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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The worst idea in the world

If necessity is the mother of invention, the father of bad ideas must be Team Virtus, and Casey in particular.

Evil geniuses
Why?  Because they are the disturbed minds behind perhaps the most terrible idea of all time, the Super Century.  What is the Super Century?  A metric century (62 mile) trainer bike ride.  Starting at 6:00 a.m., no less, on Super Bowl Sunday.

The pros: you can pretty much eat whatever you want at the evening's Super Bowl party. 
The cons: everything else.

Since you know me, I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to share in the sheer awfulness of the idea.  It might surprise you that I'm not the only one.  Crazy people all over the country have signed on to the insanity. And since misery loves company, I'd love to welcome you to the nuthouse.  Do join us on February 5. 

The rules? There are no rules.  You can ride inside or outside.  You can ride alone or with company.  You don't have a trainer? Borrow one.  You don't have a friend with a trainer? Get new friends...or come up with a suitably awful challenge so that you aren't left out.  Some alternate ideas so far...
  • 31 miles on a treadmill
  • 150 pull ups (not sure if it's the diapers or the arm-strengthener, but either was it's got to suck)
  • 1,000 air squats
  • 150 donuts
If you're interested, and how could you not be, click on the above link to tell the guys you're in.  They've also created a DailyMile challenge if you want to sign up that way.  Of course, even if you're alone, we don't want you to suffer alone.  We'll all be tweeting (watch for hashtags like #supercentury #badideas #mytaintwillneverbethesame) and facebooking our pain throughout the experience (see the Team Virtus website linked above for their twitter and facebook links.  Really, you don't want to miss these guys).  Expect pictures, possibly video, and a LOT of complaining.

It truly sounds grueling to me.  I haven't been on my road bike since the private half-ironman in October, and I have to run 6 miles for my 50K training program after the Super Century.  In a somewhat cruel twist, Sunday's weather looks like it would be somewhat OK for riding outside, but somehow the sheer awfulness of the trainer component is what makes the whole thing worth doing for me.  Plus, you know, the opportunity to add my own notes to the symphony of pain that's going to be blasting bright and early on Sunday.

If you're in, let me know.  If you think we're crazy, let me know that, too.  C'mon...you know you wanna...and if you don't wanna but do anyway, even better. :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

FYTO5K Race Report

Like much of blogland, I signed on for The Boring Runner's second annual Freeze Your Thorns Off 5K.  Of course, Adam lives in Arizona and so has little recent experience freezing anything other than ice cubes, but he apparently grew up in the Midwest and remembers what winter is like.  Seeing as no likely victim presented themselves for a photoshop blogjacking, I actually had to run this one.

Luckily, I had good company.  Patrick, Mike, and Wade all were running Saturday morning, as were some other members of our tri club. Unfortunately, I was moving a little slowly that morning and kept the boys waiting in the below freezing (hey, 30ish is still below freezing) temperatures, resulting in their threat to AIS (or actually, FOG--feet on ground) me next time I'm late.  And there will be a next time.

We met at the local university to run the trails, so I was a little surprised when we set off across campus instead.  The guys wanted to run the new section of trail that we helped put in last week, but to get there, we had to brave some ice-covered asphalt first.  It was a little treacherous, but no one fell.  I dropped behind the group pretty quickly, but every once in a while I could catch a glimpse of bright color ahead of me.  After an out and back on the trail, we headed back to the main part of campus.  Since I had to go to the bathroom and was dragging behind anyway, I told the guys I was going to stop at one of the buildings and they shouldn't wait for me, I'd just catch them on the trail.

Back at the parking lot, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I hadn't been left behind.  Patrick, Wade, and Mike were waiting for me, so then we headed into the woods.  Patrick was wearing a camera taking pictures ever 5 seconds, and he made a really cool time lapse slide show of our run.

We're really lucky to have the trails we have locally.  It's a really pretty place to run. 

Photo credit: Mike Ransick
There are some sections that pass right next to ravines.  Very cool, but a couple spots with treacherous footing.
Mike avoids plummetting to the bottom
If you watched the time-lapse video, you may have noticed that we have quite a few wooden bridges to cross.  The freezing temperatures made some of these a little treacherous.  One, in particular, required some creativity to cross.  You can't really tell it from the pictures, but the plank bridge slants up, and it was too slippery to walk up.  Eventually we realized we were going to have to crawl...

Crawl???  Really?...
I didn't even have to feel wimpy for crawling, since the guys in front of me did as well.  A couple of them tried walking to see if they could make it but quickly realized it wasn't going to work.
Not too proud to crawl....
This was my longest run since December's Pere Marquette race, but after the first three were finished I stopped counting down how many miles left and just enjoyed the morning and the company.  Kind of funny, though I met Mike over a year ago when he drove me to my first half marathon and we're in the same tri club, this is the first time we've ever run together.  Hopefully he'll come back for another run. :)

Post-race with Wade and Patrick
Our "5K" actually took us 8 miles to complete.  I blame the navigator...and the 8-mile run on my 50K training plan.  Actually, I enjoyed every minute.  It was a great morning for a run.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

11 Random things

Thanks to Marcia for tagging me in this and to Mike for tagging anyone who wanted to play along.  I'm double dipping a little...so sue me. :)

1. Post these rules
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself
3. Answer the questions set for you in their post
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people!

Oh, gosh...what random things could I tell you that I haven't already written about?

1.  I love being back at school.  It's a whole different experience to be learning things that are immediately applicable in my classroom, and I think it's going to make me a better teacher.  On the other hand, it's weird to be back in a situation where a lot of the people already know each other and I'm kind of on the outside.

2. I think everyone needs a friend who'll tell you what they think you need to hear whether or not you'll like it.  I've got a couple of those.  All guys, what a coincidence. :) Plus brothers, who by definition fill that role.

3.  I could count the number of beers I had last year on one hand, and it's vastly more than I had in the previous 18 years.  I've never been much of a beer drinker, though that is shifting a little since, as my husband says, my "friends are a bad influence".  Somehow beer tastes way better after a race or bike ride than other times.

4. I did a lot of writing during my first marriage -- poems and short stories rather than blogging.  One of my poems won honorary mention in a national contest, but since it was about something (very minor) that happened between my parents the day of my father's death, I could never let my mom read the poem because it would've hurt her feelings.

5.  I took piano lessons for a couple of years.  The teacher called me "Kathy" for an entire year because I was too shy to tell her my name was Kate and then too embarrassed to correct her after it went on for a while...but not as embarrassed as I was the day of my recital when she told my parents how "Kathy" was doing and my mom said "Who's Kathy?"

6.  I once won second place in a state-wide physics test contest by randomly filling in bubbles.  Then I had to keep a straight face while being interviewed about it by the local newspaper. 

7.  While at Castlewood on Sunday morning for the bike ride, a guy asked me in the parking lot if I was SuperKate and introduced himself as a commenter from the Pere Marquette report.  So fun to run into people who've read my blog. I doubt I'll ever get tired of that. Thanks, James B for helping make my morning. :)

8.  Ever since registering for Double Chubb (the April 50K), I've been stunningly unmotivated to run and presented with multiple opportunities to do really fun other things like mountain biking and orienteering (OK, that part wasn't so much fun.....)  Part of the problem might be that the plan I found didn't start til this week, part of the problem is that my Team Virtus friends are planning their 3rd non-race for the same date and I'd rather do that...part of the problem is I'm lazy...I ran two miles yesterday like the plan called for.  Stay tuned....

9.  When I had to replace my car, all of the criteria for the new one revolved around my bike: I had to be able to put a trunk rack on it, I ideally wanted to be able to fit my bike inside the car, and it had to have an automatic transmission so that when I drove myself home after crashing and hurting myself, I wouldn't have to shift multiple times or use a clutch.

10.  I'm more comfortable with being bad at something than good at something.  I will always tell you I'm worse at something than I think I am because I'd rather be a surprise than a disappointment and because I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea about what I can do.

11.  I'm doing a 24-hour adventure race in March.  I. Cannot. Wait.

Marcia's questions:
1 . Do you have any pets?

I have a labradoodle, Berkeley, and my son has a cat, Bo.  Being as my son has been laid up in some major pain since his surgery Jan. 4, I currently have a cat, Bo.

2. Most embarrassing moment?

Tie between waiting in the gear check line after my first half marathon and realizing that terrible smell was me...and this summer during a camping trip when I got out of bed and one of my breasts had fallen out of my top, right in front of my 17 year old.  We were both pretty mortified. 

3. Favorite brand of running gear?

I don't have enough running gear to pick favorites.  I do love my Asics trail shoes, though.

4. Dream vacation?

I'd love to go somewhere where I can hike and bike and run somewhere gorgeous.  I'd also love to go to Ireland or back to Mexico.  Going to some all-inclusive resort where I can lay on the beach and read all day sounds pretty sweet, too.

5. Dream race?

Abby posted a link to an amazing expedition-style adventure race.  Check out the link.  It's amazing.  I definitely want to do something like that.

6. Favorite GU flavor?

Vanilla bean or the espresso one.

7. Snow ski or water ski?

Water ski

8. Do you get a flu shot?


9. Gold, sterling silver or platinum?

I wear mostly gold (or cheaper stuff), when I remember to put on jewelry, but I'm going to paraphrase Mike's answer and say I'd prefer a cross bike.

10. What grade in school did you enjoy most? Least?

First grade was hard because I had to go to reading with the class above mine, and they weren't very nice or accepting.  I had a really, really good time my freshman year of college. :)

11. How often do you get a haircut?
  Every 9 months or so.

Mike's questions:

My questions to you:
1. Why do you blog?
I started blogging to keep track of training; now I love to be able to look back at things I've done, places I've gone, and how I've changed.  I'd still blog even if no one read it, but I love the inspiration and friendships I've found through blogging.

2. What is your favorite meal?
That's like asking me to pick between my children! :)  We don't eat anything all that fancy.  I like BBQ pork steaks and baked potatoes, lasagna, chicken parmesean...maybe, though, my favorite meal is one I don't have to cook! 
3. What accomplishment are you the most proud of?
Life: going back to school and finishing my college degree.
Sports: Doing a 9.5 hour adventure (non)race the day after my first 21-mile run.

4. What was your favorite subject in school?
English.  I love to read and write (shocker, huh?)

5. What is your favorite sport?
I'd say mountain biking, but apparently it's not a sport (according to my husband and child).  Favorite individual sport: mountain biking.  Favorite team sport to play: volleyball (with basketball a close second).  Favorite sport to watch: whatever my kids are playing at the time.

6. What is your favorite team?
Team Virtus. :)
Whatever my kids are playing on.  Honestly, if no one I know is playing, I don't really care.

7. What is your favorite snack to eat while cheering for your favorite team? 
Do you know they don't allow anything but popcorn into our high school gym? Sigh.  I'm a big fan of soft pretzels with cheese.

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

9. Do you grill with charcoal or gas?
Grilling is for boys, but my husband uses a gas grill.

10. What is your favorite month?
Ummmm....June-mid August.

11. What is your least favorite month? 
They all have their good points.  December is always stressful because of Christmas and money.

Questions for you: 

1. Did you have a favorite teacher in school?  Who and why?
2. Suggest a great new blog for me to read.
3. What's a favorite race memory?
4. What kind of car do you drive?
5. What do you imagine doing when you retire?
6. Tell me a happy memory of yours.
7. What's something that has surprised you about yourself?
8. Do you have brothers or sisters?  If so, are you close to them?
9. Patrick assures me he'd come rescue me if I ever again got lost in the woods. Can I count on him?
10. What's something you like to make for dinner?
11.  What's a good piece of advice you've received.


1. Robin
2. XLMIC (yeah, I know you just did this, but I still want you to answer my questions. :D)
3. Misty
4. Slomo
5. Laima
6. Kovas
7. Abby
8. Patrick
9. Wendy
10. Cory
11. Rose

...and anyone else who wants to answer one of those questions.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The all-important step

**First off, if I normally comment on your blog and haven't lately, it isn't for lack of trying.  I've been having a heck of a time getting posts to load, and then half the time when I try and comment the comment page won't come up.  Not sure if Blogger is having issues again or what.  It doesn't happen on my phone, but I can only see the two most recent posts on my phone.  Grr.  Word Press is looking more and more appealing.**

This was a good weekend.  It really was, even though I'm currently stinging from a soul-confidence-crushing orienteering outing.  It was definitely a busy weekend, with some new experiences and lots of time spent outside.

Saturday's planned Frostbike MTB ride was cancelled due to icy conditions (even our landscaping was slippery, and the roads were like skating rinks), but the ride had been planned in concert with a Gateway Off-Road Cyclists workday on our local trails.  GORC builds and maintains mountain bike trails all over the region, and they apparently work their scheduled days no matter what.  I've had it in the back of my head that it would be good to go and "give back", plus I wanted to actually see/experience what goes into making a trail.  Between Team Rev and my tri club encouraging members to participate, I guess I finally got enough nudging. 

I'd gone back to sleep once the ride was called off, and when the alarm went off at 8, of course the first thing I did was hit snooze check Facebook.  Patrick had posted about getting ready for the workday.  He lives just a few blocks from me, so I commented asking for a ride.  All of the sudden I get a text saying, "I'm already there, but I'll come get you. Be ready."  Be ready? I was still in bed!  I texted back to tell him nevermind, but he was already on the way.  I put in my contacts, washed my face, and threw on some clothes.  Pretty sure he still had to wait a bit in the driveway.

There was a great turnout for the workday. All told, close to 40 people were out there working to add 1/2 mile of singletrack. 

Getting directions
At around 9, the guy in charge had us split up among the 5 crew leaders.  There were about 9 of us from the tri club, and they didn't need us all in one group, so I ended up with people I didn't know.  No big deal.  Then we had to get our tools.  The boss guy says, "OK, you'll need some doohickeys, some whatzits, and some thingamabobs."  Well, that's not exactly what he said, but that's pretty much what I got out of it.  I just looked at what the other guys were grabbing, took one of those, and followed them down the trail realizing that I had no idea what the hell I was doing and hoping they were patient.

Basically, our job was to rake away the leaf cover ("leaf litter") over our assigned section of the trail, which had been marked out with flagging.  It was a chilly morning (temps in the 20's), but I warmed up really quickly once I started working.

Raking in progress; you can see the rake-y thing we used.
In the background, you can see fellow blogger Scott who had the good luck to get to pull up brush/small trees.  Others used loppers to cut limbs back.  I got the chance to talk to a few of the guys while we worked.  John, our crew leader, asked what brought me out, and I basically told him what I said up above.  He said one of the reasons he volunteers is to kind of leave a legacy, that he can go to most any trail in the area and see a section he helped put in.  That's pretty cool, and I think the part we worked on will be kind of special to me because I helped, so I totally get what he means.

More progress
After we had our section all raked clear, John had me work with a guy in another group who was bench-cutting the trail.  I pulled away the dirt as he cut it from the trail.  Hardly skilled labor, though the trick was getting the dirt out of the way without getting in the way.  As we talked about riding and trails and stuff, it came up that I'd been at Berryman last weekend, and he asked if I was with the Team Virtus group ride and said he was going to their Cedar Cross race (stabbing me in the heart with yet another reminder that I'm going to miss a truly epic event).  Anyway, I assured him that it would be an amazing experience because those guys are the best.

All told, we put in about 3+ hours of work.  I'm clearly not used to manual labor, because I am sore today, but it was actually a lot of fun.  I liked meeting and talking to some new people as well as the friends I already knew out there, and I liked contributing to this sport I love more and more.  We were even provided lunch and I won a $10 gift certificate to our LBS.  Sweet!

Since I didn't get to ride as planned Saturday, no way was I missing Sunday's ride at Castlewood.  Well, until the alarm went off at 5:45 and it was cold and dark and if it wasn't for telling Amy that I'd be there I might just have turned off the alarm and gone back to bed.  But I didn't, and even though Amy ended up not going because she felt lousy, I had a really good time.  My legs felt a little meh about the whole thing on the first climb, but they stopped whining pretty soon.  I tried to focus on keeping a little more speed (semi-successful, still lots and lots of braking) and on riding with a little more finesse, especially lifting my front wheel over obstacles, since Patrick recently called me on basically just bulldozing through things (a little more successful than the speed thing).  And it was a good thing that I rode this morning, because it ended up being the highlight of my day.

I've been looking forward to this afternoon's orienteering meet for about a month.  Our last outing left me feeling cautiously optimistic about my navigational skills.  While Jeff did most of the mapwork for our first two meets, I managed the map for November's meet and we did pretty well, especially considering we had an 8 year old in tow.  Today was to be my first solo outing because, while Jeff likes orienteering, he loves football and wouldn't have considered skipping the playoffs.  I was ok with that.  I was looking forward to seeing how I could do on my own. 

I got there plenty early since I was coming from the bike ride and just did some reading for one of my classes while the people in charge were setting up. While I was waiting, I did get some helpful hints from Fran, one of the SLOC people helping with registration.  I'm going to put it in yellow so that if you couldn't care less about orienteering it's easy for you to skip over.

Clue sheet
OK, for those of you who are still with me, to find your way around you have your map, which is marked with the controls for you to find. You have your clue sheet, such as the one to the right. The clue sheet tells you what number will be on the control marker (so you know you have the right one); it will also give you clues as to where you'll find the control.  Then you have your passport, which is basically a piece of paper with a bunch of boxes on it.  Each control will have a unique punch at it; you punch the corresponding box to show that you were at that point.

So Fran showed me some things she does with her passport.  First, she writes the control number in the corresponding box.  Using the clue sheet in my picture, she'd write the number 150 in the #1 box.  That way, when she gets there she doesn't have to go digging for her clue sheet.  Also she notes the identifying features.  She uses packing tape to cover her passport.  On the back of it, she tapes the clue sheet so it's right there if she needs to refer to it.  Once both sides are covered with tape, she trims away excess tape and punches a hole in the card.  She attaches it to her wrist using a couple of rubber bands.  That way it's right there and can't get lost.

**Back to our regular scheduled programming**
I got to see my friends Melissa, Traci, and Todd. And I had to decide which course to conquer attempt.  There were three basic options: yellow, which was 3.1K and mostly on trails and roads; orange, which was 4K and mostly off-trail but on major handrails such as streambeds and ridgetops; and green (4.8K) / red (6.3K), which require "intricate navigation at times".

Now, a smart person might say Hmmmm...this is the first time I've done this on my own; maybe I'll start small.  I, however, was thinking about my semi-success at Meramec and opted for the green course.  I thought about red, after all, I'm a runner.  I can certainly handle 6.3K , even if it is off-trail and through rough terrain.  Thankfully, my hubris did have limits and I stuck with the shorter course

Like at Meramec, we had to copy the controls from a master map onto our own.  I did this carefully, then noted the control numbers on my passport and checked to make sure I knew what all the symbols meant.  Then it was time to get in line to take off.  Since the courses were point-to-point, you had to get each control in number order.  To make it easier to not follow others, start times are staggered.

When it was my time, I jogged out the door...and realized I had no idea where to go from there.  This way...no, wait...that way....ummm, no, that's not it... If you picture the way heads turn from side to side in a tennis match, that's pretty much how I looked for the first couple of minutes.  I relaxed, really looked at the map, and figured out where I needed to go. 

One down, nine to go...
I wouldn't say I went straight to the first control, but I found it with a minimum of wandering.  Then, I navigated directly to the second one.  I was pretty shocked and pleased.  If I'd taken a few seconds to think about it, though, I might have realized that I hadn't expected it to be there at all.  Score one for dumb luck.

I wish I'd taken a little time to savor that second control more, because things went south from there.  Having shot a bearing and heading directly towards #3, I came out on a road.  The "road" was actually a trail, which made for additional confusion.  I thought I knew where I was on the map, but then realized I didn't and went looking for some kind of reference point I could match up to the map.  Thinking I knew where I was, I came across some people who kind of looked like they knew what they were doing.

"Do you mind if I ask where you think you are?" I asked.  When they told me, I had no idea how I could've gotten that off track.  I didn't really think they were right, but I still didn't know where I was, so I kept on going looking for a reference point.  Before long, the same people were coming back my way. "Don't listen to us; we were totally off track."

Finally! A something on the map!
I was really excited to come across these stones, as I'd seen a symbol for "small cemetery".  Now I sort of knew where I was.  Sort of.  Really, I doubt I'd ever have found #3 if a woman coming out of the woods hadn't told me that the paved path (which I was guessing as a road) was actually a trail on the map, and then she kind of sent me in the right direction.  Finally! Number 3! I felt confident that, now that I knew where I was, the next point would much better.

I was so wrong.

Going strictly by compass again, I did manage to get to the right neighborhood, though again, not when/where I thought I should.  Ahhh, hindsight!  The map showed #4 in the vicinity of a fenced-in area, and there was a fence.  Of course, this was also an area where it would have behooved me to pay closer attention to the course notes: "This is an old map. Deviations exist (e.g. fenced areas near control 4 are not as mapped)."  Still, if my compass skills had been better, this wouldn't have been nearly the issue that it was. 

I didn't think I was in the right area, but there was the fence.  There was the big pond that was on the map.  Just to make sure I wasn't in the right area, I went partway around the fence.  And then the other way.  Finding a road that was on the map, I went back the way I had come.  Then decided that couldn't be right.  I went back to where I'd started near the fence.  Since the clue sheet said re-entrant, I walked along something that was semi-reentrant-ish.  No luck.  Eventually I came across some ladies who'd already found 4 and told me I'd have to go partway around the fence (again!).  I went all the way around, fell coming down a creekside, and ran into another group who pointed the way towards the control.  Yeah, that's right, it took me TWO groups of Samaritans before I could find the stupid thing.

I was starting to get really frustrated by this point.  I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but it was going SO WRONG. Thinking back to an old post I'd read when my friend Bob had a rough outing and ended up just savoring the day and the park and the scenery, I tried really hard to channel that spirit.  It was really hard to keep a good attitude, though.  I think that's about the time I started whining on facebook:

Since the whole follow the compass straight to the next point thing wasn't working so well for me, I decided to try something different to get to #5.  Rather than go straight there, I shot a bearing to the trail; then I could follow the trail to a good known point, then follow a fence to #5.  It worked perfectly...until I left my known point (the end of the campground) in search of the fence.  I shot a bearing towards where it should be and walked and walked and walked.  I did have one fun moment where I had to climb over a gigantic fallen tree.  I had to boost myself up to it, then swing across and sliiiiide until my feet touched the ground again.  I was wishing I had a cameraman there to get that shot.

Once again, I wandered all over the place.  I finally came across a control, only to check the number and find out it was the wrong one. I think I ended up back at the same campground spot once and tried again with no luck.  Somehow I ended up at the other end of the campground and tried a different attack point with no luck.  I knew by this time there was no way I was clearing the course.  I was already over my 3 hour time limit.  I just really, really wanted to find #5 before heading back.  I found a trail on the map and tried following that to get me closer; I saw a control flag in the distance.  Could this be it?? Was I going to end my day with a minor success?

Nope.  It was the same wrong one I'd come across before.  That was it for me.  I was done.  I did run a little on the way back, trying to salvage some kind of benefit from the day; after all, I have a little race I'm supposed to be training for.  I think I was the last person in, which is saying something because there were a ton of people there today. 

Truly, it was an epic fail.  Looking at my Garmin tracks, it's quite clear I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

The arrows just show a little of my direction of travel
So remember the course description I posted above?  Of course you don't; I don't even remember it.  I'll remind us: my entire course was supposed to be about 4.8K, or just under 3 miles (if you're able to go point to point).  The 4 (of 10) controls I got, plus all of the wandering and searching for #5 came to 4.72 mi (or 7.6K).  So I went half again as far as the entire course, plus I didn't even get halfway finished. :-/

While I never freaked out in the woods, I was incredibly frustrated, and by the time I got back to the finish (or give-up) line, it was all I could do to turn in my passport and get to my car without crying.  I didn't think I'd be good today, but I didn't think I'd be that bad.  I felt utterly defeated.  I just got in the car and started driving; though I had google maps up with directions to my house, I missed about three different major turns and just kept resetting the directions from my new starting point.  I couldn't even find Qdoba when I stopped to grab something for a late lunch.  It was bad.

As I drove (and drove and drove), though, I thought.  I was so wrong on every point after the second.  I was never in the right place.  I thought back especially to #4.  It doesn't show up on my Garmin map, but there was a huge fenced-in area with a big pool/pond there.  I navigated right to the fenced-in area, but I was completely off-base as far as which way I thought I needed to go.  In fact, I was completely off-base on my headings for everything after the second point.  You probably noticed it on the map above.

As I thought about it, it began to dawn on me that I'd missed one very important step.  Here's how you (well, how I...maybe I know even less than I think I do), take a bearing so you know how to get from point to point on your map:

photo.JPG First, line up your compass from the point where you are (in this case, #2) to your destination (#3).  You can see the two points at the top edge of the compass. 

photo.JPGNext, line up the straight lines in the middle of the black circle with your North/South lines on your map. The red lines should be on the "north" side.

3 Now you're going to want to orient yourself so that the compass needle stays in the red box like the picture to the left shows.

4Hold your compass in front of you.  As long as the needle stays in the box, you're going in your chosen direction.  You can look ahead of you, find a landmark (maybe a big tree or a rock) in the line you're walking.  When you get to it, check your compass, find a new landmark, and go on ahead.

Easy, right?

I skipped the second step!!  I figured my direction of travel, but I just moved the housing so that the needle was in the red box rather than move it to a north-south orientation.  I must've just totally lucked out on the second control, because I used my compass completely wrong all day long.  Really, it's a miracle I found anything.

If you look at the picture below, you can see clearly how completely off-track I was every time.  It's kind of funny now that I know what happened.

The black shows what I did; clearly going in the wrong direction.  The blue shows what I thought I was doing.  Sad, sad.

And you know what's ironic?  Back in December, Abby posted all about finally learning how to take a bearing on the compass after a couple years of not even knowing you did such a thing.  And I commented that, at our last orienteering meet, this had all finally "clicked" for me.

Apparently someone shut the light off this time, but I think this may have been the mistake(s) that cements the knowledge for me.

I hope.  Geez.

Friday, January 20, 2012

If you give a girl a bicycle

If you give a girl a bicycle, she's going to want to ride it.

But first, she'll need a helmet.

When she goes to buy the helmet, she'll probably pick up a bike computer, too.

Because her sense of direction is lousy, she may get lost and inadvertently ride 20 miles.

She'll realize if she can do 20 miles accidentally, she can ride 30 on purpose...after she buys some bike shorts.

She might get carried away and register for a week-long bike trip.

She'll have so much fun that she'll sign up for a century. Or two.  She'll discover that miles are much shorter and much longer than she ever thought, and that 8 hours is always better on a bike than in a car.


For 100 miles, everyone who passes her will say, "You need a road bike."

She'll agree, and then she'll start saving for a road bike.

She'll find out that doing something alone is a thousand times better than sitting at home resentfully when no one else wants to go.  Somehow, she'll never make it through a ride without having at least one conversation with a stranger.

When she starts logging her training on Daily Mile, she'll meet some local bike friends.


She'll join their club and meet a ton of awesome people.

If one of them does an adventure race, she might get hooked and use her road bike savings on a mountain bike.


She'll probably fall. A lot.


Instead of giving up, she'll enter a race.

Photo credit: Lori Vohsen

And another.

Photo by Nicole Stacy
Photo credit: Nicole Stacey

She'll replace "I could never" with "I wonder if I could..." and discover the answer is an emphatic yes.

over tree
Photo credit: Lori Vohsen

She'll learn that, while 20 degrees is not necessarily cold, 102 is always hot...and neither temperature has to keep her inside.  She'll remember when she spent Saturday mornings sleeping in, and then she'll go hug her bike.

When she writes about biking, her friends might say she's crazy. But then they'll say they'd like to do that, too.

Eventually, someone will sell her a road bike. She'll win a small race.

Emboldened, she'll enter a local crit, where she'll fall on her face...but she'll meet a girl who races cyclocross.

Photo credit: Robin Rongey
After reading enough CX posts on Facebook, she'll want to go to one of the races.

Halloween & Cycloscross 050
Photo credit: Keith Timmins
And chances are, once she's there, she's going to want a new bike.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If you plan it, they will ride.

Our area has had a freakishly warm winter this year.  Temperatures in the mid 60's are not at all typical for the Midwest in January, but we've had some of them, and so far truly cold days have been few and far between.  On Thursday, however, we woke up to actual snow and a thermometer showing seasonably normal teens.  The cold continued into the next day, and when I left school Friday afternoon, a co-worker commented, "You're sure bundled up." 

"I don't like the cold," I answered, and then I laughed to myself because I was planning to spend the following day mountain biking in whatever snow covered the Berryman Trail.

 My friends from Team Virtus had thrown out the suggestion of a group Berryman ride back before Christmas, and it quickly snowballed (see what I did there?) as other teams signed on.

My initial Berryman experience, in September's Berryman Adventure Race, was marred by some serious mountain biking regression on my part, and since then my brother and I have been planning to return and get in some time so Wimpy Kate can't hold us back in 2012.  I jumped at the chance to combine practice with good company and spent the next two weeks happily anticipating the ride.

Unfortunately, Thursday's trip to the bike shop for minor adjustments revealed that my rear shifter was broken.  This was a surprise to me since I'd been on my bike twice over the past weekend and had no problems with the rear derailleur; it was the front that had been misbehaving.  Since they had to order the part, basically I'd be stuck riding a really heavy singlespeed.  The guys at the shop asked if I was still going to go, and of course I was.  Wouldn't have missed it. 

I tried to spin it as a built-in excuse for having to walk my bike on the hills.  Still, with this unwelcome news in addition to the cold, the snow and ice, and the memory of my general lack of ability the last time I was on this trail, by Friday's drive home my happy anticipation had shifted to something more like sick dread. 

Luckily, I had a friend to talk me down from the ledge.
So.  I was still excited, but my excitement was now more like that of the pigs at the slaughterhouse, or the way wild animals sense a natural disaster ahead of time. Still, I took comfort in the thought that the vast amount of clothing required to avoid frostbite would double as padding when I slid on the ice and fell.

Photo credit: Luke (do I still have to
call you Capt. Awesome?) Lamb
I had spent the previous night making cookies for the post-ride BBQ instead of packing, so Jim had to wait around after dinner while I quickly threw my stuff together. Not entirely sure what I'd want to wear the next day, I packed 90% of the technical fabric I own, and then we headed to Cuba MO, where we were staying for the night. We shouldn't have eaten, because Luke's grandma had made a huge spread for supper. I tried once to tell her I'd already had dinner, and she just looked at me, so I sat down and dished myself some food. Hey, when somebody's almost 90-year old grandma cooks for you, you eat!

We had a great time hanging out and talking, and since I was the only girl of the crew I got a bedroom to myself (and thus happily missed the fart-off) while the boys slept on the floor or couches.  In the morning, Luke's grandma got up and made us a big breakfast, too.  She was absolutely wonderful, so welcoming and gracious.  It was really great to meet her.

About 30 people had responded that they planned to come out for the ride, so we were all curious how many would actually show up.  We thought it was very possible that the cold and snow would keep some people, so  I don't think anyone expected what we saw as we pulled into the parking lot.  It was packed.

Photo credit: Jim "Everything's Better With" Bacon
It was great to see some old friends, meet the Hoosier Daddies in person after reading their blog, meet lots of cool new people, and even re-meet Dave, who I rode with for a while back in 2010 in the Capital City Century.  The temperature, 23 degrees when we left Cuba, felt surprisingly comfortable.  Of course, it was plenty cold standing around in the parking lot, but I felt pretty confident that I wouldn't get too chilly during the ride.  I ended up deciding on a long sleeved base layer, a long sleeved tech shirt, and a long-sleeved jersey with a wind vest over them.  On the bottom, I wore bike shorts over running tights, two pair of socks, and shoe covers over my shoes.  I started off with a hat under my helmet, but I soon switched to an ear cover.  Just in case, I carried a fleece in my pack; having that pack made clothing choices less stressful because there was plenty of room to store layers if I had to shed.

I hung back as the ride started, knowing I'd be there before long anyway.  I felt pretty tentative as I headed down the trail, not sure how the snow was going to affect my traction and having visions of sliding on icy rocks and bashing my head. 

Luke and Bob had both stopped to take pictures along the way, so Luke got a good view of me getting off to walk my bike around a tight hairpin turn.  Otherwise, I rode most of what there was in the beginning.


Being in the back was something of an advantage because it was really easy to see the lines of the riders in front of me on the snowy portions.  Other parts of the trail looked more like the above picture.  Once we'd been riding for a short time, it was clearly time to shed a layer, so I stuffed the jersey into my pack and switched the hat for the ear cover.  We rode on and came to a good-sized root followed a few feet later by a rocky step.  I made it partway up the root before having to put my foot down and then chose to walk the step after watching Jim kind of flip off his bike after hitting it wrong.  He wasn't hurt, but it would've been a good picture.

Luke also had problems with that spot but opted to reride it.

Luke, Bob, and Travis ended up basically spending their whole ride with us.  I definitely appreciated the company though I worried that riding sweep behind me was making for a much slower day than Luke would've had if I'd stayed home.  Gradually I started feeling more confident on the trail, though I was never able to get clipped in consistently.  I think I'm destined to ride Berryman with one foot; last time it was the mud that clogged up my pedals and cleats, this time it was the snow.

Enjoying a trailside drink, courtesy of the Hoosier Daddies
Clearly we did a lot of stopping and talking along the way.  We got to meet a couple more of the Hoosier Daddies along the trail.  I think this was Jake and Ryan's first time on the trail, and we leapfrogged and visited with them until they turned off onto gravel around the 7 mile point.

Hanging out with Jake and Ryan
Even though the temperature was still below freezing at this point, it was an absolutely glorious day.  Much of the trail is protected by hills; if you stopped on a ridge top, the wind cooled you off pretty quickly, but if you kept moving you were very comfortable.

What a beautiful day!
Though I'd been worried about riding hills without being able to shift, it ended up that I was concerned for nothing.  I had no problems shifting at all.  That didn't mean riding up those hills was easy, though!  I got to the top of one and laid against a tree to catch my breath as we waited for the rest of the crew.

Oh, tree...thank you for being here and holding me up!


Because Bob's regular mountain bike was missing a bolt or something for the rear suspension, he was riding a rigid (no shocks) singlespeed.  Even so, he still managed to show us a thing or two about riding over obstacles in the trail. 

He and Travis split off from us around the ten mile mark or so (?) to head back to the campground where beer, burgers, and brats were waiting.

Checking how exactly to get back.
The hills were definitely wearing me down, and I hadn't gotten hurt yet, so I was tempted to play it safe and head back.  Still, I felt pretty good and was enjoying myself.  Plus, we don't get down to Berryman often, and I wanted to take advantage of being there.  Luke said he was OK with going back or continuing, so he, Jim, and I continued on.

The first few miles made me really glad that we didn't stop.  The trail was great, and right now I'm remembering more downhill than uphill.  I stopped my bike at a tree across the trail.  "I know I could ride that..." I told the guys.  "Well, go ahead and try," Luke told me.  The best of my three tries (none too impressive) was the second.

Jim, on the other hand, cleared the log on his third try.

I still know I could ride it; I just couldn't that day.  I've ridden over logs that size, so I'm not sure what my problem was...maybe the turn in combination with the tree?  Anyway, not this time.  I redeemed myself slightly later in the ride.  I was following Jim, when he ended up stopping on the other side of a smaller tree.  I had to stop so as not to run into him, but I went back to reride that spot.  It took me two tries to clear it without putting down a foot, but I made it.  Incidentally, you'll notice that it takes me forever to start; that's because I couldn't get my first foot clipped in.  I swear, when I replace my pedals it's going to be with something easier to engage in crappy conditions.

The lower parts of the trail were nice and easy to ride because we weren't having to ride up hills, but we started to come to some soggy parts where we had to walk our bikes.  Berryman is a multi-use trail, and you can see from the picture below that horses have been through recently.

What horses do to soft trails
Between soggy trails and some rough, torn up portions, we did some walking in this next section.  Finally able to ride again, we passed by this cool overhang with icicles dripping from it.

Jim riding
Some of the sections of trail made me really nervous as they twisted back and forth along a steep slope.  Just stay on the trail...just stay on the trail... I kept telling myself, and the one time I fell there, I managed to fall uphill rather than downhill.  I wasn't crazy about that area, but my very favorite part of the whole ride came just before reaching the Hazel Creek campground.  For whatever reason, I was ahead of the guys on a solid, flowy downhill, and everything just clicked.  It felt fantastic.

As we got closer to the campground, though, we hit softer trail and walked that section.  I went from confident to nervous in no time.  Because we were going to leave the singletrack around 15 miles in and ride the roads back to our starting point, we had to cross the creek. 


While we felt good riding, this wasn't a day you wanted to soak your feet, but luckily someone had put rocks across the creek. Turns out a bike makes a pretty good handrail.

Remember, the rule of hill pictures is that they never look as bad as they are,
so the very fact that you can tell this is steep is a huge signal that it's awful.
As Luke had warned us, the way back started with a hideous climb.  I was making slow, steady progress in my lowest gear when my chain slipped off.  Grr.  Luke put it back on for me, and then I was faced with the prospect of walking my bike the rest of the way since I'm terrible at clipping in on an uphill.  Instead, I gave it a try and managed to get going again. :)  The rest of the ride was rolling hills, not bad at all. 

BTW, the look on my face is a direct result of the photographer telling us to "think of [something gross]". I laughed, then actually thought of it and made that face...right as he took the picture. Figures.

Berryman, I like you better this time around, no matter what my expression says.
Our ride may have been over, but the day wasn't.  As we left the bikes at the truck and got out our dry clothes, beers were delivered right to us.  The Hoosier Daddies, from nearby Sullivan, had volunteered to provide brats, burgers, and drinks.  Class touch, for sure.  I brought a few dozen cookies to add to the feast, and we got to hang out by the fire, eat, drink, and visit with all the people who hadn't had me dragging them back.  The perfect end to a fantastic day.