Tuesday, August 31, 2010

a conundrum, reached

When I started working in the bike industry, like most newbies I was lured by the prospect of cheap abundant parts and began hoarding them in earnest. UNlike most newbies, I did not amass a pile of bikes. Most mechanics would acquire five to seven bikes by the end of their third year in the business. One legendary co-worker had as many as -- sit down -- seventy bikes, in various stages of rideability. Where and how he kept them all I will never know.
Due to my penchant for small living spaces I was limited to two most of the time.
Since moving to larger quarters some years ago with Sweetie, my collection has grown to a whopping four whole bikes, the number I can securely store indoors and still sleep soundly at night.

I now have three complete bikes with 26" wheels -- I have a thing for this wheel size, to be sure -- and two more frames clamoring to be built up and ridden. I can't build up either of them completely without sacrificing an existing bike. One of the current bikes is my singlespeed racing bike. Another is my Surly cargo bike. The other three bikes/frames pose the conundrum.

Bike 1: An All-Rounder I've never been quite able to make work for me. It's a beautiful frame, really a little small for me but with drop bars it has the right top tube length. One possibility is to convert this to upright bars and be done with riding drop bars altogether, since I'm never as comfortable on them as on uprights. I've had it for almost three years and I'm not ready to give up on it yet. This frame was a gift -- a long, amazing story I won't go into here -- so I cannot sell it in good conscience. If I can't make it work before the end of the year I will be contacting the giver to see about giving it back.

Bike 2: Last spring I brought home an incredible find: An early-era Schwinn High Sierra frame in pristine condition. It's in the process of being built up and I will figure out its future after I ride it. I am leaning towards keeping this one.

Bike (Frame, actually) 3: This week, a new find -- a Mountain Goat Deluxe frameset, circa 1988-89. It's shockingly heavy (made of tandem-grade tubing), takes a U-brake in the rear, and needs to be stripped and repainted, but it's a fascinating piece of mountain bike history and could be really fun to build up and ride. The question is, do I want to go to the expense of doing all that work on a bike I may not be able to keep?

What I really need is more storage space, but that's not likely to happen anytime soon.
How many other bike freaks have this problem? How many of you have dreamed of building a two-car garage used exclusively for storing and repairing bicycles? (C'mon, admit it.)

(And before anyone chastises me for my bicycle excesses, remember that in the larger scheme of things, my four bikes still cost far less to own and maintain than a single automobile -- and I can do the repairs myself at home.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

why vetting matters

I caught a moment of the news coverage of Glenn Beck's little, ahem, party on the Washington Mall yesterday.
Anyone notice the background music used during Beck's booming, self-congratulatory introduction?
It was Aaron Copland's "Hoedown", an American classic that has become part of our nation's musical fabric.
Composed by a man who was Jewish, and queer as a three-dollar bill.

Next time, we can be confident that Mr. Beck will do his homework in order to avoid such delicious irony.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

i will act my age. (at least this one time.)

After mulling it over and seeking advice from friends and even a couple of race organizer types, I've decided that I will race my singlespeed bike in the Master 45+ Womens' category at Cross Crusade. I will probably get my head handed to me by women who are fitter, stronger and have trained/raced more; but I just couldn't see the point of racing Beginner women again this year. Like I said earlier, I can get schooled by my peers, or schooled by kids. I am opting for punishment from my peers as a sort of "bass-ackwards" motivator to somehow improve myself, even on the tiniest micro-level, over how I did last year.

As one of the Cross Crusade assistants pointed out to me, for someone in my position it won't make a huge difference either way, especially since I'll be on a singlespeed bike and nearly everyone else will be on geared bikes. I'm just there for fun, anyway. And mud. I will never forget that first slap of cold mud on my ass last year, and how it charged me up and made me go faster (for all of 100 feet, but still...).

I saw my doctor on Thursday for an update on the whole asthma thing. She's pleased with how I've been managing it and is hopeful that I won't need the double-whammy of both inhalers for more than a few more weeks. When allergy season finally begins to quiet down she thinks I'll have a period of inhaler-free living until next spring. Still, she wants me to keep the "rescue" inhaler close at hand just in case; and use the steroidal inhaler only if I need the "rescue" inhaler more than a couple times a week. Also, she thinks the racing is doing my heart and lungs some real good ("your resting pulse just sitting here is 71??! That's awesome. You should see what other women your age look like on paper.") and is glad I'm racing through the fall.

After I explained what cyclocross is, she suggested I try -- gasp! -- jogging 2 to 3 mornings a week; starting with maybe ten minutes straight and working my way up to twenty, as many times around the block as needed. "Consider it pulmonary therapy of a sort, something to help with the asthma," she said. I still think running's for suckers but hey, if the doc says it could help I'll give it a try; plus it can't hurt as I prepare for cross, right?

Had a beautiful ride this morning to and from a different synagogue than I usually attend. Sweetie was feeling sort of ill -- she's been fighting some kind of stomach bug for a couple of days -- and I needed to say Kaddish for my mother, whose yahrtzeit (anniversary of her death) was earlier in the week. Needing a minyan (a group of ten or more Jewish adults), and not really wanting to sit through the Bar Mitzvah of some kid and his 200 relatives I didn't know at my shul, I opted for the shul where a friend of mine is the rabbi. It was lovely and I enjoyed a fabulous ride there and back, pushing myself harder on all the uphills (up and down Alameda Ridge) as a sort of quasi-interval-thingy. Today's high was in the low 70's, and just about perfect for riding around town. I am hoping Sweetie will feel better soon -- I want us to enjoy some more farmer's market rides together while the weather is this gorgeous!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

no womens' singlespeed at cross crusade. waaaah.

It's pretty much official: There will not be a separate womens' singlespeed category at Cross Crusade this year. Brad Ross, the series promoter, had suggested earlier this summer that it was "not likely", and yesterday one of his assistants confirmed that this pretty much meant a solid "no".
I'm not surprised. One of the OBRA officials had told me in the spring that adding another category to either the womens' or singlespeed/masters' races would be a logistical hassle because of how large the start fields at Cross Crusade are. The opening race at PIR short-track this summer had around 350 racers in all categories. The opening Cross Crusade race at Alpenrose last fall saw over 1400 racers, plus another 1200 spectators; tracking another category would've driven the official cross-eyed crazy. So I'm very sad, but I DO understand. I may try to grow womens' interest in singlespeed in other ways but I am still researching that avenue.

Meanwhile, I must now select a category to race in -- still on my singlespeed bike, because that's what I've got and, well, there's no money or space to add another race bike to the stable anyway. So what to do?

Racing with Beginner Women again would be allowed. Women in my age group (45 and over) are not required to cat up unless they are winning every single Beginner race they enter. However, because I've had what looks like some tiny measure of success in a faster category at short-track this year -- an ability to race almost every week of the series, plus a medal at OBRA championships -- going back to Beginners may feel a little like sandbagging to me. (It may look a little like that to others, too; but that's less important at this point. Mostly, it would feel a bit like having to repeat second grade and I don't really want to do it.)

Racing with Master 45+ Women would be VERY hard, even harder than racing with singlespeed women, because the field would be bigger, and all of them would be on geared bikes; and because masters racers are really fast. I would have my head handed to me every week. On the plus side, the start field will be smaller than Beginners, and I'd be getting schooled by my peer group instead of by women who are young enough to be my kids.

Racing in the Singlespeed category would pretty much defeat the very reason I wanted to establish a womens' singlespeed category in the first place. I'd be racing with 300 men who would basically flatten me. I may as well just pay twenty bucks to throw myself under a bus with knobby tires. Naaaah.

Another plus point: although catting up at short-track meant I was suddenly thrown in with MUCH faster riders, it actually was good for me. On some micro-level I definitely felt pushed more to hang in there, and also learned a lot by watching these faster, more experienced racers approach the courses. By the end of the season I felt like I was finding better lines and managing rough sections with a little more confidence than I had been back in June. That confidence served me well at OBRA stxc, when the course was impossibly rough (OMG!) but I still managed to beat another woman off the line (and forced her to pass me in the very tough washboard section). Little things, to be sure, but I noticed them and they did add up to a positive experience for me.

So I will probably just race my age group at Cross Crusade, and learn all I can from the experience.

I had hoped to begin spin classes this week but scheduling has proven challenging. With High Holidays taking up the next three weeks of my life it will be tough to squeeze in a class, so I am once again relegated to making up my own interval plan, which has proven very difficult without any guidance. Still, I have to do something to improve myself. So today it will be another trip on the cargo bike, hauling stuff for the shop and maybe altering my route to take in part of Sabin hill on the way home. Then tomorrow I can take it easier, go multi-modal, as a way to rest and recover. I still don't know how to train, exactly, but anything really focused is just going to have to wait until after Yom Kippur.

The updated Cross Crusade schedule, with all locations and dates, is due to be posted this weekend, with registration to open shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

remember to breathe

Since getting a diagnosis of allgergy asthma early last month, I've been on a regimen of a steroid inhaler twice a day, allergy meds as needed, and an albuterol inhaler that I'm supposed to carry with me and use if I need to. I admit that, wiith the drug regimen I already take to manage the symptoms of Crohn's disease, adding another layer of drug management to the mix hasn't been easy, or consistent. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that for the last few weeks inhaler use has dropped off a bit. I took the two inhalers along on the camping trip but didn't remember to use either one. And I didn't need them; at no time during out trip was I having trouble breathing, even during our hike up to Strawberry Falls at 6700 feet elevation.

The day after we got home, I went to a party out on the west side of town, a thank-you gathering for everyone who'd volunteered at the PIR short-track xc series. It required taking MAX and then riding about 4.5 miles from the nearest station to the host's house. Suddenly, on a sunny, pleasantly warm afternoon, I found myself feeling very short of breath -- and I had left my inhaler at home. So I suffered, riding slower and occasionally stopping at intersections in order to catch my breath. I had the same experience riding back to the MAX station after the barbecue, only more pronounced because I was riding with a friend and riding with someone always pushes me to ride a little faster. That night, I took my steroid inhaler, and since then I've been carrying the albuterol inhaler with me everywhere again.

It's frustrating. I had hoped against hope that somehow the diagnosis was incorrect; that this was simply another case of allergies gone wild, rather than actual asthma, and that eventually I'd be "over" it. But apparently I have asthma and not just allergies. I shouldn't need an inhaler this late in the season, but now that I do there appears to be no other explanation. I have an appointment with the doctor next week, a follow-up on the original diagnosis and prescribed treatment. I will ask for more definitive "proof", if it exists, that what I am dealing with is asthma and not just allergies. And I will ask for a more detailed plan of how to manage this thing while trying to get in shape for cyclocross season, which begins in less than six weeks.

My first spin class is tomorrow night. Yikes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

older than old: eastern oregon

We celebrated our anniversary by camping, hiking and exploring in Grant and Wheeler Counties in eastern Oregon. High points included a hike to Strawberry Falls -- not terribly long but elevation gain was enough for both of us to feel the effects and challenge us a bit -- and side trips to Kam Wah Chung Museum in John Day, the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and a stop at Wheeler High School in the town of Fossil, to dig in the fossil beds behind the school and see what we could find (digging in the Fossil Beds National Monument is forbidden by federal law, but you can drive on another thirty miles or so and dig behind Wheeler High for a $5.00 fee -- the money collected supports the high school's performing arts and athletics programs).

I marveled at finding fossils of leaves, twigs and seedpods, holding them in my hand and remembering that these tiny stones with imprints of rather "modern"-looking vegetation were something like 40 million years old. I imagined -- feared -- the whole place could be dug up and completely devoid of fossils at some future point, perhaps in my lifetime; but I was reminded that Fossil, Oregon isn't really on the way to anywhere else, so huge crowds are unlikely to swarm the site. Sweetie and I saw just four other people there when we stopped, and we were done digging within half an hour. The sign indicated we could each take home up to "two handfuls" of fossils. Still, we didn't didn't see any point in being greedy, so we limited ourselves to just a few pieces each. And the fossils were ridiculously easy to find! I'd brought along a hammer and a hand trowel, along with some garden gloves; but didn't really need these, as I spotted my first fossil on the pathway up to the dig site, and a few more just laying among the debris laying all around the digging area. I remembered someone at the John Day Monument saying that researchers were amazed by both the quality and the sheer quantity of fossils to be found in the area, and realized that folks would be looking for fossils in this area for many years to come.

Sadly, our schedule and chosen route did not give us time to see the Painted Hills from the trailhead (it would've meant traveling too far east and then having to backtrack, a lot of driving for Sweetie who already did practically all of the driving for our trip). But we saw stunning views of the prehistoric landscape while traveling from John Day through the fossil beds, and northwest through Wheeler County. The hills all around us were indeed "painted" in bold stripes of sedimentary layers -- in tan, orange and gold, and even green and blue! -- and every turn in the road revealed something new and amazing to see.

Strawberry Peak, as seen from the trail up to the falls:

A fossil we found behind Wheeler High School:

More pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Seven years ago today I married the most wonderful woman.

This is the woman who taught me how to cook more and helped me over my kitchen trauma; who taught me how to enjoy growing our own vegetables; whose face glows with a combination of disbelief and pride when she watches me race (even when I finish Dead Effing Last); and who tells me and shows me a zillion ways every day how she loves me.

She's terribly shy and won't let me show pictures of her (I carry one in my wallet and show it to friends when they ask anyway, when she's not around) and who self-deprecates sometimes to the point of frustration; but who sings so well, so beautifully and cleanly that she makes it easy and lovely to harmonize with and who fusses over me as if I matter more than anyone or anything. She's painfully smart, hilariously funny and pop-my-eyeballs-out beautiful; and while I know that we're all mortal, she's the one person who makes me wish we could live forever.

Seven years ago today we both said, "yes".
We keep saying yes every day in a thousand little ways.
And I feel grateful and blessed.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

evidence: obra stxc championships

Perhaps the most amazing evidence photo of the year.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

race report: OBRA short-track championships, 8-14-10

My final race of short-track season turned out to be the most memorable, for a few reasons:

1. Organizers (and presumably OBRA officials) approved the inclusion of a separate category for Womens' Singlespeed at State Championships -- and for the first time all summer, we got our own start at the line.

2. The course was completely different from what I'd experienced at PIR. Whereas PIR courses were constructed around a motorcycle track with short, steep berms, rhythm sections and moguls galore, the course at Sherwood Equestrian Center was basically a rather truncated, straight-up cross-country course run through grassy, weedy pastureland with few technical features other than some rough washboard sections. It also had a bunch of narrow singletrack through the trees, and some positively gut-busting (for me, anyway) climbs -- on a day with highs in the mid 90's. I ran the first incline, cross style. The single notable barrier -- a gate composed of logs lashed together and laid on its side -- I dismounted and suitcased my bike over instead of attempting to hop up onto it and then off again. Smaller roots, and a log of about six inches diameter, I was able to ride over carefully (though my under-inflated rear tire gave me worries every time I did -- I MUST learn how to better gauge the right inflation for the terrain). On each successive incline I began at a jog and ended in a painful walk. I just didn't have the juice to climb them on the bike. (How to get the juice? Training, obviously. How to do that? No clue, but after today I know I very much want to learn.)

3. For the first time at a short-track race all summer, the Womens singlespeed category was larger than the Womens' Master 35+ category. There was ONE Master 35+ woman (bikey pal Lisa from Cyclepath, who rode wiry and strong and had just amazing presence the whole time). In my category, three of us toed the start line. I joked about how a BMX gate would be nice about now, we all chuckled, someone muttered something about a holeshot, and then the whistle blew and we were off. I pretended to go for the holeshot anyway -- and forced one of the two other women to catch up to me and pass me on the hardest, bumpiest part of the course. The effort probably killed me for the rest of the race but who cared? It was fun. With only three of us there, all I had to do was ride the whole race and finish to make the podium. And I did.

4. I had the opportunity to make a new racing friend in Mielle, who kindly offered a ride there and back with her and her husband. Mielle is a rider with previous athletic experience. This was her first year of short-track mountain biking; and she spent most of the summer making mincemeat of the Cat 3 [beginner] women's field. Today she handily won the state championship for Cat 3 women and will be required to "cat up" for next season.
We had a lovely chat there and back again, talking about everything from food to racing to training to marriage, to which cycling discipline we think is the scariest. I also told her and her husband a bit about randonneuring, a cycling sport with which many racers are unfamiliar.

5. Even more than making the podium and receiving a [bronze] medal -- though that was really nice -- I am proudest of how I finished. In spite of the heat, my unrequited desire to quickly grow a third lung [Kelly -- don't worry, I followed my plan and did not get jammed], and a burn in my legs that was unlike anything I'd ever felt to date -- I forced myself to stay on my bike for the final ascent to the finish line -- in a gearing that was too high for this course. To say that it hurt would be an understatement. I suffered, I rode through My Own Private Pain Cave for thirty minutes and in front of all those people screaming my name and yelling at me to hang in there, I was not going to get off my bike and run with it at the end, now matter how hard it was. Trust me, it was the hardest, most painful finish of any race I've done in my short seasons of short-track. I grunted and ached my way to the top of the incline as my gut screamed at me how much it hated me just then. At the top -- impossible, did I make it to the top? -- I turned a hard left and felt like I was pedaling through water as I went the last fifteen yards and crossed the finish line. And it was so hard, and so painful, and, crazily enough, so sweetly satisfying to ride my brains out like that, and survive. I am proudest of that most of all.

I want to learn how to train. I want to see if there's enough money in my health stipend from work to sign up for some classes so I can learn how to do this without imploding my insides every time. I want to get strong enough that I don't have to get off and jog -- or walk -- the inclines. I want to learn how to get stronger, at least as much as my body and age will allow. And I want to come back and do more short-track next summer -- in the womens' singlespeed category, of course -- and, in the parlance of my fellow racers, just kill it. Today I felt the most like a racer I ever have, because of how I finished. And for me that is the best "medal" of all.

So now I take a break from racing. I will start preparing for cyclocross (ugh -- those mounts and dismounts!) after I've had some downtime, and for today and tomorrow at least I'll revel in my experience.

Friday, August 13, 2010

hype of the week: "classic" cavaliers (alumni corps)

This will be my last Hype Of The Week for short-track season, since my final short-track race is this weekend at OBRA Championships. Inspired by the number of over-40 women who are racing with me (and yes, also by the 59-y/o who plans to race 'cross this fall), I decided to go super old-school.

Ths is the Cavies alumni corps playing the drum corps classic "Bully" at a recent performance. These guys are playing vintage Rogers Dynasonic marching snares with shoulder slings and lower, deeper tuning, and their playing is so clean it brings tears to my eyes. (Warning: this is uber-geeky stuff, and not for the uninitiated or the faint of heart.)
Sound levels are rather high here -- and these 40- to 60-something-y/o brass players can really scream -- so turn the volume down! Listen especially for the timed open rolls near the middle of the video. OMG. Pure heaven.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

this made my day

Today a woman walked into the shop and asked to talk with me about singlespeed gearing. "D" has cobbled together a singlespeed mountain bike and wants very much to race cyclocross on it this fall. We talked at length about gearing options, and she bought a new chain for her bike. Before she left, she told me she's never raced cross before but really wanted to give it a go. She watched some of the short-track racing this summer and, inspired, decided she really wanted to do it on a singlespeed bike.

Then came the punch line: this brand-new cyclocross racer told me she's 59 -- that's FIFTY-NINE years old -- and she wants to go out and kill it on a singlespeed.

It was my turn to be inspired.

Monday, August 9, 2010

crc bridge project, round two: the bigger picture

Here we go again:


Consider that Portland's metro area population is expected to double by 2030, and that a number of folks who work in Portland live across the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA (where there's more affordable housing, but also, unfortunately, more suburban sprawl). Consider that people are moving here in droves in spite of brutal unemployment (hovering near 12 per cent) and that, in spite of Portland's "bicycle chic", most of them are coming here in cars. Consider that freedom of movement and cheap cars and gas are the status quo, and that we don't like to have discussions about population control and rationing of resources in polite, or any other, company; and you have a connundrum of epic proportions.

It's clear that the present Interstate Bridge won't meet the needs of a region growing this quickly. It's old and needs repair or replacement. To simply repair it is to deny the growth that is happening right before our eyes. To replace it is to give in to the inevitability -- and unsustainability -- of unchecked growth.

While lots of folks want to think that this is just an argument about a really big bridge, it's really a discussion about population growth and our society's unchecked use of resources -- a discussion few people are willing to have in a serious and thoughtful manner.

Can this degree of growth in our region be sustainable?
If so, how?
If not, can we have an intelligent discussion of population and resource planning that won't make us look and sound like Fascists, or worse?
Good luck.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

short-track xc: final standings and evidence photos

It's official. I finished fifth overall in the standings in the Womens' Singlespeed class at PIR Short-Track. Considering that I finished last in every race I completed, the key seems to be in the math. If you show up, you win. This invites me to readjust my thinking back to not worrying about where I end up in a race, as long as I finish. But OH! It's SO hard not to get caught up in a sense of competitive spirit about it all. It IS racing, after all.

Three full days after my race, I am beginning to feel like I'm returning to density. I may actually ride the full distance to work today. But wow, these races sure do take a lot out of me. And although I had fun doing it, I may have ridden my first and last short-track relay. Two races in one night was just too much, at least for my body. How much is age, and how much is Crohn's? Sadly, that's the question I may never be able to answer accurately.

Some evidence of participation photos, taken by assorted folks including Jose (Team Cthulu) and Shane Young (Oregon Velo). The middle-aged belly is in full evidence, but since it finished the races with me I am not ashamed. I and The Belly had a pretty darned good short-track run this year. And as crazy as it sounds, I definitely want to come back for more next June.

On a singlespeed bike, of course.

On the course during my race. It was SO hard to will myself to finish, but I did.

(photo by Shane Young)

I swear I was having fun at the relay. Really.

(photo by Jose Sandoval)

And here's possibly one of the sweetest sights of all from that night: the first-ever Womens' Singlespeed podium at PIR short-track (And yes, the winner of the series raced every single week in a skirt. I'd like to see more men do that). May there be many more to come.

(photo by Jose Sandoval)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

what to do? and why?

Word (specifically, from the race organizer, with some subtle hinting from OBRA officials) is that the addition of a Womens' Singlespeed category to the Cross Crusade series is "not likely". Primary reasons given were the size of the start fields, which rival small nations during cyclocross season; and the added administrative headaches involved in trying to keep track of yet another category when lap counting.

If I want to race 'cross, that leaves me with three choices:

a. Race with Beginner Women again;
b. Cat up to Master Women 45+;
c. Cat up to an almost entirely male Singlespeed category.

If I choose A, I can't say my chances of success are improved over last year. I lost a lot of preparation time due to illness and allergies, and truthfully I don't feel like I've gotten any stronger by racing nearly every week of the short-track series.
If I choose B, the field will be smaller, perhaps fewer than 20 racers; but they will all kick my butt and do it on geared bikes.
If I choose C, I may as well go lay down on the MAX tracks and wait for the next train to run me over.

I enjoyed Short-track, I really did. But 25-30 minute races felt like about the longest I could handle and still remain standing afterwards. Suddenly, the prospect of a second season of 'cross, with its 45-minute races through mud and cold, doesn't sound nearly as exciting, or as fun. And I don't know what to do.

The fact is that, without knowing how to train, or even how to manage my time so that I CAN train, I'm honestly not sure how I'd prepare for cyclocross this year. Then there's the issue of not being able to know when my fatigue is mental or physical. Some days I can will myself beyond my comfort zone and make myself finish a race. Other days I am gasping for breath and all I want to do is stop, and some days I don't want to race at all. Because my Crohn's has never been in remission -- that is, I've never had a period of time since my original diagnosis that I could lay off the meds and eat whatever I wanted, I cannot know what it would be like to have a body that is fully energized -- or fully fueled or recovered. And that's what makes this so hard.

I am 47 years old and today when I woke up to go to work I felt like an old lady of 67. My body was bone-tired and my mood felt deflated. The part of me that I'd been trying to cheer up and buck up all summer was finally having its say, and this morning she asked me, "What is the point of racing if you never finish out of last place, if you're terrified of passing people and racing in tight packs, and you're constantly on the verge of being out of gas every time you race? And if you crash, you have to worry about getting hurt and not having health insurance (or ever being able to to get any). Why bother doing this at all?"

So today my self-doubt has taken hold and won't let go. What AM I doing this for, really?

I've signed up for the OBRA Championships, because they're offering a Womens' Singlespeed category and it seemed like the thing to do. But now I'm not so sure I want to do it. I looked at all those healthy people last night, all the other racers, and I HATED them for being so healthy. And today, now that I can admit that, all I want to do is go home and cry. Because there is no way that I can see my way clear to being the kind of human being who can go out and do this stuff every week and actually get stronger. I just don't know how people do it.

It is possible that all of this is based on lack of good sleep, on the fact that I raced twice last night and that I am quite tired today. So tonight I will try to relax, elevate my legs for a little while, get to bed at a decent hour and see if it helps.

race report: PIR short-track xc # 7, 8-2-10

The morning after the final race of the PIR short-track series finds me groggy, no doubt the result of doing two races (ok, one and a half) in one night.

I had a good night at short-track yesterday. Sweetie and my sister both came to watch my race, sitting in the grandstands and screaming my name each time I came into the moto track area. At one point I could hear Sweetie ringing her cowbell for me as I passed. It was hard. I was in no better shape than I had been at the beginning of the season, or it least it felt that way. I stopped to catch my breath or push my bike up to the top of a berm after losing pedaling momentum, and then I'd have to wait for an opening to get back in the race without getting hit by one of the many faster riders coming up behind me. Frankly, what I did out there did not really look like racing. But I did it, and I did not quit, even though my gasping lungs really, really wanted me to at times.

PIR short track xc 8/2/10

And, with the help of legal stimulants -- Nossa Familia was giving away free iced mochas to all the racers and I slammed one shortly before my warm-up -- I did manage to finish what I thought was three laps, on a challenging but fun course.

Why I was given credit only for two is unclear; I'll have to contact the officials and find out what happened, or if I was just hallucinating that third lap. Anyway, I finished exactly in the right place -- after the bell had stopped ringing for the leaders -- and my effort felt honest, complete and satisfying. Kristin, Shawn and I hugged and celebrated the completion of a fun series afterwards. It's nice to have made some new bikey friends and I look forward to seeing them at Cross Crusade.

I had plenty of time to recover and hang out before the Ultra-Short Track Team Relay, which was good, because if I hadn't I would surely had given my number to someone else. Les Volontaires acquitted itself admirably, even with my slow lap around the moto course. Women and juniors were instructed to take a hard left turn in order to stay inside the moto course the whole time, while the men were told to go outside the fence and take a slightly longer route around the back of the moto course. It was all in fun and the atmosphere at the relay area was slightly crazy, with riders positioning themselves to begin pedaling as their teammates reentered the moto area, arms swinging wildly as riders looked around to get the tag so they could take their turn on the course. In the end, I had a wild time and was glad I'd decided to do the relay.

(two Les Volontaires about to tag in at the relay race. I'm behind/between them, waiting my turn.)

I stuck around to watch the podium announcements, and cheered loudly as Shawn wound up surprising everyone by taking the top spot in Womens' Singlespeed. (Susan of Showers Pass and Sharon of Team Beer got second and third.) Kristin and I cheered and whistled loudly as the winners were given their medals and prizes (coffee and beer, of course -- this is Portland); and afterwards we promised each other we'd bring our singlespeed mountain bikes -- flat bars and all -- to Cross Crusade and, in true singlespeed fashion, "run what we brung".

I got 7th place in my final race of the series. I don't yet know where I ended up in the series standings but I think it's probably 5th or 6th (out of the eight who completed five or more races).

I'm doubtful that there will be separate categories for singlespeed men and women at Cross Crusade -- the fields are simply too large for the organizer to want to add another layer of administration and he has already hinted that it's "not likely" -- which means I'll have to choose between going back to Beginner Women, moving over to my masters age group (45+, where I'll get creamed), or racing singlespeed with 300 men (where I'll get creamed). I need to think about it.

On the plus side, I recently scored a wind trainer through work, and found some exercises online that I can play with. I figured I'd set it up in the shed with the All-Rounder, and try it out and see how it works. If I can handle it, I'd do intervals on it once a week from the end of short-track season to the beginning of Cross Crusade and see if even that small amount of time helps me at all. I still have no idea what I'm doing, I only know that I want to feel stronger when I finish my races, and I don't want my having Crohn's to be an excuse unless it's unavoidable.

This is where being part of a "syndicate" is hard, because as the only Bella in town I have no teammates to train with, and it is hard to know what to do on my own. Still, I have to try, if only to see if ANY training, no matter how poorly organized, can make a difference. Another racer last week suggested that a month of intervals helped him prepare for short-track this year, so maybe it's possible for me to see similar benefits.

Anyway, I feel sorry that the PIR series is over; glad that it went about as well as it could for me (considering my multiple spring illnesses and a general lack of knowing how to train), and hoping I can find a way to gain a little strength before cross season starts. Most of all, I am happy that women responded to my energy and signed up to race in a new Womens' Singlespeed category. I hope that it will become a regular offering at future short-track races, even if it never catches on in 'cross.

My next -- and last -- short-track race of the season will be OBRA Championships in two weeks.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

omigod: two races in one night


I've just been corralled into the Team Relay Race tomorrow night at the finale of the PIR Short-track xc series.

Originally I was supposed to be a Lap Counter on the course during this race. I'd already been asked by another team if I'd be one of their racers and said no thanks, based on my volunteer assignment.

But... it seems that Kris, the organizer of the series, decided to put together a team of anyone who's volunteered at the series. The catch is that each team in the "just-for-fun" relay must have at least two women or juniors to sign up. Since all the other women who volunteered this summer (that I'm aware of, at least) are already on other relay teams, I am automatically a default member of Les Volontaires.

Thankfully, each rider on the team only races one lap around a shortened course that runs only on the moto track. So my suffering should be over quickly.

(What, I was gonna say no to the race promoter? Look, he knows how slow I am and he still asked, so I figure it's his funeral. On the bright side, he and course designer Tad are both on the team as well, so they'll more than make up for my lost time.)

Sweetie and some family and friends are coming tomorrow night to watch the singlespeed race. I don't expect them all to stick around till the relay, which is at the end of the evening. Still, it'll be fun. If I live through it.

Here's what the team relay looks like (from last year's finale):

STXC-09 'GRAND FINALE' from PDX Race Videos on Vimeo.