Oct 31, 2008

clandestine costumed cross

last night was clandestine cross night. or, as it is now known around here, the thursday night throwdown. halloween style. we met on the back nine, aka the beach, aka superfan territory of our beloved usgp course. there was a lot of milling about and drinking beer and laughing and taking of pictures while satan marked our course. and then with an announcement of the rules - which mostly involved beer laps and bell laps and some other stuff i don't remember, we were off on a preview, warm up lap. the course even had a little haunted shed with a glo-stick hanging from the ceiling. after the preview and once the sun was fully set and it was pitch black out save for all the lights on bikes and helmets - we raced. and race is a very strong word for me. mostly raggedy ann and i were out for a scary pitch black sunday ride and called it quits after one lap. thought it might be best to cheer from the beer cooler.

but the others did indeed race, and it is best summed up by our fearless leader, satan himself:(this may be one of those things that is only funny if you were there. in costume. riding around the cross course at night. drinking. and knew all these people i am talking about.) but here goes:

Ripping through the inky autumn darkness with what many called "spooky speed and surprisingly perky falsies", Dr. Bill C outgunned (and out-shotgunned) the competition to snag the win at the innagural Halloween Throwdown. Team Louisville's own Chris "the heavy-hitter" stayed close to the top spot for most of the race, but a critical beer-lap error cost him the win (he chose a bottle vs a can). Opting for raw power over malted barly, Aaron tried to hold on to his early race lead, but his impressive 5.5 minute lap time was no match for the 15 second free-lap guzzle-fest that ultimately decided first and second place. The chase group - led by D.L. "funny femur" Hauber - kept the pressure on for most of the race, but by lap three, many racers started dropping out - lured away by the promise of fizzy goodness and the sexy tri-fecta of Naughty Night Nurse Betty, Ravishing Raggedy Ann and Savory Swiss Miss. (can I get a yodel?) RJ "Ricola" Harris set a blistering pace early on, but an authentic-woolen-leiderhosen malfunction caused some unanticipated chafing and he was taken to the medical tent. He appeared to be recovering well after 1000cc's of brownwater and by the end of the race was seen chatting with reporters. Evel Kennevil took a break from jumping buses and chose instead to come out and jump sand traps and Santa decided to get one more race in before the big holiday push. Joe the plumber came by - still fired up from the Go Sarah!! rally in Jeff the night before - and Boosty Collins scorched the course before rolling back to the beach area to drop some base lines. Back at the beach, Varsity wrestling champ, Steven "the package" Webster kept things interesting in his UK-Blue uni-tard and Mac "Spartan-not-Trojan" Shwab peppered passing racers with lively commentary and good old-fashioned cheers.

the fact that no one is actually riding bikes in the photos below is not lost on me. i realize that. but there was riding. really. there was.

Oct 26, 2008

USGP day 2

on saturday night, after our first day of racing; and our 6th day of guests and usgp course set up and race errands; as we all sat bleary-eyed around the dinner table - my husband declared he was too tired to race, that he felt like crap and was just going to take care of the kids and watch me race. that way, he wouldn't have to worry about finding kids' shoes (even though i had them all laid out by the door) or dealing with lulu's issues over the sock seam bothering her foot or getting to the course a little late cause he has to go to krispy kreme to get donuts to bribe kids out of bed that early to go stand in the cold, or needing to get wheels to the pit or missing any chance of a warmup cause the kids were whining within first 15 minutes of arrival. he didn't want to do any of that again. he just wanted to relax and have fun.

and so we got up insanely early to get me to the course. he had a shower and a cup of coffee and decided he felt a little better and declared he was indeed racing. so we started packing the car again with towels, blankets, hats, gloves, extra jackets, extra socks, gameboys, post race clothes and 100 water bottles. we go through our mental checklist & head out to day two of usgp racing. and we pull into the parking lot and i realize we never fed the kids breakfast, and my brand new brake pads were sitting on kitchen counter. and our youngest discovers she's really cold in the pants that i told her she would be really cold in if she insisted upon wearing them. so while steven runs his wheels to the pit, i help lulu get dressed in warmer clothes which includes a longer, warmer sock change which means i have to talk her through the seam issues with her socks. and my patience is wearing thin and my warmup window is closing. i am gritting my teeth which makes her cry and then i kiss her, say i am sorry; try to wrestle her fingers into some too-big gloves, tell her to go find her sister and then i ride around a soccer field twice for warmup and go line up.

and then i raced. and other than the fact that i was crazy nervous on the line -crazy nervous- i don't remember much - but i felt better and more confident and could tell my riding was a bit better than the previous day. the course was great, had some new off camber stuff and all the scary mud and wet leaves from previous day were gone. but still. its' cross. and this was a seriously grown up course. so it was hard. i was so crazy focused i could barely see. on the second lap, i was shocked to find two barriers that i swear, were not there on the first lap, nor were they there on all three laps the day before. there was a momentary what the fuck? who the hell put those damn things there? i had to run through the two back sandtraps to avoid the crashes in front of me and i pre-empted any "on your left ma'ams" by just moving aside and yelling go! to the little whippersnappers as they passed. and then i finished my race in one place higher than the day before, with one uci point. which feels sorta cool . and then i changed. and watched my husband race. and for someone who looked like hell the night before and said he couldn't do it - he looked awesome. i'd scream "go baby" so loud i made myself a little dizzy.

and then we hung out and would find our kids for a while and get them cookies or drinks or lunch and tell the girl in the craft tent with the cute puppies to kick them out if they got bothersome. and then we'd lose them again for a while. and we'd chat with friends, and drink beer and go to the back sandpit to see the mayhem back there & watch superfan in action. and then we'd go back to the run up, or to the green monster, or the beer tent, or the results board. and then we'd find our kids again.

and then at 1:45, same as the day before; i started to twitter the live action from the elite women's race and then again at 3 for the men's race. and i was totally excited to do this, but didn't really know what i was doing. i started off with a simple just state the facts ma'am sort of approach. but kept thinking it was pretty boring. the announcers were saying all kinds of cool things like "flogging like a mule" and "smackdown" and other cool, sporty announcer type stuff that i could never come up with on my own. hell, they'd go by so fast it was all i could do to see who it was and thumb it out before they came around again. so by the second day i thought i'd just go with a what he said approach, and throw my own flavor in here & there. thank you richard freis and rachel fagerberg for some of your witty quips and letting me peer over your shoulder to see the start sheets and lists of names.

i learned the iphone battery does not last very long when you are sending a text message every 30 seconds to 5 minutes for 2 hours and taking pictures of superfans and gorillas and fellow twitterers with the A from georgia goulds' name painted on his chest and signs that say "pedal your ass off". i eeked the results in both days with a glaring red line of a battery signal and ominous warnings off low battery life. i swear i think the battery was nearly dead just as i typed in the winner each day.

the races over, the results twittered in, and kids about to fall over from exhaustion, we head home to shower and have dinner. and get ready for an impromptu post usgp wrap party. it doesn't dawn on me until 8:00 that the kids have school the next day. i am briefly tormented between being a parent, staying home and putting my kids to bed so they can have a good nights' sleep after the crazy weekend, or dragging them out to go to a party. we chose the party. cause its the usgp. a once a year thing.

it has been one of the wildest weeks ever - a total, busy blast. i think i sat on my couch tonight for the first time since last tuesday. we still have two guests here that leave bright & early tomorrow morning. our guests have been amazing - it was all so comfortable and fun and easy. like we do this everyday sort of easy. its going to be quiet around here. my kids are in love with the race people dudes, as are we. and can't wait till they, and all the fun that they bring with them, racing and otherwise; return next year.

Oct 25, 2008

USGP day 1

cyclocross race #5 is complete. it wasn't pretty, but the fact that it was at the usgp totally made up for it. and i think the rockin' skull and crossbones knee socks provided the perfect diversion to sucky riding.

so. i wake up early and get my warmup in riding down to the race. i wanted to get there in plenty of time to visit sram neutral support, cause my bike was a mess. so, i get my pit pass and go find jose. and while i am standing there in the chilliness; my warmup goes to pot, i watch as jose starts to take my bike apart, and i cheer for teammates as they pass by the pit. i am slowly getting more and more nervous. cause he keeps taking more and more things apart. shit. my bike was a bigger mess than i thought. and he asks when my race starts and i tell him and he starts to work faster. he takes my shifter off completely and puts a new one on. and then he asks me how many times i have crashed in the sand and i say a bunch. i hear the call to the stage for women and i am still standing in the pit watching jose put shit back together. another call to staging and he's taping up my bars. he gives me my bike and sends me on my way with a "good luck" that was less than believable. i yell to the official as i ride out of the pit can you tell them i am on my way!? and i get to the line and i missed my sweet 4th place call up and now i am not on front line, but the second. not that it would make any difference in the end.

i thought the start was sorta scary. it was fast and crowded. this was biggest field ever and i swear, i almost went down when another woman and i got too close. on the post race briefing my husband told me that i had a good first 100 yards, but ran out of gearing. also think i ran out of guts when all those brakes started squealing as we started to turn off the road and onto the course. i soon found myself off the back. i moved up a couple of places, but would lose them again by the end of the race - due to all that crashing and all.

it may have been one of my worst races - being late to the line messed with what little mojo i had going in to this race. this is a grown up course. its tough. i had done a pre-ride the night before and it wasn't pretty. the most terrifying thing besides the sand, the mud, the slippery wet leaves was the green monster. this is a ginormous man-made obstacle of a flyover thingy. we ride under it at one point, and then towards the end of each lap, come around to the stairs - six of the steepest steps ever, a flat portion at the top and then a 45 degree astroturf covered ramp down. while watching this race last year, the green monster looks wild and fun and totally cool. when i got to the top of the flight of stairs last night i was very near panic attack. it looks way scary from up top. i wanted to cry. i thought i dont need no stinkin cyclocross. i can just go home. i let everyone else go before me. i would stand there & stare down the ramp and try to breathe, but i couldn't do it. then, on the first try, i totally fell at the top of the ramp. tool can. my husband was giving me pointers - keep pedals level and if you want to live to see another day, don't use front brake. after an embarrassingly long time up there trying to fight back the tears, i just did it. and it was terrifying. but a total rush at the same time. this is me. work in progress. just conquering the fears, one lap, one green monster at a time. - i can't even imagine what would have happened at the race today had i not gotten a chance to see the beast and conquer it (semi) alone last night. i still had to take a nano-moment at the top each lap today, but i did it.

there were countless "on your left ma'am" moments today as i got passed by more juniors than i care to think about. and its always so awesome to hear an 11 year old whiz by you and say 'you're doing great mrs. webster'. for the love of god. someone just shoot me. but hearing my kids scream the loudest from the turn just off the green monster "go mommy go!" was the best & made up for everything. they ran all over the place and caught me at a bunch of different sections.

i was worried about back sand pit which was long and deep and had a little lip of a hill at the very end. i worried that without the dane's hands all over my ass, i may not make it; but was thrilled to find on the first lap that i made it without incident. the second lap however, i made it to the lip, lost speed and hovered there on the little hill - i couldn't clip out & i started to roll backwards and then - i did a backwards endo/wheelie thing - front wheel up and over and me, flat on my back in the sand. it was a good show and i got lots of cheers when i got back on the bike to keep going. and that is what made it fun. i had a photographer tell me "a little secret" after a flying crash off the bike and into another sand pit "you gotta get up there". yes, thanks. didn't realize that. there were plenty more crashes and on the third lap, my shifter froze and i was stuck in the granny gear - just spinning out with no way to catch anyone.

so, while my racing (if you can even call it that) may have sucked, the crowd and everything else about the day was awesome. it was loud and noisy and fun and i had a blast.

there is much more to write and tell, but i am doing it all again over again tomorrow (minus the shitty riding, i hope) and have to go to bed.

Oct 24, 2008

twitter girl

i got a sweet new gig this weekend (in addition to racing in the usgp): i am the roving-reporter-crossmagazine-live-feed-twitter girl and will be posting race updates throughout the day. so. in the words of the dane: follow!

Oct 22, 2008

fly on the wall

you know how sometimes you wish you could be a fly on the wall and see what happens and what goes on behind the scenes, what is discussed, how it all happens, how it comes together and even better - what kind of drama is going to play out? i totally feel like a fly on the wall of the usgp and its ridiculously fun. i had assumed that this is the sort of tear your hair out stress inducing sort of event that just came with major drama and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. this sort of drama has been lacking. its all been quite normal. as normal as suddenly being the temporary usgp headquarters can be.

i love being this close to the hub. getting the inside scoop. there is a lot of hunching over of laptops. there is a lot of checking of registration, and writing press releases at 4:30 am from dining room table. lots of jersey, jacket and signage fedex deliveries to our house. lots of emails. lots of surveying of a course, there are maps of possible routes all over our coffee table. there's lots of phone calls. one in particular from a pro racer who will not be arriving until late thursday because his sister is having a c-section that morning. and once the phone had been hung up, the thought of why can't his sister schedule that for wednesday instead so mr. pro elite racer can make it to the radio interview is jokingly tossed around. it is decided that radio interviews can be done by phone and then they are on to the next thing. which is lunch. at the local little bike shop cafe haunt.

then, last night as riders started their usual m.o. that is tuesday night cross practice at the local course and rode what they believed the race course would be; there were many stolen glances over at the two folks discussing the course layout. but the main guy who designs the course is staying at our house. and late last night, long after dinner was finished & dishes were done, steven and i sat down next to our guests and new friends and watched as he drew what the race course would be. that was it. done. at our coffee table. and i felt like a little kid with a ginormous secret - even if it was only for a few hours. its' gonna be great.

our guests are awesome. one of whom we already knew was awesome, but i love having two new friends out of the whole deal. two new friends who live in austria in case you ever want to go and visit and maybe run a marathon in graz. there's a fun bustle of activity and chatter about cyclocross, life in austria, kids, school, etc. there are ridiculously funny stories about all manner of crazy stuff and discoveries of what a small world it is i-cannot-believe-you-know-him-too sort of stuff. it suddenly feels perfectly normal to come downstairs at 6 am to find three people in your living room, in their pajamas, hunched over laptops, writing press releases. and then to hang out to talk business ideas and what kind of craft to make out of bicycle tubes in the kitchen while cooking scrambled eggs after the kids have gotten on the bus.

having houseguests who have just come off of blazes fast half-marathons who want to go for a run and ask you to go with them so you can show them a good route is amazing incentive to actually go out and run. and it must be noted that - firstly, i ran. secondly, that the girl (that would be me) who has been on a running sabbatical for six months still has sub 8 minute miles in her.

the kids are enamoured with our guests and as much as i remind our youngest what their names are, she loves to just collectively refer to them as "the race pepole dudes". the race people dudes and my husband and countless others have been down at the course all day pounding in the stakes that mark out the awesome new course. its almost here. we came off this weekend last year and immediately started looking forward to when the usgp returned. the usgp has returned and its' in our house right now and we're having a ball.

i swear, as i finish typing this post, the race people dudes walked in the house - fresh off a day of pounding in stakes. and they arrive bearing oodles of six packs of belgian beer. our houseguests are way fun.

Oct 20, 2008

squeaky wheel

so i had a bunch of errands to run today cause we've got "race people dudes" coming to stay for a bit. the "race people dudes" as my youngest refers to them are the owners/promoters of the usgp. the first race of which is this saturday. in our very own backyard. which is very cool and exciting.

two of the three people are staying in our airstream, one in the guestroom on an expensive blow up bed and i'm trying to be the perfect hostess and make it as nice as can be. i mean, they are putting on a ginormous race series. i can't even imagine the magnitude and stress of pulling something like this off. its a lot of work for not a lot of jack. a labor of love. so as i said, i want to make their stay as nice as can be.

the loo on the airstream is tiny. i'm talking knees hitting wall in front of you as you sit there tiny. and the ventilation is lacking. and we have a rule about no deuces on the bus, but i'm just sayin'. people break rules and sometimes it gets stinky. sometimes it needs some deodorizer tossed down there. the only place i know of that has the deodorizer is walmart. so i go to walmart to get the tank deodorizer and get distracted by the blow up beds. distracted and slightly mad. cause they are way cheaper than the one i just bought at costco for our guest. which had to be pruchased in the first place cause we threw away the guest bed mattress when we discovered that the dog had been peeing on it. so i tried to make myself feel better by thinking that i bet it would pop after a couple of nights of sleeping on it. cause it was that much cheaper. so i finally find the deodorizer in the camping section and am simultaneously tempted to buy cute campy things and freaked out by the very strange man in the hunting section fondling the neon orange blanket. i want to get the hell out of dodge before it gets really weird so i just get the deodorizer and go.

i get my deodorizer, witchy tights to wear to clandestine halloween cross race, pillows for guest blow up bed and i go home.

only to find that the deoderizer never made it into house. never even made it to the car. are you freaking kidding me? so i call walmart. hi. i was just there less than an hour ago and the lady didn't give me my bag off the circle rolly thing. she says wait a minute. then she comes back and says do you have your reciept? and i know i would have to dig through the garbage, so i just say do you have the bag? she says yes but you need your receipt to come get it. and i say how many people have called within the last hour to say they don't have their bag with toilet tank deodorizer and the pack of tupperware containers that were $2.50? she says wait a minute & then puts me on hold. for way too long. so i hang up and now i'm really mad and i go to walmart and wait in line and i have my new york turned up so high that girl is gonna wish she never even met me and i go up to the counter and tell her who i am and what i want and i don't have my receipt and she goes to get my bag and i go home. with my toilet deodorizer.

and then i get all happy and domestic and start to make meals for the week. because i figure if i can just pull something snazzy out of fridge & heat it up, all will be well with the world that is rife with the strife of pulling off ginormous race.

then i get an email from specialized about the water bottles. the water bottles that as far as i was concerned were being shipped today at the latest. only the email is a 'revised art proof'. now i'm really ticked off. and i turn the new york up full blast and write an email about how we spoke two weeks ago and finalized everything and how i understand that in the grand scheme of orders, some girl from kentucky placing an order for 200 bottles is probably not high on the list of priorities but for the love of god, dude - i have been tossed to three different sales people, we have already settled on a bottle that we did not originally want and for more than we wanted to spend all in the name of getting them here in time for usgp and because you realized you dropped the ball and haven't shipped them yet, you're gonna send me a 'revised art proof'? there's nothing to revise! we spoke! it was final! do you not recall that phone call? i got a team waiting for bottles and the perfect venue in which to sell more. right. in. my. back. freakin'. yard. and then i say that if they could rush the order and speedy ship it at their expense, that might make up for the headache. then i get an email back that says we'll have our bottles by friday. my husband always says you catch more flies with honey, but i love it when the squeaky wheel gets the grease. i've never been real good with the honey thing.

and then i'm happy again. and i am making dinner for the kids. hotdogs with grapes. so i put the hot dogs in the buns. and then i reach into the grape bag to pick some grapes off the stem and put on the kids plates, when i see something weird. omg. its a feather. a tiny bird feather. in the grape bag. so now i gotta go to krogers and dump the bag of grapes with the bird feather in it on the customer service counter. and i'm bummed i have to deal with one more customer service person. so i put dinner on the table and ride to krogers and show the lady the bag with the feather in and among the grapes. and she twists her face up and says what do you want us to do. and i say i don't know, what do you usually do when someone finds a feather in your grapes? do you pay their grocery bill for the week? she says no. but if i wanted more grapes i could just go get some. so i go to get more grapes and make a big deal out of inspecting the bag. and when someone looks at me weird, i say - you gotta be careful, cause sometimes there's bird feathers in with these grapes.

and so now the kids are finally in bed, the laundry is done. the airstream is ready for guests, the blowup bed is all made up, fluffy and expensive. there are meals and belgian beer in the fridge. and tequila and bourbon on hand in case of emergency. i always get a little crazy when people are coming to stay for a bit. cause i want it all to be perfect. but the curtains in the airstream loo are held up by duct tape, we have three kids, one crazy dog, one bathroom, and a mouse or two that occasionally run across the kitchen floor. its far from perfect. this is how we roll. we put the fun in dysfunctional. this is as good as it gets. welcome to our home. buckle up. its gonna be a wild(ly fun) week.

Oct 19, 2008

there's a first time for everything

including the thing you are most scared about on the bike; and for me that would be: skidding out in a turn and crashing.

we were pre-riding the new usgp course today with a bunch of teammates and it was great. i had all my new-found-at-harbin-park confidence up my sleeve and felt pretty good. i was thrilled to find that it wasn't just a one day confidence anomaly; there wasn't any of that ever present holy-shit-what-sort-of-danger-lurks-around-that-corner-fear. i could just ride. we were hitting the laps hard: doing the sandpits over and over, practicing the run ups. i was practicing reaching down for the downtube and shouldering the bike. i finally found the right line going into first not so sandy pit. i was practicing not using my brakes, although because it was slightly dewy out and we had been through the sand a bunch of times, lets just say the brakes were a bit noisy & everytime i squeezed them my husband would yell i can hear that! get off those brakes! damn that noisy sand caught on my brake pads.

so we do about a bunch of hot laps. and drilled the tougher obstacles over and over. and then a little bit more.

and then, we did a cool down lap. but really, everyone else's "cool down" lap is a medium lap for me. so as far as i'm concerned, its still fast. so i'm totally proud of myself as i go into a turn without braking - the turn went from grass, onto a sidewalk onto grass again, into a sandpit. so you wanna be going fast and have a little speed going into that little pit. but i was too wide - off the sidewalk a bit, and didn't even really realize it until i was down - when i turned to get back on the sidewalk, i hit the tiny curb and there was nowhere to go but down.

i've crashed a bunch of times on this course. more times than i can count - but its always been an easy spill over into the sand pit, or a slo-mo fall into pricker patch, or up steep hills on a too heavy mountain bike. this one was at some speed. and it happened so fast that i forgot to TUCK! which is the thing that i learned about when i googled what to do in a bike crash when i started racing this spring. -really, i totally googled that. and so instead of tucking, i landed on my elbow. which hurts. and i wanted to cry but i don't think there's any crying in cross. but my pedal made a really cool big scrapy mark of a dig in the sidewalk. and my leg was bleeding too. and apparently, a trickle of blood down the leg is a very desireable and badass thing to have in 'cross (cause everyone seemed pretty pleased & impressed) as is leaving your mark on the sidewalk and having your shifters scraped up a little bit.

so there. i got that whole skidding out in a fast turn onto hard pavement thing out of the way. and lived to tell the tale. which is good. cause the fear of what happened today always held me back. but now - been there, done that. don't need to be afraid of it anymore. it was an awesome practice on all kinds of levels.

Oct 14, 2008

out of the mouths ...

i'm always at my wits end over the mess in my girls' bedroom. we argue about it all the time. i say i can't understand how it can possibly get so messy. i say i can't even come in there anymore cause it just makes me so mad. i tell them they need to clean it. tomorrow. i say this everyday. then i say you are cleaning your room this weekend. do not go downstairs to watch cartoons, do not pass go. do not collect $200. clean your room. and they want to know what do not collect $200 means and i just say it means clean your room. and they say oh so earnestly we'll clean our room mommy, we promise. usually, they'll make some attempts, but mostly stuff is shoved under the bed, under the rug and in drawers. and then they start crying about how hard it is or argue about who isn't helping and pulling their cleaning weight and please can they just leave their room to have breakfast. so they come down for breakfast and then our day gets started or we all go off to some bike race and we forget all about the messy room till the next weekend.

my husband says that they know i will eventually break down and clean it myself. so they don't really give it their all. so i bite my tongue and don't touch a darn thing. i say i won't cave. insist their room can stay that way till the cows come home. i. will. not. cave.

i totally caved today. couldn't take it anymore. and we have guests coming. it's not like i really had two free hours to clean the room. i had a bunch of work to do. writing newsletters, water bottle orders, banner designs, race results to look up, laundry to fold, dishes to do, a house to vaccuum, school forms to sign, checks to write and halloween decorations to put up. but i caved and cleaned their room along with all that other stuff too. and cleaning their room included rearranging it. i love to rearrange.

so they come home from school. they take out their homework and have their snack of halloween cookies nice and warm from the oven. and then, they go upstairs and come running back down mommy! mommy! our room looks beautiful! thank you!

and they hug me.

and then, annabel says to me you should be a housekeeper.

Oct 12, 2008

so that's what it feels like to race cross!

today i finally, finally! got a taste of what everyone is talking about in regards to a cyclocross race. there was dry heaving, there was blurry vision, there were thoughts of throwingupbutsaveittilltheraceisover, there was omgthisissofuckinghardicantbelieveit, there was pleasedeargodwhenisitover and it was awesome.

i pre-rode the course with my husband and could not hide the shit eating grin on my face. within seconds of starting to ride it, i totally, absolutely loved the course. this course was mine. it was made for me. and this has never happened. it was all swoopy and flowy and had a bunch of long climbs including one crazy one after the dreaded downhill 180 degree turn into steep climb and two ginormous sand pits and very little crazy jacked up technical shit and it was perfect. it was 'cross course love at first ride.

they did call ups again at the start and i love the call ups. this was a UCI 1 race, which means it's the big time. i thought friday's field was deep, but it had nothing on today's' field. i think there were about 30 women lined up - about 15 in my race (masters' women 35+). usually, as i sit on the line of a 'cross race, i'm scared shitless about what lays ahead. i'm worried about turns or barriers or remounts or trees or getting impaled by a stake should i fall into one, or maybe an eagle will come out of the sky and pluck me off my bike. but today? i was so excited about the course, i could not wait to start riding it again. could. not. wait.

so the whistle blows and we're off. these races usually start on a wide open road and then turn into a narrow opening - the hole shot. (which is another one of those things that scare the bloody shit out of me). but i was not dead last going into this turn and the fact that i was just pumped to ride the course and not dead last at the start was a great feeling.

so i'm racing. and i'm really racing for the first time ever. there's no death grip on the bars, i feel good, in control and relaxed. that said: my mouth is parched, and i sorta want to throw up and i am riding so hard that at times its' hard to see, and i am not even thinking about the turns, or the stakes or the fact that i have brakes on my bike or how many girls i have passed because counting them off would have taken too much brain power. i am amazed at how fast i can do the little downhill and keep some serious speed into the uphill with a turn at the top and when i turn and my back wheel skids out a bit, but i keep pedaling and realize i didn't die, and i think i am totally cool and badass.

and thinking "you are rocking this race" and "i totally love this course" is infinitely better than: "you are not cut out for this" and "you're a pussy, hang it up".

in the past three races, i always finished with a ton left in the tank, because my skills and energy level (and irrational fears) never quite jived with each other. i would slow down and brake too much when things got too technical or when i was coming upon anything i deemed remotely "scary". but today's course suited me so well, i was finally able to race as hard as my energy level would allow. i left it all out there. finished with nothing left in the tank. i finally got to feel what it is like to race 'cross. really race it - not ride timidly for two laps and have a good last lap, but to race it right from the whistle to the very end. and its' awesome.

my stellar race was not the only awesome thing about the day. i met judi and dominic, and we totally chatted and hung out for a bit both before and after my race - and i heard judi cheering for me as i hit one of the sand pits (running, not riding!). i'm pretty sure they loved the whole cyclocross thing - i don't even know dominic, but definitely saw a little twinkle in his eye and am willing to bet there are two more 'cross converts in the world!

and then this: georgia gould might just be the coolest chick ever. she races in the later afternoon elite pro races, but is at the course for the first races in the morning; she's on the sidelines, with a cowbell cheering everyone on. and i mean everyone. no matter who you are or where you are in the pack, she has something specific to say to you that keeps you going. i heard her at the barriers say "i know it hurts girl, keep going". omg. georgia gould just said she knows how i feel and told me to keep going. i heart georgia gould.

it was a big 3 race weekend of cyclocross - i raced 2 days and my husband raced all three (and is currently in a post race stupor of a coma on the couch - the beer may fall out of his hand and hit the floor momentarily). my husband got a top ten on saturday and sunday and a sweet 2nd place podium on friday. every woman on my team who raced got a top 10 finish (in ginormous fields!) each day including yours truly.

but now, my house looks as if we've been racing all weekend and we have usgp houseguests coming soon and i need to clean the house and the airstream and get banners and business cards made and get back to real life. as soon as i come down from my 'crossy high.

Oct 11, 2008

while the kids are at school...

yesterday morning, just like any other weekday - we got up at 5:50 to start the process of getting 3 kids off to school. but yesterday, instead of getting them off to school & walking back in house to dothedishesandsomelaundryandsomework, we drove to burlington kentucky (about an hour and a half away) for a 'cross race.

which was sort of exciting. felt like we were sneaking in some decadent racing while the kids were gone. and we didn't have to pack coloring books and game boys and dolls and bikes and snacks out the wazoo. we could just throw some bags and two friends in the car and take off.

but mostly? yesterday's cx race was pretty uneventful.

the most exciting part (for me) was the very start. actually, it was before the whistle even blew. they were doing 'call ups' to the start line. this means that instead of everyone lining up willy nilly and hoping to hell you get a good spot, you get called up to the start line according to your standings in the series. when they started to call up masters' women, they called my name first & i got first pick of where i wanted to line up. and if i had really known the best position in which to be to go shit ass fast at the whistle to try and get through that right hand turn in the front of the pack it would have been even cooler. but i don't really know what i am doing. so i just picked the same spot my teammate did when she got called up first in women's open.

it's cool to be called up first. but that cool feeling lasted about 30 seconds for me, cause after the whistle blew, i was pedaling my little ass off and oh so briefly felt pretty happy about my placement and knew there were a bunch of girls behind me; but soon enough every last one of them passed me. and now the girl who got called up first was dead last. ugh.

i managed to move up two spots. and then kept trading spots with another girl for almost two full laps. it actually made things more interesting - we both had opposite strengths: i knew i could get her on the little hills, straightaways and road portions. she knew she'd get me back again in the turns. we discussed this at length after the race - praising each other strengths & lamenting about our shortcomings. we chatted sometimes during the race as we passed each other. we both agreed that the barriers were crazy high and that the best way to take those bike-busting gulleys was at an angle.

i don't have much experience with courses and so don't have much to compare it to; but this one sorta sucked. it was crazy, insanely bumpy, and at one point i couldn't really see - thought my eyes might pop out of their sockets. relaxing my death grip on bars seemed to alleviate that but then just made the flab on my arms feel like it was going to bounce right off. i did, however nail every single dismount. remounts still leave a lot to be desired - the joachim parbo superman remount works for me during practice when i go back and forth in a slow straight line but not so much in a race. i think someone even yelled to me "just get back on the bike any old way!". there were even some parts about the course that i actually liked, dare i say - enjoyed: there were some turny zigzags through some trees. and for me to like turny zig zags through trees (and to not use my brakes!) is unprecedented. to nail every dismount also unprecedented. to not get lapped by any "on your left ma'am" whipersnapper, also unprecedented. to lap dudes off the back of race in front also unprecedented. so. that's progress.

i went into the race thinking "i just gotta ride my race" - and not worry about who is in front of me or final placements and all that blahblahblah. just ride. the thing is: my race isn't very fast. my race tends to be slightly tense and anxious. that said, each lap is faster than the one previous, and with each passing lap i settle in a little more; there is less anxiety and subsequently more energy; but by then, the race is over, and its too late. (note to self: pre-ride more than 2 laps). but the fact that i enjoyed any single stretch of the actual race (and not just the post race brew) is new and fun. i actually rode a little bit better than i ever have and although my results dont show it (also - deepest field to date); weensy progress is being made; one lap, one crazy cross race at a time. so. that was it. after the race, we milled about forever waiting for results, and my husband's second place podium shot. (thank you, brian)

and then, we just hauled ass back to louisville in time to pick kids up at school.

Oct 7, 2008

the dane

a shameless crush was born last year when the usgp came to town and a good friend of ours (also happens to be usgp promoter) thrust some steno pads & pens into our hands with the instructions to "go into the press tent and pretend to be press" - because basically, around here, if its not a race with a horse in it, its not worth covering - and the press tent was shamefully empty. so my husband and i sat in the tent wearing press badges and were totally enthralled by all the pro cx racers we found ourselves sitting next to. ok, my husband was busy being enthralled by wendy simms and my eyes were glued on the pretty boy in red hamming it up for the cameras.

the pretty boy in red was joachim parbo. lets just say i was slightly obsessed last year. did a lot of cheering and cowbell ringing for the dane.

the dane is here in my town. and the dane held a 'cross clinic at my 'cross course tonight. hello. sign me up.

so. we're at the cross course. and its raining. for like, the first time in 40 days and 40 nights. the dane in red calls everyone over, and does some talking. i dont know what he says. he's too pretty. and red is a very distracting color for shorts. but then, he says - "put the bikes down, time for warm up". i think maybe we are going to do some calisthenics or something. nope. he just yells "follow!" and takes off running. and so, we all run after the dane. down the muddy hill, around the cones he has set up, up the little slope, down into pit, up little hill, around cones ... you get the picture. actually, i wish someone had gotten a picture - it had to be hysterical. all i thought was "hey! running?! i can do this!"

we do a whole bunch of drills, the first ones of which involved crazyfuckingtightturns around some cones that are placed freakishly close to each other. you know that whole thing about - looking where you want to go - don't look where you don't want to go, cause that's where you'll go? yep. so true.

cause i'm looking at the cone, thinking "i don't want to run into that cone", and as i'm thinking this i'm staring at the cone and then of course i crash right into the cone right as the dane is watching and i crash and fall in dog poop. dog. poop. only i had no idea i fell in dog poop until we were on drill number 3 and i looked at my leg and i thought "that looks like dog poop" and i wiped at it with my glove & smelled my glove and yes indeedy that is dog poop on my leg. and while i am looking for leaves to wipe it off, the dane is demonstrating how to dismount while careening down the muddy hill into a tight turn with a run up and if you blink you will miss his dismount. and i missed it cause i had dog poop on my leg.

now it was off the the sand pits. we all gather round the dane in the red shorts for a demonstration and a chat about sand pits and then we all take our turns through the pit. i bit it the first time and the dane is screaming at me "get up! get up!". (cause i'm about to get run over by a kabillion people). i may have bit it the next time too. another time, as i am coming through; this crazy dane in red is screaming at me: "no fucking way! no fucking way are you coming in here that slow!" another time he is screaming something else at me and i don't care how pretty he is anymore and i hate those red shorts and i wonder why i ever had a schoolgirl crush on this crazy screaming dane and i don't like him anymore. and i scream "shutup!" right back to him to which he responds "i will not shut up! go faster!" i made it through the pit that time. (my husband is convinced that getting me fired up & pissed off is the only thing that will make me go faster). good god, do i have to go through this pit and be screamed at again? but, like a lemming, around i go ... all the while thinking: higher cadence, floatfloatfloat, pedalpedalpedal, trytolookgoodinfrontofthedane ... and i am trying to go as fast as hell and i hit the sand, and midway through start to lose speed ... next thing i know - the dane has got his hands on my ass. i repeat - the dane has his hands on my ass. and he's pushing me through the sand and up the hill and i yell "thanks!" as i roll away. and i think:

the danes' hands on my ass totally makes up for all the yelling at me.
i can be so easily swayed.

there were more drills. dismounts, remounts. he told me to lower my saddle one centimeter. and he told me to keep practicing. (and in a low moment, i wondered if this was danish for "you suck"). i got some great tips on remounts and i got to practice riding in the pouring rain and mud. and i got a nice big push through the sand from the dane. and this is english for his hands were all over my ass. it was a fun night.

Oct 3, 2008

clandestine 'cross

we have a friend who speaks of a far off distant land called portland. he regaled us with stories of strange lawless people there who engage in underground, illicit 'cross races. he would tell us in hushed tones about how everyone is secretly notified of the gathering place - mere hours before the questionable and possibly objectionable activity is to take place. and of how they all ride off to the unknown race location; to blatantly trespass and race their bikes at dusk. it was like the hash house harriers of cyclocross. only there was no flour marking a trail. maybe just a flag and some orange paint if you were lucky.

we got the email around noon with the meeting place. aliases and alibis were encouraged. i was on the fence about whether to race or just take pictures. because really, who doesn't want to document blatant lawlessness? but also, i kept thinking that one of us should remain law-abiding citizens. i pictured calling our son from the precinct: hey henry, mommy & daddy are in jail, can you put the girls to bed? we're gonna be a while. although it did occur to me that a mugshot would make an awesome avatar. i might have decided to document the alleged lawlessness as well as participate in it.

i can't really tell you where we were. or what exactly we were doing, cause then - well, you know the drill - i'd have to kill you. but we may have been trespassing at an undisclosed location as we raced our bikes at dusk, in blatant view of the soccer moms. there may have been an ass-kicking mandatory run up that by the 4th lap most were walking up. there might have been a death-defying field of walnuts that we had to ride through. there may have been some swigging of some bourbon from a birdy flask. there might have been some cheating and course cutting which is actually the only legal thing about the race and totally encouraged.

but i wouldn't know about any of those things. i wasn't there. and you didn't hear this from me.