Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summer Surprise

I dream of riding in shorts and short sleeves all winter, and somehow a few days of summer arrived bypassing spring. Warm days and a hot sun before the trees are ready to offer shade. I have enjoyed evening meals outdoors and hanging out in sandals without a thought of sweaters and down coat.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Somewhere in a county far away, 23 like-minded bike racers joined together on a training mission. Three days, two disciplines, many miles and lots of climbing made up the weekend. Some may call it a race, but I like to think of it as a training camp in a stage race disguise. Alias names and places were used to keep this event top secret and known only to the underground society. The weather gods gifted the bike racers with a beautiful warm spring weekend.

Day one: took place in Briana’s little patch (as if ?) … of the woods. This was a 4.5 mile TT section of real woods trails, with a techy rock climb, 2 mud sections and a small stream crossing. Briana, with the home advantage took the stage with a 61 second advantage over Dumpster Boy. Reigning champion Crispy Kernal won the ladies by 91 seconds over yours truly, too tired princess “2TP”. Goat, missing his start and then breaking his chain, earned the coveted DFL jersey. The boy and I were coughing up a lung all the way home. Ahhh, feels good to be racing again.

Day two: 20 of us rolled out on our road bikes. This time everyone had gears, and a good thing, because we were going to climb. We were to have 2 timed sections that would count towards the GC, 2 sprints, and 2 KOM’s. Our first timed section was up Sun Cheese Mountain. Stick, Kernal, Tex, the Mayor and I were battling it out on the bottom section. Then I saw JimBoob and proceeded to reel him in with what seemed like a train behind me. Once Boob was caught, the train rode by, but I fell off a bit finishing behind that group and 40 seconds behind Kernal.

Next timed section was from Cheesepack Inn to the top of Cheesebrook Rd. Twelve miles, part rolling, two major bumps, and then a daunting 13-18% grade up the last 3/4 mile that will humble just about any cyclist. Last year I tried hanging onto the lead groups down the rolling part, and got spit off the back 3 or 4 times by them and the passing groups. This year I felt good on the previous section, so I tried that again, and it worked. I held with them easily all the way to the first bump, and then passed a few and hung behind “shake and bake” to the top. I felt a little shaked and baked myself, zig-zagging the top part in the 84 degree full sun, but made it to the top as the first women. Some how Kernal was snoozing and never got latched onto the lead group, so I gained back the time I lost on the last timed section, which was a lucky break.

We finished the day with 79 miles and 8200 feet of vertical climbing. Briana stayed in the GC leaders jersey by 2:25, Kernal in the women’s GC jersey by 92 seconds, and The Hamburglar with a 7 minute margain in the DFL jersey, drooling over his soon to be beer prize. Goat now wore the Sprinters Jersey, Otto the KOM, Blockhead the U23 and Dumpster in the 45+.

Day three: 17 of us set out into the great woods on our mountain bikes for 38 miles with the same number of competitions as the previous day. Right from the start my legs felt like toast and I was struggling to hang onto the group. To make things worse I was feeling brain dead. Imain Imaoutski gave some code instructions that may have seemed normal for everyone else, but that I could not decipher in my stupor. So besides being exhausted, I got lost. Thankfully I was with Tex, because my brain was still in slumber. By the time we got to the wrong finish area, we found others as well. Luckily the unofficial pro-rated our times, and we were still in the games. Grabbed a quick bite to eat and continued on to the next timed section.

By this time I was way beyond tired and wondering how I would make it up the next climb, if I could not even follow instructions. I pushed as hard as I could, but it felt like a snails pace. On the turns I could see a train of riders behind me, Kernal included, and wondered why they were not passing this snail. When I asked if anyone needed to come by, all I got was “nahhh, not yet”. I continued this way all the way to the top, and it seemed like a long, long way, feeling apologetic for holding the group up. I was surprised to find out after, that I was the motivation pulling them all the way. Group rides can be great in that way, offering opportunities to be on both ends of the chain of motivation. So although I was doubting myself for coming out this last day, I now had some purpose for being there.

Briana LaFevre - GC
Crusty Kernal Curd - GC female
Blockhead Square Wheels - U23
Imain Imaoutski - 45+
Otto von Emmental - KOM
Butt Insurance - Sprinter
The Hamburglar - DFL

It was great to see both Briana and Kernal back out racing and in the leaders jerseys, after being out most of last year from illness. Overall it was a successful weekend filled with challenge, great people and good times. The group as a whole rode awesome, .5mph faster on the road than last year. Fin and newcomer G-unit rocked it with the guys and should feel ready to jump into racing this year. Looking forward to CCWC10!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Healing a Clipped Wing

Swing the leg over the bike, and I head out into the woods. As I start to turn the pedals, my legs begin to burn. Each labored breath rips deep in my lungs and reminds me of my mortal weakness. This goes on for a bit, but eventually my legs seem to disappear from my mind, working solely on their own without question. My lungs begin to feel quenched of air and take a relaxed simple rhythm. The relaxation of my breath stretches out to the end of my fingers. I feel as if I were a hawk floating through the woods in search of something not known to me yet. Momentum begins to replace the feeling of gravity and the texture of all that is below my tires becomes the wind to ride upon, …gliding over rocks and roots with just a slight change of position or a dip of the wing to guide the path of my trajectory. Once in the single track, I rarely ride a straight line, but ride from one arc to another, as if I were an ice skater always on edge. The system to my flight becomes intuitive. I am lost in flight.

Being injured as an athlete is always a difficult thing to go through. We take time off the bike, and can easily slip into feelings of anxiety, doubt, self-pity or denial, to name a few. It can get to us all in some way. Last year it was Lyme disease for me, and now I am nearly six weeks into a torn rotator cuff. Neither of these injuries has been life threatening, or even kept me completely off the bike, but they can certainly slow me down in life for a bit. When you look at the big picture, these are minor set backs, but still require some patience, trust and focus to heal. Truthfully, riding a bike is a gift, and the ability to do so may just be on loan to us. We just don’t always realize this, until it is temporarily taken away.

Although I did not see it at the time, when I look back to last year when I had Lyme, I see a path of rest that led me to my first cycle-cross race, and guided me into an energized season of winter road riding. There is a small part of me that feels some disappointment in having to slow down after such a strong winter, but it is now my path, and I will embrace it, and see where it takes me. So, although the exact destination of this path is unknown, I do plan to fly again.