Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy happy

New Year's Eve 2006

Yes, happy holidays and happy New Year. Heck, happy belated SolChrisHanZaa.

Quite a switch from my whinging and moaning last Thursday when I had to ride the bus to work (again) because our street was a skating rink (again) and I had to leave the bike parked at home (again). How is anyone supposed to get any base miles in the weather we've had the last three months? If frozen roads are the result of global warming, STOP DRIVING YOUR CAR so I can ride my bike!

Ah, but then there was the gift of New Year's Eve to lure me into forgetting recent weather transgressions. 93 blissful miles, in the sunshine, on the tandem. Who needs training camp in California or Arizona? It doesn't get much better than the views we had today of the Cascades AND Olympics, the bald eagle perched above the Sammamish Slough, the snow geese flying over the fields at Carnation Farms, the snow under the trees (and on the edge of the road) up at Snoqualmie Falls. Wintertime perfection.

And I learned a new dimension of something familiar. Being a tandem stoker is a lot about trust. I've learned to trust my captains in crits and in 60+ mph descents. But this weekend I had to trust my captain on icy roads. I am overly cautious when it comes to riding in wintery conditions, so it was tough to sit back and let someone else watch the road and decide what to do. Yeah, yeah, tandems have better traction. But ice is ice, and sliding and falling sucks. Happily, the riding was uneventful except for the beautiful scenery, some tough climbing, and great company.

In retrospect, the weather in the last three months has done a lot for periodizing my training. There were some forced rest days and weeks, and some shorter-than-I-wanted miles. But today was happy happy stoker miles. I've forgotten why I was whining last week.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Stoked I am

First day of winter 2006

It's a long sleigh ride to Eugene and back, but there's nothing better that Santa could've put "under" my Christmas tree!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy belated birthday

Thursday, 21 December

Sure enough, I moved on to black, in honor of .n.'s birthday earlier this month. No more hats for a while, I promise!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Tuesday, 19 December

.black. is next.

Friday, December 15, 2006

New landscaping

Friday, 15 December

During the windstorm last night, the top of one of the madrona trees just south of us came crashing down onto our house, slid across our roof, and landed just outside our back door (note that the trunk landed conveniently in the yard waste bin). Somehow, the snoring next to me went on without interruption. Daylight will tell whether there was damage to roof or gutters, but I had to come to work where there is light and heat....and internet!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Knitting up a storm

Thursday, 14 December

I'm not the only blogger crafts. PruDog is in wool sweater mode. But I see that his pattern doesn't make small sizes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hats off

Wednesday, 13 December

I've given away 3 hats now, with a few more going out for Christmas. This softie (it's chenille yarn, with some really fuzzy blue trim left over from my scarf-knitting phase) might be the last one for awhile because I've got to move on to a baby blanket for a coworker.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Team issue

Thursday, 7 December

Monday, December 04, 2006

On a roll

Monday, 4 December

Anybody need a hat? I made this one during the second half of the Seahawks game last night.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Warm hat week

Sunday 3 December

After being thankful for my warm wool hats this week while I waited interminably for my bus (bike commuting being impossible, thanks to Mother Nature), I decided it was time to vent some pent-up energy by making Christmas presents. The kind that mad aunts make for their young nieces.

I've never made hats before and was pleased that the final version of this first one only took about two hours (never mind that the various beta versions brought the total up to more like ten hours). My nieces are twins, so now I have to make another one (brother dear, you are sworn to secrecy!). Better than watching the BCS selection on TV....

Monday, November 27, 2006

Word of the year

Sunday, Snow Day, 26 November

To say that cycling bloggers make a few typos would be an understatement. (I'll be uncharacteristically generous and give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume those are typing errors and not thinking errors.) I am amazed at how many people road their bikes on the rode, got in brakes, and grabbed the breaks. But one of those by PruDog earlier this year in a comment on these pages gets my nomination for new word of the year: unnuendo.

Innuendo means to imply something somewhat devious, mischievous, maligning. But with the new "un" prefix, the word comes to mean not implying it, but out-and-out saying something devious and maligning. And ain't that a perfect fit for someone who encourages, in his own words again, "cheap shots, bitter recriminations and general tomfoolery"?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Velotron take 2

Tuesday, 21 November
(just one more month until winter starts!)

Last night was the second installment of Velotron testing at SPU. Same drill: flat, 10K TT effort. The only difference was that this time they had me try to focus on something other than what I usually think about. In the end, my time was almost exactly the same, which was good to learn because it means that when I feel like I'm getting bogged down or thinking too much about how my legs hurt, I can try focusing on something else and it probably won't lose me any time.

The Velotron software shared lots of juicy tidbits after the "race." It confirmed that I don't produce huge quantities of watts (which I knew), but it showed that my tandem captains' perceptions have been right: I am smooth and steady. My pedal stroke is not absolutely perfect, but it doesn't have any glaring hiccups--although when I try to push an enormous(er) gear for the last kilometer, it gets choppy. But just roll me along in a 56x19, and I will give you smooth and steady power, cadence, HR, speed, you name it. I don't fade, I don't fidget, I don't surge (I don't have enough power to "surge" on a 56 chain ring!).

We'll see what happens at CycleU tonight when they throw hills and competition and data feedback into a 10K TT!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

3 races in 4 November !

Saturday, 18 November

After an abbreviated Saturday morning ride, I was a human research subject today, doing a 10K time trial for doctoral research at SPU by former pro Nate Reiss. It was indoors on a Velotron, roughly like a Computrainer. I've done plenty of Computrainer 10Ks, so I thought I knew approximately what I was in for. Ha. In this test, you don't get to know time, speed, HR, or distance. So you sit on the bike and stare at the white walls and go as hard as you can--until they tell you there's 1K to go, and then you try to go harder and nearly crack. Oh, and it's dead flat so the resistance doesn't change. So it's really just you and the thoughts that go through your head in 10K (would you guess that this is a psychology research project?). At the end, they don't give you any feedback except "good job." Funny thing, it's an awful lot like doing a time trial on the back of a tandem, except that I had to pick the gear. And just for kicks, I get to go back on Monday night and do it all over again. They promise data and feedback then. And Tuesday night is a Computrainer TT at CycleU. And, to mix things up, they promise rain for my outdoor ride tomorrow.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


St. Martin's Day

I took a lengthy detour from the usual Saturday ride to view the remains of the havoc wrought by this week's flooding. There was plenty left to see.

The Snoqualmie River valley is pretty much a giant lake with a few islands and marshy sections. The gulls and other shore birds were abundant, and there were even snow geese out there. Cattle were crammed onto the muddy patches of higher ground.

I've seen more water in the valley in floods past, but I didn't go exploring for details then. Like pumpkins that ended up in trees when the water receded. Or round hay bales wrapped in white plastic that drifted into a stand of trees like a flotilla run aground. Or the new lake that's just south of the Snohomish airport; odd bits of stuff had accumulated on its northern "shore" (a plastic kids' picnic table, a gas can, innumerable bottles).

I took two sidetrips that I knew were deadends. First, I went across the bridge (which is new since the last big flood washed away the old one) that's at the junction of High Bridge, West Snoqualmie Valley, and Crescent Lake Roads. Crescent Lake Rd. is still underwater, but I just wanted to see what I could see. Duck hunters, mostly. Cool dudes in pickup trucks jacked waaaaay up driving through deep standing water. After I turned around, a guy in another pickup pulled off High Bridge Rd and asked me if I had ridden through it!

Second, I rode west on River Road from Snohomish as far as I could. There are signs that say the road is closed, but there are homes and businesses and therefore traffic going out that way. There is a fine layer of silt on the road from the flood waters washing across it; it's slippery when it's wet, and it blows in your face when it's dry. Just past the last business (topsoil place) there were more "road closed" barriers and then a massive pile of dirt that was clearly intended as a barricade. No motor vehicle could get over or around it, but they left just a foot of space on the north shoulder that I could get my bike around, so I rode all the way out to the edge of the new lake. There is a dump truck out there in the standing water that must be stuck or stalled. The stretch of water is only a few hundred meters long because you can see another earthen barricade on the side--and since there was a pickup truck over there with its lights on, I assume you can get that far if you come from the west end of River Road.

It seemed that all the houses and barns on W Snoq Vall Rd were okay with just lots of mud and vastly smaller pastures. The road itself had not been underwater (no muck or scum or other substances you don't want to think about). But on the River Road, the homes and yards had all been flooded. The houses are maybe 50 feet from the river and lower than the road which is between them and it. Old vehicles and tractors and even buses had been towed from backyards up to the "high ground" on the shoulder of the road. Anything that was piled around a house had floated some distance away. Woodpiles, for example, drifted downstream. Kids toys were in odd places. Most of the houses along there have been jacked up about 15 feet (many since the last flood), but I came across one 1960s-ish rambler with all its carpet and pillows and beds piled on the front lawn; you could see the high water mark about halfway up to the windows on the outside of the house. Most of these homes still had lakes in their backyards.

They say that natural disasters are, ultimately, good for local economies because people have to rebuild and replace and hire tradesmen. And there's a reason for the flood plain evaluation you pay for when you buy a house. There's a quote in the Everett Herald today from a 76-year-old woman in the valley who was more worried about her family's cattle than her house or anything in it. But still, my heart goes out to all those people who've had their lives disrupted and their homes ravaged. Including the owners of the Christmas tree farm, still under water, on Springhetti Road--they might be wishing for a way to grow some of those $400 plastic trees from Sky Nursery (see yesterday's entry)!

Friday, November 10, 2006

A $400 Christmas tree ??

10 November

On a mission today to find something to liven up my front porch for the winter, I ventured into Sky Nursery. Right inside the front door were a pair of artificial Christmas trees (how does a nursery grow an artificial tree?). The LITTLE one was $399.95. That's at least 10 years' worth of real trees. And real trees smell good, generate oxygen, create local jobs, and decompose readily when they're shipped off to the landfill or compost heap. Are there really people who spend $400 + tax for something they have to store in a box 11 months out of a year that gives off toxic fumes and will never ever decompose? I guess there must be....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where is everybody ?

Monday, 6 November

I came home the long way today, riding the 10-mile stretch of the Burke Gilman from UW to Lake Forest Park, and the trail was EMPTY!! I saw one cyclist for every two miles of trail. How often do you get a chance, in Seattle, to ride in November in 60-degree weather? No gloves, no rain, no traffic, glimpse of blue sky over Matthews Beach, glorious leaf colors on the trees, and only a few patches where the leaf mulch on the trail was deeper than my rims. And a great tailwind!

Friday, November 03, 2006


Friday, 3 November

That's fall as in autumn, not fall as in crash (this time, anyway).

It's just so dang beautiful out there--as long as you're not on your bike in one of those downpours!

Oh yeah, .n. -- where was I?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Simple pleasures

Sunday, 29 October

An extra hour of sleep and a ride on a tandem. What more do you need?

Thanks to new teammate and long-time friend Brian (with permission from his wife), I had a sweet ride today on a steel Erickson tandem. Nice bike, experienced captain. Life was all very good. Who cares that it was cold, that it poured rain from Renton to Mercer Island, that there were leaves everywhere, or that we couldn't just let the bike rip through some of the turns on MI (because of the wet pavement under the wet leaves)?

We had to test the waters (aka "show off") and punched it after the little riser on Rainier Avenue; we managed to drop everyone but Jonah. After about half a mile, though, we faded big time (aka "blew up"). They got their revenge by ramping it up on Mercer Island, which is mostly uphill when you ride clockwise. It was all a ton of fun, though.

Brian's 3-year-old daughter interrogated me before we left: "Why do you want to ride the tandem?" "Because it's so much fun." "Why?" It's just fun, trust me!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cross...sort of

Thursday, 26 October

Yes, I made it to the cyclocross practice at Marymoor last night. Yes, I learned a lot, thanks to Kristi and Craig. Yes, it was even mostly fun. Yes, I got back on the bike today to practice. wasn't all perfect.

My drive to Marymoor got short-circuited because SR 522 was completely shut down, so I had to park at Log Boom and ride to Marymoor. And back. 13 miles each way. On knobby tires. At least they were wrong about the weather and it was dry. It is kind of cool to ride up the Sammamish Trail in the dark.

I rode maybe a sum total of two miles during practice. For that I went through the hoops to borrow a bike (thanks PruDog), swap out the saddle, take off the rack, go buy tires and put them on (I think they even rotate in the right direction--my mechanic skills are less than legendary), etc. etc.

It hurt like hell after about 30 minutes. All that riding around on my left foot on the left side of the bike with so much weight on my left side, and those sore ribs (on the left side, of course) were sorer and telling me about it. I had to quit after about an hour, and the pain was enough for some waves of nausea on the way back to Log Boom.

However....I shouldn't be such a whiner.

I like riding the cross bike. Except for the tedium of knobby tires on smooth pavement, it handles nicely and feels really stable. I've now ridden most of K2's bike product line: cross, road, TT, and mountain bikes. I am happy and comfortable on them all.

I won't admit to liking the triple chainring. But the Campy shifters are great. Mrs. P has a nice bike!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

When I can't ride

Saturday, 21 October

After my too-close encounter with wet pavement last Sunday, I spent today doing everything but riding my bike.

First, I got to track Leslie and Jamie and their WINS at the Head of the Charles. You guys are awesome! I hope you're celebrating in style!

(Well, truly first, I got to SLEEP IN!)

I got to attend the annual WSBA calendar meeting. Highlights for 2007 are a bunch of time trials, somebody's theory that we need a state circuit race championship race, and a new state stage race/omnium championship in Bellingham and environs. Also found out that masters nationals are scheduled to begin next year on the 5th of July, again in Seven Springs.

I pursued alternative healing techniques. One I've known about for a while is pineapple, which is good for reducing bruising. A new one for me is getting my feline to purr, which is supposed to help bones heal faster. My cat doesn't seem to mind being used in this way.

I went to the gym to burn some calories. The recumbent stationary bike does a pretty good job of making me work up a sweat and also supporting my sore ribs, but 40 minutes was all I could take of that seat (I'm sorry, but it's not a "saddle"). I almost fell asleep in the sauna!

And I had the energy to cook something that took more than 20 minutes! Tonight's repast was pumpkin/spinach/ricotta ravioli with sage cream sauce (which used nonfat milk, not cream). Yummmmmmy. There was plenty of pumpkin left for pumpkin cranberry bread, too. I was reminded that recipe yields do not apply to cyclists and that food photography is very difficult. Quite frankly, the very best part of the whole meal was the late tomato out of the garden that I used for garnish. "Bursting with flavor" would be an understatement.

Oh, and for those skeptics out there, I even had a few live, face-to-face conversations with Old as Dirt. Since I heard last weekend that it was bad form for me to miss his cyclocross debut, I will head down to Donida Farms tomorrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Jamie update

Thursday, 19 October

Jamie races in event #13 (auspicious, eh?) at 12:08 (EDT, I assume) on Saturday in the Head of the Charles Regatta (in Boston):

Since he's not allowed to race in the division with national teams, and since he's no longer collegiate, he has to sandbag in some has-been category with some old college rowing friends (in a borrowed boat). And they totally smoke the competition (can you imagine the wattage of Jamie and 3 guys like him?). Which makes them ineligible from competing the following year. Jamie was pretty excited about this event way back in August when he was describing it to me at Pacific Raceways, so I'm sure it's a highlight of his year.

Jamie's Wines teammate and one-time tandem partner, Leslie, races in event #6 at 10:19. What a pair of all-around awesome athletes!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Thanks, Jonny & PDog!

Tuesday, 17 October

Thanks to Jonny from Recycled for picking up the pieces of me and my bike that I managed to spread all over the street at Denny Blaine Park north of Leschi on Sunday. I never imagined that plastic rain jackets were like so much teflon when launched at 20 mph over a wet road. I needed some kevlar around my rib cage, though.

And thanks to PDog for being the gallant gentleman and offering to loan me the cyclocross bike of his wife, the "very pregnant, very hot Mrs. PDog" (his words, not mine), for my little trial in that cycling discipline. Hopefully the wounds will moderate by next Wednesday so that I can do a few laps around Marymoor.

Thanks again, guys!! Jonny, I hope I never have to return that favor, and PDog, if I go on one of your rides right now, even Craig will be complaining that he didn't know anyone could ride THAT slow!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Want to borrow

Wednesday, 11 October

I made it to Marymoor tonight to try out the cyclocross practice. Kenny had very kindly put together a bike for me to ride and all I needed was pedals. Sadly, the bike was too big for me and the bottom of the pedal stroke was just a little too far down. I probably looked like I was trying out the Superman position on a cross bike too. So.....

WANT TO BORROW: small cyclocross bike. Smaller than 53 cm? Complete bike. Just for a few Wednesday night practices this autumn. I have no plans to race...but you never know what might happen.

My new team has a fancy schmancy team message board where I am supposed to be able to post things like this to reach my 200 new teammates, but it don't work. So we'll try this. I suspect that fewer than 200 people read this, but maybe the 2 who do know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who has a spiffy little cross bike just collecting dust. Leave me a comment or contact me by email if you do. Please?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Where art thou, James?

Monday, 9 October

I try to be patient with my friends. Really, I do (they may not have noticed). For nearly four months now, I've been reading these words: "Saturday was the Ballard crit." But the Ballard crit has come and gone and been forgotten by all but Tricia (who should savor it sweetly all winter). One blog entry only lasts so long. Maybe "stupid-cyclist" realizes he's no longer a stupid cyclist and is blogging under a different nom d'ethernet? Maybe he just relishes the fact that he was doing it first and puts blogging in the "been there, done that" column. But I miss his sweet musings.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

365 days

8 October

365 days. That's how long it's been since everything in my mouth had DNA. That's how long it's been since I could sing without my voice cracking or whistle when I call my cat. That's how long it's been since I could say I'd never broken any bones. That's how long it's been since I could eat an apple without a knife. That's how many days the hospital bills have been trickling into my mailbox. And that's how long it's been since I was forever broken of the childhood habit of biting my fingernails.

One year ago today, a lot happened to me in a few seconds I still cannot remember. But better and funner and more important things have happened to me since. In the process of making myself relearn some old things, I learned to do them better. I try to gauge progress not by how far I have yet to go, but (most of the time) by how far I have come. I've learned to be thankful for what I can do instead of upset about what I can't do. Healing is a complicated process that's a little bit about the health-care profession and a lot about the attitude that family and friends and you yourself build to conquer the new challenges you face.

On every one of those 365 days, I've been grateful for how lucky I am. Not just in terms of getting past the crash, either. Truly stoked I am to be able to ride and race my bike (and others' tandems on my luckiest days), to learn continually from doing so, and to ride with good people who make the challenge exciting and rewarding. The fun I had in my two favorite races this year was simply off the charts; you do not get that kind of thrill or excitement or reward by sitting on the couch waiting to be 100% healed.

There are some funny things in English about healing. I cannot say "I'm good as new." But I can confidently say that, at least in some ways, "I'm better."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Counting calories

Thursday, 28 September

I took the Lance Armstrong approach to eating today. Just for today. I weighed and wrote down everything I ate and then did the math. Partly I wanted to know how many calories I consume, partly I wanted to see how much protein I'm getting. I quit eating meat and fish about 18 months ago, and I pretty much shun protein powder, so I wondered whether my nutrition is adequate.

So, the numbers. About 2400 calories total. I thought that was a lot. Especially since I didn't pig out on almonds or peanut butter, like I usually do. 31% of those were from fat (30% is the recommended amount). Depending on what scale you use, I need to get somewhere between 46 and 55 grams of protein per day. I got 69. I take a multivitamin every day that I remember it, so I wasn't going to count up vitamins and minerals. But I ate 4 servings of vegetables and 6 servings of fruit--and more than 4 servings of dairy. Olive oil may be great stuff, but it sure jacks up the fat intake fast, and I'd rather get that from dark chocolate, which gives you more antioxidants than anything else on the planet.

In hindsight, I think my ability to ride for 12 hours at Ring of Fire proved that my diet is not too far out of whack. But it was good to see where the numbers are. I guess the next step is to figure out how many calories I burned today by riding 13 miles, walking 4 miles, riding the trainer for 30 minutes, and lifting for 20? 30? minutes at the gym. That's for another day when I feel like a science project.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Sunday, 24 September

One beautiful day in autumn 2005, I set out on the Seattle International Randonneurs' 100km populaire with some friends. We missed a turn and, in retracing our tracks, piled into an unmarked road hazard, and our outing adjourned with me in an ambulance. I have since ridden several times on that stretch of May Valley, but today was the 2006 edition of the SIR 100km populaire and I was determined to complete the whole thing on my bike and thereby banish any remaining demons lurking in my subconscious.

The weather was at least as beautiful as it was for last year's event. I'm not sure the ride organizer was thrilled to see me, but I pointed out that I had brought a different map reader with me and so was less likely to go off course--or at least not in the same place. After yesterday's 61-mile TT, what I needed was about an hour of easy spinning to get the legs ready to go, but within a mile of the start on this ride you are headed up Cougar Mountain via the zoo (the other name of this ride is the mountain populaire). This sorts/strings out the group PDQ. My husband/map reader (who gave away his route sheet to someone else!) sprinted off up the hill to be the first rider at the first check point, but he waited for me. Then you go down Lakemont, up Newport to the 4-way stop, then up Cougar that way, then down to Coal Creek and along to May Valley. We got in a little group, which was nice because "real" randonneurs have nifty little packs on their handlebars with a nice space for the route sheet, so we didn't have to pull ours in and out of our jersey pockets every 0.4 miles.

I was immensely relieved when we made our turn OFF the May Valley road and headed south. We literally went over hill and dale, including Tiger Mountain, Lakemont, Issaquah-Fall City, Tolt Hill, Duthie Hill, and to the finish at the top of Mt. Olympus Drive in Issaquah. Although the composition of the group changed a little bit, there was a core of 8-10 of us who stayed together for the whole ride. I nearly got dropped several times in the first half of the ride (these guys had "rested" yesterday in preparation for this adventure) but then started to warm up. By the time we left Carnation to head back to Issaquah, most in the group were starting to fade, so the tempo on the climbs got slower. Except Mick, who kept riding away from us all.

I have to say that this particular group of randonneurs liked to ride all over the road. Never mind the single line to the right. One guy in particular liked to patrol up and down the traffic side of the group. And he was not a particularly good bike handler. Every time I got boxed in behind him on a climb, I would have to dig deep to go around and pass him to keep my sanity.

But it was a good, hard ride and, most important, I finished on my bike and came home in my car. I'm still wary of road hazards, but who isn't?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My last 2006 race

Saturday, 23 September

My last race of 2006 was another long time trial, although not long by ROF standards (see previous entry). I did the bike leg on a relay team at the Black Diamond Half Ironman. The hardest single moment of the day was getting off my bike after 61 miles and running, in cleats, with my bike, through the transition area to tag my team's runner.

I thought I had the funnest part of the day. Counting all the duathletes and iron folks who got started on the bike leg before me, I had at least 35 people ahead of me on the road. I didn't even notice the rollers in the first 5 miles because I was so busy passing people (no drafting, no riding together). Then the rabbits were far enough apart that they'd motivate me to reel them in gradually. I passed several men who couldn't bear the thought that they been passed by some old lady (they wrote my age on my right calf and my race number on my left). So they'd have to pass me back. And slow down. So I would of course have to pass again. And in all cases but one, I never saw the guy again. :)

I try not to say bad things about other cyclists on this blog (I save that for comments on others' blogs!), but I have huge rant against a group wearing LAKEMONT CYCLING CLUB jerseys. A group of about 8 of them were out on a training ride on our straight shot into Enumclaw. Yes, they had every right to use that road. But they could clearly see that they were in the middle of a competitive cycling event, and simple courtesy would have suggested that they might consider getting out of the way--by, say, riding single file to the right. But no. These guys couldn't keep a pace line running smoothly. Sometimes they were 3 abreast. Sometimes one guy would attack (like when they saw an old lady pass them) and then they'd be strung out all over the road. Then some slow dude would get on the front and the pace would drop to 18 mph and so I'd have to pass again. It took me several miles to get around them for good, and I heard other racers suggesting that they learn how to share the road. Word has it that their skills (or lack thereof) sent a racer into the ditch near the top of Mud Mountain.

And speaking of Mud Mountain, it wasn't much easier today than it is during the Enumclaw stage race. But it was kind of fun to pass all the encouraging words left on the road from this year's version of that race. If anyone wants to know the roster for the Starbucks team, it's all painted right there. No phone numbers, though.

When I did this race in 2003, I hopped off the bike and into running shoes to do the half-marathon that was the other leg of the duathlon I had been talked into entering. I was ecstatic with my bike time that year: 2:59 (I had NEVER ridden 60 miles in 3 hours). This year I thought it would be nice to have the same time, being 3 years older and not having done a speck of training for this race (the 12-hour TT doesn't count...really). I ended finishing in 2:49, the fastest women's time of the day. And I think I was top 10 overall on the bike. Of course, most of the other competitors also swam first in frigid water and then ran a half with a huge ol' hill in it. Still, not bad for the last race of the year. And I decided today that I have changed my mind and I am NOT going to buy a pink helmet. I saw way too many going way too slow--not precisely the image I'm cultivating, eh?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

12-hour time trial

Saturday, 9 September

Hours: 12
Miles: 183.2
Calories consumed: 2340
Elevation gain: 15,000+ feet
Scenery: priceless

Back in July, Martin and I won an entry for the Ring of Fire time trial in Maupin, Oregon. I suppose I could've gotten the most out of my free entry (Martin bailed on me the minute we won this "prize") by signing up for the 24-hour version, but since I've never done anything longer than STP and RAMROD, I decided to settle for the lesser prize of just 12 hours on the bike.

A few years ago, my husband started me in this habit of trying something new and completely different at the end of a racing season. The first year it was an "endurance duathlon" where I did a 61-mile time trial and then ran a half marathon. Never again. The next year he told me I should race tandem at masters nationals when a friend issued the invitation. I thought that idea was even more whacko, but it turned out to be the happiest move in my cycling "career." So a 12-hour time trial was just this year's crazy way to finish the season.

This was the second year of Ring of Fire, brought to us by George and Terri, the amazing duo who put on Race Across Oregon, the Deschutes TT stage race, and other challenging events. This was the race's first year in Maupin, and I think it has found a happy home.

We started out by doing a 111-mile loop, then did "laps" on a 26-mile loop until our 12 hours were up. There were mile markers on the little loop, so when your 12 hours were up, you just noted the last one you'd passed and reported that number when you got back to the finish. (Note that this means I really rode 190.2 miles; I had to ride 7 (thankfully flat) miles to get to the finish after my time was up.) The first 80 miles were so much fun and so beautiful that I figure the last 100 were just the price you had to pay for the privilege of racing the first section.

You started climbing from the line. Out of the hotel parking lot, over the bridge over the Deschutes River (even the bridge was uphill), and then 3.5 miles through the town of Maupin and all the way to the top of the ridge. There were a couple of rolling miles on the top, then down a 2-mile descent to the Tygh Valley. After that, it seems like we climbed until we got to mile 60 or 62. Not quite, because there were some shortish descents, but it was mostly climbing on beautiful, empty forest service and BLM roads. Some had no centerline. The views of Mt. Hood were incredible all day.

Around mile 62, you started descending. And descending. And descending some more. 20 miles down to the valley that Dufur is in, then flat tailwind for another 8 miles or so into Dufur. Then we hit the section that just about broke me. We got on Highway 197, which is a big ugly road with some traffic (it doesn't seem like much when you're driving on it). There was climb of at least 3 miles [I measured on the way home: it's SEVEN POINT TWO MILES!!] and you could see the whole thing in a straight line ahead of you. The heat and light combined for a mirage effect at the top, so you couldn't really see where the top of the climb was. Finally, there was a long windy (as in gusty, not twisty) descent, you were back in the Tygh Valley, and turned onto a rolling road, down a fun descent, across a bridge over the Deschutes, and then it was flat for 9 miles along the river into Maupin.

The short loop then repeated the beginning of the long loop to Tygh Valley and then turned onto the finishing section of the long loop. That meant a 3.5-mile climb at the beginning of each short loop. And the short loop was beautiful too. The Tygh Valley is irrigated, so the valley floor is green, against the backdrop of the golden brown hills of eastern Oregon. The descent to the Deschutes was through a tiny little canyon, and the gorge the Deschutes is in is pretty spectacular. There were rafters and fishermen on the river all day, so you had something to watch as you powered along the 9-mile flat (eventually) tailwind stretch to the finish. This loop was a stage in the TT stage race, and they were happy to tell us that Kenny and Dave Z. did it in 59 minutes. My times were 1:42 and 1:43--but I had no aero bars or aero wheels, and had ridden 111 miles before I started.

There were 3 sag stops out on the long loop, and I had sent a package of food and drink mix to myself at each one. And I left my cooler at the finish line, which I passed at the end of each lap. So access to enough food and water was never a problem, and the folks at the aid stations were so helpful that I don't think I was ever stopped for more than 60 seconds. One thing the race does not provide is "facilities," but there are miles of lonely roads in the big loop and plenty of pit toilets along the Deschutes on the short loop.

The biggest mechanical problem I had was that my computer died at mile 88. Maybe it was just as well not to know how slowly I was creeping up that hill out of Maupin on my short loops. About 7 hours into it, I started down the path to becoming mentally unhinged. I couldn't focus, it took me whole seconds to remember where I was (in big terms, like eastern Oregon), and I just wanted to take a nap. But the rest of me was working fine. I eventually snapped out of that like someone had flipped a switch, but then my back started to hurt every time the road went uphill. By the last lap, the muscles in my back tightened the muscles in one leg, which in turn tightened everything around my left knee, and I could not get out of the saddle. I have never ridden so much in my 34x23.

Yes, it was a race. We started at one-minute intervals, and I even got a holder for my start (it's a TT, after all, right?). The other two women started ahead of me, and I passed them both on the first climb out of Maupin. One of them passed me back while I was stopped at the first sag (she didn't stop), but I passed her right away on a short downhill section and never saw her again. The 24-hour riders had started before us, with a 15-minute gap between them and us. But I caught the first one of them at mile 20. Just after I first saw him and started to reel him in, one of the 12-hour men came flying by me. Eventually, I think, 3 more 12-hour men passed me. The first guy to pass me passed again on my last trip around the short loop!

My biggest physical fear going into the race was that my stomach would get tied in knots. This happened to me once at Columbia Plateau, and I was so uncomfortable that I could hardly pedal. But I had no "issues" with my stomach in this race. Sure, nothing sounded very good after a while, but I tried to drink a lot (9 bottles--including 1 coke--in 12 hours isn't a lot, I suppose) and ate fig bars when nothing else was palatable. I had some trouble with sunscreen in my eyes at one stage, and I almost had to stop. Those three tubes I packed around all day were just extra deadweight on the climbs. My feet were uncomfortable by the end of the day, and I can tell exactly where the stitching was on the edge of my chamois.

The plan for Sunday? Eat, read, sleep. Repeat.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

... & better still

Monday, 4 September

The new stage 4 at Eugene Celebration was a road race on a circuit of about 19? miles, with each lap featuring a couple of miles of false flat, 2.5 miles of good climbing up McBeth, several miles of descent down Fox Hollow (also known as Kill Hill when you go up it), another half-mile of climbing up the back side of Saturday's feed hill, and a flat/slightly rolling but windy stretch of a big, wide open road. It was kind of like the road race at the Enumclaw stage race in that we did 2.5 laps, finishing at the top of the big climb, which meant 3 times up the hill. Being not too attentive, I thought until sometime late on Sunday that we did 1.5 laps, and adding that extra climb into the mix got me worried. Our race was delayed by 35 minutes, which gave me even more time to fret.

At the start of the day, I was in third place in GC, eight seconds ahead of Kristi. I was two minutes behind Miranda and Lee, who had lapped us in the crit, and didn't hold much hope of jumping ahead of them. On the first time up the climb, Jill (a cat 4--but not for very much longer) and I rode at the front; I let her set the pace and even let her half-wheel me a little to try to keep the race from splitting up too much too early. The problem was that the tempo allowed us to have a conversation, which I guess must have eventually annoyed Lee, and she attacked about 800 meters before the top. That shattered everything, and we were strung out all over the road by the turn to the descent. I was fourth on the road, but Miranda caught me quickly and then we caught Kristi and Jill before the bottom, but Lee was gone. They let me set tempo up the short hill, then we all worked together pretty well in the flat windy section. There was a chase group 30 seconds back, which kept us motivated although we soon realized we were never going to catch Lee.

At this point, I was thinking that it wouldn't be so bad to ride the last lap by myself if I got dropped on the climb (ever the pessimist). But I guess it was a climb that suits me well. Jill rode away from us a little bit, but Miranda and Kristi just stayed on my wheel. They never moved next to me or past me, but I could hear both of them shifting behind me. Somewhere in here, two Broadmark guys off the front of the men's 1-2 race passed us; Ian looked like he was hanging on for dear life. And then eventually I couldn't hear the women behind me any more. They both dropped back in the last kilometer of the climb.

In one of those classic moments of miscommunication in bike racing, I asked our chief referee as I went past the finish line how far back the 1-2 pack was because I have bad memories of being swarmed on a fast descent by a group of guys. The reply was "you are two minutes down from the leader in your race." Um, that's not what I asked--or even what I care about at this stage. So I looked over my shoulder going around every single bend on the descent. I did finally see the pack coming, and they passed on a straight stretch. There were two more riders strung out behind them, but instead of passing me, they got on my wheel, so I knew Miranda and Kristi were back.

We rotated down the rest of the descent, I pulled up the shorter hill, Miranda pulled down the other side, and then we worked together on the flats. Jill (now very secure in her win of the cat 4 race) apparently got lonesome riding 100 meters in front of us and drifted back to cheer us on, offer to help, etc. I think the rest of us were pretty tired at this stage, and the wind had definitely picked up. We got a sort-of time check on the group behind us; they were out of radio contact. Eventually we were told we had 2.5 minutes on them. We came across the weirdest sight in this race: on a slightly uphill, slightly-turning-to-the-left section of road, there was a pickup truck on its side in the ditch. It seemed that it had just happened, and two people were walking around looking puzzled. But we were so focused on what we were doing that not many details sank into my brain.

This is where I got to thinking that I had a job to do the last time up the climb and I couldn't blow it. I have been beaten too many times this year by women who jump in the last however many meters of a climb and outsprint me to the finish. I knew I had to not let Kristi get back those eight seconds if she tried to do this. Jill took off again at the base of the climb, dangling again just 100 meters ahead of us the whole way up. Miranda was on my wheel, and Kristi was on hers. I really focused all the way up on trying to pick a gear that would allow me to at least try to accelerate if I had to. I tried to keep the pressure on when the grade flattened out a little bit and also to keep the speed up in the steeper bends. And I tried to keep track of where the two women behind me were. Miranda was glued to my wheel, and every time I tried to look back I couldn't see past her. But about the times that I would shift, I could usually hear two more shifts behind me.

What to do. If I tried to jump and go really hard for a short distance to get a gap, there was a chance that I would settle back into a slower speed and Kristi would come past and I'd be unable to accelerate and get on her wheel. It didn't matter if Miranda passed me because she already had two minutes on me. The 1K sign was in a more-or-less flat spot, but then there were several steep pitches before you could see the crowd gathered at 200 meters from the finsh, which was just around a bend in the road. I was sure Kristi was going to attack when the road pitched up. But she didn't. So I tried to go that little bit harder to keep her from doing it. At about 500 meters, I figured I had to go even harder to hold off an attack. As we got to 200 meters and the bend in the road, I was still going hard but thinking there was no way she would get eight seconds back in that distance. Nobody came around me, we crossed the line--and there was only Miranda behind me!! We had dropped my GC threat and she rolled in about two minutes later. I told Miranda that I kept trying to look behind her, and she said she climbs better if she can just stay focused on the wheel in front of her, so she would follow me when I pulled out to try to get a look at the road behind. I guess it was better that way because it sure kept me motivated!

I held on to my third place in GC, having been beaten by a super-strong Canadian that nobody knew and by Miranda who is about the nicest person there is to have beat you. It was a hard stage because there was a headwind even on the descent so you had to pedal all the way down. You had to drive the pace on the flats in order not to get caught by a chase group. And you just had to get up the hill however you get up hills. It was fun to have so many people on the course in the last kilometer of the climb. It was a great event for the last road race of 2006!

Better & better...

Sunday, 3 September

It was just that nice kind of a day. It started with a time trial and got better from there.

I’m at the Eugene Celebration stage race in (you guessed it) Eugene. This is a low-key, end-of-season event put on by a one-time, record-breaking tandem partner of mine, and the fields are never big (20 cat 1-2-3-4 women started). That’s not to say the fields are not competitive, and this year’s edition of the race is bigger (4 stages) and improved (tomorrow could be epic).

So how does a day just keep getting better? The time trial was so short (3 miles) that it hardly lasted long enough to remember. We had preridden the course after yesterday’s road stage, but I guess we weren’t really paying attention because we missed the variations in grade on the way out. In the race, I got to milepost 1 (yeah, they put up mileposts on 1.5-mile dead-end roads in Oregon!) before I had really even settled into a rhythm, and very soon I could see the turnaround. It was mostly slightly uphill on the way out, so it was fast on the way back, mostly 55x 11, 12, or 13. My time was middle of the pack, but at least I managed to beat all the cat 4s. One frustration I had at this race was as soon as I sat down after my start, it seemed like the saddle was low. I have problems with the carbon fiber seatpost slipping, so I measured it when I got back to the car, and sure enough, my saddle was 2 centimeters too low. At least now I know I should measure it before every race…and I have a handy excuse for a mediocre ride.

This was a double-stage day, but my crit wasn’t until 5:00, so there was plenty of time for lunch, a nap, hanging out, good conversations, and watching the masters crit. So now how do I think a day gets better when a crit follows a time trial? Well, the crit course at the Green Hill technology park is more like a flat circuit race. There are 2 corners and two sweepers, and the circuit is about a kilometer around. The race started out fast, and three riders got away. One of them was dropped very quickly (“I can’t do that for 40 minutes!”), and the break eventually lapped the field. There were some surges and sprints for primes in the pack, and I guess we were strung out single file a few times. But I never felt like I was in danger of getting dropped. I chased down two attacks, but I think it was needless effort. For the first one, I forgot that it was a prime lap, and two riders took off halfway around the circuit. I towed the pack back up to them, and Jan launched from my wheel to take the prime from the two who’d lapped us. For the second one, I didn’t realize that the woman who attacked had been lapped by the pack and was probably just trying to take back a little time. I was happy to get pack time in a crit, I almost never rode at the back, and I was sometimes at the front of the pack. It was an accomplishment for me. Sal told me that someday I’ll turn into a crit rider and everyone had better watch out then. Take note, masters crit nats 2025!

And after that, we went to the Laughing Planet for a great burrito with black-eyed peas, chard, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and BBQ sauce. It was really tasty and not heavy at all. But we made up for that healthful meal by walking across the street to the Sweet Life patisserie (which I’m pretty sure I mention in most every blog entry from Eugene) and indulging in…the sweet life!

[Saturday was hardly noteworthy. We left home at 6 a.m. to get here, poked along on I-5 in Ducks football traffic for 100 miles from Portland to Eugene, and raced at a mostly uneventful 54-mile road race on oh-so-familiar roads. It was another 95+ degree day here, and I had some real issues with the heat in the second half of my race. My legs were fine, but I couldn’t focus very well and it was almost scary to ride in the pack. I tried riding at the back but discovered it was better on the front. We had some issues with water hand-ups during the race, and 4 riders DNFed, in part because of the temps, but there was not much else to write home about. We’re staying at a Motel 6 in Springfield, and what’s noteworthy about that fact is that it makes me appreciate all the other hotels I’ve stayed at this year a little more.]

Monday, August 28, 2006

BBQ x 2

Sunday, 27 August

I see that my most recent posts feature recurring images of tandem captains' helmets, so I'll skip that theme this time and talk about my next favorite (after tandems) subject: food.

There was a BBQ after the hillclimb yesterday to fill in the large amount of idle time between the conclusion of the race (1:30--pity the juniors who finished at 11:30) and the posting of results (3:30). It was somewhat successful in keeping us from getting too restless, and the food was good.

There was also a BBQ at the Seward Park race today; this was the WSBA's end-of-season "party" hosted by the great guys at First Rate Mortgage. I grazed at this one but never did the full-meal deal. BBQ potato chips get me every time....and Coke and cookies turned out to be pretty good prerace food.

If I were truly a competitive soul, I would have been in Bend yesterday for the last event in the Oregon Cup series. I should have been working to hold on to my fourth place overall in the competition. Very sadly, there was a nasty crash in the last 10 feet of the women's road race at the High Desert Omnium and about half the field went down (I think all but 3 eventually finished). My best wishes for speedy recoveries go out to all those riders. And maybe a pseudo-crit at Seward Park on a perfect summer day was not such a bad place to be.

The 13 women who raced at Seward today was a bigger number than this race usually sees. It was a good mix of riders without anybody to toy with the rest of us . Half the field was TGH--but TGH did not win and did not even get a majority of the primes. (Well, every lap after the first had a sock prime, and maybe TGH won more pairs of socks than anybody. But they didn't win the "big" primes.) The two Wines ladies put on a textbook display of teamwork, even when I knew they were both flagging at the end from their relentless hard work. I felt really guilty passing them at the finish.

I did not even expect to finish this race, so I was pleasantly surprised when I figured out that I would. Still, learning how to hang on and sit in was enough for me, and I never tried to move up far enough to "play." (Funny, though, that even if I don't "do crits," my brain still recognized when I should've been making moves that I wasn't.) That meant I was in a great position to sit and watch everybody else. So I was able to (1) get in a decent workout, (2) boost my confidence a little bit, and (3) enjoy some entertainment too (such as watching one woman chase down her teammate and seeing how bike handling degenerates on a hill when riders start to get tired).

I've just realized there will be no more pictures of tandem captains' helmets for the foreseeable future because I've no tandem prospects on the calendar. If late July was any indication, I now wait for depression to set in....

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What I'll do to race tandem

Saturday, 26 August

Apparently men will go to extremes to get out of racing tandem with me. After our painful experience last Sunday, Jamie was still committed to race with me at the state hillclimb championship at Crystal Mountain today. But he had to go and crash on the track last night, getting some major booboos and bruises. He thought it best not to punish himself any more by racing with me today.

But I didn't find this out until on my way to Crystal, with the tandem on the roof. So I checked in for the race and told them that Jamie wasn't going to be my partner and I'd be back as soon as I found someone in the parking lot who'd ride with me. (That raised a few eyebrows--and harkened back to Kerry's term for me.) I had to proposition three men before I was successful; all had zero experience as tandem captain but I trusted their bike handling skills. Corrie agreed to race with me, and there were about 90 minutes between our individual starts and the tandem start, so we'd have time to get the bike ready.

Wow, they repaved parts of Crystal Mountain Blvd recently, and it was a pretty smooth trip up the hill on my single bike. From the car, I thought I could do this on my big ring (it's a 50), but oh no, I got about 500 meters into the hill and shifted back to the little ring. Happily for me, I caught 4 women on my trip up the hill, including the one I "needed" to beat. The climb is 6 miles, and at about mile 3.5 I was thinking that it was too long. I tried to remind myself that just last week I'd done a 9.5-mile hillclimb without major meltdown. There was a headwind on the downhill section, so there was never a sensation of going even sort of fast. My time was 35 seconds slower than 2005, but there was no tailwind in the last 2 miles this time. All in all, I was happy with how I rode.

One of the funky features of this race is a special prize for the fastest fattest rider, so to speak (Jamie had his eye on this one). So after you finish, they weigh you and your bike, and then they weigh you (if you want to play this part of the game). Come to find out my basic K2 Mod 5 with FSA wheels weighs in at a whopping....15.5 pounds. No wonder I get blown around in the wind!

With some fiddling, we got the tandem set up for Corrie, and with some coaching, we started out and headed down the hill. How would you like to learn to ride a tandem by setting off down a 6-mile twisty descent? We found out the brakes squeak but had no other "issues." There was a holder for our start, so our race started smoothly. And it kept going smoothly all the way to the top. It took a little longer than my single-bike time, but I never had the feeling that we would never get there. Another tandem started 30 seconds in front of us; we caught them within 60 seconds and finished EIGHTEEN MINUTES ahead of them. Of course, they had a boom box on the rack on the back of their Bike Friday tandem and were passing beer and other goodies back and forth when we went by. I'm not sure which of us had the better ride....

The sun was out allllll day long, there was a fun post-race BBQ, and there was some nail-biting while riders tried to figure out their BARR points and who had won their categories. We all got to ogle Ian McK's new national champion's skinsuit--and congratulate him, of course. Thanks to Corrie for being a trooper and riding with me; and thanks to Leslie and Tracy for another fun day on their tandem. Heal fast, Jamie!

Monday, August 21, 2006

O happy days

Sunday, 20 August

Formula for a really hard day on the bike(s):

1. Gear Push time trial, single bike, 10 miles
2. Gear Push time trial, tandem, 10 miles
3. Tandem ride in Mt. Rainier National Park, 75 miles

The Gear Push time trial is on that sweet, flat, winding course from Flaming Geyser State Park. There was no wind this morning, just sunshine and hot air balloons. I pushed a monster gear on the way out (55x12 much of the time) and a little easier on the way back. I thought I bogged down a little on the return but was able to go pretty hard from 1K out. I still haven't looked up my previous times on this course, but today's was good enough for fastest women's time for this race.

30 minutes after I finished, Jamie and I set out to ride it again on the tandem (thanks, Leslie!). The last time we rode together was for this race in 2005, and I still remember how he ripped off the start line and I thought I was going to have to beg for mercy before we got 100 meters out. This year was a smoother start and we settled into a good rhythm. He chose an easier gear than I would have, but it sure kept us moving right along. We had the fastest time of the day--until Matt rolled in 15 seconds faster than us. Still, second-fastest time made us pretty happy.

Then we packed everything up in the car and drove to the White River entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park (bottom of the Sunrise climb) to meet up with a bunch of his teammates out for a nice ride in the mountains. Just climbing Sunrise would've been "unambitious," so we headed the other direction: up Cayuse, down Cayuse, up to Backbone Ridge, down to Box Canyon, and then up Stevens Canyon to Reflection Lakes. We had originally planned to go all the way to Paradise, but a variety of factors induced us to turn around sooner. Good thing.

The best part about this ride on a tandem is the descents, and because of Sunday afternoon traffic, they were a mixed lot. We got about 2/3 of the way down Cayuse Pass before we caught a car and then had to sit behind it and smell its hot brakes. Going down to Box Canyon was great fun because there were no cars and the bike just floated around the easy bends. Once we turned around at Reflection Lakes, we were STUCK behind cars going WAY less than the posted 35 mph speed limit for the entire descent down Stevens Canyon. We (well, Jamie) had to ride the brakes all the way down. It was just not very much fun. The descent from Backbone Ridge to the park entrance at Grove of the Patriarchs has a lot of rough pavement and some tight hairpins; I remembered it being the most challenging descent in RAMROD on my single bike. Somehow, though, you miss (almost) all those little bumps on a tandem, and that descent was a ton of fun. We caught an RV toward the bottom; as Jamie pointed out, the good thing about that was that we found out where the bumps in the road were by how hard it bounced. And the last descent, from the top of Cayuse Pass down to the White River entrance, was spectacular. Two patient drivers stayed behind us and gave us lots of room; we were quite definitely exceeding the speed limit there. As we turned off, one of the drivers behind honked his horn and gave us a thumbs-up gesture and a wave as he went by--maybe flying down the hill on a bike looked like more fun to him than driving his minivan with a tent trailer in tow?!

But of course you pay the price of admission to get to do all those ripping descents: you have to climb. Nobody else in our group had done two time trials before setting out on this trip, so we were disadvantaged from the get-go. Add to that the fact that this tandem weighs more than our two single bikes combined. And then figure that we did at least 35 miles of climbing on a day when it was 86 degrees in Seattle. It was just plain HARD. I think it was one of the 5 hardest days I've ever had on a bike (not counting epic weather conditions). Definitely not the hardest, but right up there. And we weren't even racing. Jamie was losing lots more salt than he could replace, and finally about a kilometer from the top of Cayuse Pass, he had to get off the bike and work out a bad cramp in one leg. We knew the top was just around the corner, and when he got back on, he thought he could make it that far. But no. Maybe 250 meters from the top, we stopped again. Finally he was able to walk, and I pushed the bike, and then all was peachy for the descent.

Some interesting things learned for me. I'm glad I don't lose much salt when I sweat. People descend through turns very differently. People make very different gear selections (Jamie's TT gear was easier than I would have chosen, but the gear on the climbs was harder than I knew I could climb and not blow up my knees). And riding a tandem with your eyes closed is pretty cool. People on this ride were asking if that's what I do on the descents; no, but in the last 3 miles of the Cayuse climb I could focus on just pedaling if I kept my eyes closed. I had to open them when Jamie wanted to stand, but that was about it. The bike was so smooth [late correction: the bike handling was so smooth] that balance was not an issue.

It was a fun day. Jamie couldn't remember the fun parts when he was withdrawing into his private place as agony seized his muscles, and I'm guessing he wouldn't jump on a tandem for a ride today. But for me it was a great way to end a weekend of tandem fun--and I'd go again in a heartbeat.

Race results are here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Playing the field

Saturday, 19 August

I had a date today with my husband to do something I've done with five other men but never with him: race tandem. Up until the end of July, I raced all year with Martin, but when he moved on to other things, I decided to keep racing and play the field (Kerry has a name for this that I shall not repeat!).

Our challenge was the Mary’s Peak Hillclimb, southwest of Corvallis—the highest peak in Oregon’s Coast Range. The distance was 9.5 miles, and it was advertised as an average grade of 11% for the first 4-5 miles, a mile of descending, then an average of 10% to the finish. We were lucky to borrow a tandem from Co-Motion for this race, and they were originally going to give it to us with just a double chainring, but when I heard the gradient, I was pretty sure we’d need a triple. And we used it a lot.

We took the bike out for a (flattish) ride on Friday afternoon to make sure we could pedal in the same circles. We also got to ride Co-Motion’s new, one-off (so far) 24-pound tandem; we were a little shaky on that one at first, but we motored up Green Hill Road and managed to get down the descent without going into the ditch. It was kind of fun to just ride around on those great roads west of Eugene that I usually have to race on; I saw a lot of things I’ve never seen before.

60 riders turned up for today’s hillclimb, which isn’t bad for a course with such tough advertising. There hasn’t been a race here since 1998, but the promoter was able to tell us that the legendary/unwritten course record was 37:21—for a single bike. We started in our little chain ring and were glad to have it. We went around the first bend and there was our 30-second guy just up the road, so that helped motivation. The climbing in the first 2 miles wasn’t bad, maybe 8%. The next 2 might have averaged 10-11%, but we just stayed in the saddle and pedaled away. We were a little worried about the descent in the middle (Mick having a whopping 175 miles of tandem captaining experience, and none on this bike), but a moto passed us at the top so we could sort of follow its lines around the twisty bends. After that the road kind of flattened out, and there was a 100-foot gravel section, then it was back to small-ring climbing.

Kerry had told us that when you come out into a meadow you’ve got about 1 kilometer to go, so I got pretty excited when a meadow popped into view and we could cruise along in the big ring. But then we went up again, and there was no sign of the finish, and we had to shift down. We kept going hard, thinking we were almost done. Finally, after another mile or so, there was another meadow and we could finally see the tent in the parking lot at the top.

On the way up, we passed 10 riders. I think most of them were pretty startled to be passed by a tandem. The guy who started 30 seconds behind told us at the finish that he had never been beaten up a climb by a tandem before, and he had been certain at the start that he would catch us. What were we supposed to say, "gee, we're sorry"? Not.

Our time was 45:49, better than we expected but not fast enough to put us in the top 10 for the day. We were the fastest mixed tandem (OK, we were the only mixed tandem), and we beat the male-male tandem (OK, their stoker is maybe 13 years old). We beat the previous recorded tandem time by more than 10 minutes. The Oregon district hillclimb championship will be on this course in September (first time ever here); we’re sorry we can’t come but it will be interesting to compare our times.

Oh yeah, and we even got DOWN those 9.5 miles in one piece. Riders had to have a moto escort down the steepest part at the bottom to make sure we didn’t exceed the posted speed limit (30 mph)—which we surely would’ve done.

Race results are here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Time trial twist

Sunday, 13 August

In my pre-July, ignorance-is-bliss days, I thought a time trial meant you went out and pedaled nonstop for whatever distance and checked the clock. If you didn't pedal nonstop, something was wrong (usually a crosswind, in my case). At Seven Springs, I encountered a new twist on TT courses (steep up, fast down, tight curves) and I loved it. Today's new variation is one I can do without: three lengthy stretches of crushed rock, which you encountered going out to the turnaround and coming back to the finish.

This was no ordinary time trial; it was the state team time trial championship. That meant that you hit those gravel patches in a group of four riders. It's a flat course, so it would've been a good day to weigh 175 pounds. Sadly, no one in my group came close (OK, so maybe we're not really sad about that), and we skittered our way through crushed rock and round river rocks and soft dirt and whatever else Grays Harbor County puts down when they're building a road. We all got through without anything more than a stray foul word or two (speaking for myself alone, there), but not all teams were so lucky and there were flats and crashes.

Turns out I'm not the best TTT teammate; I'd accelerate too soon when I got to the front, before the rider ahead of me had latched on to the back of the paceline. We were an unevenly matched gang of four, trying to make our different skill sets compatible. It worked sometimes, and sometimes we'd have to ease up to regroup. But it was fun (which is what counts)!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Politics in my front yard

Thursday, 10 August

The HUB lawn at the University of Washington was today transformed into a graveyard for those who have died in the war in Iraq. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and most of the population here supports the general statement such efforts make. But today there are some protesting this display. The most thought-provoking sign (held by a guy wearing desert camo) says: "stop the exploitation of the war dead." I'm not making a political statement here, I'm just saying this is a point I've not heard before that falls between the two usual camps on this issue.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A 40K fix

Sunday, 6 August

Withdrawals. Nobody warned me about this part of tandem racing, and I don't get used to them. They are wicked. Especially when there’s no next fix on the calendar and your dealer left the business. Short of a good cry or a hissy fit, there’s not much to do but play the field. Enter Sal. Or, rather, drag Sal in.

Salvatore and I had a date this morning at 9:39 in Peoria, Oregon: the Oregon State 40-kilometer time trial. As I was driving to our early rendezvous, there was not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind. Warm sunshine was spreading across the Willamette Valley. A favorite song was playing. I was on my way to race a 40K TT. On a tandem. Life was looking waaaaay up. I could not contain my happy grin.

This was a championship event for everybody else, but we were riding for prize money. And I secretly (well, I guess it wasn't so secret) wanted to break the course record for mixed tandems: 55:31. Carl and Kim set the record 2 years ago when there was a scary fast tailwind on the way out and devastating headwind on the return.

Peoria is a collection of maybe 10 houses and park and a church. This time trial is probably the biggest thing that happens there every year. So it's hard to imagine, but it took Sal and I 30 minutes to find each other in this speck of habitation. Cell phones were invented for a reason, I guess. Setting up the bike up for me was quick; I opted to stick with the stoker's saddle already on the bike instead of using mine. That turned out to be a mistake, but not too critical.

Off we went to warm up. The bike worked fine, we worked fine, we even got out of the saddle without much ungainliness. It all seemed pretty smooth to me; Sal doesn't pedal in squares or push a weird gear or ride all over the road. And he didn't complain about any bad habits of mine. All in all, we were pretty relaxed and leisurely before the start.

3 recumbents and another mixed tandem went off ahead of us. One of the 'bents did this course last year in something like 42 minutes, so we were confident we wouldn't be seeing him again. Our start was smooth and straight (sans holder) and off we went. We rode probably 90% of the course in the 54x14--it's a flat course, and the wind just did not materialize today. We passed the tandem in front of us maybe 10 minutes out, and one of the recumbents after the turnaround (he tried to repass us, and I think that fired us up a little bit), but I didn't see much else along the way. Somewhere about 15K into it, I realized that the saddle was wider than the one I'm used to and was making my glutes sore. At about 25K, my hamstrings were calling my name in a way they never have before. But other aches and pains that developed during tandem racing in July were silent.

I used my favorite mantra to stay focused on, well, staying focused. We were smooth and steady from start to finish. There are no hills or corners so no reason for me to ever look up from admiring the paint (it was yellow) on the top tube. I knew the course well enough to sense when we were approaching the turnaround. I knew too when we were coming to the finish (a couple of bridges, then a couple of stands of trees, then "the town"), so I was prepared when Sal asked for more for a last kilometer of effort. The problem was that he was a little premature, and so we were winding it up from 1.5K out. Oh well, it was gonna hurt anyway, and I don't think there was a whole lot of acceleration left.

Our time was 56:03. As I was trying to come to terms with not breaking Carl and Kim's record, the chief referee and race organizer started hearing complaints that the turnaround was in the wrong place this year. The final determination was that we all raced 41K instead of 40. So while Sal and I didn't set a new course record, our average speed was faster than Carl and Kim's, and our 40K time was well under theirs. I'm thinking we should all be happy--and try for even better next year!

As I was basking in the glow of today's tandem fix, I fielded one question over and over: "how come you only raced once today?" Well, the women started right after the tandems, and it was physically impossible to race tandem and either my age group or my category. They would've let me start with the men 3s or 1-2s, but I couldn't see myself getting motivated for another 40K in which I would've probably been DFL. Better to do just one and have a ton of fun. Thanks for the fix, Sal!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Sorry, I'm just bad with names

Saturday, 5 August

Kele never spells them right. PruDog gives everyone a new one. Me, I just can't remember them.

So, I apologize. Don't take it personally. It doesn't (always) mean I have no clue who you are. (I love those WSBA frame numbers cuz I can go home and look you up.) But I've always been bad with names and just can't retrieve them with confidence from my grey matter.

A teammate has a theory about this. Men outnumber women in bike racing by about 10 to 1. So it's much easier for them to remember our relatively fewer names than for us to place all 800 of them. There's one corps of male riders I know pretty well: they all know me, I know all of them, and I know all of their names. I'm just not sure which name goes with which guy. Yet.

And I have another excuse. After my crash last fall, they didn't put my jaw back where it used to be and I still have speech problems. Not every word comes out being the one I intended. Most recently, to my horror, I was introducing someone near and dear--and another name rolled off my tongue. Same number of syllables, same vowel/consonant order, but definitely not the person I was standing next to.

So, if you ride up next to me and address me by name, and I don't quite reciprocate, I am very sorry and don't mean to be rude. I'm just a bit thick and hate the thought of being even ruder and getting your name wrong. I'm just thankful anybody talks to me at all.

And now I must draft my response to the personal ad in the Eugene Weekly from a SWM looking for a woman 40-49 "to ride tandem bicycle."

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Sunday, 23 July

The “queen stage” of the Co-Motion tandem stage race: Wolf Creek. More really hot weather. We tried to persuade them to start the race at 9:00 instead of 10:00, but they couldn’t swing it. I discovered this morning that a good night’s sleep doesn’t make up for how tired you get when you’ve raced 6 days out of the last 8—and also gone to work one day, flown across the country, driven across two states, and endured 90+ degree temps for most of those days. I’m tuckered.

At the start of the race, I reminded myself that this is one of my favorite rides on a bike. The Siuslaw River Road is beautiful, and the Wolf Creek climb itself is a nice steady climb, although they keep cutting more trees on that hill. There are two really nice descents, which I was looking forward to on the tandem.

We set out at a good clip; the rotating paceline kept the pace high. Before the first longish hill (distinct from the two early “rollers”), John W. said to us “we’ll block if you want to roll off the front.” So we did…and we got a gap…and then one of the other mixed tandems nixed it. But it was surprising how easily we got a gap of a couple of hundred meters. I was a little worried about the pretty tough one-mile climb just before the King Winery where we staged for the last event at the Willamette Valley Classic. But nobody pushed the pace too hard and the group stayed together. After that it’s flat and maybe slightly downhill for a long time, and we were cruising pretty fast.

About the only nonrace thing I noticed today was a sign along the Siuslaw road. The name on the mailbox was Bayles, and the name of the, um, manor was “Hey Bayles! Farm.” Okay, it was funny for a few seconds.

The thing about the Siuslaw road is that it all looks the same and I kept thinking the feed zone hill was just around the next bend. The mixed tandem from California (first place mixed GC) took off at this point and dangled about 300 meters off the front. We finally hit the feed hill (which goes on for a couple of miles before the feed zone), and the race blew apart. We were more or less part of a group that included the three male-male tandems and the mixed tandem from Oklahoma City (second place mixed GC). Some of the guys would drop behind us periodically then catch back on, but we all stayed within about 100 feet of each other.

The feed zone was a disaster. There were four feeders, and between the two of us on the bike, we managed to get just one bottle of water. I think I begged even, but the feeders were clearly inexperienced and just couldn’t get the bottles to our hands. So it’s a good thing we started the day with six bottles!

After the feed zone is a fun little descent with a tight corner at the bottom where we went waaaay across the center line last year. We knew it was coming, but some of the other bikes in our group did not, so everybody’s brakes got a good workout. We rolled along for a few more miles, then it was all business as we hit the Wolf Creek climb. The bottom bit is steeper but in the shade, then you roll out into clearcut and slog your way up three miles of climbing. Much to my amazement and Martin’s credit, we stayed with our group all the way to the top. I think the OK couple had a little gap at the top, but we knew he wasn’t too excited about the descent and we all came back together. In fact, we managed to pass all the other bikes on the descent except John and Dan. I don’t know if Martin was really tired from the exertion of the climb, or if the corners were tighter than he was expecting, but the descending was not very smooth or fun and took a lot of braking. John and Martin descend very differently, and I think it was tough for Martin to try to follow John; he said he couldn't ever just let the bike go. About three-quarters of the way down, we rode over a branch in the road, which I didn’t see until it flew up and whacked me in the shin and the hip. I’ve got quite a welt, but I had no idea what hit me until Dan and Martin told me after the race.

In the very last high-speed bend, one of the bikes from the B race (which started 15 minutes before us today) was over on the left side of the road against the guard rail. John (going 25 mph) said “are you OK?” and the answer was “no.” We learned after the race that they had slammed into the guardrail. The top tube of the bike separated behind the captain’s seatpost, and the two bottom tubes had new acute angles to them. The stoker hit his head on the guardrail and had to be “transported” but the CR said he was lucid, knew who he was, etc.

With that sobering sight, we set out up the five miles of false flat to the next descent. Martin was definitely fading at the top, but rallied when I told him it was only another 200 meters to the top. The other bikes in the group were intent on catching the Californians still just up the road (they never did), but we were third in GC going into the race, the two bikes ahead of us were right there on the road with us, and we sure didn’t have anything left to launch an attack and leave them all in our dust to gain the time to move up. Somewhere along in here we caught the pack from the B race and were able to mooch a small bottle of water from their follow car. Much of it went over our heads.

You think you’re nearly done (race-wise, if not physically) when you get to the bottom of the last descent, but there’s a special 6-mile loop that the A bikes get to do after they reach the finish line before they’re done. The first little hill is one I did in the cat 3 men’s race at Eugene Celebration last year, so I figured if I could stay with the 3s, we could stay with our group. And we did. But then you make a right turn, the road goes up again, and we were done (exactly where I got dropped from the 3s). It was like someone flipped a switch. Lights out. You couldn’t call the hill steep, but we just kept shifting down until we ran out of gears. And watched the group ride away from us. We figured we were pretty safe because we’d dropped everyone else before the big climb and had a pretty good time cushion, but in those last four miles we managed to lose four minutes. No worries, we held on to our third place in the final GC.

Coming in to the finish, Martin asked what it was like to pedal a tandem by myself—meaning that he felt so lousy (his legs were cramping) his feet were going around but not contributing much to our forward momentum. It wasn’t so bad on the flat, but the hills/rollers were brutal. The downhill bits were some of the only times I’ve seen Martin coast downhill and not pedal to keep the speed up.

At the finish, we had ice cream and water and watermelon and water and cookies and water. We poured water over our legs and feet. We drank more water. And then we got to take showers in the Crow High School locker rooms. Those didn’t keep us cool very long because it was so hot outside and there was no shade, but at least they got rid of the sunscreen/salt/dirt combo that was stuck to us.

An interesting part of this race is the cast of characters who come out to play. The doctors from Massachusetts who are married but not to each other and whose spouses give them a couple of weeks each year to go play on the tandem. The couple who came all the way from Germany: she’s German, he’s Irish. People who’ve never been in a bike race before, people who race all the time. Guys with hairy legs. People you know, people you don’t know. I found out afterward that at least one pair was calling us the "2M bike." The folks at Co-Motion are out in force to make sure the race is fun and safe, and the OBRA staff are relaxed and having at least as much fun as the riders.

Part of our prize was a free entry to the Ring of Fire race in Maupin in September. Martin wants no part of it, so I guess I have to start training for those long miles. But not until I catch up on some rest.

Martin's race report is here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Double the fun

Saturday, 22 July

Tandem time trial. Tandem crit. What could be more fun? Seriously. Fast and faster.

After the TT course at masters nationals, the one here at Co-Motion was about as exciting as riding the trainer. The bends and hills on the course were so gentle that I hardly noticed them. I just got down in my little aero bars, put my head down, and watched the top tube until Martin eased up for the turnaround. Lean a little, accelerate, and repeat the process until we crossed the finish line. As we approached the finish, Martin called out "300 meters." It must have been more like 600 meters, and I was expecting to get to stop pedaling for a long time before we actually did so there wasn't much power to my finish.

We thought we had a decent ride, but we got creamed. A little embarrassing when you're wearing your national champion jerseys. We did pass two bikes, so it wasn't all bad. A disk wheel--which some of the tandems had--would've been nice on this course today. We finished fifth, 1:11 behind the winners, and moved to fifth in GC.

So, crit queen that I am, I tell Martin our only hope to make up some time is to lap the field in the crit. We line up at the front and take off from the gun (did he think I was serious?!). I hear the captain next to us tell his stoker "nice start"--as we ride away from them. Sadly, it's a short-lived flyer, and they're all lined up on our wheel after a lap and a half.

It was a lively race, but different from last year's (the course was quite different). There were some easy sections, and I was able to drink/pour over myself about 3/4 of a bottle of water during the race (I don't think I ever got my hands out of the drops last year). There were two sketchy corners: in turn 1, the rear wheel slid a little on almost every other lap AND I usually got bounced off the saddle. Turn 4 just had a good bump that bounced me enough that I couldn't always pedal through the turn. And I think Martin clipped a pedal in turn 2 early on. On one lap, we all approached turn 3 in a giant clump and it took some oral negotiating to get all of us around the corner safely ("you guys go first").

After a while it became clear that no attacks were going anywhere (I think we had the biggest gap of the whole race on the first lap). With about 3 to go, Martin offered a lead-out to a couple from Corvallis--much to my amazement. There was an exchange of "are you serious?" and "I'm serious" (never mind what I thought!), so we set out to move us and them up to the front. There was some close passing of other bikes, and a couple of captains pushed off me as we went by. But we got them there and were at the front until a half-lap to go when everybody took off. Jim and Heather didn't take first place, but they were the first mixed bike across the line, so I guess we did some good.

I still have trouble seeing in a race, even when my head isn't buried. Last year I was freaked out when I knew there was a bike right in front of us and we must be really close to their wheel, but I couldn't see. This year that was no problem, but Martin said we were a little slow coming out of corners--mainly because I couldn't see to know that we weren't right on a wheel and needed to go harder. But every time someone attacked, we were able to get on a wheel and go with the train...eventually.

I felt so old after the race today when two other (women) stokers came up and asked me how old I am. They were really impressed (if that's the right word), but I felt like an old lady poster child. Never mind that there are MEN in the race older than I am!

My two stray thoughts for the day that came to me mid-race were, in the TT, that there isn't much I'd rather do in the way of racing than a tandem time trial and, in the crit, that there's another tandem crit at Gresham near the end of the season and I wonder what the course is like and who needs a stoker. Maybe all this heat (it was 96 at the end of the crit today) has addled my wits; I've always dearly loved tandem TTs, but looking for another tandem crit to race? What am I thinking.

We are staying at some less-than-swanky motel in Springfield, a town I've always thought of as strip-mall hell. But last night I went for my ritualistic little recovery spin and had a fantastic time. Symantec has a huge office building nearby, as does Peace Health. And the Royal Caribbean building is a pretty dramatic piece of architecture, as one-story office buildings go. The roads were long and empty, some just one lane through old orchards with giant hazelnut trees (I ALMOST went off-road to ride under the trees). I rode along flapping my arms like a bird, not minding a bit when it started to rain just a little (it was still about 80 degrees). It was so peaceful. And to prove the Springfield is as bike-friendly as Eugene, there was this cool button to push to get the traffic light to change just for me. You just roll up next to the curb (in the bike lane) and push the magic button. No more trying to find the d*^# sensor in the street, just push the button.

Martin's race report is here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A wee bit warm

Friday, 21 July

You know it’s hot when you get back to your hotel 2.5 hours after your race finished and your jersey number is still soaking wet (we’re using cloth numbers here, and only stokers have to wear them). You know it’s hot when you drive tomorrow’s TT course to check it out and the bank thermometer says 100 degrees (Martin says bank thermometers are about as reliable as bank clocks—this one had exactly the same time as the clock in his van). You know it’s hot when Martha drinks three whole bottles in a 2.5-hour race.

Apart from the temperature, it was a really hard race today. We did seven laps around Cottage Grove Lake, for a total of 61 miles. Our average speed was 40.5 kilometers per hour (Martin doesn’t believe in computers on his bikes, so I asked somebody and he turned out to be Canadian), or about 25 mph. The course had one significant hill and not much else of interest, except maybe that a lot of it on one side of the lake was in the shade.

We were, in a way, marked from the beginning, with lots of queries about when we’re going to bring out “those jerseys” and comments from people who know we won this race last year. I did some homework last night, comparing prologue times with last year’s results. But really, it didn’t matter; you just had to watch everybody and go with whatever tried to get away.

There were A LOT of attacks. Two of the mixed bikes and one male-male combination have really powerful jumps. And, we found out, they can do it going uphill just as well as they can on the flats. Until the last lap, it was just fast fast fast all the time. Once or twice on the hill, a couple of bikes got away, and we had to chase to catch back on. That’s what hurt the most: riding as hard as we could up the hill, and then having to work even harder through the following flat section and up another little incline.

Back in Seven Springs, Clint had a conversation with Martin about how it was okay—once in a great while—to ask me to work a little bit harder to close a gap or get over the top of a climb. Martin had almost never done this before, but now Pandora’s box has been opened, and there were a lot of appeals today. Honestly, I was better about looking around him and keeping track of who was ahead of us and anybody who might be trying to accelerate past us from behind. But the going would get hard, I’d be in the drops, and suddenly somebody would counterattack and we’d have to work even harder to stay on the group.

The next-to-last time up the hill, Martin’s legs started to cramp up. Ever tried to push a 175-pound guy up a hill without getting dropped? No, it wasn’t that bad, but it would be pretty accurate to say that I buried myself. And of course that hill was followed by a gazillion attacks as people tried to get away before the last lap. The last time up the hill was still steady pressure but we managed to stay comfortably in the group. Then the pace slowed and Martin drifted to the back (Martin never drifts to the back) and started asking for something to drink.

There’s a corner about 4 miles from the finish, and we had to stay to the right of the centerline going into and out of the turn, so people tended not to attack there. But I was sure waiting on the last lap for the jumps to start. After the corner, Martin got tired of the dawdling pace and burst up the side of the group and rode off the front. It wasn’t an attack by any means, but it did stir things up. The pace didn’t get too bad until about 2 miles to the finish, but the first effort was short and not really hard. About 1.5 kilometers from the finish, the pace picked up. One of the more aggressive couples broke a spoke on their front wheel in this effort (ha—serves you right for jumping so hard!) and everyone else went sailing past. The group strung out but stayed together over the finish line. I was hoping that the 3 male-male bikes would take the time bonuses for the top 3 placings, but a mixed bike won the race and got the 15-second time bonus. They won the prologue too, so now we are 24 seconds back, tied for fourth with a male-male bike.

Two great things about today’s stage. Given that it was around a lake, we all got to go swimming when we were done. It felt so good, I went in twice. And they provided ice cream for us! I’m not sure where ice cream falls in the post-race recovery meal plan, but it was pretty tasty. I wanted a nap in the sun too, but figured I’d had enough sun for one day.

Tomorrow is a double stage day: a 13-mile time trial and a 45-minute criterium. The time trial course is almost flat but not quite. We rode a great TT on a different course at this event last year: it finished up a 2-mile climb. Compared to the TT at Seven Springs, this is a real snoozer. It starts out with a long, straight section where you’ll probably be able to see the bike that started 3 minutes ahead of you (well, I won’t, but Martin will). And it should be even hotter by crit time.

Martin's race report is here.