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Monday, March 25, 2013

High Profile Adventure Camp volunteer report

Growing up, I loved summer camp.  Well, except for my first year when I ended up separated from the friends I'd come with and didn't know anyone in my unit and the mean girls in my cabin talked about me when they thought I was asleep.  I was so unhappy that every day I wrote letters to my parents -- "I hate it here.  Everybody is mean.  I hate it.  Please, please come get me..." -- not wanting to waste a bunch of stamps, however, I waited until the last full day to mail the whole packet, and a few days after I got home, the mailman delivered my novella of misery.  Imagine my mom's delight at reading it after the fact.  Despite that slightly traumatic introduction to the wonders of summer camp, I went back the next year and loved it.

Because I started having kids at 19, I spent my prime camp counselor years parenting and really didn't give it another thought other than searing nostalgia when we took the older boys to the same camp.  It wasn't until I started stalking following the Team Virtus blog that I realized my camping days might not be over after all.  After reading their report(s) from their 2010 visit to High Profile Adventure Camp, I knew I had to go, a sentiment that their 2011 report confirmed.  I roped my brother Jim into going with me, and he and my brother and sister-in-law gave me the required ropes gear for Christmas.  Unfortunately, the 2012 edition of adventure camp was the same weekend as the LBL Challenge 24hr, which Luke, Casey, Bob, and I were racing, and I missed camp once again.  Luckily, our WTFAR and ROCK Racing friends were there, so at least I could live vicariously through their reports.

After nearly three years of reading about camp and wanting to go, this year wasn't looking good either because the purchase of my new cross bike completely wiped out my adventure fund.  I basically emailed camp director Gerry, who I'd met when he destroyed me at his Thunder Rolls Adventure Race back in August, and pleaded with him to let me come and volunteer.  Yes, I begged to be allowed to drive 5 hours to work for free; I had to be at camp in some capacity.  Thankfully, he took me up on the offer, so Friday saw me burning my last personal day of the year for my drive north.  (I'd actually hoped to leave on Thursday after work, but a combination of parent-teacher conferences and my night class blew that plan.)

Like much of the country, Illinois is still waiting for Spring to show its face (or better yet, its temperatures).  While the late March/early April time frame of camp often brings some chilly weather, it's typically above freezing.  This year, much of Camp Benson (home base for the camp and culminating race) was covered in snow and the forecast was cold.  While I've gotten pretty good at dressing for cold conditions, that's when I'll be racing or training in them; it's a very different thing to be standing around in the cold -- for three days -- so I wasn't sure what exactly to bring.  Answer: everything.

While this is pretty much every item of technical fabric I own, I did manage to whittle down the pile to one bag's worth.

I made it to camp a little after noon and caught up with my friends Kim, Chad, and Dave and met Laurie and Kelly.  Since they didn't really have anything for us to do until campers started arriving at three (many volunteers had arrived earlier in the week, not to mention the prep work in the weeks before), Kim, Chad, and I went for a run.  They were planning on 6-8; I was more on the 6 side. ;-)  It was a fairly hilly run, and I dragged behind a little.  On the way back, my hip started feeling twingy, so when we passed the camp road I turned off a mile early.  Once I'd walked back I was kicking myself for not sticking it out for basically another ten minutes.  I have way too easy a time letting myself off easy.

After cleaning up, we hung out in the main building for a while watching campers check in. Laurie was helping coordinate volunteer jobs, so I asked her what she needed me to do the next day.  "What can you do?" she asked me.  Um....crickets.  Yes, I've been adventure racing for nearly two years now, but basically my role on my team is to keep up and maintain a good attitude.  My only ropes experience is from last year's Thunder Rolls, and while I've been trying to become a better navigator I'm still a long way from competent.  I ended up helping lead a group of beginners for the navigating practice the next day (and by "helping" I mean I followed along while Laurie led the group) and then helping clear the course of the checkpoints after the practice session ended.

Campers listening to the presentation

After grabbing dinner, we listened to Gerry's presentation about the camp and what to expect.  In his segment about laughing at yourself, he made mention of Team Virtus, showed the picture that will live in infamy forever, and then pointed me out to everyone as their teammate.  Bare ass (not mine!) picture, speedo picture, or whatever else, I'm proud to be a Virtusan, and it was nice to have a group of new people associate me with my team.  After Gerry introduced the volunteers, it was time for us to sneak off for a meeting, but we came back to listen to April and Ellie's beginning navigation session, which was a good refresher for me, too.

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out at the lodge with a bunch of other volunteers.  Though I didn't know many people, there were a lot of familiar faces from when I was at Thunder Rolls.  Gerry has an amazing core group of people who love AR and consistently volunteer for his events.  Since they're adventure racers, of course they're all awesome and good company, and I went to bed late with my cheeks hurting from laughing so much.  My 6 a.m. wake-up call rang way too early, and I shuffled up to breakfast in my Santa pajamas.  I found an empty seat near John and Ethan, a nephew-uncle duo who were there for some team building since John was going to be Ethan's confirmation sponsor.  What a cool trip!

Once we'd eaten, we changed and headed over to Mississippi Palisades State Park for the navigation practice.  Typically the campers are split into two groups and alternate paddling and navigation, but due to winter's unrelenting grasp the river was frozen up except for the barge channel...not a place you want to be paddling a canoe in 24 degree temps.  Instead, everyone would get a little more time for navigation and then more time on the ropes that afternoon.  Because of the varying ability levels, campers were given the choice of running the practice course on their own or going with either an advanced or beginner group.  There were actually a lot of people with no adventure racing experience, which is super cool. What a great introduction to the sport!  Laurie and I took a group of about 7 on the course.  A couple of the guys had some navigation experience in the military and one had in boy scouts; it was new to everybody else.


Our group had the oldest (at 61) camper as well as one of the younger (at 15) ones.  It was really fun to talk to everybody as we walked to see what had brought them to camp.  Some had found it online when looking for triathlons, one couple were friends with other volunteers, one had been here before and brought his nephew with him this time.  Talking to other campers throughout the weekend there were a variety of reasons for signing up.  Having an adventure with a spouse, parent/child, or friend; a college adventure group; a women's group; and current adventure racers wanting to practice/improve their skills.  Unlike many adventure racing events, this one had nearly as many women as men; usually women are vastly outnumbered at races.

On the trail of our first CP

While I was making conversation, I was also making a real effort to stay in contact with the map.  Even if I can't teach people to navigate, I can at least practice to improve my own navigation.  Overall, I felt pretty comfortable following along on the map, and our group did great.  The guys with a little experience seemed like it all came back to them really quickly, and the newer people seemed like it was making sense to them.  In addition, it was a really fun group of people.  I really enjoyed hanging out with them and was really looking forward to getting to see them during their first adventure race the next day.

Spotted this bad boy near one of the checkpoints.

We had about three hours to spend out on the course; then the campers headed back to camp to grab lunch and hear the ropes presentation.  It was time for Kim, Kelly, Allison, and I to earn our keep by clearing all the checkpoints from the practice course.  It turned out we'd all basically run the exact same course, though in different order, so we all knew where about half the checkpoints were and none of us had seen the others.  Since Kim and Kelly are a little stronger at orienteering, they took the unfamiliar portion, and Allison and I took the half we'd seen.  I think both of us were a little nervous about how we'd do without somebody to follow (at least, I was for sure), but it ended up being a great experience because we had to figure it out for ourselves.

Even though we'd seen all of "our" CPs before, we'd come at them from different directions, so it was still a little new to us.  We only had a couple of hiccups, which we figured out, and we cleared our portion of the course in about 3.5 hours.  As you can see in the picture above, Palisades isn't the flattest terrain, and a combined 6.5 hours of hiking through it in the snow definitely wore on me by the end, but it was a great feeling when Allison and I collected the last two checkpoints, high fived each other, and headed back to camp with our assigned work as well as a bonus antler (for me) and arrow (for her).  Trail artifacts are the coolest!

Gerry didn't have any work for me when we got back, so I excitedly/reluctantly went back to my cabin to get my climbing gear.  Excitedly because a big part of why I wanted to come to camp was for the ropes, and reluctantly because I'm terrified of heights...and my last time ascending (at Thunder Rolls) was the kind of experience where Bob swears that if I'd have had a knife on me I'd have just cut the rope.  It was not a happy time for me, but that's exactly why I needed to be here for the practice.  We'll be back at Thunder Rolls looking for redemption, and I don't want to be the weak link on the ropes again.  Besides, I'd already dropped some money on a new pair of climbing gloves.  I had to justify my purchase.

There was a bit of a wait for the rappel line, so I talked to one of the Eyes of the World guys for a while and then it was my turn.  Now, while this is only my second rappel, my first was a lot hairier...in a race, in the dark, into a river.  Despite some nerves before that, I'd managed just fine.  How bad could this be, right?  I was petrified.  I seriously just wanted to walk away from that edge and say "forget it".  Instead, I gave Megan several terrified glances and tried hard not to throw up as I attempted to follow her directions and sit back over the edge.  It's not that I don't trust my equipment, because 45 minutes hanging from a cliff in despair definitely taught me that my harness will hold me just fine; but actually leaning back over that edge...yikes. 

View from the bottom

Once I was off the edge it wasn't as bad, though I still crept down the wall with all the speed of an elderly snail, and when I finally made it to the bottom I was thrilled with myself.  Off to tackle the ascend!

Somebody else going up

Now, back in August I'd had one practice ascent the day before the race, and this had gone pretty well until I got to the top, where I just couldn't get the ascender over the edge of the rock and eventually had to basically be hauled over the edge.  My second attempt, during the race, was no better (actually, much worse).  This time was a huge improvement, though by the midpoint I was definitely wishing I'd taken off my sweatshirt.  Ascending is hard work!

Hey look, there's me!

The actual ascending part went well (probably a result of mentally re-running my previous failure since August), and getting the ascenders over the edge finally made sense to me. I felt a huge sense of triumph and relief when I hit the top...and then it was back to the rappel.  This time I was still nervous but not paralyzed, and I felt much more comfortable going over the edge.  Got to the bottom...back to ascending.  I was wearing out a little as I neared the top, but hearing the volunteer tell the next person in line, "Just do exactly what she's doing," was a huge confidence boost.  Once again, I was able to get over the ledge under my own power.  Now to build up whatever endurance is necessary to successfully finish a bigger ascent and I'll be ready for Thunder Rolls 2013!

I ate supper with some of the guys from our morning orienteering group, and I really enjoyed talking to them about our morning and the kind of events they usually do.  After dinner was the highlight of the weekend for me, Robyn Benincasa's talk.  World-championship adventure racer, world-record holding paddler, firefighter, fundraiser, inspiration...this woman is amazing.  While I'd never heard her speak, they guys did in 2011, and many of the things they learned from her have become a part of the Virtus lexicon.  She did not disappoint.  Using stories and video (because she participated in Primal Quest and Eco Challenge events, there's much more media coverage than for your typical adventure race) from her races and life, she illustrated how winners think and, for someone who talks about how much she cries, gave the clearest example of mental toughness I've ever seen. When life gave her lemons, she opened a lemonade stand and started raising money for other people (check out her Project Athena Foundation).  Hearing her in person was worth the 5 hour drive.

Robyn Benincasa: she's awesome

While I was listening to Robyn talk, though, I was also looking at the weather forecast and getting progressively more nervous.  Meteorologists were predicting 8-11" of snow for the St. Louis area starting in the early morning.  Reading the winter weather warning, this line kept jumping out at me: "Travel will be difficult, if not impossible."  I had visions of heading home after Sunday's race and being stranded alongside the road.  Having driven alone, I was dreading the thought of a bad commute when I was already tired from the hectic weekend.  On the other hand, it was nearly ten, I had a 5 hour drive, and I was already fighting sleep.  When Gerry mentioned that a couple St. Louis groups had already headed home to avoid the weather, I pretty much made my decision.  After checking to make sure my leaving wouldn't leave him without enough volunteers, I packed my car (thanks for the help, Chad!) and headed home. 

 Though the St. Louis snow wasn't supposed to start until 5 or so, by which time I'd be safely in bed, I guess I neglected to check on the areas I'd be driving through.  I stopped about an hour into my drive to fill up the gas tank, and when I drove away from the gas station snow flurries were falling.  These morphed into a full-on snowstorm.  I could barely see in front of me, and I couldn't see the lines on the road at all, so I drove at a crawl as I prayed to drive out of the snow.  A half hour or so later, I did just that and was back to fighting sleep rather than weather.  Two hours later, sleep was winning.  I stopped at a gas station, took a 10-minute nap in the car, and picked up some soda and snacks to keep me awake.  By the time I hit the road again, the snow had caught me.  I had another terrible hour or so.  The snow had beat the snowplows to the road and once again the lines were invisible.  I crawled along until a charter bus passed me, and I was able to follow in its tracks.  By the time the bus pulled off the interstate, the snow plows had started up, and I made it home safely, about an hour later than I'd planned.  I've never been so happy to see my bed.   I hated leaving early.  I was so looking forward to being somewhere on the course and seeing all these people experience their first adventure race.  I definitely wasn't ready for my adventure camp weekend to be over, but I made the right choice.  We got over a foot of snow, and it took one of the St. Louis teams 10 hours to make the 5 hour drive after they raced.  Instead of braving the blizzard conditions, I was safe at home, building snowmen and snow forts.  It was a good trade-off.

 Just chillin' in my crib. #snow

So, camp.  Even as a volunteer, it was an epic experience.  Getting to spend so much time around people who are invested in introducing others to adventure racing, having the chance to share my love for adventure racing with new people, being able to watch people try new and challenging things...it was something special.  You know, as adults it seems like there are so few opportunities for us to be taught new things...you want to do something, you muddle through and learn by experience, sometimes trial by fire.  For people who want to learn about adventure racing, camp can vastly shorten the learning curve, and for people who just want to have an adventure and try something new, camp is a great place for it.  One way or the other I'll be back next year; I hope I see you there, too.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Good news and gut check

That time when people used to care about each other? It's still here, and while sometimes you need to look a little harder for it, other times it pretty much smacks you in the face.  Or the Facebook. I've been in tears a lot lately looking at the computer.  Not sad tears (though honestly, maybe I'm a little hormonal) but the kind you cry when something touches your heart. 

Item #1: March Madness is upon us, and while I typically couldn't care less about college basketball, the St. Louis University Billikens have my heart this year.  One of my former students has been dealing with a brain tumor his entire life.  There have been some setbacks this year, but he and his family are some of the most positive, faith-filled people I know.  They were connected to the Billikens through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, and the team has absolutely adopted them.  Like, above and beyond adopted him.  Joshua sits behind the bench at home games.  He goes into the locker room.  They and their coaches visit him in the hospital.  There have been a couple great articles about the team and their connection to Joshua, but seeing him and his family light up when they talk about the team is all the evidence I need to know what a difference those boys are making in a life.

Item #2: A locally owned toy store in my town announced last week that their bank was calling their loan and they were going to have to close.  I thought, "That's too bad,", made sure my nephew used any potential gift certificates before the store closed, and went on with my day.  Some other people in town (including a girl I used to babysit...makes me feel old!), though, jumped into action and put together a campaign to save the store.  With an agreement from the bank to hold off on calling the loan if $75,000 was raised by last Friday, they put together a social media campaign.  Kids gave money they'd saved, other local businesses and vendors contributed percentages of their sales, and many donated online at a Crowdtilt site set up by the organizers.  Because it was happening locally and some of my friends were directly involved in the campaign, the story was all over my Facebook feed.  I'll be honest...I've been in the store maybe three times ever.  Whether or not it's still here really will make no difference in my life...but all of the postings and excitement and just imagining how the owners must feel at the outpouring of support inspired me.  I had to be a part of it, and my little $10 donation was part of over $80,000 that has been raised so far.  The story of course made local news .

All these happy tears very nearly gave way to an ugly cry yesterday, though.  While my training is nowhere near at a high level, it has been pretty consistent (for me).  If I wasn't feeling confident about June's Dirty Kanza, I was feeling positive.  I was even feeling fairly good (though nervous) about Saturday's scheduled 80 mile ride, my longest ride outdoors since...um...since last year's Dirty Kanza. I was not, however, particularly enthusiastic about the weather.

On the heels of Friday's gorgeous weather and downright warm 68 degrees, we got temps in the low 40's, overcast skies, and wind.  It's funny how your perspective changes, because if I was riding trails or running I'd be excited about how perfect the temperature was.  I don't much care to ride on the roads, though, until it's about 10 degrees warmer.

My friend Dave had mapped out a big loop for us, which was good news because repeated loops would have made it much easier to bail.  We had to start at 10:30 so I could watch J's soccer game first; Dave got an unfortunate lesson in that if Kate says we're starting at 10:30 what she actually means is she'll be there at 10:30, so it was almost 11 before we hit the trail.  Once we got going, the temperature wasn't too bad, but the trail was no fun.  The first 16 miles were almost entirely crushed limestone, which after all of our wet weather was just mushy enough to make for some seriously slow going.  Very demoralizing to look at your Garmin and see a pace that you could sustain for a mile while running.

Despite riding straight into the wind once we hit the pavement it felt much better, for a while.  I never felt really good, but somewhere around 30 miles in (maybe) my lower back started getting sore.  My inner dialogue started on a loop: I don't need to ride 80 miles today.  60 is plenty.  I'll just ride 60.  But I've already ridden 60 this year on the trainer.  How about 70? Yeah, I'll just go 70.  Well...if I'm going to ride 70 I might as well ride 80.  But I really don't need to ride 80 miles today. 60 is plenty... Of course, being on a long loop, there was a limit to how much the mileage could be adjusted, and Dave was leading the way anyway.

We're riding in Illinois, so there are corn fields

I was very un-super this ride, and pretty lousy company as well.  I was dragging and sore and most of my conversation was internal and negative.  Having spent more time on training than is normal for me, it was really frustrating to still feel so weak.  When I don't train, I can spin it as "well of course it was hard...I haven't trained".  When I do train, what's left but to say "hey, I'm weaker than I like to think I am".  Or "hey, I'm having an off day" which is also possible but harder to sell to myself in the middle of it.

About 45 miles in we hit the last point where we could conveniently bail.  It was already 3:30, and neither of us had brought lights, even a red blinky for the back of the bike.  Since a friend of mine was just hit by a car Thursday while bike commuting home (she's in the hospital with a broken arm and some broken ribs), safety is definitely on my mind.  That said, I'd been struggling to not call Jeff to come pick me up for much of the ride.  We cut it short and ended up with 60 miles for me and 62 for Dave (who had a little further to ride back to his car than I did to my house).  Big thanks to him for planning the route, carrying my too-heavy pack for a while, and being unfailingly nice to the dark cloud following him on my bike.

The good:
  • Hey, 60 miles is still 60 miles.
  • I was riding my new Delta, and it rode great.
  • I've pretty much gotten the hang of shifting with the SRAM shifters, and I spent a decent portion of the ride in the big ring.
  • Riding in the drops on this bike feels much more comfortable and natural than on my road bike.
The bad (aka things that may have made it tougher):
  • Soggy trail first 16 miles
  • Wind
  • Tires: I was running smaller tires, but they're the knobby cross tires, not optimal for road.
The ugly:
  • Fueling: OK for somebody who likes to eat as much as I do, I cannot get this right for long rides. My pre-ride breakfast was coffee, pecans, and a banana. Right before the ride I ate a Honey Stinger waffle. During the ride, I had a long slim Jim, 2 homemade Lara bars, a Gatorade, and Ensure, and a pack of GU chomps. I'm loving the Paleo diet, but total lack of planning ahead leaves me at a loss before pretty much any endurance effort. If I'm going to eat whatever sounds good during the ride anyway, maybe I'd be better off eating a bowl of oatmeal or something like that before a long ride. Anyway, as always, nutrition is something to work on.

  • My back: bike fit issue, carrying that heavy pack, or adjusting to the more aggressive position? This hasn't really been an issue on my road bike trainer rides, but I'm able to sit up without hands on the bars on the trainer, which I can't do on the road.  I'm going to start paying attention to how far into a ride my back starts hurting; if that time keeps getting longer, then I'm going to attribute the issue to adjusting to the position.  If it stays the same or gets shorter, then I need to look more at bike fit.  Either way I'm going to focus on doing some core work.

  • My hip: while my back was far more of an issue yesterday than the hip that bothers me on long runs, my hip was also starting to bother me and is fairly sore today.  I've gotten away from stretching it, so I'm starting that again.

Yesterday I pretty much came home and sulked about how lousy I felt on the ride.  Today...well, I'm not going to say that I'm feeling good about it, but whether or not it was just an off day it was also a wake-up call that I'm not in as good of shape as I like to think I am.  That's ok, though, because I still have 2.5 months to get ready for Dirty Kanza, and if I'd been inclined before to rest on my laurels, this experience (and my achy left hip) will motivate me to stay off of them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Not gonna melt

I'd been looking forward to this past weekend for ages. I had fun outdoor plans both days, and the meteorologists were forecasting glorious weather for Saturday, a high of 63 and sunny. While we haven't had a terribly cold winter, there's been a dearth of sunshine lately and the recent cold weather has left me hungry for spring. I felt almost giddy at the thought of the great run ahead of me. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I woke up, checked the weather, and saw an hourly forecast full of rain and 40's.

I'd never met my running partner, the friend of a friend, in person, but he's Facebook-known me long enough to be unsurprised by the meteorological about-face.

The thing about referring to events like a rain-soaked nighttime trail half marathon as "gloriously terrible" is that you really can't bail on a run because of bad weather. Granted, I've run in the rain enough to know that it's usually kind of fun, but it seems like I need to keep learning that lesson.  I headed west, met up with Mickey, and headed to the park and some of the worst trail conditions I've seen since my first go at Pere Marquette (pretty sure Sunday's Quivering Quads half marathon eclipsed that from everything I've heard). 

There were some perks to the sloppy trails and constant rain.  First, of course, was that they brought my much faster partner closer to my pace (and then he was nice enough to slow down the rest of the way so I could keep up).  It also gave us the opportunity to smooth over horse damage.  Best of all, though, was that in many places the going was hilariously bad.  All you could do was laugh at how ridiculous it was.  The rain I'd been whining about was no problem; the (40ish) temperature was only chilly in open areas and about perfect on the trails.  Making way through the mud and some early snowy patches was tough going, though, and it was doing a number on my hip.  Instead of the 8-10 miles I had in mind, I begged off at about 6, and when the opportunity arose we took the road back to the parking lot.

Very fun morning and, given the all-day rain predicted for Sunday's bike adventure, a much-needed reminder that wet weather doesn't preclude having fun outside.  I needed that encouragement, too, because while I kind of like running in the rain, I've never liked riding in the rain.  On my brand new bike, no less.


Any hopes that the forecasters would go 0 - 2 and also be wrong about Sunday's forecast were dashed when the first raindrops hit my windshield as I pulled onto the interstate bright and early that morning. Oh, well.  I knew Chuck, Lori, Patrick, Robin, and Russ weren't staying home, so I couldn't either.  We took our best guess as to what to wear, took a group picture, and headed down the Hamburg Trail.

My dislike for pants continues to outweigh my dislike for thorn scratches.
Soggy conditions would have ruined any scheduled mountain biking, but as luck would have it we'd planned a gravel ride.  The Weldon Spring Conservation Area used to be home to a variety of small communities before the federal government took over 17,000+ acres during WWII for a munitions plant (more info).  Remnants of these communities can still be found along trails and buried in the woods. Chuck had found out and plotted the locations of a bunch of old cemeteries which we hoped to find via bike and hiking.

We started off with bike shoes in our packs since the first few cemeteries were not far down the trail.  Riding in the rain, not clipped in, on a new bike made me a little tentative in the beginning, so I was glad we were starting on nice smooth gravel.  Despite the steady rain, the temperature (around 50) felt pretty comfortable.  We found the first few cemeteries with no problems.

Most of the cemeteries only had a few stones, many dating back to the 1800's.
I don't speak German, but there was another stone that looked the same only read in English, "Until we meet again."
In some, only one or two stones were still standing, and many were so worn that they were almost illegible.
Cool iron fence
After finding the first three cemeteries, we had a short hike back up the Hamburg Trail to pick up our bikes.

No bike thieves out in the rain, thankfully.

 Next we hopped onto a new trail, a skinny stretch of bigger gravel that seemed to go downhill forever (which is a good thing if you like riding downhill.  Or fast.  Neither of which I do.) punctuated by occasional logs.

This bike is going to be SO much easier to lift over CX barriers than my mountain bike!
Stopped at another cemetery on the way...

It looks pretty happy out in the wild, huh?


Found a nice spot for a photo op ...

The rain made everything all pretty and misty.
We popped out onto the Katy Trail and rode down to the entry point for another small cemetery.  Despite the ridiculously wet conditions, the trail was still nice and hard.

Old well.  It's hard to tell in the picture, but it was pretty deep.
Looks kind of like the i in the Ironman logo, doesn't it?
Turned off the Katy back into Lost Valley...

We were all just as soaked as Lori.
 Hiked and then climbed a hill to another cemetery...


Back onto the double track...

Patrick and Chuck
I've ridden and run at Lost Valley quite a few times, but it's funny how much stuff is out there that I never really took note of...crumbling foundations, rusted fire hydrants, old roads and such.  It was fun to be on a ride where the purpose was to look for those things you never notice.  Turning off the doubletrack in search of one of those old roads, we came across a clearing filled with bones.  Kind of creepy, kind of cool.  Lots of Chupacabra jokes and bad puns (most of the latter from Patrick).


We set off down what was left of the road in search of one more cemetery, but we did more talking and enjoying the company than paying attention to the map and didn't find it.  We'd been out for close to 5 hours in nonstop rain, and we were having fun, but the chill was definitely starting to set in.  Chuck suggested going back towards where we started and trying again while paying attention to the terrain.  No one disagreed, but the growing amount of quiet led him to suggest maybe we should save this for another time and head back to the cars.

Taken on the road as we walked back to where we'd left our bikes.
We had one last big downhill, and I pretty much crept down, chicken as usual and particularly unsure about riding the big gravel on my little tires.  This highlights the biggest issue I'm going to have with my new bike or, indeed, any bike.  It'll only go as fast as I'm willing to ride it, so I really need to buck up and stop being such a wimp.  In my defense, this is our "getting to know you" phase and it'll take some adjusting to get used to riding rougher terrain in a different position.  That said, I'll likely be wimpy next time, too.

The uphill out of Lost Valley reminded me that I no longer have a granny gear, so I was walking much earlier than usual.  At least this bike is lighter to push than my mountain bike, but one of my goals for this summer is going to be to ride out of Lost Valley on the cross bike.


So far I'm very happy with my new bike.  It fits perfectly, got through this crazy day with no mechanical issues of any kind, and handled great.  Granted, upshifting with the SRAM shifters is still a work in progress and I'm going to have to get stronger if I want that bigger front cog to regularly be anything more than decorative, but I'm looking forward to the process.

How did all this fit into my Dirty Kanza training plan?  Not at all, really.  The nature of our quest meant that overall we logged relatively few miles in a longish time.  If I was smarter more dedicated to my plan I'd probably have stayed home and logged my 70 miles on the trainer, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss our Graveyard Gravel Grinder.  All in all, it was a fantastic day.  An awesome weekend, really.  While we missed the people who couldn't make it, it's pretty great to have such fun friends and cool opportunities around me... and if there's an upside to not being particularly sweet it's definitely that I'm not going to melt in a little rain.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New bike :)

On Monday, this came in the mail.

Airborne Delta cx
My long-awaited cyclocross bike, an Airborne Delta.
I'd stressed out during the wait between ordering and receiving because while obsessively googling my new bike (Yes, I always do my best research after already committing.) I'd come across a thread about the Delta and some issues with peoples' bikes being damaged in transit.  While the box looks like it's traveled the world, I'm pretty sure it's been used before and so any spot with a hole was reinforced with cardboard inside and the bike was protected by foam padding and lots and lots of bubble wrap (bonus entertainment!).

Airborne Delta cx
Some of the packaging
 I had to wait til Thursday before Chuck and I had a time when he could put it together for me.  Sure I could've done it myself, but I know how much he likes working on bikes.  I mean, the guy had a multi-part series on building his own gravel bike.  He lives for this stuff.  It would be selfish of me to take it away from him.

Airborne Delta cx
Chuck doing his magic.

Actually, while I probably could have fumbled my way through putting on the seatpost, handlebars, and pedals (all the "assembly" necessary), he also adjusted the brakes and front derailleur, both of which are beyond me.  And he taught me how to use the SRAM shifters, which complete the three bike/three different shifting systems trifecta that pretty much guarantees that, no matter what bike I'm riding, I won't remember how to change gears.

Airborne Delta cx
Check me out, riding in jeans. I'd totally fit in at Ray's in this outfit.

Once the bike was together and adjusted, it was time to take it outside and make sure the seat height was good.  I pedaled around the driveway a couple times, and it felt pretty much perfect.  The only problem I had was some toe overlap if the wrong foot was forward when I turned, but I was wearing borrowed shoes with the cleats further back than mine. Hopefully it's not an issue in my shoes.  Otherwise, everything was great, and I can't wait to ride it for real tomorrow.

Airborne Delta cx
So happy together...

This bike and I are going to get well acquainted over the next few months with lots of 70+ mile training rides leading up to Cedar Cross and Dirty Kanza.  I can't wait. :)  It probably sounds stupid to all of you who go out and actually train for your races, but I'm really excited to go to some races that I'm (well, will be...theoretically) ready for.