs of baking mix to make enough muffins for a quality Fall season of racing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Parenting Lessons


Not every ride is a KILLING TRAINING RIDE designed to churn your stomach over and set your legs ablaze. There are those days that beg for a recovery ride or demand time to work on clipless pedals with your friends. I had forgotten how nervous I was when I “went clipless” but I really was not given a choice. My flat (possibly recyclable) plastic pedals were replaced with a contraption (Crank Bros) designed to hold my feet in place at all times and before I could utter a question, I pushed off, feet secured in place and told to be careful. That ride was dreadful. It was like stripping my training wheels off and then sending me out in traffic. I came back from that ride soaked in anxiety dripping sweat. I vowed NEVER to do that to someone. No thank you. 

I held true to my vow. Instead of slapping on the pedals and pushing off my friend, we spent time getting to know each pedal and practicing clipping in and out…in and out…in and out...(you get it). My friend was convinced that she would NEVER be able to ride clipless and 45-minutes later, I heard her yell across the parking lot, “Melinda…I am doing it! I am riding clipless! You are the best teacher!”…Before I take off in traffic, I want to be comfortable on my bike. I hope the same for my friends and if someone is hesistant, then it is best to spend more time assuring them of their abilities (I knew she could do it). After an hour of practicing, we left the parking lot. I was a bit dizzy from all the circles we had done but excited as I listened to her clip in and out behind me. It was one of those perfect afternoons with a slight breeze and sun overhead.  This was NOT going to be a mash it, kill it, grunt through it ride. This was a fun, leisure ride for a fine Spring Saturday afternoon. My friend adjusted to her pedals while we discussed life, boys, and the idea that one-day things have to change for both of us. Deep philosophical conversations are best had on steep hills while you are trying to find your rhythm. The slower pace also gave way for one of my favorite sights in the park right now.

Erin riding clipless for the first time


A favorite sighting in the park these days are a father/ daughter duo that could melt frozen butter. The father is usually pulling up the rear with multiple water bottles and snacks in his jacket. In the front is his daughter, possibly six years old riding her two-wheeled bike in cowboy boots and pig tails (sticking out through her helmet). They do NOT ride in parking lots nor sidewalks. This father and tot are hardcore and they ride the park streets with her little cowboy boot dressed legs spinning like mad (remember, her wheels are tiny) on her single speed mini bike. She gets around the park with her dad cheering/ coaching her on. I always make it a point to tell her how well she is doing because quite honestly, she rocks it. She is on a child’s bike riding in the park on roads that I get nervous on and who cannot envy pink and black cowboy boots for cycling footwear (I wish I had thought of that!). Each time the girl see’s me, she says, “hi” really loudly and attempts a wave but quickly places her hands back on the handlebars—balance will come young one. I always wave, cheer her on and then proceed on with one envious thought in my head, “I want to do that one day…”

Leisure rides provide time to think and somehow yesterday I began forming the thought of the kind of parent I will be one day. I will be THAT parent that will have their child on a bike as soon as possible (is birth too soon? Onsies come in cycling wear, right?). I would have them in the park. I would ride trails, road or parking lots with excitement. I was fortunate that my father always made time for me. Every sport I ran his wallet through, he was right there to coach me on. I know there are days when he could have been doing a lot of other things but he spent weekends traveling from county to county for softball, BMX, cross country, and soccer for so many years, he could have received an MVP trophy. I never wore cowboy boots to events but I know if I had wanted to, my dad would have not blinked…but he would have cheered/ coached me on.