Friday, June 29, 2007

Not about the bike

Friday, 29 June
I went to my local farmers market on Thursday afternoon and bought these beauties from Schuh Farms in the Skagit Valley. That's a whole flat, 12 pints of fresh-picked strawberries from 50 miles away instead of 1500.

So my Friday afternoon/evening was busy, making a total of 17 jars of jam, some little, some big. It's the perfect stuff on pancakes before a long winter ride! Mmmmm.

And there's no rest for the weary because the raspberries are coming on like gangbusters--a pint and a half tonight from my garden. I freeze what we can't eat (well, that's not quite true; I leave out enough for dessert and breakfast and freeze the rest) and already have more than half of what I need for a batch of jam.

And on Monday morning, I'll be out there picking blueberries to top off the cereal bowl! 75 feet, 15 seconds from bush to bowl. I love this time of year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another racing observation

Tuesday, 26 June

I'm feeling really bold today--and I haven't even had my coffee yet. Last time I ventured into the "why do they race/ride they way they do?" realm, I was told that my entry was a "pretty big blow to the NW women's peloton" and "most of it was inaccurate." Again, I'm just making an observation today, based on my limited participation in the sport. I don't think it's very controversial but someone will probably take offense (that's what blogs are supposed to do, right--offend?).

Perhaps more than most women, I race sometimes with men. Not just the weekly series events, but by racing on the tandem with multiple male partners (no comments, please), I get some insight into how men race and ride.

Last Sunday, though, I was in a group of experienced women racers for a very long time up some long climbs. And I noticed that they almost never get out of the saddle. Sit, sit, sit--uphill, downhill, just about all the time. Men complain they can't get out of the saddle enough when they ride tandem and they all wonder why I can't stand for a half a mile at a stretch.

I first got insight into the value of standing occasionally when I rode with an ex-pro up that long climb on the last day at Columbia Plateau (its reported length varies but it's at least 10 miles). Standing lets you rest some muscles and use new ones, it changes the way your weight is distributed through your hands and feet, and (sometimes this is priceless) it allows you some respite from pressure on the saddle. And on an extraordinarily long climb, well, it's something to do.

But there we were on Sunday, a group of maybe 20 women riding up a 4-mile climb, every single one of us in the saddle. The pace was not blistering and I thought it was a great opportunity to get out of the saddle. The only other woman who was standing occasionally was clearly on the rivet and struggling to keep her momentum up enough to stay on. Now, there's nothing wrong with sitting, and it made for an incredibly smooth group because bikes don't shift around nearly as much when you're sitting squarely on top of them. But the men I ride with would have been out of the saddle more than they were in it.

So, what's the difference here? Is it purely anatomical? There were plenty of complaints from the women about, um, saddle discomfort and a fair amount of shifting position ever so slightly to try to relieve pressure on particularly sore spots. Do women's bikes "fit" them differently so that standing is not as comfortable as it is for men? Are women not as confident out of the saddle? I would not for a minute believe that saddle manufacturers favor women's saddle comfort over men's (because nothing else manufactured for this sport favors a woman's anatomy).

Okay, so tell me I'm clearly not a bike racer because if I had all this time and energy for observation and getting out of the saddle, I should have been attacking instead and not just sitting in a super smooth group when there were only 60 miles to the finish. That still doesn't answer my fundamental question (based on unscientific data collection, I know): why are men so much more likely to climb out of the saddle than women? Maybe I should ask about the tendencies of cat 4/5 men because I'm, um, selective about my male tandem partners and they've all been cat 1/2. Anybody have any insights into this really burning question?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Elkhorn days 2 and 3

Monday, 25 June

Saturday is the double-stage day at Elkhorn. You expect your legs to be tired on the second day of a stage race, but this time mine weren't. Every other part of me was tortured and exhausted, though, from the epicness of Friday. Walking from the car to the coffee shop for breakfast tired me out. I just wanted to lie in bed.

We had forgotten to pack the trainer into the car, so my warm-up for the TT was some hat-making followed by a brief spin on a borrowed trainer. Once I was racing, it took at least 2 kilometers to convince my body that it really could go hard. My time was 5 seconds slower than 2006, which didn't seem too bad, but I figured with the stronger field this year that it might be good enough for 10th instead of the 5th place I got last year. Hours later, I found out I was 6th on the stage. Well, at least there was some respectability there, since I was certain to do nothing but lose more time in the remaining stages. I guess everyone else was still exhausted from Friday's little jaunt.

The crit involved a prerace exchange of visits to the OBRA rule book and staying in long enough that I got so many laps down that the officials couldn't do the math any more and finally pulled me to make their lives easier. The only interesting thing about the crit was that they had so much stuff to give away that there was a prime nearly every lap. After Ms. U23 Australian national champion (who should've won a prize for choppiest pedal stroke in the peloton) went solo off the front, the race staff were kind enough to offer some of the prizes to the pack.

Sunday is the epic Dooley Mountain road race, 102 miles of desolate Oregon wilderness (okay, there are farms from about mile 80 to 95, but not much sign of humanity anywhere else) finishing at the top of an 8-mile climb up Dooley Mountain. One year it snowed on this stage; other years the final climb has been like racing in an oven. There is now an unofficial water station at the sign marking the first hairpin on the climb so that if you're really desperate, you can stop and help yourself to a bottle.

The weather Sunday was PERFECT for racing. I started with arm warmers and gloves and was fine. The temperature never got above 75. There were some windy sections, but nothing like Friday. There are three big climbs on this stage (several miles each) plus some little "short" bumps (maybe a mile each). There are two amazingly long descents that even I have fun on, especially this year when I never had to chase back on down the descents. We had a rotating pace line going for the first part of the race that was a thing to behold: smooth, no gaps, no surges. And this with 35 women. We also luxuriated in a total of 3 pee stops on this stage. The last one was a bit mis-timed, and the masters break passed just as we stopped. I rode up the last climb with a woman from OSU, and it was nice to have company.

Bike racing is funny. I had a bad day on Friday, I lost time in the crit (which most people manage not to do), and I lost more time on the final climb on Sunday. My TT was reasonably OK, but not so good that I made up for any of those other losses. In the end, I came out 10th in GC and also 3rd in the FIAC stage race national championships. Other riders had worser days than me, I guess. And Friday's weather took its toll on different people in different ways.

Congrats to Allison for her win in our race. But special congrats to the old guy who counterattacked out of the neutral start in the masters race, stayed away in a break all day, and won solo at the top of Dooley! All the results will eventually be posted here. Special thanks to OBRA's Rob Anderson for his pictures and his endless patience in directing (cars and men on bikes) traffic around our peloton yesterday.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

HELLs Canyon alright

Friday, 22 June

78 miles. Out and back: mostly downhill on the Hells Canyon scenic highway to Richland (pop. 150), then mostly uphill back.

4 hours 20-some minutes. It was that amazing combination of headwind out, headwind back. There were significant stretches on the return where we were going 10 mph (not all of them uphill). When you've still got 20 miles to go and all you want to do is get off your bike, that's not a good thing.

92 degrees. Cooler by the time we finished (6:30), but hotter in the hellish, narrow little canyons of the Powder River. No humidity, either. It was the first time ever I was completely covered in salt after a race.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Thursday, 21 June

Temperature: 82 degrees!

Humidity: 8.2 per cent?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Zero carbon farming

Wednesday, 20 June

No fossil fuels were burned to bring these raspberries to my cereal bowl. No chemical fertilizers, no electricity, not even any water out of the tap. Even the raspberry canes were given to me by local folks, not raised in some nursery five states away. Guilt free cuisine!

The potatoes are coming along, too. I hear they're "done" when the plants start to bloom. I never know how much to water them, but since they thrive in Ireland, I guess you can't overwater 'em. My daddy and grandma taught me that one of the best early summer foods is fresh peas and new potatoes with a really light cream sauce--I can't wait!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ring around the volcano

Fathers Day

Happy Fathers Day, all you dads out there!

Just slightly lower on the scale of important events today was the Mt. Tabor Circuit Race in Portland. This is the only bike race I know of around the cone of an (extinct) volcano. I'm not exactly sure where that landmark is on the course, but they hype it up a lot. Other features of this almost-crit are 136 feet of climbing per 1.3-mile lap, a lot of fast descending with an almost-hairpin, decreasing radius turn toward the bottom, and a (short) flat spot in the middle of the climb where the start/finish is. There's a midweek series here ("Velo on the Volcano"), so all the local riders know what line to take, etc. It's a good course, safe (no cars--it's in the middle of a park), and good spectating. Oh, yeah, it's fun too--in the usual painful sort of way. If you want to see the course, some helmet-cam footage from the cat 3 men's race will eventually be posted on Kenji's blog.

We were looking for coffee and maybe some breakfast on our way to the race and came upon the Sweetness Bakery and Cafe. It's so new it doesn't seem to have its own website, but the coconut banana muffins are worth going out of your way to find. The cinnamon rolls looked decadent, but I managed to resist. I did get a second muffin, though, to snack on during the day.

Turns out coconut and bananas and coffee are a good combo for prerace food. My first race of the day was masters women. If you know me, you know that a few elements of the course description above sort of play to my weaknesses, so I didn't have any grand hopes. Second time up the hill the race split, with just three of us in the break. Also in the break were a woman I didn't know and Jenny from Medford who puts men to shame at the Mt. Hood hillclimb. I managed somehow to win not only the sprint for the prime, but also the sprint at the finish.

After sitting around for the better part of 2 hours, I got to race again with the senior women. My hopes here were even less grand. While the field was too small to be a "who's who" of Oregon racing, it was pretty stacked. And as a way to make up for the zero prize list (the race is a fundraiser for junior racing), we had a prime every lap. Still, it turned into a bizarre race: it was 1.25 miles of pedaling around the course followed by 200m of racing for the line. Not to my surprise, I got gapped off the second time up the climb...but I caught back on at the base of the climb a lap later. In total, I caught back on three times during the race, including on the last lap. However, when Melissa launched her final effort at 225m, I could only watch as first Tina and then Hilary tried to go too. Funny thing was that the gaps that were established by 200m didn't change all the way to the finish and nobody came around anybody else.

It was a fun crashes, no rain, and 2 hats made. No tandem race on this course this year, but since tandems would probably hit 45-50 on that descent, my nerves were probably better off without that thrill. I also got to check out a couple of knitted hats two riders bought yesterday at the Eugene Saturday Market. They looked, well, very Eugene.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sign up for Elkhorn

Wednesday, 13 June

Thursday update: Deadline extended to Sunday. And, in case you're one of the few who races for the money, for the crit, prizes for the women's Pro/1/2 field will match the men's Pro/1/2; the women's Cat 3/4 field will match the men's Cat 3. Thanks to Beverly of Bella's (; she is an even bigger supporter of this women's race than I am. And she sells luscious wine and chocolate and etc.

You've got just two days left to sign up for the best regional single-bike stage race around:

Why race Elkhorn?

  • Beer (at the finish).
  • Cookies (at the Friday night pasta feed--there's pasta too).
  • Empty roads (the only cars are race support vehicles).
  • Spectacular scenery (Blue Mountains, green valleys, Oregon Trail, Hells Canyon).
  • Great community support (everybody asks how your race is going).
  • The excitement of racing with riders from all over the West Coast (but no pro teams).
  • Tough racing. Good camaraderie.
  • Best excuse for a rest week before all those crits over 4th of July weekend.
  • Because it's FUN and you don't want to miss out.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Monday, 11 June

Yesterday I did a tandem road race with my husband for the very first time. And--the short version of the long-winded version below--we finished in first place. Pretty nice.

The occasion was the Oregon tandem road race championship on a "new" course west of Eugene. Only one stretch--the most significant stretch--was on roads we haven't raced on many times. This section was about 5 miles: from Territorial Highway, stairstepping up through a pretty little valley of vineyards toward Briggs Hill, which is a steep, switchback climb of maybe 1.5 miles, then dropping off the backside of Briggs toward Spencer Creek Road. The feedzone was on a lesser hill, and there are a couple of longish drags and rollers, but otherwise the course is mostly flattish and somewhat windy. Showers were kept to a minimum on race day (a blessing considering the bends and paint stripe on the descent--okay, you're not supposed to cross it anyway, but, you know, just in case).

To my surprise, there were a total of 10 tandems for the start of our race (that's 4 bikes more than the senior women's race had!). The attacks began shortly after the neutral rollout ended but eventually we settled into a paceline rotation of about 5 bikes with the others just sitting on. Over the feedzone hill, which I don't think gapped anybody, then more rotating around the 10 miles of flat roads to the turn onto Briggs. This is a very narrow little road, and you wouldn't want to be caught at the back of a group even on your single bike. So we were at the front when we got to the serious climbing. We just rode a steady tempo--and had gap at the top. The descent is a little bit technical, and pretty high speed, and there were 5 bikes back together by the time we turned onto Spencer Creek and headed for the finish line at the end of the first lap (of 3).

Gradually all the other bikes caught back on, and most wouldn't pull through at all. (This is the problem with getting to the top of a hill first--you're marked, and everybody wants to tire you out.) We rolled over the feed hill, got to the bottom, and were just rolling along. I decided it would be a good time to eat and took a big bite out of my Odwalla bar. At this point we were on the front, my captain was fed up with nobody riding hard, and so he just pushed the pace--and voila, we had a gap. And I had my mouth full and couldn't breathe hard. Somehow I managed (chipmunk cheeks), our gap grew to several hundred meters, and one bike bridged up. They had been one of the bikes willing to work earlier, and we rotated steady, hard pulls. Nobody else tried to bridge (or we didn't see them if they did). Eventually, the official's car came up behind us, which is a good sign when you're trying to make a break stick.

At the bottom of the steep climb, our chain got tangled up, so we both had to get off the bike. I got it running the right direction, and then we had to get back on the bike. Getting two people on and off a bike obviously takes longer than just one, so we had some work to do to catch the other tandem. We were only about 50 meters behind them at the top of the climb, and we came together again after the descent. More trading pulls; they got gapped a little on the feed hill but got right back on. Finally we got around to the last time up the hill, and we knew had to give it everything we had left to get a gap that would be big enough to hold all the way to the finish.

The last switchback is about 200 meters from the top of the climb, and I swear they were only 100 meters behind at that stage. But as we were cresting the top of the hill, I couldn't see them or the follow car anywhere behind us. By this lap, we were a little smoother on the descent. I tried to glance behind us when I could, but couldn't see anything. It's pretty hard to communicate from the back of a tandem when you're whooshing downhill at 45 [update: 48] mph, so I had to wait until the rollout at the bottom before I could yell that I didn't see anything.

After we made the turn at the bottom, it was 2.5 miles of flat road to the finish. Could we time trial it and hold them off? After 1/4 mile, I looked back and was positive I could see them just a couple hundred meters back, in front of the follow car. Mick saw the same thing, so we absolutely buried ourselves, thankful for the new 56 [it's only a 55] chain ring "borrowed" from a TT bike. Another look at about a mile to go revealed just the follow car behind us--but who knew if they were just out of sight behind it? Turned out that they were at least 90 seconds back, and the next group of 3 bikes was a couple minutes behind them. Mike (who won the masters 40-49 race that morning) and Sam (who is maybe 10) attacked the group and took third. In an odd twist, all the captains who medaled in our race were named Michael.

I had worried that the course would be boring (overly familiar), and someone had tried to tell us it was a 10-minute climb. Fortunately, I got to preview the course by driving lead car for the cat 3 men in the morning. And during our race, our lead vehicle was a motorcycle, which helped my confidence in the bends on the descent: if he can do it at this speed, so can we (maybe not the best philosophy, but helpful in this case). The climb looked significantly steeper from the car than it felt on the bike, and (except for the last lap) it seemed shorter on the bike than in the car. In three weeks, I get to do this all over again on my single bike (masters women RR championship), and then I think all the flat sections will get dull and windy and hard. Hopefully, I'll remember that the descent is not as bad as it looks!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Work places

Thursday, 7 June

It's a fine time of year where I work:

A mountain laurel between my bike locker and my office.

And a dogwood on the way to get coffee.

UW Commencement is this Saturday in Husky Stadium (avoid that section of the BGT!), so lots of departments are having their own ceremonies this week. Finally, students prove that they DO have clothes besides jeans and (too-tight, muffin-top-revealing) t-shirts and flip-flops. And next week they'll all be gone and a few of us will have this gorgeous park all to ourselves!

Oh yeah, here's my hat workshop. (Not so pretty, eh?) Lots of racing in Oregon coming up, so too many hours will be spent here. Get your order in now....

Monday, June 04, 2007


Monday, 4 June

If you know anyone with a tandem in the garage, please pass along this link:

There are plenty of opportunities to get out and race!