Thirsty Thursday: Riding Smiles

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: 2009 Lockwood Vineyards Malbec

Hey Welliver Photography fans, its Thirsty Thursday once again...time to pour something yummy and plan something awesome to do this weekend. This week's installment is a bit unique--the story happened today, but the photos are from the same location, just a few weeks back.

As I prepare for the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, my cycling coach is giving me me all kinds of fun/crazy/tough workouts to get me ready. Today's mountain bike workout was short in length (only an hour and a half to 2 hours) but pretty intense with some max effort hill repeats mixed in the middle. Luckily I have about 30ish minutes of fun trails and fire roads to get to my hill, and it was a great morning to ride. I was having a blast. Then the hard part...a few minutes all out up a 6% grade, still fewer minutes to recover back down the hill, rinse and repeat 3 times. I was stomping on the pedals, drooling, snot streaming, panting, grunting...let's be honest, I assume I sounded like and looked like a rabid dog in heat. After the 2nd effort I had no idea how I was going to survive the 3rd effort. I could barely even figure out how to get my bike turned around on the reasonably wide double track fire road. Back down I went, and then started the final effort. The sun came out. Bonnie Tyler belted out "We Need A Hero" in my right ear. Bunnies scampered along the trail beside me. I clawed my way up the hill the final time. Done. Exhausted. Gasping. But done. Now just a ride back to the car.

I rounded the corner by Laguna Seca. One more small climb and then the route is mostly downhill to the trailhead. As I topped that last little pitch a smile slowly and unexpectedly crept across my face. I was invigorated. I'd finished that last effort just a few minutes before yet I felt fresh.

I bombed down the gravelly fire road. Then a decision. The quickest way home is straight. I turned left. One of my favorite single tracks was to the left. Turning left added an extra 20 minutes to my ride. I didn't care. The smile grew bigger.

I flew down a trail winding through tall grasses dappled with dots of wildflower color. The transition from green spring to golden summer is fast here. The poison oak stays green for a long time though. Its the only thing that slows me down as I try to navigate to the side of the narrow trail away from the toxic oils. Soon I'm on a new trail. Bermed corners. Railing. Pushing the limits of my tires to grip the loose fresh soil. The unseasonable weekend rains created a little tackiness in the dirt. A rear tire slide here and there, but I stay up as I edge closer to out-of-control. The wheels stick. I stay up. I keep cruising.

Across a fire road and onto the Goat Trail. I fly down the upper part of the trail. Its wide open, hard packed, fast. The wind gently whistles through the helmet straps against my cheek. A quick digger of a hill up to my favorite tree in all of Ft Ord. It looks beautiful this morning in the fresh sunlight, green leaves against the golden grass. But I didn't stop. I couldn't stop. The riding is too much fun. The smile isn't fading.

More flying. I look for spots to catch air off little lips in the trail. I lean my bike under me through the turns. I bounce smoothly over the washboarded corners. I've never gone this fast down this section of the trail. A blur of trees and grass scream through the peripheral vision, but I only see the single track in front of me. Low scrub oaks and prickly thistles scratch at my shins. I'm surprised by how quickly I reach the bottom of the trail. Surprised and disappointed. I wanted more.

At this point I am supposed to take the long fire road route back to the trailhead. Terry doesn't like me riding down the poison oak-infested, yet shorter and incredibly more fun trail back to the trailhead. He sorta forbids me from riding that trail. Today, I don't care. I want that trail. Its another of my favorites in Ft Ord. And today was one of those magical dog walkers, no hikers, no runners, not even another mountain biker on the last fun trail down to the parking lot. And the BLM guys had trimmed the poison oak away from the trail's edge. More flying. The smile, now huge, squeaked out a few giggles. I completely forgot about how miserable the intervals had been. As I popped up onto the pavement from the last bit of dirt fun for the day I smiled a little more...that was a hell fun of a ride.

I'm looking forward to another fun mountain bike ride this weekend. This time with some of my favorite riding friends at my favorite place to ride. Its going to be great.

Thanks for reading...And get out there and do something that makes you smile this weekend!

Thirsty Thursday: Hellyer Friday Night Lights

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: 2009 Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Zinfandel

In honor of the first night in the Friday Night Racing series tomorrow night at the track, I thought a little Hellyer Park Velodrome love was in order. Terry, who has suffered through supported me at just about every possible form of bike racing out there will tell you that track racing is the most spectator-friendly cycling discipline. Cyclists whip around a 300-meter banked track on fixed gear bikes with no brakes. It sounds dangerous, but the lack of brakes, coasting, or shifting keeps everyone moving at a consistent pace, so events with experienced racers are actually very safe. The racers compete in various events throughout the evening, from 1-on-1 match sprints to straight-forward scratch races to chaotic points races, and there's even a kiddie kilo for the little ones to take a lap around the track.

The Friday Night Races are quality events. Race Promoter Hernando throws a pretty rockin' party at these Friday Night Races, and local racer/photographer/designer-extraordinaire Steve Anderson designs awesome posters to get the word out. Seriously, how cool is this poster? On a typical Friday night you can expect to see numerous world and national champions, current pros, and up-and-coming uberfast racers throwing down the gauntlet and going all out--incredibly fun to watch.

For photographers, the track is stacked with shooting opportunities. Early the evening the light streaming from the west end of the track is great.


The racers are very accessible at the event as well. Between events you can get down on the infield for a different perspective.

A few shots of the racing action...

This is one of my favorite moments that Terry captured at the track...these two had just finished an incredible head-to-head battle in a match sprint. Afterwards, in true Hellyer fashion, they congratulated each other on a good race. That's the best part of the Hellyer community--everyone is supportive and encouraging. A very inviting place to race.

Hellyer Park Velodrome is located in Coyote-Hellyer Park just south of San Jose (995 Hellyer Avenue, San Jose, CA 95111). From the 680/280/101 interchange take 101 south for 5 miles to the Hellyer Ave exit. At the bottom of the off-ramp turn right. At the stop sign go straight into Hellyer Park and follow the signs to the velodrome. The spectator gate is located on the south end of the velodrome (from the parking lot walk counter clock-wise around the track to get to the gate). There is a $6 per vehicle Santa Clara County park entrance fee, but admission to the race is free!

If you can't make it out to the track this Friday, there are more Friday Night Races in August and September. Racing goes on at Hellyer on days and nights other than Friday too, so check the Hellyer calendar to see what's coming up. If you're interested in racing at Hellyer (which I highly recommend!), you'll first need to complete 3 beginner sessions. These sessions are typically on Saturday mornings, but again, check the calendar.


Should be a great weekend...get out and enjoy it!

Thirsty Thursday: Old Coast Road

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (thanks Devon and Aspen!)

To say I was excited for my training ride yesterday is an understatement. Everything aligned with the prescribed workout and weather and available time to go and the re-opening of Highway 1 after a landslide to go hit the dirt of the Old Coast Road.  I rode part of the Old Coast Road a few years ago, but hadn't been back since. Its a beautiful gravel/fire road that starts right next to the Bixby Bridge north of Big Sur and heads south in the highlands along the coast to Andrew Molera State Park. Gorgeous scenery on a road that makes for perfect Leadville training. The road is a mix of hard packed dirt, gravel, rocks, and deep ruts and is 100% beautiful the entire time.

I quickly found myself fighting a conflict between my two favorite hobbies as I started down the road. The road is fun to ride, and there's something interesting to photography at just about every turn. I am a regular reader of Eric Benjamin's Adventure Money blog, drawing inspiration from his incredible photos during his epic training rides in the beautiful Kansas Flint Hills as he prepares for the Dirty Kanza 200. I wanted to make some similar images, but I had to discipline myself not to stop every 5 feet to snap a frame of something cool with my trusty Canon G10. The G10 doesn't get anything phenomenal like our regular SLRs will capture, but it gets the job done when I'm out riding.

When headed south, the ride starts with a quick and fairly steep drop into a beautiful redwood forest. The road is a fairly gentle climb here, cruising through lush green of redwood forest undergrowth along Bixby Creek. The road is nicely tacky here and I rolled along fairly quickly despite the uphill pitch.

A few miles in the first of the El Sur Ranch "No Trespassing" signs appear, which are a bit of a downer. The middle 6.5 miles of the Old Coast Road pass through the El Sur Ranch, with constant reminders of private property on either side of the road through this otherwise pristine land. The road starts a steady climb up here, out of the redwoods and into the wide open, rolling hills. The sudden transition from dark forest to bright grassland is startling at first, but the warmth of the sun is welcome.

The next section of the road is a little rough. Its a 2-mile descent down a deeply-rutted, curvy road with all sorts of loose gravel and big rocks. The ruts are ideal training for the Leadville Powerline descent, forcing you to look well down the road and watch your speed. While the legs recover on this descent, the arms and brain get a workout! Another short stint through another redwood forest and then a climb through coastal chaparral to the most beautiful views on the ride. Quail run across the road and fly startled out of scrub oak on the side of the road. Poppies dot green pastures all the way down to the Pacific. I could sit here for hours, but I don't think that's what my coach had in mind.

A view of the Point Sur Light Station...and more poppies.

I made a quick stop to take a few photos, but once my heart rate was back down to the 120s, I knew it was time to roll again (damn my quick recovery!). Finally the last of the "no trespassing" sign were behind me and the road got a little more rocky. I was headed down another tricky, rutted hill when I suddenly had a stop sign and Highway 1 in front of me. I thought the Old Coast Road was about 13 miles long, but my GPS said 9.93 mi. Guess I got bad information as there was definitely no more road; just the entrance to Andrew Molera State Park and a bus stop along Highway 1. Time to turn around and head back.

The way back was just as lovely as the way out, and I was feeling great. I felt a huge smile grow across my face so many times as a tootled along at a rather pedestrian pace, enjoying the warm sun and the alternating views of the Pacific on my left with the cone-shaped peaks of the Ventana Wilderness on my right. I even paused to take a quick photo of the road ahead, thinking it looked so nice snaking up the distance hills.

Yeah, that's the same tricky 2 mile descent I previously described. What goes down must go up, eh? I forgot how long that hill was when I started up it--fantastic training for Leadville! The sun suddenly felt hotter, the wind suddenly stronger, the rocks suddenly bigger. I picked my line through the deep ruts, put my head down, found a rhythm. Two miles and 1,010' elevation gain later, I made it to the top. A quick drop back into the redwoods and I was back to a great view of the Bixby Bridge...and sadly, the end of an awesome ride.

If you'd like to explore the Old Coast Road, head south from Carmel on Highway 1. The road is on the east side of Highway 1 at the north end of Bixby Bridge. I think its best sampled on a bike (mountain or cyclocross), but a car with good ground clearance could make it as well. The poppies are just getting to full bloom out there, so go check it out.

And lastly, a little plug for a fellow bike riding photog...if you enjoyed the photos on the Adventure Monkey site linked earlier in the post, check out the photocycling tour he offers in the Kansas Flint Hills. He's still looking for a few more participants for his May workshop and its seriously dirt cheap! Its definitely on my bucket list.

Race Report: Boggs 8-Hour Mountain Bike Race

There is just something about Bike Monkey's annual 8-hour romp through the Boggs Demonstration Forest up north of Calistoga, CA that I love. The singletrack there is so much fun and the trails are very well maintained. The Bike Monkey crew does a fantastic job of organizing the event, and for some reason, I keep signing up for this 8 hours of suffering on a mountain bike. This was my 3rd Boggs, and oh boy, it was completely different than my two previous experiences! Before I get into the details, I have a few obligatory shout-outs. First off I have to thank Bike Station Aptos. JT and Courtney have been incredibly supportive, and mechanic Trey worked some serious magic to get my bike back up and running after last weekend's rather destructive wet sand race. The new brake pads (there was no more "pad" left on my brakes after last week...just metal on metal!) and new drive train worked great. Thanks guys! I also have to thank Honey Stinger for fueling me through the race. I had a regimen of gels (gold, strawberry, and banana flavors), cherry blossom organic energy chews, and a peanut butter-honey energy bar that got me through the day. Finally, and most importantly, huge thanks to Terry. He's getting pretty good at supporting me during these endurance races. He set up a little feed area for me with bottles laid out and food at the ready. Most laps he was there to make me eat or give me what I needed, some laps he was off playing with Massey, but he prepped the everything before he left. I always had what I needed when I needed it. And he took all the photos you see here. He's awesome!

Now, as for the race. I was excited to arrive at the venue to some sunshine and relatively mild temperatures for 7 am. After a week of warm temps, I assumed the trails had dried out pretty well. It was going to be a great day! But during the pre-race announcements, we got the bad news. We've had a pretty soggy few weeks here in California, and when more than 2" of rain has fallen within 2 weeks, all events at Boggs are supposed to be cancelled. Luckily the race organizers and forest guys got together and we still got to race--but instead of an awesome 8 or 9 mi singletrack loop o' fun, the course was a 5-mi loop entirely on fire roads. And since the conditions were a little icky and the course was so short, the race was shortened to 7 hours. I figured the fire roads would be relatively dry, so no big deal, right? I would quickly learn otherwise!

I lined up for the mass start alongside about 600 riders. I had no idea who I was racing against...solo racers were mixed in with the 2-person and 4-person relay teams, and race numbers didn't correlate to category. I wasn't too concerned about a result as I wasn't expecting to podium in the women's expert division. I was using the race more as training for Leadville anyway (and the fire road change was actually more realistic training for that event).

So off we went, a good steady climb for the start, then a crazy fast descent. I have a mild fear of fire road descending after crashing really hard when I was 10-years-old out in Crested Butte, CO on some lose gravel at the bottom of a hill. I don't like cornering on gravel while going 30 mph. Fortunately I had 7 hours to get over that fear. Everything was great until we got to the first left turn and then I saw it...MUD. Sloppy, slippery mud that went on for about 1/4 mile. Then another section with a big puddle. Then more puddles. Then little mini-streams. There was no way around the muck, only through it. I vividly remembered thinking "Two weeks of this in a row? Are you kidding me??" as I hit one puddle and thick muddy water splattered all the way up my shin. I mud-sprayed and everything from the waist down was pretty well soaked 1/2 way through the first lap. Ugh. But what can you do? So, I pedaled on, knowing it would be a long day. At least it was nice out and hell, I was riding my mountain really wasn't so bad.

It took me about 2 laps to get settled as my legs felt a little heavy at the start, then the next 4 or 5 laps went by fairly easily. The conditions weren't great, but they weren't horrible, and the short laps were mentally very easy to tackle. My goal at the beginning of the day was to get 60 mi in, so I had to do 12 laps. Around the 9th lap I was starting to feel it a bit. Sections of the course were starting to dry up, which meant all those soft spots that easily rutted in the morning were now hard, dry ruts. I felt like I was taking a beating. My bike was getting heavier from the mud. My feet were soaked. This photo was around lap 10 I can't tell where my knee warmers end and my skin starts!

Fortunately I finally started to see some familiar faces around the course at this point. My BSA teammate Malia was there racing on a 2-person women's team (and they won!!), our good friends Heather and Justin were there camping (they smartly decided to go play on the singletrack rather than deal with the fire road muck), and I could hear a few voices cheering for me as I rolled through the staging area each time. I pushed out my 12th lap and found Terry...who of course, as he does every single year at Boggs, told me to do one more lap. I was actually feeling *relatively* good, so I headed out for one more...lucky 13...and was done. I was really happy with my effort and how I felt throughout the day. And I was so happy to be done. I technically still had time for 1 more lap, but at that point my hands were sore, my legs were tired, and my girly parts weren't really excited about sitting on the saddle anymore. So I called it a day.

Back at the car we took stock of the mess. I have no idea how I was seeing the trail through those glasses, and I'm so glad I didn't wear my new SIDIs. I had mud was in my hair, in my ears, in my teeth, everywhere.

I slowly got out of all my gross clothing and tried to clean up as best I could. Then it was off to get beer and a burrito! I was fairly certain that I hadn't placed, but was curious to see the results before we headed home. They said they would post them shortly, so we waited. And waited. And waited. At least we had the dog to play with while we waited. She even got her first taste of beer.

Finally the results were posted...but only the top 3 in each category. Since we'd waited that long, I at least wanted to see which teams the top ladies were racing for to see if I could remember them blowing by me out on the course. And then to my surprise, there was my name! In second place! Holy crap! So we had to wait a little longer for the podium. And classy me, I only have one jersey for my new team, so there I was, on the podium, in my muddy, stinky jersey. Oh well. Glad we stuck around.

Of course, after all that fun, there's always the clean up. Here's the aftermath of 6:45 minutes and 65 miles in the mud. It all got the hose.

No racing next weekend. Next up will be the Sea Otter XC race followed by the Santa Cruz crit the same weekend. Its gonna be fun!






After what seems like weeks of riding in rain and wind every day, I was looking forward to the local CCCX mountain bike race scheduled for Sunday, as Sunday's forecast was sunny and lovely and oh-so-nice. But as luck would have it, the race got rescheduled for Saturday. Saturday's forecast = more rain, more wind, more misery. It turns out those meteorologists know what they are talking about once in awhile. Ft Ord is usually the best place around for getting some mountain biking during the rainy winter months because the sandy soil drains so well. In fact, Ft Ord is at it's best in the winter as everything is generally remains rideable, as opposed to the summer months when huge sandpits make the trails better suited for cyclocross than riding. Unfortunately we've had so much rain over the last week or two that even the Ft Ord trails were a muddy, mucky mess, and the rain was still falling.  This was going to be epic.

There's that old adage that goes something like "showing up is half the battle." Well yesterday that was the whole battle.  I was the only entrant in the women's pro/expert field. Luckily my old training buddy Sue finally decided to cat up and raced in the expert 35+ category, so we got to race together. She was also the only entrant in her category, so we both won! Don't think that made it easy though! Sue and I love to push each other silly, so we drilled it on the course. She's a ridiculously strong climber, so every time I would get a little gap on the downhill or flat parts, she'd be right back on my rear wheel on every climb. We battled together for the better part of 3 laps and then somehow I got a gap on her.

This photo of rain drops and mud splatters from Tim Westmore pretty much sums up the day.

By the 4th lap the rain was pouring and my rear derailleur was no longer cooperating. The drivetrain wasn't liking all the wet sand. I was left with only the front chainrings, and even then I still had some chain suck issues. I was relieved when I came through the start/finish line at the end of the 4th lap and they told me I was done. We were supposed to do 5, but in those conditions, 4 laps was good enough for me. I haven't done my 'cross races in conditions like that, much less a mountain bike race. Two hours of good hard racing in less-than-ideal conditions...mission accomplished.

The best part of tearing up a drive train in mucky muck conditions is that I have a brand new drive train that will be ready and waiting for me up at Bike Station Aptos this week! Yippie!

Here are a few photos of that Terry took after the race (and after he decided to unlock my car holding all my dry clothes 20 minutes after I'd finished!). You can see that it was a little mucky.

Muddy bike and Wellie's Wellies.

Sometimes I disgust myself.

Lovin' Sue's boots!

Lonely podium (but I'll take it!).

And hats off to teammate Ron Riley for another win! He's 76 years old! So impressive.

Up next...Boggs 8-Hour next Saturday.


About That Bike Racing Thing...

Excuse me while I talk a little bike racing on our photography blog. I still deliver photos, but I have some news to share first. This season is shaping up really well so far. First off, I joined a new team this year, Team Bike Station Aptos. I'm really excited to be a part of a team full of so much fun energy. Its going to be a fun year racing with these guys!

I also found out late last week that I was selected into Honey Stinger's Hive Grassroots Athlete Sponsorship Program. I started using Honey Stinger energy products last year and love them. Their organic energy chews are the best energy chews I've had (and I've tried just about every chewy energy product on the market!). A few months ago I saw a post about the Hive grassroots program and filled out an application, not expecting to actually get accepted...but I did! I'm stoked to have Honey Stinger goodies fueling me this year.
The biggest news in the last few days is about the biggest race I'll be doing this year. Monday evening that magical e-mail popped in my inbox saying "Congratulations! Your entry into the 2011 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race is confirmed." I'm headed back to Colorado to ride 100 miles above 10,000' in under 12 hours on my mountain bike.
The race has grown exponentially since Lance and the Race Across the Sky movie put the race on just about everyone's radar a few years ago; so much so that you have to enter a lottery to get a spot. I was lucky enough to get a spot last year only to show up a few minutes late at the first time cut-off and not finish. I had mixed feelings about doing the race again this year...on one hand I don't like unfinished business and I want that belt buckle. On the other hand proper preparation means a whole lot of training, which means whole lot of time away from non-bike-riding Terry. We don't often let Terry ride a bike. Things like this happen when Terry tries to ride a bike:
Ultimately, the crazy switch in my brain is always getting flipped to the "on" position, so I'm excited about heading back to the Rockies to race in the oxygen-deprived air. I don't like how last year ended. I need redemption. This means sacrificing backpacking photography trips in the Eastern Sierra this summer and going out when conditions aren't great or the legs/body/mind aren't feeling up to it.
But it also means fun rides in beautiful places with awesome friends. And this year there will be no more icky sticky Lousyana clay mud (see above) at the edge of a mosquito-infested swamp. This year I have real mountains to climb for training. And some of my favorite people will go on rides with me to keep those long days fun.
And how can I not be excited about going back for a pre-race prep ride up the beautiful Mayflower Gulch in Colorado?
See you on the trails!

Watching a Mountain Bike Race

Seasoned Welliver Photography readers would assume that Terry is the author of this post given the title. But this time its me, Beth, writing about watching a bike race. Yes, I was supposed to be racing, but a few weeks back I was recovering from something horribly nasty that decided to live in my throat, nose, head, and anywhere else something gross can live (dare I say thrive?) for the better part of 2 weeks. Icky! So instead of racing the season opener, I went to cheer on my new Bike Station Aptos teammates at the local CCCX mountain bike race at Ft Ord. I had 3 teammates in the race. They did 5 laps. Total race time was about 2 hours. That means I stood along the trail to cheer and snap a few photos 15 times over the course of 2 hours. In other words, I had a lot of free time while waiting for them to come streaking by each time. The experience made me deeply appreciate Terry's dedication and patience while I race my bikes! Below are a few of the images I captured during my "down time".

It was a beautiful day for a race...

I was a little surprised to find a few early season wildflowers (amongst the annual bumper crop of Ft Ord Poison Oak).

And of course weather nerd couldn't help admire some pretty clouds now and again...

This is proof that I really was at a bike race. Go Courtney!

The race was at Ft Ord's old Fam Camp...complete with old playground relics sprinkled here and there.

Actual race photos of people actually racing their bikes can be found here. Note: taking race photos is super hard. I also gained a greater appreciation for Terry as well as all those other phenomenal race photographers we have floating around NorCal. Y'all have serious talent as photographers.

Next weekend I get to go race my mountain bike on those trails. Yeehaw!

Spring Break Part 1

Yes, still way behind on updating the bloggie, but progress is progress. I figured I should post about spring break before Memorial Day and the official start of summer. Did I take a spring But, my parents did come visit me over their spring break. As the long Iowa winter continued to dump 70-some inches of snow and they ran out of places to pile the white stuff around the house, Mom and Dad decided that a week in the mild spring climes of Lousyana was an improvement. The main reason the parents escaped Iowa was to get a few rides in without needing studded tires and lobster gloves. So we took a couple of rides around the seemingly endless fireroads of Barksdale AFB's East Reservation. The area makes for some nice, long gravel road rides--perfectly sampled on a cx bike.

And after every good, long ride you need an even better late-afternoon lunch at the best little bistro in Shreveport. And blackberry bread pudding for dessert.

Dustbuster Du

Saturday morning me and my holiday belly headed out to the other side of Shreveport for a little event called the Dustbuster Duathlon. Pretty easy event: 1.5 mi run, 11.75 mi bike, 1.5 mi run. Here is where I would usually complain about the ridiculously chilly temps in the low 20s, but on the way to race my sister e-mailed me about being cold in Iowa and my aunt twittered about it being -24 F in Sioux Falls, so I'll keep that whining to a minimum. The whole race for me was comical at times. First, it was incredibly foggy at the venue today. There were spots where the visibility was less than arms length, I swear. So rather than warm up on the bike on the local roads in the thick fog, I figured I would just run to warm up. I set up my transition like I knew what I was doing (I definitely don't), and then went to stay warm in the car. Thinking that we started at 9, I was warming my feet and watching all the multisport-geeks out warming up. Around 8:30 I decided it was time for that one last bathroom break before getting ready (not the kind you should hold). There I was, strolling around this pecan farm looking for a bathroom, porta-potty, a large bush, anything. I find nothing, but I do hear this voice trying to yell something that sounds like "5 minutes. We're starting in 5 minutes." Wait a minute, who is starting in 5 minutes? Is there a kids race? Those people around the starting area look adult-sized. Crap!

I tried to nonchalantly jog over to the car to grab all my racing accoutrement, all the while thinking, I'm about to do this Du and I really need to doodoo. Oh well. I strapped on my number, my big ass GPS watch, my Fox mountain bike gloves, and double knotted my running shoes. I rushed over to the starting line, did my usual sizing up of the competition...they all had shoes that didn't have to be double knotted. Oh well. So there we are, in the freezing cold, getting a very detailed, turn-by-turn description of the entire route, and then we were ready for the gun. Oh wait, no, we had to take a time out to pray for the beautiful bloody freakin' freezing morning and for our safety and all that. Huh? Anyways, then we got the gun and we were off. Run run run. Not much to talk about on the first 1.5 mi part, into the transition zone sitting about 5th, unknotted my running shoe laces, threw on the SIDIs, blew Terry a kiss and out I went on my road bike sans TT bars because I couldn't find all the pieces to put them on the night before.

Now for the fun part of duathlons. Lots of men run really fast. And lost of those men can't ride a bike to save their lives. And seriously, you paid how much for that fancy schmancy Cervelo and disk wheel only to have platform pedals and old school toe clips? Did not changing your shoes really save you that much time in transition? Or do you not have the fancy speed lace running shoes? And if you can't steer your bike in a reasonably straight line, maybe you shouldn't use the aerobars just yet. At any rate, I was picking off the fast runner men for the first few miles of the bike portion, which distracted me from the fact that my legs were freezing. It was definitely cold. And still foggy. In fact, it was so cold and foggy on one portion of the bike that the water droplets collecting on my sunglasses from the fog were actually freezing, which made it a little tricky to see at times. Luckily the sun started to break through and melted all the frozen bits off. The remainder of the bike was rather uneventful...two women passed me (darn tri girls stomping out massive gears), so I think I was in 7th as I came into the transition. Terry was on the side of the road snapping photos, so I was sure to blow him another kiss...

Changed my shoes, tied my double knot again, threw my running hat back on, and out I went to finish the last 1.5 mi run. I could definitely feel my lack of bothering to break a sweat since returning from Cyclocross Nationals in Bend back in early December. The legs were heavy and still moving in pedal-like circles, but after a few steps I slid back into my running rhythm. I was happily bumbling along, made it to the turn around, and headed back toward the finish. With the sun now behind me, my shadow was visible in front of me...and then I realized that I looked like some sort of crazy Yeti with my hat all askew and some crazy 80s-style big-hair wings poking out. Good goo I looked like a hot mess. But I finished, didn't get passed by any more women, so I figured I was 7th.

After the race someone had a big vat of red beans and rice for us to eat and Terry continued to mock my insanity for running, biking, and running again in the freezing cold. I was patiently waiting for transition to open again so I could grab my bike and was hoping that the results would be posted somewhere since we were chip timed so that I could see how I finished, then we could go. I kept waiting and then finally they said that they were going to hand out awards. I just wanted to see the print out of splits and all that since I didn't think I had placed, but I stood around and listened to the awards ceremony while Terry sat in the car warming his feet. I heard the overall winner's time, and I was about 10 minutes behind her. Then they started into the age group categories...I was faster than the 20-24 winner, but the 25-29 winner smoked me. Then they announced the 30-34 second place finisher...wait a minute, I think my time was faster, maybe? Then they called my name as the 30-34 winner! Haha! I headed back to the car with my new plaque. Terry was shocked! He didn't get out of the car to take the podium pic since we both thought I was 7th and wouldn't get anything. So the winner shot had to happen in the car!

Next event on the opening race weekend of 2010: mountain bike race! Way more fun than anything involving road running and TTing on a bike.

Surf City #2 and #3

Finally got my first cyclocross race of the year in this weekend. Yes, it did involve flying all the way to California. Yes, it did hurt. Yes, it was my first foray into the world of racing with the A's, time trial world champions, singlespeed world champions, multiple national champions, pro mountain bikers, and the rest of the lot. Daaaammn, these girls are FAST! Yes, I did finish DFL both days. But at least it was fun! Day One my goal was not to get lapped. The course at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds was hot, dry, and fast, fast, fast. Let's see, I hung in tough for all of umm, one lap. I was comfortable and relatively quick through the technical sections, but there was this ridiculously long road section where everyone just rode away from me. There was this crazy little uphill that we had to grunt up every time (see the pic courtesy of Terry), so that's what I looked forward to each lap. Otherwise, nothing to interesting to talk about besides me being much slower than everyone else. I actually did a little victory dance in my head when I got the one-lap-to-go sign because I hadn't gotten lapped by the speedy leaders.


Day Two...more of the same. The course was a little bit different today, and there was a nice little run-up, which always makes me happy! My goal today was to hang with some of the girls that I knew I should be able to hang with. Terry told me I looked good through the first lap, but by the time we got to the road section on the second lap, I was done once again. So I suffered along as best I could, and stuck it out the whole time even though I really wanted to throw in the towel. Once again, I didn't get lapped, so I guess I'll take that away as my small bright spot in a weekend of crazy cyclocross suffering. My new Ellsworth Roots ride was great (except for the creaky seat post I have to fix!), and the Williams Wheels were awesome.


I am disappointed with how my races went this weekend, but I also know what I have to work on through the rest of the season. Living in a place that doesn't have much of a fall racing scene and no cyclocross makes it a little tough to check where I am. I can tell that I didn't have the track to help the speed and fitness this summer, and I could definitely tell that I didn't have the "race fitness" that the rest of the field that has been racing since early- to mid-September did. And I know where I stood fitness-wise last year at this time and I don't think I'm in the same place. But, I know what I have to do to get to where I want to be...and the goal wasn't to be there this year anyway. Patience.

It was great to see all the NorCal folks I'd missed all summer. I doubt I'll be back here anytime soon, so it was great to see everyone at the races, and to those I know how to get in touch with me.

Next race...Ft Worth Cyclocross next weekend...I'll get to see how Texas does 'cross. Perhaps BBQ rather than burritos and tamales afterwards.

Weekend in the Mud

Finally. I'm writing a race report. Granted, I did do some road races this summer, but they were not blog worthy. That's because road racing is lame. This weekend I headed just down the road to Ruston, LA for the Piney Hills Classic. The race is actually part of the Texas Mountain Bike Racing Association's Fall Cup points series (weird, huh?), so the turn out is pretty good with lots of fast folks from Texas coming over to race. I raced on these trails for the duathlon I did back in June when I first got here, and have ridden them a few other times. It's an incredible 10-mi loop of mostly singletrack up and down ravines and through the woods. Plenty of technical with tree roots and stuff. The event follows a stage race format, with Cat 2's (that's me) doing a 3-mi time trial and the regular cross country race towards the stage results. There was also an optional short track cross-country race on Saturday morning, and the cyclocross fiend in me couldn't pass that up! Weather geek interjection: I should mention that its monsoon season down here. I don't think we normally have monsoons here, but its an El Nino year (that's Spanish for "the Nino") so the rain just keeps coming. Rumor today was that in the last 41 days a rain gauge near the course has collected 26 inches of rain. I think they got somewhere between 3" and 4" in that area last week. Fortunately the weekend brought crisp, sunny autumn days, but there was plenty of mud out on the trails.

Short Track

Well, the starting field for this one was a bit sparse. There was me and one other girl. Wow, two of us. Since the short track didn't count towards the stage results for us, most girls chose to skip it. But I wanted do the the short track more than any of the other events to get me ready for cross...yes that's right, I haven't done a cross race yet this year. The race official asked if we wanted to shorten the race and I kindly said, no thank you, full length please. So off we went, I guess I got the hole shot, and cruised from there. It was obscenely muddy, but riding in soupy mud is strikingly similar to riding in Ft Ord sand. I sort of didn't know what to do once I had a good gap...keep hammering for the fitness, or conserve for the coming races? I kept hammering along with taking some lines I wouldn't normally take through some spots for the practice. Overall, it was fun, I got covered in mud, but stayed safe and upright the whole time. Felt great, with that nice lung burn at the end.

Time Trial

After I got the bike and myself cleaned up, lubed up (the bike, not me), and made a quick trip to the Subway in nearby Wal-Mart for lunch (Wal-Mart in southern town...that 15 minute experience is worthy of whole other blog), it was time for the time trial. I generally loathe roadie time trials, with the crazy wheels and crazy bars and crazy helmets. But a mountain bike time trial...heck yeah! Plus, given that I got dropped in all those CCCX pro/expert mountain bike races at Ft Ord, I'm fairly familiar with the solo mtb effort. The course was sa-weeeet...started at the top of this crazy steep hill--coming over the top of it was like cresting the top of the big hill on a roller coaster...super steep, straight down, and only a bit bumpy, so you could let go of the brakes, hang your butt off the back of the saddle and go...just make sure you don't launch yourself over the berm at the bottom! I felt amazing, but didn't know how long 3.5 miles would be, so I was conservatively hammering. The course had just a few gooey sections, but otherwise it was generally tacky and fast. We went off at 30-second intervals, and I caught the two girls ahead of me, so I was happy. The only bummer was that it was over so fast. I think I could have gone harder had I realized the course was so short. But, in the end, I posted the fastest time in my age group, so I held the lead after Stage 1.


Despite how hard I'd ridden yesterday, I was still feeling pretty good during my warm-up this morning. I held close to a 1-minute lead in the GC (saying GC about a mtb race makes me giggle), but I didn't want anyone in my class to get a gap once we started. The xc was supposed to be 2 laps around the 10-mile loop, but due to all the rain, they had to chop off about 2 miles for parts of the trail that were unrideable. My great warm-up was really all for not...the officials had us all stage 10 minutes before the start. And by all, I mean every single age group of Cat 2 men, then they finally staged the women...but the first group of men still hadn't started. So I think we stood around in the upper-40 degree early morning shade for about 20 minutes before we finally got the gun. The race started off fast and furious, with a couple of girls from the 20-29 age group getting a good gap on the rest of us. There was one girl right on my wheel thru the first section of woods, and it turned out it was one of the local Shreveport riders, so I was happy to let Kim go by...she was flying and looking great through the technical stuff. The ride was going well, rather uneventful, just muddy, until I clipped a handlebar on a little tree...I crashed. But, no harm done, just a little muddy, so up I got and on I went. Then, sometime in next few mud puddles or stream crossings, my rear cog/freewheel/derailleur/chain decided it didn't want to cooperate anymore. Every time I was grinding up a grunter of a climb, my chain would either slip the freewheel or I'd get chain suck that would lock up the cranks. I guess my cyclocross trail running training paid off, because I had to start running up a bunch of the hills. Then I crashed again in the weird place when my front wheel just slid right off the trail. Lesson learned: 30 psi is too much in the Schwalbe's in the mud. Slowly my competition started catching back up, and as we neared the end of the first lap, I was exhausted, covered in mud, and Tammie, my main competition, was right on my wheel. Eeek! And with a whole lap remaining, I still had another hour to race. My technical skills would allow me to get a gap on her, but she would reel me back in on the climbs. The soupy mud from the previous day was now gooey, sticky, clay-like mud that sucked your wheels down and bogged you down...and with a finicky rear freewheel, it was quickly getting miserable. But I knew I needed the fitness so I just kept hammering. I slowly caught the other younger girls who had gotten away at the start when they had major mechanicals, so I was at the front of the women's Cat 2 race. It really was a race of attrition in those conditions. Finally, towards the end of the lap, I finally got enough of a gap to relax a bit and cruise in for the win. I think this was my first ever cross-country win.

Bummer of the day...Kim, the local girl who was crushing it ended up crashing pretty hard during the race. She broke her arm near her elbow and has to get it surgically repaired. Heal up fast Kim! I want to go ride with you!

The aftermath...this is what the bike looked like when I got home today. She was clean at the start. I think I'll have to replace the chain, and possibly the rear cog. I also have mud stains on my legs that I can't get off. Stupid red mud. I have also official resigned from road racing. Its lame...this was so much more fun!



Next up: Surf City baby! I'll get to see all my NorCal friends next weekend! Yippie!

Leapin' Lizards!

The cyclocross remount, properly done, is a thing of beauty. A single effortless bound, a leap of faith, a body horizontally suspended in superman position above saddle, above bike, above ground for a split second, and then a gentle touch down of saddle to inner thigh, a slide to center on the saddle, one foot, then the other immediately to the pedals, and go, go, go. A lovely ballet that happens in a fraction of a second. Unless you're me. Then you've spent two years of your life with this ugly stutter-step. I can dismount perfectly. I can step-through dismount or side-step dismount. I can even dismount on the drive train side. I can pick my bike up and run. Run over barriers. Run up a hill. No problem. But the remount. Oh you stupid stutter-stepping remount. Screwing me over, losing me positions I'd just dismounted and ran my butt off to gain, throwing all that work by the wayside because my stupid stupid stutter-step.

The first year I raced 'cross I went to a clinic. NorCal cx goddess Stella Carey was my instructor. She spent hours telling me how not to stutter-step. But I couldn't break it. I kept thinking, you're an athlete Beth! Watch what she's doing, then do it. Just leap. But I couldn't. That stutter-step was my nicotine; I wanted to quit but I couldn't. I guess I feared slamming my hoohaw on the saddle. Stella got fed up. She left me and my stutter-step. Who could blame her? And you can get away with a lot of stuff when you're racing C's. So the stutter-step stayed. I looked like a moron. And swore a lot. See below.


Last year I moved up to the B's. I dreamt all summer of the perfect remount. I watched videos. I watched people. I asked questions. I practiced. But that stutter-step didn't go away. All season long. Everyone in the B's could do a perfect remount, while I looked like a bad Mary Catherine Gallagher impression when I tried to leap back on my bike. I even got mocked at one race by some drunken 'cross hooligans for my abominable remount skills. I was confident that I was doomed to a life of stutter-stepping. A very wise and seasoned 'cross racer told me not to worry about my stutter, it would eventually work its way out. I didn't believe him. I knew I was doomed. Forever.


So today I'd been studying for this leadership correspondence course test that I have to take tomorrow for about 5 hours. I got bored. I got distracted. I found some photos of 'cross races. Then I looked at some of Terry's sweet pics from last year's 'cross races. I was suddenly inspired. It was getting dark outside. But I decided to go grab my 'cross bike with a questionable soft front tire off the garage wall and take it for a spin around the freshly watered and therefore questionable soft grass in the backyard.

I hopped on my stutter-step, but I can always get on from a walk without stutter-stepping. I gained some speed. I hopped off. I ran a few steps. I hopped back on. Did that just happen? Shhh, don't jinx it. I gained more speed. I hopped off. I ran a few feet. I hopped back on...HOLY CRAP! Okay, one stutter-step! Really? YES!

I stayed in the backyard for about 15 minutes, hopping off, hopping back on. Not one single stutter-step! I even sort of tried to stutter-step once just to make sure I wasn't pretending to ignore the stutter-step. I made a fake barrier of out my sprinkler. I couldn't make myself stutter-step. Yay!

I called Terry...I couldn't contain my excitement. I told him it might be the happiest day of my life. That might have been a exaggeration. Luckily he's used to my gross over-exaggerations.

Tomorrow I'm going to the trails to try it out for real. And then 'cross season can officially start already!


Right now I'm supposed to be warming up for a local mountain bike race. But instead I'm at home, eating applesauce and drinking watered-down gatorade. My week has gone something like this...Wednesday evening, pre-registered for mountain bike race, made some stir-fry; wee hours of Thursday morning, started throwing up; more humane early morning hours of Thursday, still throwing up, cursing myself for the meat I used in the stir-fry; mid-morning Thursday, off to clinic to get IV, stopped eating food, stopped throwing up, slept. Friday morning, feeling a little better, tried food again, mixed reviews, but it stayed down, slept more. Saturday morning, getting ready for race, had bagel, stomach not feeling quite right, decided not to go race. Grrr. Its always something. Its probably for the best, but I just want to get a race in down here. So, instead of a race report for today, I'll just throw some black and white photos out. I've been tinkering with a few this week, so here's a sampling. Hopefully I'll have a race report to share very soon.


Grain Bins at Mom and Dad's House


Black-Eyed Susans near home.


Sign buried in the weeds on Little Missouri Trail, Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas.

Du-ing the Race Thing Again

I've been in Louisiana for almost a month now. Its been a crazy first month, complete with very close calls with a tornado (2 miles away) and an alligator (about 10 feet away), searching for and buying a house, saying good-bye to Terry and sending him back to Monterey, obscene humidity, an extra lame group ride, and a very busy job. Each of those in and of itself was worthy of a blog, but with a super slow internet connection, taking an online leadership course, and a work schedule that has me up at 5:00 each morning, blogging hasn't been a priority. But I finally got a chance to do a race this weekend, so here's my race report. I am not a swimmer. When I was little I failed basic swim lessons the first time I took them. When I was 10 I did the IronKids triathlon--I was dead last out of the water after reverting to the elementary back stroke to complete my swim leg...yes, that's right, the "chicken-airplane-soldier" stroke. In case you're wondering, its not a fast stroke. In college I tore up my shoulder and as part of my rehab I was supposed to go swim--the swim coach actually told me I was moving backwards in the pool. I haven't swam a stroke since I lived in Japan, so that would be about 3 years ago. Yet for some reason when I saw that the Xterra Gator Terra off-road triathlon was only an hour away from where I live now, I had to do it. So I signed up, bought myself a silly swim cap and goggles, and even drove myself to the course last weekend to pre-ride the mountain bike leg (swweeeeettt single track by the way!). In the back of my mind I kept thinking, what the hell are you doing? You are a HORRIBLE swimmer! But I was so excited to do something competitive that I threw all logical thought out the window and was ready to dive right in.

Fortunately the stars properly aligned and my triathlon registration was "lost". So when I showed up Saturday morning for my first grown-up triathlon, I wasn't registered for it. And then I learned that there was also a duathlon. I've always wanted to do a duathlon. Running and mountain biking...I'm no superstar at either of them, but I can hold my own in both. So I signed up for the du...thank goodness no swim! There was about 25 of us at the start for the du, with only 2 other least I was on the podium! The one lady looked pretty athletic, so I figured I was in for a good challenge.

The first leg was a 1.1-mile trail run, complete with a huge hill similar to the Surf City cx run-up but longer, right off the bat. All the sudden I'm in 4th place, behind three guys, with the other women well behind me. Okay, cool. But one chic was wearing a cycling kit, so she could be a good mountain smart! I ran into the transition, quickly change into my Sidi's and throw on my helmet. Some how I did a perfect flying mount of my mountain bike--amazing considering I can't do that on my 'cross bike--and off I went for the 10-mile mountain bike leg.

Ironically I finished my run in about the same time that the elite men doing the triathlon finished their swim (they started the du a few minutes after the tri swim start), so I was on the course with them. I was good in the technical sessions against them, but they would fly by me in the powery open sections. Three pro ladies passed me during the mtb, too. One of them had calves the size of my head...crazy! It was fun to be at the front of the women's field because all the spectators would cheer extra for me. I've never heard the words "You Go Girl!" so many times in my life. I even caught some air on a berm in front of one crowd while a guy behind me crashed, so I got extra cheering there. There were plenty of places on those trails to destroy yourself, and despite nearly endo'ing  hard twice, I survived unscathed. I even made a friend because he liked "following my downhill lines"...I really think he was enjoying the view. Luckily the other women in the du hadn't caught me yet, so I was still in first place as the bike wound down.

I sucked down a Gu, did a perfect 'cross dismount at the line to the transition area (that's a good way to impress folks who know nothing about cyclocross), changed back into the running shoes and headed out for the last 3.5 miles of trail running. Unfortunately the trails were technical enough during the mtb leg that I hadn't been drinking enough water. So that coupled with trying to get my legs to stop spinning and start running made the first mile go slow. But then I grabbed a water at the aid station and got in my groove. I love trail running. Not as much as mountain biking, but its fun. Suddenly I was at the 3-mile point and realized I was almost done. I picked it up another notch and kicked it on in. I finished the whole thing in about 1:49 I think...and I won!  Yippie! I think I even got 2nd or 3rd overall against the men.

I don't have any pictures since my personal race documentary photographer was in Colorado for the weekend. But I had a great time and would love to do another off-road du again...and I'm so damn glad I didn't have to swim. I'd probably still be in that lake.

Probably won't have many more race reports for awhile. Racing is having to take a back seat to getting moved into the house and job commitments. Maybe by mid-summer I'll be back in the racing groove.

Boggs 8-Hour, Round Two

Yes, a new blog post...since its been a few weeks, I've apparently taken the liberty to ramble on for awhile to make up for lost words. Its a little long winded, so if you just want to know the final result, scroll to the bottom... I used to think I was a distance runner. It must have been a phase to transition me from my soccer playing days to something else. I ran a few 1/2 marathons and did a full marathon and was all ready to tackle a 50-km trail run, but running hurts after awhile and I skipped the 50K. Then I moved to California and just had to buy a bike. But I was still all about the long distance thing, so I thought I should do long distance mountain bike races, and really for no reason other than that I thought I was some sort of endurance athlete or that I wanted to be some crazy endurance athlete, and I had a mountain bike that I sort of knew how to sort of ride on singletrack. So last year I did the craziness of Boggs 8-hour mountain bike race on a brand new full-suspension that I sucked at riding. But I survived and had so much fun that I decided to do it again...and bring people with me! Somehow Natasha and I convinced each other to do it (she says I convinced her, but I think it was really her idea to do it this year).

So fast-forward another year. I figured out how to ride my full-suspension bike at a reasonable, yet still significantly slower than most, downhill speed. And I gained a lot of cycling fitness and all that in the last year, too. But I also did a lot of track racing and cyclocross and crits--pretty much the opposite of marathon mountain bike races, but whatever. The pedals go around just the same. Oh, and I'm rocking some serious "thesis fitness" right now as I'd like to call it...I've been lucky to get 1.5 hour rides in about three times during the week and maybe eeked out 3.5 to 4 hours on either Saturday or Sunday, but rarely did I ride on both Saturday and Sunday (except for that stupid Madera thing) in the last 3 months due to demands of finishing my master's thesis. So I really had no expectations going into Boggs this past weekend. I was hoping to match the same number of laps I had finished the year before, but I had no idea what would happen.

Before I get into the bloody details that Newell requested, I have to thank the unbelievable support crew we had! Terry waited patiently at the starting line for the entire 8 hours, keeping Natasha and I hydrated and fed all day long. Natasha's hubby Aaron was there for most laps and made sure we had the right food and lubed my chain when it needed it. Plus Hernando was there and up to his usual heckling shenanigans while Sabine made sure we were all taken care of and saved the day with a cookie for me (more on that later) the three of them all got to go ride the sweet trails up there while we were racing, so it worked out great.

[caption id="attachment_356" align="aligncenter" width="256" caption="Sabine planning her 2nd ride of the day"]Sabine planning her 2nd ride of the day[/caption]

Now for the race...there was this racer announcement meeting at 8 and races were supposed to start at 8:30. Well, the guy talked until 8:25 so I had about 5 minutes to go change and get back to the line. I literally rolled up, set my foot down, and then they started us. Luckily I had 8 hours to get warmed up. The course was exactly the same as the year, so at least I knew what to expect. The first few laps went by easily. The weather was gorgeous, the trails were perfect, the fellow racers were cordial and friendly. There were guys on unicycles and couples on tandems and the fabulous Lorri Lown rocking some awesome pink socks to go with her awesome pink bike (not gonna lie, I'm a little jealous)...

[caption id="attachment_349" align="aligncenter" width="256" caption="Unicyclist"]Unicyclist[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_351" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Crazy Tandem Couple"]Crazy Tandem Couple[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_350" align="aligncenter" width="384" caption="Lorri in Pink!"]Lorri in Pink![/caption]

Around 1 pm, people started getting a little crabby. I was still happily frolicking along at my "thesis fitness" pace, but some people wanted to go much faster and wanted me to get out of there way. Most likely because around lap 4 I started going really slow. The "thesis fitness" was catching up with me. After the 4th lap I got the great reassurance from Terry of "you'd better hurry up if you think you're going to do 3 more laps" and "Natasha is about to lap you". Now, I fully expected Tash to lap me, so I was cool with that. She was actually racing as opposed to my putzing. Plus she knew all the secrets of endurance racing after doing the 24-Hours of Adrenaline a ridiculous number of times, like drinking Mountain Dew in between laps. So I made a deal with myself...go until I finish 7 laps or until Tash passes me--then I could drink beer.

[caption id="attachment_355" align="aligncenter" width="256" caption="Doin' the Dew"]Doin' the Dew[/caption]

Off I went for lap 5...holy cow I'm slow. And my hamstrings hurt. But I made it back around. Terry fueled me up and sent me off and told me to hurry up. So I started out on lap 6. The course had one big fire road climb early in the lap, then some fun, rolling singletrack for awhile, and then a monstrous death march of a climb that went for about a mile up a fire road and then another mile up some singletrack. The first climb was taking its toll on me, but I survived. Unfortunately my hamstrings were getting so tight that it hurt to pedal or stand on my pedals, so I just sat on my saddle and coasted through a lot of the next section. Then came the second huge climb. I noticed that I was getting so defeated that I was starting to do that whiny weird gasping breathing thing I do when I'm on the edge of a melt down and about to cry. So I decided, this is it. I'm only doing 6 laps this year. No one could fault me with all the moving and school and lack of training and general crap we're dealing with right now. But it was less than I did last year, which frustrated me, but not enough to care to do another lap. So I suffered my way to the top of the climb. The Boggs folks were smart when they designed that course though...roughly the last 1.5 miles back to the start/finish area was fun downhill. So the meltdown didn't fully come to fruition and I swooped my way back to the venue where the support crew was there to see me say, "I'm done".  Too bad I was still smiling from the last downhill section so they didn't believe me. Plus I looked like a big dofus with my helmet all askew on my head, so no one would take me seriously anyway.

[caption id="attachment_358" align="aligncenter" width="255" caption="Goofy Helmet"]Goofy Helmet[/caption]

I was all prepared to convince Terry that I was done. He'd talked me into doing another lap last year, so I knew what tactics he'd use to get me to do another lap. I was ready to counter him. But then Aaron said, "its only 3:15, you have have over 2 hours to finish this last lap. You have to do another one". Uh, okay...Then Sabine says, "just stretch for a second and you can go back in a few minutes, you don't have to go right now." And then she said the golden words, "Do you want a cookie?" Yes, YES!! COOKIE! And to top it off, it was a sugar cookie. An unbelievable soft and oh-so-sugary sweet homemade sugar cookie. So I ate my cookie and drank my cytomax while the crew tended to my bike. I told them I would do another lap but I might be crying when I finish. That's how hard the last lap had been for me. Hernando said he'd have a beer to put in my hand when I finished, so fine. I'll go do the damn lap.

[caption id="attachment_354" align="aligncenter" width="255" caption="Pit Stop"]Pit Stop[/caption]

Shockingly, lap 7 was not so bad. Maybe because I knew I was absolutely done at the end of this lap because there wasn't time to do another one. Or maybe the after taste of the sugar cookie for the first part of the lap just made me happy. Or maybe because the crew had totally rallied me to get out there and do it. I sucked it up on the climbs and let go of the brakes on the downhills and just decided to have fun with it. My hammys didn't hurt as much any more and I finally had all the fast lines figured out. I made it almost to the very tip-top of the last climb and heard a familiar voice behind me, "Hey Wellie, can I get by?" Yay! Tash was finally lapping me...I knew she was really close to the chic just ahead of her in the expert category, so I was so excited to see her go flying by me and start down the final descent! She rode so hard and was absolutely crushing it for 8 straight hours! Unbelievable. She wound up finishing 3rd in the solo expert category, just 20 seconds behind 2nd place after 8 hours of racing. Awesome!

[caption id="attachment_357" align="aligncenter" width="448" caption="Tash Killin' It!"]Tash Killin' It![/caption]

I cruised down the last little bit of singletrack, pretty tired, relieved to know I was almost done, and going faster than I'd ever ridden that section. That made me happy because improving my downhilling ability has been a slow and frustrating process. I'm still pretty slow at it, but I'm getting faster, and more importantly, more confident with speed in technical sections. I think my final lap ended up being faster than laps 4 thru 6, so I can't complain about that. And I was able to finish with a smile on my face. I did the same number of laps as last year but I think I finished those 7 laps at least 45 minutes sooner than I had the year before. I ended up 2nd in the solo sport category, well behind 1st place, but happy to have survived.

[caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="461" caption="Almost done"]Almost done[/caption]

So that was it, last race in NorCal. I'm glad it was a fun one and that I got to share it with some great friends. And extra thanks to Terry for putting up with this whole cycling thing. He's out there at nearly every race, always supporting and helping and cheering and pinning numbers and manning the feed zones and keeping track of water bottles and taking some sweet pictures...and he doesn't even like riding a bike. I'm pretty darn lucky!

I Got My Chair

I didn't win a bike race yesterday and could not have been happier. Why? Because my superstar Team Beth teammate won her first crit!! It was so cool and she definitely earned it. So that's the short story. And here's a picture (stolen from Sabine) of our crazy sprint finish. Thanks to Lorri and all the Velo Girls for a great event! I've noticed that the races put on by womens teams out here are the best, all the way around. For the long story (including an explanation of the title), read on below the picture. [caption id="attachment_343" align="alignnone" width="592" caption="Photo by Sabine Dukes"]Photo by Sabine Dukes[/caption]

So you may have noticed that the blog has been a little slow lately. That's because I've been plugging away on my thesis. Somehow I got behind, which made last week look something like this...

Monday - Wake up. Type. Look at spreadsheets. Compare charts. Type. Sleep.

Tuesday - Wake up. Swear at my computer. Type. Cut and paste in Excel. Type. Intervals on the rollers. Type. Go to bed. Freak out because I'm behind. Get up and type more. Sleep.

Wednesday - Wake up. Type...You get the idea.

So I averaged about 4 hours of sleep each night. I'm a 7-hour minimum sleeper - if I don't get 7 hours I turn into a sniffling, crabby, emotionally jilted crazy girl. Ask Terry...he can tell a hilarious story of my emotional lameness last week. I skipped out on the Berkeley team time trial that I was supposed to do Saturday. I rode a bike for a total of three hours the whole week. Sunday morning I had to take Terry to the airport at 5:40 to catch a flight for a job interview in Baltimore. With the stupid time change it was really like 4:40. Dropped him off and went back to bed. Exhausted and grumpy.

When the alarm went off at 9 I knew I had to get up to leave by 10 to get to the crit. I didn't want to go. I was pissed that I'd pre-registered. But I knew that people were expecting me to be there. And I really wanted to go to Ikea one more time before I move because I really wanted a Poang chair. The race was in Menlo Park so Ikea would be right there when I finished. Just pedal around for an hour and then I'd get my chair. So I forced myself to lube the chain and pump up the tires and throw random bits of Bella clothing in a bag with a ClifBar and a water bottle and off I went.

I got to the race and was still not thrilled about being there. But I was there. So I got on my bike and found a little street to warm-up on and tried to motivate myself to ride. But I didn't care. Off to the starting line to line-up. I took a spot in the back because I didn't care. I always try to get to the front, but didn't feel like squeezing myself in. The whole field is standing there ready to start the race but there was some sort of "incident" at the end of the Pro/1/2 men's race (come on boys, are you kidding me??), so we had to wait for the course to be cleared. Twenty minutes later and what I think was about 10 neutral parade laps, we finally got lined up for the start. The whole time I'm thinking this is delaying my chair purchase. And I just wanted my chair.

Finally we started and I suddenly felt better. I was racing my bike. It just made sense. I got to focus on pack positioning and cornering and watching my line and other people's lines and doing my thing. Two laps in we got a bell for a prime. I was near the front so I pushed it a bit and won the prime next time around, with Beth right on my wheel...Beth says hey, we have a gap, lets I went. Mind you, its about 3 laps into the race at this point and I know its not going to last, but what the hell, Beth and I are in a break. But that quickly fizzled and I drifted back into the pack, flirting the outskirts of the dark place that I didn't want to be in 3 laps into the race. I told myself if my lungs exploded I wouldn't be able to get my chair so chilled for a bit.

So fast forward a several laps and I hear a bell going through the start/finish again...another prime. There were primes every other lap in that race I think. I was mid-pack and didn't think much of it. But then we're coming back around to finish that lap and I've advanced to the front of the I surged and picked up another one. Crazy! Beth drifted by me and said stay off the front for the rest of the race, so I chilled in the pack while she went to the front and patrolled a bit. She won a prime in there too I think.

Then we got the bell for the last lap and everyone went ape-shit. Girls started trying to squeeze in places they didn't quite fit and taking some crazy lines into the corners. I was freaked out! One girl even went down on the back side after hooking bars. I tried to scoot to the front but was still about mid-pack coming around the last turn. Thankfully it was a ridiculously long finishing straight. Everyone slowed way down while 4 girls got a little gap. I suddenly had a lot of speed out of the corner and bridged across. I think Beth jumped on my wheel, so it was sort of a lead out. She slid by with about 50 meters to go and got the win! Yippie! And I was right beside her in second.

Terry was happy when I called him to tell him about the results because I actually won prize money for the first time ever. I was happy that I won some whole bean coffee from Zambrano's.

And then I went to Ikea and got my chair.

Quick Report

This is mainly for the fam, so I don't have to try to send an e-mail to everyone...and speaking of fam, congrats to Aunt Banana who, as of last weekend, is now a certified USA Cycling Official - awesome! Last weekend I did my first crit. The Cherry Pie Crit in Napa. It was actually my first road event ever. I was definitely nervous, but I had plenty of teammates and friends helping me get ready leading up to the event so I was completely relaxed when it came time to race. The weather was cold and windy, but I think the wind helped to keep the field together - no one wanted to attack into the wind. And I got to race with the other half of Team Beth! Plus Terry was happy because he hadn't taken any pictures in about a month, so he got to play, too.

[svgallery name="cherry-pie"]

Long story short...I hung in the pack, took care of my front wheel, learned a little bit about race dynamics, and was at near the front at the end of the race (finished 4th), so I can't complain.

Here is a little video highlight of the Women's 35+ / Women's 4 race, courtesy of DeltaVelo. I'm second wheel in the first race shot in the black longsleeve skinsuit and pink helmet. You'll have to watch for other snippets of me sprinkled throughout.

Geeking Out with Big Kitties

While I'm sitting here jamming out to Bruce at half time of some football game (not quite sure if that knee slide across the stage resulting in his crotch all over the camera lens was necessary, but whatever, its Bruce) and waiting for my new batch of satellite data to decode itself, I figured I'd tell a little story about my ride yesterday... Saturdays are always reserved for mountain biking. Usually it involves a fun group ride with the Bella crew, but I awoke in a panic on Saturday morning about how much work I have left to do on my thesis and only 2 months to get 'er done. So I bailed on what was likely a blissful day of single track heaven at Campus and opted for a quick solo spin around the sandy routes of Ft Ord. Solo spin does mean that I can totally geek out and no one can make fun of me, so I strapped on the heart rate monitor (perhaps to make sure I never worked too hard and crossed into zone 4?), turned on the sweet GPS app for my iPhone, and grabbed my camera and off I went. I took a page out of the tri-geek book of secrets and got one of those nutrition box thingies that straps onto my top-tube and perfectly holds my little Canon G10 within reach as I roll along. Since I loathe stuffing my jersey pockets full of crap, this little $15 pouch makes Beth happy.

So I would roll along, swooshing along the trails and pulling out the camera occasionally for a quick snap while I pedaled.


And then I snapped a few more when I stopped at the new lollygagging spot above the old lollygagging spot...


Three hours later, as the ride was winding down and I was on my way back to the car, I got bored and decided to do silly things like try to take pictures of my tire as I rolled and my own shadow. I'll spare you those photos. But while I had the camera out for this little bit of creative silliness, I rounded a corner and saw wildlife up ahead in the trail. A coyote, perhaps? Oooh, no, that looks like a kitty! I rolled to a stop as the very large cat decided to sit down in the trail ahead of me. He's facing away so he can't see me, though I thought he heard me. So now there's a big ass cat in the trail ahead of me and since he sat down, I couldn't see his tail--the easiest way to tell a not-so-threatening bobcat from a potentially not-so-friendly mountain lion.


I stood there, weighing my options, taking a few more pictures, while the cat lies down on the trail and takes a little dust bath. At this point I'm thinking he's not so threatening, so I could just roll by and he might not bother me...but I really didn't want to be on the evening news, so I had to come up with plan B. The route was downhill the other way, so I decided to make noise. The kitty would either be scared and run away into the brush or see me as a tasty treat and run at me, at which point I'd pray that all those standing starts I practiced at the track would get me down the trail faster than the kitty cared to chase. So I picked up and dropped my back tire, the kitty looked at me and then darted into the woods...and as he ran away I could tell it was just a bobcat with a short little tail. Phew.

Oh, now for the geeky part...we found this cool plug-in for Aperture called Maperture that can add a geotag to the EXIF data a photographs. Basically that means that we can add a latitude and longitude to the picture so we know where we took it. But today we discovered that we can take the GPS data from our iPhones and it will match up the location of any photo from any camera as long as the time setting on the camera is the same as the cool is that? So from now on we should be able to tell you exactly where we took every single one of our photos.

Don't expect to see much of me on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, TwitPic, Flickr, or anywhere else for the next few weeks since I'm hammering out some thesis stuff...but I'll leave you with one more picture to hold you over...


Breaking the Funk

I've been in a funk lately. And by lately, I mean for well over a month. I've been grumpy and mopey and bitter and probably quite unpleasant to be around. I'm normally a pretty happy-go-lucky, roll-with-it sort of person. Maybe its the self-induced stress of finishing my thesis, the end of a hard fought cyclocross season, the looming solo move to Lousy-ana, I don't know. But I have to admit, when you have over a week's worth of bright, sunny, 70-degree days in the middle of January, you can't complain. You embrace those bright blue skies and warm breezes. You get out and do what you Monday I rode. I didn't train, I just rode. Pedaled along, me and my managerie of geek tools...cameras and iPhone and heart rate monitor...I played with stuff, I took pictures, I did some thinking. I made a goal for this year. Its to early to announce what my goal is, but its something. A focal point in the chaotic cloud of moving and being apart and new jobs and finishing school and finding new friends and new trails to ride. A channel, an outlet, a something to get me through the crap sandwich I'm about to choke down come April. And having a meaning to what I'm doing makes it so much easier. Today I convinced a friend to go ride with me. He's a great riding buddy...goes only as fast as I want to go, always lets me lead the way, doesn't care what trails I take, doesn't mind the inevitable bushwacking wrong turn or miscalculation of where a trail ends up (my legs are all scratched up tonight)...he just rides along with me, chitchatting and making sure we aren't taking ourselves to seriously about school. We rode Ft Ord. It was perfect. The normal sandpits were a little more packed. The downhills were swoopy and speedy. The climbs were comfortable. The skies were bright. I loved it.

Its days like today this that make piling on the jerseys and vests and arm warmers and leg warmers and toe warmers to go out in the damp, bone-chilling coastal winds and foggy soup to suffer up another never-ending climb, snot streaming, hands numb, legs screaming not to do another stupid interval--these days make it all worth it. Because when days likes this week come along, you'll want to enjoy it.

And now I'm home with Terry and we're geeking out with our nerdy homework and our iPhones and dreaming about the photography business we'd love to have some day and everything is just fine. A big ol' smile all over my face. I guess a few days of riding without a care in the world while you're in the saddle makes everything okay. Besides, how can I possibly take myself so seriously when I wear something like this...


Why isn't it this easy to write my thesis?

Resolving Nothing

New Year's resolutions make me laugh. I've never really made one. Well, actually, I mentally come up with a whole crap load of ideas around new year's that will drastically change my life, but then I think, hey, what I'm doing has worked for 29 years, why mess with a good thing? So really I resolve nothing. One year I decided my resolution was to floss every day so the dentist would stop making me feel bad every time I went and he/she found a new cavity. So I flossed every day. Flouride treatment too. Six months later I go to the dentist, smugly thinking, you can't give me the "you need to floss more" guilt-trip this time! The dentist checks me out and says, hey, great job of flossing, but I still found a cavity. resolution got me nothing but another cavity. So I stopped making them. But I do still floss.

So this week I've been carrying on in my usual way...Tuesdays I go to yoga. Only I had to park 2 blocks farther away than usual because all the parking close to the gym was taken by all the new years workout resolvers. You can tell which ones they are, too. So I'm in a rush to get to class since I had to park so far away and of course, my fitness class card is out of credits, so it has to be renewed before I can get into class. Precious time ticking away...precious mat space being taken up by all the resolvers! I ended up being in the front row, and I'm not a "front row yogi". I like the middle row. The room was packed with new yogis. I can't make too much fun, I was a new yogi a few months ago...but I secretly think our instructor was trying to break all the new years resolver was the hardest yoga class so far. Maybe there will be fewer resolver yogis tomorrow and I won't have to be in the front row again.

Today I went for a ride. It was going to be a massive climbing ride, out to Barloy then back around to do the Saturday Morning climb route, but my exuberance for copious amounts of climbing waned in the breezy 40-degree early morning sunshine. Or maybe my toes were numb when I rolled back around to PG. So I just did Barloy. On the way back along the coast trail thru town, I saw more resolvers. Moms pushing strollers, moms running behind strollers, one mom pushing/running/tripping behind a two-seater stroller while also trying to walk two dogs...that was ridiculous, people running with dogs, people being run by their dogs, roller bladers (did they resolve to go back to 1997 when roller blades were cool?), and people running in the barely 50-degree morning in just tank tops and shorts. Hey new fitness person, you can wear warmer clothes!

I came home and ate peppermint flavored oreos, content with my resolution to once again resolve nothing.