Monday, September 14, 2009

Two Sundays.

I've been slack about updating, but here's the thing: we've been riding the same trails all summer long and there's only so much you can say about doing the same thing over and over again. I will say this: I'm not sick of it yet. Really! Even though it's the same 16 miles, there's always some element of nature or humanity or weather that makes it new and different every ride.

Yesterday we dragged ourselves out for an afternoon ride, still feeling slightly hungover from a late Saturday night out. The weather was glorious. It was just picture perfect yesterday and even though I felt stiff and hadn't been on my bike in a week, I was anxious to get outside.

September is probably my best month on the bike because I have the springtime slog behind me and a summer's worth of fitness still hanging in. (I also have a mysterious patch of poison ivy in a place on my body where poison ivy has no business. WHY.)

We started on North Trail, crossed the pedestrian bridge, rode the lost trail around the far side of Belle Island, hit Buttermilk and then did the loop of Forest Hill. Kenny wanted to take the road home from there but I wanted to take the trail home, a suggestion I began to regret because man, was I tired. I make mistakes when I'm tired and ended up missing a few tricky sections. No injuries or bloodshed, thankfully.

We also rode last Sunday (same trails, opposite direction) and I actually remembered to bring a camera! Woo.

Somewhere in Forest Hill Park:

Kenny saw this branch seething with tiny white bugs:

Oh, that is the grossest thing ever:

The climb known as Heartbreak Hill. Oof:

One of the ravine whoops in Forest Hill:

What's that up ahead on the trail?

Why, it's turtle business time and we interrupted:

Sorry little dudes.

This switchback is one of my favorite sections of Forest Hill:

Kenny going down the hill on North Trail:

I love the crazy giant monster kudzu shapes:

The End!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Race Report: Camp Hilbert

Amateur racers. We drag ourselves out of bed at 6 am on a Saturday and haul ourselves to a race we have no chance of winning. It's either a noble rage against cosmic meaninglessness or, like, way more fun than mowing the lawn. (Bicycling, March 2004)

Having finished the Urban Assault race, feeling all good and full of endorphins and post-race amnesia, I blithely stated OUT LOUD that I'd probably be doing the Camp Hilbert race in June. At the time, June 28th seemed a long, long ways away. Or, you know, yesterday. Oops.

I didn't train for it so much as I just rode my bike every chance I got. This isn't a terrible strategy for me because nothing makes me a better rider than riding. If I go too long between rides I get more fearful and cautious and start avoiding some of the more technical sections of trail that scare me. If I ride a lot those sections still scare me but I ride them anyway. So there, trail.

Anyway, I registered for the race on Friday and felt good about it in general. I hadn't raced (or ridden) Camp Hilbert in a couple of years so I couldn't really remember much about it, specifically. For me, ignorance is bliss. If I don't know what parts to be freaked out by, I can't be freaked out by them, right? Right.

(Note: Camp Hilbert is the site of my disastrous Very First Bike Race back in 2002. I entered the Sport category because I'm stupid and then rode the entire thing in my small chain ring. I came in dead last, went home and slept for the rest of the day. )

Early Sunday morning and the weather was perfect. Perfect! Warm but not hot and slightly overcast. We ate breakfast and loaded up the car. Kenny proved that it is completely possible to put two full-suspension mountain bikes in the back of an Avalon:

Impressive! I was feeling okay, aside from flashes of pure fear when I thought about the race start. I hate the start. I'm usually fine once I'm in the woods but the start always sends me into red-lined horror. It's the part that leaves me panting and panicked and I'm always afraid if I go out too fast I'll blow up immediately.

We drive out to Camp Hilbert, gear up, pee 200 times (me) and before I can even blink, I'm lining up with the other Sport Women. Wow, that was fast.

WE GO. The start was blissfully downhill on a gravel fireroad that led around to the left and then down into the singletrack. It's fast and I manage to go in with the front four or five women. We hit the woods and I'm panting and winded, but handling the fast, twisty trail just fine. We head towards the bottom of the woods near a creek and there is a small disaster- a sideways (and giant) root has taken hold of my friend Malissa's front tire and she crashed. A flat takes her out of the race before she'd even got started. Totally sucks. I rode on and tried to pace myself. Donna is behind me and Amy ahead, though (I think?) at one point Amy pulls over and lets me pass (I think. I always get confused as to who is where.) She stayed behind me for the whole first lap (hey, that's my trick) pacing me and never quite letting me pull away. I felt TERRIBLE for most of the first lap. I rode everything and never stopped, but I felt like I was dying. (This is the part you conveniently forget the minute the race is over, which is why anyone ever does more than one race, ever.)

I rode the whole first lap clean and Donna passed us right as we started into the second lap. I was starting to settle in and feel better when I came to the root section that had taken out Malissa. For some dumb reason instead of taking the left line (like I had in my first lap) I went straight into it and my tire caught the root and over I went. I managed to do one of those weird flying dismounts and landed on my feet, but it didn't matter. I was shaken and Amy got her opportunity to pass me. Go Amy! She earned it.

She was gone by the time I got back on my bike and got myself going again. I settled back in and was concentrating on catching her when I hit the little tiny mud-slicked bridge that was right before the steepest climb in the race. I hit that bridge and my bike slid off it like it was covered in ice. I landed in the underbrush and had to push up the hill. Not a big deal, but I lost a fair amount of time.

After that, I just rode. I just rode my bike and enjoyed the fast, whippy trails and pushed as much as I was able. This was the first long race I've done since September of 2007, so I just didn't have the race endurance that comes from, well, racing. So! I finished a very respectable 4th place and I'm happy with that. Funny, the 1st - 4th lineup is the same four women as my last race, but with a few places rearranged. I was in good company, for sure. Donna came in 2nd place despite the titanium plate she just had screwed into her collarbone after a crash in her last race. I was a little worried that she was back racing so soon, but, um, I shouldn't have been. That plate just made her faster, I swear. Andrea won both races and she's so fast I never see her after the start. She gets out in front and stays there. Solid.

Sport Women podium.

Kenny rode with the early group and came in 7th, which is admirable. His field is way bigger than mine. He was happy, I think. We watched the noon start:

Go Paula!

the iPhone doesn't so much do speed shots.

And then packed the bikes up and went home. And immediately took naps because that's all we were good for. And that's still kind of how I feel today. Bleh.

sweaty and gross.

Kenny chilling with my bike.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Race Report - Urban Assault 2009

(photo courtesy of Ben Madden:

I wasn't going to do it. No way, no how. How could I race when it had done nothing but rain for weeks? And then I got a cold? The race was fast-approaching and I'd barely gotten more than one ride a week in, if that. It was a bad idea. A BAD IDEA. 

My friends Paula and Malissa were both signed up, so on Tuesday I joined them on a practice run of the course. I felt pretty good to be out but definitely could tell I wasn't recovering after climbs as fast as I would like to be. 

The, on  Thursday I went out with Kenny to join Paula on a slow last-ride-before-the-race ride. I felt great. Legs were strong, lungs were hanging in, my confidence was up. But I wasn't racing, no way was I ready. At one point I confided in Paula that I didn't want to race because I didn't want to embarass myself by coming in last. Paula stopped her bike and looked at me like I was crazy. Then she started working on me and by the end of the ride, I was on board. I was racing? Oh, shit. She totally missed her calling as a motivational speaker, or something. That woman could talk anyone into anything.

Kenny wasn't so sure, but he wasn't quite saying he wasn't going to do it. (He did it.) I was pretty certain I had no choice. Paula was right - this race is on our home course and there's no reason not to do it. None at all. Except for the PAIN.

The start of the race had a few things going for it:  

1. Unlike previous years, Sport Women got their own start. No lumping us in with beginner men, a practice I loathe. I don't enjoy dodging spazzy, nervous newbs. 

2. No Lemans start! Woo! I firmly feel that all bike races should start on bikes. If I wanted to run, I'd sign up for a duathalon. 

3. Noon start! I hate it when my race starts at 9am and my husbands doesn't start until noon. That's your whole day, right there. 

The short course started at Tredegar, followed fireroad up and around to the Lee Bridge, across the bridge, down to outdoor stairs (nine, count em, flights) more fireroad, up another set of stairs (again, nine. flights.) then finally singletrack down the southside of the James River to the Boulevard bridge, across that bridge and more singletrack on the north side to the finish. It was about 8 miles. It was a death sprint.  

There were ten of us in Sport Women and I only knew one other person in that category, so it was hard to know what I was up against. We started fast (well, they started fast) and I was too afraid of blowing up to try and keep that pace right away. As soon as we were up on the bridge, though, I put it in my big ring and started picking them off. One, two, three, four passed on the bridge. I think there must have been a couple of girls behind me, but I'm not sure. 

On the bridge (thanks Billy!)

We dropped down to the the stairs and I had one girl right on my ass. We trotted down the stairs with our bikes (ugh) and hit the fireroad. I passed two more on that stretch and was feeling winded, but not too bad. Then, more stairs. Carrying a bike upstairs is way, way harder than carrying a bike downstairs. By the time I got to the top and was facing actual, real singletrack, I felt like I was going to explode. I was sucking wind and my knees were wobbly, but I got on my bike with another rider right behind me. The first real technical obstacle was a rocky creek crossing that I've never been comfortable with, so I jumped off to run it rather than risk crashing. The girl behind me was much closer than I thought and I nearly de-biked her. Eek. I apologized and jumped back on to head down the trail as fast as I could manage. 

On the next creek crossing I bobbled and got out of her way so she could ride it, but somehow our bikes got tangled and we both floundered. We got loose and she continued on, asking over her shoulder if I was okay. I was, but I couldn't actually talk at that point, so I couldn't answer! I think she thought I was mad, but no way, man. That's just the way racing is! I got back on and headed up the trail, starting to feel a little better and more recovered. This section of trail is really, really technical and it also on a steep hillside, so you really need to be sharp and pay attention. I rode everything fine and headed up the hill to the second bridge crossing.

There was another girl who was riding with me and passed me at one point, who was riding a singlespeed with amazing dexterity. I think I managed to weeze, "You're kicking ass on that thing!" because damn, that is impressive. She and I traded spots back and forth a bit, depending on hills. I think I finally caught her after the ramp on northside and rode behind her until we hit a climb in northside, at which point I passed her again. Then she rode up behind me and started to ask to pass and I decided to put the pedal down and just use up everything I could to get some distance between us.  At some point on the northtrail I also caught the girl who I'd gotten tangled with and passed her. She told me afterwards that she was so impressed that I managed to come from a deadstop to catching her that she felt like I'd earned that pass! I don't know about all that, but thanks! Those two ended up sprinting together to the finish moments after I finished, which was pretty exciting.

I crossed the line not having any real idea of what place I was in, but I felt like I'd ridden a good race and I'd put everything I had into it. I checked around and, woo! 2nd place. Not to bad! The girl who won was someone I never even saw. I think she must have taken the lead immediately and just kept it the whole race. That is impressive, for sure. So, here's the top four lineup (from the right: me, 1st place, 3rd, 4th)

(very cool photo courtesy of Ben Madden, who you should check out at:

And here I am with my prize-winning razor! It was one of the items in the backpack I won. I was the only one who got a razor and I think everyone was totally jealous. Who's hairless now? That's me. 

Kenny finished his race handily in 14th place (his field is way bigger than mine) and Paula unfortunately had a mechanical and couldn't finish. Totally sucks considering she was the reason I did the race. 

So thank the lord that's over. There's another race at the end of June I'm considering, so apparently I've drunk the Kool-Aid. We'll see.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sunday Ride is Teh Awsum

I spent most of last week down and out in tooth-pain misery, so when Sunday turned out to be sunny! and! warm! I was dying to get out and ride. Never mind that my husband had ridden in (and won!) a race the day before and was tired, we were GOING TO RIDE and I wanted to do AOTT. YEAH. I was ready. In an unexpected move of non-introvertedness, we planned ahead a bit and met up with some bike friends and teammates we don't get to see very often.

They were a very chatty bunch (seriously, you guys talk a LOT) but that made it fun and I got to catch up with my friend Lisa, who is going to confuse people by wearing my cool Twin Six jersey in the photos we took. That's Lisa in the houndstooth, for a change. (To be fair, she owned it first. She has good taste.)

So, we met up at Crossroads and I took a couple really grand photos:

(anyone need orthodontics? Glad I managed to get that in the shot.)

We started in Forest Hill which is...hard. Lisa and I were feeling less than speedy, so we took our time in the back of the pack for a while. Here's Lisa coming off the steep switchback:

We finished Forest Hill and moved on to do a section of Buttermilk and Belle Island:


(more talking.)
Richard riding the stairs!

Then we fought our way across the pedestrian bridge (always my least favorite part of any ride) and headed down the Northbank trail to meet up with Joel.

I don't have much commentary on the ride but I really enjoyed it and was surprised at my relative lack of suffering. I was tired at the end but my legs felt strong and I was just so happy to be out riding.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I love Powhite in the springtime...

I rode my bike! More than once! I actually have a backlog of photos, so I'll post today about a recent ride and yesterday's ride will go up later this week (I promise! I swear!)

The beauty of Powhite Park, the small wooded hillside sandwiched between neighborhoods, wetlands and highway, is that it stays dry as a bone even when it's wet everywhere else. A few weeks back we got the usual gang together for a casual ride. The day was beautiful and we all were just so happy to be OUT. In the sun! After I took a couple of my famously bad photos, Kenny took the camera away from me and saved the integrity of my blog by taking some really sweet action shots.

This entry is really all about the photos because a Powhite ride is usually just about getting out the cobwebs and having a good time. I remember feeling pretty good. I was pretty slow, but I wasn't suffering. There is one pretty gnarly climb right up the middle, which was nicely documented:

I don't always make it, but I did that day. This photo shows how steep it really is (hopefully Paula won't kill me for posting this):

We also enjoyed some of the new trail features:

I'm still heartbroken that my favorite switchback climb was sacrificed for it, but the new stuff is lots of fun to ride. I'm slow to accept change, what can I say.

This is my favorite drop-in to the ravine run:

Whee! Don't we all look happy? What a nice day: