Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The ride home

On a race Sunday, there is no such moment as the moment when we get in the car to come home. Once in the car, it means we are headed for hot showers, a comfy couch, loving animals and the end of another race Sunday. It is also the most reflective time of the whole day.

Race Sunday starts at 5AM with the loading of the car, feeding of the animals and review of every bag packed. You cannot get 2-hours away from home and realize you forgot your helmet or your favorite socks. It's a chaotic hour getting everything you packed into the car, forcing your body to wake-up and take in calories. The goal is to always use the bathroom at home but quite often there are pit stops on race morning. Once we are in the car leaving home, we are in "race mode." There is little conversaiton on the way to a race as we listen to a mix of music we've compiled on our i-pods to avoid listening to small town gospel hour on the radio (no joke). We eat more calories, we drink coffee, and we wonder about the course silently anticipating whatever the day will bring. It's high anxiety and we both avoid interferring with the others race prep routines.

This is a stark contrast to when we leave for home. We moan and groan adjusting our sore bodies in the car seats. No matter the temperature outside, we find ourselves reaching for the heated seat button to warm our sore lower backs. The anxiety has given way to sheer exhaustion. Besides being physically tired, we are mentally drained from cheering on teammates, cooking enormous amounts of food and keeping the peace at our temporary campsite. I talk to JC, who is usually driving, so he doesn't tire. It's silly conversation about all the things we would do differently if we could do the race over. We talk about the funny cyclocross dogs we see and the cute things the kiddos say. All the while, we are nursing our tender carcusses awaiting the moment we arrive to our final point B.

At this point in the race, I am thinking about food and sleep.

One of the many pups at our race tent. He's smiling because he didn't race.
The road trip home is more relaxed with all attention turned towards the few required necessities like calories. I am not a person who dines in the car regularley but after a race with consistent hunger every few hours, I find the ride home is the perfect time to reward ourselves with something greasy and naughty. The burger and fries holds us over until the next stop at home and another meal, usually home cooked or slapped together with leftovers. With every passing mile, we count down the time to reach our comfy couch, loving animals and post race snacks.

The ride home is the only time I can enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. In the dark morning hours, we see a sunrise streaked with beautiful colors brightening the skyline. It truly happens in slow motion. The stark contrast is noticable from exit to exit. However, I cannot tell you we truly appreciate this beauty. We are usually too distracted locating coffee shops and approved bathroom stops. On the way home, I can take in all the colorful leaves, the sights, sounds and smells of fall. Externally, I read the signs for every pumpkin patch, corn maze, and haunted house along the route (sometimes aloud which JC doesn't care for). Internally, I run the race through my head turn by turn thinking about all the things I would do differently and all the things I need to work on.

The car ride home is the last place I swell with pride. I ride home proud of my husband for making good decisions. We congratulate each other as if we had podiumed and we nurse each other's aching bodies. He will tell you he usually needs more nursing than me. Whether it's band aids and ibuprofen or an extra hand to hold chicken strip dipping sauce, I'm there. Whether we win the race or not, there is this little moment where you are just happy that you can race and happy that the day has ended well. After the car is unloaded, the laundry piled up and animals fed, we finally collapse on our couch and only then can we say the day is done. Then, we count down until the next weekend and do it all over again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Team Cook-Position Filled

Everyone knows I love two things, cycling and cooking. I cannot do the two at the same time but I love these hobbies equally. The athletic, competitive part of me obviously comes from my dad who enjoyed a youth of various sports and eventually car racing. The cooking gene skipped over my mother and landed on me. Mom's signature dish is Hamburger Helper or a hash of lima beans, corn and tomatoes that to this day, I refuse to eat. I'm a genetic mess of athletics and fine cooking.

Just over a month ago, I was ready for another cyclocross season. The first race was the weekend before the wedding and my nerves were stacked with racing and wedding details. To say the race sucked would be the kindest thing I could say. From the start, I hated it. The course was a rough jagged mesh of pumpkin stems, soured apples and rude officials. My class of women is small and often we are combined with several other groups. The mayhem of juniors, younger women, single speed men made me squirm. As I sliced through the tape, an official yelled at me thinking I was trying to cut the field when in actuality I was just trying to figure out the direction of the course. I walked off. I had a "I want to throw my bike moment."

The truth is, I love racing but doing it alone is no fun. I do not have a ride or training buddy. I get bored riding around by myself. I've done all sorts of team sports but our team is stacked with accomplished riders and accomplished riders do not train others. It's not that anyone on the team is being snide, it's just expected that you will find your own mate. Few women ride or race in this area, so I have no options for training partners. Without the monies to hire a trainer or genetic clone advancements to create a cool training partner, I instantly decided not to race this season. Not wanting to be a deadbeat on the team, I reverted to the only other thing I know, food.

Caramel espresso brownies.
Just two races into the season, our team has not starved. While we wake before dawn and travel some distances, no one has gone hungry. This team does not subsist off peanut butter, gu gels, or protein powders. With some research, I crafted a simple seasonal menu including marinated kabobs, burgers, and pastas. It requires preparation and time spent over a searing hot grill. I do not mind one bit. In fact, it makes me want to operate a food truck (that's another story for later). Other teams definitely notice our set-up of Belgian waffles, burgers with grilled pineapple, and assortment of sweets. We've had a few riders panhandle us for a spare waffle or muffin to hold them over until they reached home and a drive thru.

The morning set-up complete with coffee and espresso.
 There is no worse feeling that starving after a race. Your body constantly craves food. Like many, I am quite cranky when I am hungry as are my team mates. We like to eat and we don't want jersey warmed gu's. Perhaps its an odd contribution and not nearly as glamorous as the racers. My class of racers really do not matter. No one cheers for the Cat 4 women. No one comes to see the Cat 4 women. No one takes pictures of the Cat 4 women. We really don't do anything exciting like the elite men. We're a slower group. So, why waste my time? I may race again but I'm going to need someone to make me excited because doing it alone is not exciting. In the meantime, I will cook until my heart is content and contribute something that I enjoy. None of my team mates are complaining because their mouths are full of food.