Tuesday, June 28, 2011

post-race fatigue and inspirations

Today I am dog-ass tired. Pooped. Ridiculously flat. I cannot believe I rode even part of the way to work before tossing my bike on Trimet and going multi-modal the rest of the way. Ugh.
Once at work, it was all I could do to stay alert and not yawn in front of the visiting rep.

A few things that give me hope, or at least inspiration:

1. I'm taking it easy this weekend. Time over the holiday weekend will include things like swimming, sleeping, walking and hanging with my Sweetie. There will be little or no riding involved. I hope this will give me a little recharge.

2. Judi tossed this absolutely delightful video up over at DC. Go and see it and be amazed. Watching it made me happy.

3. The good stuff about yesterday's race, in no particular order:
a. I cleared the log. Three times.
b. I climbed up a fair number of berms all the way, before totally disintegrating on the final lap and running or walking most of them.
c. I only needed my inhaler once.
d. In spite of how badly I wanted to stop, I Kept. On. Going. Omigod it hurt like you would not believe but I did finish.
e. Team Slow has, hands down, the best cheering section in OBRA. Imagine a flash mob of manic psychotics, off their meds for a week and all gathering together to scream your name as you finish each lap. That's pretty much my team, only with a little less psychosis and a lot more technology. Cell-phone cameras clicked, blinked and whirred as I rolled past and amazingly, I could hear them whenever someone stopped screaming to take a breath. I dig my team so damned hard. They are geeky and strong and beautiful and I am thrilled to be among their number.
f. Racing buddies across the spectrum of experience and strength continually offer their own brand of vocal encouragement, sometimes out on the course as they pass me, sometimes from the sidelines, even when my race is turning into one big suckball of pain. I could not imagine racing without the friends I've made along the way, and I can't wait to see them all out on the course again in two weeks.
g. The team from Camas Bike & Sport gave me a much needed distraction from my pain as I tried to figure out just how many men, women and children they had entered in the night's racing. I estimated over fifty, but could not get an accurate count because I was too busy trying to clear the log (see #a). Camas, thy name is legion. (Is there really nothing else to do there?)

Whatever you do for Independence Day, please remember that the fireworks you bought at Blackjack (across the river in Washington) are super-illegal and their mere possession is fined heavily in Oregon. So set them off in Vancouver, and don't blow anything up you can't replace (like a building, or someone's hand). Have a safe and happy Fourth.

race report: PIR short-track # 4

On Sunday, I rode my cargo bike laden with bike tools and spare bits on a 25-mile roll around Sunday Parkways-North as a volunteer roving mechanic.

In hindsight, this was a mistake.

Monday morning I woke up feeling more tired than usual, and while I was looking forward to the race I knew I would be hanging on for dear life. At breakfast, my stomach felt vaguely Crohn's-y, like eating a banana and not getting much out of it energy-wise; there's no pain or discomfort going on but still you get the sense that your body isn't going to give you your money's worth today, and the warranty expired ages ago so you have to just roll with it. It's annoying.

I carefully rationed the smallest expenditures of energy in careful doses through the day. Once at the venue I limited my pre-ride time to ten strict minutes and mostly stuck to the singletrack in the cottonwood trees, giving the modified "logs" a go a couple of times (actually rolling over them this week!) and dialing in some very twisty, technical turns in the dusty, rutted grass. The cottonwood trees were blooming, releasing soft white tufts of deadly fuzz all over the course. I was actually grateful when Kristin suggested that for the kiddie race, I NOT be the rabbit, but instead be in charge of directing the kids where to stop and get off the course and head back for treats. Perfect.

I watched Kristin, Erinne and Tomas race the first part of the Cat 3 race and managed to get some pictures.

Erinne ended up finishing in 2nd place in her category (Erinne! When you leave a trail of bodies in your wake after every race it's time to cat up). Kristin was racing the double again and as soon as she'd gulped some water she was lining up for the Singlespeed race. I sort of want to envy her but I recognize that our difference in age is a big part of why she's able to pull off a double every week. (Did I mention hat she also races in the Fixed Gear category on Mt. Tabor on Wednesday nights? )

I needed to get warmed up before my race, and that required some hot laps around the parking lot between the short-track and criterium courses. Roadies and mountain bikers share this part of the facility on Monday race nights, turning constantly to the left and trying to get in some deep, stronger strokes now and then to elevate the heartrate and catching up with each other from the previous week's racing.

Of course, I'm making this all up, talking through my left nostril here. I still don't know exactly how to "warm up". I generally follow the wisdom of taking a number of laps around the lot, and on the straightaways I try to pedal faster for so many pedal strokes. Then at some logical point I veer out of the parking lot and go line up for my race with the other Singlespeed and Cat 2 women. Not sure if the warmup really helps in my case, but I feel like it's better than NOT warming up, so I go ahead and do it.

Last night I barely hung on for dear life. Getting up the berms was very hard and I was forced to get off and run or walk up more times than I care to count. I had my inhaler with me and needed to use it during the race; I waited until I got to a discreet place in the trees before taking a huff; it's perfectly legal but still looks bad to do it out in the open. In my mind I struggled with trying to focus on riding and the overriding desire to quit before I was done. I really, really wanted to stop last night, especially when I realized that I would not pull out more than three laps again and that getting in that third lap was really going to hurt. And it did. When I was done I felt like I wanted to simultaneously wheeze, cry, and puke up cottonwood tufts. Results for my category haven't yet been posted but I'm pretty confident that everyone else in my category did at least four laps to my three.

This is the part where I just don't know what to do: other people get faster over the course of the series while I am lucky to last three laps. In my Walter Mitty heart of hearts a part of me really wants to improve, to get faster like everyone else and not gasp for breath so much and not run out of gas halfway through a race. It is so hard to NOT compare myself with everyone out there at times like this, even when I know I shouldn't. The truth is that it's racing, and it's natural to compare against others in the field. Looking at the results that have been posted so far, the women in the Cat 2 45+ group, I noticed that the fastest women all managed just one ore lap than me. So did the Cat 2 35-44 Women. So really, we're talking about one lap, at least this week. And that one lap remains elusive.

Still, I finished. And that is always good. Having your teammates cheer for you is even better, and certainly helped to ease some of the sting of my internal struggle. And the course was very technical in a way that I enjoy riding, with lots of turns and sharp, punchy uphills through the singletrack section that remind me how fun it is to handle a bike in the dirt. So in the end I was glad to have been able to finish, even if it completely wiped me out. After a sandwich (thank you, Kristin, for getting the goods from sponsor People's Sandwich! Yum! If you go, get the Turkey wrap) and lots of fluids, I still felt like utter dogflarb so I skipped the post-race beer with the team and went straight home.

I'm halfway through the series and I'm still upright and breathing, a good sign. My goal is to race every single week of the eight-week series, without DNF'g. No racing next Monday -- It's the 4th -- so hopefully that will give me at least a little time to mellow out and recover before racing resumes on the 11th.

Friday, June 24, 2011

hype of the week: 2009 parking lot smackdown!

This week's hype brings us a very rare bit of footage: some good-natured parking lot smackdown between members of the Concord Blue Devils and the Canton Bluecoats. Stuff like this doesn't get on Youtube often so when I found it I knew I had to share. If you listen carefully, the snare drummer on the right messes up shortly after the start of his luck, drops a little F-bomb (in public, in partial uniform, at a drum corps show??! Drop and gimme twenty, maggot!), and begins again.

(Regarding the bit at the end when all four drummers play together -- how can these guys know the same stuff? Simple: either one of them marched in the other corps once upon a time, or -- more likely -- they were trading riffs on a commonly-known drumline warmup. These warmups get passed around all over the drum corps world, especially now with the advent of electronic chart-writing.)

Good stuff, lots of fun. Look for me at Sunday Parkways North this weekend, and look for our team in our new jerseys (yesssss!) on Monday out at PIR. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

team slow jerseys, sunday parkways

Last night I went up to Mt. Tabor to cheer on my teammates who are all crazy enough to race a hilly crit on the top of a dead volcano. Ed (above) brought our just-arrived team jerseys and was the first to model his.

early adopter

I must say that having teammates all wearing the same wacky color scheme as you does make a difference in creating some semblance of team unity. Anyway, it was fun to watch my friends race a crit (Ed, Tomas, Ben and Kristin raced fixies; Klaus and John raced Cat 5 Men) and finish strong.

(Would I ever race road? Nope. Not for me. The ground is just too hard if you crash.)

Sunday Parkways North is this weekend. Look for me out on the route, as I've volunteered for Roving Mechanic duty. Lots of fun riding and strolling along car-free streets, plus entertainment and delicious local food at local parks. North Portland is the place to be this Sunday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

race report: PIR short-track # 3

Another short-track race, another three laps. Let's just get that out of the way at the start. I admit that a part of me wishes I knew how to increase the number of laps I'm capable of completing in a short-track race; but since I don't know how to do that I must be content with simply being able to go out there and finish strong.

Racing seems to be something really hard that I do on purpose, just because it's really hard. So when I finish my three measly laps, red-faced and breathless and feeling like I want to puke, I remember that it's really hard and am mostly content. Last night, I did not use my inhaler once, in spite of the dust that flew across the entire course and made my lungs absolutely burn; another small victory of sorts. This morning I am still coughing from the dust. I also managed to climb every berm on the course at least twice (though I did have to get off and push to the top of the two tallest on my final lap because I was so spent), and cleaned every transition and off-camber feature on every lap. Another small victory. I have to take them where I can find them.

Sweetie came to watch -- I could her hear yell for me pretty much anywhere I was on the moto section -- as did Pal Heintz, who was fascinated by the action on the course. Last night's course was laid out in a manner that allowed spectators to see most of the action in all three parts of the course (moto, singletrack and "back forty") from the stands. Heintz asked me after my race why I enjoyed doing something that was so obviously hard. I thought about it, and these were my reasons:

a. I couldn't do this kind of stuff as a kid, when I was struggling with almost-daily fatigue without knowing why. Even marching band was hard back then. Now that I know how to live with what's going on, I can get stronger and push myself to do the things I wish I could've done when I was younger.

b. Since I'm not a kid anymore, I do lose speed, but I make up for it in the pleasure I get from handling my bike in the dirt. My muscle memory from the BMX riding of my childhood returned surprsingly quickly in my first season of racing and has been the primary source of real pleasure I get from doing this. Every time I manage to clean some tricky feature it's like "winning" for me.

c. It's an incredibly welcoming and social activity. I have met some of nicest people in bicycling in my local race scene; and I am really enjoying being part of a local team who all cheer loudly for each other. (And we yelled a LOT last night.)

I encouraged Heintz to consider giving it a try. In spite of my misgivings about always finishing in last place, I told him, it's still a LOT of fun.

(photos by Tomas and Audrey)

On the tricky transition, being lapped by my teammate Kristin (who raced the double -- Cat 3 women AND Womens' Singlespeed! Such a MONSTAH! -- last night):

Coming out of the transition. It was "Casual Night" so racers were encouraged to eschew lycra in favor of mellower attire:

And yes, that's a safety orange triangle seemingly growing out of my rear end. Most of us at Team Slow have adopted this marker to make us easier to spot on the course, at least until our team kit arrives (though I may just leave my triangle in place anyway since I AM so, well, slow). Also note the DC socks, worn in honor of Pal Judi and her ongoing inspiration.

Race results: fifth place, Womens' Singlespeed. I must remember that placing last, especially in a singlespeed category, is still much, much better than not finishing at all. And it was thrilling to watch my teammates push themselves on a technically tricky course. In retrospect it really was a pretty darned good night of racing for me and for Team Slow. (The glass of delicious Steelhead beer afterwards at the Red Fox didn't hurt, either.)
Team Slow results on the night can be found here.

Friday, June 17, 2011

hype of the week: 1992 crossmen

The Crossmen were just plain cool, especially when they were still based in Pennsylvania and had the white aussie-style hats. (The move to Texas also saw a move to shakos. Yawn.)

Here's a section from their 1992 DCI championship program. At 1:24 into the video, listen for the contras (what today are called -- ick -- tubas. DCI's decision to move from two-valved G bugles to three-valved Bb band brass really killed it for a lot of diehard alums and fans, but that's another post) and their big solo entrance -- and dig how fat they sound. Awesome stuff. Also some excellent footage of the snare line early on, great marching and fun visuals. (Though what on earth is the guard wearing? Ugh.) This one's just big, brassy and fun. Enjoy, and see you at short-track.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

road racing on the dead volcano

This is Einar:

Mt. Tabor race 6-15-11

I watched him race along with my Team Slow mates last night at Mt. Tabor.
Einar is 68. That's sixty-eight.
And he raced in the fixed gear category.

I may never again complain about anything related to bicycle racing.
I want to be like Einar when I grow up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

photos from short-track # 2

First two photos taken by Audrey Addison and used with permission.

On the course:

The beautiful thing about this shot is that the two women out front -- me and Pam, in the yellow-and-red jersey -- are both well into the Masters' 45+ age group and having a blast out there. LADIES! Unless you're pushing 80 you're probably not too old to try short-track -- come on out and give it a go!

Heading up the berms on the backside rhythm section:

SO tough to ride this section!

Silhouette shot by Shane Young, used with permission:

Shane was raving about the beautiful light behind the clouds during the kiddie races and was hoping for some good backlit shots like this. I'm glad he got his wish.

Tonight, Team Slow will be out at Mt. Tabor cheering on the truly insane teammates who are racing on the pavement. Racing starts around 5:30. Look for us in our orange cycling caps and say hi.

Monday, June 13, 2011

race report: PIR short-track # 2

Things I remembered to do this week:

a. eat lunch early enough to digest most of it by 4 pm.
b. pack a gel for pre-race (to be taken with plenty of water) and snacks for post-race.
c. actually drink the water before, during and after the race; and eat the snacks after the race.
d. stretch before my race, and briefly afterwards; then stretch more slowly and for longer period after riding home.

Things that didn't help me this week:

a. going out "clubbing" twice in one week with Sweetie (but hey, she got us on the comp list for two shows by bands we absolutely love, so it was tough to say no). Both nights saw bedtimes well past 11 pm, which is generally bad for me.
b. The course was definitely tougher in some aspects tonight, especially because the rhythm sections were run in reverse of last week -- meaning that the berms got progressively higher instead of lower and it was tough to build momentum. You simply had to power your way through the two sections and it hurt. A lot. I just ran out of gas (and breath!) and I was forced to get off my bike at least four times during my race to push my bike up the final berm in a given pass.
c. I really felt the dust and the pollen in the air this week, which meant I was gasping for breath more and had to pull off twice to use my inhaler during the race. Disappointing.
d. I have decided that it is intimidating to be followed so closely behind by the "sweep" rider (usually a younger, stronger fellow whose job it is to sweep the course until the lapping of the slowest racers by the fastest ones begins in earnest). Nice fellow was riding my ass all the way through the first lap and it secretly bugged the crap out of me -- not because he was rude or anything, in fact he was a perfect gentleman -- but because it reminded me of how [bleep]ing slow I am. He finally pulled off and I was left alone to suffer.
e. the barrier they added after the start lap was completed by the field; this consisted of two large square sections of 8x8's laid side by side, with the course laid out so you had to go over them. Most racers simply rode over them, manualling their bikes over the barrier like it was a very wide log. I knew that I would probably not be successful and did not want to risk damaging my bike (low parts budget) or myself (lower healthcare budget), so when I saw the barrier I instinctively dismounted cyclocross-style and ran my bike over it, re-mounting on the other side before pushing myself hard up a short, steep off-camber curve and back onto the moto course. I got some good-natured crap from my friends for running over it, but my rear rim and tire are both intact tonight and that is fine by me. I watched a few folks drop their chains and/blow out tires at that spot in the next race and know I did the right thing. (Someday I will figure out how to manual over a log on the fly without clipless pedals.) Meanwhile, recognizing that the decision and action to dismount cross-style came so instinctively felt like another tiny victory for me, a reminder of growth in experience if not in actual prowess and speed. This is what it's like inside the mind of a really slow bike racer: the nano-victories mean a lot more.

Things that helped me in spite of myself:

a. the ten pounds I lost over the winter by working out. It's a little easier to get my ass up those berms when my ass doesn't weigh quite as much as it did last year.
b. The increased strength in my legs, also a result of working out and noticeable even when I was forced to dismount; a few times I was able to will myself to jog rather than walk up the berm, a first for me. This increased leg strength is a total revelation for me, utterly amazing, even as I continue to finish DFL in my races (something I expect to do through the series; it's good to remain realistic and simply ride your own race in these situations).
c. The cheers of several teammates and other racing pals from various spots around the course. There is nothing like hearing your name called out in genuine encouragement during a bike race. It really does help.

Wednesday I'm planning to head out to the Mt. Tabor road races to cheer my teammates who will be racing Cat 5 Men and the Fixed gear races. I'll see if the additional and careful stretching prevents the extreme soreness of last week's post-race days. meanwhile, although it is disappointing to finish last again, I must remember that I am finishing last in a singlespeed category against women who are all younger and faster than me. I'm mostly okay with that, but part of me wants to learn more about training over the fall and winter to see how much more I might do next year. I would prefer to keep racing singlespeed than to have to come up with the money to build up (and space to store!) a geared mountain bike. As far as I'm concerned my bike is just fine. I am already thinking about how I can grow more. I would love to not finish last in every race, and maybe someday I can make that happen.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

hype of the week: 1995 cavaliers

This week's pre-race hype is All About The Drill. Watch the insane drill-writing where the hornline forms four squares that pinwheel and mesh into one, while the color guard manhandles the biggest flags in drum corps (when you have an all-male corps, your guard can do some heavy lifting indeed). Plus, you can't go wrong with Holst. An amazing show that took the Cavvies all the way to the top at DCI Finals in '95. This one's for all the band geeks. Enjoy, and if you're local I'll see you at PIR tomorrow night.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

post-face follow-up and other random notes

1. On Wednesday morning -- about 36 hours after my race -- my thighs felt like someone had pummeled them with a 9-pound sledgehammer. Lactic acid build-up was still making its way through and out of my body. (Note to self: stretch more after the race, and again, gently, before retiring for the night.) Not sure how I will feel by next Monday, but that's the beauty of signing up for the whole series at the start: it kind of commits you to see things through. I'm happy with my three laps and the way I handled the bike but would like to somehow not be the very last person on the course next time.

2. Yeshiva University Museum -- remember those guys? -- sent me a letter acknowledging receipt of my contribution to their collection. We'd originally talked about my sending them candlesticks and a mezuzah. By the time the form was emailed to me to print out, sign and enclose with the pieces, I was so tickled by the whole thing that I tossed in a yad for them, too. Quote from the director of the museum: "These pieces capture the creative and playful spirit of your work, your inventive use of materials, and your re-interpretation of traditional Jewish motifs through the lens of contemporary, urban -- specifically, cycling! -- culture. As a New York institution dedicated to the artistic interpretation of Jewish culture and themes, we are pleased to have your work become part of our collection."

I'm pretty darned pleased, too; and if I ever make it back to New York I'll be sure to stop by and check out the museum.

3. Sweetie and I celebrated Shavuot -- the Jewish holiday celebrating both first fruits and the receiving of the Torah at Sinai -- by going to an unusual and hip event that featured study sessions and live music. The headliner -- and our reason for going -- was the New York band Girls In Trouble, headed up by Portland native Alicia Jo Rabins. Sweetie got to interview her for both her radio show and for an article she recently wrote for the Jewish Review, so she was able to get us comped (I love that she can get us into concerts and shows!).

The band began as a song cycle Rabins was writing in lieu of a masters' thesis, on oppressed or underrepresented women figures in Torah. They now have two albums out and both are excellent. The event was held at The Woods, a new venue in the Sellwood neighborhood that was opened inside what used to be a funeral parlor. Saw several good friends from the Jewish community there. Love the room -- it has an adorable, tiny stage and nice hardwood floors -- and I would love to play a show there myself sometime.

4. Summer has finally poked its head around the corner and is looking into the room that is Portland. Sunny days in the low 70's are on tap this week, and I am hopeful for some really warm weather soon.

Monday, June 6, 2011

race report: PIR short-track, week 1

Tonight was my first race of the season, and my first race as a member of Team Slow.

I've been dealing with an inordinate amount of stress over the last few months and during the last few weeks it has really gotten me down. I wasn't even really up for racing, and noted my lack of enthusiasm heading into this race. Still, I'd paid for the series pass, signed the waiver, and there I was at PIR. I'd volunteered to help out with the Kiddie race at 5:40, acting as the "rabbit" (leading some adorable children on tiny bikes around a miniature course set up just for them). Kristin gave instructions and sort of headed things up; and Ed was the "rabbit" for the bigger kids. I was concerned about having enough energy to do this between my practice lap and my race, but it all worked out okay. I even had enough time afterwards to watch teammate Erinne do some of her Cat 3 race before mine. She looked strong (ah, youth!) and I hope she'll at least consider singlespeed when she's ready to cat up.

I pulled off a few quick hot laps in the parking lot before heading over to the staging area, where I took my place with three or four other women singlespeeders. Since our category was so small, they simply started all the women at the same time, after the Masters' men and Singlespeed men had gone.

The race went surprisingly well, though I did suffer quite a lot on the last lap. The course was dry, with decent lines created by the previous heat and large chunks on either side of the lines providing obvious boundaries. I swung a few corners wide and heading into the chunky stuff but managed to remain upright the entire race. We were all exceedingly polite; Kristin shouted out encouragement to me as she passed me, I yelled back it was a delightful evening for a race; and faster riders all gave audible warning that they would pass me (even telling me on which side). Stompy performed beautifully, I had no trouble at all racing on a fully-rigid bike (maybe The Gym Thing helped with increased arm strength, too, I dunno) and I gauged the right amount of air to let out before the race. The bike rode well over the chunky terrain, even out of the "back forty" over the perpendicular ruts in the hard, drypacked grass. Would I enjoy this course on a 29'er? Probably. Would it feel as nimble? Doubtful. I'm not tall enough to really need to ride a niner anyway, and I'm perfectly happy with Stompy.

I only needed my inhaler once the entire half hour; I was DFL (of course) but was allowed to finish my final lap before the next race started (thank you, Candi and Brian); and best of all, my legs really were stronger! I was able to enter the motocross track from the "back forty" and power my way up a sharp, off-camber corner to get onto the moto track without dismounting. Best of all, I managed to climb all the way up a very steep berm at the end of the middle rhythm section where many racers were forced to get off and run up. The first lap, I got stuck behind two women who fumbled shifts, and I was forced off my bike; but the next three passes, I had enough room in front of me to build up momentum and I cleaned it every single time -- even on my last lap when I felt so spent. It was the most satisfying part of the course for me, and potential evidence that The Gym Thing may just be something I ought to do every winter. (Question: Do I still keep working out at the gym now that my race season has begun, or do I just ride a lot more now? Don't know how that works, exactly. I will consult with friends in the know and listen to my body.)

It was great having teammates actually at the venue, cheering me on. Sweetie came to watch tonight and was so proud of me, hanging out with my teammates and yelling for me. Afterwards she smothered me with kisses and kept telling me how proud she was of me. (There is pretty much nothing better than racing and having your sweetie tell you what a rock star you are. Nothing.)


(Racing incognito for now; the team kits are due to arrive soon.)

Getting out there on the course and willing myself to suffer seems like a good idea, in retrospect. The moments when it was just me and my heartbeat cleared everything else out of my overworked mind and that can only be a good thing, even if it lasted just thirty minutes. I was totally baked at the end of my race, goofy and slightly stupid from the adrenaline; and it took me a good 20 to 30 minutes to recover. I stayed to watch teammate Ben race with his Masters' age group in the next race and chatted with Rob, Ed, Chris and John till about halfway through the final race and then went home, where Sweetie was waiting for me with food and drink.

I am hopeful that the time I spent at the gym will translate to stronger finishes and better performance on the more technical features of the course. On to next week.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Joseph Karo would've been a cyclist

The Shulchan Aruch (Hebrew: שולחן ערוך‎, literally: "Set Table") is a codification, or written manual, of halacha (Jewish law), composed by Rabbi Jospeh Karo in the 16th century. It is considered by many to be the most authoritative compilation of halacha since the Talmud.

Rabbi Karo never saw a bicycle, and could not even have imagined one in his time. But if he had, he would've endorsed my Shabbat afternoon activity yesterday, and I bet he might have even joined me on my ride.
Shulchan Aruch states that young persons may engage in strenuous exercise on the Sabbath, as long as it is a source of pleasure. Remember a couple weeks back when Sweetie and I left services feeling tense, not calmer; and we went to the gym, and it helped us to get into a more restful spirit on Shabbat afternoon?

Well, it has been a very stressful time at Rancho Bikelovejones of late, and yesterday I absolutely had to get outside or I'd go crazy. So late in the afternoon, I took Stompy out for a final ride before racing on Monday night. I pulled on my cycling shoes, sunglasses and helmet; laid on some sunscreen (because we finally got above 80 degrees for the first time this year!); and set out for the singletrack just below Willamette Blvd, over near Killingsworth, about three miles from home. It's not much -- it doesn't cover a large area and the trails are skinny and pretty straightforward -- but there's enough up and down, tight corners and sizable chunks of leftover cement embedded in the dirt paths, to make it challenging on its own.

I rode down the steep gravel entrance into the area, throwing my butt as far back behind the saddle as I could an feathering my brakes and trying not to be nervous. I made several laps in and around and through the little network of singletrack trails, weeds growing waist-high on either side and making me use a little body English to get around the largest of the embedded cement chunks. I wasn't fast -- I didn't count on being so -- but to my surprise and wonder, my wiry legs were strong enough to get up the inclines on every pass (as long as I didn't stop mid-trail). Last year at this time I would be pushing my bike up almost every incline, gasping for breath.

I guess my time in the gym has paid off in some measurable way. I won't be faster -- no interval plan, after all -- but I am stronger on the bike. The realization made me glad.

I looped back and forth and around for about twenty-five minutes, enough to get my "sea" legs back and feel more ready for Monday night, before recognizing that it was time to head back. As I rode home through leafy tree-lined streets and took sips from my water bottle, I imagined the course at PIR and felt ready to give it my best shot. And I definitely felt calmer, better, relieved of some of the worst of my stress, for having taken the ride.

I'm pretty sure Rabbi Karo would've approved.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

hype of the week: 2007 vanguard, "electric wheelchair"

First of all, a huge shout out to pal Judi, who will be taking on 100 miles (kilos? Dunno) of total off-road insanity in the Mohican 100 mountain bike race this weekend.

This is Judi, clad in her DrunkCyclist jersey.

(DC still has a few of these available (I got mine!); once they're gone they're gone so get one soon.)

Judi CAN smile, but this is definitely more like her game face.
My prediction: Judi will basically bring Ohio to its knees this weekend.
Kill it, girlfriend. Total Monstah.

Second of all, a large shout out to my teammates on Team Slow, some of whom have been riding hard since the early spring (while yours truly has slaved away in the gym and done way too much cargo biking to have an actual interval plan; I'll have some strength, but probably not much speed. Sigh). A few of them are out at PIR tonight, but my schedule and body put the kibosh on that at the last minute.

The PIR short-track series begins Next Freaking Monday Night (!!). Singlespeeds race at 6:30. For better or worse I will be there with them. I hope to have a little quality time with Stompy this weekend, nothing ambitious; just 30 to 60 minutes of off-road goofery to get my sea-legs back under me. I haven't ridden off-road since my trip to Gateway Green back in April.

To get my head into it, I am starting up my Hype Of The Week series again with a short clip of the 2007 SCV drum line warming up with the classic "Electric Wheelchair". Enjoy, and maybe I'll see you at the races!