Thursday, September 16, 2010

Awesomeness? Um, no.

Ever since we moved into this house there has been this huge white envelope pushed behind the pipes that stick out in the closet. Today, whilst cleaning said closet, I decided to open it. Ohmgod why didn't I do this sooner? I don't even have words. Ready???

I've included my feet to give some sense of the scale of the card. It's freaking huge. Now, call me a cynic, but my guess is that Ian took one look at this thing and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.


So totally pumped right now . . . and possibly over-caffeinated. 1000 things to do but having a hard time pointing myself in any one direction. Much rather just look at cyclocross pictures and freak out. No, no, must be productive, must pack. We're pulling out in 6 days, and I'll be gone for the better part of 3 of those, riding Tour of the Unknown Coast with my dad, which is going to be great. And tonight I'm going to race a little informal short track, which will also be awesome. And when I get to Gloucester we get to move into a BIGGER HOUSE (erm, barn). Space!!! Acres and acres of livable space! So pumped. I really need to come up with better descriptors than "pumped" and "stoked". I should probably start working on my Boston accent, too, in which case I'd say "Bahsten", not Boston. Cody makes fun of me when I try to do the accent, but his is just as ridiculous, and he grew up there.

Okay, must channel all this excited energy towards some sort of productivity, even if at this point it means just eating breakfast.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The first one always hurts the most.

The last REAL race I did was the 4th of July Crit in Davis - since then all I've done is a Geiger Hill Climb and the Cascade prologue. Sure, those things hurt, but not the same. In fact, since the Davis crit sucked so damn much for me, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the last time I really RACED my bike was Nevada City. Pathetic, huh? That was in June and here we are in September. I get the feeling some people think I'm a flake for bailing on the end of road season, and they may be right. However, in light of the impending Big Move, I think my reasons (read: justifications) are sound: 1: Road racing season doesn't really get going until April in New England, therefore if I took a break in the fall I wouldn't be racing my bike for 7-8 months. Ridiculous. B: The next couple months are going to be pretty tough, I think, and there are a lot of new things to adjust to and a lot of missing people. What better way to keep my mind off the things that I'm leaving behind than to do something that I love? And lastly, New England cyclocross is off the hook and I weaseled my way onto a good team, so how could I really say no?

But that wasn't the point of my post, and now I just sound whiney and defensive.

I raced 'cross on Saturday! And it went . . . okay. Maybe it's just not having a coach anymore, but I feel rather compelled to give a detailed race report to SOMEONE, so why not the internets at large?

My starts suck. I'm going to be working on that. Today. I was, if not quite last, almost last after the start. It was women's A's and 35+ A's, and a pretty good turn-out. Oh, did I mention the presence of multiple current national champions? Like, Barb Howe and Gina Hall? Plus some other nationals podium finishers, like Sarah Maile. Owwee. Anyway, the course was a slight uphill pavement start that funneled into a singletrack that got a little technical pretty quick, with a tight left hand turn into a dusty, loose drop in. I was so far away from the hole shot that I was stuck behind the only 2 girls who put there feet down making that tight left. Damn. Made some quick passes when it opened up, but by then the race was so far away from me that I'd never make it up. Sure, I never expected to hold Barb's wheel or anything, but there were a few girls in there who I think I could be competitive with. I think I have the fitness to duke it out with people, but not to close huge gaps and THEN duke it out, know what I mean? I mean, I'm no Katie Compton, and I can't start last row and win nationals. Nope. No way. So starts are going to be critical to me if I want to have a good season. Anyway, it was blazing hot down in Folsom and I suffered heartily in the last two laps and just kind of limped through the last one, content in the knowledge that I would not be getting lapped.

The bad:

1. Starts - must improve dramatically or be stuck in suck.
2. Barriers - OK for the first couple laps, but when I got really cooked I started running like a . . . I dunno, something that sucks at running.
3. Heat tolerance - whatever, I'm moving to New England. ;) Next time I have to race in 90 degree heat I'm putting a waterbottle cage on my bike. F' it.

The good:

1. Technical skills - I was rocking the loose drop-in and the following section of single track that had a loose, sketchy ditch to ride through. Super happy that I've been getting out on my mountain bike lately and feeling good about shredding some mini-gnar.
2. Fitness - good power until the heat sapped my strength through my brain, which it then sucked through my eye balls.
3. I had a ton of fun! Even when I was suffering I was like, "Yeah, cross! This is f'in awesome!!!" And that, really, is the most important part.

On tap for today is a brutal training ride, and more packing. Yeah, the house is starting to look like we're leaving. Sad . . . excited . . . overwhelmed. But that's what brutal training rides are for, they take the edge off all those emotions and replace it with pain and fatigue. I like that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 'Cross Season Goals

Well, with the first 'cross race of the season only two days away (weeee!!!) I think it's time to set a couple of goals for this fall. Goals provide me with a measure of how successful my season was, and give me something specific to work towards. Let me preface these by saying that I think I'm a much better cyclocross racer than road racer (that's not boasting, since I'm not a very good road racer). See, on the road I'm not really a climber (too big) and I'm not a sprinter (too wimpy). I'm a decent time trialist, but had kind of rough year for that in 2010. Now, 'cross? That's more my style. Climbing ability isn't a huge deal, you just need to be strong, and rarely does it come down to a sprint. It requires good bike handling skills in the dirt, which I have (decent, anyway), and crashing ain't such a big deal since you're rarely going super fast (no 45 mph descents in a 100+ person pack). I'm okay with crashing in the mud or the sand, no big deal. Plus, it's a short race, and I can always convince myself to suffer for 45 minutes. No prob.

(That said, I love road racing and I think I make a good teammate to the sprinters and the climbers. I'm there to work when I can, and then I get to show what I've got in the time trial. Love stage racing. Love it, and have lots of plans brewing for 2011 road season.)

So anyway, I had to preface it with that, since I think my goals sound a little overly ambitious. Whatever, if I don't succeed, try try again.

1. Top 20 at a UCI race. Hell, if 19 women show up and I come in 18th, that still counts.
2. Don't get lapped, ever. (barring, of course, major mechanicals that force me to run 1/2 a lap).
3. Win a regional race. Doesn't matter what, but I'd like to have a W to show for my season.

Okay, that's it. Oh yeah, ride fast and have a metric shit-ton of fun. Hells yeah.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lost in the woods

Made the most of my 3 day weekend and got two days of great riding in. On Sunday Cody and I climbed up the Tahoe Rim Trail to Marlette Peak lookout (see photo evidence above). It was a totally gorgeous day, as you can see. We then dropped down Dirty Harry's, which has some pretty gnar-gnar sections. Gnar trail + roadie + hardtail with a fork that hardly works = dirty socks. But there were some really fun sections that I rode. We then proceeded to get lost for 2 hours and spend waaay too much time riding fire roads. Uck. Anyway, 5 hours later we got back to the car and went to Blue Coyote for burgers. Life is good.

Yesterday I rode up at Donner with my dad. Lovely day except for all the lousy traffic! Gotta take in all the alpine granite I can, because where I'm going we don't have big mountains.

On our Sunday MTB ride we were on a trail that was almost grown in with manzanita bushes for a while. Manzanita has such a distinct smell, and it's one you don't get everywhere you go. I find it terribly familiar, and it evokes hikes up to the Quincy "Q" when I was a kid. Then there's the Tahoe smell, with that particular hint of DG and pine forests. Of course Peavine riding is a smell all its own, too, with sage and rabbit brush. I guess what I'm getting at is that everywhere I go, almost, I ride my bike. And when I ride my bike, I tend to breath pretty heavily and really internalize the particular scent of the place. Don't olfactory senses trigger memories with greater poignancy than either sight or sound? I'm pretty sure they do. When I smell wood smoke from someone's chimney I think of being a kid in Meadow Valley in the wintertime,with 4 feet of snow piling up outside our house and a fire going. Some places totally evoke "home" to me. My new home doesn't smell like home to me yet (well, I'm not there yet, but I've been there in the past, and it doesn't) but it's familiar nonetheless. I can't wait to come back for a visit and be struck by the smell of sagebrush and manzanita.

Blah blah blah.

I was reading the blog of an acquaintance and she said something that really struck me, and I'm going to quote her - "It seemed an ugly injustice to lose someone with plans and hope, until I accepted that our lives are present and vital while we're here and that death doesn't diminish the importance of the love and lessons we leave behind." I'm not trying to be dark and depressing, but I just thought that was so eloquently put that I had to share it with the world.

Anyway, on more frivolous news, I bought a full suspension frame and it's on its way to Gloucester as we speak! Something fun to come "home" to, because I can't possibly ride those east coast roots and rocks on my hardtail. Hells no.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday blahblahblahs

So, totally nothing new or interesting going on. Just getting ready for the move, day by day, alternately feeling excited and anxious (mostly excited). Feeling super excited to go race 'cross (first race is in 1.5 weeks!), but really much too boring to blog. Until I saw this today, on the BikePure FB page:

Who got you into cycling?
Who did you look up to when you first joined a club?
Who kept you going in cycling when it seemed too hard?
Who patted you on the back when you did well?

It was concluded with something like, "What would these people thing if you doped?" Which is a good, thought-provoking question, but not the point of this post. (Doping sucks). Mostly it made me think of the people who got me into this sport and the people who keep me going in it day after day.

Who got me into cycling?

Well, the obvious answer is my dad, right? He never pushed me to ride, but when I started expressing an interest he was there with a bike for me to ride and a few helpful suggestions. When I was "too cool" to wear a helmet during my first couple of rides, he never hassled me, just let me be and rode with me. I know that sounds negligent, but if he'd pressured me I would have balked, and it could all have ended before it started. I know, I'm a thick-headed idiot, but whaddya gonna do? When I rode up Mt. Rose in 1:15 in my first time trial, he bought me a nice new bike. When that bike was stolen, he helped me get another one. He's always been there, enabling this awful(ly wonderful) habit of mine. And . . . it has brought us closer than anything else could have.

That said, it's not entirely fair to give him all the credit. My co-workers at REI, Hung, Tony and Nick, also drug me out on rides, gave me endless moral support as I tackled the Death Ride during my first year on the bike and on my 21st birthday, and made the sport fun for me. Taking that a step further, Nick dragged me to my first mountain bike race, didn't let me race beginner (conceding that I could race sport if i insisted, but should really be an expert), took me to Sea Otter, Auburn, Downieville, nationals, etc, and got me involved with the UNR cycling team, through which I met Cody. Nick and I went to 12 hr races together and he accompanied me on long road rides to help get ready for them. We won enormous trophies and ate lots of Swedish Fish and listened to Death Cab for Cutie. He lured me away from the stupidness of 21 and showed me a life of being healthy and happy and on 2 wheels. We kind of lost track of our friendship over the years, but more than anyone else I am more grateful to Nick than he can possibly know for helping me find this life I love.

Who did I look up to when I first joined a club?

Oh, UNR Cycling Team, how I love you. My first year on the team was amazing. There wasn't a person I rode with who didn't make me laugh and inspire me to ride faster. I found myself in this totally new situation of opening up to people and going with the flow of things. Some people I've lost touch with and some who I kept a connection - what an amazing couple of months that was.

One person in particular who comes to mind as being a total inspiration is Amber Monforte, who's gone on to be a crazy ultra-man record setter. She was a triathlete even then, and I think is the reason why I enjoy time trialing so much. Without fail she would be my 30 second girl up Geiger, and she'd always tell me "good job" when she rode by me, so totally effortlessly. Out at Cold Springs I would compare my time with hers and want so badly to be that fast. We never hung out or said much to each other, and I don't know if we ever would have had much in common, but I had a ton of respect for her as a cyclist and it inspired me to work hard and aspire to be faster.

Who keeps me going in cycling when it gets too hard?

It's cheesy and obvious, but Cody keeps me going. When I'm overtired and feeling fat and slow and having a meltdown about how much I suck and I should just give up, he's the person who points out all the improvement I've made, and reminds me of how much I love it. When I get sick of 4 hour road rides, he's the one who rides Hole in the Ground trail with me and keeps me challenging myself. He's the one cheering for me at crits and cyclocross - cheering so loud that he can be heard on the other side of the course - and standing in the feedzone to hand me a bottle and for a 5 second glimpse of a 4 hour race. He's the person who made it possible for me to race all this spring while I worked 15 hrs/week, who bought me a time trial bike, and who has been scouring Ebay to find me a full suspension mtb so I'll have fun riding the trails in Massachusetts. Can you say wow? Wow.

And, as any road racer will tell you, my team. I'm super sad to be leaving them, but having a great team this year was so inspirational. When I crashed at Cascade, struggled at Sea Otter, and sucked at the district time trial, having a support group who can all tell you that they've been there, done that, and things will get better is unbeatable. What totally amazing people - so happy to have gotten to race with them!

Who pats me on the back when I do well?

All of the above. Like I said, I haven't stayed in good touch with everyone, but those I have, even just on Facebook, are always ready with a pat on the back and a kudos, and it always feels so good.

I'm so totally grateful to everyone. Really, I know that sounds like a big stretch, but really, everyone who's ever offered a kind word or a hand up, thanks. In addition to teammates and close friends, there are plenty of other people I've raced with, formerly been teammates with, or been supported by. But I think starting a comprehensive list will be stupid and overly time consuming. Needless to say, those who I'm leaving when we start our eastward adventure - I'll miss you! And thanks for the awesome memories.