Nov 30, 2008


today's race was the kentucky state cyclocross championships. it was held at our beloved local 'cross course; an old defunct golf course that has twice also been the site of the usgp. we pre-rode the course last night - thinking, surely it wouldn't be the exact course we ride all the time. but we were wrong. it was practically - with a few cool exceptions, the exact course we ride all the time. and for this, i loved it. and so during our pre-ride yesterday, with the late afternoon fall sun shining just so perfectly and happy, it was all swoopy and zen. there were no crazy jacked up 180's into uphills or downhills; and i had already practiced all the turns and sand pits and run ups until they were embedded in my brain. i've been practicing for the last 3 months out there. i left the course yesterday happy and confident. i thought, this could be another harbin park.

and then it rained.   
all night.

and a really muddy course was one thing i had never practiced. and unfortunately, as much as i try to convince myself otherwise, mud does not equal happy and zen. so the race starts on a big wide open expanse of grass and goes into one of those turns i have embedded in my brain. and as i head into the turn and see the cluster of girls on the muddy downhill turn in front of me, some on their bikes & some off, or trying to stay on - i look ahead to see one friend hop off her bike, shoulder it and run. and i think this looks like a splendid idea. so i do it too. shoulder and on other spots, where i see people dab their foot to get around a muddy turn. i think this too, looks like a splendid idea. so i do it too. and make it around the turn. these moments, while fleeting - feel good and sorta smart.

there were, however, plenty of places i did not quite make it through. i got tangled up in the course tape more than once. and i bit it in the sandtrap more than once. i did a cool back wheel skid out thing and saved it (by continuing to pedal through it - imagine that); which felt momentarily awesome. until i had to go down the scary muddy hill onto pavement where i bit it again.

for the most part, i felt good and strong the whole time but was a bundle of frustration and nerves and tried to get over my stifling and irrational muddy fears and maneuver my way through the course. and once again, stoopidly, i wrote the race off - thinking i was not cut out for cross and i didn't like the mud. usually, my husband is on the sidelines cheering for me and can see when my head is in a bad self-defeating place. he usually knows exactly what to yell to get me out of it. or, i'll have teammates on the sidelines yelling for the love of god woman pedal your bike! it's like that perfect slap in the face snap out of it sort of thing that i sometimes need. but the men were racing at the same time i was and all i got from my husband (on his way to third place i might add!) was a "hey baby" as we did the run up together. which i have to say, was sorta fun.
i really, really wanted to quit. but i didn't quit. i just kept going. cause there were other people out there cheering. keeping me going. and taking cool pictures.

and then, thankfully. it was over.
and then i rode over to my husband and then, in front of friends, and their small children - who came out into the cold and wet and mud bearing homemade banana chocolate chip muffins, i do believe a few expletives came flying out about how much i hated the course and how badly i wanted to quit. very bad form indeed. next time, i'll keep my mouth shut and leave my rant here so people have a choice of whether or not they want to 'hear' it.

but as soon as i was dressed and warm, and had coaxed my girls out of the warm and toasty airstream to go watch another race, and my husband gave me a big proud hug over the fact that i did that muddy, hard race; i was in love with cyclocross again. as always - when its' over.

i'll also digress here for a moment to also explain that our entire team is rolling in brand-spanking new kits. everything about the kit is new - the colors, the sponsors - everything. and there was a whole slew of us racing. it was so fun to see the sea of blue riders all over the course. the blue and orange makes it easy to see everyone when spectating and makes it easy to determine who you should pull over to the side a bit for to let lapping teammates in the men's race pass you. there was definitely a fun buzz of excitement over rolling out the new kits at this race.
as muddy and as difficult as the course was, and as much as i hated it and wanted to quit; i didn't - and so for that i am very happy. i think back on the insanity of it all and cannot actually believe i took part in the madness and raced that muddy race. and now that its' over, i'm pleased as punch that i stuck with it, and am trying to forget the david millar type moment of a post race rant and can only hope those that were around me can do the same.

so then, race and rant over - i either cheered racers on or hung out with teammates by the airstream and insisted that they work harder to kill the keg of hell for certain that we have been taking everywhere in a weird, have-keg-will-travel way; and i make another pot of coffee on the airstream and set out the banana chocolate chip muffins and straighten things up a bit and realize that maybe i should feed the kids lunch. so, as we head to the car to go get some happy meals - a teammate points to me and says they want me on the podium.

and i look behind me, because surely - he's not pointing at me. they cannot need me for the podium. and i point to myself and say me? they want me?

yes. you. go.

so, as i head to the podium, i try to think of what on earth they need me for. do they need help passing out medals to the cool girls? do they need me to bring them coffee? is someone contesting last place?

and i get to the podium and see the first, second and third place masters' girls with their snazzy medals and i think well. this is a joke. i am not needed here. and race promoter guy sees me and says, good, you're here.

and i say, why? he says cause its the kentucky state championships. and i am a kentucky resident. but i still don't get it. he says you won something. and i say me? what did i win? he gives me a bronze medal and tells me to get up on the podium.
well, look at me. on the podium. apparently, the fact that i was the third kentucky resident to finish my race today qualifies me for the podium. sweet. i'll take it. my first actual bike podium ever.

so i got on the podium and raised my hand with the first place girl (second place girl was absent) and it felt fairly snazzy and fun. and i forgot about how i hate the mud and how i wanted to sell my bike on ebay during that second lap. i forgot about how i might not be cut out for this on that third lap and i resolved to get on a mountain bike like everyone says i need to do to get more comfortable with the handling stuff.
the fact that i got the bronze medal mostly for just showing up today and being the third masters' woman from kentucky to finish is not lost on me. but i got on the podium and it was fun & i'll totally take the tiny victories where i can get 'em. even if it was really a victory of residency.
i may have had a bit of a love hate thing with my first season of cyclocross, but finishing my first cross season on the podium was fun and sorta makes up for a whole bunch.
and makes me think i'll do it all again next year. only better. and not just cause i live here.
photos by marcia seiler & tom moran.

Nov 23, 2008

full circle

when my sister and i were little, we went to a lot of parties. in our feetie pajamas. the shindigs were usually at my grandparents house, or at their best friends' house - a quintessential big victorian home with a wrap around porch at the base of a ski mountain that was once an inn and had a number on every door and a tiny sink in each room. my grandparents house also had a back staircase that served as the perfect spot to sit and just listen to the party after we had been sent to bed. we were a festive irish catholic family. i think irish catholic says it all. i had grandparents and parents and aunts and uncles and they had cousins and friends that were practically family and everyone liked to party. often. i have a lot of really great ridiculously happy childhood memories and a lot of them involve parties. impromptu ones after a day on the slopes and bigger, more official ones during holidays with big christmas trees and twinkly lights.

after spending the night dancing with the grownups, or being dazzled by uncle bill's magic tricks and his ability to find a quarter in my ear; and sneaking sips of whatever libations were in the glasses i was instructed to clear from the room - i could sit on the stairs for hours. to this day, i cannot hear frank sinatra singing 'fly me to the moon' or willie nelson singing 'georgia on my mind' without thinking about those nights. my grandparents singing and dancing, the sounds of laughter, dancing, ice clinking in glasses of scotch and the smell of a wood fire burning, twinkly christmas lights.

my sister and i were always on coat duty. i loved burying my face in the occasional fur coat and trying to keep track of who's coat belonged to whom. i loved being a tiny little fly on the wall of all the festivities around me. my sister and i were the only children and could be shameless centers of attention when we wanted to put on a show or completely invisible when we wanted to sneak some archway cookies from the kitchen.

i turned forty this week and we had a big party.

my kids were on coat duty, but my youngest was the only one who took this job seriously. my other two children holed up in the basement with mr. bean. after the movie, my middle child - the responsible one - marched herself up to her room and went to bed at 10 pm. and i think at one point my 12 year old emerged from the basment with nerf gun in hand and after talking with a few grownups, parked himself in front of the computer.

but lulu had other plans in mind. early in the evening, lulu was sitting on the stairs after having taken a bunch of coats up to plop on her brothers' bed and she was writing. very tongue-sticking-out intently. she documented the evening as follows:

Dear notebook,
My mom is haveing a big party. and I am stuck in the, well ... my mom and dad's room with the dog. so yeah. at the party whenever i hear people come in I run out of the room and rush downstairs and ask them "May I take your coat please" it is a realy easy job but right now I am brethless. My poor dog is sad she can't get out my parents wont let her out! Poor Mabel she's whineing! I wish I could let her out but she'll eat all the cake. And then there is a million pepole here I don't want her scare [frighten] them.

i loved that she planted herself on the stairs and documented things. there were other things documented: guests in attendance, and if she forgot their names, she would just indicate who's mom or dad it was. she also jotted down a list of "things for a party" which included cups, napkinz, cake, cupcake and a whineing dog. i loved seeing her sit on the pile of coats while she tried to find bessie's coat and she wasn't sure where fin's mom's coat was. i'm not sure how many cupcakes or cookies she snuck and i don't care. i love that she held center stage in the living room and danced. granted, she was wired to the hilt and i wonder if she snuck any bourbon slushies on trips through the kitchen; but she had a plan and was on a mission - one i didn't realize until midnight when i watched as she looked at the clock and saw that it said midnight - she proclaimed "yes! i did it!" and hours after her older sister and brother had gone up to bed, she herself headed up to bed. mission accomplished. night documented. a successful night of coat-taking, writing, tending to a whineing dog, and some questionable shake-your-money-maker sort of moves for a seven year old.

bourbon slushies and a keg of hell for certain replaced clinking ice in scotch glasses. there was still a little bit of frank sinatra crooning 'fly me to the moon'. there were twinkly lights and a wood burning fire outside, and a little girl dancing and then sitting, watching, writing from the stairs.

Nov 16, 2008

maybe i should have raced

i realize that snow, wind, mud and bitter cold are apparently a perfect mix for 'cross weather. but i gotta say, i still don't get it. and driving to the race; shivering in my down jacket, fleecy lined boots and hat while watching the snow fly - i wondered what the hell i was doing. i wondered what we all were doing. kids jacked up on krispy kreme at 8 am. no heat in the airstream. clogged toilet. a mad case of pms. and realizing we forgot to stock fridge with post race beer.

it was a classic case of: if mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. i'll spare the details of how my husband could no longer take my unhappiness and pulled the airstream over to ask what the hell we were doing. why were we racing? but by then teammates were knocking on the door of the rv on the side of the road, thinking we had broken down - when it was really just me who had broken down. my husband decided to take advantage of the 'breakdown' and try to fix the heat so the remainder of the trip would be slightly more comfortable - in more ways than one. but when we saw another teammate starting to pull over, we realized we needed to get moving before the whole team started pulling over to see why the airstream was sitting on the side of the road.

so. we get to the race and finally do get the heat working, which makes me infinitely, all is well with the world happy. then we embrocate - which also makes me happy - and head out into the 30 some-odd degrees to pre-ride the course. my husband thought it would be similar to last years' course and told me it was all mine. wide open and swoopy. he was convinced i'd love it. he didn't factor in the full day of rain that fell on the course the previous day, the cold, the mud, the fact that they changed the course, or my pms.

so essentially, after my two lap pre-ride i already decided i didn't really care about the outcome or my placing or who was in front of me. it was what it was - all muddy and cold. i wrote the race off before i even started. even though it was my dream start: uphill. on a road. at least it could have been, but i soon found myself stuck behind two crazy slow girls. but the fact that two girls were slower than me and pissing me off is actually fairly unprecedented. so i guess i am making progress. i was dfl soon after the start, but made my way up 3 places by the end - thank god for the courses with a nice long slightly uphill stretch of paved road where i can pass people.

there is a point at which the girls in front are so far ahead catching them seems an impossibility and the girls behind you look more tired than you and so you just ride and decide to enjoy it and have fun. so i did. i looked for the little victories like feeling weirdly badass about having mud caked all over my bike and my shoes, and slipping as i ran up the crazy muddy run ups. and finally making that uphill - thanks to the cheers of super fast local guy - onto the long stretch of slippery mud without taking a digger or having to hang onto the chain link fence for a moment was awesome. hearing people yell nice line! on that one - equally awesome. throwing my bike over shoulder for run up felt cool and realizing on the third lap that going through the mud is actually less stressful if you don't look down in front of you at the scary groovy mud, but instead look ahead of you to the nice grass - it will all be over soon. making the weird off-camber muddy turn around baseball field every single time, that same one you had to get off the bike during the pre-ride for - not even having to dab foot down on the last lap. much better. tiny victories. i'll take 'em.

teammates who cheer for you by yelling "for the love of god woman, pedal!" adds to the humor of the whole thing. cause you realize you probably weren't pedaling and quite likely looked like you were out for a little leisurely ride in a muddy park. hello. its a race. stop having fun and enjoying tiny victories. go faster.

and then it was over. and i had fun. but when the results came out and i saw that i was one place away from the podium, it wasn't fun anymore. i was mad. well, shit. that was stoopid. maybe i shouldn't have laughed so hard at the "pedal!" shouts from my teammate and i actually should have pedaled. maybe i should have looked for some bigger victories. like actually riding faster. there's a thought. it is a race after all. maybe i should have stopped wondering when road season was going to start, or what that funny noise on my bike was. maybe i should realize that just being out there isn't always enough and i'd actually like to do better and am quite sure i could if i tried hard enough. there's one more chance on the 30th to actually try and race. and to not think 'i could have done better' when its' over. and if not, i'll always have harbin park.

Nov 8, 2008

my new favorite thing

embrocation. i just like saying the word too. embrocation. i honestly didn't even know what it was until recently. i mean, i'd see people putting it on at races before. but i thought it was more of a vanity, look-at-my-gleaming muscles sort of thing. and i realize there is an element of that; but still. just thought it was warming creme stuff. didn't know it had a fancy, official name.

until i read this blog. they tout the praises of a homemade embrocation that sounds so snazzy and like one of those all-the-cool-kids-are-doing-it sort of cool, and i am such a sucker for packaging; that i thought i should get some. at the very least i made a mental note to get some for our christmas stockings. but i never did. cause when the usgp comes to town and stays in your house they bring cool swag and sometimes they give you leftover goodie bag stuff. and so as they were packing up suitcases to go back home and it was looking like there was no room in the bag - i got some embrocation. not the same stuff that i made a mental note to buy myself above, but snazzy, gleaming embrocation nonetheless. and it is so full of gleaming, warming awesomeness; it is this stuff that will be going in our christmas stockings this year. i don't know about all that mumbo-jumbo big word stuff on the site. i just know i was warm. and gleaming.

-- since i am taking the weekend off from racing, i was dusting off the road bike this morning for a nice long team ride. in a straight line. no need to get off or hop any barriers, no off-camber 180 degree turns, no sand pits. i realize that its' slight heresy to say this during 'cross season; but i've missed my road bike - and those long, steady, paceline team rides.

so i'm getting dressed. for my weekend off from 'cross racing long steady team ride and its cold out and i cannot for the life of me find my knee warmers. and we've just rearranged our entire house to include a bike room. in the house. a room solely devoted to bikes and all the paraphernalia. complete with work stand, couch, a coffee table piled high with velonews and cyclocross magazines, trainer, tv, a dresser full of bike clothes, bikes hanging from the rafters and placed on floor to ceiling poles. the only thing the room is missing is one of those little 12 pack dorm fridges and, apparently, my knee warmers.

and i realize when i put that post up on the team site about how we had a whole bunch of stuff from the usgp in our car and i would put it in a lost and found box and leave it in our car at the gun club race; i think i put my knee warmers in there and i think someone claimed them.

but the other thing that is in the new bike room is a basketful of embrocation. i actually tried it yesterday on a rainy, yet warm ride; and like water off a ducks back - the rain just beaded up on my legs. i didn't know how it would be on a cold ride, but figured i'd give it a go.

so i get to the ride and everyone is wearing tights or knickers and i am the girl in shorts - with the super secret embrocation gleaming on my legs. i should have counted how many times in the 47 miles people asked me how my legs were feeling. cause i think i was as amazed as they were that i was not cold. at all. not even a weensy bit. the other girl? she was cold. and she was in tights. i swear. this stuff is magic mojo. its my new favorite thing. i also highly suggest the bike room. that's my other latest favorite thing.

Nov 6, 2008

vote for claudia

my youngest had a homework assignment the night before last which was to pretend they were running for class president and write a campaign speech encouraging others to vote for them. a poster was extra credit. so she wrote a short speech, announcing how if she was class president, there would be no bullies and everyone would keep their hands to themselves and there would be no fighting (which made me wonder what the hell goes on in that classroom). but the best part was this decree:

And there will be no secret pencil sharpening during class because Ms. Thompson gives you a chance in the morning and in the afternoon.

an excellent platform. no secret pencil sharpening. clearly, some kids are abusing the pencil sharpening window that is open for them in the mornings and afternoons. amazingly, she also did a poster for the extra credit (she's not really an extra credit kind of girl - she's more of a i'll do the minimum requirement and eek by on my cuteness, humor and free-spiritedness) complete with pretty flowers and purple swirly doo-dads:

vote for claudia. she's a smartie.

and then there was this discussion with her dad yesterday: dad, do you win money if you pick the right president? what do you mean, do you win money? you know, like at the horse races – when you pick the winner, you get money.

Nov 2, 2008

gun club

cyclocross races at a gun club start with the firing of a real honest to goodness shotgun. which sorta scared the bejeesus out of me even though i was totally expecting it. i mean the guy was standing there. with a shotgun. you know its gonna be loud and skeery. but still. strangely, though; it was the only thing that really scared the bejeesus out of me on the course today. strange because it was barely a cyclocross course. it was more of a mountain bike course. all technical, and woodsy and gravelly and shit.

and so because of this woodsy, technical, gravelly, mountain biker shit, and because i had poured over all the forum posts on the team site all week describing the course; i had a mini panic attack last night.

what about that hill? what about all those rocks they're all talking about? what about this or that? if there was something that i had read that perhaps i could worry about - i did. i got myself all jacked up. and then went to bed. but not before i announced to my husband that the jury is still out on whether or not i actually like this cyclocross shit cause i really suck at it and it scares me and i dont know why. and he says can i have your bike. and i say no. i am racing it tomorrow. and then i go to bed.

but i woke up a new, braver girl. and packed the kids up for another day of indulging mommy & daddy's whims and we drove 2 hours to the course. and then my husband and i pre-rode the course. and after 2 laps, i figured well, yes indeedy this strikes me as a mountain bike course and so i am about to do my first ever mountain bike race.

my start was pretty good for the starty part. i think i kept blocking a girl - possibly the very girl i would love to come in ahead of for once - from getting past me; which was awesome and so bravely and agressively dont take my taxi unlike me. but once we got back into the woods and into the turny shit, she passed me and i fell off a bit and lost contact with the main group.

i tried to gun it through the first sand trap every time, but it was long and deep, i always lost speed halfway through. i did however on the last lap, find the fastest way through if you weren't actually going to ride it - i did a real honest to goodness like they show in the pictures in magazines over the shoulder bike thing and really, really ran. none of my usual tip toe through the tulips shit. and then i just turned the corner to run through the second sand trap. two. sand traps. in. a. row.

i was much better at the barriers. i think i only did a queer hippity hop thing once maybe twice where my left leg gets all jacked out like its not even attched to the rest of me. all the other times, i tried to make a real conscious effort to look normal and really do a cool run and leap thing over them, like everyone else. like in the magazines.

and then there was the off camber uphill 180 degree thing that i can't believe i actually made it every single time. lamaze breathing really helped with that one.

my remounts sucked. ass.

there was a crazy hill on the back side. i remember watching this race last year and seeing people get off to run the hill. and from the lodge, the hill looks like a piddly piece of nothing - i'd say why the hell cant they ride up that hill? for the love of god, i could do this. now i am doing it and the hill is not so piddly when you are on a bike at the bottom of it. and i like hills. and i tried, every lap to get over it. and every lap, i'd stop and clip out before i fell over. or i'd just fall over.

the race was actually fun. and i realize that if i have enough energy to yell you go girl to teammates as they pass the other way, that maybe its too fun and i should work harder.

my new girl-that-i-only-see-at-races-but-is-totally-cool-and-fun-to-chat-with friend tells me that before races, her husband is always coaching her about how she has to get out in front of suzanne. and i am amused that i am somone's nemesis.

and driving home, i told my husband, i wasn't even scared. not even of the gravel road. or the turny shit. and i was only mildly scared of the cliff that if you didn't take the crazy turn right, you plunge to - well, i don't want to think about it. and he said good, cause there was plenty to be scared about, it was really technical. and i think yeah. but i could have done better. then he tells me that in the last lap, i closed a one minute gap down to fifteen seconds, crossing the line a mere fifteen seconds behind the girl i would love to come in ahead of just once. so i'm getting closer. must channel more inner new yorker don't even think about taking my taxi.

and so i am back on the cyclocross bandwagon again.