Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'Cross and Turkeys

Here are the promised turkeys. They live at our house. They're not mine, and I'm not going to have any part in the murder of consumption of them. They're the ugliest creatures I've ever seen, and they have large talons.
Yeah, this is what I look like when I'm doing really well.

And this is what I look like when I'm stuck in suck. "Why is that girl running around me? I'm hella fast. She'll be sorry when I go around her again." (She wasn't, because I didn't.)

I was doing so well getting caught up here, and then suddenly two weeks have gone by and I’m off the back again (in oh-so-many ways).

Truth is, nothing very interesting has been going on. I’ve been looking for work, and at this point can say that the search has been a success. I am now employed at Masconomet Health Center, which is an assisted living facility in Topsfield, MA, as a diet aide. It’s an OK job, pay’s not so great and I had to get stabbed with numerous needles to get hired on there, but if I ever make the leap back into higher education to finish my dietetics degree and do my internship it will be really helpful to have a little more work experience. If/when, whatever. I also have a few applications out to jobs that could be both more lucrative and more interesting (and not quite as long as a commute – it’s about ½ hr to Topsfield) but those positions don’t close for a little while yet, so it’s good to know that I’ll have a little income coming in one way or another.

Last weekend I raced the third and fourth races in the Verge New England series – Downeast Cyclocross at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, ME. It’s pretty cool having a regional series that’s UCI, really. Day one was probably the best race I’ve had at any UCI race I’ve done. My start was typically pathetic, even though I’ve been working on them pretty intensively lately. But once I got rolling I had a great race – slowly working myself up into the money. Both my fitness and the bike handling felt totally dialed, and it was a wicked fun course. I had one of those magical moments when I saw 4 laps to go and I thought, “I’ve totally got 4 laps left in my legs, and I need all four of them to pass more people.” Although I was still a few points away from that UCI point I need for a second row start, I finished feeling totally stoked. My goal for the next day was clear – have a good start, so I didn’t have to spend so much time and energy getting around people.

I got to crash at the lovely house of friends in Portland, ME, just 20 minutes away from the race. We cooked a lovely dinner with farm-fresh veggies and I got to sleep nice and early. There’s nothing better than staying with friends at a bike race.

The sky was looking threatening at the start of my race on Sunday, and one girl told me that, “the cows are all laying down, so it’s going to rain.” Luckily for us, it held off for our race. As for the race itself, I had a great start! I got into my pedal nice and quick and made some passes on the pavement, then kamikazi-ed my way around a couple girls as we funneled into the dirt. And then . . . it all kind of fell apart. People started passing me and I thought, “Why are they doing that? I’m going fast, aren’t I? Oh, I’m not? Crap…” Anyway, it was a rough day, but I congratulated myself on my awesome start and for actually finishing the race, even though I was getting a lot of pity-cheering as I limped along MINUTES behind girls I’d smoked the day before. You know, they two people clapping half-heartedly, saying in a tone of voice normally reserved for the terminally ill, “Good effort, keep going.” I mean, I know they mean well, but I still feel like throwing rocks at them because we both know that it is NOT a good effort, and the only reason I’m still keeping going is that I paid my stupid $40 to be there and it would be even stupider to quit.

So, the goal for next time is to combine Sunday’s start with Saturday’s awesome riding. Totally do-able, right? Totally.

Long Overdue, no doubt.

I was just working on a really fun post about what I've been up to the last couple weeks - travel, friends, bike racing, mystery, intrigue . . . well, maybe not the last two. But someone brought it to my attention that my blog has thus far neglected to give notice to a very important supporter of the life of this unemployed bike racer, my mom.

Just so you know, Mom, you brought this upon yourself.

This is the email I received:

Dear Marian Jamison,
I was surprised on reading a bunch of entries in your blog tonight to find no mention of your mother ANYwhere, whereas there are dozens of stories of your wonderful father encouraging you, buying you bikes, riding with you, etc. You are lucky to have him, as the man is obviously a saint. It is apparent your mother must've died giving birth to you. How very sad! My sincere condolences.
Yours truly,
A Fan

Clearly, this is an oversight on my part of criminal proportions, and I seek to remedy it immediately with this, an Ode to my Mother.

Ode to my Mother

Oh mother, with your hair of ever changing hue
How I miss your daily entreaties to pick up the dog poo
Tho I am sure his absence causes you great remorse
even as you assure me with forked tongue that mine is worse
Through discount clothing stores in solitude I wander
wishing you were here to join me in my frugal quest
(You above all should forgive my abandonment of rhyme
as clearly you did not bestow upon me your poetic gift)

Perhaps the hitherto lack of biography of you
is because our moments transcend retelling, too
Surely no one can appreciate the laughter that brings tears
when I tell you to "put on your big girl pants" and abandon fears
If even he closest to me cannot understand our delight
in the ridiculous nature of our furry friend's plight
The stories would surely be wasted on the world at large
be it no reflection on the times that we spend.

And that's all I've got. Yeah, I should stick to non-poetic forms of writing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where'd I go? Part 3

More boring bike race photos . . . there are no pictures of you on cycling news when you come in 30th.

East Coast Cyclocross, yo.

On our first day back, first thing I did was swing by the shop, and title sponsor of my new cyclocross team, Seaside Cycle! We’re also sponsored by Antero Resources, which is an oil drilling company, so I’m told, and a very generous sponsor. The new kits are pretty cool looking.

Anyway, I tried to get the 5 day car ride out of my legs over the course of the week, because just 5 days after arriving here I got to race the New England Nationals – Gloucester Grand Prix. Racing in my hometown is awesome. Seriously, there’s nothing better than sleeping in my own bed the night before a bike race. Plus, there’s a lot more people in the crowd cheering for me! Which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how the race goes.

Over the course of the week I went on a couple of rides with the guys on the team. One was a relaxed spin, with a little technical skills riding, and checking out of the weekends course in Stage Fort Park. The second day they were heading out for some “threshold intervals”. I figured, oh, I’ll probably get dropped, but whatever. Right before we started I was informed, “340-350 watts for 15 minutes.” Hahahahahahahaha! Even sucking wheel, that was too much for my yet-unrecovered legs. I did my own thing, and spent the rest of the week trying to get my legs reattached.

Anyway, the race ended up being super fun. I had done only one ‘cross race prior to this one, at Folsom Cyclebration, which was several weeks ago. Day 1 of Gloucester was, as a result, incredibly rough. In addition to being LAST after the start and crawling my way through the tight turns, I totally died about halfway through and lost 5-6 places. The good news was that I seemed to work the rest of the yuckiness out of my legs in that solid 45 minutes of pain, and I didn’t get lapped or pulled. Sunday’s race was much, much better. I was solid throughout, and beat one girl who’d tried to ride me into some park benches when I passed her the day before (bitch). Seriously, she did. And then when I cracked she passed me again, so I was pretty determined to not let her beat me again. Hooray! The bad news is I sucked on all things running, despite actually training the run this fall. The good news? Um, I sucked less than the day before at everything else! Hallelujah.

This weekend was the Providence, RI UCI race, which I bailed on at the last minute because I’m unemployed, still, and broke. And really tired, which makes me thing I might be fighting a cold or something. Next weekend I’m heading to a regional race up in Maine, and the following weekend is the second in the Verge series. I’m having a bit of a slow start to the season, but I think things will improve a bit by December.

And now . . . I’m going to go ride my mountain bike.

Where'd I go? Part 2

Riley was pretty excited that we didn't leave him behind.
Oh, the humanity.
The orange flames made us faster . . .

The Drive

In the space of 10 days I spent about 60 hours staring through a windshield. Sure, that’s nothing by long-distance trucker standards, but I ain’t no trucker.

First was the drive to Grass Valley to meet up with my dad, then I got to ride shotgun while he did all the driving to and from Ferndale, then I had to get myself home. That was about 12 hours total. Then I got home to a flurry of packing and cleaning. Monday we packed, Tuesday we cleaned. Wednesday we left Reno. Mapquest says it’s about 48 hours to drive from Reno, NV to Gloucester, MA, and about 2900 miles. It’s not quite all the way across the country, but pretty damn close. We have two cars, 2 cats, 1 dog, and 5 bikes (which is well down from what it was just a month ago). As such, we each drove solo, accompanied only by our furry friends and the sound of eachother’s wisecracks through the walkie-talkies we brought. And, in my case anyway, several audiobooks. It probably took us a little longer than Mapquest predicted because we were towing a trailer with the Jetta and we put all the heavy stuff in the back of my ol’ Hombre. What I mean is, we rarely could go faster than 60, except for those stretches of Nebraska where we had a killer tailwind and we could kick it up to 65.

We started with the kitties in a crate in the Jetta and Riley with me. This was my idea, as I thought the kitties would overheat if they were crammed in a crate in my non-air-conditioned truck. Unfortunately, Cody and the cats have a relationship of mutual dislike but forced tolerance (forced by yours truly, of course). What can I say – Cody is not a cat person and they’re perceptive little buggers. After a day and a half of listening to the cats yelling at him, and repeated attempts to drown it out with music and ear plugs, Cody couldn’t take anymore and we swapped furry friends. Riley thought it was great that he was finally allowed to ride shotgun in the Jetta, and the cats were so thrilled to either get out of the crate or get away from Cody that they stopped hollering and found cozy places to sleep.

Anyway, most of the trip is kind of a blur of staring at the back of the trailer (I just followed Cody the whole time). We stayed in Motel 6s, which, along with the food, got progressively worse as we entered the Midwest and improved again as we approached the East Coast. When we finally crossed out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania I privately to never, ever, ever live in the Midwest. As a matter of fact, the Pennsylvania Motel 6 on our last night was the nicest of the trip (although the Wyoming one wasn’t half bad either).

Saturday was our shortest day and when we got to our nice Motel 6 we had time to go for a walk and go out to dinner. We walked to a little diner really close to our hotel and were thrilled to be eating non-fast food. We even got ice cream (because there’s nothing you need more after spending 10 hours a day in a car than a bunch of empty calories!). I got a Frownie, which I found hilarious and also worthy of mention. The other funny thing was our waiter, who, whenever I would say thank you, which was quite frequent because I’m so fucking polite, would respond with . . . wanna guess? No, it wasn’t “you’re welcome”, or “no problem” or anything like that. He would say “Yes.” Just like that. Totally deadpan and serious. I loved it, and kept saying thank you to elicit more Yes’s. It was awesome. I think I love Pennsylvania. Or, I loved it until the next day, when we got a flat tire on the trailer. This was actually kind of scary, since we were going 60+ on the freeway and one of the tires totally blew out, and started smoking as it ground down. I expected the trailer to flip over off of the road and drag Cody to a horrible firey death, but it maintained its vertical integrity and we were able to safely stop to fix the flat. But I’m getting to the part about not liking PA anymore. As we were stopped we noticed that there were HUGE MILLIPEDES EVERYWHERE! Yes, HUGE FUCKING MILLIPEDES! Okay, I only saw a couple, but come on, ONE is too many. Anyway, we had a spare tire and got the trailer up and rolling again and proceeded on our way. That day was the day of crazy drivers too, further affirming my suspicion that east coast drivers suck. No offense or anything, crazy East coast people, but you’re crazy.

We left on Wednesday and arrived in Gloucester on Sunday evening, just in time for dinner. It was a surreal feeling to finally be here, with my cats and dog and all my earthly belongings. To tell myself, “We’re home.” Still getting used to it – well, duh, we’ve only been here a week and a half. But we’re mostly unpacked now and I think I have a job, which I’ll tell you all about if I actually get it. Now I should probably go do something productive with my day, like ride my bike or find some internet access so I can actually publish this post.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Where'd I go? Part 1

Yeah, long time, I know. Lots of changes, as you undoubtedly know. Let me back way up.

Tour of the Unknown Coast

The problem with waiting 3 weeks to write about something is I forget all the neat little details I’d wanted to include. For those who are unfamiliar with it, this ride is up in Humboldt County, a 2 day 100 miler, with about 10K feet of climbing. The first day is the longer of the two, about 70 miles. You ride down Avenue of the Giants, through the Rockefeller Grove (which is amazing) and finally climb up Panther Gap, which is probably 6 miles with 2500 feet of elevation gain (just a wild guess on that one). You then descend to Honeydew, which sounds sweet but in actuality bears a striking resemblance to scenes from Deliverance. Both the scenery and the people. But they’re used to the spandex crowd, since this ride takes place twice a year and the little shop there sells lots of cokes and snickers to the participants. So it’s not as sketchy as one might imagine. Anyway, you then proceed about 10 miles, following the Mattole River down to a little campground. They feed you dinner, and the next morning the Grange Hall down the road hosts a pancake breakfast with lots of Bisquick, ham, and Folgers. That begins the second day, which starts with a nasty little climb that isn’t really that little. There follow a number of these things until you descend to Cape Mendocino, and ride along the coast for 10 miles or so. This section is notorious for having a soul-crushing headwind. You round a bend and you see it – The Wall. I’m pretty sure every ride in Norcal has something called “The Wall”, and each probably deserve the name. This one is probably 24% for about ¼ mile, then drops to probably 20% for another ¼ mile. It’s not all that bad, but it’s definitely an epic ¼ mile, and if one were to go all crazy at the beginning and try to hammer up it they would soon find themselves walking. It’s long enough that you need to measure your effort a bit. Anyway, you then have a nice fast little descent and then hit “The Shadow of the Wall” which is probably 5-6 miles, starts out quite steep, and then levels out to a nice tempo climb. I like this one. It starts to seem interminable, but then you’re at the top and you have a fast descent back into the town of Ferndale, where you started the day before. An epic two days.

Anyway, I love this ride, me and my dad try to do it every year, although I haven’t made it up there the last two. This year the weather was a bit . . . wet. The first day ended up being pretty nice, cloudy but dry. Dry, that is, until we got to the top of Panther Gap. Then it decided to get really cold and wet for the descent. It’s not a very fast descent, and has a number of 10 mph hairpin turns. So it takes a long time to get down and by then I was pretty much freezing. Rather than loading up on cold cokes at Honeydew I contemplated the rather murky looking coffee and decided I’d rather just get on with it and get to camp and get dry and warm. As anyone who’s done much camping will tell you, setting up a tent in the rain sucks ass. But then I was dry and warm, although it seriously limited the afternoon activities. Usually we go for a swim in the Mattole River and relax in the sun with books and, in my dad’s case, his guitar. This time around we were confined to our tents with books. C’est la vie. We walked through the rain to dinner. I think I must have walked through some Poison Oak, as my ankles exploded in it four days later as we were driving across Wyoming (I’ll get to that part, maybe not today). Anyway, after stuffing myself with cheese ravioli and listening to my dad try to explain to a group of people why reality TV isn’t real, we walked back to our tents in the rain and called it an early night.

You know the sound of rain on a tent fly? I think it’s a great sound, you know, when I’m in the desert or something. When you’re in the desert and it’s raining at night you know you’ll be greeted the next day by clear skies and dust-free trails. Now, Humboldt County is not the desert. If I had to classify it I’d probably call it rain forest, but that’s a gross exaggeration of course. Anyway, all night long I heard the rain falling steadily on my tent. I slept surprisingly well, and woke up to . . . rain still falling on my tent. I’d talked myself up about riding in the rain before falling asleep, and I was determined to have a good day riding, regardless of rain or wind. It seemed to be letting up as we walked over to the Grange for our pancakes and bad coffee. We packed up wet tents, put on wet shoes, and jumped on wet bikes. The clouds must have dumped all their rain during the night, because it was surprisingly dry! A pleasant surprise, indeed. Not only that, but the stretch along the ocean was calm and gorgeous. The Wall felt easier than in years past (although my 58 year old father dropped me on the way up – curses!). We kept a good pace up the Shadow and passed lots of people who’d set out earlier than us that morning. Mostly-dry roads made the descent back into Ferndale fun and fast.

And then . . . it was over. It’s one of those things where you feel both victorious and a little sad that it’s time to pack up and go home. It was my last ride in California and with my dad before packing up all my crap and moving out to New England. It was fun, but also a little sad. The entire plan for our move out here was built around me getting to do that ride, and I’m so glad I did. Anyway, as my dad said, those mountains will still be there the next time we do it.

The Wall!

Ahh . . . the ocean. No headwind is a big plus!
Cold, wet descent into Honeydew.
Rockefeller Grove = big trees and bad pavement.