Monday, June 30, 2008
This is what I dream about all winter (and spring) long! It was 19 degrees centrigrade this morning when I left the house at 6:15. How easy it is to ride when all you have to put on is shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. Commute time is at least 10 minutes shorter without bundling up in gloves and booties and hat. I revel in every minute of riding in this weather and store it away in the memory files to recall on bleak midwinter rides.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, Candi told me, "if you can't BE good, you've gotta LOOK good." Well, that's about others' perceptions (how you stack up against them, or how you look to them). Today was all about me. I FELT good. I did a favorite 4-hour ride that I do most frequently when it's 40 degrees colder, probably wet, on my heavy rain bike, and all bundled up in layers and layers of clothes. Today was jersey and shorts and race bike weather, with a tailwind for about 75% of the ride somehow. I was riding solo, so there was nobody to make me feel old and slow. I probably didn't LOOK good (my pink summer jersey doesn't quite match my team shorts) but I FELT great.
How different things look at the end of June than they do all winter! I didn't realize how many of the trees and shrubs along the route are deciduous; there was lush greenery everywhere. The flower farms in the Snoqualmie Valley are in full bloom, and one of the raspberry farms had boxes and boxes of bees stacked at the ends of rows for pollination. The corn isn't going to be knee high by the 4th of July but it's on its way.
Just before I turned off the West Snoqualmie Valley Road for Tualco Valley, I was waved to the shoulder by a motorcycle WSP cop going the opposite direction, lights flashing. OK, I stopped. Another moto went by. Then nothing, so I kept riding. Pretty soon 2 more cops come along, so I stop and get off the bike. Still nothing. Then a WSP car, followed by 60 recreational (?) motorcycles. Some were ridden by the stereotypical big guy on his Harley, but some were ridden by petite women and a whole diverse variety of other folks. A lot of them waved at me. In total, this group, with its own rolling enclosure, had 10 or 11 WSP motos plus the car. But we can't get rolling enclosures to race our bikes....
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
If you've never been to Elkhorn or Baker City, I'm sure you're sick of the thread of my recent posts, so I'll try to get it all out of my system with this one.
Walking into the showers at the high school gym after Sunday's epic road stage, a woman I've raced with for years asked what motivates me to keep coming back--to Elkhorn and to racing in general. She confessed that if she can't be top 10, she doesn't want to pay her money to race, and she wondered what I get out of a race if there's no ego boost. I was--believe it or not--at a loss for articulate words, but I said something about setting different goals and expectations, and just being there, and I surely wouldn't work as hard to get as much out of it if I hadn't paid my entry fee, and I reminded her that without me down there as pack fill, she wouldn't have anyone to beat. [You're thinking she's a horribly competitive, egotistical person, and she's not. She's great to race with, and I'm always happy when she's at a race.] Since then, I've thought of more coherent reasons--or rationalizations, if you prefer--why I continue to race my bike even during a season with scarce results.
Aging men typically get their own race categories at stage races, but not so for the ladies. The top of GC in my race at Elkhorn was filled with women 20 years younger than me. Maybe I'm not supposed to use age as an excuse, but there's no denying that it's a factor. Nobody older than me (and there were some in the other women's categories) beat me. I was 4th of 11 women aged 40+ in the race and 2nd of 7 45+ women. Maybe that doesn't sound better than being 25th of 28 in the cat 1-2s, but at least it's a little more competitive. I think only one 40+ woman beat me in the time trial.
There's also the "humans are social creatures" aspect and the "I like to see my husband on weekends" element. There are some wonderful people associated with bike racing, and I truly cherish the time I get to spend among them. Have you ever noticed that there's seldom cocktail party sort of chit-chat among bike racers, that we cut to what's important to us pretty quickly? Because we're often under physical or emotional stress when we see our cycling peers, I think we reveal more of our inner selves more quickly. Sometimes you don't see members of this community for years, and then you're at the same race and the time gap drops away.
Another reason is the reward I feel--especially at events like Elkhorn (is anything "like Elkhorn"?)--watching and helping developing riders surprise themselves with what they really can do. Last year in stage 1 and stage 4, I rode with and, I hope, encouraged two new racers who thought they were way out of their league. One of them, I think, only owned one jersey. I'm happy to report that both of them beat me this year. They are the future of the sport, and if I can help grow that--help them make a sufferfest into a positive experience and make them want to race more--then it's worth my while to be out there. When I get so slow that I'm coming in an hour after the last rider, when there's just one official left sitting in her car at the finish line with her stop watch, I guess that will be the time to ask whether I ought to keep coming back.
OK, if that's too warm and fuzzy and sappy for you, one other thing surprised me in Baker City. Keeneye (whom I'd never heard of) posted a comment on my blog entry Getting to Baker City. So I looked up Keeneye's blog, which said she had just opened a new pizza joint in Baker City, but somehow the blog failed to name the establishment (it does now). Later I was part of a conversation when a Baker native happened to mention a new pizza place and gave a wave in its general direction. So during my crit warmup (which was longer than my crit), I went around blocks until I found a pizza place that looked newish. O.A.D. and I went there for (our anniversary!) dinner after the dust settled from the crit stage. It seemed to be all locals--until the Bend part of the peloton descended. Service was good (if initially confused), pizza was tasty, and the 3 big-screen TVs were pleasing to my partner.
The question is, does Keeneye regularly read my blog (why?) or did she do a massive search and post comments on the blogs of everyone who happened to mention Baker City or the Elkhorn race? She could've done herself a favor if the blog had been a little more explicit about the name and location of her business. But I'm happy. Baker City now has a GREAT deli (Bella's), coffee shop (Mad Matilda's--which opened at 5:30 a.m. during the race so that we could all have our prerace gourmet coffee fix), an award-winning microbrewery (Barley Brown's), super ice cream (Charlie's), and now pizza (Paizano's). If there's a gap in your race schedule next April or early May, this is THE place to go for training camp!
Next up: hats and the farm report. I promise.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Where do you start when you want to list the great things and great people about the Elkhorn classic stage race? For me, it's Nathan Hobson, whose brainchild this race is. For the entire women's peloton, it's also Nathan. He stood firm and kept a women's race here during some really thin years when he could've met more of his costs by scratching the women's race and adding another men's category. Nathan is now "just" a racer at Elkhorn, and thanks must go too to new promoter Ernie Conway, who looked mighty frazzled most of this weekend.
Working behind the scenes for the women's race for the entire 7 years of its existence has been Beverly Calder. Her undaunted support of women's racing is bound up in so many ways with this race. What an amazing tribute to her that 66 women started Elkhorn this year.
So many other businesses in Baker City have also supported this race throughout its existence, and the high school principal has opened the school doors to us each year. The OBRA officials patiently put up with rants from oxygen-deprived, heat-prostrated cyclists; they deserve raves all around.
I've got three specific highlights and one definite lowlight from this year's event.
Water and bikes. During stage 1, we passed through the path of a big irrigation sprinkler. The road was wet, and there was a little spray in the air. Apparently these are conditions unsuitable for bicycling in the experience of some of the women in the peloton: there was chaos at the front of the pack as riders crossed the yellow line to avoid wet pavement and to dodge a few drops of water falling out of the sky (it was 80+ degrees, and we'd been riding for 20 miles, so the risk of hypothermia was pretty minimal). They might think events at the crit proved their point, but those of us from soggy climes know that generally a bike traveling in a straight line can safely pass across a short patch of damp pavement, even if the rider is struck by water droplets flying through the air at the same time. This unwillingness to accept wet pavement as a fact of cyling life was further shown in the opening miles of stage 4. A rider from an arid climate was riding just in front of me and pointed with her left hand like she wanted to move over in front of me. As I slid back, we passed by a small puddle (pancake-sized) and I realized that she was simply pointing out this "road hazard."
Dirty jokes. The group of 10 riders I was with for about half of stage 4 was pretty interested in finishing but not at a blistering pace (no one got dropped). So, to while away the time on the interminable climbs, quite a few jokes were told and one dirty ditty sung. Yes, it did help pass the time and block out the pain, and yes, there were some long pauses as the teller/singer caught her breath before the next line.
The Oregon stage race fairy. Either last year or the year before, a woman showed up at Elkhorn dressed in a pink tutu, fairy wings, and a tiara. She has pale blond hair and pale skin, so the fairy image is not a stretch. I think she did it originally so that her team could find her in the feed zone. She has become a fixture at Oregon stage races, although the tutu is getting less showtime these days. She's sort of like the devil who always shows up at the Tour de France. I did not spot her in the feed zones during stage 4, but after pedaling up 7.9 miles on the finishing climb and thinking about not much besides what hurt (everything) and how the climb manages to get longer every year, there she was, standing by the side of the road. A huge grin spread across my face because she was such a great distraction. It was a completely involuntary reaction and shows how much seeing something out of context or unexpected can distract you from whatever seems so overwhelming.
Finally, the lowlight. After a concerted campaign by OBRA and race officials to reduce littering, we were dismayed when one of the riders in our group chucked an empty bottle to the side of the road. She had two bottle cages and just two bottles, so she had not even the flimsiest excuse for her flagrant violation of littering laws in a national forest. When a couple of us challenged her, she said "oh, sorry" in a very sarcastic tone. I don't know Team Ironclad well enough to know how their other riders behave, but clearly some peer pressure is on order from other teams and from Ironclad team leaders to explain to this particular rider all the reasons why littering is bad. Let's start with: your thoughtless behavior could keep the Elkhorn race from getting a permit to use that road next year. When you see other bottles tossed onto the shoulder, it's not a reason for you to add to the debris; it's a call for you to help educate your peers.
This will be quick because my brain is still pretty fried. I spent longer in the car yesterday than I did on the bike--and there were 6 hours on the bike.
As reported, Ekhorn stage 1 was hot but not roasting, windy but not heinous. Huge women's field made for some challenging bike riding, but there was very little sketchy bike handling.
Stage 2 was a TT. Rolling downhill out, uphill headwind on the return. I really wished it had been the other way around because it would've felt so good to finish with the incredible power you feel with a tailwind on a slight downhill. I was mid-pack but okay with my time; I knew the woman 30 seconds in front of me would take a big chunk of time out of me on the way out, but I ended up taking more out of her on the return.
Stage 3 was a crit. Or parts of crits. Understand that it doesn't rain much in Baker City, so the streets aren't made like ours here on the west side. It started to rain as the cat 4-5s were warming up, and there were crashes in the warm up. Once the race started, there was about a crash a lap for the first 5-10 laps, all in turn 1. But the rain stopped, and between the warm temps and the wind, the road was dry by the time they finished. The masters got the only dry, uneventful crit of the day. About 5 minutes into the women's race, it started to rain again, and just at that moment when the road surface turns slick before it is really wet, there was a massive wreck in turn 1. Two riders went to the hospital, one (we learned later) with a broken pelvis. The race was stopped. I think the cat 3s rode part of their race and were also stopped and the 1-2 race never even started. The chief ref took a lot of flack from people who know that crits are possible in the rain, but those people didn't account for the different material used for road construction or the oil that had accumulated on the streets (5,000 motorcycles had visited Baker City in the previous week, on top of the accumulation from normal traffic). It was the right call.
Stage 4 is the queen stage and crown jewel at Elkhorn, the 102-mile road race with an 8-mile climb to the finish on top of Dooley Mountain. The day dawned clear and not even too cold by the women's race start at 8:00. (Women start first and get passed by most of the men's fields; they used to start last, but then they finished about 3 hours after the 1-2 men. So now we get neutralized a few times--not on a climb this year :(--but finish at a reasonable hour. The weather was absolutely perfect all day, never too hot at all. I got popped close to the top of the "first" climb (there's a steep half-mile climb earlier that doesn't even show up in the course profile but usually splits the field), was chasing like mad on the descent, and then got caught behind a tanker truck with an enormous trailer. Two women in front of me crossed the double-yellow centerline to pass him, but the corners were absolutely blind and I wasn't willing to do that. So I never got back on. About 25? miles later, a group caught me and that was it to the bottom of the final climb. Then it's every rider for herself. Huge party with great food, beer, results, prizes, and podium presentations at the finish line.
There are so many great things about this race that I'll bore you with more reports, but that's the race summary part.
Friday, June 20, 2008
There was a funny post on the WSBA email list yesterday, wishing that we could all abandon our TT bikes for stage races so that we could make 4-person carpools instead of 2-person carpools for faraway events like Elkhorn. Well, Bryce, I would argue it's about the vehicle you drive and not the bike(s) you want to ride.
Take those 4 people in your optimal carpool. Add one bike per person. Now add the second pair of wheels per person that each may be compelled to put into neutral service via the "wheel lottery." Now add the fancy crit wheels that at least one crit rider in your carpool is sure to want to take. Toolbox. Helmets. Trainers. Then 4 of the giant bags that bike racers take to every event. A cooler. Food. I think you're going to need a Hummer to drive all that stuff to Baker City. Say you get it into something that gets 20 miles/gallon (highly unlikely). It's 380 miles, so that means you use 19 gallons of gas. That's 4.75 gallons per person.
My husband and I loaded our VW with our TIME TRIAL bikes, road bikes, TT wheels, extra road wheels, cooler, bags, food, stuff we're bringing to deliver to other riders who'll be at this race, a laptop, supplies for my time-killing hat hobby, food, toolbox, etc. The two of us in our car get better than 40 mpg, but let's call it 40 for ease of computation. That comes to 9.5 gallons of fuel, or...drum roll, please...4.75 gallons per person.
Since the 4 of you will be in a vehicle probably getting more like 12-15 mpg and we'll probably be getting more like 42 mpg, in the end, at least in terms of fuel consumption, our 2-person carpool comes out being more fuel efficient than your 4-person "economizing" carpool. AND I get to race on my TT bike. AND my car runs on biodiesel, which further reduces my carbon footprint.
When you find a 45-mpg diesel van, let me know. Until then, please don't argue for banning TT bikes at stage races! And don't think that those of us on real TT bikes are necessarily leaving bigger carbon footprints than you.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Greetings from Baker City, Oregon. Sunny, 80 degrees. Mmmm. That puts a smile on a Seattleite's face this spring, that's for sure!
Went to Bella's, met Beverly, had some San Pellegrino limonata and half a muffin and half a brownie whose ingredients sounded so wholesome that it seemed you'd be healthier if you ate them than if you didn't. There's a "fiber arts" (that means YARN to me) store newly located across the street from Bella's so I had to check that out while we waited for our ride buddies. Then it was off to preride the TT course. The hills aren't any lower and the chip seal isn't any smoother and the wind was a harbinger of the end of tomorrow's road race.
But, did I say it was sunny and 80? :) Perfect riding weather. Just about perfect weather, period.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
It's been a week of "je ne sais quoi" feelings. First there was "I don't know what the heck is up with my stomach, but it hurts ALL the time." Thankfully, I seem to be over that but I'm being careful what I eat and drink--does that mean no beer and french fries the night before Friday's road race? :( Then there was the warm fuzzy but wholly intangible feeling leaving Sunday's race about what a great bike racing community was there, and at the crit the night before, and a realization of how infrequently I get that warm fuzzy feeling at races closer to home. Monday there was a WTF reaction to some self-interested (not this self) maneuvering. Yesterday and today there was a lot of vituperative (that's a big word for "pissy") email from some of the bike racing community closer to home.
But ha ha, y'all. Now I'm embarking on "je sais quoi precisement," which is sort of French for at least I know what I'm getting into at Elkhorn. A long drive and a lot of fun. One of my Elkhorn-newbie teammates (not the math major!) did some math and figured out the women's field could have 70 riders. That's, like, double the usual. And separate scoring for 1-2s, 3s, and 4s. I'll try to post some updates from my coveted spot at the bottom of GC! [Oh wait, must amend that sentence or Candi will think I'm a slacker.] I'll try to post some updates on my very best attempts to NOT be at the bottom of GC!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Happy birthday, Sue!
Be careful what you whine about on your blog: things might get worse. Argentius was not the only one to complain bitterly at the end of last summer about the grievous lack of summer weather in Seattle in 2007 (conveniently forgetting the massive heatwave that struck the first week of June during the Mt. Hood stage race). Ha! You thought 2007 was cold and miserable? Look what you've got so far for 2008! So quit your griping because I for one don't want to see snow at Elkhorn or Cascade in 2009 (or 2008, for that matter). It could be worse: it could get dark at 3:30.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The LOL news item du jour is that the Washington DOT folks were supposed to send their big mowers up to Snoqualmie Pass to work on mowing the median, etc. on Interstate 90 today. Instead, they had to send out the snowplows to keep the roads clear.
And just think, in less than two weeks we hit summer solstice and the days will start getting shorter !
Friday, June 06, 2008
You'll notice that although Old As Dirt hasn't updated his blog in, like, two months, his opening line is still painfully relevant:
This is bad, even for June in Seattle, which is usually like November most other places. This year, it's like November here, which you might recall is when we had some epic flooding in 2007. Keeps the riff raff off the trail, though, so I have plenty of space to do intervals...on my fender bike.... I knew we were going to pay for our month of dry racing in March!
Thursday, June 05, 2008
another rainy day in paradise
There's an interesting new study out about nutrition in male and female athletes. Based on a study of 14 (!) cyclists, it finds that "women use more fat than men and are better at using the fuel contained in sports drinks. This is the reason why studies on women athletes have shown less performance improvement from carbo-loading than men." Also, the "data showed more fat use when both sexes drank water instead of a carb drink."
So if you want to lose more fat, you should (1) drink water only during your workouts and (2) be female? I wonder how the general rule that women have more body fat than men correlates here--do they use more because they have more?
Maybe I'm not just indulging when I fat load before a 12-hour race. If I use more fat during the event than a male would and if carbo-loading doesn't do me much good, then I should stick to ice cream and donuts and french fries on the day before an endurance event? I am exceedingly poor at consuming "sports/carb drinks" during long workouts, so it's important to make sure I have a fully stocked fat supply to draw from?
I think that performance nutrition is highly personalized. There are gender differences, age differences (where and how you store body fat changes as you age, for example), and experience differences (how I process calories is different from how a desk potato female coworker does, for example). I would no more advise anyone to change their nutritional practices based on a study of just 14 cyclists than I'd suggest that everybody do what I do. But these studies make good blog fodder, don't they? :)
Monday, June 02, 2008
Seldom is there an opportunity for do overs in bike racing. I wish I could have two--I'd settle for just one--for this weekend.
My own team time trial on Saturday was great. I was privileged to race with three stellar women from Team Group Health, and we had the second fastest time of the day--in spite of the fact that the first time we rode together was after the guy at the start line said "five four three two one go" and in spite of my inability to navigate corners in my aero bars (12 corners in each of 4 laps; OK, I managed the chicane-like pairs, but that left at least 4 others per lap). My husband's team put in the fastest time of the day, but in the conscious effort to get out of the way of teams behind them not finishing on the same lap, they drifted into the left lane (per instructions) at different rates. Two of them tangled and tumbled. Those two or three seconds are the do over I'd most like to have. We spent the afternoon in Albany General Hospital. Kenji has a detailed report.
Sunday's road race was at Silverton, east of Salem. I've done well on this course in the past. It has lots of climbing but none of it savagely steep. I think my head just wasn't in it yesterday. The climbing on the first lap was fine. Coming into the finish there are two sharp rollers; I was at the front at the top of the first one when someone jumped away from us. Instead of letting the dominant team in the race chase her down, which they would have eventually done, I worked to close the gap. Not a big deal, except we came right away to that next little hill, and then someone punched it over the top and kept the pace really high until the start of the climbing, and I could just never get comfortably "on" the pack. I still finished top 20, and the riding out there is beautiful, but I should have brought all my brain cells to race with me. This do over would be to think before I did someone else's work, but I'd be happy to live with this outcome if we could do over the end of the Z Team TTT.
Heal fast, Dave and Matt!