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.