Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sunday, 28 September

For the first time in about a year, I suddenly discovered myself with time to read a book, so I bought Annie Proulx's latest collection of Wyoming Stories, this one titled Fine Just the Way It Is. As one review quoted on the back cover notes, "Proulx has found a tone and style of delivery that allow her to be humorous and existentially black at the same time." My father quit reading her work because it's too "gloomy" (he prefers biographies of dead presidents, which are neither light nor cheery). She can poke subtle tongue-in-cheek fun at the most dire human condition or circumstance, and her writing is sometimes oddly hysterical.

What's this got to do with bikes or hats, you ask? Well, the second story in the collection is titled "I've Always Loved This Place" and it's about the Devil trying to plan a make-over of Hell. "Nothing has been done to this damn place for aeons." (See the connection yet?) So the Devil and his assistant set out on a golf cart to "tour the property and see where we can make improvements." They devise plans for a new entrance gate (keeping "Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here"). "Double our fly-gnat-mosquito-chigger package order."

The Devil's attention keeps returning to a city high on the top of a mountain. Here's where my brain started taking in familiar words out of context, just like when you unexpectedly encounter a cyclist you know in a work setting. "It's the ideal end point for the Tour de France. Pro cyclists have earned a place in Hell. It is twice the size of any Alp." But just a long, steep climb isn't torture enough. "Let's get some coarse and broken cobbles on the steepest stretches here. I want those guardrails removed from the abyss....Varied weather will help; sleet storms, parching heat, black ice on the cobbles, hurricane force crosswinds [sounds just like racing here on earth, eh?]....Every rider will be on drugs and some will go down frothing at the lips like Simpson on Mount Ventoux in nineteen sixty-whatever. And let's have screaming crowds who throw packets of filth and fine dust, handfuls of carpet tacks, who squirt olive oil and then piss on the riders. Water bottles filled with kerosene and alkali water....More dogs on the course. And rattlesnakes. Let's see--how about an obligatory enema in the starting gate and EPO breaks every thirty minutes. As for the UCI--" The Devil whispers into the assistant's ear and then they move on from cycling Hell to talk of castrating and branding cowboys in an afterlife reversal of fortunes.

Maybe the moral here is that I need to be nicer so I don't end up on this slippery slope for eternity? :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Sunday, 21 September
last day of summer

Last night was the Starcrossed cyclocross extravaganza at the Marymoor velodrome. Lots of people had lots of fun. There was: Beer. Mud. Coffee. "Stale" hotdogs (a second-hand report). People I hadn't seen in a long time. Teammates and other friends racing. Long, grim faces (O.A.D. and I concluded that (1) nobody racing looked in the tiniest little bit like they were having even a trace of fun, and (2) there was nothing fun-looking about the actual racing). But oh the very best part? Walking around and looking at all the hats. :) I was like a kid in a candy store (OK, like ME in a candy store) and stared at a lot of people's heads. And I realized that the ones I make are as good as anything anyone had on. Maybe next year I should bring a boxful and a tent (it poured rain for hours) and see if I can make enough money for coffee on winter training rides?

Friday, September 19, 2008

When did this happen ?

Friday, 19 September

It was summer just last weekend....sunshine, warm temps, tomatoes from the garden.
Now all of a sudden the trees aren't green any more and it's dark during too many of my waking hours. The rain bike keeps trying to get ahead of the race bike in the queue in the garage. And the trainer bike: I can't remember the last time I "rode" that.
I guess it's like rain in January: there's nothing I can do about it, so I might as well enjoy the show of colors and the sunshine when it happens.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Wednesday, 17 September

Just a reminder:

Come say goodbye and good luck TOMORROW to the PruFamily as they move south:

September 18
7:00 p.m. - ??
Pied Piper Ale House
2404 NE 65th St
Seattle WA 98115
(206) 729-0603
"kid friendly"

Monday, September 15, 2008

New-team ride

Monday, 15 September

After my Ring of Fire race, I figured I deserved some serious time off the bike and I wasn't planning to ride much this last weekend. But then I got an invitation to join a ride of a new team that's still coming together. Unlike other new-team rides (as reported on local blogs) that ventured all the way around the north end of Lake Washington or featured a whopping 4 kilometers of climbing, yesterday's outing was a nice 103-mile jaunt and featured 6,400 feet of elevation gain.

We started in Carson:

We rode out the Wind River road and climbed about 10 miles up and out of the drainage and over this pass:

A few miles past the summit, we turned left on Curly Creek Road (a screaming descent) and had great views of Mt. St. Helens. This view is from the top of the descent. The mountain gets closer and closer as you descend and fills up the gaps between the trees by the time you're near the bottom.

We turned right on FR 90, which winds along the Lewis River for a long way. We met up with a couple signs like this one; the longest dirt/gravel section was about half a mile.

We stopped at a campground along the Lewis River for water (which we had to pump out of the well). Instead of pit toilets, this campground had composting toilets, and I learned that my waste wouldn't go to waste:

At the next junction, instead of taking the road marked toward Trout Lake, we opted for the hillier route (even though Trout Lake was our next way point). About 15 miles of climbing brought repeated view of Mt. Adams--and utterly empty roads. There was absolutely no one to patrol the yellow line in the middle of the road. :)

After all that climbing, you come to the junction to Randle and Trout Lake. While Randle is closer to home, Trout Lake was where I needed to go. A few miles of flat and gentle rollers (and more views of Adams and no traffic), and then there's a 12-mile descent into Trout Lake. I hung on to the freight train paceline until one steep section where gravity didn't favor me. We stopped for calories (the first store we'd seen since Carson) and then rolled the last 25 miles down to White Salmon with views of Mt. Hood most of the way (but speeds too high for me to fish the camera out of my pocket!.

Glorious day, perfect ride, wonderful friends, and great food all weekend. I was so glad to be there!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Veep wannabe

Thursday, 11 September

I usually leave discussion of all things politics to PruDog, but I managed to hear today an interview by ABC's Charles Gibson with Sarah Palin. The best laugh I got was hearing a woman who wants to be the proverbial heartbeat away from being president of the United States talk about "nucular" weapons. I guess they don't have too many of them up in Alaska and she can't be expected to know much about them--or at least not how you say the word? I suppose she bought her house from a reelator, too.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Life is so damn fragile

Wednesday, 10 September

Those words from one friend in reference to the tragic loss suffered by another. Our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with you, Jen.

Monday, September 08, 2008

It really was fun, I tell you!

Monday, 8 September

It was as much fun as it looks!

48 hours on, and nothing is sore. Beer and french fries are good for recovery!

I figured out I drank 8 bottles (Gleukos, Coke, water) in 12 hours. I ate 3 bars, 2 homemade cookies (300? calories each), and 1 orange. And 2 pretzels. Maybe I should work on nutrition habits for 2009? Or find some arm warmers that stay up? The Stungunner optics were fantabulous all day long, PruDog!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

My little time trial: 193 miles

Sunday, 7 September

Yesterday was the final race of my 2008 season: the 12-hour Ring of Fire time trial. You have to set goals for yourself going into an event like this, so my primary one was to break my own course record of 183 miles from 2006 and hopefully to match the 200 miles that O.A.D. and I rode on the tandem (also a course record) in 2007. It's hard to be confident that everything is "dialed in" going into a race that long, with so many variables, but I thought I was feeling as ready for it as I could.

The first time I did this race, it was my first-ever "ultra" event and I was by myself and I had a little bit of that "deer in the headlights" feeling. Doing it on the tandem last year was different, and I was curious to see how my attitude and approach (and confidence, I suppose) had changed this year. I knew the course, I knew that I would make it back to the start/finish, so it was just a matter of turning over the pedals, not using the brakes on the descents, and minimizing the time off the bike.

The race is in 2 parts: a 112-mile big loop, and a 27-mile short loop that you do laps on until your 12 hours are up. The big loop climbs forest service roads around Mt. Hood, has several descents of more than 5 miles (one is 20 miles), and features spectacular scenery every inch of the way. There are 3 time/aid stations on the big loop where you can pick up food and water, drop off extra clothing, and get lots of encouragement and support. The stretch between time stations 1 and 2 would be worth doing the rest of the ride on highways: there are so many beautiful views of Mt. Hood and endless forest. And empty, empty roads. So I guess another difference between 2006 and 2008 for me at this race was that apprehension had been replaced by anticipation of great riding.

OK, race details. As I mentioned before, I gave up on the aero bars plan. Most people had them, and I ended up leap-frogging many of them: they'd pass me on descents, I'd pass them on climbs. Climbs last longer, and I ended up riding away from most of them. :) There were 3 other women in the 12-hour race, and one 2-person women's team, and I had passed all of them before mile 25. When I figured out that I'd won the women's race, barring catastrophe, then I had to focus on the aforementioned goals--and reeling in as many men as I could. My time at the end of the big loop was within 5 minutes of our split on the tandem last year, which made me very happy. But the short loop is tough: it starts with a 4-mile climb. And by that point (almost 7 hours into the 12) it was hot (90 degrees), my stomach wasn't very happy, and I was starting to think it would be nice to get off the bike. But each lap finishes with 9 miles of flat (and increasing tailwind as the afternoon went on) road along the Deschutes River, so you feel pretty good when you get to the start/finish for your time check. I was "focused," they tell me, every time I came through, and got back on the road immediately. At the end of lap 2, I felt awful and my lap times were 10 minutes too slow to match our tandem pace. I had 1:46 left, and a full lap is 27 miles. I needed 18 to break my record. Obviously, I could do that much. But then you tell yourself that you should break a record by more than one mile. When I got to the start of the final 9-mile flat stretch, my oxygen-deprived brain managed to figure out that I might be able to get all the way to the finish in the time I had left if I could just keep my speed over 20 mph. I made it with 2 minutes to spare: it was a huge mental battle to compel myself to keep the effort up for that long and to fight back when the wind would force my speed down. I didn't get to 200 miles, but 193 isn't bad. And just 7 miles (what? 25 minutes?) off the tandem record on my single bike ain't too shabby. The men's winner of the 12-hour race rode 202 miles, second place rode 194 miles, and I was third overall at 193. On my aero-bar-less, carbon-wheel-less, ordinary aluminum road bike. :)

Before the race, lots of folks were telling me I really need to step up and do a 24-hour race, and one experienced ultra rider invited me to be on a mixed team for Race Across Oregon in 2009. But I was wary--I like to eat dinner at dinnertime and go to bed at bedtime--so I haven't jumped at this challenge. And yesterday confirmed that I just need to keep working on improving my 12-hour racing. The first 6 hours were fantastic. They confirmed my commitment to change things next year, learn to say "no," and not take on burdens that cut into my ride time: I have just too much fun on the bike. But then there was a lull when the fun wasn't so fun anymore. Surely that was mostly related to the heat and hydration/heat exhaustion issues. In a strange twist, part of what kept me going was knowing that I could get off when I got to 12 hours. But something intangible that I can't quite put my finger on pushed me to ride that last lap, to ignore all those impulses to stop.

Ironically, I was so focused when I rolled in to the start/finish before my last lap that all I did was ask for my total miles so far and how much time I had left and take on one bottle of water. I completely missed the fact that my husband, who was competing in the 24-hour race, was sprawled on the pavement, unable to stand up, much less ride his bike. He had been way ahead of the course record on the time splits through about 10 hours of riding and then completely came apart. Heat, hydration, and who-knows-what were all factors. Unfortunately, he was unable to get back on his bike--barely able to get to bed--so his total distance in the 24-hour event was 184 miles, tied (!) for last place.

Many, many thanks go to our friend Brian for coming all the way to Maupin to support O.A.D. and then me in this adventure. After his Race Across Oregon experience, hopefully it was interesting for him to see the crew side of a race like this, even if it was curtailed and he didn't have to sit at the start/finish all night long.

And in spite of the tired knees, hot spots on my feet, and other aches and pains you'd expect from 12 hours in the saddle, this race also generates more warm fuzzy feelings than any I know. The people--the promoters, other racers, other support crews, even the people of the town of Maupin--support you 110%. A couple of people put on race faces, but everyone else is all about wishing you a great race. A little friendly rivalry and banter develops on the road as you pass and get passed by the same people several times over. The volunteers at the time/aid stations would clean your windshield and check your tire pressure if you asked them to. I think everyone walks away from this race (OK, maybe not O.A.D., maybe not this year) with a huge sense of accomplishment. Even if you don't meet all your goals, it's a super hard course and you earn a ton of respect from every other competitor out there. You learn something, you race hard, you beat some people and some people beat you, and you enjoy the luxurious privilege of riding through wondrous natural beauty. How could you ask for more?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

More Beijing reports

Thursday, 4 September

Another Northwesterner is in Beijing. Check out Erik Moen's blog on the Paralympics:

What a great opportunity for Erik. Those athletes could not have found someone better to be part of Team USA!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Season finale

Wednesday, 3 September

I'm following up last weekend's 5-event stage race (ha! everybody else only did 4 events--ain't tandem crits great!) with a season-ending time trial in Maupin this Saturday. At this point, I can't think of much that sounds better than 12 hours on my bike. 12 hours of no phone, no email, no upgrade requests, no hemming and hawing over Meet the Teams rides. I won't say there won't be any thinking about this team and that team, or what to make of offers of deals on new bikes, or what I want to do different next year. But it's amazing how your mind can be filled for most of 12 hours with just absorbing where you're at and what you're doing--living in the moment. Somebody once asked Uta Pippig, the great German distance runner, what she thought about during a marathon. She said she didn't have time to think about anything!

I'm taking my mantra for this race (and it is a race--there are some powerful athletes in my field) from Brian Ecker's Race Across Oregon experience: my only job is to pedal. The beauty of the scenery will be absorbed whether I think about it or not. :) Thoughts about teams and bikes and the cat 3 women's series and a winter training ride schedule and all those things that hound me when my feet are on the ground will just have to wait.