Friday, December 31, 2010

bikey bits and pieces at the end of 2010

In no particular order:

1. Learning how to work out has been a slow process, in fits and starts, since joining a gym last month. But I am learning and will stick with it. Sweetie went with me today and helped me figure out a workout plan that's more in lone with my modest goals (get stronger, improve energy levels, reduce stress). I tried some new things and learned how to use more of the equipment. I am hopeful that I can establish a routine that will work for me and help me improve over time. For now I'm not worrying about spinning; with all the daily riding I do I figure there's plenty of time to work intervals into the mix in the spring and for now just focus on strength (resistance work) and flexibility (yoga).

2. The ride to and from the gym, my only ride on this last day of the year, was cold, brisk and simply beautiful. The low-hanging sunlight and wispy clouds in an otherwise hard, bright winter sky took my breath away. I smiled as I felt a little of the sun's warmth on my cheeks in spite of the biting cold. It was, in short, a glorious day to ride a bike; and I'm glad to have had a day like this today.

3. Ending mileage for 2010 -- 2,448.7 miles -- falls a little more than 50 miles short of my stated goal of 2,500. Considering everything that has happened this year I'm prepared to give myself a little break. I haven't yet considered a goal for 2011 but will within the next week.

4. At the end of the secular year I remain grateful: for friends, for family, for my Sweetie and for Just Plain Being Alive. Upright and Breathing is a good state to be in.

I hope 2010 has been at least a reasonably good year for all of my readers, and I hope 2011 brings you love and laughter, some great surprises and memorable adventures.
Happy riding to all in the new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

so beautiful it makes you weep

Today I'm directing blog traffic to a Site called GritAndGlimmer, so you can read an amazing piece about why we ride bicycles. When I read it it made me sniffle and then cry in recognition.
Go read it. And then read it again. I bet you'll want to ride your bike afterwards.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

boxing day ride

I had offered to host a casually-paced Boxing Day ride a few weeks ago, and several friends indicated interest. I even had a couple of emails late in the last week asking for particulars from three people who all said they'd meet me at the starting point. But the day dawned cold -- 38F when I left the house -- and wet, and very blustery -- and a cold front with more wind gusts was scheduled to move through North Portland around the time of the ride. So I was not entirely shocked to see only one person waiting for me at the starting point -- my new team mate Rob, clad in knickers and a rain shell and smiling wryly at the sky as I pulled up.

With more wind moving in, I was frankly not excited at the prospect of wrestling with my bike all the way past Smith & Bybee Lakes out to Kelly Point, and asked if Rob would be okay with a more urban, coffee-oriented ride. He had ridden in from the west side and didn't mind at all. So we enjoyed a gently-paced ride through North Portland out to downtown St. Johns. Riding on N. Willamette Boulevard was rather exciting, as gusts of wind from the south and west threatened to knock me off my bike a couple of times. It got easier to deal with when we turned off from the Bluff and rode past the University of Portland. We lingered a little longer than I normally would at Anna Bananna's, no doubt because the weather outside simply did not excite either of us and it was a chance to get to know each other a little more -- a good thing since we'll be racing and riding together next season.

boxing day ride

When we left Anna's, content after coffee, fresh baked goods and conversation, the sun was peeking out from behind fast-moving clouds, and the showers started up again when we opted to take a more direct loop back along N. Lombard for several blocks. When we turned onto Greeley we were exposed to the wind again rather suddenly. By the time we'd ridden up Greeley to Bryant I was ready to go home, so we parted ways there, happy to have gotten out and stretched our legs a bit but neither of us feeling especially ambitious.

boxing day ride

boxing day ride

Crossing the Bryant Street overpass wasn't too bad. The wind had died down a little and the sun had come out and made everything soaked by the morning's rain turn bright and sparkly. Still, I was very glad to get home, take a hot shower and scrub off the embrocation from my legs. I like using embrocation for cold-weather riding; it allows me to forego heavy tights (which I find a little restrictive on a bike) and ride in wool knickers instead, which do a good job of covering my knees and are warm enough once you get moving a bit. I used the hottest stuff I had today, and I'm still enjoying the last residual burning tingles an hour and a half after getting home. Nearly 15 miles on the morning was just enough to feel like I went out and did something on my bike without killing myself.

Friday, December 24, 2010

merry christmas and eat your vegetables

To all my readers who celebrate it, have a very merry Christmas.
When you go back for seconds on the baked ham, maybe take some more vegetables too.
(And no, sweet potato pie does not count as a vegetable.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

i won't do it and they can't make me.

It always seems to start with a study:

Once again the idea of bicycle licenses has reared its ugly head in Oregon. Feel free to read all the arguments for and against if you like. As for me, I'm already trying to decide which of my two middle fingers to wave at this nonsense.

I don't -- I shouldn't -- need to go into all the reasons why attempting to license bikes will fail from the start. I also won't go into why it's patently unfair. Instead, I'll just jump right to my final talking point.

I am not normally a conspiracy theorist about most things, even about government. Government isn't cunning, it's merely bloated, falling down under its own weight and grossly inept when it comes to actually representing the interests of the electorate. But about this dog of a proposal, I'll posit a conspiracy theory.

This is not about protecting bicyclists, motorists or pedestrians in the event of a bicycle-related collision. It's not about building more bike infrastructure (because there won't even be enough money from bicycle licensing to to cover the cost of the paperwork). It's not about making things more fair between bicyclists and motorists, or about reducing bicycle theft (as if anything could effectively do either in our present car-centric landscape).

What it's really about is being a precursor to bicycle insurance.

I'm fairly certain this baby was spawned straight from the forehead of the insurance industry. Bicycle licensing is a wet dream for the insurance industry because once you require people to buy bicycle licenses you can then mandate the purchase of bicycle insurance. Bicycle licensing simply represents a new revenue stream -- and anyone who's paying attention knows that the primary reason for the modern insurance industry to exist at all is to turn a profit for its shareholders.

Needless to say, I cannot wait for this absolute turd of an idea to become an unjust law so I can rush right out and break it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

the gym thing. it's sort of weird.

In an effort to get stronger next season I've begun working out. At a gym. Really.

I've been in for a yoga class, a spin class and now my first time doing resistance work.
And it's weird. It's weird mostly because I worked up more of a sweat in all the bike riding I did on errands and stuff today (11 miles worth) than I did in 45 minutes pushing and pulling things at the gym. Only when I got home did I learn from Sweetie (who's an old hand at resistance training) that this is how it works. Apparently, one does not build up as much of a sweat pushing and pulling. What one does is build up strength.

I also learned that, because I ride to and from the gym, I probably don't really need to do much "cardio" before I push and pull things.

But it's weird, this whole gym thing. I've never really worked out before and this will take some getting used to.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I have made the decision to change my team affiliation for 2011, and will be riding with a local club. If you look at the right-hand column of my blog page you will see that the link to Velo Bella has been replaced by a link to something called Team Slow.

Team Slow began as a focus group of like-minded friends who simply love to ride bikes and who all got into racing this past year. Their premise:

--Racing should be accessible to anyone who wants to try it, and that it's more fun to do it in a group of supportive, fun-loving friends than to do it alone.
--Racing shouldn't only be about being fast and beating everyone else; otherwise only the fastest people would be welcome at races. Team Slow recognizes that some of the hardest and most profound racing we do is against ourselves, and so every time we finish the challenge of a race, we've succeeded, we've won in a sense. Team Slow wants to celebrate those victories along with the actual placings in a given race.
--Racing is only one kind of bicycle riding, and bicycle riding should be accessible to anyone who's able to do it, regardless of their present level of experience, ability or fitness. Team Slow will hold regular non-racing, social rides as well.

And -- in an unusual move for a racing club -- they recognize that racing is, in and of itself, an inherently indulgent activity. To counter that, Team Slow aims to find ways to spotlight the good work of select non-profits while they race, perhaps through adding logos of those organizations to the team jersey and/or raising money for them.

In short, this sounds like my kinda focus group. I've hung with them at a few races this past year and every single one of them I've met so far is simply a lovely human being. I like them.

This winter the focus group has become an official team, with OBRA dues, and jerseys and sponsors in the works and all of it. And they invited me to join them as a member. That's right -- they asked me. Then, to ease off the pressure, they said that if I decided not to join they would still invite me to be a groupie -- to hang out with them, enjoy the shelter of their tent at colder races, and they'd wave the pom-poms and cheer for me and stuff. Obviously, this is a decision that is NOT based on my results as a racer; but simply because, well, they like me.

I met yesterday morning with Kristin, a friend from my singlespeed short-track adventures who's also a Team Slow member, and another attractive thing is that they want to run their club democratically (you know, as in -- gulp -- consensus-based decision making). So now I was really intrigued.

After bouncing this idea off Sweetie's brain, sleeping on it and otherwise weighing my options, which included my reasons for racing, my current association with Velo Bella (a national syndicate with only a handful of members scattered throughout the Pacific NW), and my desire to have a nice buncha folks to ride and race with in my area without upsetting the balance between racing and The Rest Of My Life, I took the plunge and said yes.

I'll keep one VB jersey, a lovely souvenir of all that I've learned and done while racing as a Bella, and something fun to wear on group rides. But since the rules state that you can't race in the kit of a USAC- registered team after you've left, I will be finding homes for almost everything else in the drawer. Except maybe the socks. (Seriously. Eeww.)

I'm surprisingly comfortable with how this is going down. And maybe that's the point. Racing shouldn't be a chore, but fun. I am pleased to have found others in my area who feel the same way.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

new-old rivvy longlow and other changes

new-old rivvy longlow

After previously struggling to make the All-Rounder the perfect bike I hadn't suspected it of being, I was left with a glaring reality: What about the Rivvy?

Well, ultimately I had to see if I could run drops on the Rivvy again and be happy with it. I want to have a drop-bar bike in the stable so when I need those longer unencumbered rides I can hop on and just go for them. So, after some tweaking and a few changes (including a shorter stem and some new bar tape), I'm running drops on the Rivvy again.

It's not perfect in that angels-singing-and-sunbeams-shooting-down-from-the-clouds sort of way, but its good enough for now. I am pretty comfortable on it and am giving myself plenty of adjustment time (it's been months since I last rode a drop-bar bike regularly and there are the usual wobbles that come for someone who's more comfortable on uprights).

That said, the larger, looking truth is that I may be be getting to a point where I cannot ride drops comfortably anymore, which would make very long rides harder (since I can't change hand/torso positions on uprights and that is not so fun on any ride longer than about 15 miles). Still, I am scheduling one longer (20- to 40-mile) ride a month between now and April and we'll see how it goes.

A final note: Tonight I tried a Spinning class at a local gym. Oh my it was SO hard. Made my head spin, I saw lights, drooled and gasped for breath until I could figure out that pushing myself did not mean emulating the instructor's every move -- she's easily 15 years younger than me, if not more; and she does this three times a week. It also took some time to learn how to use the Spinning bikes; you cannot suddenly stop pedaling and expect to simply coast on one of these things, and that is the point -- you spin, for an hour. You turn the cranks at varying levels of resistance/ease/difficulty and you Just. Keep. Pedaling. Period. The loud house music helped maintain a rhythm and the instructor's low-key but cheerful vibe was certainly better than trying to do this on a trainer in my shed with no one else there. (That's why people do these things in groups. It's easier to push yourself when others around you are suffering, too.)

At the end of the hour I found it strangely compelling, and knew that I would come back next week to do it again (I figure that with all the bike commuting I do through the week, one intense bike "ride" a week is plenty to start with). My own bike felt very wobbly for the first half-mile home. Two hours later I am still feeling baked. I expect to sleep pretty well tonight.

Friday, December 10, 2010

am i missing out?

Over at Cyclocross Magazine's site there is live coverage of the US National Cyclocross Championships. Included in the coverage is a large column in the center of the page showing a constantly-rotating, updating twitter feed, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of folks sending 140-character "tweets" about the action in Bend -- as it's happening before their eyes.

For those without a modern cell phone -- like me -- the only way to watch this little drama unfold is to sit in front of a computer all afternoon. Since that's more time than I'd like to spend staring at a computer (especially on my day off), I am content to wait for emailed race reports, or blog updates, from friends who are fast enough (or just crazy enough) to go to Bend. I can read these at my leisure; and if it's not moments but hours or even days after the fact, does it matter?

Apparently, for the millions of folks with modern touch-screen phones, the answer is yes.

Sweetie and I were given a cell-phone about seven years ago, from a friend who wanted to be able to find us at a large music festival in Seattle that saw over 40,000 visitors a day. He programmed it with a Portland area code, loaded it with minutes, told me how to load it with more at my local Radio Shack, and said we could decide if we liked having a cell phone enough to keep it. (If we didn't we could donate it to a womens' shelter when the minutes ran out.) We decided it might be handy for traveling, and every ninety days I have continued to top it off with the minimum amount of money to keep the number active. It's far cheaper doing it this way than buying an actual monthly plan; and so far the phone has continued to work just fine. It's primitive by current standards (instead of a touch screen, it has actual buttons you push to dial the number, and a stubby little "antenna", and sometimes it turns on accidentally if you sit on it the wrong way), but as long as it works we'll keep it. (It does allow for texting, and I have successfully sent four or five text messages in the seven years we've had the phone; but my slow keypad speed and very large thumbs make texting ridiculous, so when I do use the cell-phone, I just dial a number and talk into the phone. Apparently, this option is now becoming quaintly old-fashioned among adults of a certain, younger age, all of whom can text with lightning speed -- and one handed, no less.)

I can count on my fingers the number of times I've actually needed to carry it with me in a given year -- another reason, along with the greater cost involved, that I haven't bothered to get a cell phone with a "real" plan.

Still, it's strange and occasionally disconcerting to have coffee with someone and watch their eyes dart back and forth from me to the myPhone or CrackBerry on the counter near their latte, as if they're waiting for something vital to pop up on the little screen that will demand and divert their attention away from our conversation. It's even more jarring to look around the cafe and see that I am often the only customer in the place not staring at a small, portable electronic device of some kind. It's not quite like a reversal of a scene from A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, not yet anyway, though it definitely hints at that vibe.

But it begs the question: other than up-to-the-moment blasts of mostly trivial information, what am I really missing?
I feel more and more like a dinosaur, but not necessarily in a bad way, not like I'm the one being left behind. Instead, it feels sometimes like I am watching the rest of the world get on a bus to go someplace I don't yet feel a need to visit, much less live permanently.

What will happen if I don't get on this particular bus? Besides the fact that fewer of my friends will have time to communicate with me face-to-face, what will this mean for my socio-economic future? I don't know yet. In the meantime, there's a bike in the shed that needs some work, and once I fire up the space heater I'll be all toasty-warm in there while I sip on my coffee, listen to the radio and rummage through my tools for the right wrench with which to adjust my brakes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

my 2010 racing season: by the numbers

(Stats taken from the OBRA results pages.)

2010 racing season - results






USGP of Cyclocross

Masters Women



OBRA CCX Championship

Singlespeed Women



Cross Crusade: Washington County Fair Complex

Masters Women 45+



Cross Crusade: Portland International Raceway

Masters Women 45+



Cross Crusade: Alpenrose Dairy

Masters Women 45+




SS Women



Portland MTB Short Track Series Overall

Singlespeed Wmn

06/21 - 08/02/2010


Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Women



Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Wmn



Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Wmn



Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Women



Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Women



Portland MTB Short Track Series

Singlespeed Women


As you can see, my season this year began in June and ended in early December. For someone who doesn't yet know how to train, cannot afford a coach and works full time, this is a fair amount of activity for a second season of racing. You can also see that regular participation changes the math. By racing six of the seven weeks of short-track and finishing five of those races successfully, I managed to land in fifth place in the overall series standings, even though I finished last or near-last every time. (My second place showing at the first short-track race happened because there were only three of us in the new Womens' singlespeed category, and the third woman DNF'd on a mechanical.) All those top-ten finishes reflect the smaller fields of a brand-new category; but they also means a lot of points and those points add up.

What do I take from this? That Womens' singlespeed is growing and that more women will sign up for the category next year -- so I had better learn how to train if I hope to stay in the top ten at short-track.

There is talk of adding Womens' singlespeed to the Cross Crusade (be still, my heart). If that happens I will definitely enter at least four of the Crusade races and possibly more if the transportation and scheduling work out. It's one thing to race in my masters' age group on my singlespeed bike, but quite another to race against other women who are all on singlespeed bikes. Even though I will likely be the oldest woman out there in the latter case, that latter case is what I want. Call me crazy. Call me hopeful.

Monday, December 6, 2010

old-school: 1996 cyclocross

Earlier this fall, Oregon Public Broadcasting brought a camera crew out to one of the Cross Crusade races to shoot some film for an upcoming broadcast of Oregon Field Guide. Wondering when I might hope to see the spot air, I checked out OPB's web site. I didn't find mention of any upcoming cyclocross coverage, but I did find this gem from a 1996 Field Guide broadcast.

Dig the clothes (gym shorts over tights! Sweatshirts! Hiking shoes with flat pedals!). Dig the glasses (gigantic, face-eating Oakleys!) And dig the bikes! Almost everyone in this footage is riding a mountain bike; the handful of folks who are riding road bikes are using flat mountain bars. It was a different time for sure. Also a treat is seeing some older race venues that don't get used now, like Pier Park in Portland and Willamette Mission Park in Salem.

Some things about 'cross have changed, and as this video shows, some have not. Enjoy.

usgp: evidence photos

Evidence of my participation:

1. At the end of the starting straight (paved section), moments from entering the back forty, pretty sure this is on the first lap when I drilled it and cooked myself. Stupid, stupid. (Note my rear tire, exhibiting tubular envy and being dangerously underinflated for a clincher. I am surprised that I did not bottom out and flat during my race.)

2. In the switchbacks, trying not to die on the short, steep inclines in the trees. Second lap. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the course at this point and I'm ready for my race to be over.
(Lesson: don't kill yourself in the first 50 seconds of a race. Ugh.)

Yes, I have a belly, a rather noticeable one for a bicycle racer.
In a field of sleek, slender bodies I stick out.
Still, I pinned a number on and propelled my belly around a muddy race course.
In forty-degree temps.
On a singlespeed bike.
A hundred women my age stood on the sidelines yesterday and did not do that.
So today I am enjoying the afterglow of my race and feeling like a bit of a rock star.
I am SO glad I raced at USGP this year. It was a satisfying way to end the season.

(Photos taken by Janet Hill and used with Permission.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

race report: usgp portland day two

When I woke up this morning I did not want to race. I didn't even want to go outside. It was cold and still sort of dark and I was simply not in the mood. I couldn't explain it, either, at least not until after my race. I think what did it was my memory of last year's usgp and how intensely c-o-l-d it was (freezing fog and frozen mud on the course, and a morning on which I never got warm). Still, I dressed, layered off with rain pants and my thermal jacket, and rode all the way down to PIR, a nice warmup. I was almost surprised at how much warmer it felt this year. Once at the venue, I said hello to Mielle, who'd poached a spot at a friend's team tent. I felt it would be bad form to invite myself to piggyback on her coattails, so I rode around the parking lot with my backpack still on, reasoning that when I finally did shed it to race I would feel so much lighter. Still, it was cold enough to make me wince a little at the thought of taking on this course with all those faster, stronger, fitter women, and I wasn't fully convinced I wanted to be there. An odd, odd feeling to have right before a race.

Whatever it was, my desire to grit my teeth and really go for it actually did not begin to kick in until callups. I was pleased to see another woman in my category racing on a singlespeed; we high-fived each other and grinned maniacally, the secret smile of the truly insane. And suddenly, everything felt more okay, like the requisite pieces simply beginning to fall into place. We were all sitting and waiting for our start and smiling in spite of the cold. And although I didn't feel any faster now than when I began racing two seasons ago, it suddenly made sense for me to be here, in the midst of other women my age, clad in much-too-clingy lycra and doing the implausible. So when the whistle blew and we were off, I forgot that I didn't feel like racing and suddenly found myself spinning my cranks faster than I ever had in my life, like a hamster spinning madly on the wheel, all the way to the end of the paved section.

It was dumb, I know. I cooked myself in that single stretch, starting at full speed, sheer madness. When I hit the grassy "back forty", I could feel my momentum packing up and flying to Reno, and suddenly I didn't feel like racing all over again. The only problem was, I was already racing. So there was nothing more to say, and I sucked it up and kept going, an angry little Energizer Bunny wondering how on earth I had talked myself into this folly. Still angry as I stomped on my pedals, over the gravel and through the firm, cold mud, I could see actual lines where others had threaded their way before me, and just before the Junior men began to pass me I was up and over the first corner in the mud, a section straight from the short-track course. (In fact, several newly added turns in today's course were copped right out of the short-track playbook, and in those few sections I had the remarkable sensation of feeling at home on a race course.)

At this point, I realized that I was not uncomfortably cold anymore.

I kept going. My mental state swung back and forth between not wanting to be there, and being almost happy every time I cleaned a section of the course, and hating every single time I had to dismount and jog with the bike. Maybe this is what it's like to be Bipolar, I thought. Still, it was exhilarating to notice how my bike handling was better now than it had been when I first started racing, and to hear friends call out my name in encouragement (I'm pretty sure someone from Team Beer was out there, because he yelled my name and the familiar Team Beer battle cry: "Let's go, Beth! C'mon, GET SOME!"). Because it was an early morning race, there were fewer cowbells in evidence and I could actually hear people shouting, which was sort of cool.

The short, steep runup that was added for the second day simply sucked. But the downhill that had eaten me alive at the pre-ride was now rideable all the way down and I rejoiced. It was my reward for the runup.

As I neared the end of my first lap I had a sudden and slightly scary loss of breath, but I was terrified of pulling out my inhaler at a USGP where officials from USA Cycling and the UCI were present, so I then wondered momentarily about DNF'g. Thankfully, I was able to calm down, slow my pedaling for a few moments and thereby catch my breath when I looked up and saw two course marshals just past the finish line; they were grinning and jumping up and down and waving me on towards another lap. I shrugged, smiled at them and pushed harder for about a dozen pedal strokes, enough to power back onto the Back Forty and begin all over again.

The second lap was physically harder than the first, but felt mentally better. I was all in now, no matter what. If I was in the wrong place when the bell lap began and had to suffer through a third lap (or worse, part of a third lap before being pulled), so be it. I was there to beat The Woman In The Mirror, the woman I race every single time, and today I would beat her into submission if it killed me.

By the time I'd hit the moto course the second time, I was feeling physically ready for it to be over. As I hit the rhythm section, I forgot my own rule about going too aggressively, caught a little air on the second whoopdie, lost track of my rear wheel and crashed. And this is why I love my adrenaline: when I have it, nothing hurts much. I got right back up, hopped back on my bike, and gutted it out all the way up that damned runup and into the switchbacks that felt like home.

As I neared the end of what would be my final lap, I encountered a Junior woman who was running with her shouldered bike through a muddy section, talking under her breath, hyping herself up to stay in it and finish strong. I as I passed her on my bike I said, "good job!" to her and she smiled. Then a man who had to be her father came running up alongside the course, and from the other side of the tape he yelled, "Keep going sweetie, you're doing great! I believe in you!" The girl grinned and got back on her bike and started to pedal. I suddenly thought of my own parents, both gone for some years now, and almost lost it right there. As I pushed myself to the finish line, I started to tear up; what would they have made of me, a grown woman, living out her BMX fantasies on a freezing cold day like this? They certainly wouldn't have run after me like that; they were both in such poor health in their respective final decades that they couldn't have. Still, I felt sad that they couldn't have seen all this today; my wonderful season of racing, the absolutely lovely, unpretentious people I've befriended here, and how wonderful it felt to hang in there and finish doing something implausible, like racing my singlespeed bike on a course that wasn't really meant for it. I rode off the course and did a couple of laps in the parking lot so so my tears would dry (or perhaps freeze; it was still plenty cold). Then I felt better, and after I collected my things and changed clothes, I rewarded myself with a hot waffle with nutella folded into it.

I stuck around for a few more races -- Joel looked strong in his Singlespeed/B's race, even if his placing was not to his liking; and Dave from Seattle was equally impressive-looking in his Masters' race afterwards. I was pleased to learn that pal Mielle had finished on the podium in the Masters' women's race, a nice way to finish your regular season, especially when your next race is Cross Nationals in Bend (way to go, M!). Just for the heck of it, I checked my results on the sheets of paper taped to the wall of the registration tent: as expected I got last place, with credit given for two tough laps in a 35-minute race (I'm fairly sure I could've pulled off a third lap if the race had gone for 45 minutes like Cross Crusade races do, but I was also fine with not having to find out. By then I was starting to feel pretty baked). The thing I didn't expect was to see that two other women in my category also got credit for doing just two laps -- but they did those laps on geared bikes while I did them on a singlespeed. I glowed, grinned, and giggled all the way to the coffee line. That final realization has stayed with me and it's making me pretty happy right now. I have no idea what this means in the larger picture, but for now it means that I hung in there with two other Masters women (both of whom I saw regularly at Cross Crusade and whom I know to be strong riders), and I did it on my singlespeed mountain bike. Yay Stompy!

UPDATE: I finished in 15th in the Masters' Women race.

I went home before noon, feeling the cold and the exertion beginning too catch up with me and deciding that I'd gotten my money's worth on the day. As I made my way out of the PIR parking lot, I heard a cheerful "Hi, Beth!" and saw it was Sue Butler, warming up for her race. Sue had been one of the clinicians at my first cyclocross clinic (and is a terriffic teacher as well as racer, by the way), and we've very occasionally bumped into each other at races. She looked happy and relaxed and she asked me how my race had gone. I told her I felt good, happy with my outcome and feeling happy with my season. But I was ready to go home. I wished her luck on her race and by then I was approaching the light rail station. I was shocked to discover that I had no energy left to contemplate the five-mile ride home, so I rode up to the platform and caught the next MAX train, which cut my trip in half.

I finished my race. I beat The Woman In The Mirror. And I had an amazing time doing it. At home now, I am feeling the bruises that are forming where the adrenaline has receded into memory, and I marvel at how they make me feel happier somehow, residual and, eventually, colorful proof of my exertion and effort. (I wonder if anyone else loves their racing bruises this way.) My back is sore and my legs ache with fatigue, and I know that a second hot shower -- a luxury! -- awaits me before bedtime.

It has been a lovely, amazing, rewarding second season of bicycle racing. I welcome the downtime and the rest before beginning to prepare for next summer, and I'm not sorry to see it end. I'm just happy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

usgp portland - day one

Forecast for Sun Dec 5:

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy 43°/34°; 20% chance of precipitation

I rode out to PIR from my house this morning (roughly 4.5 miles) to cheer on some friends and work in the pit for Mielle during her race. It was cold, for sure; but not quite as viciously cold as last year when I rode to the race in nearly zero-visibility fog with temps below freezing.

On the bright side, the mud had firmed up as it got colder, and today it wasn't quite as gloppy as it had been at the pre-ride. On the not-so-bright side, it's still pretty cold out there, and even as I was in the pit paying attention to where "my" racer was on the course, I was contemplating what I would wear for my race tomorrow. My tights are thin and won't be warm enough; my knickers are heavier, wool and might be warm enough but my lower legs will be exposed and might suffer, even with extra-hot embrocation.

By 11:15 I'd had enough of standing around in the cold, and headed out. I still felt pretty darned cold -- the wind had picked up and began to blow hard. By the time I got home, I knew that I would have to go with the wool knickers and just slather the embro on my calves. Up top, a wool turtleneck baselayer and long-sleeved jersey would have to do. I'll complete my ensemble with wool gloves and cap, and wool socks inside my shoes (because I don't ride clipless I cannot cover my shoes with booties -- I'd lose any traction in the toes as a result and I need all I can get on the run-ups).

Tonight, Stompy is cleaned and lubed and ready to go. Soup, a hot bath and an early bedtime with a good book await. Tomorrow, we go and get muddy one last time at PIR.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

chag sameach...

...and Bon Appetit ! בתיאבון
May your holiday be bright -- and delicious.

(Special thanks to E. Schwartz for the photos)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

pre-race hype: going deep

There's a pre-ride of the course available to all registered racers on Friday afternoon, between 2 and 4 pm. I went last year and will probably go again. Friday's pre-ride gives you the opportunity to try out Saturday's course; USGP officials will change the course slightly for Sunday's race, to keep things fresh for those racing both days. I will pre-ride Friday and expect a few things to be different on Sunday.

I admit that I am scared of this race. I am scared because on a truly athletic level I know I have NO business even being on the starting line. True, it's an OBRA-sanctioned race in the morning and as long as I pay my money I am free to show up and ride till my face falls off. The only problem is, at the Cross Crusade races I was on the course with women of every skill level. At USGP I will be on the course with a much smaller field of women who know how to train, who have coaches and workout plans and special diets and who, well, are pretty darned dedicated to this racing thing, who have centered at least a good chunk of their lives around it. And that is not me. Not even close.

Sure, I set up some practices alone and with friends; and I tried really hard to get to bed the same time every night during the week leading up to a race; and I raced more this year than I did last year and felt good about it; and all of that is certainly more than I did last year. But let's face it -- I am not working with the same tools or the same body, and and a part of me worries about succumbing to Pretender Syndrome: What on earth am I doing entering a race with women who are, well, so serious about racing?

I make it pretty easy for folks to spot my pretenditude: I'm racing cyclocross on a singlespeed mountain bike with 26" wheels and flat pedals, and while I would never call myself fat, my physique doesn't exactly scream "athlete" either.

So -- how I get through these races, the only way I get through these races, is pretty much an exercise in sheer will and stubbornness.

I finish my races because I am stubborn, and too proud to quit when it gets harder. I will make the officials pull my ass off the course, because as humiliating as that is -- and it IS humiliating, trust me -- it is not ever as bad as quitting. So on Sunday morning, I will go like the Energizer Bunny and the only way I'll stop before the race is over is for someone to trip me and yank the damned batteries out of my back.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my final pre-race hype of the season.