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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cleveland Rocks

As the lone female member of Team Virtus, I'm regularly outnumbered by guys on training rides or group outings, and this past weekend it was just me and five boys along for a 4-day team trip celebrating Bob's upcoming wedding.  If you think that's weird then you probably aren't an adventure racer.  Not just a weekend away with friends, it was more the kind of family vacation you dream of but never happens, one where all the kids get along, everybody is excited about the destination...and the parents stay home.  I'll tell you right now that there's just no way to convey what a good time we had.  I've been trying -- and falling way short -- for the past few days.  It was one of those weekends that, as Casey said later, has set the standard by which future weekends will be measured...and set that standard high indeed.

The fun started long before we got into the Virtus van on Friday. Waaaay back in November, Luke emailed with the brilliant idea of a "Team Virtus Bachelor-ish Party" for Bob, celebrating the end of his freedom beginning of his marital bliss with a team trip to Ray's MTB, an indoor mountain bike park in Cleveland, OH.  It being a longer trip, not everyone was able to go, so in the end Luke, Robby, Adam, Casey, and I were in for the surprise party.  You'd think that when you don't see someone regularly it would be easy to keep a secret from them, but not so much.  Thanks to the wonders of modern communication we talk pretty regularly, and every last party mention over the past couple months was vetted through numerous mental checks of whether Bob was included on the message.  "Reply to all" is a dangerous bedfellow, but somehow we managed to keep the guest of honor in the dark.

He was a little bewildered when they pulled into my driveway (not at all on the way to Luke's grandma's house where he thought he was going to help her move) and even more so when we turned east on the interstate.  We had a blast encouraging him to make wild guesses (not a Kid Rock concert), and when Luke, who'd conspired with Bob's boss to get our guest of honor the weekend off, informed Bob that he was also off work on Monday, the possibilities grew even more improbable ("You did bring your passport, right??").

Who wouldn't want to visit the World's Largest Wind Chime?
Thanks to our repeated stops, including one at the World's Largest Wind Chime, it seemed like we were on the road forever, but there was nonstop talking and laughing. I don't think we ever even heard the radio; feats of Bear Grylls-ian proportions were performed, stories were told, and new nicknames were born, embraced, and then quickly replaced. Lessons learned:

1. Don't bet Bob that he won't do something unless you want to lose your money.
2. If you've just earned an awesome nickname, don't immediately follow up with a story that saddles you with a much less cool one.

We caught Bob peeking at a gas station atlas in the attempt to figure out where the heck we were going.
At one point passing through Indiana Bob mentioned Ray's, but Luke reminded him Ray's is in Milwaukee (true), and I started talking about taking a group trip to the awesome Brown County trail system in Indiana. Whew! Crisis averted. As we neared Cleveland, Lake Erie's large presence on the GPS screen led to mention of canoeing or rafting in the lake. When we got to the hotel Bob still didn't know if we were in our final destination, but he was happy to walk in and see Casey waiting for us with beer on ice and some lovely gifts.

Five people, three bikes, one elevator.  And we all still liked each other after 11 hours in the car together.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
By the next morning Bob had pretty much figured out our destination, and after breakfast we headed to Ray's. The GPS led us to a nondescript factory block with no hint of the fun within. Pulling around to the front we expected to see a big sign or something, but it would have been easy to miss the entrance if we didn't know it was there.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Doesn't look like anything special, does it?

We checked in with the super nice staff, bought our two-day passes, and looked around. Two things were immediately obvious.  First, nobody was going to mistake us for locals. The guys were in baggies and I was in my regular spandex bike shorts, the only kind I own. Almost every other person there was in jeans and tshirts, and while our bikes sported clipless pedals, most people were on platform pedals. We definitely didn't blend.

Bob's bachelor party weekend

The second unmistakable fact was that I was totally in over my head. The guys were stoked; I was moderately terrified.  Watching the amount of air riders on the jump track were getting right in front of me, I was intimidated to say the least and pretty sure my teammates were going to regret dragging me along. I considered opting to sit and watch all day. 

Watching nervously

The guys, on the other hand, were ready to check things out. I dropped into my preferred spot (in back) as we rode onto the green trail. Uh-oh...I'd watched a youtube video of someone riding the green trail, and it had scared the crap out of me (now, after my time there, it doesn't look nearly as scary).

Riding on the wooden "trails" was much different than on singletrack (kind of a "no kidding" type of observation, huh?), but the thing that threw me most at the beginning was the lip on the hills.  Rather than having a curved top, the peaks were flat, and the edge tended to throw up the front tire when you hit it.  This is compounded when one takes the inclines too slowly, so when I hit the very first hill my bike slipped off to the side and I almost fell.  Instead, I grabbed onto the railing and caught myself.

Whew, right?  Well...sort of.  My shoulder hurt like hell, and my bike shoes had no traction against the slick wooden ramp, so there I hung, still semi-astride my bike, kind of trapped against the wall.  I was both relieved no one was there to witness my humiliation and really wishing someone would come rescue me.  Eventually I scrambled upright enough to stand up, flustered and even more tentative than when we'd started.  This was about a minute into the ride.

Once you turn the corner in the picture, there's another downhill followed by a steeper ramp, one which I coasted halfway up before having to grab onto the railing to pull myself the rest of the way up.  The biggest hill of the green loop was next, and I think I was walking my bike up this when Adam looked back to see where the heck I was.  "I fell," I admitted, getting back onto my bike when I reached the top of the trail, a second-story passageway that led into a fun downhill (well, it was progressively more fun each time I rode it). 
Bob's bachelor party weekend
The biggest downhill on the green trail with the pump track to the right and the red sport section in the background. Ray's reminded me a little of a cyclocross course with so much stuff packed into a relatively small space.  Funny thing...I'd ridden this downhill a bunch of times, but until I came up to take pictures I didn't notice that that brownish section is actually another line you can take.  It crosses some logs, takes a sharp left turn, and then has a steep downhill.  Watching the video linked above after coming home, I can see just how much tunnel vision I had while we were there. I'd love to go back and ride some of the lines I didn't notice before.

I caught up to the guys in the beginner room, which had some ground-level wooden bridges and planks to ride on one side and some rollers and drop offs to ride on the other.  I pedaled around a little, trying out one of the wider wooden bridges and then getting the confidence to ride off one of the drop-offs...and just about crashing again.  It was frustrating to be so nervous despite having ridden harder things on trails, but it seemed a lot more intimidating inside.

In the beginner room

After another lap or two (falling one more time on a ramp) I attempted to go back towards the entrance for a drink and a break.  Unfortunately I couldn't figure out how to get out, so I practiced riding over a small ramp in the novice room before riding the green loop again until luckily running into Robby who helped me escape.  Back at the tables I posted on facebook..


My friends don't tend to feed into my wimpy tendencies, though, and I got a quick response from Patrick.


He was right, of course.  I was very disappointed in myself for being such a wimp, especially when everybody else was having such a good time.  As we all talked about what we'd done so far, I mentioned what a hard time I was having with the ramps, so the guys went back to the novice room with me and talked me through riding over the ramp there again and again.  They were starting to jump on it, and while I couldn't do that I did get more comfortable. While riding around in there, we heard a loud crack and looked over to see Casey lying on the ground.  His tube had exploded as he came down off of the ramp.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
While Casey was getting his tire fixed up we decided on pizza and then rode around until it arrived.  Thanks to all the coaching, I was feeling much happier on the green trail and starting to have fun rather than white-knuckling around it.  All too soon they were announcing our pizza delivery, so we stopped for lunch. Since I've been following a pretty consisent Paleo diet, it's been ages since I've had pizza and oh my gosh was it a treat.  I enjoyed every bite.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Mmmmm pizza!
The guys spent a lot of time riding around in the sport section trying out different trails, and I stopped for a while to watch them.  There were all kinds of different boardwalks, logs, and teeter totter routes to try out, and the longer I watched the more disgusted I was with myself for being so scared. 

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Sport section from the beginning

Bob's bachelor party weekend
View of some of the lines in the sport section from the end
"Don't think so much...just do it," Bob told me, and while I knew he was right I couldn't get past my fear.  This type of area is where I'd have been way better off on platform pedals.  Knowing I'd be able to put a foot down at any time may have made me more comfortable trying things that scared me.  After I'd stored up enough self hatred (and admiration for my braver teammates), I hit the green trail again, where I enjoyed being able to take sections of it faster.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Here you see the drop-in to the pump track (which is all those roll-y hills) with a section of the green trail on the far right.  It was no trick getting back up this hill in bike shoes, and I was too chicken to try riding up it for fear of putting down a foot and slipping back down.
We also tried out the pump track, which looked like fun from the ground but required a steep drop into the rollers.  Going fast downhill is not my thing at all, and when I finally got up the nerve to try it after watching the guys and some other people ride it I crept down the hill at almost a standstill.  Not surprisingly, I didn't manage to build up much speed there.  It has to be mentioned that while I was inching around the park there were kids who looked to be 8 years old and younger flying down hills, speeding across boardwalks, and jumping their bikes.  If I had any kind of a bike ego it would have been crushed to bits.  As it was, I was in awe of these kids. Very cool to see so many out having a great time on their bikes.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
My iphone didn't like taking pictures from across the room
Even though I was being a big wimp, I had a great time watching the guys tackle the sport section and taking pictures as they rode the drop offs in the blue (expert) section.  There was only so long that I could bask in my own unworthiness, though, because it got cold if you were just standing around.  The temperature was perfect while riding, but unless you were standing directly under a heater or next to one of several fireplaces, it was very chilly.  It was good for me to have to keep getting on my bike to stave off frostbite.  In real life, I don't usually have a lot of time to ride trails and usually stop within an hour or two.  A big part of this is poor time management, but another factor is the fact that I'm almost always relieved to stop before I get hurt.  The end result is that I'm usually quitting just as I'm getting comfortable.  That wasn't the case at Ray's, and by the end of the day I was not only riding the green loop without having to put a foot down (my goal), but I'd also ridden a low teeter totter a couple times.

After 8 or 9 hours we were ready to head out for the night.  Ray's lets you leave your bikes there if you want, and though Adam bought a lock we probably didn't need it.  Our stuff sat out on the tables all day long and nobody touched a thing.  Everybody there was super cool.  In addition to my fall, there had been a few other crashes among our group, too, and we were all really looking forward to going back and soaking in the hot tub before going to dinner.  Imagine our disappointment when, despite the website's promises, there was no hot tub to be found.  Not cool, Radisson.  Not cool.  Instead we hung out in one of the hotel rooms for a while and then headed to Fat Head's Brewery, where it was established that Luke's (beer) is indeed bigger than Bob's.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Beer envy?
The restaurant had great atmosphere, and one perk of eating dinner after 9 is that there's plenty of seating available.  The food was delicious, though I couldn't finish "my" chips.  We outlasted the obnoxious girl behind us, and though it's possible we were louder we were, of course, much more entertaining. Breakfast the next morning was at Grumpy's Cafe, and once again, the restaurant gods were smiling on us; our group of six arrived amid the Sunday morning rush and was immediately seated.

Bob, Adam, me, Casey, Robby
Going back to Ray's for a second day was awesome.  Riding on Saturday was fun, but if we'd gone home after that I'd have been left really unhappy with myself because I'd tried so little.  On Sunday I was able to start where I'd left off, and the riding part of the day was much more fun for me.  Of course, the guys picked up where they'd left off, too, which meant that after warming up they had to try the foam pit.  One by one, they rode down one ramp and up another, jumping into the pit.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Bob's bachelor party weekend
Luke got the closest to a back flip

Bob's bachelor party weekend

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Bob's bachelor party weekend
 I had a lot of fun watching, cheering, and taking pictures.  A frequent refrain of mine was, "You should try that!" as I stood on the sidelines.  While there were a lot of things I really wished I had the nerve to try at Ray's, though, jumping my bike into the pit wasn't one of them.  I stood up on the side taking pictures and joked to Luke about pushing him in; when he bent over near the edge I couldn't resist nudging him in and then running away.  Turned out I could get better pictures from the floor anyway.  Luke got revenge when I made the tactical mistake of thinking he was far enough away that I could run up to the deck and show Bob some pictures.  I'd barely reached the top when I heard the sound of his bike shoes on the wooden ramp.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
I was pretty upset about it. :)
I spent a lot more time in the red (sport) section on Sunday than on Saturday, and this time I actually rode.  The teeter totters were a lot of fun, and I tried out a few other lines as well, including one hilly section that took me a few tries to ride comfortably and then was a blast.

That ramp behind the blue helmet is part of a teeter totter, and there's a series of little hills right behind Casey's left arm.
The guys discovered the micro rhythm line, a loop of tables and rollers.  They worked on getting air while I worked on not braking.  The difference in their riding and mine is pretty funny in the video (which I'll link to when Luke posts it).  While we were riding around there Casey waved us over to the side.  He'd had another tube mishap, something I've never seen in my short bike riding history.

WTF? Tire trouble, day 2
Another area the guys tackled on Sunday was the jump track...with mixed success (sometimes in the same video).  That was both fun and cringe-inducing to watch, depending on the result.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Not one of our group, but a good shot of the Red Bull wall
Towards the end of the day my knee was really sore, particularly when pedaling, so I went to try to get some better pictures in the expert area. 

Bob's bachelor party weekend

Bob's bachelor party weekend

Bob's bachelor party weekend

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Sometimes there was a cost for being braver than me.
I hadn't planned to get back on my bike, but when the guys saddled up for a farewell ride I couldn't resist, and it was some of the most fun I'd had all day.  Finally relaxed, finally a little braver...who knows, if we'd spent a week there maybe I'd have been jumping into the foam pit by the end.  Hopefully that feeling carries over to the trail...and to my next trip to Ray's, which will happen.  We all left tired but happy and satisfied, like pushing back from the table after a really good meal.

Spent, but happy
Speaking of meals, I was starving, the mention of which led to a new phrase in the Virtus lexicon.  Chances are you'll hear it if you spend much time around us...especially around dinnertime.  I was very happy when we made the decision to go eat rather than to back to the hotel to shower before dinner.  Supper was at Melt in Cleveland.  We had to wait for a half hour or so to be seated, but it was totally worth it.  So good.

Bob's bachelor party weekend
Pondering malt vinegar. To drink, or not to drink? If you know Bob, you know the answer.
Bob's bachelor party weekend
Luke was pretty happy with his dinner selection. I don't think Robby got much of it.
We wrapped up the evening watching GoPro and cell phone videos from the weekend which included some impressive crashes and incriminating proof of my lack of sympathy for an injured teammate (What? Laughing "new profile picture!!" when someone takes a shot to the balls isn't considered supportive?). Though I was looking forward to seeing my family I was also sad when we left Monday morning.  It truly was a golden weekend, and I'm not sure how it could have been better.  You can't always pick your family, but sometimes the friends you make become like family.  Family that knows your weaknesses and likes you anyway, family that teases you mercilessly and has your back unquestionably.

Family that really needs another major event to celebrate, because we're all dying to go back.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Confession time, folks. 

With the arrival of December came all kinds of tweets and facebook posts regarding winter training, all asking some variety of the question "Do you train outside when it's cold?"  I proudly responded that I run and bike outside all winter.  I get a kick out of running in crappy weather, and I particularly love running in the snow.  While those things are true, I have to admit that over the past few weeks they don't tell the full story.

First of all, while winter is great mountain biking weather because sub-freezing temperatures mean predictably rideable trails and proper gear allows you to be comfortable even when it's cold, you won't catch me on my road bike in the cold.  Yeah, yeah...I know that there's no bad weather, just bad gear...but I'm honestly not even interested in finding the right gear to make road riding comfortable.  In fact, I'm seriously considering selling my road bike (as anyone who's ridden or run with me lately has heard repeatedly).

Technically not running, but taken during a run...and I like the picture. :)

As for running, I've enjoyed some really great cold-weather long runs, including a couple in the snow.  That said, I have to add a caveat to my winter running.  I love running in the snow, and I don't mind running in the cold...but I'm afraid to try to run fast in the cold and dark.  Now that I'm actually following a training plan (!! I know, right?), the only opportunities to do my weekday runs are before/after work.  That leaves me in the dark, and after a couple of bad nighttime sidewalk falls I'm just not interested in running anything faster than an easy jog if it's dark and/or icy.  Treadmill it is.  In fact, treadmill it's been for every single non-weekend run.  I'm not nearly as tough as I like to think I am.a

Here's what the training looks like so far:

Monday, Jan 7.:
Scheduled: 2 mi easy run at 10:48 pace
Actual: 3 miles--1 mi easy warmup, 1 mi at 8:00 pace, 1 mi easy cooldown; overall pace 10:36.  Basically just wanted to see if I could run an 8 min/mile in the hopes of stringing together three of them in April.  Run on the treadmill because I wanted to be able to time that fast mile.

Tuesday, Jan. 8
Scheduled: rest or cross train
Actual: 4 nighttime miles on muddy trails at 13:50 pace.  I don't like to run two days in a row, but this was my only opportunity to hit trails before Saturday's SHITR half marathon, and I wanted to audition my new trail shoes rather than wear them for the first time in a long race.

Wednesday, Jan. 9
Scheduled: 5 mi speedwork: 1 mi w/u, 3x800 in 4:07 with 400 jogs, 1 mi c/d plus finish out the 5th mile
Actual: Did this after my workout with the trainer, which wasn't optimal, but at least it was an arms/abs day.  I was running short on time, so I abbreviated it a bit.  .75 mi easy w/u, 800 @3:50, 400 recovery jog, 800 @ 3:55, 400 recovery jog, started last speedwork interval at 8 min/mi pace and couldn't hold it, so I just ran .25 mi easy c/d and then headed home.  When I first started talking about going for a 5K PR, Rose said something along the lines of "Be prepared to hurt", and this was the run that reminded me what hurting felt like...and I gave in.  A) I was overreaching on pace, but B) I'm going to need to work on endurance in pushing myself rather than just endurance in dragging myself.

Thursday, Jan 10
Scheduled: Easy 2 miles
Actual: nope. Nothing.

Saturday, Jan. 12
Scheduled: Long run, 7 mi @ 10:48
Actual: 13.1 miles of muddy nighttime trails @ 12:58 at the SHivering Icy Trail Run

**So, basically, though I'm "following a training plan", I haven't done a single workout as directed.  And then I wonder why I don't do better.  That said, I've been running at least once a week since before Christmas.  I know that hardly qualifies as regular training, but it means that I went into Saturday's race, a very informal event put together by friends, better trained than for any race since last February's Castlewood Cup.  While I ended up limping the last 3 miles of the SHITR thanks to my stupid hip, the 4.5 miles my Garmin registered before the battery died showed a 10:xx pace.  That was primarily on fairly smooth doubletrack, but it's still mighty encouraging.  Score one for the plan.

Monday, Jan. 14
Scheduled: 3 mi easy run @ 10:48
Actual: 2 treadmill miles @ 10:58.  Probably should have skipped this run because my hip was still pretty unhappy from the half marathon. 

Wednesday, Jan. 16
Scheduled: 5 mi tempo run: 1 mi w/u, 3 mi @ 9:12, 1 mi c/d
Actual: 1 mi w/u, 3 mi at mostly 9:12 with about a half mile at a faster pace, .5 mi c/d.  Hip was ok, but knee was stiff.  I sound like someone's grandma.

Thursday, Jan. 17
Scheduled: 2 mi at 10:48
Actual: Nothing.  And I don't intend to run these, either.  My body just does better with a day off between runs.

Saturday, Jan. 19
Scheduled: 7 mi @ 10:48
Actual: 9 mile mountain bike ride on Berryman trail.  Ran 8.3 trail miles Sunday @ 12:53

Mountain biking on a seriously beautiful day

Monday, Jan. 21
Scheduled: 3 mi @ 10:48
Actual: 4.8 miles on the mountain bike.  Very nice to have the day off (thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.) and the freedom to hit the trails, even if my time was limited since my son needed my car.  I may try and substitute a 30 min trainer ride for those Thursday runs. 

Wednesday, Jan. 23
Scheduled: 5 mi speedwork: 1 mi w/u, 2 x 1600 in 8:41 with 800 jogs, c/d
Actual:  We'll see...but it'll be on a treadmill...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Plan B (the MLK2 Berryman ride)

Last year, Team Virtus planned a little group ride on Missouri's Berryman Trail and a party broke out.  What started as a simple suggestion facebook turned into 23 trail hungry riders on some new mid-January snow, followed by a post-ride BBQ. It was a great time, and one we all immediately recognized as a "first-annual".

MLK 2012, slightly colder than this year.
 The past month or so was filled with much facebook posting about this year's edition and growing anticipation of the upcoming fun.  I was particularly looking forward to the ride because of the social aspect -- last year was a blast -- but also because Berryman has become something of a marker of my mountain biking progress.  With an additional year of experience and a newer level of comfort on singletrack ("comfort" might be an exaggeration, but my condition has been upgraded from "edge of panic/nausea" to "low-key anxiety with hints of confidence"...a huge improvement), I expected this to be my best ride there yet.

It wasn't until I was on my way to Luke's grandma's house Friday night when my excitement was tempered by the first hints of anxiety.  Last year, my brother Jim came down from Wisconsin for the ride.  This year, while tons of friends would be there, I was driving there alone had no one morally obligated to ride with me.  Luke and Chuck are way faster than I am, and while they've always been super nice about riding with me (and great fun to ride with), I never want them to feel like they have to hang back and babysit me.

granny great
Sweetest lady ever
My worries took a back seat when I got to Luke's grandma's house, though.  We'd stayed there last year as well, and she greeted me like one of the family.  She's one of the sweetest, most hospitable people I've ever met.  This time I knew better than to eat before arriving, so we all sat down and enjoyed the huge dinner she had made for us and hung out and talked until all of us were fighting sleep.  The next morning we enjoyed another home-cooked meal and then set out for the trail.

The parking lot was packed with cars and bike racks, filled with a bunch of people I knew and even more I'd never met, all of whom I expected to be ahead of me on the trail.  I managed to wander around enough that I was still putting on my bike shoes when Luke tried to make me sing the National Anthem (I'm a little disappointed in myself that I didn't) and then everyone took off. Well, everyone but my friends.  Emma, just back from a month in Belize and off her mountain bike, had planned to stick back with me, as did Chuck and Luke.  Yea, I wouldn't be riding alone after all. :)

On the very first downhill, a gradual rocky slope, I started braking early (like always)...and NOTHING happened.  No brakes whatsoever.  That was pretty scary.  I did some loud cursing, steered myself off the trail to slow down, and looked at my useless brakes like I had any idea what to do.  Emma stopped with me, and Luke and then Chuck rode back to see what was going on.  Chuck managed to get my rear brake to work, but the front one wasn't fixable without parts.  "Well, just rely on your back brake," he suggested.

Luke, looking mighty comfortable on a bike that, curiously, rides a lot like his old Hardrock.
If you know me, you know that I vastly overuse my brakes, so I a little nervous about this turn of events but was relieved I'd still be able to ride.  I was also kicking myself for not having my bike in to get checked out before the weekend.  Thankfully, instead of saying something like, "Why don't you take care of your stuff, dumbass," Luke offered to trade me bikes.  So he rode the bike with one brake while I got to ride his sweet 29er.  I seriously have the nicest friends ever. 

Blackberry whiskey makes even great rides better
It took a little getting used to, riding a bike with bigger wheels (and fully functioning brakes!), but after a little bit I was able to relax and enjoy myself.  Of course, I was still breathing hard on the climbs, but the 29" wheels seemed to roll over everything.  I could definitely get used to that!  The day was absolutely gorgeous.  I was in shorts with a light jacket over my long sleeves, and the jacket went into my pack early.  Because it's been cold lately there were still icicles to be found, and because we're all about pace we had to stop and check them out.

Emma was having trouble with her breathing, so she cut out several miles in and headed back to the parking lot.  The guys and I kept going, and it was fun to ride past places I remember from last year's ride ("Hey, here's where we stopped to drink with the Hoosier Daddies...").  I only sort of fell once, coming around a downhill switchback when a rock kicked loose beneath my rear tire, but I mostly caught myself.  It wasn't much longer, though, when Luke almost ran into me because the back brake on my bike (that he was riding) gave out.  This time Chuck wasn't able to fix it.

I didn't want anybody getting hurt because of my messed up bike, so I decided to head out at the next opportunity.  A quick map check showed us there was a fire road at the top of the next climb.  Of course, you can't always trust the roads around the Berryman trail to be where they're mapped (as Jim and I learned the hard way in 2011), but this time the map was right on.  I talked to the guys for a little longer, gave Luke back his bike, and promised to text the guys when I was safely back to the parking lot (which I promptly forgot to do).

Nice, clear fire road.
Chuck asked me, "Before you started adventure racing, would you have been ok with going off on your own like this?" I told him I thought so.  I mean, I did my first century ride solo; when I first started riding longer distances I didn't have any bike friends and so had to do all of my long rides alone.  On the other hand, before I started adventure racing I'm not sure I'd have had the confidence to strike out on my own in the forest, even on a well-cleared fire road.  And the cool thing was that I split off without any internal hint of wishing that one of the guys would come with me.  While I was really disappointed to have to miss the rest of the ride, I was perfectly comfortable getting myself back and definitely didn't want them to have to miss out.

Too nice of a day to pout.
The day was way too beautiful to feel sorry for myself, though.  We don't get too many 60 degree days in January, and being able to spend this one out in the woods was pretty awesome.  I followed the fire road to the gravel and then headed back to the parking lot.  Actually the road was more nerve-wracking than the singletrack.  Because I had no functioning brakes, I had to walk the downhills, and even slight declines made me nervous since the only way to stop was to drag my feet (not effective) or run off the road into the woods (not recommended).  There were a couple of smaller hills that led right into uphills, and I did stay on the bike for those.

Emma and I had the parking area to ourselves for a few minutes before the first couple riders pulled in from completing the whole loop.  It's amazing to me how fast other people can be.  I'd love to be out there and just watch them ride and marvel.  We talked for a while to people finishing up, checked out the pictures from Emma's trip to Belize, and generally hung out and enjoyed the fantastic weather and company. 


The Hoosier Daddies cooked up brats and some delicious pressure-cooked vegetables, others had brought baked beans, fruit, chips, cookies, brownies, and more.  I'm pretty sure that I ate and drank way more calories than I burned on my epic 9 mile ride, but this was a special occasion.  The day ended with lots of conversation and LOTS of laughter as Luke and I pretty much dominated in washers despite the distraction tactics of our opponents.


While I'd have loved to spend more time on the trails, you can't complain when your Plan B is the kind of afternoon worth a month of anticipation on its own.  It's not often that you get such an awesome, like-minded group of people together like this...in our case, though, it's been a week. :)  January has been a Very Good Month.

Oh, and my bike? Chuck took it home last night, and today when we met up to run he brought it back to me with a set of (much nicer) brakes he had laying around at home so I can still ride until I get new brakes ordered.