Jun 30, 2008
Jun 27, 2008
so i ask her: "finally, what?"
"finally someone else knows that girls rule. it says so right here. i've always known that."
apparently, she's been harboring a little secret and was pleased as punch that she's known all along that girls rule and was simultaneouly relieved to know the jig is up; because she sat back and let out a big sigh. phew. now everyone knows. girls rule.
Jun 26, 2008
am i runner?
um. i used to be. i mean, i've run 3 marathons, i've pr'd on a hilly mofo of a course on one of them, i had a stellar half marathon pr a while back and i ran my fastest mile ever last fall. for about two years running (no pun intended) i was logging over 25 miles a week. easy. sometimes over 35. i was totally a runner. i remember crossing the finish line of the local half marathon 3 years ago (before i had become, in my mind, a 'runner') and watching all the marathon finishers get a mylar blanket wrapped around them; i saw the 'real' runners as the ones who got that blanket and i wanted one. i now have three of those blankets and the finishers medals to go with them.
but now? now i can count on one hand the number of times i have run since april. and this doesn't bother me. its neither here nor there. it just is. but am i still a runner? am i a runner if maybe i run once every two - more likely every three weeks? am i still a runner if my brand new trail shoes have seen less than 10 miles of trails? and i bought them a month ago?
once a runner, always a runner? i don't know the answer. so her question stumped me and caught me off guard.
"are you a runner?" she asked.
and knowing she does not need
to hear the long version of
how i used to run;
in fact ran quite a bit
but got burned out and
i'm taking a break,
and i'll go back someday
but not now.
i simply said,
"no. i'm a cyclist".
Jun 25, 2008
anyhow, at the same time i was excited to be a part of some official team training, i was skeered. really skeered. and really nervous. i knew i'd need to grab a big handful of HTFU before i arrived at the course.
lets just say, i didn't grab a big enough handful. after an evening of a pseudo-mock crit, cornering skills and drills, gladiator bump and drills (shouldering on the course and going around turns, trying to block people out - who knew cycling could be a full contact sport?), and some coaching; i won two awards: one for "needs the MOST improvement" and another for "biggest candy ass". i almost got one for most foul mouthed too.
as much as i sucked, it was a great night. i'll be back for more every wednesday night till the big race. love my team, love training with them. my goal is to win 'most improved' by race day. wish me luck.
Jun 23, 2008
i'm riding to my regular monday night gig -
the skirt ride.
and it's a hot night.
so, like always when its hot out,
my jersey is unzipped a bit.
but unlike always,
i am wearing a sports bra i haven't worn since this incident -
i really shouldn't even still own the bra,
not sure why it wasn't thrown out after the incident.
but, it was on top of the laundry pile and i was in a rush
and the incident never even entered my mind as i threw it on
and headed out to ride through the heavily populated park.
so i'm riding. i'm riding.
and i totally think i'm cool.
but then, something doesn't feel right.
something is amiss.
it feels quite breezy.
dare i say chilly?
so i look down.
there it is.
almost one year to the date.
its like a wardrobe malfunction
Jun 18, 2008
road race morning started with a mandatory racers' meeting at 8 am and a fog delay. nobody had any idea what time the race would go off. it was up to the sun and whenever it burned off the fog. in the meantime, i went to one of the most ominous meetings i have ever attended: there were warnings about visibility. warnings about trees across the road and no one was really sure if they had been cleared yet. there were warnings about corner marshalls and the fact that maybe there weren't enough. there were warnings about neutral feed zones, neutral bridges. there were warnings and instructions about lead cars and follow cars - but the most ominous warnings were those associated with the tunnel. this race took us though the nada tunnel in the daniel boone national forest. it was 900 feet long, 12 feet wide and 13 feet high. we were told it was wet. we were told there were lights and that as opposed to the previous years where someone had gotten into the tunnel and turned all the lights to face the riders (such that they couldn't see any better than if the tunnel were unlit), the lights were facing the racers' backs and there was someone at the entrance to ensure no one was jacking around with the lights. there were more warnings and more heeds to caution than i can count, and with each one, my heartrate climbed up a notch until i swear, i almost had to put my head between my knees and just breathe. i was just waiting for a warning to watch out for the flying monkeys.
everyone walked out of that meeting slightly shell shocked and wondering what on earth lay ahead.
fast forward through warm ups and locating our babysitter, filling water bottles and getting last minute tips from teammates, to the start: we are on the line. right foot clipped in ready to go.i was most excited about this portion of the stage race. i knew it would be a huge challenge, yet i was confident about the hills and i was confident about my ability to stick with the pack for a longer time than any other race. this was a long race, there would be no early crazy attacks or jacked up pace. as we rolled off the line, it was all very civilized and lovely.
this was my biggest race to date and felt the most official: we had a pace car in front & two follow cars in back. we immediately fell into a conversational pace line and started rotating. about 7 miles in the kenyan asked if anyone had to pee and since several women did, she proposed a neutral pee stop. we waited till we hit a shady spot, waved the cop car in front to stop, the follow cars stopped & more than half the group dropped trough and peed on the side of the road. would have been really great if race photographer had captured that moment.
it stayed totally civilized for quite a while. everyone took turns pulling. i even came out of my usual routine of "hide & ride" to do my share of the work. we all wanted to work together. another racer and good friend advised me to take short pulls, as i was the only cat 4 rider & everyone would understand. i told her i wanted to contribute to the overall effort as well as be closer to the middle of the pack ready for the attack - she said it would happen in the hills; and as we were at the base of the first climb, and i saw her pull out of the line just a bit to tighten her shoe, i knew the attack was imminent. (new racers take note: if someone takes a moment to tighten shoe, they are about to attack. that, or it's just a big hill - in this case, the two coincided). and sure enough, i watched as the cat 1 riders took it up a big notch & gunned it up the hill. the few that went with them would eventually fall back to our group & i knew this would happen, so i just stayed put - never even tried to stay on the attack. i had no chance in hell of staying on and was much better off conserving energy rather than blowing myself up trying to stay with the cat 1 girls. this first climb was a mile long and strung the entire group out. it climaxed at the nada tunnel. i had no idea this was where we'd encounter the tunnel; i was the first girl in our group up the hill and was alone - i suddenly looked up to see a huge wall of rock, i could barely see the entrance.
i took my sunglasses off and in i went. i think i was the only racer who loved the tunnel, but the fact that i went through it alone may have had a lot to do with it. it was lit, albeit poorly - but i thought it was very cool. the downhill coming out of the tunnel was the type of downhill that makes me wonder if one can wear out their brake pads in one ride, and had the kind of turns that had me wishing i had valium instead of enduralytes in my jersey pocket. that said, i think i did a pretty swell job of a descent and our group, albeit a smaller one - all came back together.
it was a long race and no one wanted to be out there alone. our small group worked together really well - i pulled on the smaller hills and rollers, the others pulled on the flats and downhills. at the bottom of one of the hills, just as i came around to start my pull, i dropped my chain - as the group continued on, they said they'd wait for me. (as i said we were a very civilized group). i got my chain back on, and started up the hill - and caught the group again. it would be a few miles before we hit the major climb.
i am watching my mileage thingy knowing that we'll be at the ginormous hill soon. it was called sky bridge. there is only one woman in our group that has ever ridden this course and knows the hill. when i hear her start to shift down, so do i. i went into this hill supremely confident. just two weeks prior i had ridden up one of the hardest hills i had ever gone up. when i asked a teammate if the hill in the race was as bad as the local hill that i thought was pure hell, he said "no". i was thrilled. i figured if i could climb the local hill then i could handle whatever the red river gorge had to dish out at me. i was not worried.
we start the climb, and the confidence carried me far. but not quite far enough. i did the math (on the drive home - no way i had the brain power to do the math while riding that hill, nor did i know how long it was ) the average grade was 9.5% and i think about .8 mile (post-script: i have since found out that sections of sky bridge hill were 18-22+). it was good to not know this. i pride myself on my hill climbing and like to think i am good at it. but i hadn't met a hill like sky bridge. nor had i ever done a climb like this at mile 25 of a 52 mile race. there are 4 of us. the talking stops. the breathing starts. the pace slows. i pass one woman. i pass one more woman. and now i am on the wheel of one other woman and hanging on for dear life. not that you are getting any sort of benefit from any draft, i just wanted to be close to someone - there was a camaraderie in the misery. we stayed together for a while. she was awesome and when she heard my breathing change, she talked me through it, telling me to settle in. breathe. i tried to not look up. i didn't want to know how much further we had, i was too afraid it was nowhere near over. the only thing i could think about was forward motion, forward motion. and how much my legs hurt. i started to zig zag across the road to make it 'easier'. i was trying to maintain 6mph, but then it went to 5, and then 4mph, and i tried to keep it there. and i'm zigzagging. and i can't look at anything or think about anything but those damn numbers on the speed thingy. it hits 3mph and i before i can talk myself out of it, i clip out before i fall over. and its too late and too steep to get back on. so i walk. at the same time that i am disappointed in myself for being off my bike, i suddenly look up to my left and realize that the road takes a hairpin turn to the left and goes up even more. the disappointment at being off the bike turns to relief that i am not on it. i pass two other dudes who are also walking which makes me feel immensely better. i turn and see the photographer at the top of the hill and yell up, begging her to refrain from taking my picture. i thought for a moment about throwing my bike over my shoulder and making it look like i was in a cyclocross race instead of walking my snazzy bike up a mountain in a road race, but that required energy i didn't have. it took all my energy to yell at photographer to not save that moment for all time. but i've just saved it in writing and now i actually wish i had a picture of it. the photographer was telling me she climbed this hill 3 times (twice in a race) the first 2 times, she walked, and the third, she made it all the way up. thank you, i said. i am not the only one.
i got back on near the crest, thinking there would be a nice long downhill on which to recover a bit, but there was nothing but more rollers. these were hard and painful. i started passing guys that were way off the back of the category 4/5 men. i was totally alone by this point - i knew 2 girls were still behind me. i crested another hill and saw a vision in green at the feed zone - the mother of one of our younger racers was up there in our team jersey handing out water bottles & i was thrilled to have successfully gotten the bottle hand-off. - i totally read about how to do this in my racing 101 book.
miles 32-38 were some of the toughest and loneliest. i was out of the shade of the forest, in the sun, on a long flat stretch. my back hurt, my legs hurt. i still had a long way to go all alone. just when i am at my lowest, i get caught by one of the girls and we decide to work together the rest of the way in. we also think that by rotating, we can reel in the girl ahead of us. we never did reel the woman ahead in and never got caught by the woman behind us. it was just the two of us to the end. when she found out that i was doing all the stages and was in the GC (general classification - you must compete in every stage of the race to be placed in the final GC ) she said she would give me a lead out (she'd pull for me down the home stretch giving me a moment to recover from my own pull and the energy - hopefully, to outsprint her to the finish line). this would ensure that i got more points and had a shot at being in the money in the overall standings. (she had not done all 3 stages and did not need or care about the points). in the end, this actually did not matter as it was an ominum and you did not have to participate in all stages to be in the final results - are your eyes glazing over yet?. we traded pulls for the last few miles, and as we made the last turn to the finish, i got on her wheel ... she increased her speed - i stayed in her draft and when i thought i could hold the sprint long enough, i pulled out from behind her and gunned it for the finish. she basically coached me through the whole lead out and sprint to finish. it was so fun, i felt so strong and when she crossed - we gave each other a big hug. i was amazed at her generosity and she assured me she had an equally good time and said "how will you learn how to do those things if no one ever shows you, if you can't try it out for real".
i came in 7th overall in the omnium. i love racing my bike. i love meeting these amazing, supportive, more experienced women who are happy to give advice, help, support and lead outs in your biggest race to date. i was on cloud nine from the entire weekend. i raced 3 races in two days. i felt amazingly strong all weekend. i fueled, hydrated and recovered between stages perfectly. it all came together and was absoultley perfect. thank you jen.
Jun 17, 2008
i started the race right where my husband told me to start - on the line. my goal was going to be to get out in front in an attempt to delay the point at which i would get shelled off the back. we get the little lecture from the official, he says go. so we go. and holy shit are you kidding me? i cannot clip in! the entire field just goes and i am rolling, yet still trying to clip in. never been off the back so fast in my life. never been so pissed off while on the bike in my life.
i spent the entire first lap chanting the most explicit expletives i could think of - and believe me, i thought of some doozies. i was furious. and this fury lasted the whole race. my legs felt crazy strong, i had energy to burn and just couldn't burn it all up because i didn't have the skills (or the guts) for the corners.
Jun 16, 2008
i got a little taste of what the finishing racers were upset about when i was lined up at the trailer for the start: there were corner marshalls at the busy main intersection by the time i came through, but it was still jacked up and confusing. there was an ambulance, a fire truck, 2 policemen and a corner marshall volunteer. i watched the cop screaming at a car to stop and i saw the corner marshal waving me left, and i just hoped to hell the driver was going to heed the cops warnings as i made a left turn directly in front of it.
next up: food, recoverite, water and a nap. i came across the finish line around noon and had another race at 3:45.
photo: shari parker
Jun 15, 2008
the kind of cloud that is lined with shiny, fast flash point wheels,
and a shit hot new upgrade of a carbon fiber bike.
i just got back from my first-ever stage race.
a three part race report forthcoming.
three races in two days.
i gotta lot to say.
but first, and most importantly,
i love love love love love
Jun 10, 2008
now, here is where the cast of characters come in. and because i know that some of my faithful running reader friends are now trying out the bike thing & riding the occasional club ride, i'll give you a few tips if you haven't already figured it out the hard way: when you are on a club ride, you learn to look out for the people that you want to stay away from. the people who might make your nightmare of learning what road rash feels like come true. now, i am sure that when i started on the club rides, i was one of those people to stay away from. but i'd like to think i am not anymore.
anyhow, the people i tried to stay away from would include: hairyback racerback tanktop man, neon bike shifters on the down tube man, crazy spin man, random erratic braking in a pace line man, basketball shorts and sneakers with toe cage dude, mr. big ol' t-shirt flappin' in the breeze and ms. red shorts (nothing wrong with red shorts, she just tried to run me off the road cause she wasn't even aware that i was there - hello, you are on a club ride, there are other people all around you honey. and, disclaimer #2: nothing wrong with shifters on the down tube - i started on a bike like that. i have fond memories of having to think way the hell ahead of time before i made a shift. and nothing wrong with neon. it's good to be highly visible on the bike. i just didn't like being on his crazy ivan wheel. although i'll say this: neon bike man is strong). not that there is anything wrong with any of this - separately. but put it all together on a club ride and it makes up for one jacked up ride.
then there are the people you want to be with (that is, if you can't be with your teammates who smartly rolled out of the parking lot first). you seek out a rider with a smooth spin, someone who can ride in a straight line and someone not wearing basketball shorts. (i totally get that everyone has to start somewhere. i mean, maybe he hasn't made the commitment to cycling yet and bought the cycling shorts or the clipless pedals. i was in this place once. i totally get it. but good god. dude was just a danger to society - albeit a damn strong one. the dude could not be shaken).
back to my jacked up ride: as i said earlier, ms. red shorts almost ran me off the road. i had to pull out of the draft more times than i can count to save myself from ramming right into erratic braking in a pace line man. don't even get me started on basketball shorts and sneakers in toe cages dude. that guy was all over the friggin place. dude. do you not see we are in a line? i thought i'd be better off just pulling out of the line and falling to the very far back, or pulling out of line and hauling ass to get up front and then weasel my way back into the paceline further up. i pulled out and even though i was feeling good & strong, the line was long and i knew i didn't have the strength or power to make it up front alone and i couldn't find the ambassador to escort me up there. i was thrilled every time i did drop basketball shorts dude, and hairy back guy. and then completely dejected every time they were somehow back in my general vicinity again. then there was a point at which the paceline fell completely to shit and everyone was all over the place - moving in a weird chaotic mass.
i knew it wouldn't be much longer before i could drop all their crazy jacked up asses when we turned off river road onto a long, gradual climb. usually on this ride, people drop like flies upon turning here but i was surprised that once we turned, the group was still going at a good clip. it wasn't long though before i started to count them off one by one as i passed. i think it was about sixteen, and there were still 5 people in front of me, 5 people that i knew would be tough to catch: the ambassador, cool racer chick, mr. big ass fans, neon bike guy, and - to my very great dismay: basketball shorts dude. (i didn't think he would be tough to catch, but dammit he was). at the very tippy top i got cool racer chick, but mr. basketball shorts got away from me. i even held off from out of nowhere tri girl with her tricked out tri bike who tried to pass me on the hill. um, i'm sorry, but that aggression will not stand.
now here's the thing: while i was busy smugly judging my fellow riders, and joyfully picking them off one by one on the long hill; they all passed me - every damn last one of them on the very last tiny little hill: basketball shorts boy, neon bike guy, hairy back guy, and i think some others i hadn't even noticed. damn. that jacked up cast of characters was strong.
needless to say, i was a little bent out of shape upon returning home. but the redeeming spin of the night came when my husband and i came home from our respective rides and headed out on another one with our three kids, who now all can ride their two-wheelers. in addition to my growing list of rides - club ride, pancake ride, skirt ride - i can add playground ride; it'll be a regular gig now too.
we rode with the kids to a local playground where on the way, our youngest almost took us out more than once. that girl cannot hold her line. it's gotta be hard though, when your flip flop keeps falling off and your webkinz bounces out of your basket. she'd have fit right in on tonights' club ride. i actually would not have been surprised if someone was riding in flip flops and had a basketful of stuffed animals.
Jun 7, 2008
and travel sort of far for said race
and pull into town the night before and hear all the tornado sirens going off.
and to hear the rain and watch freakishly scary lightning light up the sky all night
and to wake up race morning to more
rain and cold and lightning.
but still. we were there to race.
we travelled far. we bought the gas.
we were ready.
we even got special permisson from race director to park the team bus (a.k.a marathon mobile)in the high school parking lot (a.k.a the race start/finish)
we fueled, we hydrated
we skipped wine at the big dinner the night before.
and sure, when we woke up this morning it may have been daunting to see the lightning flash and the rain pour down from our relatively dry spot under the airstream awning while we warmed up on the trainers. but the numbers were pinned on our jerseys. we're racing, right? ok it was slightly nerve wracking to think of racing in that weather, but my race didn't start until later in the morning, i thought at least i might be in the clear. my husband and other teammate who was bunking with us weren't going to be so lucky. i just kept thinking about a running race. i mean, if it rains on marathon morning, the show must go on, yes? you just do what you came there to do. while we may not have really wanted to ride in the deplorable conditions, we were forging ahead. it was race day after all.
then we heard the start was delayed 15 minutes.
then it was delayed 30 minutes.
$150 worth of gas
$60 worth of race fees
$50 worth of dinner later
kits off, crank the tunes, make a new pot of coffee, bitch & moan for a bit - okay, longer than a bit - get the bikes back on the rack & head home.
disappointed, mad and with a whole lot of unused race energy.
on the drive home, we call all the other team members who were going to race and plan to get together and have a good hard, our-race-totally-got-cancelled-ride when everyone gets back into town.
but the long hot ride home zapped some of our energy.
fourteen measly miles into the ride, i was nano-seconds away from throwing up,
and i could feel the vice-grip of a headache start to take hold.
i had already been depleted my water bottles.
the damn weather was still totally killing my buzz -
it wasn't lightning and rain this time, but
it just took whatever was left of my istillsototallywanttogetahardrideintoday buzz,
and squashed it into the ground.
and then i think it spit on it.
or maybe i threw up.
i'm not ready for this heat.
and being at a race, ready & raring to go -
and it gets cancelled?
total buzz kill.
Jun 5, 2008
i'm talking about a little T & A. as in mine. they have comeback. in the two years that i spent diligently training for three marathons in the hopes of a BQ, my T and my A gradually wasted away into nothingness. and by nothingness, i mean weensy. tiny. get a microscope. we're talking pygmy boobs people. and my ass? flat as a pancake. gone. incapable of even remotely respectably filling out a pair of jeans.
now, i have never, ever in my life been well endowed. i have never really had to wear a bra and actually find them to be a complete useless nuisance. i feel silly in them, like a little girl playing dress up. on one particular and very rare bra-buying occasion several years ago, i went into victoria's secret and announced i needed a bra; when asked what size, i shrugged and said i need your smallest size - she looked my tiny girls right in the eye and said "you certainly do". one might think a comment like that would crush me, but i never cared - i loved my tiny boobs. until they turned into pygmy boobs; then they were something that even their mother couldn't love.
and while i never had any junk in my trunk either, there was something there. enough to hold up some pants, look good in a skirt and fill out a bikini bottom. and it was nice. until two years and three marathons later when my ass went flat and my boobs were sad little flaps of skin and i looked like a 12 year old boy, and while i'm on the subject of more than you ever wanted to know about me, i may as well add in the fact that i hadn't had my period in two years. i practically was a 12 year old boy. there was nothing girly about me. i was skin and bones.
i had always hated thinking about or talking about my weight. i guess i was blessed and lucky in that it was never really an issue for me - i've always been relatively thin and perfectly happy with my weight, so i never did think about it. when i first started running i was still carrying around a little post pregnancy weight and when the training really stepped up, it was fun to see how quickly those last few pounds dropped off. but when the pounds didn't really stop dropping, and it became a struggle to keep weight on during training, and i was embarrassed by my protruding hip bones and the fact that my chest took on a caved-in look and i wound up on the sidewalk at my second marathon; it wasn't so fun anymore. i had reached a new level of skinny. i wasn't the skinny i had been my whole life, this was a new skinny and it wasn't a good or particularly attractive one. it wasn't a skinny that could sustain my own damn self, i was literally running on fumes. enter jen and her magical nutritional mojo. i learned how to eat properly while training for another marathon and watched the numbers on the scale go up ever so slightly and ever so slowly. i got my body back into balance and the crowning achievement of knowing everything was back in balance was when my period came back. i know that some women would love to never have their period; but when i lost mine, i lost touch with my body. i had always been uber in tune with my highly regular cycle and when i started running that awareness was gone. i was overjoyed the day it returned. it meant i had a touchstone again.
i've been pleasantly surprised these past few non-running months to see my T & my A slowly comeback and fill things (okay, small things) out properly. even though i am riding 150 miles a week and burning god-only-knows-how-many calories; i am able to maintain a healthy, normal weight. people i haven't seen in a while tell me i look great - they say i look fit and healthy. which is code for: you were too thin, we were worried about you. (actually, its not really code. they said that). i look good in my jeans again. my cycle has stayed and is as regular as ever. and i have boobs again. they may be tiny. but they are darling, glorious little boobs. and they are back.
i feel normal again. i feel like a girl. and i look like one. i have never felt stronger than i do now. (granted, i totally wish for more strength when me and my bike are hauling ass on the flats or desperately trying to stick to someone's fast wheel); but i love finding the thing i think my body was built for - i feel like a girl blessed with a body that was built to climb hills with her bike. a healthy girl with tiny little T's and a little A.
ahhh. i love a good comeback story.