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Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 recap

If I were to sum up this year in one word, it would be ADVENTURE!  This was definitely a year of trying new things, meeting new people, and completely abandoning my comfort zone.  While life certainly isn't perfect, I can say without a doubt that this has been one of the most fun, exciting years of my life.

By the numbers:

22 total races (3 of which were non-races/private races)

8 running
5 cycling
3 orienteering
5 multisport
3 non-races/private races

8 total races
6 trail
2 road

5 total races
2 road
2 mountain bike
1 cross

2 biathlons
1 triathlon
3 adventure races

My first snowy ride at Lost Valley with the Alpine Shop Dirty Girls ride
January saw the beginning of marathon training and learning to mountain bike. I ventured into the snow for my first "real" mountain bike ride and did some long run sightseeing while in Chicago for a volleyball tournament.

Castlewood Cup
Running with Luke and Jim at Castlewood.
The snow continued in February, and I piggybacked onto my friends' training so that I had company on my long runs.  I made one a great decision in joining a running club, and towards the end of the month, I finally ran my first race of the year, a 15K trail race.

Quite possibly my favorite picture ever.
March brought my first 20+ mile run and my first adventure race, a non-race put on my my friends in Team Virtus.  It was an epic day that made me even more excited about adventure racing.

Margaritas > birthday cake
In April, I celebrated my birthday, my friends kept me busy and I met the incomparable Wendy Davis while I was sidelined by Achilles tendonitis, I marked my one year running anniversary, and I headed to Wisconsin for my first marathon...in a trip that took a little longer than expected.

Never, ever would have thought I'd have one of these.
The first day of May was marathon day, a truly amazing experience.  I wasn't walking too fast for a while, but towards the end of the month I did a mini-adventure race and melted in a biathlon.

Victory, even virtual victory, is sweet.
June brought a crushing defeat for my son's high school volleyball team at the State tournament, my attempts at taking it easier on myself, and a smashing victory over Chris K in Adam's Sweat Your Thorns Off virtual 5K.

Sweet victory

In July, I ate 9 donuts for nothing, rode in my first mountain bike race, and amazingly took first in a road race.

Fading in the crit

Hiking Mt. Whitney with Jill
August taught me that there's more to a crit than riding your bike in circles, mountain climbing is harder when carrying a cooler on your head, and not having any business at a mountain bike race is no reason not to be there.

I don't think I ever stopped smiling.
September was a great month.  I set a 5K PR, and the Berryman Adventure Race was the culmination of a year of excitement, blog-stalking adventure racers, and training in things I'm terrible at...all for 14.75 hours of fun and disqualification for missing the time cut-off. I loved it and would've done another one the next day.

Running to the finish with J.

Wild in the Woods with friends
In October, I completed my friend Mike's private half-ironman which was brutally un-fun to someone who vastly undertrained and then had a blast running a 7 mile trail race with friends.

Wild in the Woods Broemmelsiek 5-mile
over tree
Clearing a log at Land Between the Lakes
November was a busy month, with a 5 mile trail race, coming in third-last in the 30K Skippo trail race, and a fantastic ladies' mountain bike weekend in Kentucky.

At the finish line at the 8-Hour
Almost there at Pere Marquette

My new favorite bike outfit.
December wrapped up the year with a 46-minute PR at the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run, a guest appearance with Orange Lederhosen at the Castlewood 8-hour, and a merry little CXMAS.

It was a fantastic, if somewhat hyperactive and scattershot, year.  I'm not sure how 2012 could equal it, but hopefully it will bring its own new challenges and epic adventures.  I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's all about me

Yesterday was the last of our numerous family Christmases.  It was the most stressful, since we were hosting and thus had to clean, but also the easiest because there were no gifts to buy.  Instead of being centered around opening presents, it featured a lot of conversation.  And cookies.  Oh my gosh, if I don't get moving I'll still be wearing those cookies in May.

Because one of my cousins is interested in adventure racing and my sister-in-law runs and mountain bikes, both of those things came up, as did my running.  I have three brothers: one, Jim, has been running and biking and being way tougher than me for a long time; one is just starting to run after some prodding from (and losing a bet to) his wife; and one is pretty scornful of the whole endeavor.

I heard the usual [sniff]I'd never run a marathon, but the comment that really got me then and is still irritating me today was I bet I could train for two weeks and crush you in a 5K.  He's probably right, and that was my response.  The fact is that I'm not a natural athlete.  I've had to work my ass off to be even mediocre.  Running doesn't come easy to me, and mountain biking definitely doesn't come easy to me, so saying that you'd easily beat me in those isn't really bragging.

This is where I'm really glad that my running and riding is for me.  It's not about impressing someone else, it's not about beating someone else (not even my nemesis); it's not about places or times.  Ultimately, it's about finding and answer to the question Can I?  It's about the joy of the attempt, the thrill of hard-won accomplishment, and the spirit of adventure.  And since I set my own grading scale, "almost" does count, "I tried" is acceptable, and "I can't" is only temporary.

So there.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A very merry Christmas

Santa was good to me this year.  Not just with presents (and I should mention here that the insane pile of presents you see behind us was at my mother-in-law's.  Jeff has 3 sisters and a total of 10 nieces/nephews plus the 5 of us and assorted spouses and "chosen" family, all of whom were there), but with presence.

My oldest son, who moved out in September, is staying with us for a few days.  Between the holiday and N's sprained ankle, I haven't spent half of my days in St. Louis at volleyball practice.  My brother and niece are home from Wisconsin until Wednesday.  We had three family Christmas gatherings so far with one more tomorrow.  Sometimes the holiday shuffle is exhausting, but this year I've just been able to enjoy the chance to spend time with the people I love.

Of course, Santa delivered some awesome stuff too.  The highlights for me were finally getting (well, ordering) a Garmin, some cold-weather bike gloves so I don't have to risk frostbite when hitting the trails this winter, a shock-proof/water-proof camera so I can get the shot next time Jim and I get hung up on a tree in the river, climbing gear for the adventure camp that next year I am most definitely attending (schedule conflict this year), and the perfect pair of riding boots.

Santa did not bring snow, but after a 50 degree Christmas afternoon where we could play football in the yard in just sweatshirts, this morning brought temperatures cold enough to keep the singletrack frozen.  I had made plans to ride with my brother, sister-in-law, and a friend, but when I woke up this morning I would have been just as happy to roll right back under the covers.  Sense of duty prevailed (I organized it; I had to go) and I was actually the first one at the trailhead.

Most of my clothing choice (tights/shorts, base layer, tech shirt, long-sleeved jersey, vest) was right on, but despite having shoe covers with me in the car, I opted not to wear them.  My toes were really cold and sore by the end of our hour and a half on the trails.  Definitely need to start wearing the shoe covers and doubling up on socks.  The new gloves would have come in pretty handy, too, but they're just a bit too small and need to be exchanged.

Regardless of the frozen toes and fingers, the ride was pretty great.  The trails were in good shape, the frosty morning was beautiful, the dead deer was finally gone, and I only fell once (riding uphill over a good-sized log).  One of these days I'm going to go out there and just ride switchbacks and other spots that give me trouble, but for today it was wonderful just to be outside.  Well worth a couple yawns later in the day.

Jim: "Yes, I know you have a blog, but I have places to be..."
Supposed to show how pretty the icy branches were glistening in the sun, which I totally failed to capture.
By the way, if you're up for a challenge, check out Karen's 70.3 Birthday Challenge.  Basically, it's a half-iron distance virtual race where you can do the distances in increments...but in order.  I signed on thinking hey, I'll be on vacation, I can get to the gym to swim, not remembering that my vacation is over Jan 3, this starts Jan. 1, and the gym will be closed that day.  Oh, well.  If I can get in my swim on the second (and I now know I can swim 1.2 miles at a stretch), then I can do the rest of the miles for sure.  I can even use my new Garmin to keep track. :)

Anybody have a great holiday memory or fantastic gift from this year to share?  (You know, share as in tell us about, not share share.  Although, feel free to share. :D)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Secret Santa + more! edition

Secret Santa

Thanks, Andrew!
This year I participated once again in Jill's blogger Secret Santa gift exchange. It's always fun to see what kind of cool gifts everyone comes up with, and my Secret Santa did not disappoint.  The always entertaining and frequently hilarious Andrew from Runing Man Wannabe sent me a running book.  If you've read my blog for long, you know that I a) love to read and b) need all the help I can get with my running.  I can't wait to dig into it, right as soon as I finish my Christmas baking and cleaning the house.


1.  I started my Christmas baking yesterday, when at a late breakfast I realized I hadn't made anything for Christmas at my father-in-law's house...which was at 1:00.  With 1.5 hours until we had to leave, I whipped up my Grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe (no, it's not Phoebe's grandma's recipe), and we still made it on time to the party.

They may not look exciting, but they're delicious.
1b.  I'm making oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chip cookies right now, and I was fine until I had the first bite of dough.  Oh, my gosh...you just can't go wrong with real butter, white chocolate, brown and white sugar, and cranberries.  Totally worth the salmonella risk.  We may not have that many cookies to share. 

1c. I don't even feel that bad about starting so late.  I just ordered my gift from my husband last night (a Garmin watch! Finally!).  We're totally off our Christmas game this year.  Well, he is.  My Christmas game looks a lot like this little girl:

Photo credit: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-SruFnq2NPnw/TYTDpnznzaI/AAAAAAAAA0Q/-uUS47lNdVQ/s1600/Maddie%2Bchasing%2Ba%2Bbus.jpg
I mean, when the radio is full of commercials about "last minute Christmas gifts" and you haven't even started?  Yikes.  It's all good, though.  I finished shopping about an hour ago. 

2.  N. twisted his ankle during the first 5 minutes of practice on Monday night (coincidentally, the first night I did any in-store Christmas shopping...clearly, Christmas shopping is hazardous business).  I took this picture the first night, by the next night despite ice and elevation and ibuprofen it and his foot looked so much worse.  A dr's visit and some x-rays established that it's not fractured, thank goodness.  We're lucky to have a great trainer at the high school who's working with him, so hopefully his time off will be limited.

Amy, Dawn, Wade, Gary
3.  Robin had set up a group ride for the weekend.  I'd thought it was Friday, and when I realized it was actually Saturday, I asked around on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to run.  I ended up with a group of five, plus me, spanning friendships starting from grade school until just a couple weeks ago.  We had a fantastic run, and I managed to cover a good portion of the inner trails without losing my way.

I got to go with my friends Angie and Dawn on their first trail run, and I'm pretty sure the world has two new trail runners now.  Also, Wade (AKA my nemesis) took me to task for neglecting to note that I keep losing to someone much "older and fatter" than me.  Consider yourselves told. :)

4.  Unfortunately, I ended up skipping Robin's ride this morning.  Combination of staying up too late wrapping presents the last couple of days and a persistant backache (probably from the same thing).  I had just told Jeff that if my brother Jim wasn't going (he's in town for the holiday), I'd get back into bed.  And then Jim called.  As I stood there in the bathroom all tired and sore, I thought back to the last time I tried a mountain bike ride super tired...but then it would probably be fine once I got out there.  I wish I had a sign to show me if I should go or not, I thought, and then my stomach started bothering me.  I figured that was my sign, sent Robin a text, and climbed back into bed.

Photo credit: http://www.solidprinciples.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Jesus-Mary-Joseph-manger-scene.jpg
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!  I'm glad to know you all...thanks for coming here and sharing in my life.  May the holidays bring you peace, love, fun, and great joy.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Versatile blogger award

Thanks to TriMoEngr for tagging me with the Versatile Blogger Award.  Now I have to get to tell you some random things about myself.  Seeing as I love to talk about myself, this shouldn't be hard, but since I'm a big oversharer anyway, I'm having a hard time coming up with something random that I haven't told you all before.

1.  I got pregnant the first time I had sex.  Good thing I waited til I was 19.  My brother's daughter was conceived when he was 19.  My oldest son is 19 now.  Don't think the number doesn't scare the crap out of me. 

My 19 year old self in front of the house my parents bought for me to live in. 
It was right down the block from my college.
2.  I originally majored in English during my first stint in college.  People would ask what I was going to do with that degree, was I going to be a teacher.  No way, was my answer.  But during a 5-year hiatus from school after my middle son was born I worked at a children's home for profoundly disabled kids, then a group home for adults with developmental disabilities, then a developmental training workshop, where I realized to my surprise that I really liked teaching.  So I went back to school and got my degree in special education.  And I still really like teaching 10 years later...most days. :)

3. If I could make my living by writing, I would.  I love to write.  I wrote a lot when my older boys were little, poems and short stories, and there's the skeleton of a novel rattling around in a file somewhere.  A few years ago, Jeff told me I should start writing again; now I think he gets a little annoyed at the time I spend writing.  The majority of my earlier "work" stemmed from a lot of unhappiness; now that I'm not unhappy, all I have to write about is training and racing.  It's awesome, because my blog is frequently the tipping point that will get me to try something just so I can write about it.

4.  I haven't counted the number of times I said "write", "wrote", or "writing" in that last item.  I know it's probably a ridiculous amount and proof that I'm not a very good writer. :P

5.  I love Facebook.  I spend way too much time on it (just ask Jill), but I love the way it allows you to connect with people you otherwise couldn't on a regular basis.  Also, I love that it gives me back my maiden name.  That's an important part of who I am, and it makes me happy to see it still written as part of my name.  That's even how I think of myself: all three names.  When my ex-husband and I divorced, I kept his name because it was my kids' name, but as soon as I moved back home I missed my old name.  Facebook gives me the perfect mix of who I was plus who I am now...with the ex's name conveniently absent. :)

6.  I'm a world-class procrastinator (which is why I'm doing this post instead of wrapping presents or cleaning my house for the family Christmas we're hosting next Tuesday).  I could eliminate a huge amount of stress and added expense from my life by kicking the procrastination habit. 

6b.  On the other hand, there were some pretty good last-minute Christmas sales today.  Also, if I hadn't waited til later last night to go to Old Navy, I might not have been able to use the man ahead of me's coupon to save 30% off my already low sale prices...or pass it on to the couple in the parking lot.

7.  I love strawberries but not strawberry ice cream; grapes but not grape jelly; oranges but not orange juice; baked potatoes but not mashed potatoes.  How's that for random?

  I'm not super picky, but you could definitely Fear Factor me with food you can buy at the grocery store.  Speaking of Fear Factor, no way.  I don't need $50,000 enough to get me to do some of the things they do just for a chance of winning.  Now Survivor or Amazing Race, sign me up!

8.  I'm much shyer than anyone who knows me would think.  My job has been really good for forcing me out of that.  One thing that it turns out I'm pretty good at is talking to unhappy parents at IEP meetings; hearing that your child would benefit from special education is one of the last things most parents want to hear, and they carry a lot of assumptions and fears about special ed.  I used to come home in tears because it's so hard to be the teacher that no one wants their kids with, but typically after a few months in my class (and not just my class, but this is my experience and so that's what I'm talking about) parents tell me how happy they are, and more importantly, what a difference they can see in their child. 

9.  I like a good challenge.  Cleaning my house is a challenge, but it doesn't fall into the "good" range, unfortunately.

10.  This isn't all that interesting.  If you want to read something more fun, you should look back at my post about CXMAS

Best. movie quotes. ever.
11.  OK, one more.  When I was in college, my friends raved about the movie A Christmas Story, quoting lines and laughing hysterically.  I had to watch that movie, and then when I did it was a total letdown.  Fast forward about 8 years, and I was spending the weekend at Jeff's while my boys were with their dad.  Some TV station was running an A Christmas Story 24-hour marathon, and we kept catching parts of it.  Something about seeing it over and over and over again...now I find it hilarious.   

Also in college, we watched the movie Scrooged for the first time and my friends had to explain to me why the fake show "Father Loves Beaver" was so funny.  I had never hear the term "beaver" to describe something other than a toothy mammal.

Your turn...tell me something random about yourself.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A CXMAS ("Cross-mas") story

*All quotes are from the movie A Christmas Story, one of my favorite holiday movies.*

**This also serves as my race report for XLMIC's Jingle Bell Hell virtual race.  I don't want to hear any complaining that a bike race shouldn't count, either, because I checked the rules and nowhere does it say that you have to RUN.

See? No running specified. :)
To get some of the details out of the way, I did meet the criteria:
  • At least 5K: I think it was around 25 miles. 
  • Challenging: definitely.  Running across sand, carrying a bike up 200 stairs, riding while drinking beer...
  • Done Dec. 18
  • Laughed: many times
OK, now that the virtual race details are out of the way, back to my story.....**
I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!
It all started innocently enough, as these things do, with a question.  My 8 year old asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I answered.  (No, it wasn't a Red Ryder BB Gun.)  His response was cute, so I posted it on Facebook.

One of the responses suggested I might get a cowbell hookup if I showed up on Sunday.  What's Sunday, I asked.  The answer: "CXMAS...duh." (Just click the link.  Please.)  Now, of course I'd heard of CXMAS, Team Seagal's epic non-race.  I'd already read the race reports from previous years...but still channeling the nerdy high school self who never showed up at the cool kids' parties, I hadn't imagined actually going.

I was intimidated.  I was nervous.  I was confused about which parking lot.  Not only did they tell me about it, though; Jim and Wendy also made sure I knew where to go.  How could I skip it?  Even having read the reports, though, I wasn't sure what to expect from the day.
What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture?  Hmmph.  Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.
Knowing that holiday spirit should be on full display, I next set to creating a Christmas-y outift to wear.  I wanted to dress like Mrs. Claus, but since I'm always catching my chamois on my bike seat, I definitely didn't want a skirt.  An apron, though...that might do the trick.  Conveniently, because I make our Halloween costumes, I actually had everything I needed to whip up a Mrs. Santa apron. 

Photo credit: Wendy Davis
It didn't even take me that long.  I was pretty happy with the results, but it needed something more.  While shopping for holiday socks at Target and Walmart, I spotted a pair of Christmas panties.  The perfect final touch!  Choosing the correct size to wear over bike shorts was a little tricky, but I guessed right.

As I dressed for the race, Jeff just rolled his eyes and then, knowing I'd want the pictures for the blog, grabbed the camera. J was curious. He asked, "Are you wearing underwear under your bike shorts?
"No," I answered, "you don't wear anything under them."
"That's kind of gross," he responded, "but I guess it's good you're wearing some.

Downtown Hammond Team Seagal was preparing for this yearly baccanalia of peace on Earth and goodwill to men.
I left in plenty of time, thankfully, because despite having good directions I managed to get a little lost.  I made it with about 15 minutes to spare and quickly pulled on the panties and apron that I had opted not to wear into the gas station along the way (I got enough weird looks with just the socks).  Unlike previous years where the temperature was below 10 degrees, it was around 50 today, so I ended up taking off one of my shirts and the arm warmers.  If I was originally a little self-conscious about my outfit, that feeling evaporated as soon as I looked around.  My outfit was pretty tame compared to other non-racers, and my underwear certainly wasn't the only pair on display.  I did a lot of laughing at the costumes on display.

Like this one...

Or, yeah, this.  No competing with this.
I dropped off my canned goods "entry fee" for the non-race, as well as a 12-pack of beer, then said hi to some of the Team Rev ladies and Jim and Wendy.  My friend Kube asked who I was riding with.  I hadn't thought about this.  "Ummm...nobody, I guess?"  She offered to stick with me, and while I've done lots and lots of rides on my own because I'm so slow, it was waaay nicer to have company. (Kube made her first appearance in my blog way back in August when she kicked my butt in the Edwardsville Crit.  Well, everybody kicked my butt, but she at least did it after offering several important pieces of advice.)

Listening to pre-non-race directions
After some intentional start-line confusion (Costumes in the back...no, wait, you're in the front!  We're going downhill/we're going uphill), we were off.  We started on bike trails, and I quickly fell behind Kube and her friend Gabrielle.  Being on a mountain bike with a bunch of cyclocross riders (who were on lighter bikes with smaller tires and slightly different body positioning), I was at a distinct disadvantage, but I definitely learned at the crit that your equipment is only one part of the equation.  (Kube and I had the exact same road bike, and she crushed me.)  Even so, the first level of "hell" was definitely struggling to keep up with your friends so you aren't holding them back and spoiling their day.
The [pace]line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute St. Charles.  And I was at the end of it.
We turned off the bike trail and onto the fairly steep grassy hill that led from the overpass to the road below.  The girl in front of me clipped out to walk, but I was comfortable with riding it.  Wendy told me later that they had all watched to see if I would ride it; honestly, walking it never occurred to me.  We followed the road to Creve Coeur Park and continued on the paved trails there.  I'm sure that the people we all passed were very curious about all these crazy people in the wacky holiday clothes.
"He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny elf..."
Our first CX-style obstacle (I guess) was in the park. We took a brief detour onto a gravel trail.  A ditch that was maybe a foot wide and 18 inches deep (? totally guessing here) crossed the trail.  The line I was in slowed as a guy wheeled his bike past us with a tacoed wheel.  That's a lousy way to end your race.  We dismounted, crossed the ditch, and headed back down the trail.
"Dadgummit! Blow out!"
...the Old Man loved it.  He had always pictured himself in the pits of the Indianapolis Speedway in the [Little] 500.  My old man's apare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense.  They were round, they had once been made of rubber.
More riding on the paved trails around the lake until we came out by the beach, where we had to ride (or run) our bikes through the sand to get our first (and my only--since there were only 40 or so at each, if you weren't in the first 40 riders, no zip tie for you) zip tie.

Hoping that my gigantic mountain bike tires would allow me to ride through the sand, I didn't dismount at first, but the slow progress really wasn't worth the effort, so I pushed my bike the rest of the way.  As I staggered through the sand, I was feeling a little apprehensive.  I'd ridden this area on a Trailnet ride a couple of years ago, and I was pretty sure I remembered a huge, endless hill that we'd ridden up...just the kind of thing that these twisted minds would impose on us.
My little brother had not eaten voluntarily in over three years.

Photo credit: Team Seagal
Instead, we rode across the street to a parking lot where a table full of egg nog awaited, along with Kube, who if she was kicking herself for offering to ride with me, was concealing it well.  We had to drink at least one cup of egg nog and then carry the bikes up a staircase.  I've never had egg nog, both because I know it's loaded with calories and...egg nog...it just sounds gross.  This was part of the race, though, so of course I downed my cup.  It was good. 
In the heat of battle my father she wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan the Missouri River.
"Ok," she told me, "unless you're really hardcore [she reads this blog, she knows I'm not], why don't we switch bikes for the trip up the stairs.  I'll carry your mountain bike, and you can carry my lighter cross bike."  I'm not too proud to accept help when I clearly need it.  I lifted her bike, and looked up at 200 concrete stairs.  Suddenly riding up the big hill didn't seem like such a bad option.

That's not me, but it is my bike.
Carrying a bike--any bike--up 200 stairs: more hell.
I had by far the better end of the deal as I think my bike weighs twice as much as Kube's.  As she lifted that monster, she had a few choice words to say, which only increased as the staircase went on; however, even lugging that weight she still was ahead of me the whole time.  Not only did Kube stay ahead of me, but a guy passed me on the stairs carrying a tandem mountain bike. Sigh.  The good thing about events like this is that they keep my ego firmly in check.
I just hoped Flick would never spot them as word of this humiliation could make life at G. Harding School a veritable Hell.

At the top of the stairs, it was back on the park roads and around to a playground, where we had to dismount, go down a slide, and eat some R-rated donuts before riding down a steep gravel hill.  I remembered all the hill advice I've gotten and made sure to get my butt up and almost behind my seat, then I eased my way down the hill.  From here it was back along the lake, across the bridge, and onto the Katy Trail, parts of which were pretty sloppy.  As we rode towards the Family Arena, riders passed us in the other direction carrying gigantic wrapped boxes.
"All right, I'll get that kid to eat drink.  Where's my screw driver and my plumber's helper? I'll open up his mount and I'll shove pour it in."
At the box station was none other than Jim Davis, who chased me down and forced me to take a beer.  :)  I think he felt it was his personal duty after I'd told him earlier that I wasn't good at riding and drinking (that goes for drinking anything, not just drinking.  I'm just not all that coordinated).  Despite having one hand full and trying to navigate the soggy trail, I managed to not fall off my bike.  Though Kube was ahead of me in the distance, I did manage to pass a guy who was also riding a mountain bike.  "I'm glad I'm on my mountain bike," I told him, "because otherwise I'd have to come up with another reason for feeling so bad."  He laughed, and I didn't see him again until we were heading onto the singletrack at Bangert Island.
The heavenly aroma still hung in the house.  But it was gone, ALL GONE!
Wendy is always telling me to stop being overly nice and letting people go ahead of me, and maybe I finally learned my lesson.  At the trailhead, some riders were coming out of the singletrack, so I waited to let them by before riding in.  In the meantime, the guy I'd passed came up behind me. "Why don't you go ahead," I suggested.  He did, and so he got the very last CXMAS spoke card!  I was definitely disappointed but figured it would just be added incentive for me to ride faster next year.

The Bangert trails were a lot of fun, though there were several really muddy low spots.  It was interesting to try to figure out gearing in these areas, because if you stood in your pedals to get more power your back wheel would spin out.  I made it through without crashing and, despite having never been on these trails, felt more in my element than during any other part of the race.  For this section, my mountain bike was an asset.
  I left Flick to certain annihilation.  But BB gun race mania knows no loyalty.
From Bangert, it was a straight shot back down the Katy to the finish line.  Knowing that even I couldn't get myself lost for the remainder of the race, Kube took the opportunity to stretch her legs while I meandered behind. This time there was no part of the trail where I could avoid the soggy mess, so I just rode on through it, figuring that if I couldn't be fast at least I could be dirty. 

Mission accomplished.
Unlike with the spoke card, I was not at all disappointed to find out that the presents were all gone, because I'd been worried just how I was going to manage to ride back with one, especially when I saw how far they had to ride carrying them. Relieved that the day was that much more unlikely to end with a broken arm, I rode back to the parking lot...and it was over.

Photo credit: Team Seagal
It's a Major Award!

Photo credit: Team Seagal
Winners got some really cool CXMAS steins.  Of course, I'd had no illusions of victory, but I had hoped to score a spoke card.  I was telling my story about stupidly letting the guy go ahead of me and get the last card when Gabrielle brought over hers.  "You have to have one from your first year," she told me.

Mine...all mine...

How cool is that??? I met her that morning in the parking lot, and now she's giving me one of the prized spoke cards?  Basically, the day was a whole bunch of awesome because of some really tenuous links to people: Wendy, who I blog stalk and had met...um...twice before the day; Jim and Kube, each of whom I'd met once; and Gabrielle, who I'd met that day. It's really a testament to the awesomeness and inclusiveness of endurance athletes combined with the internet's ability to help you get to know people you rarely see in person.

Now I have a year ahead of me to save up for a cross bike, design a contest-winning costume (though I think the answer there is probably more cleavage), and get into better shape so that at the next CXMAS I can earn my own spoke card and, hopefully, keep up with my riding partners.

And for a less PG-rated version of the day, check out Team Seagal's post about the day.  Thanks to them for a fantastic, hilarious day.  And for more pictures from the race, check out A Pabst Smear.  See if you can find me.