Monday, November 26, 2007


It's been a month since I updated but it's hard to update a bike blog when you haven't been riding your bike. The past month has been a flurry of craft shows and stomach virus fun, so there has been no riding unless spinning class counts and I don't think it does.

HOWEVER, this past week featured a couple of unseasonably ridiculously gorgeous short-sleeve weather days, so I did a couple of solo rides. On Wednesday I took myself out to ride most of the big loop (skipping a section I don't feel comfortable riding alone) and, because I knew it was going to be a casual slow ride, I also took my camera. This is less exciting than it seems because I couldn't take any action shots, just pictures of the trail and whatnot. I rode for a couple of hours at a steady pace, just having fun and not pushing myself too hard. Sadly, my photo skills are not good enough to really capture how ridiculously balmy and beautiful it was that day, but hopefully you'll get an idea from my little travelogue below:



forest hill trail

forest hill park

forest hill park2

forest hill bridge

buttermilk trail

buttermilk west bridge


bridge view

gigantor spider

homeward bound

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where It's At.

Hi, I know. It's gonna be a bit slower around her for a while because my riding schedule has narrowed to one ride a week, if I'm lucky. Sadly, with an 8:30-5pm work schedule I don't have enough daylight coming or going to ride during the week, and night riding does not appeal. Don't even try to convince me because I don't care. The woods at night is no place for me.

That leaves Sunday and the occasional Saturday to ride, which is okay. I'm ready to slow down on the outdoor cycling and focus on other things, like weight lifting and spinning. Assuming I don't have conflicts, here's my current schedule:

Monday: yoga class w/ super-excellent and hilarious instructor. (I think I have a girl crush on her.)

Tuesday: 20 minute cardio warm-up, 1 hour of free weights

Wednesday: spinning class

Thursday: 20 minute cardio warm-up, 1 hour of free weights

Friday: off

Saturday: spinning class and weight lifting class (or mountain bike ride)

Sunday: mountain bike ride (weather permitting)

I don't always achieve all of it and Saturdays are hard because of craft shows and whatnot, but on the whole it's been working so far. My gym is great for the classes but the weight rooms sucks ass. Sure, it's big, but it's also dark and poorly laid out. I also hate the staring eyes of the weight room guys who seem to think I'm either an interloper or their own personal entertainment. Gross.

To remedy this I've started going to the very swanky (and free) gym on campus. For some reason college guys don't intimidate me at all. I consider them beneath notice and just march in and do my thing. It helps, too, that the weights room is big and light and well-designed. I went on Tuesday night and while I was lifting there was a cardio dance class going on in the glassed-in studio. It was all hip rolling and jazz hands and I could barely drag my eyes away from the horror of it. Dance classes are my hell and I'm impressed by anyone who willingly submits to such outlandish torture.

ANYWAY, i did ride last Sunday, all by myself. Everyone else was busy or feeling under the weather but it was a GORGEOUS day so I took myself over to Powhite and rode for an hour, mostly through some stunningly gross spiderwebs. It was fun though - I don't get to ride alone very often and I like that I can ride whatever pace i feel like and stop whenever I want. I am perfectly happy in my own company that way.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Race Report - Poor Farm Fall Cup

First I'd like to say I felt like total and complete crap yesterday and I think maybe I'm getting too old for this or something. I'm not sure that high-endurance sport events are for me. My body hates me. So much.

So, the race: Sunday morning I got up pretty early because my race start was 10am and I needed time to drive to the course, warm up and pee about 800 times. The good thing about an early race is that the porta-johns aren't yet completely disgusting and it's over before the main event so you can enjoy yourself afterwards while everyone else is suffering. The bad thing about an early race is having to get up early and deal with the temperature shift/what to wear issue.

There were six women signed up for my race, including me. Two of them are women I'm friendly with, both of whom have beat me in past races, though I beat them both earlier this summer in the Urban Assault. We take turns! (I should probably pause here to say that female racers are among the nicest women ever. I think it's cute when you pass someone in your field and they cheer you on. It's all in good fun, which I appreciate!)

I was concerned about the start, because apparently we were in the same wave as all the beginner men. This burns me up because, really, would it be that hard to give us a start of our own? We really have to fight through an adrenalin cloud of nervous, spazzy beginner men? Apparently, yes.

The start was a total mess, as I assumed it would be. The beginner men field was huge and I got in the back so I wouldn't get trampled running for my bike. When the horn went off I had to fight through a cloud of panic, dust, falling dudes, bikes clanking, shoes (!!) flying off feet. We all raced for the entrance into the woods and at that point things came to a grinding dead halt. I was near the back of the pack and had to, no shit, wait in line for my turn to enter the trail. I lost a good minute or two right there and it shows in my lap times.

The course was really tough - very fast and twisty at the beginning and end with all the climbing (mostly short, steep lung-busters) in the middle. It was my kind of course though, as I really like the twisty stuff. Because of the lack of rain the trail was really loose and dusty, which made for some spectacular spills, luckily none of them mine.

The beginning of the singletrack, once I got in, was a dusty rooty switchback turn that continued into the woods. I rode with a couple other women who'd also gotten out of the gate slowly and we worked our way through the crowds until things thinned out. Some of the beginning men were great and some of them were incredibly rude and spazzy and would rather pass like a douchebag than to suffer a couple of minutes of riding behind a woman. I think I yelled a few clipped comments about MANNERS and CALLING YOUR PASS. Hmph.

Eventually I was running in what I thought was 3rd place but I now know was 4th. I was the only woman in sight and only halfway through my first lap. I hit the first big climb and that slowed things down considerably. I started to lose momentum and had to really push myself to keep going. It's hard to race when you have no idea where the rest of your group is or how far ahead they are. Wah wah wah, I finished my first lap and passed by Kenny and a bunch of other teammates and friends, one of whom yelled about the leader, "She's only two minutes up!"

Uh. Great? Ha. I remember thinking she might as well be two hours up because no way could I gain that kind of time without strapping a small motor on my bike.

I continued into my second lap and less than halfway through I saw (what I thought was) #2 through the trees. Well, shit. That means I have to race now. I chased, I caught, and just as I was reeling her in another Sport Woman (actually #2), who'd been sidelined by a chain malfunction jumped in between us. Now I was chasing both of them! Looking back, it was really kind of fun because in most races I'm completely alone. I stuck to them like glue and they switched spots but we all stuck together and damn, the woman in the lead put the pedal down. When we passed other riders we passed as a unit - it was hilarious. We hit the final section of flats and were all three going flat out. I considered passing #3 but she was going so fast that I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it. I decided to wait and when we came out fo the woods for the last long run across the field to the finish line, I passed her. In true form she cheered me on and urged me to go after #2. I went.

People. I have never ridden so hard or fast in my life and right as we were coming to the chute I caught her. Woo! Unfortunately, there was another male rider right next to her who inadvertently blocking my pass. She and I crossed the line nearly at the same time and our lap times were identical, but she was still a bit ahead of me. I was pleased anyway and happy to take third place. When we were all across the line the three of us laughed and congratulated each other for a job well done. Dang.

First lap: 38:39
Second lap: 36:35

Kenny started at noon and had a great race too - he finished 9th out of a huge field of 34. Sweet!

Afterwards we went home and both promptly felt like we'd been hit by a truck. Yesterday also sucked, but today I feel fine. I still don't even want to touch my bike for a few more days, though. Yuck.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Condensed Race Update

Hey! I'll post a full blow-by-blow tomorrow but for those two of you who might be wondering, I survived the race and came in 3rd. It was a hard effort and I'm suffering aplenty to because of it. Ow. Anyway, details and pictures tomorrow so check back!


Friday, October 12, 2007

Yes You CAN.

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Hi there. What up? Here's what's been going on:

- sad after-work rides squeezed in until the last possible second of daylight vanishes.
- spinning classes, le sigh.
- a final race of the season, can someone please hold me.

If we hit the trails at 5:45pm we have exactly an hour of light, so we've been heading over to Forest Hill to extract the most amount of suffering possible in that hour. It's nice though, because you do it and then you get to go home and eat dinner. I feel like I've nearly conquered Forest Hill this summer and I can ride every inch of it if you don't count that cement bridge, which I don't.

On Tuesday I left work early to join a weekly ride out at Poor Farm Park, where the race this Sunday is being held. I did a fast 45 minutes with my usual group and then reconvened at the parking lot to try and hook up with a medium-paced group. I lost out on that because I suck at paying attention and they left without me. This left me with the beginner group which I was grumpy about at first, but then I made some new friends and began to enjoy myself. We spent some time practicing a few tricky uphill sections and I think I'm pretty comfortable with most of it. Kenny and I are going to go back out on Saturday to ride the actual course, though, so don't quote me on that. Poor Farm holds the record for "Most Decrepit Little Bridges" and I don't know which ones will be included.

In the meantime, I've been back on the spinning bike at the gym a few times a week, just to keep the legs in a pedal-turning kinda mood. I actually, no shit, took a class last Friday at 6:15am. IN THE MORNING. It really wasn't bad at all because I was too out of it to really understand what I was doing until I was doing it. However, for the rest of the day I was both hyper and starving, so it may not be the best plan going forward.

Last night I took a class from a very nice woman who, unfortunately, really wants some class participation. Now, I'm not vocal in spinning class mostly because I'm trying very hard to focus on the music or my cadence or what is on TV that night or what I'm wearing to work the next day. Important deep thoughts, people. I do not "woo!" I do not feel like I need to give the teacher verbal pats on the back every ten seconds. I'm working here, lady! She really wants it but she won't be getting it from me. On top of that, she talks a lot in a very loud voice and likes to bellow things like, "YES YOU CAN. YES YOU CAN!" during sprints. Um, I guess I already am? So, she's right I suppose.

It's gonna be a long winter.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Few Words about the White Whale

Have I talked about the White Whale yet? I feel like I have, but what the hell. The White Whale is your own personal Moby Dick - that hill/bridge/climb/decent that continues to be unrideable for whatever reason. It haunts you and it remains just out of reach. I have a few of them, and one of them is the cement bridge that leads to the Forest Hill loop. I can now ride every other element in the park but that bridge. Mallie commented in my last entry to ask why I don't ride it (a valid question, as I do ride stuff that's much more technical) and here's my answer:

1. It scares me.

2. It's a 9 foot drop if you screw up.

3. At the bottom of the 9 foot drop is about 6 inches of water and a whole lot of rocks.

4. Getting on the bridge isn't straightforward - there's a big cement slab that you have to shimmy around, so the approach is from the side and you have to make a hard left to get on the bridge.

5. The bridge (which is only about two feet wide) has a raised center, so you feel like you're perched on the very tippy-top of it. This is a bad feeling.

Really, though, it's mostly a mental thing and a healthy fear of falling. I have actually ridden it a couple of times from the other direction (which is straightforward and also downhill so you have some momentum already) and it was pretty scary, but doable. I just need to conquer my fear and do it because I know I physically CAN, I just don't. I've gotten complacent about walking it and it never occurs to me to try to ride it anymore.

I'm a pretty cautious person in general so most of the technical aspects of mountain biking require quite a bit of courage for me. I should also mention that while I always loved to ride a bike, I was not a terribly athletic person for a good chunk of my life. I was overweight, sedentary and a smoker in my twenties, so at 35 I'm still learning the fearlessness most active people cultivate early on. Trust me when I say, it's harder if you start at 28 than if you start at 18.

Okay, so last night we eked out the remaining after work daylight and met some friends for a fast lap of Forest Hill. I always promise myself that I'll not try to keep up with the rider ahead of me or try to drop the one behind me (if there is one) but I can't help it - I have to try. I felt good and it was good to try. Towards the end I hit a section of the trail that's usually a breaking point for me if I'm tired - two uphill, rutted-out switchbacks in a row. They are the last tough section before the flats.

I headed for them and automatically started to slow down. Then I took a quick mental inventory and discovered that nothing really hurt - knees were good, lungs were good, legs were fine. I went for it and gritted it up those nasty little climbs. And took off afterwards like I was in a race. It was fantastic and I finished out the lap feeling strong. I actually have a race in a couple of weeks and I really hope this is how I feel October 14th. Fingers crossed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Summer is Over. Wah.

We've actually been riding quite a bit but I've been lazy and not updating. Yesterday we meant to go to a ride/picnic gathering but I thought it was at Poor Farm Park and, uh, it was at Pocahontas State Park instead. Oops? So, hey, we got in a couple good laps at Poor Farm yesterday and then went back home for lunch. Mostly we've been trying to make the most of what after-work daylight we have left so we've been riding the Buttermilk Heights trail to Forest Hill and riding the never-gets-easier lap there. I know I've talked about it before - it's a three-four mile loop that is really technical and has a lot of climbing. It's also got a great set of whoop-de-doos (basically a trail that drops into and out of a deep ravine repeatedly, so it's sort of roller-coastery. Fun and scary.)

Here's the cement bridge of doom at the beginning of Forest Hill. I refuse to ride it:

Forest Hill Sept 07

An action shot at the top of a whoop:

Forest Hill turn Sept 07

The outside edge of this switchback turn goes straight down a hill. It took me weeks to get up the nerve to ride this:

forest hill switchback

Forest Hill is always a gut-wrenching challenge but the last quarter mile is all super fast singletrack so if you have anything left, it's fun to use it up there. It's a nice reward after all the climbing, for sure. I'm sad that this is probably the last week that after-work rides will be feasible. I don't night-ride so it's gonna be spin class at the gym for me. Bleh.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What, You Thought I was Kidding?

Every time I start an entry I'm consumed with guilt because of Jill. Dang it, girl, why do you have to make hard look so easy? It makes my bitching about the weather sound ridiculous. You're a tough cookie and have all my respect because even if I was brave/crazy enough to bike and camp alone the Alaska... I would have been on the next ferry back the minute I discovered all my food was soaking wet. Also, if I had to put my food in something designed to be BEAR PROOF I'm pretty much staying in a hotel.

I'm not a camper, though, and I'll be the first to admit it. Camping sounds like organized discomfort to me. Hell, I don't even like picnics. Really, I just mostly hate being wet, cold and uncomfortable more than just about anything. I'll take a humid sunny day, please! (Now, go read Jill's blog. It's way more interesting than mine.)

Now that I've got that off my chest, can I just up and admit that I know I'm a photo tease. I KNOW. I'm also now well aware that my husband and I approach mountain biking photography very differently. My method: pause briefly to snap a quick shot of something vaguely scenic. Kenny's method: stop and set up an action shot, direct wife on the exact spot on which to stand and the exact moment at which to push the button, all the while ignoring the eleventy billion mosquitoes that are happily feasting on her legs.

I took one (JUST ONE) scenic shot on our first trip out with the camera and Kenny mentioned that if the memory card ran out of room for action shots we could delete it. I got mad and told him that little nugget was going right in the blog. (AND HERE IT IS. HMPH.) He apologized and my pretty picture stayed.

Anyway, below are some shots we took last Sunday at Poor Farm Park near Ashland, VA. I should mention that MTB photography is really frustrating because the camera tends to flatten out hills, so even if it's really rad in person, not so much in the pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess.

It was a pretty day:

You can tell I took this shot because I managed to get the cell tower in it:

Kenny is not defeated by big roots:

This one looks steep but it's even more ridiculous in real life:


Oh, tiny wooden bridges. How I dislike you:

Sweet drop-in:

This is at the bottom of a really steep descent. I swear:

We are fast on the flats, yo:

Pretty! Aren't you glad someone didn't delete this?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Amblus Blog: Now with 50% More Excitement!

Seriously, how boring am I? I have been riding, but it's all the same local loop in different directions. It's always hard, it's always hot, I get poison ivy and the mosquitoes love me like I'm made of creme brulee. (Which, judging by the size of my thighs, I am. Hmph.)

Anyway, today we are actually packing up the bikes and driving a whole 20 miles out of town to ride, AND, I have a brand new shiny Camelbak-pocket-sized digital camera, so I can take many shiny pictures with which to amuse all two of you who read this. Aren't I thoughtful? More later!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ad Nauseum.

Okay, I have been riding but I haven't been posting because how many times have I ridden the big loop and then posted about it? More than once. We just get lazy and don't like spending money driving all over tarnation when we have great trails practically in our back yard. So yeah, we've been riding the local loop pretty often and it's still great and challenging every time. Lately we've taken to riding it counter-clockwise which, even though it's the same trail, down becomes up and up becomes down and it's freshly challenging even though it's the same old trail. Funny thing - I can ride rickety bridges if the yawning chasm is on my right side, but not so much on my left. Most of the obstacles that freak me out are man-made, which is pretty funny. Big jaggy river rocks? No problem. Narrow but sturdy plank bridge over a ravine? Big problem. It's all mental, but still. Don't love the bridges or ramps.

So, here's a quick run-down of what we've done lately:

Last Saturday: Big Loop. I honestly don't remember a lot about this ride, but I think we had fun. I do remember that I finally, finally nailed a difficult switchback climb in Forest Hill that has always given me grief. Hmph.

Last Sunday: We went to Powhite where there are approximately 800 trees down from the last big thunderstorm. We soldiered on, though neither of us were feeling super-fantastic that day. It was a relief to go home. One cool thing did happen during that ride - we heard a tree fall! If you are in the woods and a tree falls, your ass will hear it. It shook the ground, y'all. We went and found said tree (it fell across a particularly fast section of trail, natch) and it was rotten through. I'm glad not to have been under it when it fell.

Tuesday: Big Loop, counterclockwise. I was very shaky riding Buttermilk Heights West to East (see above) but had a grand time riding the Northtrail back to the bridge for a change. I felt GREAT during this ride, which was so nice. I love it when my spring and summer riding pays off into fall. Love it.

Yesterday: Big Loop again. See above. Highlights include meeting the cutest Welsh Corgi, ever. His owner is a friend of Kenny's and also a mountain biker. It was a solid ride.

Shout Out: I just want to send my good wishes and fast healing to my friend Matt who has a bad road bike crash yesterday. Rest up and take care, Matt!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hot As Balls, that's why.

A quick update person missed me! I've been on vacation the result of which has made me feral and unable to concentrate on things like work and writing. And other stuff. It's also hot as balls out so there hasn't been much riding at all either. Kenny and I went out early last Sunday and two hours later we though we were going to die. It went like this:

ride ride ride climb climb climb. Stop. Pant. Drink. Pant. Sigh. Moan. Drink. Ride ride ride. Lather, rinse, repeat. It's bad. Today the heat index is going to be 109 degrees. This is patently unfair but I guess that's what I get for living in the south.

While on vacation we did get in a couple of good rides slightly further afield - we went to Poor Farm Park and spent a couple of hours on our hardtails getting the shit beat out of us, but it was fun and fast. Hurty on the back, but so so fast. At one point while riding a fairly sketchy downhill section I heard a rider behind me and when I braked a very little bit to slow myself down on a particularly crumbly section he yelled, "No braking!" because apparently he was riding WAY TOO CLOSE. Yeah, even bikers tailgate. I snarked back, "Gimme some room then!" and he backed off. Later he apologized quite nicely so I let him live.

Later that week Kenny and I packed up the bikes and drove out to York River State Park which has some incredible trails. The terrain is quite a bit different than at home - much more hilly but in a fun roller-coaster way. If you go across the street to where they hold the Tidewater Challenge this roller-coaster thing gets way out of hand and isn't quite as much fun. Actually, I think that's a private course, which is just as well. It's freaking hard. We spent a few hours at York River and had a grand time, as the weather was still behaving itself at that point. Now, not so much.

So that's it for now. Probably no bike stuff until this weekend because heat stroke just ain't my thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cute Girl Stuff

I think I've bitched before about how annoyed I get with the quality and type of women's cycling gear that's generally available. The local stores are generally very bad about carrying a decent selection and what they do have is considered "seasonal." No, really. I once got in an argument with a sales guy who was trying to tell me that the women's shorts were out of of stock in March because they're seasonal. So I guess only men ride in the spring? Loser. Anyway, there's a new bike shop in town and not only do they carry women's stuff, they carry COOL women's stuff. So excited! They have Shebeest which I love, but also a brand I'd not heard of before, Twin Six.

I bought a Twin Six water bottle:

And a pair of Twin Six socks because I can't resist skulls, not ever:

I know I was all anti-pink before, but with the skulls, it's somehow okay. The thing I want the most is this crazy houndstooth jersey, but it's a little pricey. It will belong to me one day soon, just you wait.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Hi there. Where have I been? Not riding. Instead, I spent the last week working a conference that my department was hosting and it was really hard and involved many hours of being and I did not ever get to go home except to sleep. (Add to that, a lovely case of poison ivy the like of which I have never experienced. It's like I took a big handful and dabbed it all over my legs. I am PRETTY, let me tell you.) Now the work madness is over and I can get back to my regularly scheduled slackness and also ride my bike.

The weekend before last Kenny cleaned up and repaired our hardtail bikes so we could have options, like. I, shamefully, had not ridden my hardtail since last spring. I know! What is my problem? Not only that, I rode it in a muddy race and then put it in the shed with nary a backwards glance. I am Satan to bikes. I have no excuses, I'm afraid.

Anyway, look how shiny they are! The red one is Kenny's Mongoose and the blue is my very first mountain bike, a Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo.


hookoo upsidedown

hoo koo e koo

top tube

Friday, June 29, 2007

Too Hot.

Sorry about the lack of updates - I've had a fantastically busy week at work (uh, not that I write these entries at work because I totally totally don't! That would be wrong.) and haven't had the time to update. I have done a few rides since I last posted, but nothing too crazy:

Sunday: We drove out to Pocahontas State Park and met up with Jared and the Head Lummox for some old school mountain bike action. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling spry for most of it. The red trail (very, very technical) was my Waterloo, however, and I was glad to go home and eat lunch after that.

Tuesday: A decent but hot ride on the big loop. It was the first ride this season where I actually felt the heat holding me back. It was so freaking hot. Stupid humidity. Wah wah wah.

Last night: An easy ride at Powhite with Kenny. He made me lead which hurt at first but then I started to get into it. We only rode for an hour but it was a nice way to end the day and I felt great right up until I had to take a cold shower because our furnace was on the fritz. Brisk, y'all. I'll just leave it at brisk.

This weekend the weather is supposed to be insanely nice, so I am definitely going to have something to write about next week. In the meantime, you should watch this video that Jared made from Xterra weekend footage. It's good stuff.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Post-Race Rides

After Saturday's race, I didn't even want to look at my bike for a couple of days. I was happy to leave it and go to the gym for a little air conditioned, poison-ivy-free workout fun. I did a free weights class on Monday and a spinning class on Tuesday, but by Wednesday I was ready to get back outside. Kenny and I did a casual ride of the Loop - North Trail, Forest Hill, Buttermilk Heights, the usual thing. On the North Trail we ran into another group - one of whom recognized me as the WINNAH. Woo! Pretty funny.

There was nothing super remarkable about that ride, but at least this time nobody yelled, "SLUT!" at me. I think I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Last week on the way home from one of our training rides some random dude in a car yelled that at me. I'm flattered, dude, really. I mean, who does that? What was it about my dirt-encrusted self that tipped him off to my slutty ways? Hmph.

I will say that riding down around Belle Island and the river is sometimes like riding into another dimension. Where do these people come from? The place was crawling with weirdos and after we past the third half-dressed arguing hillbilly couple, we'd had enough and hit the fire road before anymore craziness came our way.

Yesterday was an easy ride at Powhite because I had a newbie friend along with me. It made me remember how scary and hard it is when you first start riding trails and also made me realize how far I've come in the past seven years. She was ready to head back after 30 minutes and I was just getting warmed up for the good stuff! Heh, assuming she's still speaking to me, we can save the rest of the trails for another ride. I remember very clearly my first "long" ride and how I practically crawled onto the couch afterwards with my helmet and bike shoes still on. Hey, if it was easy everyone would do it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Race Report: Kicking Ass and Taking Names

Heh, I'm such a freak and you'll see why in a minute. I'll just say this: you know that skinny girl who drives everyone crazy because she's always talking about how fat she is? Clearly she has issues, but she makes you want to slap her anyway. I kinda think maybe I was that girl this weekend. I'll start at the beginning.

Thursday: After work we pre-ride the course with a small group of friends who are also doing the race. I beg everyone in my best whiny tone to please take it slow. I just want to go easy and work on last minute sections that cause me pain. This is a seriously technical course with lots of possibilities for painful mistakes and I really want to nail it down. We go too fast anyway.

Friday night: I'm starting to get nervous and my legs are pretty sore from the pre-ride we did on Thursday night. Kenny and I went out and did an easy ride at Powhite just to loosen up the legs. We eat a good dinner and go to bed early. I have completely f'ed up anxiety dreams that have nothing to do with racing. Nice one, subconscious.

Saturday morning: Dread, fear, loathing, breakfast. I choke down breakfast because I know better than to skip it. My stomach is really unhappy about the whole thing and I'm feeling really, really nervous. We suit up and ride the North Trail down to Brown's Island, pick up our race numbers, talk to a bunch of friends and then ride over the ped bridge to Belle Island where the race starts.

My start is at 11am but it's clear pretty quickly that things are not running on time. The waiting is truly the hardest part. I'm feeling green around the gills and keep riding my bike in circles just to keep moving. I check out my competition, nine other women, and note that at least three of them have beat me in the past. I note the muscular thighs on one woman and sigh with resignation. This is going to SUCK.

Meanwhile, I find out that the hilltop/crazy descent that I'd worked on and worried about all week has been cut out of our race. This means a faster start, but a less tricky one too. I calm down a little. Finally, we line up our bikes, walk back to the start and wait for the word.

We're off! It's a running LeMans start which we all hate a lot, but I got to my bike, got on and started about fifth back:

(my friend Billy took this photo - that's me on the right in the yellow and black jersey)

The race started on a fast stretch of single track that went around the northeast end of the island. We lost one of the women almost immediately - she rode a log too fast and went down. I was still holding on near the back - I'm not good at going out fast. At all.

After that section we crossed over a wooden bridge and rode a river rock and cement section right next to the river that led up to the death stretch - a nearly two mile stretch of gravely fire road. I hate this section because going fast on a gravel road is not my thing. Long sprints SUCK. I geared up into my big chain ring and cranked as hard as I could. The front pack pulled away from me and another rider passed me but I kept them in sight.

The next obstacle was an outdoor cement staircase that you have to carry your bike up - I think it's nine flights and it smells like pee most of the time. I loathe the staircase. At the top I got back on my bike and crossed over the the little bridge that leads to the next section of singletrack - Buttermilk Heights. (The Heights is short but really pretty intense. Its four big hills with rocky creek crossings at the bottom - so three of those. One section involves a rooty steep descent that immediately leads to a steep uphill river rock (giant flat rocks) climb that you really have to hit just right, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Once on the Heights I started in for the serious work. This is where I was going to win or lose this thing. I know these trails really well and I had my line already set. By now I was starting to breathe better and my legs felt good. I go for it. I passed a few women on the more technical sections, especially the tricky river rock uphill. I think I remember yelling a warning to the beginner men stragglers, "I'M COMING THROUGH. I'M RIDING STRAIGHT THROUGH!" Man, I was bossy out there! It couldn't be helped, I just had nightmare visions of one of them stepping off their bike right in my path. They moved out of my way pretty quickly.

Towards the end of the Heights I ended up behind my friend Mary, who I was pretty sure was running third at that point. She was slowing down a bit and I offered encouragement, though I knew I'd need to find a way to pass her. Women's races are funny that way - there aren't many of us so we are all supportive, yet we're still pretty competitive. A little weird, but it usually works out.

I finally passed her on the last hairpin turn leading up to the Boulevard Bridge and I cranked it, trying to put as much distance between us as possible. Ahead of me, I saw Francine, a very nice girl who soundly beat me last year at Camp Hilbert. I went after her and passed her right after the bridge. In true Francine form, she was cheering me on. Hee! So cute. We headed around under the bridge and started on the first section of the North trail. We met up again at the big steep ramp (which can be seen in that slide show from last year) and most of us ended up walking the steepest part. At the top of the ramp there was a bit more trail and then we had to ride on the street to get to the final stretch - the North Trail. I passed Francine again on the road and at that point I was pretty sure that the only person in front of my was my friend Cristy. Cristy who I'd ridden the course with just a few days before. Cristy who won the race last year. Crap! I had to go find her.

I dove into the North Trail like my ass was on fire. This second of trail is pretty fast and twisty and I've been riding it on a regular basis for a year. I know this stuff cold. I finally caught up with Cristy who is also pretty darn fast. We rode through the first section together, across the bridge to the the new part, which has a roller coaster feel and banked up hairpin turns. As we headed for the largest of these turns I was opening my mouth to tell her to slow down (I'd taken that turn too fast in practice and skidded out) but it was too late - she did the exact same thing and over corrected. I made sure she was okay and then passed her.

It was all on me from then on. I hauled ass, people. I don't think I've ever ridden so fast in my life. I was in front, IN FRONT, and I actually got to yell, "race leader, coming through!" to one of the beginner men who was standing on the trail. I had no idea how far behind me Francine and Cristy were, so I hauled ass, for real. I climbed the last dusty climb, rode my new line over the rocks to the ramp-bridge thing, geared up to my big ring and rode hell-for-leather for the finish line. And won the damn thing. First Sport win ever. My time was 41 minutes, 9 seconds a big improvement from last year's 45 minutes, 06 seconds. Here's a shot of me on the podium being a dork:

Unfortunately, due to sloppy and misleading trail markings, Kenny and a bunch of other racers took a long fork instead of a short cut in once section of Buttermilk and it hurt his placing. He still came in 9th which is damn fine and I'm proud of him. Our friend Ethan returned to racing after years of retirement from the Jr. NORBA circuit and took 3rd place in the single speed category. My badass friend Paula placed first in Expert Women which surprises me not at all. She's part of why I have the skinny-girl syndrome I was talking about way at the top of this (incredibly long) entry. Because I'm so used to riding with her and her husband and Kenny, all incredibly fast and experienced riders, I often feel poky and slow, when in fact I'm not, it's just because I'm judging myself against a bunch of freaking experts. Hmph.

Here's a great picture of Kenny navigating one of the really technical sections:


I was really very touched by how nice everyone was and truly appreciate all the hugs and high-fives I got. It was also nice hearing my name being shouted from the crowds, so thanks, shouters! That was the best. I also got a good pre-race pep talk from the Downhill Lummoxes who take all the credit for my win. They can have it, because they were awesome. It was a really great day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

24 Hours of Blather.

Did you know there are 24 hour bike races? Think about all the things you do in a 24 hour span and imagine instead of all those things, you were riding a bike pretty fast in the woods. Never say never, but damn. I don't know about all that.

Speaking of races, I got one in two days. I know I've talked about it before and it's really not a big deal - a fast 8 mile sprint on really technical trails. Fun! I came in 3rd last year but this year it looks like the competition is a bit tougher. I never have grand expectations about these things, but I still feel like barfing when I think about it.

After last week's crappy rides I took myself out alone on Sunday morning to do a solo ride on the Forest Hill section and Buttermilk Heights. I felt great. I have no idea why I felt so much better, but it was a great ride and very peaceful to be totally alone in the woods. It was a satisfying ride.

Monday and Tuesday were rained out (freak thunderstorms with HAIL and shit) but last night the weather held and we all met up to do the longer version of the race. Again, I felt really good and strong and I kicked the ass of a couple of sections that had been scaring me. I love overcoming the fear of a certain descent or log crossing or whatever. It's empowering.

Hey look! It's the stupid Big Loop I'm always blathering about:

To see some really good photos of the course I'll be riding, click here and then click on "Check our photos of preparation for the Xterra East Championship." (the second box down on the left.)

Ouch. If the weather holds I'm going to ride the short course tonight and work on a few sections that piss me off. I'm racing, y'all! This should be good, I hope.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Noodle Legs Strikes Back!

Awww, yeah. Last night I did the exact same ride with the exact same people and guess what? It was agony! Totally. However, I was able to push through it a bit more and did a lot better. I really had to dig deep for it and at one point remember thinking, "I'm going to make up this goddamn hill even if my legs fall off."

My legs did not fall off and I did make it up the goddamn hill. It was a lot hotter last night though, so I'm pretty sure that's at least part of the agony-feeling. I felt like ASS when I got home but a good shower and a semi-good dinner helped. A glass of wine helped a lot too. Hey, I need those restoring carbs.

This weekend I'm absolutely skipping the race and doing craft crap instead. Next Saturday, however, I think I'm going to do the Urban Assault mountain bike race. I did it last year and came in third (You can read about it here), so I feel like I need to try again. The problem is, every time I think about it my heart starts beating really fast. I am going to have a race-induced heart attack one of these days, I swear to god. Anyway, the Urban Assault is the day before the Richmond XTERRA, an event I do not participate in because I can't run or swim. Heh. It takes place on the downtown trails that run along the river (the "big loop" I'm always talking about) and the more advanced race includes the Forest Hill loop. Unfortunately my race doesn't include Forest Hill - it's an eight mile death sprint instead. You can read the course description here.

Basically it's all familiar trails but they're very narrow and technical and some of them are perched on a hillside so there's not much room for passing unless you want to fall to your death. FUN. At least it's over pretty quickly either way, eh?

Have a great weekend, kids!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Noodle Legs

OMGGGGGGGGGGG. Here's my definitive decision on the race this Sunday, based completely on my ride last night: NO TO THE HELL TO THE NO.

It's sad, really, how hard this can be sometimes. I work out more than most people I know and I ride pretty consistently and still, STILL! It's so hard. Not always, but last night for sure. It was a perfect evening - warm and sunny but not too hot or humid. I took Tuesday off so my legs were freshy-fresh and still, it was so insanely hard. We met up with some friends do to the long race course (for the Urban Assault race which is next Saturday. I'm still considering that one.) and I thought, perfect! I ride these trails all the time and I'm rested and good to go. We started out and I thought I was going to DIE. My legs felt weak and sluggish, I was gasping (gasping!) for air and I felt all give-upish. Never good.

One of the women who was riding with us usually races in my category, so when we hit Forest Hill I decided to make a valiant effort to keep up with her. I did, too. I dug a little deeper and started feeling a bit stronger and I stayed with her for the entire thing. However, when we finished that section and stopped to rest, my legs felt all shaky and noodley. Shit, this was bad because we had quite a bit more trail to cover. Noodley legs = doing something wrong.

I finished but I felt very bonky near the end and dropped pretty far back. Kenny, bless his sweet heart (I married him for a reason!) came back to scoop me up and I did make it home. I felt like complete ass, though. Why is this? What am I doing wrong? I'm going to ride again tonight to find out because I love the pain, apparently. I am a glutton for punishment.

Funniest EVER thing that happened last night:

We were (IN A VAN) down by the river waiting for our ride buddies and ran into another friend of ours. While we chatted with him, two incredibly ripe be-mohawked squatter guys wandered our way, one of them toting a forty. We ignored them and continued our polite conversation while behind us, the two guys decided to try to hop the incredibly high chain link fence that separates the train tracks from the fire road where we were standing. One of them tried, failed. Tried, failed, tried, hurt his hand and gave up. All of this is happening while we're still chatting and pretending that delinquents weren't trying to hop the fence behind us.

Finally, the guy with the squirrely mohawk walks up to us and very politely inquires as to whether there's a hole in the fence anywhere because he'd never seen a real train caboose before and just had to go check it out. He then was very careful to make clear to us that he wasn't, absolutely no sir, WASN'T going to hop the train or anything. I actually laughed at that point and told him we weren't the train police and wouldn't tell on him. He looked so worried! We told him where the fence gap was and he went on his merry stinking way.

Kids today, I swear.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I am So Screwed.

There's a race this Sunday (2nd in a series of 3) and I just don't know how I feel about it. I did the entire series last year and did pretty well, so I think I'd just been assuming I'd do it again. I missed the first one back in April because I was sick. This one, well, I have a lot of reasons why I probably shouldn't do it, but I just can't make up my mind.


- I rarely get to ride this course.

- I'd be able to gauge my progress against last year's time.

- I won't feel like a quitter.

- I like racing! I always feel accomplished afterwards even if I also feel like puking.


- I have to do a craft show all day outside on Saturday (which is always exhausting)
- This means no race pre-ride.

- There's an organized women's ride on Saturday, which means all of my competition will get to try out the course in advance.

- The race is at 9:30am Sunday and the course is a 30 minute drive so I'd have to get up at ...ugh. Early. I'd have to get up early.

- Sunday afternoon I have a Craft Mafia gathering to attend, so I'd have to leave immediately after the race.

- This means no post-race nap.

- It's been raining buckets for the past few days, so I haven't even ridden since last week sometime. Maybe Thursday? I can't even remember. That's not good.

- It's going to be ridiculously hot this weekend.

- $30 I'll never see again.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sweet Dirt Tan

Yeah, hi. I've gotten in several decent rides since my last entry but they tend to blur together because we ride the same trails pretty often. Last night (and last Thursday night) Kenny and I went to Powhite and spent a happy hour and a half riding familiar but still challenging trails. The really nice thing about Powhite: it's soft. When you crash at Powhite you sort of bounce off the dirt. Kenny and I have both had spills in the last week with barely a scratch between us. See, roadies, dirt is good! Pavement, that's what'll mess you up.

I did get crazy f'ed up last night, however, by some kind of prehistorically thorny bramble frond that was oh-so-innocently waving itself across the trail. I hit it and then Kenny hit it and we both shrieked like little girls. DANG ALMIGHTY that shit hurt. It dragged itself across my upper arm and I have freaking SEVEN big scratches. What the hell kind of devil weed was that? It started to swell up and when I complained Kenny told me I should be happy, as now I would have superpowers much like Spider-man. I asked him what kind of powers, exactly, was I going to get from a bunch of thorn scratches and he said I'd be KILLER on the turn tables. And then made DJ scratchy noises. Two turn tables and a microphone...

I mean, damn, if that's not incentive I don't know what is.

As part of our holiday weekend we went on a big group ride which started out really great when I loudly accused the organizer of giving us crap directions to his house when in fact my husband read the directions wrong. Sorry Jay! I just hate being late - it makes me cranky. As a group we did big loop but in the opposite direction from what we usually do. It's really hard the normal way but much, much more challenging backwards. Oy. I think it was about 2 1/2 hours, all told.

It was a good ride, tiring, but good. I felt like I'd accomplished something by finishing it and, as a bonus, I actually rode across the concrete bridge which scares the living hell out of me. Yay for that. I hate that thing but I didn't want to walk when everyone else was riding. I just stared really hard at the other end and chanted, "don't fall don't fall don't fall" quitely under my breath.

One more bonus: I got a sweet, sweet dirt tan. For the uninitiated, a dirt tan is what happens when the trails are dry and you are not. Let me demonstrate in pictures:

Dirt tan:

The true contrast:

Okay, hands up, who wants to make out with me?