Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Went under the knife....

Well, I spent 1/2 hour getting about 1/4 of the toenail on my left big toe removed today. The worst part was the novicaine injections around the base of the toe. Right now it hurts slightly more than the ingrown did. But, I'm hoping by race time on Sunday it will be mucho bene. I won't post any photos for you!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sometimes I race because of the committment (or is that because I should be committed?)

Yesterday was the Mt. Hamilton RR, which was one of the races the whole team had committed to racing. Initially, I thought this might be a good race for me - thinking it was 'all downhill' except for one 3 mile, 800 ft. climb. However, a closer inspection of the course last weekend revealed a few too many upticks in the road for me (oh, and the race description failed to mention the 1.5 mile climb that comes as a 1-2 punch after the 3 mile climb and brief descent). I did think maybe I could catch a few people at the end of the race with the 19 miles of slight downhill with headwind.

However, my body tried really hard to keep me from racing. First, I started getting an ingrown toenail last week. I tried to get the doctor to pull it out last weekend, knowing I had 3 weekends of racing in a row. But, she wanted me to try 'conservative treatment' and just soak it 3x per day. So, by yesterday morning, I had a raging infection and basically strapped a bandage like a tourniquet around the thing to deaden the pain.

On Tuesday, a virus decided to descend on my digestive tract (suspicious that cyclistrick had the same thing starting a few days prior). So, that pretty much killed my ability to tend to my nutrition and hydration all week. By yesterday morning, I decided I was just going to be happy to make it to the start line to fulfill my commitment to the team. I probably shouldn't have raced. But, it felt lame to miss a team race. So, I just wanted to line up, contribute what I could, and hopefully finish the race. A last minute change of strategy meant that I could not contribute in the way I had planned, which was a bummer. So, the good results of the team were no thanks to me, other than just being there at the start line and bringing my hubby with a cooler of ice-cold, refreshing snacks for the end of the race. I guess that counts as a contribution.

The race wasn't without drama. There was an attack by Left Coast in the first few hundred meters, which was the move of the day. A center line violation by another girl who wanted to bridge to the attack and blatantly crossed the line to move around the Pink Curtain. There were lots of shouts of protest to that move (from all the racers). I hope she got DQed. Then, a nasty crash on the first descent took out three riders (so much for keeping things cordial through that first, technical descent). Fortunately, all were conscious and two were on their feet - hopefully no serious injuries.

All the Velo Girls finished, and there were some good placings. Congrats to Anna, who got 2nd! And, congrats to Jen who completed her first race following a broken clavicle and rib!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Our 5 seconds of fame.....

From last week's Sunnyvale Sun. Visit the Sun's Web site to read the full article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kittens in our back yard

One of the ferral neighborhood cats appears to have had a batch o' kittens. They also appear to be spending an inordinate amount of time in our back yard. Momma is a grey-striped beauty. Babies 1 & 2 are grey-striped, but lighter. A 3rd looks like a Siamese (cream with little grey paws). Cyclistrick is deathly allergic, which means they shouldn't even be in the yard (because apparently the fecal matter can be dangerous to someone who is deathly allergic). Anyone want to come kitten shopping in our back yard? No resume or pre-requisites required!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Mt. Hamilton RR Pre Ride - AKA "Aack I'm dehydrated!"

Well, some of the girls joined me in the lovely San Antonio Valley to pre-ride the Mt. Hamilton course on Sunday. Basically, it's a 38 mile point-to-point race from one spot in the middle of nowhere to another spot sort of close to the fringe of civilization. Therefore, it is a logistical nightmare.

We decided to park at the finish line, which was the spot close to the fringe of civilization and ride up to the start line and back. It was a beautiful morning. Some were complaining about the early hour. I told them they'd thank me later in the afternoon when it got hot.

Some of the girls decided to drive to an unknown location "14-19 miles" up the road and start from there to shorten the route. 3 of us set out from the valley floor and climbed steadily. The first 6-7 miles were quite a slog uphill. Then it leveled off for 4-5, but still a slight upgrade. At mile 12, a late arrival got dropped off by her husband and we continued. We passed mile 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. The climb got steeper again at mile 16. Passed mile 19 - still no cars. We did a steeper climb from 18-20 and a brief descent. At 21.5 we finally came to the cars - 1:40 after we'd started. I was going through water really quickly, so refilled at the stop. I was lightheaded at this point. I think I let myself get dehydrated on Saturday at the wedding, which was outdoors in the sun for several hours with only 1 glass of water and the rest de-hydrating beverages. Ugh! Not good.

We continued through the rest of the course. We had a brief diversion at the "Junction Cafe" - really a biker bar - on the way back. I refilled water bottles again with Gatorade. Then, 4 of us slogged on through the final 21 miles back to the car. I absolutely stunk climbing in the second half of the ride. I was hungry and dehydrated. But, once we turned into the 20 mile descent with headwinds, we were able to make some good time in a paceline. We beat the cars down to the bottom! All-in-all it was a nice ride. The San Antonio valley was definitely all dried out and nothing like it was 2 years ago when we passed through in April. Though, it was still beautiful in an arid sort of way.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Where have all the bloggers gone?

They've all up and left for Kern. And, I'm sitting at my desk in full team kit daydreaming about Kern when I should be working. Oh well....it will still be fun to pre-ride Mt. Hamilton this weekend!

Good luck to all the ladies lighting up Kern County with their fabulousness!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

BTWD happenings

Well, today we celebrate another Bike to Work Day. The first time I did it in 2001, it seemed like such a big deal. I rode from a friend's house where I was living in Almaden to north Sunnyvale to work. It was 26 miles each way. I was happy for the Daylight Savings. That started me toward a regular habit of cycling to work - mostly in the summers.

I've gradually become a year-round commuter. And, I married a year-round commuter. Now most days are Bike to Work Days.

The hubby was interviewed by the local paper for BTWD. He is on the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee for Sunnyvale. They came to take pictures of him one morning and found two of us getting ready to roll. So, they took pictures. I've had several emails and calls saying "You're in the paper - a BIG picture". But, alas, I still haven't had the gratification of seeing it. Somehow our neighborhood got off the distribution list for the paper a few weeks ago. When one of my friends brings me a copy, I will post it.

The hubby also worked the energizer station at Wolfe and El Camino this morning. I went by to get kisses on the way to work (and maybe a small piece of Hobee's coffee cake). They said the most commuters they've counted at this station before was 80. This year they counted 177. Maybe cycling for transport is gaining some traction.

Our friend Josh cycled to preschool with his son Aaron. They got featured in the Menlo Park Almanac - though they switched the names around so that Josh is the son and Aaron is the father. Pretty funny!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The mountain biking NOOB = Me

Yep, that's me. I'm a noob. You'd think with having 15ish years of regular cycling under my belt and 5+ years of more serious cycling I'd at least be able to hack my way around an off-road trail.

But no.

You see, I lack this natural thing that some people have called agility. And, I've never dedicated any time or effort to overcome my shortcomings.

I did have a Mountain Bike Shaped Object in high school. I would ride it around town and occasionally to school. On the weekends I might venture out on the local levy trails. If I felt REALLY daring, I might ride up or down the side of the levy on a makeshift dirt path instead of the real entry ramp. Wow!

In college, I moved to SF. The first week there, my MBSO died as a result of a broken rear axle. My boyfriend at the time bought me a 1993 Specialized Rock Hopper in purple with yellow decals. Other than the pink Schwinn Stingray with sparkly banana seat I had when I was 9, this was the first non department-store-bike I'd owned. It was like butter. I rode it hard all over town. I eventually managed to make it up the hill where I lived, which was about 20% for a long city block. So, I rode on the road, primarily.

Once in a while, I'd drive up to the headlands and attempt to ride off road. These trips usually resulted in my hiking most of the trails while pushing my bike. I didn't have anyone to teach me how to ride the thing. I remember roaring downhill and having my arms itch like crazy from the vibration. A guy I knew took me on a ride around Lake Chabot. I rode a little more on that ride, because it was mostly fire road. Other than those few rides, I pretty much just rode for transportation.

In Y2K, I entered my first triathlon. I rode my Rock Hopper. I smoked a lot of people that day - even with my knobbies on. And, so began my love affair with the road bike. I got my first roadie and completely abandoned my old friend.

It eventually was turned into a hybrid for my mom to try road cycling and retired from my collection. She named it Gertrude.

A few years ago, I bought a used MTB on eBay. It's actually a pretty nice bike. And, it was only $600. And, did I mention it's carbon hardtail with XT components? Not bad, right? I was determined to conquer my off-road demons.

Cyclistrick took me on a couple off-road rides. First we tried Fremont Older. It had lots of switchbacks and was just one big up and one big down. That didn't seem so fun. So, we went to Wilder Ranch one day. I had a little more fun there, but still wasn't "getting it". Cyclistrick could hack his own way, but couldn't really explain the techniques for me.

Cyclistrick sold his MTB to make room for another road bike. So, my MTB went back into retirement....

Until last night.

There's nothing like the peer pressure of 13 other women in an off-road paceline to force the issue of learning to ride the dang thing. I soon realized that my fitness was good enough to move me to the middle of the line instead of the back. I would fall back on the descents and then catch back on on the uphill sections. I only inadvertently fell off my bike twice, and landed on my feet both times. I chose to jump off a couple more times. Janet was awesome and walked me through some techniques. I was originally going to work with Elizabeth, but somehow got sucked into the vortex of the 'A' group. I was glad Janet was around to help me out. I was even complimented at the end on how 'fast' I was (which seemed strange, because we'd ridden like 7 miles in an hour). I was told to ignore the odometer.

So, I'm happy to report that I can at least hack my way around a mountain bike ride now. I have a long way to go to be 'competent', but that will come with time. I look forward to being a Dirty Velo Girl again in the future! Thanks, ladies - that was fun!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Weekend with Mom and Grandma

Grandma, cyclistrick, me, Mom and Dad at our nuptials
We set aside the usual bicycle racing, school work and carousing with friends to go spend the weekend with Mom and Grandma. I hate manufactured holidays, but have no problem spending a weekend celebrating Mom. She is truly a great mom, and she is working hard at being a good daughter by taking care of my grandma in her home (as of late March).

We brought her two pounds of her favorite Peet's New Guinea to start the weekend off right. Saturday morning after coffee, we headed out on one of her favorite rides - up Huasna Canyon in Arroyo Grande. We all stayed together up to the mouth of the canyon. Then, cyclistrick and I 'raced' up the grade. It's about 8.5 miles to the top of this quiet and wooded canyon. There are vineyards, scrub oak forest, rambling ranches and political statements posted at front drives - mostly conservative in nature. There is the occasional hot-head driver with a horse trailer that likes to make a point that we do not belong there. But, it is one of the best rides around that area. It is also a good ride to push yourself. It averages about 2-3% over most of the distance and then goes up to about 8% grade for the last 1.5 miles. We did a couple standing climbs up the last hill and then started down and found the mamma a couple miles from the bottom of the final hill.

We ate at a nice restaurant for dinner on the creek in downtown San Luis Obispo. It was called the Mission Grill. The dishes were well prepared, though the selection was small. The atmosphere was great. We ordered a fruity pinot gris for the mamma, because she likes light, fruity wines.

This morning, cyclistrick and I headed out on a very brisk ride on Highway 227 and Corbett Canyon. I again worked on my standing climb. Legs are feeling fried. It's a lot of work slogging my large self around out of the saddle. When we got back, we installed mom's new SPD pedals on her bike and gave her a lesson on using them. It's her first try going clipless on her upright bike. She's been using them on her 'bent for a couple months. That at least got her used to the feeling of clipping in and out. She did great! She'll get to try them for real tomorrow with her regular cycling buddies.

We wrapped up our time there with a trip to church and a nice Sunday lunch at home. Unfortunately, Grandma wasn't feeling well and had to go lay down before we were done :(

All-in-all, it was a great weekend!

Now, I'm back to the grind, 'listening' to an online lecture - the last one of the semester! I only have the thesis left now. Woo hoo!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Struggling toward selflessness....

This is something I struggle with. I know my life needs to have a purpose beyond me and what I want. But, I am so selfish by nature. It really is all about me most of the time. So, I don't think about it all that often. But, occasionally, something tugs at my heart with conviction that I need to work on this.

About a year and a half ago I was going in the local Peet's to buy some coffee beans. I'd just done some grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. A homeless man approached me - not your typical 'spare-some-change', dirty, smelly, crazy, panhandler. But, just a seemingly nice, coherent, clean, down-on-his-luck guy. He asked if I had anything he could eat. He was waiting for a bus to take him somewhere there was work, but he hadn't eaten in a couple days. I was in a rush (I'm sure a self-imposed kind of rush). So, I pulled some pita chips and hummus out of the Trader Joe's bag and gave them to him. He was really grateful. As soon as I got home, I was kicking myself. We were just across the street from Trader Joe's. He had a backpack. Why couldn't I have taken an hour out of my day and taken him shopping for enough provisions to last a few days? Why didn't I take him to the BBQ restaurant next to Peet's and buy him a sandwich? Why? Because I am so friggin' self centered and so myopically focused on my own schedule. That's why.

I vowed that day that the next time an opportunity presented itself to help someone in need that I was going to do a better job of stepping up. So, yesterday an opportunity presented itself. And, I didn't completely weasel out this time. I pushed myself a little further out of my comfort zone. I let myself be inconvenienced...a little.

But, again, I'm left with the feeling I could have done more. I could have dug a little deeper.

So, I get to think about what I would do better next time. Hopefully, there will be a next time. And, I get to think about how I might be a little more intentional about reaching out to people in need, rather than just waiting for opportunities to present themselves once every year or so. And, I hope for the wisdom to be able to be generous with utter abandon while avoiding putting myself in danger or becoming an enabler. Selflessness with boundaries. Or, is losing the boundaries a part of becoming selfless? I don't know. All things to ponder.

And, strangely, I find myself full of worry and hope for two people I don't even know, whose lives intersected with mine for a brief moment. I hope and pray they will find their way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Hot off the presses - Madera results

So, they're a little screwy. They say I got 10th. I'll take it! Sounds more impressive than it is. I know I was not the last finisher. And, I thought I finished just behind Jessica d.J. from Touchstone. Did she nip me at the line and forget to check out? That would be weird. Maybe she only did 2 laps. I know that Yvonne W. and Christine A. finished. Did they forget to checkout, too? Or, too far past the winner to count? In any case, strange.

Oh, and apparently we ran the road race at an 8 mph average! My clock showed 2:55, 3 hours less than the clock on the spreadsheet. I don't think I could have continued at 8 mph for 5:55 in that heat.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Avoid Standing Hill Climbs too Close to Breakfast

Today I headed out to work on some standing climbing intervals. Right now the longest I can muster standing is a little over 3 minutes. Ugh. But, I've been totally inspired by Brooke Miller's tales of learning to climb standing (thanks Olaf for linking to her site). She's an equally statuesque rider to myself, and she's learned to be a very capable climber. So, I think I can, too.

I was up on West Loyola in Los Altos Hills. I would hump my way up the hill - riding the touring bike with saddle bag for a little extra measure of effort. I'd be OK while standing - except for my legs and triceps feeling like they were going to melt. As soon as I would sit to roll back down the hill, my stomach would protest. I nearly regurgitated a few times. It's probably because I ate a little later than normal this morning. Note to self - finish breakfast at least two hours before doing this next week.

For the last 5 or 6 years, I've trained my body to go long and slow. I've slogged up many a pass in the Alps with a loaded touring bike, sitting and spinning away in my 22x36 at a comfortably aerobic 6 mph. Well, it's time to turn over a new leaf. I need to become an anaerobic beast. I want to do well in my next road race, which is the Mt. Hamilton Classic. I'm going to need a good, strong 10-15 minutes standing climb to get through the little hill in the middle of that race at any sort of reasonable speed. I know I can do it. So, the rest of May is dedicated to the anaerobic power climb.

Now for your viewing pleasure, some pictures of how I will NOT be climbing this month (and because I really need to reminisce about some fun vacations):

Tourmalet - near the top and Tourmalet near Luz S. Saveur

Passo Stelvio near Prato allo Stelvio and looking down toward Bormio

Passo Gardena and Passo Campolongo

Friday, May 4, 2007

Why I like the TT (yeah, I'm weird)....

OK, so I should really be finishing a term paper and getting the web site all primped for the product launch on Monday, but I just can't help myself. I need a diversion.

Me in full-aero tearing it up at the Danskin Tri in 2001.

I know some of you will think I'm a freak, and I know I totally blew in Madera. But, I really, really like the TT. And, as a woman of larger stature with monstrous, sustained-power, gear mashing legs, I think I can get better at this discipline. Though, I shudder at the idea of buying yet another bike....

1. The TT is about discipline. I like discipline. This is a good thing for me.

2. The TT is about self-motivation. I'm actually more self-motivated than pack motivated. So, another good thing.

3. The TT is about pushing yourself into the red zone and then pushing a little harder. I'm just masochistic enough to be able to do this.

4. The TT is about sustained power rather than surges. I really hate the surges.

5. You know going into the TT exactly how hard you are going to work. In a crit or road race, you never know if people are going to take a nap or attack like banshees. You never know what you're getting into. I like predictability.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

What the heck? My blog went all Portuguese on me...

I logged in earlier today and the archive links on the right were reading:

Marco (with a cedilla)

Maybe it's a sign! Maybe I need a vacation to Rio. That's it! Any good bike racing in Brazil right now?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My love-hate relationship with racing

I'm a little over half way through my first full season of racing, and it's been almost exactly a year since my first race ever (Wente Road Race). I have the first little pause in my schedule and time to evaluate how I feel about the whole thing. This season is really about learning to race for me and trying different things. I've decided at this point I have a love-hate relationship with the racing. Of course, I'm a woman, so I reserve the right to change my opinions at any time.

1. Racing is a huge time commitment - unless you're genetically gifted with lots of fast-twitch muscle (I'm not), becoming competitive requires that you make cycling a second full time job.

The love: I love spending lots of hours on my bike.
The hate: I miss hiking with my non-cycling friends and riding with my non-racing friends.

2. Gaining fitness requires a much stricter attention to diet and rest.

The love: I love that I am gradually weeding out vices from my life and becoming more disciplined.
The hate: I miss the occasional weekend night staying up late watching movies with my honey or with girlfriends and binging on good wine and candy and sleeping in late the next morning.

3. Racing brings you into a whole new community of racers.

The love: It's a great community. There are lots of cool people that I see myself becoming better friends with. It is encouraging and supportive.
The hate: I've semi-abandoned some of my other communities (see observation #1)

4. Being on a team, you get to share success with your teammates

The love: I love it when our team is successful - when a teammate wins. I love it when I'm able to contribute to the success.
The hate: I'm jealous of those who are successful and disappointed when I'm not fit enough to contribute. I hate being jealous and disappointed in myself.

5. Racing is a thrill. Being in the pack or off the front when things are going well and you are in control is like no other feeling in the world.

The love: I love the adrenaline rush, the thrill, the challenge and the competition.
The hate: I hate the nerves and the fear - the fear that I may end up permanently injured or dead for a silly thrill. And, being off the back can be the loneliest feeling in the world.

6. Racing requires a whole new level of fitness - beyond anything I've ever tried to attain. I've been successful in several sports over the years and none of them has required the fitness level of bicycle racing (track and field, basketball, triathlon, distance running).

The love: I love that I am fitter than I've ever been. I love that I can push my body to the limits and it comes back each time a little stronger and with a little less pain.
The hate: I hate that despite how far I've come, my fitness level isn't even up to where I need to be to be competitive in Cat 4. I fear that with my strong, amazonian body, I will never be the kind of cyclist I want to be - maybe a crit monster, but I'm not even sure I like crits yet.

I'm looking forward to the next part of the season - to trying more road races - to learning new things and discovering new strengths and minimizing my weaknesses. I look forward to working together with my teammates and watching them struggle and grow as racers, too.

On to the next adventures in racing! See you all at Mt. Hamilton!