Aug 23, 2008

girl and her bike

this is me. and my new bike.
it finally arrived.
and after the cluster that was getting it built - a build that included three trips to the shop (not close by) to pick up parts that should have been included and an amazingly weird manufacturer defect which was a freakish dud of a deraullier hanger;
it's finally built.
and its mine.
this is the first bike that is not a hand me down.
now, don't get me wrong -
i get some pretty sweet hand me downs.
but this one is all mine. and it fits.
i don't have to fight it and its not a tank.
in fact, it's light as heck.
so when i crash, i am not crushed like a bug underneath
and its' lightness is
good for shouldering & running up a hill or some stairs.
i love my new bike. and the super sweet zebra handlebar tape.

Aug 20, 2008

mantras and mojo

last nights' training agenda included dismounts, more sand, more tight cornering and for the big finale; shouldering the bike (you hop off your bike and in one lovely fluid motion, place it on your shoulder, so you can run up a set of stairs, a muddy hill, or a yard sale of riders that may have gone down right in front of you). only my motion wasn't so fluid or lovely. and after my first run up the hill while shouldering my bike, one of the team coaches took a moment to explain 'don't do what she did'. what i had done was create a major traffic jam in my pathetic attempt to get bike off my shoulder and remount in one lovely fluid motion.

i didn't have the dismount/remount mojo last night and i was getting pretty frustrated. i was on a too-big-for-me borrowed bike (again). but at least i am moving in the right direction as the borrowed bike was a cross bike and not a tank of a mountain bike. now, while i may not have had the dismount mojo going for me, i had another kind: the passing of people on the cross course mojo. i actually passed people. and people, i am telling you this is unprecedented. especially when i tell you the circumstances under which the passing occurred.

i passed people in a turn. a tight turn that they took too wide (which is my usual m.o.) and i went on the inside and passed them and was over the moon and then i passed more people every now and then going into the sand pit. don't slow down at the sand pit people, just pedal pedal pedal. well, actually - if you are a woman in a race with me - go ahead and slow down at the sand pit, cause now i know i can pass you.

i'm totally digging the team cross practices. there is coaching at every corner. literally. coaches stand at every corner of the crazy tight ziggyzag thing they have us doing through trees and sand and yell: don't touch the brakes! get in the drops! next time do it faster! don't touch the brakes! higher gear through the sand! and if we really suck, they'll call us over for a little chit chat. i got two chit chats. one was bigger gear in the sand. the other was actually to get off the drops in the turns, cause the bike was too big and i was fighting with it.

most of the things they yell jive with the mantras i am saying over and over in my head: lean the bike, keep body upright / pedal pedal pedal / dont touch the brakes dont touch the brakes dont touch the brakes / look where you want to go look where you want to go / get off the brakes! get off the brakes! / dont stop pedaling dont stop pedaling / pick a groove and pedal pedal pedal.

the cool part is its' not even just the 'official' coaches who help out. we started our first warm up lap and instead of my usual, comfortable spot dead last in line, i was towards the front - and was so worried that in mere moments the entire team behind me would just blow by & leave me in the dust (literally - i could not believe the dust that was flying around) that i said outloud to the new teammate behind me: team passes me in 3, 2, 1 ... (really, a very defeatist attitude). he says, "get on his wheel". i swear, it didn't even occur to me. i think getting on someones' wheel is only something you do on the road; but sure enough - i got on the guys' wheel and was able to stay with the pack (a bit) longer. i still totally eat this team stuff up. i love that everyone offers up advice and tips on how to go about everything in this strange new world.

the other mantra i found myself chanting was i can't wait for my cross bike i can't wait for my cross bike. cause i'm pretty sure that being on my own bike is going to make for some very good mojo.

Aug 19, 2008

the towels too?

the marathon mobile which has now been dubbed the team bus which is usually parked at my husband's office is now parked in front of our house. not because we are going away to any bike race or camping trip, and not because we are having the white trash trailer park party i am dying to have; but because it got broken into.

in one day.

my husband went to work yesterday and did his usual looksy-over the airstream only to find the door a little bit open. someone had tried to pry the radio out of the dash, they pried the little dvd players off the wall in the back bedroom and made a general mess of things. it didn't look like anything was actually missing though - so my husband went into the office, called the police & filed a report. and then, cause he was at work, he worked.

only while he was working, someone went back to give it another go. they broke in (again) gathered up all the things they had pried off the wall, dumped all the kids shoes out of a little milk crate that is at the front door and piled their loot into the crate. they didn't take the crate though, they just left it, all nice & neatly packed by the front door. perhaps they were going to take it with them on a third break in.

i went out to the airstream this morning to look for something and i saw the crate full of dvd players, some of the kids' videos (maybe you can get a lot of money for shark tales and night at the museum, what do i know?) some tools, and most curiously; the brand new towels i had bought in preparation for cyclocross races. (i've been getting the bus ready to serve as team headquarters at 'cross races this fall - towels are good things to have: they can be a nice mat for muddy feet, a cover for white couches and can wipe off muddy racers).

i look in the crate to see that the nice fluffy new towels were about to be stolen and i'm thinking.

dood. really? you were gonna take the towels too?

Aug 18, 2008

lay off the americano

for the past week we have had infuriatingly intermittent internet and its driving me to distraction and the drink. i wonder what we ever did before internet and i see what a habit checking my email has become when i wake up and head to the computer before i realize that we are offline - its like when the lights go out in a storm but you still flip a switch to turn a light on. so during our outage, i've taken to blogging and working from the coffee shop and no, my girl crush is not here today. but i have been here so long that i feel i have to justify taking up this space by drinking. large americanos to be exact.

so i'm trying to catch up on emails and i'm trying to work on a website and keep an eye on a forum post that got out of hand and figure out cowbell and water bottle orders and cafe press shops for team off-the-bike apparel and i'm reading blogs and writing them and i'm instant messaging my husband ranting about this and that mostly about the fact that we dont have internet and its taking too long for the photos to load on website and i come here to work and can't send emails and he tells me the the airstream (a.k.a team bus) got broken into and thats another whole series of instant message rants then he tells me to lay off the americano. i think he's onto something.

sign of things to come?

my daughter was invited to go to the state fair last friday with a friend and her family. given the choice between kids cross with her parents, sister and brother or the state fair; she pretty much jumped at the chance to go to the fair with a friend. um. kids cross? done that. state fair? with a friend? that's a once a year gig. she quickly changed (apparently the outfit for kids cross and state fair are different) - mostly it required the removal of 'cross boots and the addition of a hello kitty purse. and we waited for her pick up. and we waited. and waited. i knew it was going to be a late night when the family got held up a bit and didn't arrive to pick her up until 8:30 - which is basically her bedtime. but its a once a year thing, this was a big treat. so off she went, happy as a little clam. the mom said they'd be back in a couple of hours. ok so that's 10:30 - i factor in parking and figure we won't see her till 11. that's pretty late. but i'm going with the whole itsonceayearanditsabigtreat thing.

but by 10:30 i am exhausted and head to bed. i figure dad can wait up for her. but dad fell asleep on the couch and was woken up by family's phone call at 11:30 that they were wrapping things up and headed home. apparently my fair-weary little girl walked in the door at midnight (only i heard about it the next morning when i ask my husband what time she came home) and all i can think about is what will it be like in a few years when we fall asleep holding a phone in our hands waiting for her to come home from dates or nights out with friends. and i think we have a ways to go before we worry about that cause she's only 8; and i think we might stick to kids 'cross on friday nights for a while.

Aug 15, 2008

hanging on

just a little bit longer. i just wanted to hang on longer than i did last week. it didn't have to be much, i just wanted to be a little bit further along when i got shelled. that was my goal for last nights' club ride. the same ride that i left a while back because it just got too fast; the same ride on which i got my ass handed to me almost every time i ever did it.

but last night was different. oh, it was still fast alright. in fact, it was a faster average speed than the tuesday night worlds'. but the best part? i didn't get my ass handed to me. i rode smart. i stayed tucked in the pack. i hung in well past my goal of just making it to river road. at one point during our blazes fast roll through the park, as we were coming up to a stop, i saw my husband looking back for me, and usually, when he looks back for me - i am way in the back of the pack. and i usually give him a nod that indicates i am still there, but barely. but tonight? i rolled up right next to him, and said "you looking for me?" and i totally loved that he was looking for me in the back, but there i was. feeling fine. well ensconced right where i should have been. front third of the pack. on a wheel. not out in the wind. bike coach was very pleased. i was right where he's telling me to be for months. only i had always felt that i could never actually get there. now i can.

and because i had my head screwed on right and was riding smart, i made it to river road and then some. at one point though, i was struggling to close a gap that was no bigger than a bike length. i just couldn't do it and was about to pull off in the hopes that i could get on a wheel and rest and give the guy behind me a go at closing the gap. out of nowhere an angel in barbasol blue swooped in, pushed me up to close the gap and disappeared into the line. i had a wheel again, but the guy who had been behind me had fallen off and i was last in line. hang on hang on hang on. i watched the miles per hour on my computer. 25. 26. 27. hangon. 28. hangonhangonhangon. holy shit. 29.

that was it. i couldn't hold it. i know by being the last one in line i was in the worst possible spot. but it was all just fine and dandy with me. i traded pulls with the guy behind me to catch them, but we never did. i lost him & joined on with two other guys and went up mockingbird the fastest i have ever gone up. i lost them near the top, but was over the moon about the whole ride. i had never hung onto that particular ride for that long. i would have freaked out a few months ago at someone coming out of nowhere to give me a push. and not too long ago there was no way i could have held 28 for as long as i did. i went into the ride with all kinds of negative thoughts in my head about my perceived abilities and came out of it feeling really good, with a nice big boost to the fragile bike ego. ahhhh. always fun to see that you really are making progress. i really needed a really good road ride. i might be starting the 'cross training, but i still have one more race to finish off my very first road season. this weekly race should have me ready for that one.

now, next week? hang on for just a little bit longer. ride just a little bit smarter.

Aug 13, 2008

picking a groove

if it's tuesday, it must be team 'cross practice. we had our second skills and drills night last night and after a review of some dismount & remount drills, it was off to the sand pits. you read that right: sand pits. (we're riding on an old overgrown, defunct golf course that has been claimed as a cyclocross course) we got a brief explanation of the best way to ride through the sand -

pick a groove.
stay in it.
don't try to steer.
pedal, pedal, pedal.
keep your weight off the handlebars
high cadence, bigger gear.

and like a bunch of lemmings, off we go to the sand pits. the first one wasn't so bad. probably because it was sort of packed down. not so fluffy. no worries, all it took was the team coach and a pick ax to fix that problem. every time we came around, he was hacking at the sand to churn it up and make it deeper and harder to ride through.

after the small pit, it was onto the big one. same thing: pick a groove. stay in it. i came up a little hill and looked down into an ominous, long pit of deep, groovy sand that i was supposed to ride my bike through - here's the thing about these team practices thats really good for me: i can't puss out. cause there's about 20 people in line behind me waiting to go through the sand pit too. so while i may want to turn my bike around and go home, i gotta just do it. pick a groove and stay in it. first time through the pit, i dumped. second time through the pit, i dumped. third time through the pit, i didn't quite pick the right groove and wound up steering my bike all over the place, and i just made sure to keep pedaling, and i made sure to keep the weight off the handlebars and the front wheel was going everywhere and i couldn't believe i hadn't dumped yet and i was laughing so hard and pedaling my bike and holy crap i came out the other side! i may have even shouted out a little ye-haw or woo hoo or something to that effect. i was laughing so hard the guy behind me asked if i was crying or laughing - for someone who wanted to cry at the top of the hill, i came out the other side thrilled.

a few more runs through the sand pits for the gang and we were off to some tight cornering drills. cornering, as you know, is my favorite thing. um. yeah. not so much. the tip for the corners: same as on the road - get in the drops! and relax. i know about both the drops and the relax. one (getting in the drops) is easier than the other (the relax). at any rate, getting in the drops was going to have to wait as i was on a mountain bike.

about the bike i was riding: the sweet cross bike that i blogged about here was just too monstrous for me. we didn't really know you need to size down so much for cross, nor did we take into account size differences between manufacturers. anyhow, that bike is on its way to some lucky guy in california thanks to the magic of eBay. but, i am out a bike until mine comes in at the end of the month. so in the meantime, i've been riding a friends mountain bike. this behemoth of a full suspension bike is responsible for the ginormous bruise i have on my hip from lugging it over barriers and my aching wrist from trying to carry all kabillion pounds of it up stairs. in short, i was riding a tank around the course.

onto the turning. picture twenty people going around in a slow circle with a crazy tight turn that just led into another crazy tight turn. uphill. i think i made it around unscathed the first time. not sure. but the next three, four, five times? i dumped. every time on the hill. i'd hit the hill (and it really was a weensy thing. tiny, yet steep. a couple pedal strokes and you're up. should be no big deal. right?) and right at the very crest, i'd spill over to the left, or off to the right. it would sort of be slow motion yet strangely faster than i could stop it. so there i'd be. on the dirt. still clipped in. crushed by the weight of the tank i was riding. and thankful that whoever was behind me never ran over me. i'd flail like a bug stuck on its back with a bike stuck to its feet and wrench myself out of my pedals, and then try to look cool while doing a really pathetic re-mount onto the bike all the while trying not to notice the traffic jam my fall had caused. i'd come around the sharp turn to hear the team coach yelling to me: pedal faster! what are you looking at! look where you want to go! next time do it faster suzanne! when all i was trying to do was get back in my pedals in time to crash again as i came around to the hill.

after most people had moved onto other pursuits of 'cross insanity, my husband made me stay back to keep trying the hill. he wanted to know what i was doing to have crashed every time. i think i was leaning too far back or something, cause my front wheel would come up and off the ground. i'd be doing some sort of mini-wheelie thing at the top and then it was goodnight irene. so he made me do it again and again and again. and i think i made it abundantly clear that i was less than thrilled at having to visit the scene of the accident(s) over and over again. but then i did it. without falling. a couple of times. huh. what do you know. maybe there's something to that whole "practice makes perfect" thing.

you just gotta keep doing it over and over again.
and then do it some more.
find the groove.

Aug 10, 2008

girl crush

my husband had a shameless schoolboy crush on the coffee girl at the shop around the corner from us. he would bring our daughters there on weekends to get coffee (nevermind that we had just made a huge pot at home). the thing was, if his coffee girl crush was working that day, he would get all flustered and could say nothing more than his order. he couldn't even muster up a hey, good morning. how are you? or, can you believe this weather we're having? he'd clam up and just give his order, get his coffee and leave.

that coffee girl is gone now. or maybe she has a different shift, i don't know. but there's a new girl. she has pretty eyes, cute sassy hair and a nice smile. and when my husband and i went in this morning to get coffee after our ride (nevermind that we had a huge pot at home); i placed our order and coffee girl was chatty and cute and all smiles and friendliness, sunshine & light. i was somewhat mesmerized by the pretty eyes and cute aura of sunshine and light (and i don't usually go for cute, sunshine and light or girls). nevertheless, as i paid for our coffees, i had to stop myself from blurting out - you're so pretty.

clearly, it's not my husband who has a crush on the coffee shop girl this time.

Aug 8, 2008

i got what i asked for

after my best race ever a few weeks ago; according to my listen-to-your-body-first-season-of-bike-racing-training plan that my husband has got me on (which really isn't a plan, it takes zen training to a whole 'nother level - the real plan will start in season two) i've been taking a little post road racing / pre 'cross season breather - still riding, just not as much and not as hard or as long. but its' been two weeks and it was time to get my ass back in gear. specifically, i needed to get my ass handed to me and i knew just the ride that would do it. my body was telling me it was ready to go and wanted to suffer a bit.

several months' ago i had been doing a smaller club ride that left from a local bike shop on thursdays, but it started to get crazy fast as the testosterone ramped up and the ride turned into a slight notch below another tuesday night worlds', (a.k.a. the weekly ride race that all the big boys do) so i switched to the bigger and slightly slower club ride for the summer. but last night i needed to go back to the local bike shop ride knowing it would provide the best opportunity for an ass kicking.

mission accomplished! i totally got my ass handed to me. the ride was fast. just about as shit crazy fast as i knew it would be. now, as fast and intimidating as this ride is, i really like it - there are maybe 20 riders as opposed to the masses on the other ride and a majority of the 20 are my teammates and friends with the occassional tri geek thrown in (and i am referring to two guys in particular from the ride - neither of whom i have ever seen.) now, let me take a quick moment to gripe about these two tri geeks in particular - not any of my friends who do tris (disclaimer: i am sure the following gripe will alienate some of my readers, not to mention friends so my apologies - but its my blog, and these dudes were nuts). now i know all of the crazy wind- cheating acoutrements of your tri bike serve a very specific purpose that shave nano-seconds off your time - but dude, its a club ride. not a time trial. so please -don't ride a club ride in your aerobars; and do you really need that big huge sippy cup attached to your handlebars with the straw up to there? it doesn't look very aero to me anyway. like i said, its a club ride. 25 miles. can't you just reach down and grab a bottle out of your water cage? leave the sippy cup home. ok ok, maybe he needed to practice sipping from that honkin' cup while on the roll in his bars to make sure he could do it on some kabillion mile ride he had coming up - but dood, do that on your own time. you're wigging me out. and are you wearing headphones? aerobars, big sippy cups and headphones freak me out as much as basketball shorts and toe cages on a club ride.

clearly the two tri guys wigged me out on yesterday's ride. i couldn't get away from them and they were driving me nuts. i finally did get away and mumbled something to my husband about them being in the aerobars through the park - he told me not to worry, they wouldn't be with us long. but that's what i was worried about; i knew i wouldn't be with "us" long either. and figured i'd be stuck with tri guys who were all over the place in their damn bars. at least they provided amazing incentive to stay way the hell up front as long as possible. and if i got thirsty, and i was too lazy to reach down for my water bottle, maybe they could stretch that foot long straw over my way so i could have a sip.

i did in fact manage to stay up towards the front for way longer than i expected. it was hard as hell and i could barely close the slightest gap - i could have kissed the guy who moved in and bridged it enough so i could hang on his wheel. but my ride with the group was over when we hit a series of slight downhill turns. keywords: downhills and turns. my biggest weaknesses. but the fact that i made it to the series of downhill turns and didn't get dropped a few miles earlier after the hairpin turn in the park was huge progress. now, the suffering really began as i tried to chase back onto the group. i kept thinking i could get them. i'll get them on that hill. i'll get them at that light. i was momentarily thrilled when i saw the group ahead at the light before turning onto river road - figured i was totally back in the game! but the light turned before i got there, i watched them all turn, one beautiful moving mass and i made a stupid move in the name of keeping up with the group, one that gives us all a bad name when i turned just as the light turned red. i never did catch them but was elated because geeky tri guy was back at the light making some sort of adjustments - perhaps to his sippy cup. my elation was short lived however, when just a few miles down the road tri geek blew by me sipping on his stoopid straw. alright, truth be told he wasn't sipping on damn straw, but he may as well have been. karma can be such a bitch.

after my solo suffer-fest that was river road in a headwind and the insult of being passed by a guy with a monstrous sippy cup attached to his bike, i see a teammate waiting for the group at the turn around - i was desperate to get on a wheel and rest - so i pulled a u-turn and stopped to wait with him -- we started up again just after the first fast group and waited to get swallowed up by the others. there was no big group - it had all been split up into bits and pieces, but each friend or teammate that passed me shouted get on my wheel!, and as much as i tried, i just couldn't stay there. even though they were. right. there. so. maddeningly close. i was completley cooked. stick a fork in me.

cooked as i was - i was still delusional enough to think i could still catch someone once we turned off river road onto the slight gradual hill where people usually rest & i can start to pick them off. but it was not to be yesterday. could have been my bad karma. its okay though. a while back, i would have berated myself for having fallen off the back, but i knew what the ride was going to be and i am thrilled i hung on as long as i did - even got kudos from the bike coach. i have added this particular club ride to my weekly ride roster - will try to hang on longer and longer each week. between team cross practices on tuesdays and the thursday road ride, (and believe it or not, i have added running back into the mix) my ass will get kicked plenty. and i should be ready for the last road race of my first ever bike racing season, and ready for my first ever 'cross season. let the ass kickings begin.

Aug 5, 2008

cross training

cross training has begun. or rather, training for cross has begun. what is cross? you ask, my faithful running friends who still stop by to see what this former marathoner is up to? maybe this will help explain:

here's the crazy thing: in cross, you are riding your bike, happy as a clam, (ok. i have never raced cross and from what i understand, maybe you aren't as happy as a clam, but stay with me here) and then - omg. there is a barrier. (a.k.a. something way too friggin' high to ride your bike over) and it is put there on purpose (its part of the gig) so you have to get off your bike whileitisrollingpickitupandrunoversaidbarrierplacedinyourwaythengetbackonyourbikewhileitisstillrolling. and there are a bunch of these barriers (not to mention sand pits, tight turns, mud bogs, all manner of crazy shit that should not really be on a race course) all over the place - some are manmade, and some are natural barriers. so you do this obstacle course over. and over. and over again. lap. after. lap. after. lap.

so it goes like this: ride your bike. keep riding. keep riding. now while still rolling clip your right foot out bring it back behind you over the seat so that now both feet are on left side of bike and bring your right foot forward between your left foot and the bike so it's in front and your left foot is still clipped in and you are still rolling now put your right hand on the top tube to take some of the pressure off your foot especially if in eggbeaters then automagically your left foot hopefully comes out of the clip if not you're going down if you dont fall then pick your bike up and run over the barrier with it then as you are still running or at the very least a slightly fast canter of a walk if you are a newbie throw your right leg over the seat aiming for the thigh so as not to maim your va-jay-jay and balance ever so carefully on the edge of your seat while you hope your bike still rolls forward and get your shoes onto the pedals while you are still moving forward and clip in. ride your bike. keep riding. keep riding. repeat.

i wont even go into hole shots (which after mounts & dismounts is number two on the list of things that scare the shit out of me in cross), sand pits, mud, or tight turns just yet.

tonight was our teams' first skills and drills night on the cross course. i am happy to say that i can actually dismount without crashing and can remount (although not quite while running, its' more of a semi-fast canter of a slightly faster than a walk thing i got going on) also without crashing. i'm not saying i didn't crash tonight. because i crashed quite a few times; and got stuck in my pedal a bunch of times and i am pretty sure i almost took out about 3 guys going into a shit tight turn on the first obstacle; but all that said - much of the fear that exists for me in road riding (the higher speeds and the asphalt) are absent in cyclocross. the speeds are slower, and its likely that when ( i don't say 'if', because i WILL crash) i crash, the surface hopefully is more forgiving. i will be sure to link to this statement when i post about my first real crash - we'll see how forgiving it is.

my husband thinks 'cross will be the key for me in getting my handling skills for road racing and riding in gear. all i can say after my very first official training cross night is that it was an absolute blast. this is gonna be fun.