Friday, August 31, 2007

Lucky-colored glasses

Friday, 31 August

Yesterday's mail included a tape-bound box with a new pair of eyewear, Axley's Ginny in powder blue with pink trim (which nobody can see when the glasses are on). They're smaller lenses in a smaller frame than my other Axleys, and as you can see on better models than mine, they fit smaller faces well. The fit is good: not tight across the face, but secure in the temples. On my swelled head, they are in fact tight, but glasses loosen up easily enough. The tech specs on these specs are here.

My two cents? The lenses are made of impact-resistant polycarbonate, which is almost safety glass, so you're protected from flying rocks, big bugs, and projectile snot from the rider in front of you. But I always worry a little about any glasses that leave an edge of the lens against my face (is that what "half orbital" means?)--and I've got the scars to prove why. I'd describe the "powder blue" color as "turquoise," which is perfect because....let's just say that turquoise is lucky for me and not jinx it any further. And with the rose-colored lenses (that's not what Axley calls them, but who could resist a reference to rose-colored glasses?), they'll be great for commuting and bleak winter rides. They also seem to be good for blogging--they cut down on the bright glare from my laptop's screen.

They come with an eyewear care package and a nice, petit carrying case (half the size of the case for the chunky Bandits). I will road test them on a road trip this weekend. The weather forecast isn't gloomy, but we'll be driving in twilight times and these'll be perfect.

You'll be able to order your own--in blue, bone white, or pewter--at

I think I'm becoming the Imelda Marcos of eyewear....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Eating REALLY local

Thursday, 30 August

My husband had a play date in the park tonight, so I was on my own for dinner. Instead of another bowl of cereal, my menu was food that was very local. Potatoes, beans, and herbs from my garden, and eggs from some hens who live two blocks away. I had been hoping for tomatoes too, but they didn't get the memo and were still hard green pellets.
It took me a while to figure out that these were the perfect ingredients for a frittata. But to be entirely local, I couldn't use salt, pepper, butter, or cheese. Fortunately, a well-seasoned cast iron skillet is pretty nonstick. It would've been better with tomatoes sliced on top just before it went under the broiler, and it definitely would've been better with a little cheese. But it wasn't bad (better than corn flakes, that's for sure!).
Dessert was applesauce from the tree in the backyard (okay, it's an apple tree, not an applesauce tree...). It is an off year for apples, so it took a while to find these four. Again, nothing added.
Eating local would be a great diet, unless you happen to have cows down the street. I didn't miss salt, but I learned the flavor that a little bit of fat (cheese) would've added to the frittata and how a little bit of sugar brings out the flavor of fruit.

Tomorrow I think we'll be back to things from faraway like rice and soy sauce. And tomorrow I'll post about my new lucky-colored glasses!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hillclimb strategy

Monday, 27 August

Yesterday was our state hillclimb championship. It's not much as hillclimbs go--pretty short, not steep--but it still seems to intimidate most of the Washington peloton. Here are the factors that I would say affected my performance:

1. I had not raced on my road bike since July 1.

2. I have done only one training ride with long climbs all summer (at the beginning of July).

3. I never had much power, and I lost more last winter.

4. I tried to lose weight quickly and had some bad days on the bike with no energy for even short hills.

5. I increased my mid-week training miles, item 4 notwithstanding.

6. I started running a couple of mornings a week (no, not for cyclocross!), before my trainer workouts.

7. I took the bottle cages and computer off my bike on race day, left my wedding rings at home, and even went so far as to weigh my favorite pairs of sunglasses to see which were the lightest.

8. I had a super stressful week (including lack of sleep) before the race (can you say "omnium results"?).

9. I had no expectations because I haven't been racing in the WA peloton this summer (not by design, it just happened that way) and couldn't anticipate how "competitive" I'd be. My goals were vague (to beat two particular women).

10. I lost 7 pounds in the weeks leading up to the race.

Coaches, take note. In spite of the things above that you would laugh at, discourage as training habits, and argue were detriments to my performance, I think my time this year was a PR on this course. Here are the numbers I have:

2007 28:37
2006 28:52
2004 29:05
2002 30:24
2001 30:27
2000 30:49
1997 29:30

28:37 was also good enough for third-fastest women's time overall. So which of those top 10 factors was most influential? Number 10, hands down. Of all the women who opted to "weigh in" at the finish, only one weighed (one pound) less than me. And in spite of my power shortage, I mustered enough to keep it in the big ring for the second half of the course (that's pay off from climbing on the tandem).

Our society doesn't let you talk about women and weight in the same sentence. Too much potential for sounding judgmental or damaging someone's self-esteem. But on the margin, on a climb, on a bike, less is better.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New way to waste gas

Wednesday, 22 August

While I was out running this morning, I saw a guy "walking" his dog with his car. He sat behind the wheel with a retractable leash in hand out the window and drove slowly down the block while the dog prowled and sniffed along the edge of the street. What, I'm supposed to be happy the dog is getting some exercise? This speaks volumes about what ails our society....

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Family pride, or why beans are like tomatoes

Sunday, 19 August

Many summer hours of my childhood were spent helping my grandmother pick, trim, and cut green beans--straight from her garden--for canning. I thought of her and my grandfather this evening when I harvested these from my own backyard; my grandparents would be proud. Ride with me to Maltby sometime and I'll show you where they were locavores decades before it was trendy. And how are beans like tomatoes, you ask? No matter where you shop, you can't buy any that even come close to tasting as good as the ones you grow yourself.

The weekend leading up to my Sunday evening walk down memory lane (bad pun there, but only a few will catch it) was busy. Friday I rented a floor buffer, attached a disk of about 10-grit sandpaper (saying goodbye to the skin on my knuckles), and tried to get the 60-year-old paint off our concrete floor. It was a 3-way battle between me, the sander, and the paint. I'm not sure who won: I gave up after 3 hours and returned the sander, and there's still paint on the floor (and aches in my shoulders). I've been at this project for many months, and I really should make some more effort to finish it while there are still daylight hours when I'm not at work.

Then we hopped in the car and zipped (not) to Corvallis. Saturday morning was the Marys Peak hillclimb and the one-year anniversary for my tandem racing career with my husband. We had cautious hopes: between he, me, and the bike, we weighed at least 10 pounds less than last year. And the weather was 25 degrees cooler. So...we took a whopping 12 seconds off our course record! We heard lots of "it was windier this year" and "the air was heavier because it was cool and humid." But still....shouldn't we have been able to go more than 12 seconds faster? Kerry certainly proved that being a year older is just an excuse to go faster. All the results are here. I will admit that it was kind of fun passing everyone who started in front of us and being the first bike (of any sort) across the line at a tough hillclimb.

Post-race, we had another lovely drive on I-5, all the way to charming Centralia, followed by one of the worst road-trip meals I have had in a long time and a romantic evening in a Motel 6, in a room that must have only recently come by its "no smoking" label. There was some redemption in a brief excursion to 3 of the plethora of outlet stores in Centralia and even more (no sarcasm here) in our serene, pastoral Sunday morning drive west on highway 12 to Elma.

My team time trial was an odd beast. Our goal was to have the 4 of us finish together. We were the only team in our category, so this was not an unreasonable goal. After some initial hesitations in the first couple of miles, we settled into a good rhythm and rotation and worked together smoothly for the rest of the 32 miles. We had fun, and we all finished together. Mission accomplished. Those results will eventually be posted here (please don't nag me).

Only 3 more weekends of racing this year!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Comfort zone

Sunday, 12 August

Today I let myself be taken way outside my comfort zone--and it was a 100% positive experience.

I am the queen of crit avoidance. Sneak one into a stage race on me, and I'll take whatever prorated time the officials give me; just get me off the course. But today I was committed to the OBRA crit championship in Gresham--on the tandem with Sal.

I kept waiting for the apprehension attack, for hating myself for getting into the position I was in, and then for the sense of impending doom at race time. They didn't show up. Since ours was the first race, we got to preride the course a bunch of times. That helped a lot. And I knew most of the other riders in the race. Still, 6 corners was 2 more than I'd ever seen in a tandem crit--and 6 more than this time trialer would like.

The male-male bikes did most of the mixing it up today, with 2 of them staying away for the second half of the race. The eventual race winners took a really bad line through an early corner and nearly put most of the field into the curb. The things you don't see on the back of a tandem are nice sometimes; I was just aware that we got REALLY close to the sidewalk coming out of that corner and heard the words fly. On the other hand, it's hard to sense how much harder you're going when called upon. It hurts, but you can't see much difference because the stoker isn't getting all those visual cues that the captain is, the ones you get on your single bike.

I think I was pretty relaxed during the race; I never had the familiar panicked feeling of "we are going WAY too fast into this corner." There were maybe 3 or 4 times when you might say we were pedaling against each other. Considering that we have ridden together 4 times in 6 months, and that the race was 30 minutes long, 5 seconds of mis-timed effort is not so bad.

My captain and his bike were awesome in this crit. I am sure he had to do a lot more work, simply because the course was fairly technical. I just had to pedal and lean...and sometimes pedal harder. Time in a crit has never ticked down off the race clock so fast, and never before have I paid no attention to how many times we'd gone around the circuit.

It's funny. The whole CONCEPT of a tandem crit is way outside my comfort zone. But the EXPERIENCE of this one was not. I guess that's why you're supposed to push yourself sometimes--to expand your comfort zone. I'm glad I did.

Oh yeah. Results. We were the first mixed tandem, 4th overall, 2nd in the pack sprint. I have no idea how we did in the finishing sprint; nobody came around us, but I couldn't see the bike that won to know if the gap got bigger or we kept it close in the last straightaway. Primes went to the guys up the road, and I don't even know what they were.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Fame allotment

Thursday, 9 August, 62 years after Nagasaki

Few of us get our allotted 15 minutes of fame and glory in one big chunk. Kerry got a fraction of his portion this week in the Mt. Shasta Herald after dropping the field at the Mt. Shasta hillclimb:

Kind of balances out all you flatlander bloggers scared away by the big hills at Pacific Raceways.

Monday, August 06, 2007

TT Zen

Monday, 6 August, 62 years after Hiroshima

Lots of riders talk about getting into a rhythm or zone during a flat time trial. You want a steady effort and a smooth ride, none of that losing focus or endlessly shifting gears in search of a cadence that feels easy but delivers whopping power. Well, I can tell you faster than any coach how to find that elusive Zen-like trance: stoke a tandem for a time trial.

Yesterday was the 40.75K OBRA time trial championship on the beautiful Peoria course. Tandems got their TT championship at the beginning of July, so Sal and I were just racing for...well, for fun. Sal's tandem is a lot shorter than the one O.A.D. and I have, so my hands were either in the drops (99% of the time) or on the hoods (to stand at the start and turnaround). I can't put my head down and watch the ground go by because there's not enough room, so I stare at a blue blur that's the back of Sal's skinsuit. There's no quest for the most aero position because there aren't a lot of options. But Sal is considerably taller than O.A.D., so I don't stick out in the wind too much.

The Peoria course has few landmarks on it: two bends, two bridges over culverts, and a few stands of trees. The pavement is perfectly smooth except for one bridge transition. Even on a single bike, there is not a lot of distraction here. On the back of a tandem, there is nothing to think about but pedaling as hard as you can with whatever gear you've been dealt. There's no point in looking up because there's nothing to see. To keep my focus, I tried a few mantras from my personal collection and found that the tried-and-truest one worked best. I also tried closing my eyes, but that must have made me lose concentration because Sal would always come out with "we've got to keep up our speed" (this was into the raging headwind on the return) or "let's go harder over this little riser" (riser? on this course?). So I kept my eyes wide open, repeated my mantra over and over in my head, and tried not to think that it was taking forever. Sometimes, everything came together and it was really smooth and I was pedaling without thinking about it.

It's kind of cool that when you push your body that hard, and take away almost all distractions, you really can think about absolutely nothing. Until your captain interrupts and says "OK, 5K to go. Really push it." What had I been doing for the last 35K?

Wind and lack of sleep turn out not to be the best things for a fast tandem TT time; we were 27th out of 202 bikes in the race (but faster than the other tandems). We were 28 seconds slower than last year and well off the course record I stoked in July. But we had fun!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Soft Irish rain

Friday, 3 August

Twas a lovely soft rain this morning. Good for the garden, good for the soul. Had to chase some spiders off the rain bike, though, before I could ride to work. And the cat was not amused.

Hats: None made in a month, although I have identified my next victim--I mean, giftee.

Garden: Berries about done, beans (green, purple, yellow) harvested daily, a few tomatoes every week, but the potatoes don't much like hot weather (how do they grow in Idaho?). Made a batch each of raspberry (from my garden) and apricot jam.

Tandems: I have not raced on my road bike in a month! But lots on the tandem. Next up: 40K at Peoria on Sunday. Sal and I will see if we can beat our time from a year ago...and will we beat the course record that O.A.D. and I set on 7/7?