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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mountain bike school

I haven't done a very good job of following my doctor's advice after Wednesday's little mishap. Taking it easy sounds good, but there are so many good opportunities to get outside. So it was that "taking it easy" has consisted of a 25-mile ride on my road bike Thursday, a 3-mile run Friday, and a 4-hour mountain bike clinic on Saturday.

In reality, the only casualty from the first two activities was Jeff's sympathy. It's hard to milk an injury when you ignore it to do something fun. The mountain bike clinic, on the other hand, resulted in a few new scrapes and a very unhappy shoulder, but it was worth every milligram of ibuprofen.

Put on by Team Revolution, a women's cycling group, this clinic was exactly what I needed. I wasn't aline, either; there were around 40 women of different ages and levels of experience. There were grade school girls and several ladies who looked to be about my mom's age. Skill levels ranged from a woman just learning to ride a bike to some ladies I've seen at local races. The instructors helped us work on a variety of skills in a big field. I've got great friends who have given me a ton of helpful hints and pointers, but it was great to have a chance to practice some old and new skills in isolation and have someone right there watching to tell you what you were doing wrong and what you needed to change.

Here are some of the things we worked on:

*body positioning
*lifting the front wheel
*lifting the back wheel
*bunny hops (I can bunny hop!)
*racheting the pedals

After practicing these in a large group, we split into three smaller groups to work on putting the skills into practical use weaving around obstacles, clearing obstacles, and maintaining your line on a narrow path. This was followed up by a Q&A for schwag from The Alpine Shop, and then we hit the trails.

Again we split, this time into beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups. I went with the intermediate group, where it was kind of nice to feel like on of the stronger riders. This riding was more like the riding I do with my friends, except that I wasn't way behind everyone else. :) A friend of mine went with the advanced group, and she said they spent a lot of time worked through more technical spots in the trail. That would've been good, too.

I did have several slow-speed falls bc I couldn't get unclipped in time, but nothing bad. Just embarrassing. Getting my left foot out is very natural, but the right foot is harder for me. Practice, practice, practice. And I'm so glad I didn't play it safe and stay home. I learned a ton. It's so cool that these women who are all impressive riders and racers are willing to take the time to share what they know with people who are learning. I had considered not renewing my Team Rev membership bc it's hard for me to regularly make it to their group rides and such, but I'm going to stick with them. It's definitely an organization I want to be a part of.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


For the past year or so, I've been working up my courage to transition to clipless pedals, and that process accelerated once I got my road bike.  Still, between cost and fear, I had a hard time making the leap.  After having a relatively smooth month financially and winning a $50 Alpine Shop gift card in a photo contest, I decided to go for it.

On the advice of some friends, I got SPD pedals and mountain bike shoes.  The mountain bike shoes have a recessed cleat, so they're easier to walk in, and having a pair I can wear with either bike saves me having to buy two pairs of shoes.  Another savings was that Craig had sent me a pair of SPD pedals back in the winter, so I only had to pay for one set of pedals. So, now I had pedals for both bikes, but I started with putting them just on the road bike.

Part 1: Road bike

Not so scary, after all
Well, I didn't put them on, Wade did.  He and a friend of his were going to ride 25 miles or so that evening, and as I drove over there I decided that I wasn't going to ride.  Instead, I'd go home and put my bike against a wall and practice clipping and unclipping.  When he told me to ride down the street after getting the pedals on my bike and having me clip in and out a couple times, I looked at him like he was crazy.  I had made it into this big, scary thing in my head. 

As soon as I pedaled off, though, I realized how easy it was and felt so silly for being worried about it for so long.  I have to say, too...I love clipping in.  I feel fast.  I love wearing flip flops to a ride and changing into my bike shoes.  I feel like one of the club.  I've ridden about 100 miles clipless on the road bike and haven't fallen yet.  Now, that's not to say I don't think it'll happen; I'm sure it will.  Right now I'm really aware of being clipped in, so I'm thinking about it when I'm stopping and starting and unclipping in plenty of time.  Once I get comfortable and stop being so conscious of it is when I'll probably fall.

Part 2: Mountain bike
Fascinating pictures, I know :P
After realizing how easy the new pedals were on my road bike, I started thinking about making the move on the mountain bike, too, and decided I wanted to try them out and see how it went before Saturday's mountain bike clinic.  On Sunday, Wade switched over those pedals, and I made plans to go ride at Indian Camp Creek Park with Chuck.  It's fairly close to him and an hour drive for me, but I'd heard it was a fairly beginner-friendly park...exactly what I needed for the trial.  My plan was that, if it didn't go well, I'd ask Wade to switch the pedals back before the clinic.

Wednesday afternoon, I met Chuck, Megan, and her friend Rob (Ron?) right on time (for once).  Since the temperature was hovering around 100, I made sure to bring plenty to drink, and this time I remembered to bring some food along with me, too.  Once we were riding, I realized what I'd forgotten: my bike gloves.  They were in my car, so I figured maybe I'd grab them after the first loop.  Chuck led the way, followed by me, and then Megan and Rob behind me. 

It's pretty rare for me to not automatically go last (I just assume I'll be the slowest); not sure what got into me there.  Megan is military and just coming off two straight weeks in the field, so she was pretty worn out.  Even though she can normally ride circles around me, it was nice to not be the one dragging way behind for once.  The trail starts out fairly flat and winds through a wooded area near the namesake creek.  Just like on the road bike, I had no trouble getting unclipped when we stopped.

It was when the trail started to climb a little that I realized the main problem.  I do just find unclipping when I know I'm going to need to; getting unclipped at the last minute when you run into trouble is a whole different thing.  I had a couple minor falls on the first loop, both at very slow speed: once I toppled over against a rock outcropping and once I started falling when I didn't clear a root but -- where there's roots, there's trees! -- caught myself against a tree.  Once I started anticipating where I might get into trouble and being aware of where I might need to put a foot down, I did a little better getting unclipped. 

It was super hot out, so we took a break to soak ourselves at a faucet, and then after the first loop we all went down to the creek and sat down in it.  Megan had caught a second wind towards the end of the first loop and was feeling better decided not to push it, so she and Rob took off and Chuck and I headed out for a second loop.  The second trip around was good, too.  Chuck still had to wait for me here and there, but overall I kept up better.

In fact, towards the end of the second loop, Chuck waited in vain for me to fall on a hill watched me climb a slight, rocky hill where I'd had to put down a foot on the first loop and then told me, "I have something you have to put in the blog: You have really improved.  We're riding faster than I ever have with you, you're picking good lines, and you're not falling.  I think the end of your mediocrity is in sight." (He wasn't being mean...I'm always talking about doing new races and how I can be mediocre in lots of things.) 

It can be hard to see your own progress sometimes, but I know he's right.  I'm definitely more confident and less inept than I was even a couple of months ago...and that is a direct result of having friends who are far better mountain bikers and yet still nice enough to let me slow them down ride with them.  So, thank you Chuck, Patrick, Robin, Traci, and Wendy; if I don't break my neck on the singletrack, it'll be because of all of your patience with me.

We finished up our second loop with a slightly different route than the first loop so that I could see the section of trail they use for part of the race course out there.  There's a downhill stretch followed by a field path that runs alongside the road.

This picture is from Broemmelsiek Park, but you get the idea
Ah, the field path.  At Broemmelsiek, I stuck primarily to the grass rather than the dirt rut because I was worried about sliding on the side of the rut and crashing.  I did that for most of the field stretches at ICCP, too, but here in the last quarter mile of our ride I decided, Hey, I'm just out here practicing, no pressure, I'm going to see how I do staying in the rut.  That's what I did for a while, but then it got a little deeper and made me nervous, so I decided to get out of it.

Whereupon I immediately crashed.  Hard.  Apparently I make entertaining sound effects when I'm falling; I don't remember making any noise, just landing on my shoulder and then my head.  While I've appreciated the nice dry spell we've had for letting me get in lots of good riding time, it sure made for a hard landing. Good news: the new helmet works great.  Bad news: I wasn't wearing shoulder pads, too.  I sat there for a minute or two and tried not to cry or throw up. I don't know what it is about getting hurt, but it makes me nauseous. 
Being back on the bike and having the wind in my face felt better, and I took my time loading everything up.

My whole left side was covered in dirt from the fall.  The other pictures actually show the dirt better, but this is my favorite one of ME, so that's what you get. :) ...and even though I look a little like a yeti, that's dirt on my arm...not hair.
Thank goodness I had some ibuprofen in the car; even with it, the hour drive home sucked because moving my arm at all made my shoulder hurt like hell.  By the end of the evening, Google and I had diagnosed me with a separated shoulder, but a few x-rays later, my doctor confirmed that all I have is a banged-up shoulder and a touch of hypochondria. :)  She told me to take it easy for a few days, but somehow I got talked into going to crit practice tonight and riding 25 miles.  It was all road riding in a 1-mile loop, so I got to practice my turns lots of times...and since they were all left turns and that was my injured side, I had a little extra incentive to stay up on the corners. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

You lose some, you win some

A month or so ago, I saw a brief blurb in the newspaper about the Great McKendree Bike Chase.  It caught my eye because it wasn't too far away and--even better--was only $15.  I love racing...but those race fees add up.  I was hoping that the Chase would help me make a decision about riding in the crit, another upcoming local bike race. 

If you don't know (and I barely know and had to look this up to explain it), a criterium, or crit, is
"a bicycle race held on a short course (usually between .5 and 2.0 miles in length) and often run on streets in the heart of the city center.  Race length is determined by total time or by number of laps.  A criterium's duration is shorter than that of a traditional road race and the speed and intensity...are appreciably higher." ~http://edwardsvillecriterium.com/?page_id=2
Let's count the ways this does not play to my strengths:

1. It's fast, and I'm a chicken.
2.  It includes lots of turns, and I'm slow on turns
3. Because of the short nature of the course, you're riding a lot more closely with other riders.

All signs indicate that I'd be a better volunteer than participant for this event, but since good sense has rarely interfered with my decision to do a race, I'm still toying with the idea.  Enter the bike chase.

Wade was kind enough to let me invite myself to ride along with him, and since we left at about 6:30 that morning we arrived in plenty of time.  My cheap $15 registration was now $20 since I'd neglected to register online in time.  Oh, well.  The t-shirt was a nice suprise.  I'd actually wear this one.

We met up with Mike from the tri club, and the three of us did a quick pre-ride of the course before the pre-race briefing.  Rather than being an out and back or big loop, the race was 6 laps on a 3-mile course.  Though the route map has been posted online for probably a month, I neglected to actually look at it, so the  hairpin turn at the cul-de-sac came as a surprise.

What the map doesn't really show you is that you start at the bottom of a hill.  Lovely.  Another fun detail was the sharp right into the stadium and onto the track for a half lap before you ride up the pedestrian ramp and then back out onto the road.  The pre-ride was a HUGE help; otherwise all of that would've thrown me and had me crawling through some of the turns.

We got to the race briefing on time but somehow just as the director was finishing up.  There weren't too many people there, maybe 25 or so. I scoped out the other women and noticed there were a few others on road bikes then took the opportunity for one last bathroom stop.

This time, instead of hiding in the back of the pack, I lined up towards the front of the start line.  My goal was to stick with the lead group of guys for as long as I could, and I did that with no problem for the first couple of miles.  I was trying to look ahead of me as I rode to see if there were any other women in the pack, and I was a little worried about one rider with long hair until I saw the hairy legs. :)  I managed to hang in there with the lead group until the hairpin turn...I just can't keep enough speed for those turns and can't make up the lost time fast enough to catch back up.

Leaders leaving the neighborhood on the first lap.  No pink jersey in that group.
Oh, there I am making the turn.
Coming out of the cul-de-sac neighborhood we were riding into a bit of a headwind, and I had planned to be at the back of some other riders to stay fresh.  Since I'd lost the pack, though, I rode pretty much the rest of the race on my own.  Riding the out and back section of the course was pretty nice because I could see that there were no other women very close to me, but I kept pushing because I wanted to keep it that way.

We had to take a sharp right turn into the stadium and then ride up a short ramp to get onto the track.  That was cool.  The ride up the ramp at the other end made me a little nervous, and by the time I got to the top and back out on the street, I wasn't carrying much momentum into that hill that started the lap.  Even so, the second lap wasn't bad at all.  There was a downhill a few blocks later that was awesome.  I love my bike.  I'd shift as high as it would go then get low and fly down the hill.  I kept gaining on people who were pedalling.  That was fun.

Wearing down
By the end of lap three, though, I was feeling shaky.  I definitely didn't eat enough that morning--just a Clif bar on the way and then a GU right before the race.  I started to worry about bonking, but there was no way I was going to blow the lead I had built.  Luckily, I managed to catch up with a guy and draft behind him.  That was a big help.  Unfortunately, I passed him as we rode on the track.  I am always passing people I could draft behind when I'm not faster than them, and then I get to watch them ride on past me shortly after instead of me hanging on behind them.  One of these days I'm going to learn.

Finishing lap 4 was a great feeling...just two laps to go.  Or...were there? As I rode that lap, I couldn't remember if I was on lap 4 or lap 5.  I thought it was lap 5, but what if I was wrong?  What if I lost the race because I couldn't count?  As Mike passed me coming out of the neighborhood, I called to him, "What lap is this?" but he couldn't hear me.  I asked the man at the top of the ramp, and he checked and announced to me on the loudspeaker that I was heading into my final lap.  Yes!

That last trip up the hill was a slow one, but I made it up thinking This is the last time I have to ride up this hill!  I know I had slowed way down over the last couple of laps, and this last one was no different.  I was still pushing, but I felt like I was pushing a loaded wheelbarrow.  I didn't there weren't any women who were close to me, so it was hard to keep up my intensity, but I was really worried about somebody coming from behind me and beating me right at the end. 

Coming into the stadium, though, that was so great.  Instead of riding a half lap on the track, you rode around to the other side to finish...and when I finished, the only other girls standing around were volunteers.  That's right...I won!  I was so excited.  My first win ever. :)  And yes, it was a small race with only a few women, but hey...I was bummed to come in last of a small group, so I'm going to be happy that I came in first of a small group.  The men's winner was 9 minutes ahead of me, and I was 7 minutes ahead of the woman who came in second. 

Me and my medal.  No, I didn't sleep in it.  Yes, I kind of wanted to. :)
With my tri club friends who were nice enough to wait around with me.
Being as I spend the majority of the race riding along, it didn't really help me make any decisions about the crit, but I'm still awfully glad that I raced Saturday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Orienteering Date Night

This past week has been a really busy one for me.  It's looked a little something like this:

(last) Saturday: Dirty Girls mountain bike ride
(last) Sunday: Mountain bike race
Monday: Strength training, 24 mile road bike ride
Tuesday: Run 5K at XC course
Wednesday: 29 mile a.m. road bike ride, 28 mile p.m. road bike ride
Thursday: Run 5K at XC course
Friday: Strength training
Saturday: Road bike race, orienteering meet

A friend may or may not have told me yesterday that I've been a little hyperactive lately, but the reality is just that I've had the opportunity to do things and grabbed it while it was there.  The end of summer is fast appropaching, which means a return to work and schedules and endangered free time.  Taking all those opportunities, though, means spending time away from home and my family.  Since I'm home during the day, I see plenty of my kids.  Not so much the husband.

My big race for this year is the Berryman Adventure (12 hour).  It's a race that includes mountain biking, trekking, canoeing, and navigating to checkpoints using a map and compass.  I've spent the year working on my mountain biking and trail running, and I've canoed in the past, but the whole map/compass thing is a whole new world.  I'm pretty map-impaired.  Luckily, the St. Louis Orienteering Club holds a series of meets where you can compete against others or (more to my needs) practice your skills.  UN-luckily, their next meet was the same night as my bike race...a sure way to try my husband's fraying patience with my repeated absences.

What's a girl to do when she wants to do it all? Turn part of it into a date night. What's a date night? Well, in this circumstance it can be defined as getting to do my race in the morning and still getting to go orienteering by pretending it's not all about me.  Plus, it would give Jeff a chance to meet some of my friends and be a part of some of the things I'm doing.

We met Chuck and Lori for dinner at a restaurant near the park and had a nice, leisurely meal before heading to the park to register.  Orienteering meets can be in different formats (and I'm just repeating the very little that I know, so I may get this semi-wrong).  Sometimes you go out and find all the checkpoints and the fastest time wins.  Sometimes you have a set amount of time and whoever gets the most checkpoints in that time wins (called a score-o).  Last night's meet was a score-o...which if you ask me is a pretty appropriate title for a date night activity.  That's right, last night.  So we were orienteering, for the first time, in the dark.

Registration started at 8, and then we waited around until start time.  While we were hanging out, I saw my friends Melissa and Scott, who I only seem to see at Castlewood. Round one started at 8:45.  You weren't supposed to look at your map until then, and you had 30 minutes to get as many checkpoints as you could.  For every minute that you were late, they penalized you one checkpoint.  Jeff and I competed as a team.  This was good, because I needed his help or I'd have stood there staring at my map for the first 10 minutes.  This was bad, because we only had one map between us, he was holding it, and he pretty much "got it" right away.  Then there's me (you know, the one who's going to have to use the map to make her way through the woods in a race) following along like a little puppy.  Chuck is super fast, so Lori hung out with Jeff and I, and since she'd orienteered before she was way more up on things than I was.  Between the three of us we muddled through pretty well.

Since you're on a time limit, if you want to get many checkpoints, you have to run.  I wasn't sure how this would go since I was sore from the morning's bike race and my husband DOES NOT run.  Well, "run" might be a bit of an exaggerating for what we did last night, but I was really proud of him.  He may not run for running's sake, but he can do it if it's part of a game.  Of the check points we looked for on round one, there was only one we couldn't find, and we made it back in time.

For round two, we had to look for a different series of checkpoints.  We found a couple of easier ones, and then I saw on the map where we could get a bunch of them by following a powerline to a trail.  This is where I can get myself into trouble.  I see the goal, not the rest of the symbols on the map.  Lori, the voice of reason, starts pointing out the parts of the map between us and the checkpoints: this is thick brush, there's a creek, see these contour lines? That's going to be a steep climb.  While those don't necessarily have to be dealbreakers, it was a good reminder to me that I really need to look at the whole picture.

We decided to go after some checkpoints that were closer to where we had to start, so we started jogging back down the road.  We got one near a building and then saw where we could go get one "real quick" off of a trail.  Our lights weren't very good (at least, not mine and Jeff's), which made running up the rooty sections of the trail interesting for sure.  The checkpoint that we were looking for was off the trail a little, and we couldn't see it.  Jeff decided to bushwhack around a little to look for it, but looking at the map, I saw where the next checkpoint should be right on the trail. 

This is where I finally was catching onto the map a little.  Looking at the clue sheet for the checkpoint, I saw a little symbol that I thought was probably a bridge.  Ok, up the trail, over a bridge, right past there I should find it.  And I did. :)  Meanwhile, Jeff had found the other one. Now, I'm sure that wasn't textbook legal since we were a team and should have been together, but we weren't in any kind of contention for a lead.  After punching both our passport at both of the checkpoints, we ran back down the trail.  Coming to a fork in the trail, again the map made sense to me.  I know for any normal person it would've been pretty simple, but I have a hard time with maps, so this was a real accomplishment for me.

We ran the passports back to the finish line, but we were two minutes late, so basically those last two checkpoints didn't count anyway.  Well, they didn't count in our score, but I was there for the experience, so getting them was still valuable to me.  Actually, the whole experience was valuable to me.  Dinner was nice, I had fun running around in the woods and laughing with Jeff and Lori, and Jeff really enjoyed himself, too.  I think he's on board for the next meet, too.  We might be a team again in that one, but after that I bet we'll split up (on the course).  I guarantee that the only way I'll beat him is by running, too, because he could nagivate circles around me.  For now.


Orienteering: the sport of navigating through an unfamiliar area using a map and perhaps a compass.  The object is to make your way through a series of points identified on a map and return to the finish line in as short a time as possible.

Checkpoint (also known as control): an orange and white marker set at a location identified on the map.  Each marker has a unique punch that you use to punch your passport to prove your were at that point.

Passport: the card where you make your punches.  This is turned in at the end.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Broemmelsiek Challenge mountain bike race

We all know that I'm a less than skilled mountain biker, so when a casual friend sent me an event invite for the Broemmelsiek Challenge on facebook, the smart thing for me to do would have been to ignore it.  Instead, I wrote it on the calendar.  Originally scheduled in June, the race was rained off during our monsoon period (as opposed to the insane heat/drought period we're currently "enjoying").  The postponement gave me a chance to get out and pre-ride the course with good (I had fun and learned the course) and bad (crash) results, so I was more excited than terrified on Sunday when Robin and Patrick picked  me up.

Me, Patrick, Chuck, Robin
Photo credit: Lori Vohsen
After our mandatory stop at Quik Trip, we met Chuck and Lori at the park, where they had already set up a tent.  Chuck, Robin, and Patrick were all racing, and Lori took all kinds of awesome pictures (and kept me company).  I was very glad for this tent later in the day.  Everybody else looks a lot tougher in this picture than me, and that's because they are. 

I had been trying to decide between the beginner race (2 laps) or the marathon race (ride for 3 hours, most laps wins).  I had no illusions of placing in either, but my thinking was that I'm stronger than I am fast (mostly because I'm so timid, not because I'm so strong).  The fact that all of my friends were riding in the marathon and I was going to be at the park that whole time no matter what now swayed me a little, but in the end I decided on the beginner race.  My thinking was that, in my first race, I'd prefer to quit wanting more than to be stuck out there hating my decision.  My "SuperKate" nickname was modified to "Beginner Kate", but I was pretty comfortable with my decision.

The beginner and marathon races started at about the same time with marathoners given about a 2-minute lead.  Here you can see most of us gathering before the start.  That's me in the yellow at the back.  The race started across a field and around a pavilion before turning down a rocky path into the woods and across a little creek.  The field start helped to ease the inevitable bottleneck at the creek.

This shows the turn coming down from the field start to the creek.
Well, sort of.  I didn't start off too aggressively because I didn't want to get caught up in a big pack of bikes (you know, in a bike race. Sigh.) as we came down the hill to the creek, but that didn't work out so well for me.  A guy in front of me came to a sudden stop as he hit the water, forcing me to stop, too.

Ugh.  Seriously?? Hurry up!
All the people behind me (that's right, there were, at one point, people behind me) were calling that they were coming through, so I ended up stuck waiting for the guy plus all of them before I could get going.  Bad start.

Not happy
Finally, after basically everyone else got by, I got to get across and head up a hill from a dead stop.  Big loss of mental and physical momentum.

Once we got up the hill, we rode through a field for a little before heading into the woods.  The course had two large wooded sections that were connected by trails through the field. 

Not me, but a good view of the field trail
You can see that a pretty wide swath is mowed for the trail and then there's a dirt rut where bikes have worn away the grass.  The rut is a lot smoother and faster, but there are also parts where it's cut down a bit, almost like sliding down off a curb but not so steep.  In the deeper parts, I stuck more to the grass because I was worried about catching a pedal on the edge of the rut or having my back tire slide on it.  The nice thing about the trails through the field was that it was easy to pass there.  The bad thing was that it was in the 90's on race day and riding through the field in the direct sun it felt like it was about 120 degrees.

Clearly, also not me
The singletrack was fun.  While I'd been worried about the whole passing issue, the one "perk" of being darn close to last and slow as dirt was that it was almost like having the trails to myself.  I passed one girl (who was competing in the junior's division) fairly early on, and then I passed another girl towards the end of my first lap.  Otherwise, I had one more girl in my sights, but since I tend to slow down going down hills, I lose time in the very places where other people are gaining it.

I did ride more aggressively than I typically do, and there were definitely some turns that I took wider than usual, leading me to hold my breath a little as I skirted a tree or the edge of the trail.  I was nervous coming through the creek crossing where I'd crashed the previous Thursday, but I made it through with no problems.

Crossing the first creek towards the end of my first lap
Midway through the second lap I was pretty grateful that I only "had" to do two.  It was so hot, and those stretches through the field were miserable.  Every time I rode back into the shade of the woods I was relieved.  It wasn't until the last half of my second lap that a few of the fast marathon guys lapped me, and everyone who passed was unfailingly nice and encouraging.  I had a great time, but I was still pretty happy to come to the end of my second lap.  I ended up missing third place by about a minute and a half...a fourth-place finish that sounds pretty great for my first mountain bike race until you realize that there were only 5 girls in my division...and one DNF'd.  Oh, well, I finished and didn't need medical attention, which were my two main goals for the day.

I went and sat in the shade under Chuck and Lori's tent until Chuck came through to switch out his water bottle.  I asked if he needed his bottle refilled or anything and he said yes and told me to tell the others to stuff ice in their jersey pockets.

So then I kind of transitioned into pit crew for Chuck and Robin (Patrick declined assistance and zipped on through) with Lori joining me when she came back from taking race pictures in the woods.  Well, we did some helping and a lot of talking (sorry Patrick!).  It was fun getting a chance to hang out and talk and give a little help to people who've been including me in their training all year long.  A little part of me wished I was still out there riding, but once the Cat 1 riders started flying past (they started at noon, 2 hours into the marathon) I was newly glad to be on the sidelines.  There was a lot of passing going on at that point, and I think I'd have spent more time on the side of the trail than riding.  I definitely made the right choice, and watching my friends push on in the heat made me see how far I have to go.

In the end, none of us placed, but all of us had a great time.  Because it's been so hot and dry, we were all a filthy mess.  If you look at Chuck's legs (far right), you can see how dirt-covered we were.

The awards were awesome.  The flowers are made from CO2 cartridges, the stems are spokes, and the leaves are tires.  How cool is that?  And even though I didn't place, I was able to make someone's day.  The girl who came in ahead of me was at the tent next to us, and I'd overheard her telling someone how disappointed she was that she hadn't placed but had come in fourth.  I was a little confused, because I had come in fourth, and I knew she hadn't DNF'd, so I went and re-checked the board to be sure and then came back and told her.  She was all happy and gave me a big hug, so even if I didn't win it felt a little like being part of someone else's victory.

They had a ton of schwag to give away, so we hung around for the awards and the raffle.  Chuck and Patrick's numbers were called really early, while Robin and I just sat there as number after number was called.  I never win anything, so I didn't have a lot of hope.  It got to where it was almost funny.  It was so hot that a lot of people had already left, and the table was piled high with stuff, so you'd think there was no way anyone could go home empty handed....the organizers called number after number, and none of them were ours.  I wasn't too worried about it until I noticed a helmet on the table.  One of my helmets is a cheap one from Target, and the other one is a helmet my son's stepmom picked up for him at a thrift store.  I could really use a nice helmet.  Finally, they called my number and I got it. Yea!

**This is where I'd show you a picture of the helmet, but I put it "away" in the garage and now I can't find it. :-/ **

Poor Robin's number was never called, but the guys got so tired of calling out numbers that they just started tossing stuff into the crowd.  I snagged a t-shirt for her...it's the most hideous clown with blood coming out of its mouth.  Ummm...sorry!  A water bottle fell right into my lap, too, so I went home with two new things.  I figure that getting a new helmet offset the cost of my race entry, so it was like having all that fun for free.

All in all, it was a great experience.  Can't wait to do it again. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You ask, I answer (part 2)

OK, here it is, your eagerly awaited part 2.  I was going to wait a little longer before posting it, but I have way too many other things to blog about to put it off any longer.  I loved all the questions.  Thanks for making me think. :)

Caroline asked:
Will you run another marathon? Definitely.  My first was a great experience.

How old were you when you got married? 19 the first time.  29 the second time.

Did you have a big wedding?  Not huge, but good sized.  Both times I had 4 bridesmaids (in fact, despite the 10 years between the two weddings, three of the four bridesmaids from the first wedding were in the second), both times we had lots of family there.

What makes you mad? something you cannot tolerate?  Relentless negativism.

100_7283Unlimited budget: where do you go on vacation? 

 I'd take the entire summer and visit state and national parks all over the west.  I'd take my bikes, my running shoes, and someone who would actually ride and run with me.  I'd also love to go to Egypt.

Who would you like to meet?  Greg Mortensen (of Three Cups of Tea fame) is inspiring.  I think he'd be a neat person to sit down with and just listen to.  I'd enjoy meeting any of my blog friends in real life.  Really, anyone who I could sit down and have a good conversation with would be great; I don't feel any need to meet any stars or politicians or anyone like that, though.

What poster was on your wall when your were a teenager?  A hot, shirtless guy on a bike.

Michigan's AdventureChris K and Anne wanted to know about my husband...Does he read my blog? What does he think of it?

He doesn't really get it, especially the community aspect of it.  He tends to respond to my excited follower count by saying things like, "When you get to 100 followers can we start a church?"  He tends to be a little a lot more private than I am, so I try to respect his privacy and not overshare details that he'd be uncomfortable with.  I know he has read it, but as far as I know it's only been either when I ask him to read it or if it's come up on a google search he's done (like when he was searching for some information on our mud volleyball tournament). It also annoys him because I'll spend half the day doing something and "the other half" writing about it, so I try to balance his legitimate need for a wife who's present with my enjoyment of writing about the things that I'm doing.

Chris K had several additional questions.  You might notice a bit of a theme:

1) Don't you think Jill asks silly questions?

I thought Jill's questions were insightful and thought-provoking, just like all the other questions I got. :)

2) Do you feel sorry for Kovas' wife?

I think Laima can hold her own.

3) Who is smarter - you or Kovas?

This is a toss-up.  Clearly, me, because I stopped at 3 kids (no disrespect to the munchkin); on the other hand, Kovas has figured out how to get people to give him gear and food, while I'm still buying my own clothes. 

4) Who is smarter - your youngest kid or Kovas?

Since J is both smarter than me and smarter than his teenage brothers, and anyone who has a teenager knows that they know everything, he is by default smarter than Kovas.

6) How did you get so Super - were you born this way or developed it?

I was born Super.  In my early years, my super powers included being able to compel my extended family to gather around for impromptu ballet recitals (I never took ballet, but this didn't stop me). 

 I continued to be super through high school, when I knew what I liked (boys), knew what I wanted (boys), and knew what I was good at (school. Not boys).

The boy I got turned out to be more of a lump of kryptonite, though, and when we were together we did (or he did) what he liked, what he wanted, and I was eventually convinced I wasn't much good at anything.  Really, even after I married the second time, I ended up doing what my husband wanted to do, this time because, having been poor and taking care of little kids for basically my entire adult life, I hadn't had an opportunity to figure out what I liked anymore.  The first time I rode my bike more than 15 miles and survived was (to mix metaphors) like breaking a spell.  Having something that was ME and "my thing" outside of being a wife and parent was life changing, and I'm not exaggerating in the least.  When I decided to trade "I could never..." with "I wonder if I could..." I finally regained my Super.

7) (via twitter) Who is a better speller? You or Kovas?

Mee.  Cleerlee mi spelink iz betttter.  Wi doo yu assk?

ajh asked:  Do you ever wish you taught something besides Spec. Ed. and what would it be?

My ideal teaching job would be half days, teaching reading only.  The thing that's so awesome about special ed is that, if you're good at your job, you have the opportunity to make an enormous difference in your students' lives as well as the lives of their children.  The thing that sucks (besides the paperwork), and it's one of those things that shouldn't matter but still makes me feel like crap, is that typically at Christmas and the end of the year the regular ed teachers go home loaded down with gifts and I'm lucky to have one gift.  Sorry if that sounds superficial.

How is it going with your clipless pedals?

I just got them and they're in the box until one of my friends can put them on my bike. Great! My friend Wade put them on for me Monday night (yeah, I'm helpless like that) and we rode for 24 miles.  No falls, and I felt so much faster!

What scares you?

The thought of riding with clipless pedals. :) Mountain biking downhill. The thought of mountain biking with clipless pedals.  Doing new things.  Not being able to protect my kids from bad things that could happen to them.

Marcia asked:  Why did you start your blog?

I originally started blogging on Yahoo360, and I'm not sure exactly why or how.  It was mostly about my family and camping trips and more a journal than anything else, but I loved making a few online friends, some of whom are still my friends 5 years later.  My husband at one point had told me that he thought I should start writing again, and my blog right now is where that takes place.

XLMIC asked: Can I still ask a question or two?  Yes.

Do you wax or shave your legs? I see you are a hard core cyclist who gets munched by the road so I know you must do one or the other.  I shave, but not because I'm a cyclist.  I do because, with my dark hair, I look like a yeti if I don't, and I don't want to scare any little kids.

Do you wax or shave any place else? Yes

When you are really sad, is there something that can bring you back up? What is it?  Sometimes I need to take a little bit of time and wallow, but I always feel better after a run or a long ride.

Is there something that ALWAYS makes you laugh?  My friend Lindsay.  The Kovas-Chris K banter.  When my 18 year old son comes up to me, looks at me very seriously, and says "poop".

How would you characterize your sense of humor? Dirty

Johann wanted to know what international race I'd like to do.  I'm going to be very unoriginal here and say Comrades, since I don't really know of any others.  The race in Born to Run sounds pretty amazing, too.

Monday, July 18, 2011

You ask, I answer... (part 1)

When Shawn and Caroline both tagged me with this Q&A, I was a little worried that nobody would have any questions for me and I'd feel like a big loser.  I'm sure that wasn't their intent, though Caroline might have seen that as a means to an early end to her Chris K-imposed purgatory.  Maybe not, though, because she's Canadian and, therefore, nice.  And thankfully, you all came through with questions and I didn't have to make up (many) for myself.  If your questions aren't answered here, they are in the next post.  You may have noticed that I'm not exactly succinct...this was getting so long it was a little ridiculous.

Mike asked:

If you could do it all over again, what career path would you choose?

I love my job, but it would be nice to make more money.  Or start in my job before I had kids.  I'd love to make my living as a writer.  Or an editor...even if I lack self-editing skills.

Where would you live?

I think I'd be happy anywhere I had the chance to do the things I love to do.  Sorry, that's lame.  I don't know where I'd like to live.  There are pluses and minuses to pretty much anywhere.

What kind of house would you have?

One like mine, with higher ceilings, more land, and one more bedroom than we need...and a working garage door. :)  Only people who live near where I do would get this, but I'd love to buy one of the Piedmont houses in town.  I absolutely love the style.

Jennifer asked:  If you had a third arm, where on your body would it be and what would be it's purpose?

This is actually an easy one.  My third arm would be attached to my knee, pointing down, so that I could hold on for dear life in high places without actually bending over and crawling.

1976? Family picture
Anne asked: What were you like as a child...good girl or little brat?

Both, probably.  I was the oldest child, which pretty much guarantees that I'm a rules follower and a people pleaser, but I also had a smart mouth, some strong opionions, and really liked to get my way.  No way would I tolerate the kind of crap I pulled from my kids.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could go back?

That's hard to answer.  I'd say I wouldn't get pregnant and 19 and marry the guy, but then that wishes away my two oldest kids, which I would never do.  I guess I could safely say that I'd have started claiming a life of my own before I hit 35.

Julie asked:  What do your kids think of your blogging?

Like most other things about their mother, they think it's LAME.

Did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?

No, in fact, I did not want to be a teacher.  I started college as an English major, and when people asked me what I was going to do with that, was I going to teach, my answer was an emphatic no.  I had my two oldest, had to leave school, and ended up working at a children's home for kids with severe/profound developmental disabilities.  Turned out I was really good at it.  Then, my first husband left me, I moved home, and I got a job at a nearby developmental training center for adults with developmental disabilities.  One day I was teaching a class on safety signs and realized, I'd like to do this...but with kids.  That revelation is pretty much what led to me going back to school and getting my degree in special education.

Do you/would you ever vacation by yourself and where would you go/do?
2010 Katy Trail bike ride
YES!  The two previous summers I went on a week-long bike tour of the Katy Trail in Missouri.  I wasn't "alone", as my aunt also went, but I was alone as in without my husband or kids.  I have to say, it was glorious...and I would've gone even if my aunt hadn't.  A week on the beach somewhere alone sounds pretty nice, too, but the evenings might get a little lonely.

BobbiCaroline, and ajh wanted to know my favorite books of all time (just a few, say 3 to 5ish)...

This is hard.  Hmmm...in no particular order, The Help, by Kathryn Stockett; The Stand, by Stephen King; Into Thin Air, by John Krakaur; Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett; Momentum is Your Friend, by Joe Kurmaskie; and maybe This is Where I Leave You or This Book Will Save Your Life.  As far as books I've gone back to more than once, The Stand, Into Thin Air, and (sigh) the Twilight series are all well-read in my house.

Jill asked:

Don't you wish Chris K never started this Q&A thing?

Actually, no.  At first I wondered what the heck all of us oversharers would have to ask each other, but the questions and answers have been really interesting.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

In Chris K's garage.  Actually, I like where I am OK.  We can complain about the weather pretty much year round, which is almost as good as enjoying the weather year round.  And nearly everywhere else is cooler, so it makes any vacation destination appealing.  On the other hand, it's safe, has good schools, and my family is close by.  If I had to choose somewhere else, maybe Colorado, or Wisconsin...somewhere with lots of great outdoor recreation opportunities and people to share them with.

When are you coming to hang out with me in Colorado!! :)

Is next week too soon? :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Come on and take a pre-ride

From the time Chuck first offered to pre-ride Broemmelsiek Park with me before Sunday's Broemmelsiek Challenge, I had this song in my head.  Well, the title, anyway...it's all I could remember.  But just changing the "f" to a "p" makes it perfect for our afternoon yesterday. :)

This is going to be my first mountain bike race, and I can't tell you I'm not nervous about it (and you wouldn't believe me if I did). Luckily, I had a couple of friends going to pre-ride the course and I got to tag along (unfortunately, Robin ended up not being able to go).

I'd never been to Broemmelsiek Park before and the drive took longer than I had anticipated, so Chuck had to wait for me for about 20 minutes (sorry!).I was all prepared with food and water, but I had forgotten that my mountain bike only has one water bottle and was in such a hurry after running late that I left my food in the car. This is why I really need to be early for group rides or runs.

The race was actually scheduled for about 3 weeks ago, but it was rained out at the last minute. Chuck had been out to preride before the cancellation, though, so he remembered pretty much where the ribbons that marked the course were. It was definitely helpful to have someone to tell me basically what to expect.

Like I said, I've never ridden at Broemmelsiek before, and I really liked the trails. They're not very technical, mostly dirt in the woods with a few rocks and roots thrown in. There are several little creek crossings. The wooded portion of the trail reminds me a lot of the mountain bike trails here in town, except they weren't quite as twisty and turny as ours. That's a good thing for me.

Loop 1 was going great. I didn't downshift enough going up a longish hill and ended up having to walk it, but there was only one section that I had a hard time with--a couple large rocks followed quickly by a big v-shaped root, leading into a rocky downhill curve. I clipped a pedal, bumped around, and ended up walking that section. The trail then leads out into a field for a moment before turning back into the woods with a small creek crossing.

Now, I'm finally at a point where riding my bike across a creek isn't a noteworthy thing for me. This had a fairly shallow downhill to the creek, then back uphill a little. I wasn't even nervous riding into it. I felt confident...right until my bike was flying out from under me as it rolled downhill and I was struggling (and failing) to keep it upright. I slammed into my top tube and then crashed off of it on the other side.

Chuck had stopped on the other side (I assume he heard me cursing and then hitting the ground--and then cursing again) and asked if I was ok. I got up, but I was hurting enough that I thought for a couple minutes I was going to throw up. The knee wasn't so bad, but my girl parts were very unhappy. I realized later that the blunt force trauma (yeah, I'm being a little melodramatic) from the bar opened up about a 2-inch gash. Not cool.

Once we started riding again I felt ok. Lap 1 took us 37 minutes.

I felt better on lap 2, and though I took a deep breath going into "that" creek crossing, I made it through without incident. I stopped and looked back at it, and I think that my pedal clipped a big root on the way down the hill. Just bad luck, but you can be sure I'll be staying towards the left when I come down it on race day. Lap 2 took us 32 minutes.

We took a little break after the second lap and talked over the course while Chuck had a Clif bar. That's about when I realized, "Oops...I left my food at the car," but he was nice enough to share. He said that he felt like he'd found some pretty good lines, and I said that I felt really comfortable with the course other than that one tricky section I mentioned above. He reminded me to keep looking for the best lines: "Smooth is fast. And smooth is safe." "You had me at safe," I laughed. We finished Chuck's snack and then headed out again.

I felt great on that third lap. I always talk about my overreliance on my brakes and what a chicken I am (and I am, no question), but I spent a lot less time braking and just more time feeling comfortable. I noticed how much less scary the curves are when my feet are even on the pedals (instead of one up and one down). I felt great...and then all the sudden I didn't.

I started struggling to keep up and was thinking that even with all the riding I've been doing I'm still not in that good of shape. I told Chuck that I was thinking the two lap beginner race sounded just right. He asked if I was getting tired or something like that and I said I was. And then--what a revelation!!--he says, "You need to eat something."

Ahhhh....it's not that I was out of shape...it's that I was out of fuel. Not only does that explanation sound better to me, it was actually right. Poor Chuck probably felt like he was out with one of his kids, having to keep feeding his unprepared friend, but this time he handed me some Sport Beans. Oh, my gosh...they were so good. And they worked! Almost as soon as we started riding again I felt so much better. That was a really valuable lesson for me. Being tired doesn't necessarily mean you're tired...it might just be your body telling you to eat.

When we got to that tricky spot we talked over a few potential lines and tried a few different ways to pass there, none of which really worked well for me. I think I'll probably be getting out of other racers' way and then walking over that part. Even with spending some time working on that section, the third lap only took us 33 minutes, so we definitely improved our speed on the course.

I'm so glad that I got a chance to ride on the course so I'd know what to expect and what to watch out for (treacherous roots). I'm pretty excited for Saturday's race, but I still can't say I'm not nervous about it. I'm used to being slower than other people, so that's no big deal, but I'm worried about being passed on the trails. It's no big deal in road rides to pass, and in foot races you might have to wait for a little bit on singletrack til an OK spot, but it seems like it'll be different on bikes. Yikes. Wish me luck...and fast healing.

Also...not one, but TWO other bloggers tagged me with the Q&A that's been going around.  And Shawn even called me witty! (Extra credit, Shawn. :D)  Thanks to Shawn and Caroline, you get the opportunity to ask me anything you'd like, and I promise to answer.  Granted, I'm not that interesting, but I've definitely seen some interesting questions going around.  Now, Chris K (who stole this from Colleen and turned it into the worldwide sensation it is) got over 50 comments on his initial Q&A post.  Please don't leave me out here with no questions asked or I'll have to make up my own.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The rest of my trip

I already told you about my cool mountain bike adventure in Wisconsin, but the Tour de Donut distracted me from finishing up my vacation recap.  Now that I've recovered from my sugar coma, I'll fill you in on the rest of the trip.

Part 1: Hannibal, Missouri, and mud volleyball

Hannibal's main claim to fame is being the boyhood home of Mark Twain.  There are several places around town that figured into his books (including Injun Joe's cave), as well as a Mark Twain Museum.   Despite the fact that I've been going to Hannibal every year now for about 13 years, I've never actually been in the museum.  The mud volleyball tournament is held every year in conjunction with Tom Sawyer days.  It's a pretty big tourist weekend with other competitions as well: fence painting, frog jumping, a Tom and Becky pageant, and a 5K/10K.

Our team
For the past two years, Jeff's boss has sponsored us, but this year he decided things were a little too tight.  Luckily, Jeff's uncle's business stepped in to fill the void and Rondell's Beach Bums was born.  It's a California company in the Orange area that has something to do with insurance and flooring...so, you know, if you live near there and have an insurance/flooring need, check them out.

Jeff, me, J, and D.  Just missing N, who was in Minneapolis for volleyball.
J. gets into the act helping clean sunglasses on the sidelines, so it's a whole family effort.
The tournament has always been a big family weekend for my husband's family, and all of them go up, which gives us a fan base of about 25 people. Our team is a family team consisting of Jeff, D, and I; Jeff's sister Karen and her husband, Jeff's nephew Casey, and Jeff's cousins Tiana and Wailana.  We usually win a few matches of the double elimination tournament before being knocked out either late Saturday or early Sunday.  Not too bad, considering the entire team never gets a chance to play together except for this weekend.

That's pretty much how it went this year, too.  We won our first match easily, and then the second match wasn't until noon on Saturday.  Usually we have to be up super early (you know, like 7 :D) for our Saturday match, so this was a treat.  I had semi-planned to run the Hannibal Cannibal 5K, but I was still running a fever and opted to sleep in instead.  We showed up for our noon match, but our competition didn't.  Turns out they'd misread the bracket and thought they played at 2.  We lost our 4:30 match badly (and looked bad doing it...think Keystone Cops in mud) and then lost a close match at 7:30 or so to end our tournament.

Despite making a couple bad plays, I also made some good diving saves, so overall I was OK with how I did.  Though I'd have liked to play longer, getting knocked out of the tournament early wasn't so bad because it meant I could leave for Wisconsin first thing Sunday.

Part 2: Wisconsin

J ended up staying back with Jeff because he was complaining of not feeling well and I was staying with friends who had three little girls.  Nothing like repaying your hosts' hospitality by getting their kids sick, right?  I was both disappointed to miss out on an adventure with my little boy and excited to get some time to myself.

I had a great drive and got to spend some time with my brother.  I mentioned being disappointed that I was going to get off track on my weight lifting program, so he took me to the gym at Ft. McCoy so we could work out.  I felt a little conspicuous in my normal workout clothes, since pretty much everyone else was in their PT clothes, but oh well.  We had a nice dinner on the way back and then I went to bed early because I had to leave for Minneapolis at 4 a.m. the next day.

Part 3: Minneapolis

Minneapolis convention center
N's club volleyball team was playing at Nationals, and the Minneapolis site was perfect because I had a friend there with whom I could stay.  I'm very lucky to have the wonderful friends and family I have.  Sarah is one of my best friends from high school, but you know how it is...life gets busy with kids and jobs, and you talk once every 4 months or so.  Even so, when I emailed and asked if I could stay with her for a few days, she welcomed me with open arms.

N. is #9
I was really excited to get to watch Nationals because 1) I missed it last year, 2) the team was coming off a fantastic tournament in California, and 3) they were seeded 5th.  Unlike my lucky husband, who got to watch them kick butt, my experience was a bit different.  Apparently they played great on day 1, only losing one match, but the next two days were purgatory at best.  They only won one match on each day, and N. (who had an amazing tourament in CA) barely played.  Finally on the last day they picked it up (and he played a lot), but they ended up finishing 22nd.  Not a stellar showing at all, but what's the line? It's an honor just to be nominated?  Yeah, it's a big deal to even be there playing against the best teams in the nation.  It's just disappointing to see them not show up and play the way they can.

The dismal volleyball didn't stop me from enjoying the city, though.  What a cool place!
 They have a neat bikeshare program downtown.  You use a credit card and pay $5 for access to a bike for 24 hours.  You can use the bike for as many trips less than 30 minutes for no additional charge.  Trips over 30 minutes incur an additional charge depending on how much extra time you use.  This keeps the bikes in circulation. 

I saw these bikes in use a lot downtown, and even more of other bikes.  People were riding and walking everywhere!  It was very cool.  It seems like Minneapolis has a great bike culture.  If you look at the picture below, just look at all the bikes lined up in that picture.  And that was just on one random corner.  It really inspired me to use my bike more for getting around.  (That said, I haven't actually done so yet.)


Another things some friends and I noticed while walking around downtown was the dearth of fast food.  I don't remember seeing a single McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc.  That was nice for me, but it would've been a real pain with J along.  I ate once at a BBQ place that reminded me a little of Memphis
and once at Chipotle.
Nicolette Mall
The weather was in the mid-high 80's, which felt plenty warm but was a nice respite from the insane heat we've had here since I got back (117 heat index?? WTF).  After volleyball and lunch on Wednesday, I came back to this bench near the convention center and just relaxed and read for about an hour (German Boy: about a German family at the end of Germany's part in WWII and during the period afterwards.  His experience with American soldiers was pretty heartwarming and with Russian soldiers was absolutely appalling.  It was an interesting book because it's about a part of the war I have never really thought much about.  I've read a lot about the Holocaust but very little about the experiences of ordinary people during the war.)
Perfect spot to read
I also got a little running in.  My friend lives about 2 blocks from the Minnehaha Trail .

Much of the trail is divided into two parts: one for bikes and one for runners.  It's a beautiful trail that runs right along Minnehaha Creek.  It leads right to Lake Harriet and another path that loops the lake.  Apparently, you can take the trail around all three lakes in the area for about a 12 mile round trip.  That would sure make those longer training runs nicer than my out and back runs along the cornfields!


Runners and walkers take the inner path.  Bikers and rollerbladers take an outer trail.

Isn't this bandshell gorgeous?  Who wouldn't want to listen to music here?

View from the trail looking back to where I first started.

Heading back on the Minnehaha Trail
Despite weather that wasn't bad at all and a fairly flat trail, I definitely struggled on my run.  I was very glad to take lots of photo breaks.

Part 4: Wisconsin (Reprise)

Once the boys were out, I picked up some souveniers and headed back to my brother's house.  We had a great dinner at a local Italian restaurant (deep dish pizza...mmm), the next day I spent several hours mountain biking, and then I headed home. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2,160 calories

Today was the third time I've ridden in Staunton, Illinois's Tour de Donut bike race.  Kind of a spoof on the Tour de France, the race is about 32 miles, with 2 donut stops.  What doesn't go together like donuts and bicycling?  I know, I know...but the hook is that, for each donut you eat, 5 minutes is deducted from your finishing time. 

I don't even like donuts, but I do like winning, and as a slower rider, this is pretty much my only chance at a podium finish.  Indeed, last year I was 2nd in my age group for donut adjusted time.  I had to eat 11 donuts to do it, but it was worth it.  This year, I planned to repeat the feat.  In fact, with a road bike instead of a hybrid, I was really hoping to take first.  My goal was 12 donuts and an age group win.

This year's Tour had 1,600+ registered riders, and I felt like I knew half of them.  My tri club was well-represented (including fellow bloggers Chuck, Mike, Patrick, Robin, and Wade), my sister-in-law was riding for her first time, and three of the Team Virtus guys made the trip from Jefferson City to race.  This was a welcome change from the previous two years, when I knew myself, my son, and his stepmom/my friend who came to take pictures for us.  This was Kristy's first bike race, and she was both excited and nervous.  Luckily, she got to work out some of her nervous energy airing up her bike tires.

What happens when you have more pounds of air in your tires than your body.
Most of my tri club friends were lined up near the start, but I'm still not too comfortable with these mass starts and hung back closer to the middle.

The view behind me
Ready to ride!
Taking off wasn't as scary as it's been in past years, and it's maybe time for me to cowboy up and start closer to the front.  I felt like I got a pretty good pace going early though...usually it takes til I'm out of town.  The sponsoring club does a great job with the race.  Even with all the participants, check-in was very well organized, and there were tons of volunteers stopping traffic at intersections and cheering on riders.
Photo credit: Ron Jennings
If you look carefully, you can see me kind of in the middle in the yellow jersey
The first ten miles went great.  I kept up a pretty good pace and was passing people pretty regularly.  I hadn't eaten any breakfast, knowing that I'd be eating a lot of donuts, but I felt really strong.  The first donut stop was there before I knew it.  I grabbed 6 donuts, had a volunteer mark them on my bib, smooshed them flat (total fail: I had brought baby wipes to get the donut glaze off my hands, but I squished the donuts with my bike gloves on...NOT easy to get them clean), and started munching.  I have to say, I really enjoyed the first couple...but after that it wasn't so easy to get them down.  A photographer had his camera pointed right at me snapping away, and it's not so easy to try and look semi-attractive while wolfing down multiple donuts.  I'm truly afraid to see what those pictures look like. 

The next ten miles weren't as enjoyable as the first.  My stomach was not happy with me, but eventually it settled down.  This is a fairly hilly route, and it definitely showed me that I have a lot of work to do before I'm a good hill climber.  I kept seeing the same guy in this Curious George jersey.  I'd pass him on flats and on downhills, and by the top of each hill he'd be cruising past me.  It just looks like so much less work for some people.

My nemesis...nemesii?  What's the plural of nemesis?
The second donut stop was ugly.  I really didn't want to eat any more donuts, but I had to stick with the plan, so I took five donuts.  I remembered to take off my gloves before smashing them.  I started eating.  Ugh.  Ugh.  It was awful.  I can't do this.  Yes you can...eat the donuts!!  I can't do this. I'm going to be sick.  About 100 feet from me, two guys were throwing up.  I wasn't grossed out; I was jealous.  I resorted to pulling the flattened donuts apart and eating little bites at a time.  Eventually, I gave up.  I just couldn't do it.  I went over to one of the volunteers and asked him to cross off two of my donuts, then I choked down the others, washed my hands, and got back on my bike.

I had remembered the final leg of the race as being flatter, but my memory was faulty.  My stomach was rebelling, my butt hurt, and I really wanted to take it easy.  You didn't eat 9 freaking donuts to come in 4th place, I reminded myself, and kept pushing.  I got behind a guy and drafted for a little bit and then decided he was going too slow.  I passed him and was immediately reminded of the benefits of drafting.  He passed me back again pretty quickly.

On the final stretch into town, I passed several people, including two ladies who looked to be about my age.  I was dismayed, though, to cross the finish line and see 2:13:xx on the clock.  I'd hoped to be significantly faster than that.  My chip time was 2:10, but a friend of mine who rides at a similar pace to me and didn't stop for donuts finished in 1:44, so I lost a lot of time on donuts.  Granted, my 9 donuts (NINE donuts) gave me a donut-adjusted time that was 45 minutes left, but my potential victory depended on how many other women ate.

In the end, it just wasn't enough.  What's worse than eating 9 donuts?  Eating 9 donuts and not placing in your age group.  What's worse than that?  Eating 12 donuts and not placing, which is what happened to another aquaintance.  The girl who won donut-adjusted for my age group ate 18 donuts.  Unbelievable.  And I would have had to eat an additional 3 donuts (in no additional time) to place.  I couldn't have done it.  I'm at peace with that. 

Photo credit: Patrick Albert
Sheer misery afterwards
On the other hand, if I hadn't eaten donuts and came in at the same pace as the friend I referenced above, I'd have taken third in my age group for unadjusted time.  Oh, the irony.  The donuts I trusted to help me win actually doomed me.  Don't think that isn't going to sting for a while...especially every time I weigh myself for the next two weeks.  I think my donut-eating days are behind me. 


Chip time: 2:10:46
Overall finish: 522/1372 finishers
Age group: 18/81

Donut adjusted time: 1:30:46 **I'm just noticing that I got screwed out of 5 minutes for my 9th donut
Overall finish: 197/1372
Age group: 6/81 **my missing 5 minutes would have put me in 5th place.  Oh, well...no medal for that.

New donut eating record: a guy ate FORTY donuts.  These aren't little cake donuts.  These are big, thick, glazed donuts.  Forty donuts is insane.