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.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Life is good

Thursday, 20 July

I just finished a bike race and I'm watching the Tour and eating chocolate. And I'm not at home, so I can't feel guilty about not mopping the kitchen floor. Life is good.

Tonight was the prologue of the Co-Motion tandem stage race in Eugene. It's a 1-mile uphill time trial on Skinner Butte, home to many a prologue in Eugene bike racing. You've heard of decreasing radius turns; well, this is an increasing gradient climb. The first part of the course is mostly flat, then you hang a sharp left turn and go over the bottom shoulder of the butte (this hill was used in a Eugene Celebration crit!), and then keep winding your way to the top. Our race was complicated at this point by a handful of bikes that had started before us coming back DOWN the hill, straight at us. I was really surprised to hear Martin say something, then jerk the bike to the right to get out of their path. Then I saw the other bikes. The last 200 meters are quite steep, and Martin was pleased that we didn't bog down there in our big chain ring this year. In fact, he had time and energy and breath to keep calling for more and telling me we were almost there. That much I knew, thanks!

One good thing about small races is that results don't take very long. We were the third fastest bike and beat all but one of the male-male teams. We are currently 9 seconds behind first place.

There's a great friendly atmosphere at this race, for the most part. The couple who bought Martin's old tandem frame are here, racing on "his" bike. There are some folks from Seattle, but also from California and Massachusetts. The folks from MA come here every year for their summer vacation. The only other race they do on their tandem is the Mt. Washington Hillclimb. Ouch! Nicole and Craig and their little one stopped by the parking lot before our start and it was fun to see them. Craig was riding Nicole's old bike with baby trailer in tow, and Nicole was riding Craig's fixed gear bike. That's Eugene!

Tomorrow is some huge number of laps around a reservoir. The course rolls a little bit, but there are more laps than interesting road. Weather reports range from 95 to 105 degrees, so it's sure to be toasty. I'm packing my swimsuit in my race bag!

Martin's race report is here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brutal, again

Tuesday, 18 July

The first lap of our tandem road race on Monday afternoon was so fast and so hard, I was sure my legs would explode somewhere in lap 2 (of 7 laps) and we would get dropped and pulled from the race (which is what they did to anyone more than about 5 minutes down—including eventual medalists). All the tandems (25 of ‘em) started together. We were seeded by category, and one of the 90+ mixed bikes behind us attacked before they even got to the start line. They shot up the hill that begins this circuit and strung out the field. But I guess they had some trouble getting onto their big chain ring because they were off the bike fiddling with the chain when we went by after the road flattened out.

As a concession to either the high temps (90) or the difficulty of the course (same as my individual road race on Sunday) or both, our race had been shortened from 8 laps to 7. I had tried my best to recover from Sunday’s race, but I was still tired and my legs felt really heavy. Our warm-up consisted of riding up and down the rows of the empty parking lot by the lodge. At least riding slow and flat wasn’t painful. We were lucky to have new national champion Franz in the feed zone throughout our race to pass up lots of water. And after a few laps of the best electrolyte rehydration drink, water is all you really want.

The ballistic first lap shelled more than half the field. We did the 5.5-mile circuit with 800 feet of climbing in just 15 minutes. Things settled a little on the second lap as the faster male-male bikes rode away. Our second lap was 17 minutes, which felt a lot better. Unfortunately, one bike in our age group rode away on the climb on the main road and we just could not bring them back (the gap went over 2 minutes during the race but was just over 40 seconds by the finish). Eventually we settled into a group with 2 other bikes in our category plus a male-male tandem that yo-yoed on and off the back of the group.

It was a good race. I was better about trying to look around Martin on the climbs to make sure we were on the wheel in front of us and didn’t need a micro acceleration. At a couple of points, he had to ask for (and, I think, got) a little more as we crested a hill. The descents were fun, although I was a little disappointed to find out after the race that our max speed was only 52 mph. One of the descents was a head-down, pedals-level straight shot; as I looked down, it seemed that the bike was perfectly still while the road was just a blur underneath. And I think I even did okay with the technical bit of descending—Martin never once had to chant his “lean lean lean,” and whenever we were on the front through this section, we managed to get a small gap…just in time to fly at 30+ mph over some really rough pavement that bounced me off the saddle sometimes (this is challenging when someone else is forcing your feet to continue to go around with the pedals).

The tactician on a tandem is pretty much the captain because there aren’t many opportunities for a private meeting to discuss the options. But at the start of the last lap, on the section of the course where Martin usually got his gel packet delivered (opened) into the palm of his hand, he asked if I agreed that it would be best to wait for the last climb to “go.” The only other possibility was to make the most of the technical descent, but he thought the half-mile drag after it was too hard to stay away. So we got to the front before the last climb, set a comfortable tempo, then went hard up the last, steeper section. We had a gap for a while, but another bike was able to accelerate past us. So we were second in our “sprint” and third overall in our category.

I guess that ballistic first lap was just the warm-up I needed because after that I was never in danger of blowing up. My legs even felt pretty good. On one climb, I thought Martin was done because it felt like he was pedaling in squares. It turned out that he was pedaling easy because the group wasn’t going hard, but I was just in my “it’s a hill, it must be hard” mode and was trying to force things without realizing it. I was not as “done” at the end of the tandem race as I had been after my individual race—steadier pace and cooling temps may have helped. Maybe getting on the podium the second time helped too.

It was also a fun race because of the people we were riding with. They were all friendly before and after and even during the race. The captain of the bike that outsprinted us thanked me for tiring myself out by racing the day before—they had seen me race, I didn’t tell them. The stoker who won our category was so excited about their win that she was in tears on the podium, with her little good luck teddy bears sticking out of her pockets. She told us after the race that I look scary fast and tough/aggressive on a bike. Huh? About Martin, she just pointed at him and said “and he looks…well, just look at him.”

So, for all the complaints about the courses at Seven Springs, they treated me well: 3 trips to the podium and a stars-and-stripes jersey. The courses were fun. I remember the roller-coaster thrills more than the pain of the cumulative climbing. I really was stoked about all of my rides. Tandems were the first time trial and the last road race, which meant we spent too much time sitting around. I think one other tandem rider may have done as many events as I did, but I have to do some research to find out if anyone did more.

Martin's race report is here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sad but satisfied

(I have no clue what day or date it is any more)

[Congrats to Clint and Dave who were silver medalists and animators in their respective road races today. It's a privilege to be part of the bond and camaraderie among NW riders here in Seven Springs.]

Today was my individual road race here at masters nats, the second event I’m doing just because I happen to be here for the main event (the tandem races). Given that I was overly rested and overly bored, I should have been motivated for a good, hard race.

That’s exactly what it was. I found out what I can do about as well as the strongest women in my field (climb), almost as well as the most fearless (descend—surprisingly), and what I guess I have to work on in my winter training (that’s my secret).

We rode 8 laps of a 5.5-mile circuit that had something like 850 feet of climbing per lap (do the math—that’s a lot of climbing in not too many miles). You started climbing right from the start line, dropped down a long gradual descent, went up a short little hill, down the fastest and straightest descent on the course, up a long ol’ climb, a hard right turn into a housing development that turned into lots of fun sweeping turns at pretty good speeds, then a longish painful drag, short descent, then a super fast descent (I consistently hit 45 mph on this section), and then the long 1.5-kilometer climb back up to the start/finish line.

I think we had 16 starters in our race. By lap 3 we were down to 8. It was a real girlie race, though. The first two laps we pretty much soft-pedaled up the climbs; maybe everyone was just looking at each other or just trying to save their legs. The funniest thing was these two Velo Bella riders who would sit in the group until we came to the descents. Then they’d launch off the front, get a gap, go screaming off down the hill…and then promptly stop pedaling when the road went up again. It was like clockwork watching them do this before the most technical descent on each lap (I have to find amusement in a race or the suffering gets to be too much).

On lap 4 or 5 on that long ol’ climb, a woman who is registered with one team but racing in the jersey of another put in a ferocious attack and I got popped. So did several others. Eventually I was racing for fifth place—the last podium spot—and I had the “virtual” medal for a while on the road. But the other woman with me sat on my wheel most of the last two laps. The last time up the climb to the finish, I thought I was saving something for when she would surely punch it near the top. But I didn’t save enough, or there wasn’t anything left, and I pretty much just watched her go. Clint, Dave, and Martin were all there about 300 meters from the finish, and if the volume of their words and encouragement could have made my legs go faster, I would have gone flying past her.

It was a hard race, no question there. But, for someone who doesn’t like going around in circles (even 5.5-mile ones), I thought it was a fun course. It was much better in person than it has looked on “paper” for the last four months on the race website. The climbs aren’t steep, you can rest on the gradual descent (at least the way old ladies race it), and the technical descending bit was something to look forward to each lap.

So I’m sad not to get on the podium, sad to disappoint all the people who thought I could do better, but really satisfied that I rode the very best I could in a good race. I even surprised myself in some of the corners and descents and being able to push it over the tops of the climbs.

Now it’s on to an drink-eat-sleep cycle to recover for the same course tomorrow on the tandem.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Rest day no. 3

Saturday, 15 July

Another rest day (OK, this is masters nationals, so we’re all old, but how much rest do we need?). Random activities today generated random thoughts.

Kenny won his road race—in the rain. He did two laps of the “long course”; when they came through at the end of the first lap, somebody asked me if Kenny rode much in the rain. I tried not to laugh too hard. He was in a four-man break and while everyone else looked like the sprint was really hard, he made it look effortless. Well done!

“Neutral support” in the feed zone at this race means there are some coolers with Gatorade set up on a table by the side of the road. There are paper cups there too, so I guess you hope somebody might hand you up a cup of Gatorade? The “team feed zone” is about 100 feet long and was absolute chaos for the sold-out men’s 30-34 and 35-39 fields (many of whom DNSed in this weather) with so many team feeders squeezed into such a short distance.

Three not-attached-to-each-other people plus six bikes (one of them a tandem) plus all the bike cases and two wheel cases in a one-bedroom condo is quite a living experience.

The wildflowers here are beautiful. There are daisies and black-eyed susans and vetch and a bunch of flowers I don’t recognize. We (no, I) have seen blackcaps growing wild in several places along the side of the road.

We are out in the boonies in the woods, so I figured there would be a lot of deer. But we (no, I) have seen lots of vegetable gardens without fences, so deer must not be a problem. We did see one, dead, by the side of the road, so they are here. Clint and I saw a smallish brown mammal that we could not identify. Sort of like a marmot, but in the grassy verge on the edge of the woods. How big are groundhogs?

I am convinced that the number one pastime in rural Pennsylvania is mowing the lawn. Everyone has giant golf-course type greens surrounding their houses. Even double-wide trailers have expansive lawns. They’ve had more than three inches of rain here so far in July, so the grass must grow really fast. Maybe it’s how they keep the kids busy all summer—send them out on the John Deere for the afternoon.

I went for a little bike ride today that only made me want to go for a longer ride, but tomorrow is race day, so no fun for me. Well, that's not exactly true. We went on the “Alpine Slide” that is 1980 feet long with an elevation loss of 325 feet. You get to ride the chairlift up and zoom down on a sled on a pseudo-luge track. You can buy a 4-ride pass or pay $4 a ride. As soon as we got off the sleds at the bottom, I was ready to go again. No lines the second time, and it was great. Clint was wise and cautious and figured it wasn’t the thing to do the afternoon before a big race, but heck, what else was I going to do today? It was fun. And I didn’t even lose my flipflops going up the chairlift.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Rest day no. 2

Bastille Day

Another day of doing not much here in Seven Springs. Martin and I did three laps of our road race course on the tandem, figuring out gear selection and lines to take on the descents (there are two that are fast and fun). We then headed out doing the long course backward to meet up with Clint. We got to go down a hugely fun, long descent. Problem was that we met up with Clint about 3 miles later and had to turn around and slog our way all the back up that climb to the resort. And then once we're on resort property, it's another 1.5-mile climb back up to our condo.

After lunch, I hopped on my single bike and rode the more technical of the two descents, partly to actually SEE the road and partly to work out some of the tandem aftereffects. The descents on the course and getting to and from it were no problem (control of my single bike is often an issue after riding the tandem), but that was an awful lot of climbing for 8 miles of an easy spin. We are going to pack the bikes into our "car" tomorrow and drive to somewhere with flatter roads so we can just have an easy day before Clint and I have our individual road races on Sunday. I keep trying to remind myself that all this climbing is training for the Co-Motion tandem stage race next week.

Martin is bored stiff because he doesn't race again until the tandem road race on Monday at 4:30. He sees no reason to save his energy or save his legs (although he did have a long poolside stint this afternoon in a lounge chair). We are going to luge tomorrow after our bike ride. It sounded like a lot of fun once I found out you get your own brake! I'm a little worried about falling on my face when I get off the chairlift at the top, though.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rest day

Thursday, 13 July

Nothing exciting on the agenda today in Seven Springs. We headed over to Kevin's B&B to watch the Tour, went shopping in the metropolis of Somerset, came home, tried to second-guess the weather, and went for a little ride. We prerode the "long" road course, which I never get to race on. My rule was to ride such an easy gear all day that my legs never hurt. It was a good challenge on a course that features about 4000 feet of climbing, but I managed. Some of the course is on nice little country roads like this one, but a bunch of it is on big ol' county roads, complete with big red pick-ups that don't want to give you an inch. At least we had a dry two-hour window!

Momentum is your friend

Wednesday, 12 July

This was my double stage day at masters nationals: first the tandem time trial (30K at 9:25), then my individual event (21K at 16:57).

Just as we set out on our warm-up ride on the tandem, it started to rain. Hard. We only had about 15 minutes to warm up before we had to report to the queue at the start line, so we rode up and down the road (getting soaked through), then went back to get checked in. Then we stood around, chatted with a couple of other tandem pairs, stretched, and it was time for one of our biggest races of the year.

Martin had not seen the course, and I think Clint and I made his eyes (ears?) glaze over as we tried to talk him through the whole 30K last night. He did remember the hairpin and the sharp corner/fast descent down to the one-lane bridge, but everything else was just chatter. Kenny’s advice as we were about 5 minutes from starting was to carry all the momentum we could through each descent/ascent transition.

Without much warm-up, we hurt going up the first climb. You think it’s a signifcant climb—until you get to the next one. But first you have to go around a hairpin bend where the winner of the elite men’s TT went off the road in a preride. We passed the bike ahead of us on that second climb, which made us feel pretty good. Martin said he was breathing really hard there, but so were they! (Oh yeah, so was I.)

The rest of the ride in the park and out into farm country was uneventful. In a bit of wishful thinking, Martin saw a corner marshall at the first intersection on the straight road and hoped it was the turnaround. But no, we had about another 3K to go before it was time to turn back.

Coming back hurt some more. We had to really dig deep in the granny gear to get up a couple of the rollers. There’s a big long descent going back as you head for the one-lane bridge, but it was over in very short order on the tandem. We kind of bogged down coming back to the county road that leads back to the park entrance, and it was raining fiercely at that point.

There’s a nice descent as you come into the park, a climb that seemed shorter on the tandem up to a park office, then a long, long descent that eventually transitions into the hairpin. I was surprised to feel Martin engage the brakes on this section—it’s where most folks hit 50 on their single bikes, so we were surely traveling faster than that (Martin is shaking his head no). And we carried our momentum so far into the hairpin that it was almost as technical going uphill as down!

About 1K from the finish, there’s a sharper/faster-than-you-expect bend where Martin couldn’t see for about 100 meters (which he told me after we finished). There was a sudden pull on the brakes there! We just powered up the last little hill before the gradual drop to the finish, straight through the chutes and under the banner. We had passed two bikes but had no idea how we did. (I’ll tell you later.)

Then it was back to our condo and every single recovery technique I’ve ever heard of. Martin and Clint went back to the TT course for Clint’s race, and I was supposed to sleep. But that didn’t happen. Ten minutes on the trainer and, when Martin sent me a text message to say the roads were drying out, 2.75 miles spinning around the adjoining parking lots on my road bike to try to remember how to handle a single bike.

For my single TT, I got to go down the start ramp. Of course the holder never holds you perfectly straight and I VERY nearly collided with the start clock at the bottom of the ramp. But with one expletive, I averted disaster and was on my way. It had stopped pouring just before my start, but there was still thunder in the area. The male companion of one woman in my age group summed up how to ride the course: carefully, but not too carefully.

I was too careful. The bike would’ve done more than I asked/let it. All I really wanted was a nap and it took me a while to get going well. I chose tuck (which kept my hands on the brakes) over aero bars a bit too often, and brakes instead of not braking way too often. I was surprised how often I had to get out of the saddle (we didn’t on the tandem). I had to go up two of the three hills we did in the granny gear on the tandem, but my lowest gear wasn’t nearly that low and my legs HURT. Every time I felt mostly miserable I reminded myself that this was national championships and would chant “PO-DI-UM” in my brain to try to make myself go that little bit faster—or at least not go slower.

I think I passed three or four riders, but they were all men in an older age group and thus not who I really wanted to pass. My 30-second woman took off like a shot from the start and I never saw her again. I didn’t see my 60-second woman, either, so I was getting worried that I was riding at a snail’s pace—but nobody caught me (except a moto, which gave me a brief scare when I thought it was a rider!).

So. Results. Martin and I won the masters mixed 70+ tandem race by 16 seconds. Not bad considering that our combined ages are 88 (the next higher category is 90+), which meant we were racing against folks a lot younger than us. We had no idea what to expect, and certainly didn’t expect to win. The main reason I did my individual time trial was because I thought I stood a reasonably good chance of making the podium. And I only JUST barely did: I was 1.4 seconds ahead of the woman in sixth place.

I learned/reaffirmed something today: it is really important to go as hard as you can every second in a time trial because sometimes things come down to a very small margin. And I surprised a whole bunch of people today by riding (and winning!) on the back of a tandem, in the rain, on a very hilly, technical course, with someone who had not ridden or driven the course and not having a single moment of fear or panic.

After winning elite nationals on this course last week, Kristin Armstrong said it was the hardest time trial she had ever done. That’s because TTs have become nearly by definition flat, straight, and boring. This was a really, really hard course, but it was so much more fun than powering along at a constant heart rate on some straight road. This is a thinker’s course: you have to pay attention the whole time. All those mantras I usually need never came into play (except “PO-DI-UM”). To get to race it twice was almost as good as the bling.

Martin's race report is here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Regional dialects

Monday, 10 July

Clint and I were out preriding the TT course here in Seven Springs this afternoon when we came across this sign. I guess it translates as a statement about the condition of the road, but it might as well be a menu for a diner up the way. We had to drive 20 miles today to buy beer (only by the case, from a "distributor" in this state), so who knows how they like their chips!

The course was an absolute blast to soft pedal on a road bike. The TT itself will be a different matter, though: lots of time out of the saddle, out of the aerobars, in the small chain ring, wondering why I don't have a 34 small chain ring on my TT bike.... The road is never straight and never flat. There is one 180-degree hairpin and a couple of places where you can't see over the crest of a hill. The road goes every which way, so sometimes it's a headwind, sometimes a crosswind, and, I guess, sometimes a tailwind. There are three substantial climbs, but you can settle into those; the rest of the time the course just rolls and rolls.

It's a scenic course. The first and last 4 miles are through a beautiful forest in a state park, then you break out into rolling farm country. Green, lots of trees, kind of like Co. Wicklow but nothing like Co. Donegal for which a nearby town is named.

Tomorrow we preride it on the TT bikes, in the aero bars (where my nerves allow).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ian and Kenny !!

Thursday, 6 July

Mick was reading to me last night some online report about "who to watch" in the time trial at elite national championships today. One of the men mentioned was someone he'd beaten in a TT, so he didn't give much credence to the story. Then, on the trainer this morning, I was thinking that Ian McKissick was the guy to watch--along with my teammate Kenny Williams, of course.

So it was pretty sweeeeet to find out that Ian won and Kenny was third! Way to go, guys! Congrats to Ian on his new jersey. He'll be watched for sure in the road race on Saturday. What a bittersweet year for everyone at Recycled Cycles.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Vinaccio Coffee

Tuesday, 4 July

I capped off the long holiday weekend with a 91-mile spin out to the lovely 'burb of Sultan, known to most as the last bastion of civilization on the way to skiing at Stevens Pass. On this holiday, the bakery (creators of the best donuts on any bike ride) was closed, so we explored a little and came to the Vinaccio Coffee Company. What an amazing place in the middle of the Sky Valley! A little bit of coffee culture in the midst of pickups-that-run-cyclists-off-the-road country. Most of their beans are fair trade and organic, and they roast their own. You just about stumble over the bags of beans stacked around the shop. Comfy chairs, tables outside, free internet access--what else do you need for a coffee stop in the middle of your summer (or winter!) ride?

And the stopping wasn't the only sweet part of this ride. The raspberries on the Tualco Loop Road were super fragrant in the humid sunshine, the stretch of the Ben Howard Road along the Skykomish River was magnificent, riding through the narrow wooded sections of the Old Pipeline Road was tranquil, and it was just a great day to be out and about on a bike!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A better example

Sunday, 2 July

Today I was schooled. A friendly and gracious professional woman cyclist, Kim Anderson of T-Mobile, paid a brief visit this weekend to Oregon bike racing. On Saturday, she very impressively rode 7 of the 9 laps (80 of 100 miles) of the pro-1-2 men's state road race championship. There were fewer than 20 men left in the race when she chose to pull out (she was sitting comfortably in the pack at that point). Today, she rode the cat 3 men's race at Mt. Tabor, finishing fourth, and then raced the cat 1-2-3 women's race.

Needless to say, she won. But she did it in such a thoughtful way. As we started, she said "let's keep it together." And she let the locals race their race. She didn't push the pace, I don't think she even sprinted for any primes. For the first few laps, she made sure the main group regrouped at the top of the hill. She congratulated all of us on a good race after the finish (whether we'd had one or not). She chatted with people after the race. She was a wonderful ambassador for the sport.

Okay, so my efforts on a bike are not remotely close to those of Kim Anderson, and it was pretty much a given that she was going to win today while I was unsure about some of my competition yesterday. But for all the cynical men who thought I was bonkers for entertaining the slightest bit of guilt for riding away from my field yesterday, look at Kim's example today and understand maybe a little bit of how women's racing is different from men's.

Results are here.

Guilty pleasure

Saturday, 1 July

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a cat 4, there were never any separate cat 4 women’s races so we always raced with the 1-2-3s. And I got really annoyed when a cat 1 or 2 woman would show up for a race and feel obliged to demonstrate her prowess, attack, blow the field apart, and turn some nice road race into a mass-start time trial. Women like to have fun at a bike race, and being made to realize your limitations from the get-go just isn’t very much fun. And lots of women who don’t have fun don’t come back to play. Hence the small fields and lack of separate cat 4 races in the Dark, Demeaning Ages of my past.

Today I was guilty of that offense. I didn’t mean to offend, and I took pleasure in my victory. But I probably didn’t do much for warm sentiment in the masters women’s field.

Sixteen women started the Oregon masters women state road race championship outside Elmira this afternoon. We started together but were scored in 3 age groups: 30+, 40+, and 50+. (Our course was the same as the one I raced tandem on a few weeks ago.) Some of the women I recognized, and I know that not all of them turn up for many mass-start events. So I knew from the gun that there were reluctant racers and women who probably didn’t really like racing with cat 1s and 2s. I vowed to myself to not ride at the front much early on, not set tempo on the climbs, and try to keep a happy group together for the first lap (we did 3).

But you know what they say about good intentions. I let Mary set tempo up the first hill (the shorter, steeper one), but she drifted back in the last 100 meters and I was first over the top. Two TGH women came past very quickly on the fast descent with about 6 more women on their wheels. We had a group of 9 for a while, and at least 2 of them demonstrated a distinct (no, scary) lack of pacelining experience. A few more caught back on as we were trying to explain the concept.

The second climb is about 2 kilometers long. I told myself again not to ride at the front, just let someone else set a tempo they were comfortable with. This worked for a while, but women kept dropping back and pretty soon there was no one between me and the lead car. If you let me settle into a comfortable rhythm, I tend to stay there. When the road flattened out with about 600 meters to the top of the hill, I just kept the effort constant. When the pitch increased again with about 300 meters to the top, there was no one on my wheel. And after that, the race was a time trial for just about everybody.

There’s a nice twisty descent after the longer climb, and I was happy to ride it solo. I was disappointed that it was not nearly as fast or as much fun as it had been on the tandem but I still motored along. At the bottom I realized I had a good gap and needed to get to work, so I went pretty hard up the short steep hill on the second lap. I was light-headed and seeing stars at the top! (I forgot to mention that it was 90 degrees this afternoon.) I watched my speedometer on the descent and smiled when it got over 45 mph. When the road flattened out, the driver of the lead car told me the gap was 32 seconds. I thought this section was flat on the tandem, but it really undulates and it was hard to stay focused on going hard. Three-quarters of a lap later, the lead car guy told me I had 2.5 minutes and said “just keep the hammer down, darlin’.” It’s been a while since anyone’s called me “darlin” so that kept me smiling for another stretch. And I decided maybe I didn’t need stars again at the top of the steep climb.

Yeah, I stayed away and won my category and the race overall. Yeah, the biggest group I saw finish together was 2 women. Yeah, I was happy to win and actually pleased to have some TT training, even if it was on the wrong bike. But I wonder if it would’ve been better to keep the race together, teach some of those women how to paceline, encourage others on the hard bits of the climb…..Okay, I don’t feel really guilty, but the thought did cross my mind that the me of 10 years ago would’ve been annoyed at the me of today. Proud, but annoyed.

Results are here.