May 31, 2009

short track first timer

so i drove down to the local haunt of a cross course on thursday evening to check out the new short track series in town. a five week, thursday night gig. i wore my kit under my clothes. just in case i felt like doing my first ever mountain bike race.

cause this race series in particular was being touted as a great way for a beginner to try out a mountain bike race for those of us who had never done one or were too intimidated to try. and i fell into that category. and since i’ve been on a mountain bike all of about 4 times and one of those times i was doing more hiking with my bike than actually riding it, i just saw it all as something to do for fun and figured it would be good ‘cross practice. mostly, i didn’t care and thought it all would just be a cake walk in the park.

so i wore my kit in case i wanted to do a cake walk in the park.

i stood around for a long time watching everyone do some warm up laps. i thought warmup shwarm up. i dont need no stinkin’ warm up. its just for silly fun. full disclosure though - i did ride one quick lap. it required dismounts and a hippity hop of a leap over a muddy creek.

i didn’t decide to race until about 2 minutes before the women went off. all two of us. i sized up the situation and the competition on the line and thought smugly; i got this.

but when race girl blows her mega-phone of a horn and my competition takes off, and i mean off. i think, uh-oh. and then its’ not long, maybe two more turns before i can’t even see her anymore. shit. are you kidding me? now i’m in trouble. add on the two ten year old girls breathing down my neck to pass me and it wasn’t long before i was potentially in a world of shame. now this race that was just supposed to be for fun and something i didn’t care about was something i cared about enough to start blocking the ten year olds from passing me. enough to make such a ruckus going over the logs that cute little ten year olds would be too scared to pass the crazy girl. does this make me a bad person?

it’s a lot of pressure to be in a race with just two people. you just don’t want to come in second. nor do you want the 10 year olds to pass you.

well. i never did let those 10 year olds pass me and i got away from them, pride intact. but this was no cake walk of a race. it was surprisingly hard and technical. according to some more seasoned mountain bike racers, it was not technically a short track race – in which case we would have been able to roll over everything. evidently, it was too technical.

but since i don’t know jack about what a short track race is supposed to be, i was blissfully ignorant and happily dismounted for all kinds of shit even when i was being heckled by the race girl with the mega phone for dismounting.

the ten year olds remained behind me where they belong, but there was still the matter of the woman in front of me and i could hear my teammates screaming you gotta go harder! so towards the end of the first lap, coming out of the crazy thicket of thickety stuff, the course opened up enough that i figured that’s where i could go harder & with a polite little on your right, i passed her. and, assuming i was in the clear and would not be coming in second in this two woman race, i breathed a (premature) sigh of relief.

cause then she just sat there right behind me for the entire second lap. the woman could not be shaken, and all i could think was shit. she is not going to hand me a win on a silver platter. this wasn’t gonna be like winning a raffle. i am going to have to work for it.

so. at the end of the second lap, in that big open spot after the thickety thicket; i put the proverbial hammer down once i actually had figured out the right way to gear the bike to do such a thing, and i got away and then stayed away. but still, there was that panic that at any moment she could just come back from the dead and appear at my back wheel.

she never did. and so the icing on the not-quite-the-cake-walk-of-a-race-i-thought-it-would-be was that i won.

the whole thing was a bunch of ‘cross-like fun on a summer day and makes me wonder if i should just go into every race with nary a care in the world.

May 20, 2009

zanne 1 – irrational fears 0

i had a whole ridiculously long post in which i yammered on and on about my debilitating fear of crits; how the mere mention of one would send my heartrate sky high, how i’d worry about the cornering, and the going fast on my bike stuff (which really, is an inherent problem if you want to be a bike racer), how if i didn’t ever have to do another crit that would be cool with me. about how crits used to scare the bejeezus out of me.

but all that stuff was before last weekend. the weekend of back to back crits – the finale to our spring training series. it was the weekend i finally figured a bunch of shit out that took me a year to figure out.

it started with saturday’s crit in frankfort. the same crit in which i fell off the pack early in the race. even after all my zen-like cornering practice, after coachs’ boot camp race clinics, after going in circles in any empty parking lot i could find, faster and faster each time till i got more comfortable. even after all that. i braked going into the first fast turn, fell off the group and got lapped.

but the second time the group came around, instead of relegating myself to getting lapped again, i got on that train. cause i needed a rest on a wheel after all that desperately trying to chase them in that headwind thing. i thought i’d ‘rest’ and hang on for dear life, but found out it wasn’t a hang on for dear life sort of situation. it was fast alright, but i was doing it. fast. corners. in a crit. with the group. i never touched my brakes and saw that i could corner at 20+ miles per hour. i had no reason to be falling off in the first place.

this was all i needed to know.

so the next day, armed with the knowledge that i was actually capable of riding my bike fast, through turns, with people and not touching the brakes - i lined up to race. and i raced. and stayed with the group. i wasn’t off the back and i wasn’t time trialing all alone to catch anyone; and when i saw that we had seven laps to go and i was still in it, i smiled and felt a huge wave of relief. that must have been the irrational fear leaving the building.

don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

May 6, 2009

round and round

sometimes all the racing and the packing for the racing is a lot. we pack up the airstream. we race for a few hours. we go home. we unpack it. we wash everything and start again the next weekend.

we took a little road trip this past weekend. we thought we’d combine the racing thing with some family time. we thought this might somehow be easier. and super fun. combining two things that each on their own require much planning and packing of stuff.

a little family campy combined with some racy at the fat & skinny tire fest in northern indiana. about 5 hours away. a little bit longer since we were towing a 1973 VW beetle behind an old airstream motorhome that doesn’t go so fast in the first place.

i always have a vision for these sorts of trips. usually they involve some sort of soundtrack playing in my head, stone skipping, ‘smore making, doing well at the races and having everything you need.

camping collage packing for five people to go camping in itself is always an endeavor. throw two races in and uncertain weather and it takes the whole affair and the ‘let’s-pack-this-just-in-case’ items up a notch. add camping at the fairgrounds at the same time as the civil war re-enactors with their cannons going off every hour really ratchets the whole thing up. and the half mile bike ride to the village where all the cool critical mass rides were starting and the bmx demonstrations were going on? not as kid friendly as reported.

add in a race on a perfect course on a perfect day in which you feel perfectly superstar perfect that doesn’t turn out quite as well as you imagined – well. it has all the makings of a melt-down. mine.

and forgetting the emergency stash of bourbon and the fixins’ for smores? can’t even really talk about it still.

so we’re at the campground watching the north and the south pitch their tents and build better fires than ours. and i try to shake it off that things aren’t turning out the way i planned.

but i am happy at least that our airstream is parked north of the mason dixon line.

we hang out with teammates. we talk about the races. and we watch the girls fly kites that they found on the bus. and we watch the dog run around with the baby quilt of a cape that lulu tied to her. we watch henry ride his bike and cross into enemy territory and try to spy on the confederate soldiers. and we cook dinner over the fire. and drink beer. and listen to good music. and it’s all good.

annabel is fascinated by the little civil war girls in their blue dresses and black boots, playing hoop games with sticks. and she asks me if we can do that. dress up and pitch tents and fire cannons. i tell her that’s not our tribe. our tribe wears brightly colored spandex.

i wonder what the north & south thought of us. in our spandex. with our bikes and green beer cans and charcoal on the fire. and big silver airstream with electricity.

we packed up early the next morning and drove right through the sleeping and peaceful north and south camps – the cannon fire wouldn’t start till 9 am - and head to the village for the next race.

which is another perfect day. on another perfect course and once again, i’m feeling perfectly perfect and ready to race only to get erroneously pulled from the race after just ten minutes. all parties involved in removing me & my group from the race apologized. but that’s too late. even if i came in dead last, they didn’t let me try. i loved the course, loved the race and wanted to finish. (around here, the women – all categories – race together. it’s fairly standard practice here at least, to not pull 4’s when they get lapped by the 1/2/3’s. i still had a shot at catching back onto the 4’s)

its’ hard. sometimes. to balance it all. all the stuff. all the tangible stuff that you need to bring and organize and clean.

and then the other stuff. the racy disappointments - real or imagined. the worrying about our 13 year old who is still sorta sleeping and thinking think he might have a fever and wishing he’d eat something but really needing to get on the trainer, and just telling him to have a pop-tart.

and then i get on the trainer and have to get off to get a splinter out of annabel’s leg. i ask how it got in her leg but then remember i really should get back on the trainer. and leaving the airstream i tell henry if he has to throw up, he should do it in the sink cause the generator is not on and the toilet can’t be flushed.

and then there’s no time to get back on the trainer so i just go line up.

and then i get pulled. and watch my teammates race from the sidelines only to see them and most of the women’s 4 field end in a heap of a crash on the bell lap.

and then i miss most of my husbands’ race while waiting in line to buy macaroni and cheese for annabel and by the time i made my way through the very awesome and three-deep crowd to go watch the last two laps, the girls say the macaroni is yucky.

and all of it made me want to cry.

but there’s no time for that.

orbit because really - all the confederate-cannon firing, kite flying, campfire chatting and cooking, bike racing, getting pulled, beer drinking, sun shining, bourbon forgetting, was just perfect.

and because i need to wait in line with lulu so she can ride the orbit thingy.