Friday, June 30, 2006

What's in your blood?

Friday, 30 June

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the world's most ardent fan of pro bike racing. But still, I'm devastated by today's news from the Tour de France. It all reads like a bad April Fool's joke, three months late.... Maybe Tyler is getting his first good laugh in months....

Monday, June 26, 2006

Conversation starter

Sunday, 25 June

Where else but a bike race can a man start a conversation with a woman he barely knows with "is your butt sore after riding 100 miles"?

There were a few other entertaining features on the final day of the Elkhorn Classic, which involved 101 miles, 3 major climbs, 2 unrated climbs (each only about a mile long), and the epic 8-mile, 95-degree killer climb to the finish at the top of Dooley Mountain:

:) The ex-pro riding all day with the chainring tattoo (obviously, it does happen to the best of us).

:) The local cat 3/4 who said "clear" each time the ex-pro was ready to pull off the front of the rotating paceline (um, do you think she's done this before?).

:) The rider who, after the first climb, tried to slow down the race and watch and wait for her teammate to catch back on--who finally did about a mile before the second climb, at which time she immediately got dropped for good.

:) 15 women desperate for water, all trying to get the same bottle from the first feeder in the neutral feed zone, totally oblivious to the 25 other feeders spread out over the next 200 meters.

:) Goodies at the finish (which is 17 miles from the start) included generous supplies of bottled water, sliced watermelon and oranges and bananas, cookies no doubt made with love by every branch of the Hobson clan (and there are lots), pretzels, AND TWO KEGS OF BEER! Picture 400 hot, dehydrated bike racers at the top of an 8-mile climb and the end of a 101-mile race--sitting in the sun, drinking beer. Not very many bike races finish with that kind of party atmosphere.

In all fairness I have to admit that I was probably pretty entertaining in my efforts to put my clothes back on after our pee stop. Yes, bib shorts are comfortable, but without a full-zip jersey, they are quite the challenge. It wasn't so bad getting everything off, but trying to get the jersey back on before everyone else was a kilometer down the road brought an adrenaline rush. Especially because the jersey pockets were loaded with food, an empty bottle, and wrappers that I wouldn't want to strew in the sage brush.

And to those who would chastise me for being hypocritical in condemning men who pee in the parking lot at Pacific Raceways while I take part in race pee stops, all I can say is there wasn't a house within 10 miles and the landscape was populated by sage brush and a few cows. And certainly there were no porta-potties or flush toilets in sight. Uncle Sam and the Russians were no doubt watching from space, so we'll probably all show up on the Internet in a few days anyway. At least this year I managed not to get any burrs stuck to the inside of my shorts while they were down around my ankles!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Magical? Not so much

Saturday, 24 June

That magical combination I was hoping for in today's TT of downhill out, tailwind back turned out to be headwind out, uphill back. Semantic difference, I know, but it was a big one on the bike. I hardly got to ride in my 11 at all, and even the downhill bits didn't seem fast. Clint and others reported that the last 3K were really fast, but anything I have to ride in my 17 can't possibly be fast. I caught a few and was not passed, and I didn't have to either shift to my small ring or get out of the saddle on the hardest hill on the return. It was hard, but it's a good course, and more interesting than the old one here at Elkhorn.

We didn't get results until we turned up for the crit this afternoon, and my time wasn't so bad. Allison, whose TT times are usually really close to mine, proved that Philly and Nature Valley were great training and schooled me by 45 seconds. But there was no one in between us, so she got third and I was fourth. And I won stage money (thanks, Claire)!

I had a really hard act to follow in my crit. Never mind that I felt really tired and sleepy in the couple of hours before the start (not all naps are helpful). The masters raced right before the women, and Mick went off the front in the first two laps and stayed away to the finish. Clint bridged up, Mick's original break buddy got dropped, and Clint and Mick had 50 seconds on the pack by the finish. But for a $100 pack prime with 3 laps to go, they probably would've lapped the field.

So let's put a positive spin on my crit. I did better than I've ever done before on this course, and I only lost 20 more seconds in this stage than in the TT this morning. Compared to how much time most of us are going to lose tomorrow, a couple of minutes is a trifle.

And tomorrow should be interesting. In an effort to get the women's field to finish on the same day as the men (it's a 101-mile stage), we start first. That means 4 men's fields are going to pass us. We will have to be strategic about our pee break. It supposed to be 100 degrees in Portland tomorrow, so it will be a real cooker for us on the final 8-mile climb at about, what, 1:00 in the afternoon when the sun is blazing overhead. There are 2 feed zones, and it will be a day to drink a lot, even for me. I wonder how many layers of sunscreen applied at 7:30 a.m. it takes to still be effective at 1:00?

Friday, June 23, 2006


Friday, 23 June

Funny thing happened in the race today. Okay, it wasn't so funny for the cat 3 rider who crashed and broke his collarbone. He hit a turtle. Not the kind you normally find on a crit course, but a real live creature who was out for a stroll on a summer afternoon. No word on the fate of the turtle. [Late addition: Turns out the crashee was a Second Ascent rider from Seattle, and the locals are baffled as to what a turtle was doing out there because the only turtles in these parts are in pet shops in Boise.]

Nothing so interesting in the women's race. We started out slow, which was fine with me because I had a long massage this morning and was hoping to spin everything out before the racing got serious. Some woman would periodically punch it, not to attack and get away, but just (I think) to move the pace up about 14 notches. We had our pee stop after the town of North Powder (it seems like a ghost town every year when we ride through) and then a pretty hard tempo up the never-ending climb that doesn't even get mentioned in the race bible. The descent into Union was very relaxed and the ride out of town along the river was pretty mellow. For a while. About 10K before "The Climb," the tempo went up and I thought I was going to have to put it back on my big ring. But spinning was my philosophy today, and I held on to that 34 front chain ring even when the tempo went over 20 mph.

One woman jumped not far into the main part of the climb, Alison was with her for a while and then wasn't, and then the chasing group of us just got smaller and smaller until there was a Tamarack rider and me. I couldn't hold her wheel through the feed zone, which was at the very top of the hill. Over the top and down the first sweeping turns and then the stairstep rollers up and up. I could see the two riders ahead of me but clearly was not making time on them. In another couple of miles, Heather Albert came flying past me like I was standing still--and then the train of about a dozen riders hot on her wheel. Between the technical descending and the crosswind, I just could not latch on to that train. Chase chase chase. Ouch. Never got on to that group, but it pretty much exploded in the last climb to the finish and I caught some of the fallout.

Nearly everyone today who raced is suffering from heat exhaustion and/or dehydration. I had goose bumps for a while before the finish. Every recovery trick in the book is being pressed into service tonight. Tomorrow is such a different day: TT and crit. But more wind and sunshine. Hopefully no turtles, though.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Baker City

Thursday, 22 June

I love Baker City. It's a big enough small town that you can't see from one end to the other. But it's a small enough big town that you can't get lost. The town sits in a valley between two mountain ranges, so the scenery is amazing. And you're a very long way from anywhere.

We rode out to the new Elkhorn time trial course this afternoon. It looks like the first mile of the course is downhill!! Carl was a little scared at the prospect of so many people going 50 mph at 30-second intervals. I'll use every cog on my cassette, but I think the 11 and 12 are going to be the favorites. It should be painful but magical: downhill out, tailwind back. Of course, the way you just "ride" a course is a lot different from how you race on it, so I'll probably fail to see anything magical about it on Saturday morning.

The forecast calls for sunshine all the way through Sunday, and I'm looking forward to the fifth year (my fourth--I had to skip it last year) of the Elkhorn Classic.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bodily functions

Thursday, Ides of June

Okay, folks, remember all those things your mom told you not to do in public? That rule is in full force at bike races, too. You surely learned some common sense growing up; show the rest of us that you still have some left. Recent offenders include two men at Pacific Raceways this week:

To the guy in the 4-5s race who could not ride his bike in a straight line while spitting: unless you have some monster sinus infection (in which case you should probably not be on your bike), I can't figure out why you need to spit in the middle of a race. If you think you have to spit, at least figure out how to make your bike go straight when you turn your head. But please don't practice it in a race.

And to the male who had to pee in the parking lot, in spite of the plethora of porta-potties placed all over Pacific Raceways, I'm not sure what justice to wish upon your head. (There must be a great pun here involving the size of your "pee brain.") If marking "your" territory is part of your prerace ritual, please find another sport. You may be invited to do that anyway.

After those insults, I guess I'd better be on my best (or, at least, least offensive) behavior at the next few races....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Tuesday, 13 June

Hey all you smack talkin' guys, arguing about underperforming teams and overrepresented teams and "diverse" teams and all, I didn't see any of those aforementioned teams crossing the line first in the 1-2-3 race at Pacific Raceways tonight (or at Ballard on Saturday, for that matter). Way to go, Trevor (and Ron) (and Kenny)!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Paradise revisited

Sunday, 11 June

When I was down to the last two bites of my piece of chocolate cream pie in Eatonville this afternoon, I remembered yesterday's issue of flab.

But I deserved some flab-inducement today. Mick and I did a tour of the south side of Mt. Rainier: Ashford, Paradise, Stevens Canyon, Grove of the Patriarchs, Packwood, Skate Creek, and back to Ashford. I had never done this loop in this direction, and it is the only way to go! Less traffic on the busy stretch up to Paradise in the morning (waaay better than coming down with the tourist hordes in the afternoon). Almost no traffic on Stevens Canyon or 123 because Cayuse Pass is still closed. And Skate Creek from south to north is so beautiful you almost forget you're climbing (it's a 12-mile climb, so that's a pretty good trick).

We lucked out with the weather; the mountain was completely concealed by clouds when we got back to Ashford, but it was warm and sunny there. It was cold on the descent down Stevens Canyon (Reflection Lakes are still covered with ice and snow) but nearly 80 degrees in Packwood, and it was nice to ride in such warm sunshine.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Saturday, 10 June

Women store fat in different places than men. I used to work with a woman who wore long sleeves all summer because she was embarrased by how much fat she carried in her arms. I vowed not to let myself reach that state. So when I noticed a few years back on my TT bike that the fat in my forearms, um, jiggled when I rode, I figured I was headed in the wrong direction. But then I happened to see that Lance Armstrong suffered the same affliction when I watched a TT in the Tour that year. The pudgy jokes were all about Jan, not Lance, so I was hopeful that I didn't have so much to worry about.

Today Martin and I raced in the Oregon state tandem road race championship in Elmira (I think), west of Eugene. The course (which I last raced on 6? years ago) featured a "short, steep" climb (which was actually about a kilometer long, maybe 4-5% at the bottom and a healthy 8% at the top) and a "long, gradual" climb, which was about 2 kilometers long and maybe 4-5% most of the way. It was an 11-mile circuit we did 4 times. The descent off the "short, steep" climb was wicked fast: one tandem reported that they hit 52 mph, so we probably were somewhere in that ballpark.

So, going downhill at 52 mph on the back of a tandem, I now have no worries and plenty of time to notice that the fat in my upper arms jiggles when we're just rolling down a hill. I clench my muscles as tight as I can. Apparently I don't have enough muscle because it just keeps wobbling in the wind. WTF are all those hours in the gym for?? With nationals just a month away, clearly it's time for me to go on Kerry's Starbucks-and-water diet. And no, I don't have any delusions that I'm "fat," and yes, I remember that Leslie recently accused me of having arms so skinny that they are an "anatomy lesson." And the XS arm warmers I got for TRIA are loose and sag around my biceps/triceps. Maybe I should just wear long sleeves all the time so I can't notice my fat wobbling. Oh yeah, that was the problem/solution I vowed to avoid.

There was a race going on, even while I was having personal image issues. First time up the short hill we're neutral because the cat 4 men are catching us, and still I think we dropped 3 bikes. After the next time up that hill (also neutral--we played leapfrog with those guys until they finished at the end of our second lap), I think we were down to 6 bikes. And then 4. And then 3. The third lap was moderate up the hills because we figured it was going to come down to the last time up the last hill. And it did. We rode together pretty steady until 100m to the finish and then they accelerated and we did not. So we finished third.

Don't let anyone tell you stokers just sit on the back of the bike and confront their deepest fears of accumulating body fat and forget to pedal; my legs are more tired tonight than they were after the first road stage at Mt. Hood where I was racing/keeping up with professional women cyclists. I guess I should go to bed, eh, and stop blathering--I mean, blogging.

Martin's race report (sans flab) is here.
Results are here.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Stirrin' it up

Friday, 9 June

Current thinking apparently holds that you need to say shocking and offensive things to drive readers to your blog. I'm not out to offend any more than I have to, although I could have some fun with the spelling habits of various bloggers (especially the team manager who misspells the name of his own team). Instead, I'll skip the tabloid commentary and jump straight to the "inquiring minds want to know" department:

Next Saturday, 17 June, is the day of the Marymoor Little 100, one of the more spectacular bike racing events in the Northwest ("spectacular" here meaning "lots of people making spectacles of themselves"). Reliable sources indicate that these charming undies will grace the, ah, attire of one of those same spelling-challenged bloggers (whose offenses include "slams on his breaks").

So come out to Marymoor next Saturday afternoon and watch for Mighty Mouse to make his appearance. You might be shocked and you might be offended, but you'll surely have something to blog about!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Saturday, 3 June

Sometimes when I'm sick and--at the most fundamental level--all I want is my mommy, the very next-best thing is a kitty. Lucky me, I found Cooper here today at the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort. When I finally dragged myself out of bed at 10:30 a.m., I came up to the lodge to get my wifi fix and spooked Cooper away from his food dish. On my way out, he didn't bolt quite so far, and I finally got close enough to pet him. Then he was butter in my hands, rolling on my feet, kneading his paws into my leg, and distracting me from my less than happy state. Purrs are very therapeutic.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Friday, 2 June

It's been a long time (at least that I can remember) since I didn't start a stage at a race. (Bill W. was the CR then, too, but I don't think this is his fault.) I felt awful when I got up, breakfast didn't make it better, and I thought I was going to get carsick on the way to the start. I could've ridden the first 8 miles of today's course (ALL downhill), but then I would've been looking for a ride somewhere in the 8-mile climb back up to the Cooper Spur resort. And the race did that circuit 3 times. Which is worse: DNS or DNF?

I can't say much about the scenery up there on the mountain because it was either raining or foggy or both. Riders were covered in dirt and muck when they finished. Nobody wanted a bottle in the feed zone. "This is hell" were the words from a TGH rider, and even one of the very toughest riders in the women's peloton almost cracked and had a meltdown. I never know what exactly to say to riders as they suffer their way through a race where I'm standing by the side of the road. Well, not completely true: I told Adrian H. he rocked the second time he came through the feed zone in a 2-man break. He looked good (wet, dirty, in pain, but strong), but they were getting reeled in on the third pass.

So now I don't get to do the TT from windy hell or the crit from crit hell. I hope I feel better by Sunday so that I can ride that course, which is supposed to be heaven and hell on a bike.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Craziest thing I ever...

Thursday, 1 June

An incomplete sentence, maybe, but those words from another rider pretty well summed up the best bit of race entertainment (?) in the women’s peloton at Hood today. At the end of the first of our two laps, a woman dropped back in the field (not off the back, mind you) and started to roll down her shorts. She eventually had them pulled down below her crotch, positioned herself off one side of the bike, and I would assume she peed but the view and the thought of what was to come made me move up faster than anything has ever motivated me before. I’ve been in races where women have peed on the bike, but I had never seen the drop-the-drawers approach. The fact that she was able to keep pedaling (intermittently) and stay on the back of the pack suggests that she has practiced this before.

The other surprising thing about today’s race was that most of the field stayed together. Our Columbia Hills stage was much the same as the Wasco tandem race plus about 10 extra miles. The climb was the same, and oh did it hurt this time. The field got all strung out the first time up but everyone eventually caught back on. There were a couple of exposed descents and some 90-degree right turns in the new section. But the two much-talked-about features were a “heinous”/“acute” right turn and tricky hairpins in the last 5 miles. The acute turn was so heinous that the pack slowed down and navigated it carefully. The pitch in the apex of the turn was probably 20%, and there was gravel for added thrills. But it didn’t split the field. The hairpins were down a very gradual descent (1%?) and weren’t hairpins, just a twisty road—with a headwind. We all checked them out the first time around, thinking it would be a sweet place to get away and be out of sight going in to the finish.

I thought I was really smart on the first lap for knowing the course and tried to move up near the front in the half mile before the climb. But it was REALLY windy up there, and about half the field had the same idea. So fighting for position lost out to fighting the wind and I started up the hill in the last quarter of the field. I abandoned any notions of good position before the second climb, but the wind had picked up, which favored those of us on the back. I thought there would be attacks in the last 10 miles, what with those technical turns and fast descents and some painful little rollers. But no, we were all still together even after the acute corner. There were no attacks in all those twisty bends, but the speed really ramped up. I found an experienced wheel I knew and stuck to it. Things eased up a bit with 2K to go. I was waiting for an all-out explosion in the last kilometer, but it never materialized. I even moved up in the sprint. And (dare I say it?), the high-speed slightly technical finish was pretty fun. Several women said they didn’t like it, but I wasn’t one of ‘em!

This is the first time I can remember that I’ve raced with a rolling enclosure and got to use the whole road for the race. It was great. And it was the biggest field (72) I’ve been in for a very long time. There were a few times when our moto official moved up through our pack with the photographer behind him on another motorcycle. That wasn’t fun the first time (although it helped me move up), but we figured it out. The dead porcupine feature was gone from the shoulder. There was some interesting bike handling and a few choice words. Mostly, though, it was a pretty mellow race. Even the top of GC recognizes that the topography is what makes this race. Starting tomorrow.

Stage results are here.