Wednesday, September 16, 2009
We spent Sunday up at Spirit Mtn. for the Powder Monkey Mtn Bike Race. It was my 3 Sport appearance, but one I was ready for. No post-wedding-reception-hangover, no swine flu...just proper sleep and diet and ready to ride.
Jay and I loaded up with the Chucker, Lady Death Rider, and MSH and headed north early to get me to the dirt church on time. It was a hot one, but I was amped to ride. Though my technical skills are still pretty elementary, my roady-fitness is still a strong ally, helping me close gaps with more experienced riders on all the climbs, flowing trail sections, and dirt roads.
I kept a constant stream of advice from Jay, Kyia, and the Crue playing in my mind on repeat throughout the 3 lap sweat fest. Sure, I took more spills into the brush and trees than ever before, but I was taking on elements I've never dared ride before. I know I'm new. I know I need more time and experience. So I used that awareness to push the limits and see what I could learn in the short time I had that day.
Riding down stacked boulders and over the rock and log gardens was a ton easier than my more fearful self once though. And the falls didn't hurt nearly as much as I anticipated. It was so amazing. And to top it all off, I still clinched a 5th place finish, 2nd in my age group!!!! Everyone with me now...B1+CH PLEASE!
With this new 'habit' in my system, I may have to take my bike off road next season. Moving up to a Cat 3 on the raod next year will probably find me at back at the cabooze again, so why not mix it up and focus on the dirt? I dunno..... we'll see. But it sounds pretty nice right now!
Maybe I'm just missing Cyclocross so much right now that this is my intermediate fix. My nicotine patch of sorts. Ether way, I'm lovin' it.
The new dirty girl on the block
As the first time riding w/ anyone else on the road since my crash at State, I was oddly nervous and hesitant to get in Jay's draft. I knew it was crazy to feel that way - there is no other wheel out there I could trust more to ride than his - but I still had to fight my way through the fear.
Since Jay can TT way faster than I can, I sat in his draft for the entirety. My max speed in the draft equals the max effort he can pull me at, making us even that much more a perfect pair. The first couple of miles, I struggled to relax in his draft and let it pull me in. I knew the wind would tire me and I tried to force myself closer, focusing my site on his rear derailleur.
As the adrenaline pulsed through my veins and flooded my muscles, the fear dissipated and I closed the gap. In a daze, I watched the rear wheel and rode at my limit. When he shifted, so did I. Jay rode the perfect pace, never faltering, never wavering...consistent and steady. We flowed steady through the turn-around and regained our pace quickly as we tackled the immediate hill.
Settling in again, Jay raised it to an 11, and my legs were happy to oblige. With 2 miles to go, Jay turned it up again, blowing out all the carbon and stealing every second from the clock that we could. Into the final turn, my hubby stayed wide and allowed me to come through for the final finishing push. Head down, I dropped another gear and drove my heals into the pedals. Silence filled my ears and my vision tunneled in on the line.
We screamed over it at 28 mph, in our new best course time ever!!! Shaving more than 3 minutes off our time from 2008, we finished in 34:25 on the 15 mile course, winnig the Mixed Gender category for the very first time!!!! It was awesome. And for the first time, we also won the ice-cream bet with Silver Steve & C-Ray. B1+ch please! (thanks for the breakfast substitute, Steve!)
Time-trialing in love,
And so, to get myself in the right frame of mind, I couldn't help but look back at some of my fave times..... this one's an oldie, but goodie.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Unfortunately for me, the next day's cross country event was full of obstacles that were well above my experience. Still, I finished. Albeit 20 minutes after the leader, I finished. Finishing 6th in the cx-country, I took 5th in the overall and couldn't have been more satisfied. I put forth a good hard effort, got dirty and bled a little along the way, and learned a couple new tricks while I was at it.
With the rest of the 612-crew hanging out for another night of good food and friends, Jay and I decided to stay one more night. We joined the group for a FABULOUS roast beef dinner, followed by a full moon lit bonfire. The Kenwoods group invited us to their campsite for a low-key fireside after party. I don't think I've laughed that hard in ages. Thanks!!!
After one last night in our quiet suite, Jay and I rose for breakfast and good-byes. We happily beat the Labor Day traffic during our morning drive and returned home fully relaxed and content. Huge thanks to the Richard's family for running such a wonderful home-away-from-home and making a 3-day weekend so memorable.
The state road race championships were held in Henderson, MN this year - the same course as the Sibley Road Race, so I was stoked! Visions of Championship titles danced in my head as I readied myself for the day's endeavor. With my rockin' new bike and a great season beneath my belt, I felt confident about putting my best effort forward. Unbeknownst to me, the story doesn't always play out as you think.
The field of women was a mix of solo riders, void of any power teams and filled only with single riders and friend-alliances. The pace started off hot, though, with some new 40+ riders driving the pace at the beginning. We got an ugly pace line together to try to keep it fast and did what we could at the top of the ridge. About a mile out from the fast descent, an attack happened and split the field in 2. My little princess knew what to do instantly, and helped me make the 7-gal break.
Since it was only the first lap, we made our way down the 40+ mph descent with caution, being smart around the 90-degree turn at the bottom with nothing to prove. Unsuspectingly, not 200m after the corner, a gal rubbed another's wheels and caused the entire group to split and tumble before me. With teh confidence of my cyclocross experience, I tried to steer my bike to the shoulder to avoid the crash in front of me. The momentum was too great for both my breaks and my intentions, sending me sliding out sideways into the ditch. "Protect the bike....protect the bike" were the only words I could hear, pressing against the inside of my skull in a panicked scream. Dust flew up around me as I laid it down in the ditch. When I sat up, I saw Lisa laying face down on the road.
I scrambled from the ditch and ran to her, as I heard her scared voice ask "why do I see blood?". I tried to reassure her as the other's came and I untangled her feet from her front wheel gingerly. Her face was bleeding, but none of us would know how bad it was till later. (luckily, she was alive and able to be repaired - my best wishes are with you, Lisa!). When I looked back the road, I noticed Megan was also down, suffering from a lot of road rash and having been run over by at least 2 other cyclists. Once a car came by (don't get me started on how pissed I am that we didn't have an official follow-car), the severly injured were taken away and the rest began to return to their bikes.
With blood flowing freely from my right knee, I grabbed my bike and saw no marks. Whew - I saved the bike. Skin will heal. When I climbed on, my rear wheel bottomed out on the blood-stained road....WTF?! My tubular was completely flat. I spun the wheel only to find a 3-inch long hole that ripped through every layer of the rubber. (again, no follow car, no wheels).
Tears flooded my eyes as the realization hit. There were still 23 miles to go, a long fast decent, and 2 miles of climbing before I could be done. And 6 miles to go to get to the car for my spare wheel.... I haven't quit a race in 3 years [knock on wood].
Michelle, luckily, was there to tell me to ride. Very simply - ride. So I did. I watched the field as the road away from me. 14 mph was all I could get it to before the rear wheel would begin to slide out on me (thank heavans for tubulars). Heck, I rode a 15 mile mountain bike race on a single speed with a rear flat....this one might take all day, but I could do it. Sure, I could ride 6 miles back to the car, try to replace my rear wheel on my own (I'm married to a bike mechanic, but that doesn't mean I know what to do), then ride 3 miles back to the race course, and do a solo 18 miles to the finish.... sure, I'm German, I'm stubborn, and it's what I do.
After 2 miles alone, our junior rider's dad, Neil, and Dag came upon me and offered me a wheel. I couldn't have been a more greatful person if I tried. After mere seconds, they had me back on the road and ready to finish yet another race. After a short while, I came upon one of the junior women from our field, Annie, riding solo. I joined her in a ride to finish, and couldn't be happier.
There's something so great about meeting new people - especially the women. I love to get to know these fabulous gals, and it was great to meet such an enthusiastic young lady. We spent the next 20 miles getting to know each other, discussing our passions with cycling, and enjoying the lovely day in front of us. It was everything to remind me how very much I love this sport. Thanks, Annie!!! It was such a joy. And happy belated birthday!!! Can't wait to see you out there next year.
When we made the climb for the final time, Jay found me 1/2 way after he had finished. Knowing how badly I wanted to be there for a sprint-finish, he asked me what was wrong. I showed him the trail of blood down my shin and left it at that. As my hubby-of-the-year always does, he reminded me how proud he was of me for finishing, and seemed pretty impressed that the Princess made it out unscathed. What more can you ask for than unconditional love and support? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Lucky in love and road rash,
Thursday, September 10, 2009
So: A couple weekends ago, Jay, Chucker and I loaded up the Cruck and headed north late on Friday to pre-register for the Pre-Fat, a mtn bike race in Spooner, WI to ready the crowds for September's Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 mile mtn bike race. As we flew north down the dark roads (at the speed limit, of course), we counted down the minutes until pre-registration ended....btw, awesome to have pre-reg at a bar the night before! Dual purpose: register & carbo load on barley sodas!!!
So, maybe 30-40 miles outside of Seeley and right on pace to arrive 1 minute before pre-reg closed, the tail-lights in front of us strangely disappeared up ahead the dark country highway. Knowing that something was wrong, Jay flicked on the high beams in time to see a doe w/ buck close behind crossing in front of us from the left. In full control, he brought the car to a crawl, missing the doe as she passed in front of us. The buck, as they are known so well to do, froze in the middle of the road trying to figure out if he wanted to fight us or the white sedan bearing down on him from the on-coming lane.
Jay veared onto the right shoulder just in time for the buck to choose us, hip-checking the front end of the Cruck, and running off to the limits of our headlights and then disappeared into the night.
With the lights still in tact, Jay steered back onto the road to continue our adventure even though my jaw still rested nicely on the floor mats. Through protest, Jay tried to calm me down as we continued on our way from the dark highway to our bar/grill destination. The car drove perfectly fine aside from all the preceding events, giving Jay more fodder to soothe me with. Reluctantly, I sat quietly in the back and stared into the darkness outside my window.
When we finally arrived, I was the first to jump from the car and see the deer imprint on our front quarter-panel. Surprisingly, even to me, that was the only damage the lil Cruck sustained.
Lucky for us.
Unlucky for us, they closed registration early, so only the barley soda half of our plan was accomplished. After we filled our bellies, we headed off to sleep at Rob O's super cabin in the woods. May I say GORGEOUS!? After a full night's rest, we all rose early to return to the Sawmill to register and ready ourselves for the sloppy ride to come.
By 9:00AM, I toed the line as the mist surrounded us and the clouds kept the warmth at bay. Once the horn finally rang, the peace and quiet of the north woods ceased as hundreds of mountain bike riders charged the road, jockying for ideal place for the single-track to come. The roady in me took the reigns and I found myself as the women's leader and top-10 overall as we left the road to enter the gloomy shade of the trails.
In the quiet of the trails, I heard only the whoosh of the wind and my breath as I battled the confines of my lungs. Like never before, I charged the course with my road-race intensity, filling my ears with the sound of my bounding heart. It was so intense, keeping the energy high and the speed even higher as I wove along the fire roads and trails. I've never felt so alive in a mountain bike race as I did that day.
Zoe passed me along the way, and I tried with all I had to hang on. Unfortunately for me, I was flatlining big time and needed to recover and she slipped out of sight and into the shadows. Trying not lose any further positions, I charged through the mud and the brush mile after mile. I attacked the hills in my big ring. I rode, hands pulling on my bar ends, as the men around me walked. I rode so hard I couldnt' image ever going faster. As the 1K sign appeared before me, I dropped into the hardest gear I could turn and sprinted for the finish.
Sounds behind me faded until the only thing I could see was the finish line before me. The only sound - a quiet, undecypherable murmur from the crowd mixed with the rushing air from my lungs.
Crossing the line, I sealed a 2nd place finish, just minutes behind Zoe and elated beyond my wildest dreams. Jay was still out on the course, so a silent smile was shared with my bike as I returned to the car for clean clothes and a moment to take it all in.
Was I becoming a Mtn biker? By skill level, not so much. By complete joy, hells yeah!
I took my place on the podium with pride (right). By far, that was my best mtn bike race to date. And I'm sure it's going to be hard to beat.... it's the dirt, the time trial, the silence, and the sound of my own heart beating....it's the way it fills the woods around me and makes the energy blur and vibrate to the point you can almost touch it..... and yet it's completely indescribable.
Still surprising even myself,