Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Back to the Blog

Racing season must have started again because I'm back to updating the blog. Tons has happened over the winter, there are a bunch of posts I started writing and then just let die. Perhaps I'll resurrect them over the next week, perhaps not. They're kind of old news now anyway.

This past weekend was the King of Burlingame MTB TT. It was also the first race of my season last year and I like the tradition. My only wish is that the held it again at the end of the season - it would be fun to track progress (or lack thereof) over a season. I suppose I could go down there myself and just do it.

This year proved to be a little warmer than last although there was a brutal wind blowing across the lake - hard enough that there were some good whitecaps. Fortunately, for most of the race in the woods, the wind wasn't a factor - another check in the "Pros" column for mtb'ing over road riding. ;-) It had rained a bit over the past week so the course was fairly wet and muddy in spots. I didn't get a chance to pre-ride it except for the first 1/2 mile or so but pretty much knew what to expect from last year.

The first two miles or so is the most technical section: a few muddy rock gardens, a couple of stream crossings and more logs to ride over than last year. Most were rideable but a couple were tall enough to be a challenge to climb over. One of the guys at the start heard Kristen and I discussing one of the larger trees that were down and said there was a build up on the far left of the trail so it was indeed rideable. And he was right - although it scared the crap out of me when I did it. :)

The start seemed to take forever. Experts went off first, then all the sport men, then my group. We kept doing a few laps up and down the road to keep warm as we waited about an hour for our turn to come. The starter had what I thought to be an Irish accent and a great sense of humor that managed to keep us entertained as well. The first 100 yards is a fast, flat, sprint on hard pack dirt with a downed tree to get over (in view of all those waiting to start). My fear is always that I'll sprint really hard and biff it on the tree. Most of the men were able to just fly over, bunny hopping the log. I contemplated trying it but chickened out, slowed, lifted the front wheel and rode over. At least I didn't biff it. :)

I rode the technical bits in the first two miles way better than last year - in fact, I rode almost all of it unlike last year where I did get off to walk in a few places. I think that played a big factor in my time savings over last year. I was more prepared when I came to the terraced section and didn't come in too fast - no fear of falling off the back of the bike this year. Once I got to the fire road/bridge section, I still had enough energy to put it in the big ring and really crank, unlike last year where I had nothing left. How much I eat, what and when was a real problem for me last year as evidenced by all the bonking. I'm trying to pay more attention to that and one of the lectures at the LUNA summit really helped. I have to admit, though, that I don't think a bottle of champagne, a loaf of bread and some brie was what the nutritionist had in mind. But we had a bit of a celebration the night before since S found out she was admitted to the best MPH program in the country at Hopkins. Who cares if I'm racing! Give me another glass of that bubbly!

I still need to work on my head, though. How was it possible I forgot it was a time trial? I kept thinking I just didn't want the women behind me to pass me (I started first) but totally forgot it wasn't a typical XC race. I definitely could have cut at least another 30 sec had I been thinking that and pushed a little harder. Doh!

Anyway, turned in a time that was approximately 5 min faster than last year (10% improvement) which was good enough for 2nd place and a sweet pair of Smith sunglasses. A nice way to kick off the season.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More Work Stuff

I've been doing lots of video research lately at work - this is why I love my job sometimes. Getting paid to figure out where video is going, how the internet and broadcast will converge over the next couple of years is pretty damn cool. Anyway, came across this video search engine and some of their embed code. So here's a quick search of all the videos of MTB crashes on the web. I wonder if some of my own YouTube videos are up there. ;-)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Will Row For Beer (or Tequila)

It's January and that means I always have the freedom to really mix up my workouts. I've vowed to stay off the rollers or a spin bike until February. Riding my bike is fine, as long as it's outside. If I have to do an inside workout, it's going to be something different.

Back in December, the dreaded email showed up in my inbox announcing the Concept2 Virtual Team Challenge. It's a month long virtual team race on the erg (a.k.a. The Punisher) - basically how many meters can your team (minimum of two) row in 31 days. I debated about reminding S about it because I KNEW what would happen. While I am somewhat competitive, she's off the charts. And I think that due to her recent injuries, she hasn't had opportunities to relieve some of that competitive spirit.

And secondly, I'm not a rower. In college, not only was I too small (or I guess would have made a good coxwain) but I also lack the drive to push myself super hard (a wuss, I guess.). I remember watching my college roommate (and rower) do sprint intervals up College Hill. Someone had spray painted a few words of encouragement along the way up the hill topped with "Puke Here." at the finish. This is also why I'm a lousy bike racer. When it hurts a lot, I tend to fold. It is also why I like mountain biking. I'm so busy studying the trail I'm not feeling the pain. It's a good distraction. Sitting in a boat, pulling on a oar and staring at the back of someone's head would just be the death of me. My team would be pitching me out of the boat faster than you could say "Power 10!"

And so now I find myself on a virtual rowing team without even the water and shore view for a diversion. Just me in the basement with some music, staring at the walls or sometimes I'll turn on the TV. First, S and I were just a team of two and based on average meters were doing quite well (top 10 of two person teams and top 15 overall). Then we got an email from a guy in New Zealand saying he liked the name of our team (the title of this post) and wanted to join. So we had to decide...Do we be nice and let him play? Would he row enough meters? Could we keep our top 15 position? Heck, I was just doing this for fun and to have a goal for January, how did I get coerced into rowing at least 12,000m a day? Stop the madness! So now Kiwi makes three...we let our new, similarly alcohol motivated friend on the team. Currently, we're 13th out of 201 teams in average meters so we're still kicking butt.

And speaking about butts, you'd think my back, arms, or legs would be burning from all this rowing. But noooo.....it's my butt. I can ride a bike all day and have a happy ass but an hour on the erg results results in exquisite pain. PFFC suggested bubble wrap. Tried it this morning and am much happier! Although having some of the bubbles pop while rowing was a bit disconcerting. :)

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

California Girl

You can take the girl out of California but you can't take the California out of the girl as evidenced by our snowshoe outting yesterday afternoon. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Doing The Best I Could With What I Had (Which Wasn't Much)

Uuuf. I've been avoiding writing a Nats recap for a week now. The pic (shamelessly stolen from cyclingnews.com) above just sort of sums it up. That's the winner of the 40-44 race lapping me and winning. Now, granted I wasn't in her race (started 30 seconds behind that field) but still. One of my goals all year was simply, don't get lapped. And I never was. And boom, at Nationals I ride my worst race all season and felt the worse I have on a bike since the "Just leave me!" bonking episode in my first PMC about 15 years ago. But I'll back up and tell the entire sordid tale.

We flew into KC on Wednesday morning. Unlike last year, the whole city was not encased in ice. It was cold but clear and the forecast was for a general warm up until a precipitous drop in temp on Sunday as a cold front moved in. I wasn't sure nice weather was a good thing - I tend to ride better in poor conditions. After checking in at the hotel and finding some lunch, I changed into riding clothes and headed to the venue to pick up my bike from the trailer (trailering the bike worked out great. WAY better than flying it.) Turns out they weren't allowing anyone to pre-ride the course that day, not sure why since it was pretty frozen, so I did three laps or so along the course, outside the tape. The entire course was built into a hillside so it involved a lot of climbing. The first half was pretty much uphill which peaked along a ridge. At the top of the ridge, there was a W in the course, uphill with wooden low barriers, downhill with a 180 turn back uphill. Then there was a downhill section, another set of highspeed barriers, another muddy run up with a treacherous remount area and then back on to asphalt. Overall, I thought the course was pretty boring - lots of grass (which, yes, did eventually turn to mud), and no real fun sections. As Anna pointed out at dinner Thursday night, when someone says they don't like the course what they really mean is it doesn't suit them. And I suppose she's right. I would have liked to see some sections on different kinds of surfaces (gravel, roots, etc) and some more sections that favored good bike handling skills.

My first race was the Womens B Open race at 9am Thursday morning. My plan was to use the race as a warm up. I didn't want to go out 110% since I really wanted to save something for the next day's more important race. Unlike my pre-ride the day before, I felt fantastic that morning. The uphill sections felt easy, the icy turns added some fun and I just love early morning races. I was happy. For someone who wasn't trying really hard, I rode well and felt like I didn't kill myself.

Friday's race was an entirely different story. We didn't race until 1pm so I had the whole morning to kill. Arrived at the course around 11am since it was open for pre-ride for an hour before my race. As I walked through the course, the juniors race was in progress and it was a muddy mess. All the frozen grass had melted in the the warmer temps. The bikes and riders were completely covered. It occurred to me that the energy sucking muck could really make the uphill section a painful slog.

I decided I'd pre-ride a lap before my race. Definitely much slower than the previous day, adjusted the tire pressure to deal with the mud and was amazed how much heavier my now mud/grass covered bike was as I carried through the W section at the top of the ridge. Ouch. As I finished the pre-ride lap, I headed over to the water truck to wash off the bike-didn't want to start the race with a bike already coated with all that crap. As I pull up to the line bike wash line, it disperses and the water truck drives away. No more water. Won't be back until 1pm. &^%$#
Nothing else to do but just start wiping the bike down with my gloves. Found a stick and started scraping more much out of the smaller crevices. Trish and S came over to help. We then resorted to standing the bike in a gross, muddy puddle and splashing water on it. Wayne saw the spectacle and joined in. I'm amazed that man has any hands left given how cold it was and how long he helped washing my bike with nothing but his bare hands.

Finally, it was time to line up. The wind picked up a bit and I dumped my jacket too soon (our race went off 15 min or so late) and began to shiver uncontrollably. My game plan was with my front row start was to mark the three women I knew were fast and follow their wheel up the long asphalt start, conceding the hole shot and just try to stay with them as long as possible. Whistle goes off 30 sec after the 40-44 group (Go Cris!) and I execute according to plan. Until the first real uphill section. O. M. G. I had nothing from the get go. I pedaled through that muck uphill like there was no tomorrow (because there wasn't) and I simply went backwards through the field. f*&^%$% I kept telling myself, "Don't worry. You can make it up. Just get into a rhythm." but it never happened. Women I beat by over a minute the day before we just killing me. On the downhill section, I would make up some time. I did manage to ride the muddy turns and sketchy areas well and passed two riders or so every time on that section. But then I'd get passed by 4 rides on the uphill. Two steps forward, four steps back. Oooof. On the third lap, I was headed to the top of the ridge on the bumpy uphill section right before big right hand turn to the ridge when I actually thought to myself, "Is it possible to continue riding while puking or should I pull over? Hmmm...I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually throw up in a race. Good thing I'm as far from the announcer as possible on the course. Don't need this pointed out." And then I started to get a real understanding of what it means to be cross-eyed during a race. Wow. I was done. Stick-a-fork-in-me D-O-N-E.

In the running world, we say, "the wheels fell off." I don't know what the cycling equivalent is but it was as if the wheels fell off. Ouch. Trish and S said it looked like I just simply ran out of gas. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't go any faster. It was miserable. As I cleared the last run-up and navigated the twisty turns, I could hear the annoucer saying the winner of the 40-44 group was coming to the line. Great. Wonderful. Could I at least avoid being lapped. She sprinted by me like I wasn't even moving, gave the two arm salute and all I could think was, "Crap. Now I get to be in her wonderful finish line photo." A permanent reminder of my lousy race and how I failed to reach my low bar goal of not getting lapped in the biggest race of the season. ~sigh.

I left nothing on the course. Just wasn't my day to say the least. Something to improve on for next year and hopefully, it won't be in KC again. I'm done with that town. More pics of the weekend are here but a quick slideshow is below.


We had our first real snowfall of the season yesterday and it brought with it more than the usual aggravation. Our neighbor's driveway lies pretty close to our property line. Not that big a deal normally. Last winter, while snowblowing his driveway, he'd blow all the snow onto all of our trees and landscaping. Burying all of our rhododendrons and arbor vitae in snow just really doesn't make us happy. Especially since he has an area the size of a football field to blow his snow into. We just couldn't figure it out last year and came to the conclusion that he had no idea that the direction of the snowblower chute could be changed or adjusted.

So last year, we had a little chat with him - please don't bury our plants.

And then last night...

Imagine peaceful view from the family room. Warm and toasty inside, comfortable in the chaise, watching the lovely snow fall and making it certain we'd have a white Christmas. Soon, I hear the noisy growl of a snowblower. Ah..well, it happens, gotta move the white stuff. But then it sounds like a freight train is hitting the house. The entire left side of the house is getting pelted with snow from front to back. First the office windows get trashed, then the dining room and then I'm watching my french doors get bashed with snow. WTF?!?!?!?

S heads outside to have a chat with neighbor dude again. Yes, it's true, I sent her out rather than speaking with him myself. I figured I'd be too nice.

"You DO know that you can aim the chute in different directions, right?"

"Yeah. But...look, I didn't hit your trees! I went over them!"


"But then it would pile up on my side."

You have got to be f'ing kidding me. I'm at a loss. I don't know whether it's stupidity, laziness, or just blatant disrespect.

K & S....why did you sell? Please move back. We miss our cool, fun, nice neighbors.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Realization

I love cars almost as much as I love bikes and shoes. It's a good thing that both bikes and shoes are cheaper. Usually. My winter car is an eleven year old BMW 318ti. I keep thinking I should trade it in for some newer, spiffier model. But with only 86k miles and most of the mechanical systems recently overhauled, I should get another 100k miles out of it. And that's fine - it's actually still a very fun car to drive. If I need something to get my pulse up even more, I'll take the Go-Kart-On-Crack (a.k.a. The MINI) out for a spin.

Since I have now admitted to myself that I'm not getting rid of it any time soon, I opted to buy four new wheels and Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires for it. Ordered them on online at TireRack. The whole package (tires, pretty nice wheels, mounting, delivery, etc.) cost less than the wheels on my CX bike. WTF?!?!? Then I realized that the bikes I'm throwing on the roof rack on that car are worth more than the car that's ferrying them.

Somehow, that just seems sick and wrong.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stretching Limits

I've been very fortunate to have events and people in my life that push to do new things or do old things at a new, better level. If I look at snowboarding, I think of the time Frank took to what at the time felt like a bottomless dropoff on a cliff in Tahoe in the middle of a snowstorm.

"Umm....you want me to board down that?"
"Yes, you can do it. I've seen you board. You'll be fine."

We dropped in and sure enough, I made it down. Yes, I did fall a few times on the way but that was more a case of me bailing rather than committing. It was my lack confidence that caused the falls rather than lack of ability.

I had a similar experience on the board with Julie as we dropped into a mogul field. Or the time S showed me how to boogie board in 6 foot surf off Big Beach in Maui. Ok, well, that almost killed me but I now have real knowledge of my limits in rough water. An example away from sports might be the time I was once working on a DVD authoring product. Senior management wanted us to add the ability to produce Blu-ray format discs. A couple of slight problems existed though...the Blu-ray spec had yet to be finalized and oh, yeah, there was no hardware, either burners or players, to test with. We managed to do it, though. And on schedule as well. I was skeptical at first but my team proved me wrong.

In all those instances, it was something I NEVER would have attempted had someone not encouraged me. And I'm not referring to situations where you go out with an expert and they goad you into something that's way over your head. It's more that they recognize something that you don't see in yourself or you do see but still are held back by fear.

And then there's mountain biking and my friend, Cathy. I'm not sure how much she realizes how much she's responsible for improving my ability on a bike and getting me to attempt things that really, I would have considered insane two years ago.

"Let's go ride Thursday night in the woods. You'll need lights." I say ok but in my head I think, "Holy crap! I'm going to die! But then I go and realize just how much kick ass fun it is.

"Teri - ride that log/rock!" or "The line is on the left, through the dirt in the crack, then stay right." or my personal favorite, "Momentum is your friend." She's a great, patient instructor and I've really improved riding with her. And I'm still amazed that there's one bridge I can ride that she has a mental block on. ;-)

So this week, she invited me to an epic ride to be followed by an epic feast. Three to four hour ride on the bike. Ok, I think I can probably do that provided we keep the pace sane. But then the forecast calls for temps in the twentys with wind - so it feels like it's about 10 degrees. Now typically, I think I would have wussed. Resorted to the rollers or perhaps even done a cx race. But I was committed, I was going to do it and I promised not to whine.

We met at her house, did the requisite clothing check (How many layers are you wearing? Are you wearing the big or little gloves? Skull cap or balaclava? Light jacket or the winter jacket?) then headed out. I had a complete and total blast. We didn't start really feeling a bit chilled until 2 hours into the ride. About 2.5 hours in as I struggled on what seemed a little hill, I finally announced I was done (but I didn't whine!) and had enough left for the 45 min ride home. Three hours, 26 miles or so, and then a change into dry warm clothes and a well deserved feast of Big Ass Lasagne.

So thanks, Cath, for making me stretch to new limits. And now I have no excuse for not riding outside this winter. There go my warm weekend afternoons on the couch in front of the fire. ;-)