Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hillsboro Race

Saturday. Lap 3, way off the back. Heart beating - thumping loud and steady. Thump turns to a whoosh of warmth in my chest, and I'm startled. Hand to heart, slow down, sit up, and there it is again. Every other beat. I get off my bike, and my breathing starts to go crazy. It's not like I was going fast. It's not like I was working too hard. But my body shut down and my race was over. I try to relax, but breathing gets worse. I'm scared, shaking, I can't process anything beyond the immediacy of what's going on with my body. Is this what an anxiety attack feels like? chaos finally calms. Massage attempted, but I'm so tense that every touch is pain. The rest of the evening is a slow recovery.

Sunday is also race day. The warmup lap isn't bad. I'm feeling better than the day before. I call Tina & spill out my messy guts and fears. She arrives during my minuscule warm up, and gives the pep talk I needed to hear. I don't cry, but it's right there on the edge. This is fun. Fun is why I'm here. Find the f'n fun. I line up in the grid, and am the last in the pack. The girls around me are all calm. I'm calm. I turn my focus inside, and send Matt off to cheer elsewhere. We finally go. I push enough to stay on the pack, I pass a few people, but make sure not to tax myself too hard out the gate.

Zig and zag and into the mud. This part is new, the mud is thick - but there is grass on the edge. I push to the outside, riding over the grassy fringe and making more progress than those in the middle. Not every lap is as successful as this - but there was only once I had to walk after getting stuck in the slop. From grass to gravel, pavement to mud, thru stables and hay. Mud is spraying off my front wheel, and I taste farm-poo. A gaggle of school girls cheer for us. My rests are tiny - a few seconds and I get out of the saddle again. Barriers are where I make progress and pass a few that passed me moments ago. I keep going. Thru trecherous mud before the finish line, lap after lap. Ironclad turned their corner into a money grab. Lap 2 and I nearly had a buck in my mouth. The next-to-last lap I stop, grab the dollar and stick it down my shirt. Starting back up was my only fall in the race - hillarious, but forced me to run the off-camber before the hardest turn. It's a constant jam; I manage to run it every time, racing smart over trying to force the turn seated. The team goes nuts every time I pass, but the voice I hear is Matt's. Always cheering for me, encouraging me. Telling me I'm doing far better than I am. Eventually he tells me I'm moving up in the pack. It can't be far, and I can't distinguish those I've passed from those that passed me.And then on the final lap, I find myself moving up thru the W Beginner's field. Something I've never had to do before. This is what the Fast girls talk about. I call out 'good job!' and 'well done!' as I go by. I see one more girl with a number from my field. I find the moment, and pass her. The moment came in a sloppy, muddy section - I cut across in a bizarre line to pick up the grass on the opposite side, and then charged. The spectator on the corner tells me that was Pro, which gives the legs a little more go. When I cross the line there is Matt waiting for me, holding out a beer for my finish.

This was a good race. It felt like my best, where I could ride and keep going. There were a few near-slips in the mud that taxed my muscles enough to hurt the next day. But I stayed right side up, and I had fun. The heart & breathing never got out of control. And I finished with a smile.

Next up? Astoria, costumes, and climbs. And from the looks of it, a little more mud.

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Evening, 3 Meals

Big shock, but our weekends are pretty busy. When Sunday means we're on the road by 6:30 am and home in time for dinner, that doesn't leave a lot of time (not to mention having any energy) to cook. So, I took advantage of Saturday afternoon to get ahead of the game.

First up - a prerace chicken pot pie. I poached 4 chicken breasts in some Pacific Foods low sodium organic broth, and spiced it with a little salt, fresh ground pepper, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, thyme, a hint of rosemary, bay leaf, and garlic. Once the meat cooked thru, I removed & diced it. I poured the broth into a large measuring bowl, and cooked up a roux. As soon as it was warm & nutty I put the broth back in, thickened it up, and added the chicken, frozen peas & carrots, and frozen diced potatoes (hash brown aisle) - all of the low sodium variety. While these warmed up & flavors mingled, I rolled out some Krust-Ez dough & prepped the pie pan. Not long after, one pie was in the oven, (bake like a pie - till hot & golden brown) and the remainder of the stuffing went to the freezer for another day.

As soon as that was done, I tackled lillyella's cheesy shell lasagna. I needed something I could just throw in the oven post-race, as I am a little burned out on over-crock-potted-fud. I used italian sausage, added a couple layers of previously-frozen-spinach, and filled up the caserole dish. The next day - super easy, nice & cheesy. Matt's only regret was that I didn't use Ricotta {stated repeatedly, with the Giada accent}. So, I suppose next time I'll have to either make or buy some ricotta. But this recipe was a winner - even if the shells weren't those teeny tiny kind. (Seriously, fred meyer, what's the deal?)

Since we're now in the long gray of Oregon's fall & winter, pot pies will be a regular on our menu. I'm happy to have a pasta dish to add, and need to think about future make&freeze consolidated baking.


What went wrong:
  • I didn't want to go. In fact, I'm pretty sure I pouted & whined & cried before we left the house. Stupid 5:45am wakeup call on the weekends. Stupid course report from Kender.
  • Team tent set up in the boonies ~ couldn't even see the race.
  • No breakfast before our preride. Lap 2 fell apart.
  • Attempting to use the hand sanitizer in the porta-potty only to have an earwig drop in my hand. {screamed like a little girl & got the frak out of there}
  • The second half of each lap. That muddy climb cooked me, so I was spent & slow thru the bumpy field section.
  • Not looking far enough up course thru the tree zig zag. First time thru I hardly avoided the trees.
  • Spending too much time running up the gravel climb because I didn't have enough momentum or power to stay upright & climb.
What went right:
  • I went, and I raced.
  • Getting in two laps early morning.
  • An aggressive start. I did manage to push thru a bit, pretty sure I cut off Heidi (sorry - tried to not completely take your line away), and managed to stay upright once my front wheel embraced a rear wheel in front of me.
  • Bombing thru the trees on the first half of the course. Riding hard. Getting out of the saddle to push over the small climbs. Passing other riders thru these sections.
  • Going fast.
  • Recovering enough on the gravel run up to catch and pass those who rode past me earlier.
  • Team members cheering at all the right places; particularly the advice on which line to take before the barriers.
  • Weighting the pedals to cut thru corners, shift lines, and guide my bike as I flew down bumpy sections.
Still waiting on results. I don't think they'll reflect any marked improvements over prior races, but it felt so much better! I really loved the first half of those laps. I'm looking forward to a few flatter races, and a different gear setup in time for the climbs at Astoria.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adios, Aspenrose. At least, for this year.

Alpenrose. A year ago, this was a field of intimidation, of novice.
This year it became familiar. Pain and suffering and training and pushing past the physical limits on the track. Then showing up for the cross clinics and trying to learn how to unlearn my double-hop remount. How to take gravel fast. How to float down a bumpy hillside field, and then to climb right back up. Confidence and handling skills grew.

My first races of the season were far from spectacular. I was bottom-of-the-pack slow. I was frustrated. When advised to simply ride parade laps at Rainier I was frustrated. I'm not a fan of parades, nor Sunday drivers. And yet I was one. I was the one walking every hill, hump, and hazard along the way. Where is the fire? Why the indifference and frustration and inability to really go at all?

After my race at Rainier, I took the bike over the fields to our tent. I pointed it downhill, across the grass, across the course, and sailed as I hovered over the seat and guided the wheels by shifing my bodyweight. Fast feels so good - why did it take so long discover?

Then it rained. It got blustery. An off week. Dry ground turned to mud, and long range forecasts were covered with little gray rain clouds. So Wednesday night we took our bikes back to Alpenrose for the last time this year. A little course recon, a super light warmup & mild embrocation, gear changes, and a race as the sun started to set. Lap one, and stay close to the field. I'm not off the back. I'm not gasping. I'm accelerating - standing and going when I'd previously sad and floundered. I'm almost racing. It feels a lot better than watching the pack blow past.

Eventually I did slow down. I did drop from the wheel I tried so hard to hold & momentarily passed. I slowed enough to recover, and then I got back on the gas. It still hurt - I really didn't like seeing 3 laps to go when my back started to ache. But it took a lot longer for the beginners to catch me. For M & his field to lap me. I kept trying. And I finally finished a race where I didn't suck completely. I'm still missing the fire - the intense and ferocious competitor isn't quite awake yet. To say I need to HTFU is an understatement.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cobwebs & Wishes

Seasons have changed. Perceptions have shifted. Friends have moved away, others seem to be drifting as we struggle to keep them tied as closely as they should be. This year, cycling has taken over our bodies, minds, garage space, and time. It is a challenge to maintain the right balance ~ and sincere apologies to those we haven't spent nearly enough time with.

Track season wrapped up, and I finally got in a race where I gave it my all. I felt the intense, crazy sensation of laying the bike over as I rocketed thru the turns, propelling myself more horizontal than upright. The pride of knocking a couple seconds off my personal best. The intense Go factor of the after-burners, keeping me in the lead on a sprint match.

And during my very last track race, I learned how to use rollers. For the First Time Ever. Now, this probably isn't the best time to decide to do something as quasi-wreckless as one's first-time-on-rollers can be. But, I needed to continue to warm up, and having not brought all the gear it would have taken to enable this, Bob offered me the use of his. So we set up next to a metal bike rack and I proceeded to clamp my right hand to it in a vice-grip, while working to keep the wheels under me steady. (If you don't know, rollers are a set of 3 cylinders that you balance you bike on - 2 for the rear, 1 for the front - and you simply pedal and stay upright.) It is a little freaky. So, I picked my visual point out ahead of me, and focused on keeping the bike steady. Letting Go? well, that was a different adventure all together. Because once I did let go, the bike would swerve back & forth in a very freakish I'm Going To Wreck fashion. So I'd clamp my hand back on, and pretty soon had to rest because of the tension in my upper body. But, eventually I got it. yay! It is actually quite fun to do. By my second attempt, L. came over to see how I was doing. She asked why I wasn't letting go - and I thought it was obvious that my wheels were too unsteady under me for that to happen. But, based on her reaction & feedback from Bob - I'm a lot more steady than I feel. Perception is a funny thing.

As track season was winding down, Cyclocross (CX) was starting up. I signed up for the weekly women's only sessions lead by the fantabulous Tina B ~ and was feeling pretty good about my skills. I'm able to dismount and run the barriers fairly smoothly. I can hover glide over a sweeping and bumpy downhill. My remount still has a stutter hop, but it has a smoothness of its own. Climbing? going Hard, all out, for more than 4 minutes at a time? Well, my lungs just can't keep up. After being threatened if I line up in the beginner field, I signed up for the Bs. And, ever since, I've helped lead in the very bottom of the pack. I'm pathetically slow. I have strength, I have moments of speed, but put me on an incline and my legs turn over at a snail's pace.

The improvement over last year, is that I no longer spend the entire first lap cursing myself and asking what insanity led me to think I could do this. I've had decent starts - right up to the first climb or technical section. Then my race blows up, and by the halfway point of the first lap I'm easily in the bottom 10. The Beginners start to pass me. I struggle to keep up. My breathing is hyper quick, legs are mole asses slow, turns are sloppy, and I try to find a balance that keeps me moving and allows a touch of recovery before the next Hard section. And somehow, by the last lap (whether I know it is or not) I find a little more power, a little more speed. I think I run negative lap splits, but haven't timed it to confirm. My last lap is aggressive. Not compared to the field, but compared to my own past performance. And no where near the Angry, full throttle go power that this sport requires. I haven't found that On switch yet. I finish, panting and wheezing. But in under 5 minutes of stopping, I'm conversational again and feel like I could do another lap. Unfortunately, I know I've also spent portions of the course walking, because it is as fast as I'd be able to ride, and gives me a chance to stretch my lower back. This is also starting to slowly improve. Slowly. But at Rainier, coasting and gaining speed on the long swooping downhill, hovering over the saddle and floating exactly where I want to go ~ That is free spirited joy on a bike.

So this week, darling M is finding me a different gearing config to help w/ my uphill impairment. Not once have I raced in the big ring, so we're going to a single w/ mtbike rear cogs. And tonight - really, really - I'm finally going to clean & setup the spiro-tiger to help improve my breathing. I hope that if I can get that under control that my endurance improvement will follow. And if I'm extra lucky, I'll manage to finish in the top half of the pack for once.

We will be racing every weekend thru Nov 15th. And then, a whole new training schedule will being.