Friday, September 23, 2011

mud is coming

I'm racing elite this year.  I still don't feel "elite" or "expert" at this bike racing thing, but it's where I belong.  I even looked at lap times to convince myself of that.

I got a new-to-me bike this year.  Yeah, I know, did that last year, too. But, I own two sweet cross bikes instead of a sweet cross bike and a sexy road bike.  The Santa Cruz and I have seen a lot of road time together in the last year and will continue to even though it spends its time during races in the pit.

Anyway, new-to-me bike, a handmade Alan from Italy that a teammate sold me came with sweet wheels (it's actually the one pictured in the link!).  So I had a conundrum - two sets of carbon race wheels.  And I did what any respectable cyclocrosser would do.  I got mud tires. With the new Challenge Limus glued up on some Zipp 303's, I expected we'd have a completely dry season, just like last year when I was busy earning upgrade points to make the jump into the big girls category.  Yeah, that's right, I got all those upgrade points without a single speck of mud on my bike.

That was until remnants of a hurricane rained out my last mountain bike race.  We went to Nittany CX instead, where instead of gently dipping my toe into the elite water at a local race, I jumped in head first with the Euro pros in a UCI field.  Wait, did I mention it rained the week before Nittany?

That mud was disgusting.  Smelled like cow.... well, let's just say I was thrilled there were showers.  I love the new bike.  I love the mud tires.  I rode well and decided it's pretty cool we get to ride our bikes through mud puddles for fun.  Shea stripped the new bike to the frame when we got home.  He claimed I'd gotten grass and mud inside the rear hub. Can't imagine how...

Last weekend was Charm City, a little pair of UCI races a mile from our house.  I'm sure there will be more here about Charm City, but for now... it's raining again.  Just in time to make some mud for Tacchino...

Thanks to Shea, Diedre and Karl Connolly for the pics.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

the why

A cross friend, FatMarc, asked on Facebook "Why do you race your bicycle?"

My answer... "I love finding my limits. Physically, mentally, emotionally. In training and in racing. :)"

But it's more than that.  I love expanding those physical limits, becoming smarter tactically, and learning to tough through the hard parts of racing.  And training.  I love the feeling of sliding my bike around a corner at speed.  I love a set of clean barriers. I love that feeling of power on a bike - that I'm driving it. I love sticking it up a tough climb in a long race.  Especially when I pass a guy (or three) walking up it (sorry, but we call that getting chicked). I love digging out of that mental cave that comes at some point in every long race.  Knowing my body well enough to push hard or harder, force myself to eat, and even pull from a race. I love seeing friends at the start.  Cheering for them in their races, seeing them in the pit, talking about bike parts. Surrounding myself most weekends with others who value lifelong health.

But there's more training than racing, despite the way this blog goes.  And I love racing because it keeps me training.  Keeps me focused (at least somewhat) on eating well and taking care of my body.  Lets me feel energetic, healthy, and strong. Lets me feel proud of myself.  And these are all the reasons that I encourage other women (and men) to race.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fresh ginger gelato

Scouring the internet for ginger gelato recipes... As the result of a good-natured bet, I'm making ice cream for my coach, who had some pretty awesome success at track nationals.  Ginger ice cream recipes are easy to find, but no gelato.  For the unintiated, gelato has a lower ratio of heavy cream to milk, so is lower in fat and tends to come out of my little ice cream maker creamier.  So, I modified a basic gelato recipe and a ginger-infused ice cream recipe to come up with this:

Fresh Ginger Gelato
makes 1 1/2-2 quarts

  • 4 cups milk - technically, this should be whole milk - I often use 2% - this time it's skim because that's all the co-op had left
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • scant 1 1/2 cups of super fine sugar - this is less sugar than in most American recipes but closer to what my Silver Spoon Italian cookbook recommends for gelato; honestly I think this could be more like 1 cup if you use good milk and cream
  • 1 heaping cup of fresh ginger - chopped into 1/2 inch pieces - this seems like a lot but looks like less when it's in the milk - this is about the yield from a 4-6" chunk of ginger

Combine milk, cream, ginger and half the sugar.  Scald over low to medium heat until bubbly, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and allow ginger to infuse the milk for 20-30 minutes.  Return to heat and stir constantly until returns to a simmer. Prepare egg yolks by whisking in a large bowl with the remaining sugar until frothy.  Slowly combine hot milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly to prevent scrambling.  Pour the mixture back into a pan and heat over medium flame with constant stirring until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without erasing a line drawn with a finger (before clumps begin to form!).  Strain custard into another bowl set in an ice water bath to chill the custard (or overnight in fridge). Save approximately 1/4 cup of the ginger chunks from the straining (with their clumpy custard if there is some) and shred in food processor.  Add back to custard before freezing.  Freeze according to your ice cream maker, allowing to harden for a few hours to overnight.  Garnish with small chunks of crystallized ginger.

But what you really wanted was:

Peach Ginger Gelato

So... I made the above and used about a third of it for my peach ginger experiment. Mix 2 cups of pureed fresh, peeled peaches into 3 cups of the cooled custard before freezing.  The edges of the freezer bowl tasting is good but a little too raw. Next time: simmer sauteed peaches with 1T rum and 1/2 cup brown sugar or to taste for about 10 minutes.

Sorry, no pictures this time!  Just yumminess...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

safety stop

Sometimes, you get a jolt of reality 4 hours into a long race.  I just scrapped the meanderingly long race report I was writing for the Big Bear Ultra - a 50 miler that I won last year (women's open field had a mere 2 of us) and got second by about 15 minutes to regional powerhouse Betsy this year (!).  My time was 34 minutes faster than 2010.  It was cooler but substantially wetter.  I had a bit of mechanical trouble with a shoe and a rotor.  It was a good day on the bike.  A day where I was mentally tougher and more motivated than I've been lately.

Love racing Big Bear - somehow, like 4 hours goes by before I start to have negative thoughts about being on the bike.  At about that time on Saturday, when I was entering the bonk that would persist until I re-gu'd myself, I reached a trail intersection where two of my compatriots were stopped and off their bikes.  I asked if they had everything they needed, thinking they were fixing a flat.  But, as I rolled away, I realized this was a more organic stop... later, I'd learn it's called a "safety stop" in West Virginia.  Reality check - we do this racing schtuff for fun!  And it was.  Love racing Big Bear.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

being a good teammate

My teammates have saved my butt before. On Sunday at the Michaux Curse of Dark Hollow, I think I got to be a good teammate.  Gave a tube to a friend before the race, loaned a heart rate strap to Bernie (who'd go on to score 3rd in the Master's category).  These things should always come in threes.

My goals for the race were simple.  40 miles.  Make the time cut-off and finish.  Don't go out as hard as I normally do.  I told myself I wasn't going to let my heart rate get above 190 in the first 40 minutes.  For that last one - I succeeded for all but about 30 seconds of a tough climb that I spent a fair bit of off my bike.
Photo: Ralph Brandt
I started by riding poorly in some rock gardens and getting a little mopey that I was probably dead last.  Then I remembered that I wasn't going out too hard, and I passed a couple of guys who'd flatted, so I wasn't dead last anymore (and really, I never was).  By about 5 miles in, I had my rock garden issues worked out and was riding pretty well.  Descending smart.  I came down a tough section near the lake and came up on my teammate Jen.  She's been working her tail off and racing fast, and this was her first attempt at the 40 at Michaux.  We rode together through the tight, twisty singletrack along the lake.  I only hit a few trees with my bars and then we popped out onto a fire road at the first aid station but didn't stop.

A long fire road climb followed.  I heard my bike making some noise.  It sounded similar to some weird brake noises before I caught Jen.  Hmmm... It was getting worse.  We pulled off at the top of a roller, checked my headset, skewer, brake pads. Nope, nope, nope.  The rotor was loose?!  I pulled the wheel off, realized it was going to take a few to get this fixed if I could at all, and sent Jen on - no need to slow her down further seeing as she was nice enough to stop in the first place.

The lock ring on the Shimano adapter on the rotor had worked itself loose.  I hand tightened it, discovered that my duct tape wasn't sticky enough to help anymore, and put the wheel back on.  Grr.  Back up the road.  Still making noise.  Getting worse.  I stopped again, this time using my tool to get the ring a little tighter, but not tight enough.  It was making noise again within a mile.  I was at about mile 12 of a 40 mile race.  I figured this was enough of a setback that I'd miss the 2pm cutoff at mile 32.  Especially if I had to keep stopping.

I thought through the consequences of riding with it that way.  Dirt in the hub assembly.  Possibly a bent rotor.  But the wheel was spinning true and the brake wasn't rubbing.  I kept going.  Until the noise was so persistent on a gentle rocky downhill that I stopped to see the ring was entirely off, spinning around the skewer.  I took the wheel off again, rethreaded it and tightened it by hand.  For some reason, it worked.  I suspect that dirt had worked its way in there and added a little friction to keep it from loosening.

I kept riding.  Refilled my camelback at mile 20, ate a twizzler, and rolled upwards again.  Honestly, I don't remember much of the middle section of the race as very remarkable.  I enjoyed the spring trails more, except the last 10 miles, of course.  I was riding pretty consistently.  Oh, there was that really horrendous hike-a-bike section, though.  Frickin' steep, loose dirt and rocks.  Not easy hiking, let alone with a bike in tow.  A couple of awesomely long downhills.

About 29 miles in (I'm guessing, my cadence sensor was mistaken about the distance... again), I came up on Jen.  I wasn't thrilled to see her - she should be at least 10 minutes ahead of me after my mechanical issues.  But she was cramping.  I told her to get on my wheel and we'd go.  Up. Up. Up.  To the last aid station.  I figured we were going to miss the cutoff.  But my little disagreement with the Garmin meant that we had fewer miles to go than I knew.  We celebrated with some tasty snickers bars, fresh water, and a few miles of fire road.
Jen the cramp fighter.  Photo: Ralph Brandt

Jen was still cramping.  I pulled us down the fire road into the singletrack.  We traded places a couple of times, but were working together.  I was pretty certain that the woman ahead of us was out of reach and felt good but not strong enough that I was going to attack my own teammate to find out.  Plus, Jen was in rough shape.  The cramps were moving around - she was hanging in there but wasn't very talkative.  I waited for a minute at the top of a powerline climb/hike.  She waited for a minute when I stopped to put a couple turns on the rotor lock ring.  When we got to the finish, I told her we had to finish strong.  I nearly puked for the effort, even though I don't think either of us went all out to sprint each other at the end of 40 miles in the woods.  Officially, we finished 4th and 5th, 1 second apart.  I'm not telling you in which order.  Because the thing is, it simply doesn't matter.  We both finished.  In the top 5.

It was a good day in the woods.  Despite eating less than I should have and probably not going as hard as I could have, I maintained a pretty steady effort all day, handled my bike well, rode smart, and dealt with the mental challenge of thinking I was going to miss the cutoff due to a mechanical (and the fact that we actually didn't start until 9:20, gotta love Michaux!).  My body was trustworthy.  No revolts, even though it was humid and warm.  Dusty rocky goodness.
I even managed to eat afterwards! Photo: Ralph Brandt

getting it back

In June, I was sort of to rather sick for nearly 3 weeks.  For three days at the beginning, I just laid on the couch or stared at the wall.  Coach said I couldn't ride until I could walk 15 minutes.  Lyme test came back negative, after they lost it once.  Who knows what I had, but I was struggling to get 1500 calories a day during a time in the year where normally I'm struggling not to inhale everything I see.  I lost 10 pounds in two weeks.  I DNF'd from two races in one weekend.  I didn't get stronger. 

I'm keeping my weight down (sometimes, you should look a gift horse in the mouth!) because it feels good.  But getting my legs back took longer than I expected and I was pissed about it.  Just about two weeks ago, I started to feel pep in my step again.  Two weeks ago we said goodbye to my dog, sending him to puppy heaven if there is such a place and if there isn't, letting him rest forever on a farm in Pennsylvania without the pain of a huge tumor in his head.

Sunday, we raced at Michaux.  That race report will come.  Soon.

In the meantime, here's what I've learned lately.  My emotional well-being directly impacts my marriage and my training.  Whew, there, I said it.  Doesn't matter how tough I was prettending to be.  I think I was really frustrated about the setback in training from being sick and even more overwhelmed dealing with a dying pet.  I took it out on my husband, my coach, my other dog, perhaps most of all, myself.  Some days, I took it out on the bike and got good training in.  Other days, I wound up sitting in the grass on the side of the road, crying about not wanting to ride.  One day, I nearly did that mountain biking even though I was with good friends at one of my favorite places to ride.

I got some of it back at Fair Hill.  Had a good day on the bike where my body didn't revolt.  Got a bit of confidence back.  I've had a few great days on the bike plus a few really crappy ones thrown in since then. 

I don't quite have my edge back for racing.  The "killer instinct".  The feeling of always being chased and chasing.  But I'm getting there.  I trust my body again.  I'm starting to trust my head.  The rest will come.  Which is especially good because cross season is approaching quickly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

a note to my dog

Dear Gidders,

This is, I think, my farewell note to you.  It's probably weird to write a note to my dog, but sometimes I think you're smart enough that you'd understand half the words here if I read it out loud.

Seven years ago, when we went back to the dog adopt-a-thon after not finding you the first time, I think Shea was rolling his eyes.  Allie was a crazy dog, and we (or was it just me?) were hoping a playmate might settle her.  You tumbled out of the cage into Shea's lap - sweet eyes just wanting cuddles and love, something you'd not had much of in your first year of life.  You and Allie were wrestling before we were finished with the paperwork.  Turns out, this was a special relationship you'd have with her.  We already knew she didn't play nice with many other dogs.  You didn't play at all.  Except with Allie.  It was regular party entertainment to watch you two "kids" wrestle.  Amazingly, I think in 7+ years we only had one wrestling-related trip to the vet - an eye scratch. 

You stole all the toys and kept them in your bed, rustled in bike bags to rescue powdered drink mixes that needed to be eaten, chewed through jersey pockets for gu wrappers and always left Allie the beef jerky.  Walked in a straight line on the sidewalk, never veering.  Chased the frisbee until your tongue was twice as long as your snout. And all the pet-sitters we ever had told me that you followed the rules they didn't know about.  Sit at the corner. Sit to get your food.  Oh, wait, except the one about not getting on the couch.

Do you remember your first onions?  I was making soup in the Salt Lake kitchen, where the walk from the countertop to the stove was more than 2 steps.  Handful of onions went crashing to the floor.  I kept going, threw the rest in the pot.  The rest were gone when I turned around.  You were a weird dog.  Onions?  Raw garlic?  We even tried hot sauce to keep you from eating something off the table.  I spilled some on the floor in the process. You licked it up and begged for more.

What about the mushrooms?  I think we left a gate open and went to Home Depot.  Allie was behind the picket fence when we got home - you were sitting nicely in the neighbor's yard.  An hour later, you were puking.  Up came something that resembled chicken.  Some excellent detective work by Shea revealed you'd mowed down a patch of wild mushrooms next door.  And I mean mowed.  We only figured out what you'd eaten because you'd left a single stem under a rock.

You were always the one I could take anywhere.  A toddler, tugging on your leash insistently, while you dozed at the farmer's market.  You rolled your eyes and didn't budge.  Tied in the back of the car at many a 'cross race.  Running.  Okay, walking while I "ran".  Into lab when I was a grad student. To mom's, where the doors were more interesting than any of the herdable animals.  Where you helped during strawberry picking by catching every soft one we threw in your direction. Of course, the single best place to be was being petted by anyone, while looking at me.

But sometimes, your timidness came out.  The Steelers parties in Salt Lake... Allie would play with the big dogs.  You'd hide under my legs until all of the sudden, something good or bad happened in the game and that wasn't a safe place to be any more...  Remember our first hike together?  Shea had to carry you across a little stream with a log bridge.  You were so scared.  But then you learned.  Followed the trail without fail.  Curled up in the tent vestibule, trembling through a thunderstorm.  Carried the pack when Allie was too tired, having been kept up all night by a talkative chipmunk.  Discovered the thrill of chasing a squirrel. Trundled up and down the trails in Bountiful, Park City and Moab while I rode, staying behind my wheel on the downhills and pulling me up the climbs.  Listened obediently when we saw hundreds of sheep, a few sheepdogs and other border collies, and, oh yeah, the herders with guns on their horses.

We drove across the country together, just you and I.  The only time you got to sit in the front seat.  I had too many bikes and things in the back of the Focus for you to fit.  We both made it through whole tanks of gas at a time.  I got more than a little freaked out by the weird trucker dude who thought I'd abandoned you, tied to a tree with a water bowl while I went inside for 5 minutes to use the ladies room.  I'll bet that hamburger he gave you tasted good, though.

You were a good dog.  More my dog than any I ever had as a kid.  More my dog than Shea's. Here's hoping that in puppy heaven for Gideon, you have hundreds of tomato plants to eat cherry tomatoes off the vine.  The wild mushrooms are plentiful and non-toxic.  The frisbees fly high, the grass is lush for rolling in, and the paths all go interesting places. You get cuddles all the time.  I know you... you'll miss your people there.  But we won't forget you.  I'll miss ya buddy.  You were a good dog.  Seven years was not enough.

Monday, July 11, 2011

fairly Fair Hill

My first mountain bike race, or really, bike race, was three years ago at Fair Hill.  I got 2nd in the beginner category.  It was the start of an addition to racing.  To not making decisions about which trail to pick, just which gear to be in and how hard to go.  To going so hard I forget conversations at the finish line.

Yesterday, I was putting myself back together after a stomach thing derailed my training a bit in June.  Yeah, I'm at a new race weight and trying to stay there, but I didn't get stronger to get lighter and have been feeling sluggish for the month or so since then.

Racing 50 miles.  I went out too hard.  I needed to know where my high end legs are right now more than I needed to race as consistently as I could for 50 miles.  It felt good.  Life has been complicated lately, and for the first time in a while it was just me, on the bike.  Focused.  Not thinking about my dog, my career, my recent distaste for training on the road...

Smooth, cornering well, shifting well, climbing well.  I didn't remember Fair Hill having that much climbing.  Had a little posse of guys with me for a while, then just one who made every pass with me for a long time.  It was good - he was keeping me honest without stressing me out about having someone on my wheel.

That was for about 2 hours.  Then I faded a bit.  Still felt good, but my stomach and I were not agreeing about how long I was going to spend on the bike.  I won, but it got me back after the race when there were bunches of tasty crabs sitting right in front of me to eat that looked appetizing...

Rode the hill that some others walked about 4 miles from the end of the lap.  Ran into a tree with my shoulder and handlebars.  Hit another with just my hip.  Crashed about 3 miles from the finish into a sticker bush on the side of the trail.  Drank nearly all of both my 70oz camelbacks.

Put most of what I had out there.  I saw another woman about 5 miles from the finish.  She attacked on a hill.  I didn't have much zip left in my legs and she was outta sight for most of that stretch.  In the end, she beat me by 30 seconds.  I wound up 5th.  Teammate JT took 2nd in the women's, and Bernie crushed the other singlespeeders to win.  Great to see people that are training hard getting results.

Yesterday, I was racing against the clock.  On one of my best days on the bike all year last season, I finished the 50 miler in 5:45.  Yesterday, I snuck in just under 5:30.  and it wasn't my best day on the bike.  It was solid - definitely not the worst.  I'll take it.

What a difference three years can make.  Next up: 40 miles at Michaux.  Yeah, I'm going back for more. :-)

Friday, July 1, 2011

a sad squeal

Not much action here lately.  I've only finished a race once since Michaux - a good day but not entirely remarkable at Greenbriar in the marathon event.  6 laps. 

Since then, I've been busy and was sick for about two weeks after a trip to Mexico. Bleh. I tried to race in the middle of it.  Key word - tried. Not eating for a week or so is not conducive to finishing long races. I lost all that winter weight and then some, but a lot of my spring fitness went with it.

Just over a year ago, I tangled with a wild animal and wound up in the ER - not covered with blood, but getting rabies shots.

Last night, a rogue bunny decided to tempt fate in front of my wheels.  It didn't win.  I felt the thump, then the second thump, then heard the sad little squeal of an injured animal.  I didn't look back.  Nor did I crash my bike on the road.

Natural selection.  I apply the concept intellectually all the time at work.  But sometimes it hits too close to home.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the things we miss already

Frisbees.  Chasing them until we can't breath.  Tongue hanging on the ground.
Stealing the ball from whomever actually retrieved it.
Rope bones.
Toy hoarding.
Running up and down the steps.
Playing with Allie.
Following me around.
Eating all the scraps of vegetable that flew (unintentionally or otherwise) off my cutting board.
Begging for dinner.
Head cocks at the word "treats", "ball", "toy", or "breakfast".
Crunching frozen poop in the backyard (yuck!).
Digging in the trash for vegetable pieces.
Chewing through pockets for Gu wrappers.
Nosing into bike bags to steal Cerasport packs, and then acting innocent (until the pink paws were noticed).
Curling up in the little dogs' bed at Mom's.
Scarfing up horse feed that dropped on the ground or sat in a bucket.

My dog is sick.  Technically, he's our dog, but he's always liked me better.  He's only 8, a border collie mix we got from a rescue agency some 7 years ago tomorrow.  Last Tuesday, the biopsy came back positive for locally metastatic adenocarcinoma in the lymph node with the primary tumor likely to be in the nasal cavity.  We are not pursuing radiation therapy.  So, in reality, my dog is dying.  I didn't ask the vet how long he expects him to live.  I didn't want to know.

His nickname this week is fisheyes.  The tumor is pushing out under his nose.  He can't see much.  But I am focusing on the positives.  The pieces of him we still get to enjoy for some amount of time longer.

Eating (anything soft, warm, and not wrapping up a pill)
Walking in a perfectly straight line on the sidewalk, veering to the grass only for business.
Tricks for treats.
Peeing on the onions.
Belly rubs and goodnight snuggles.
Wags.  Any time he hears our "dog talk" voices.
Strawberries.  Corn cobs.  Watermelon.

So cuddle your dogs tonight.  Hug them and throw them a frisbee.

Friday, May 13, 2011

living local

I love living where we do in the city - a block from a kitchsy shopping and restaurant row.  Small shops peddle a broad range of trinkets, gifts, clothing, bikes, shoes, chocolate, even sex toys and tattoos.  Sometimes these single proprietor businesses are closed unexpectedly and have very odd hours, but Saturday afternoons are always hopping.

Last weekend, two local shops lost my business - at least for a while if not longer.  One offered a groupon a while ago - I snapped it up - I always buy more than I intend when awesome pastries are on the line, so it was bound to be a good deal for the shop as well.  I tried to redeem it in December - they got back to me late, saying they were closed after the holiday.  No worries.  I ordered again in March.  Nope - 'we're too busy'.  Finally, I ordered nearly a week in advance for Mothers' Day weekend.  Went to pick it up - they were closed.  No phone response, no email, despite the note on the door that said all special orders would be filled.  Money back from Groupon - I won't recommend them anymore.  There's a point of unreliability that is not acceptable from any business, even a small, local one.

I was out and about, so I stopped in a few shops and picked up gifts to thank the family we stayed with in Utah this year.  I went first to a eco-oriented gift shop where I knew I'd find interesting bracelets for their daughter - and I did.  When I first moved (alone, without Shea while he tended to a house that was for sale), I was close friends with the owners.  We walked each other's dogs for a while until some wires got crossed and our friendship has since fallen by the wayside.  We still say hello when we're out, but I hadn't seen them in a while.  The owner introduced me to another woman in the shop, saying, "This is Becky - she's not eco, though."  The thing is, I'm not sure how eco it is to fly around the world, collecting crafts and products that are eco and support the communities you visit, but I don't point out this inconsistency.  I get what she's trying to do with her shop and think it shouldn't matter whether I'm occasionally eco by your standards or not.  Especially when I'm doing one thing I believe in - shopping locally.  I handed over my credit card for the bracelets and walked out.

The moral of this story - if you're a small shop owner:
1. Be reliable.  Or at least responsive.
2. Don't insult the customer.

Lucky for me, I don't need many pastries on my way to race weight.  And there are plenty of other gift shops that are local, if not eco.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

loud breathers...

My pup is sick.  We're not sure yet how sick, but already sick enough to be more expensive than Shea's race wheels...

You know those people - the ones who breath loudly when they sit behind you on the bus, in a conference room, in the tram at Snowbird?  I'm one of those when I'm on a bike, but that's another story...

Photo credit: I've had this on my desktop for so long I've lost the source...
but it was taken at a cross race in 2010, I think.
Gideon is a loud breather now.  He snores while awake and he snores louder when he's asleep.  Either way... when he opens his mouth to actually breath, he stops snoring.  I think it's to the point now where this is actually what's waking me up at night.  Not the snoring - the cessation of snore-tastic loud breathing.

Pill delivery is a bit challenging - he can't stop breathing through his mouth long enough to chew his favorite pill pushing food - strawberries, so I've relegated him to chunks of banana.  Yes, he is a weird dog.  At Mom's, he sits by the strawberry patch, waiting for someone to come pick some.  We throw him all the slightly off color berries.  He scarfs them all.  Gideon will also eat an entire banana - or just the peel, whatever you give him... so I guess banana is probably not a downgrade.

Monday, May 9, 2011

delayed reaction

So, for those of you who don't know, I was unsuccessful (the politically correct wording equivalent to failed) at a pretty tough ski instructor exam this year.  It's the last one really - the one that means you get to be a full examiner some day.  I didn't expect to make the team on the first try - I also didn't expect to be as low in the scores as I was.

Disappointed.  Frustrated.  I walked away pissed off (at myself) and thoroughly motivated to bring a better package to the table next time.  The following week, I showed up for some coaching with one of my favorite ski teachers, and he was surprised to see me - I guess most people bug out for the rest of the season when they miss the cut.  The feedback I'd received didn't match the picture he was seeing.  Until it did.  But we talked a lot about performance anxiety and training for performance.

I led some clinics.  I goofed off with friends on the snow.  I went to Utah with Shea for some powder skiing on the big mountains.  The snow melted.  Cycling season started for real.

Somewhere in there, a dear friend also succeeded at maintaining their current certification standard (another way of saying unsuccessful). They were bitter.  Thought the process was unfair and stupid.  I balked that the certification process is stupid but agreed that the group dynamic was weird and a few examiners had been less than perfect.  The question of why go to a certification exam lingered.  This friend, in part, felt the peer pressure to go, facilitated by a ski school in which 80% or more of our returning staff values PSIA certification as a personal and professional goal.

It got me to thinking what my motivation is to be on the examiner squad.  I love the movements of skiing.  I love sharing them with others, and in the East, some of our most motivated and knowledgeable students are our fellow instructors.  I value what I've learned from ski teaching about communication, learning styles, and interacting with students and think it's important information to convey. I love the camaraderie of my development team peers and fellow PSIA staff members when we're out on the road, having "date night" after being cooped up indoors all day due to a tornado warning.  Or just having a beer.

But... I rearrange a lot of other my other important priorities in the winter to get time to be a part of PSIA.  I get less done in lab.  A lot less sometimes.  I don't ride nearly as much.  I eke through weeks without groceries.  I skip days at my home mountain**.  I forgo trips that I might otherwise take.  I skip date nights, girls nights out, seeing my mom except in passing to pick up or drop off our furry monsters.  I don't get to spend as much time as I'd like integrating what I learn out on the hill - either for teaching or personal skiing.  I tiptoe around the politics of a group of people who pride themselves on being the best ski teachers out there.

**My home mountain recently won the "Conversion Cup" for the best beginner's program in the nation from the National Ski Areas Association.  How cool is that?  I'm thankful for many of my mentors there who developed the program and proud of all of us who are out there, taking groups of 6 on a busy Saturday and teaching them how to turn to a stop.  Simple.

The problem, or perhaps it is a good thing, is that this delayed reaction is happening at a time when there's only rain - snow season won't come back for 7 months.  Maybe the sting of disappointment will drive me again, as it did right after the exam.  Maybe.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

my story of falling in love

Okay, I've had parts of this post written for about 9 months.  Figured it was time to get it up or throw it out. So if it's too sentimental in a week where I already posted a long race report from a longer emotionally satisfying race, then just don't read it.

I am not a natural cyclist. I lived on a farm as a kid - we didn't just ride our bikes to the neighbors or go the BMX parks.  We rode horses and threw haybales.

I hated cycling the first time around.  I actually sold my first mountain bike not long after I bought it as an (expensive) high school graduation gift.  Some guys had taken me well over my head (yellow trail at Gambrill for those who know it, among others), and, suffice it to say, it hadn't been fun.  I pretty much swore I'd never ride again and became a rock climber instead.  I loved that for a while, got all the gear, learned a ton and pushed myself, but it didn't stick.

And then I met Shea.  Shea was also a climber.  But he had only a harness and shoes.  And two bikes.  And a motorcycle.  And some useful furniture.  We moved from Colorado to Utah.  What he didn't have yet was a job.  But he's a pretty resourceful guy... he used his spare time to trade website work for a brand new bike for me. Turns out he had bike shop connections from his time as a teenager.  We picked out a Cannondale that could be upgraded to disc brakes and had a flower on the saddle (yes, seriously). 

I didn't really want a bike, but everyone in Utah rides and hey, this guy I really liked was giving it to me as a gift.  It might be the first gift he gave me.  And it's a pretty color.  I was excited one day early in grad school to get home to a new bike - he had it built up by the time I got home.  Even though I didn't like to ride.

I was skeptical.  A pretty color will not make me love it.  I bought a matching jersey (both color and flower pattern).* We went to the hill near our apartment.  It's probably a 4% grade on a quiet city street in Salt Lake.  I was terrified to ride down it.  Shea was patient.  I still didn't love it. 

*Aside: this foreshadowed what would turn out to be a lot of matching in my cycling life.  Just look at the bottle cages on my mountain bike or anything on my cross race bike.

The first time on a trail, I picked an easy one, according to the guidebook.  Wide doubletrack at the top of a canyon.  But, like many trails in Utah, it goes up.  Then you turn around and ride down.  Our first few trips to Dog Lake only went about a mile up the trail.  A month or so later, I made it the 4 or so miles up to Dog Lake.  It's not a pretty lake.

Still, I'd be hard pressed to say I loved cycling.  I was giving it a go, that's for sure, and easy trails were helping.  But it was really hard.  Like there's not enough air, i can't breathe, how much longer do we need to go up this hill hard.  I was starting to like the downhill part.

I'm not sure when I truly fell in love with cycling.  It could have been about a year later when I thought it was a good idea to go ride some lift-serviced downhill at Deer Valley.  On my hard-tail with a head shock.  Without a pump.  We flatted 3 times and got scolded by the locals.  I ditched the bike on the outside of every switchback on the black diamond trail.  I got my first nasty sunburn line from bike shorts.

It could have been two years or so after I got that bike, when a colleague of mine in graduate school was killed in a car-hits-cyclist accident.  The memorial ride for Josie was my first group ride.  I did it on the same hard-tail.  The power and love of people on bikes was pretty inspiring.

But really, I think I can distill it to one moment in the fall, probably of 2004, but I'm not sure.  One of my first dozen or so rides with clipless pedals.  American Fork Canyon.  The dry, mountain singletrack is stunning.  Views with just-starting-to-change-color aspen were worth every climb.  A snake squiggled across the trail.  We got a bit lost.  But what I really remember - trying to stop at a trail intersection where Shea was waiting.  A couple other guys we didn't know were watching.  I came up to the group, having just ridden a loose rocky downhill and was feeling proud.  I pulled up to the trail junction sign.  I fell over.  Yup, I forgot to unclip.  Felt like I'd finally joined the club.

It would be quite a while before I assimilated into the collection of those who ride their bikes with numbers on them, trying to go faster.  I love racing, too, but that's another story.

That Cannondale holds a special place in my heart (and our basement).  Eventually we converted it to disc brakes, and I raced on it for a while.  It now boasts only a single gear and has the unfortunate problem of "loaning" its parts when race bikes go askew.  People who've borrowed it know about the flaws of a very shiny carbon seatpost.

The matching jersey I gave away long ago to someone else who I hope finds the passion that makes them want to rearrange their days, nights, weekends, diet and basement.

Monday, May 2, 2011

tough enough

Two years ago... on a little old cannondale with a headshock that had seen better days... I tackled my first Michaux race.  In the rain. 40 couple degrees.  I was not a happy camper.  At all.  Shea won his division.  I took over 2 1/2 hours to ride 10 miles.  Sloppy mud.  Wet, rocky climbs.  I wanted to put my bike on the side of the trail, leave it there, and never ride it again.

Yesterday - I rode my ass off to get a chance to ride those same 10 miles - they would be the last 10 of the 40 mile race.  A field of 9 women started, and with the advertised cut-off of 2pm, I knew I'd be close.  We started at 9:15 - that gave me 4:45 to ride 31 miles.  Sounds easy, right?  Ha, then you've never raced at Michaux.

We started in the middle of last year's 20 - a fire road climb then a rideable rock garden climb and descent.  I was feeling really good on the bike.  Got behind a BBC rider who was a bit slower on the downhill, but it worked ok to keep me riding in control.  Through a preview of the mud to come.  Sloshy Michaux mud.  Last year, I learned that at Michaux, it's always better to ride in the running water than the peanut butter glop on the sides.  The water runs on rock or clay.  Wet feet.  Wool socks were smart.

Up up up a fireroad climb.  I passed a woman who mentioned I was cooking along - yeah, but I have a healthy respect for Michaux and putting the hammer down on the fire roads could make up for the hike-a-biking I was sure to do later.  I didn't see her again.  And hike-a-bike I did.  Somewhere, probably mile 8-10, but maybe it was mile 16ish, maybe both... a contour line trail that was a bit off-camber and strewn with large rocks, angled logs, mini rock gardens.  I'd hike thirty yards, get back on the bike, and be back off of it very shortly later.  There were a couple tough climbs, too, but I've come to expect that. 

I wound up chanting to myself to trust myself on the bike.  It worked, and I got a bit of flow back.  Then I dismounted for a totally rideable rock drop-off.  I commented that it was rideable, to which the guy nearby who was fixing a flat said, "Yeah, but I've seen 3 people crash there, including me".  I felt better. 

I'd been warned by teammates about two downhill sections - one of them I'm sure I knew what they were talking about.  There were pretty substantial boulders, and so many leaves that you couldn't really distinguish the rocks underneath.  I scrambled down it very carefully.

I waded through the deeper streams.  They washed off the mud on my legs, so I was clean mid-calf down.  For a while, anyway.

I knew I had to pull out of the 23 mile aid station by 1pm to make the cut.  As my GPS counted up to 23 miles and a bit beyond (they have a special way of measuring at Michaux), I still wasn't there and 1pm came and past.  Shortly thereafter, I was handing my camelback to an awesome volunteer to fill, scrabbling through my drop bag for a cookie, and back on the bike.  I had 7 miles (it would add up to 8 according to my math) and not enough time.  I decided to put the hammer down and go for it.  Either I'd get pulled having finished strong, or I'd make the cut.  Helped by some of the flowiest sections, I was on track, then we started climbing and I wasn't.  It started raining lightly.

But I made it - this is probably the first negative split I've ever managed in a race.  They were pulling the tape across when me and the PVC guy I'd climbed the fire road with came up to it.  They let us through to the last 10 miles as the last ones through.  He didn't finish - not sure what happened.  Then, predictably, I bonked and it took me nearly 2 hours to finish in a cold, persistent rain.

I have not many words for those last 7 miles.  I got cold.  Stopped to put on my shoved-in-the-pack-at-the-last-minute-jacket.  I rode some stuff okay.  I crashed.  I found the mental drag that always comes at some point in a long race - flashed back to 2 years ago and laughed at myself.  No quitting now.  I hiked.  Through the mud.  Uphill.  Special Michaux mud.  I worried about my brakes, which weren't working great, had a ton of grit in them, and were squealing loudly.  I smiled at the moto guys, who were pulling arrows and waiting for me.  I almost crashed on the wet roots coming into the finish.  But when I pulled into the tent, everyone stopped race cleanup for a minute and cheered.

Shea handed me a towel.  Someone handed me a bottle of homemade coffee liquor.  Love Michaux - one sip and I was buzzed within about 30 seconds.  A huge quantity of french fries appeared.  I shoveled my bike off to Shea then discovered he'd prewarmed the car for my muddy disrobing.

This year, one of my written goals was to finish a Michaux 40 miler.  I did.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

practicing the transition - ski-bike bricks

Ski season is over.  But before it was, I got in a few ski-bike bricks* in Utah.  A morning to mid-afternoon of big mountain powder followed by an evening ride up scenic Emigration canyon.  With a wide shoulder, moderate climb, and lack of ski tourist traffic, it's my choice for some hill climbing when I borrow a road bike out there.

 *Brick: I'm borrowing this term from triathlon, where athletes practice brick workouts to get used to the transition (both in equipment and movements) between swimming and cycling and between cycling and running.  Since I don't swim and don't love running, this ski-bike brick is way more fun, though thankfully no one is timing my transitions.

Funny thing is, I never rode the canyons and hills when I lived in Salt Lake.  I apparently believed that road biking should be a flat endeavor and mountain biking was more the ride-uphill-for-45 minutes-turn-around-and-ride-down style.  Oh how a few thousand miles on the bike, 40 or 50 races, and a few years of riding the steep, rolling hills of Baltimore County can change one's perspective.  There is something very pure about riding a bike to the top of a big hill.

The ski boots are in the basement, pants and jackets hung in the closet, mittens packed away.  It was a good season that I'll probably reflect on more here before summer.  Bike shoes, helmets, gloves, arm warmers, camelbacks, chamois cream, and gu packets have taken over our dining room table and guest room bed.  When you work, train, and play too hard, organization goes out the window.

Monday, March 28, 2011

elevator shaft

The taunting line.  The one that's easy to find but hairy to get into and usually rocky once you are there.  The one I've shown to guests and eyed at least 50 times but never skied.

It went down today.   I didn't take a picture in the white-out that was the Cirque Traverse today.  I dropped in the easy way, but the snow in the chute was creamy, buttery, wind-blown March powder.  Shea followed.  I left him some untracked lines.

A few hours later we came back for seconds.

It was so filled in, I'm not sure it counts.  We should probably check it out again tomorrow.

Mach Schnell, end of the day
Same spot, looking downhill...

Friday, February 11, 2011

on your left

Okay, so the deal with my coach and with myself for the 2011 race season was that I find a way to ride in the basement a few times a week and that I'll go outside and get into the wind like once a week.  in the winter.  during ski season.

So... today, I found myself out on the road.  I miss the trails.  Not loving it even though I've got my awesome Santa Cruz rebuilt for road training again.  (Too?) warmly dressed on a brisk 39 degree day.

**Aside: I haven't found the perfect extremities staying warm situation for this intermediate temperature.  So I had on light wool socks and winter boots to keep my feet warm.  But the lobster gloves just induce sweat.  Anything lighter that I've tried, though, just means I'm trying to ride and curl my fingers up into my palms at the same time.  Don't try that at home.**

Sunny, but black ice and piles of snow lurked on the shoulders.  Everyone else gets to ride socially during the winter.  Building base miles in group rides on the weekend.  But, I am not everyone else and weekends aren't for riding - they're for sliding.  So I wind up riding solo in the middle of the days in the middle of the weeks.

So it's just me.  Solo on the road.  Thinking about life, ski instructor exams, my career, how much harder it is to ride outside than on the low-resistance rollers in the basement.  How much easier at the same time.  No podcast or audio book or bad rap music necessary.

I hear "on your left" and literally almost jump two feet off my bike.  Okay, not actually, but I definitely jumped.  The guy flying up the hill behind me was going so fast that he had to call it before I heard his bike.  That's what happens when you expect to be the only one on the road.

Monday, February 7, 2011

my feet hurt

Okay, they don't hurt badly, but it's been warm and I've been in my boots 9 out of the past 10 days.  I'm not really sure how that works and I'm certain that it means I'll pull a couple of long days at work this week to get caught up with my flies.  When it's warm, my feet swell a bit and rub in places they shouldn't.  I also have discovered that my sunscreen is outdated (i.e. doesn't work well anymore) and I need to acquire some new.

I've been out on the road with PSIA - understudying and administering an exam then some more understudying.  And then back at Liberty for a full weekend - complete with dinner in the tavern with some divas and getting our lessons planned so we could leave soon after our shift was over.  Oh, and I've been volunteering so that I can teach more beginner skiers. 

Turns out I love teaching beginners.  I can only hope that the people in my groups have as much fun as I do.  Lots of success with them this weekend.  On Saturday - it was in the (light) rain.  Nothing like volunteering at a rainy lineup to feel like you're contributing!

A rodeo rider in my group (seriously! - he was from Mexico City) crashed all the time but was thrilled with it.  Another young woman was checking skiing off of her bucket list.  She went sky-diving last weekend. 

A family of three was learning together - snowboarding didn't stick.  Church group friends were making fun of each other and making near-parallel turns.

A 10 year old asked me if I knew much about skiing.  She announced she didn't know anything and could I please teach her.  A timid woman just "got it".

My groups were cheering for each others' successes this weekend.  It was pretty cool.  I also watched at least 3 of them forget to get off the lift and trip the stop gate (on separate occasions).  Whoops.

But - scary moments too.  An instructor in my clinic group fell this weekend and wound up with a concussion.  I think I'm getting a road ID to wear while skiing.  Watching the staff work to get contact information is motivating that decision.  They had his cell phone, all the numbers in the HR office and his 8 year old son was with him in the ski patrol room.  What if he left his cell in his bag and was at a resort he didn't work at?  Thankfully, he only spent a night under observation, but won't be on skis again this month.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

CSA update

What I've gotten from the CSA in our first 3 weeks:
  • cranberries
  • juice oranges
  • apples
  • grapefruit
  • kohlrabi
  • butternut squash x 2
  • bacon
  • ginger maple sausage
  • mexican chorizo
  • yellow onions
  • cremini mushrooms
  • full fat plain yogurt
  • muenster cheese
  • avocado
  • cinnamon raisin bread
  • jarred tomatoes
We also buy fresh eggs, milk and ground bison at Mill Valley Market.  And ice cream, but that's unrelated of course.  This means we've had a bunch of great omelets with the onions, mushrooms and avocado.  I've used some of those other ingredients as the inspiration for making:
  • pumpkin oat cranberry scones
  • bison burgers with bacon and blue cheese
  • spaghetti carbonara 
  • butternut squash, cranberry, and quinoa salad
  • kohlrabi pickles
  • fennel kohlrabi salad with lemon dressing
  • smoothies
I've been really bad about taking pictures, but let me tell ya that the kohlrabi salad was not pretty but the quinoa salad and scones were plenty colorful.  If you're keeping track, that means I've got some pretty fun sausage and chorizo in the freezer, waiting for me to get motivated.

I wonder what we'll get this week?