Thursday, August 28, 2008

Over the Hills and Through the Woods...and In the Creek and Along the Drainage Pipe...A Hashin' We Will Go.

PH4's Combat Hash was Wednesday night. Two words pretty much sum it up: Epic Shiggy.

Hadn't been hashing since the end of July's Christmas in July hash due to vacation, work obligations and the fact that two hashes started in the suburbs at a time while my car was in the shop. When the "operative" for the combat hash was posted late last week, I emailed Crystal and told her that we really shouldn't miss this one.

We started from the north end of Tryon Creek Park-one of my favorite places to trail run. After consuming some pre-race hydration and painting our faces with a sufficient amount of war paint, we were off. Spent about 3/4 of a mile on trail before veering off and down into a gully for the first beer check. Then up a rope out of a muddy gully and back onto the trail for another mile. Then into (yes, into) Tyron Creek for over a mile and a half. Parts of the creek are shallow, but there were many parts where we were up to our waists in cold, skanky urban creek water.

When I thought the whole thing couldn't get more ridiculous(ly awesome), we climbed up the creek bank and onto a drainage pipe that was, at most points, at least 20 feet off the ground. Mind you, at this point we were soaking wet, the bottom of our shoes were slick and we were rapidly losing the daylight. All in all a pretty safe situation.

The finale was a 200 meter drainage tunnel that ran under Terwilliger Boulevard and Highway 43 (didn't see any rats or dead bodies, but I also kept my headlamp firmly focused on the wall of the tunnel) and the spill pond at the other end. I finished soaked from head to toe in nasty ass water. It was spectacular. I might end up with cancer from whatever they are allowed to dump in that creek, but spectacular nonetheless.

Learned a couple more valuable lessons about hashing:

1) Knee high socks, although heavy when wet, are a must for off-road hashing. It kept the nettle burn limited to my hands, face and (I have no idea how this happened) right boob.

2) Ditto for waterproof headlamps. Because you never know when you'll have to swim through a drainage pond in the dark.

3) Pack a full change of clothes and dry shoes and socks in the dry bag. I had several dry layers to keep warm on top, but my shorts and shoes stayed soaked and I was really cold and moderately crabby by the end of religion.

4) A flask of bourbon is also an essential dry bag item for cold nights, and for times when there hasn't been enough beer on trail.

Damp nettle burn aside, a brilliant way to spend a beautiful summer evening.

On, On!!!

Cyclocross clinics with Jeff and Dean started last night. Holy shit, I love cross.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shoulder Saga Update-Week 12

Saw the sports medicine doctor again today. I'm not progressing quickly as either one of us would like, so we decided to try shooting me up with cortisone to give me pain relief while I continue with physical therapy. Along with the cortisone, he threw in a substance that had a similar, but immediate and short-term effect so that he could test whether the cortisone would actually work. As a result, I have had 90 minutes of shoulder-pain free bliss. It should wear off in an hour or two and the cortisone should kick in in about 48-72 hours. Ahhhhhh.......

Monday, August 18, 2008

Holy Crit!

Even though it is Monday morning and raining, I've been sporting a pretty huge grin on my face. I did two crits this weekend, and the last time I've felt this pleasantly surprised at my own ability was when I got my grades after my first term of law school and realized that, yah, I can do this shit.

After my performance at the TT last weekend, the HTFU crew called bullshit on my lack of fitness excuse and I no longer had a ready made reason not to show up at a local road race. When I casually mentioned in Thursday morning's class that I was pondering showing up at the Swan Island Crit on Saturday morning for a little bit of cyclocross training, Beth, Sarah and Coco jumped all over it and declared that it was about fucking time that I showed up for something.

My plan was to sign up online so that I wouldn't have 48 hours to talk myself out of it. Because in all honesty, the idea of riding in a pack and cornering with a bunch of strangers freaked me out quite a bit. And I really didn't want to get spit out the back and ride by myself.

There was no online registration, so if I was going to talk myself out of racing, it was going to happen the night before the race. Fortunately, I took D to the Lifesavas/Mos Def show for his birthday Friday night and, due to two shots of jager and yet another sick set by the Lifesavas, totally forgot about chickening out.

Saturday-Swan Island Crit

It was already 75 degrees when we woke up on Saturday morning at 8am and the weather was projected to reach 102 by mid-afternoon. Not the best conditions for a bike race, but I've survived for six hours at altitude bleeding out of my face during a half-ironman, so I figured that I could survive a 30 minute bike race.

My goals were simple goals: stay upright and finish with the group. I chatted with Coco before the race and told her that if I could hold my own in the group, I would try and do a few lead-outs for her and Tamara on the points laps and at the finish. They have been participating in the Cat 4 women's series that has been going on all summer and both needed the points for the series. As I figured my only goal was to not make a total ass out of myself, I should help them out if I could.

It took about two laps for me to feel comfortable in the group, which was about 22 riders deep. It didn't take long to figure out (1) whose wheels I didn't want to be on and (2) that I was much more comfortable cornering than the majority of the field. The pace would surge on the straightaways and settle back on the backside. I really didn't even feel like I was working that hard, so when the bell rung on the first points lap, I surged to the front and picked up the pace considerably. Tamara and Coco immediately jumped on my wheel and I pulled them 3/4 of the way around before they jumped out front and took the lap. I was worried that the field would keep the pace high and I wouldn't get enough time to recover, but everyone slowed up again once we started cornering again.

I really don't specifically recall much of what happened between the first prime lap and the bell lap. I tried to stay near the front to protect Coco's wheel and was able to react quickly each time the Ironclad ladies sent someone off the front. I was actually surprised when the lap card read 2 laps to the finish, because I had anticipated being in a lot more discomfort by the end of the race. I therefore decided that I was going to see what sort of trouble I could cause in the final lap. Into the first corner I swung wide, accelerated and once I got up to Tamara and Coco, hollered at them to jump on. I held the front coming into the home stretch until my vision went spotty. Once the ladies started to sprint around me, I sat up and just spun into the finish. Tamara and Coco finished like second and fifth. Turns out that Tamara didn't react quickly enough to my jump and the women that ended up winning the race got the prime spot on my wheel.

D was marshaling one of the corners and said that every time I threw down and went off the front, that there was some suffering in the pack. I ended up finishing 16th or something, but was pleased as punch that I was not only able to hang on, but was able to really affect the outcome of the race. And I had so much fun that I immediately decided to sign up for the Cat 4 race at the OBRA state championships the next day.

Cat 4 OBRA State Championship Crit

The Cat 4 Race on Sunday was only 20 minutes, so I figured that although the 30 minutes on Saturday had worked me over a bit, that I could at least sit in for a shorter race. The Cat 4s raced with the 40+ and 50+ masters. My teammate Jan joined in for the masters race. Jan is a spectacular crit racer and I figured I could learn a lot just by watching to see what she did. I told her "just tell me what to do....I'll do whatever you tell me".

D and I had discussed strategy that morning. Right now I don't have the skills to contest a pack sprint, but I am a confident bike handler and have that TT motor in my backyard. So the plan was to stay near the front, help Jan out if I could and then just throw the hammer down on the last lap, take the corners really tight and see what happened.

The first lap was the worst. The Swan Island Crit is more like PIR--the corners were really loose and easy to pedal through. This course, in contrast had 6 corners and although the road was wide, the corners were tighter. Most of the ladies weren't taking the best line and seemed uncomfortable when Jan brought things closer to the curb on a few laps. I filed that away in my brain, thinking that it would come in handy at some point. Jeff and Beth were on first corner and D between the last two. Whatever they told me to do, I did.

Jan surged a couple of times, but the overall pace was pretty slow through the technical sections. I got sick of that pretty quickly and on the first prime lap, went to the front and upped the pace just a bit to string people out a bit. Into the last corner, I hear Jan yell "Go HARD Lindsay, go hard".... I ramped up the pace again, which enabled Jan to launch a solo attack for several laps and pick up both primes. Kick ass.

I tried to move to the front so that I could slow things down for Jan while she was on the attack, but just couldn't find enough space. Jan got tired and let us catch her with 3 laps to go. Again, I wasn't feeling uncomfortable at all, so going into the bell lap, I moved up to the front and drove the pace for the entire lap. I took all of the corners tight to the curb so if anyone was going to pass me, they would have to swing wide and take a longer line.

It was so damn cool to come into the finish stretch and see nothing ahead of me except for the finish line. Which got closer and closer without anyone catching me. With about 50 meters to go, I could see someone off to my left side. I stood up to sprint...and my left foot popped out of my pedal. (inner monologue: "fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck"). It took two or three more rotations to clip back in, but at that point she had a wheel length on me. If there had been 10 more meters past the finish line, I would have caught back up. But holy shit...second place! I have never been that close to winning a bike race. Beth went ape shit when I crossed the line. It was so awesome.

Turned out that my attack was also great lead-out for Jan, who finished fourth overall and first in her masters category. And it also managed to string out the field enough that I had some room to react when my foot came out.

So I think I reallllly like crit racing. Too bad the crit season is over for the year. But I'm now feeling really good about my fitness for cross season and am glad that I found a silver lining to the cloud of "can't mountain bike again until next year."

Friday, August 15, 2008

And If You Continue to Wonder Why Cyclists Think Triathletes are Ridiculous

Because the temperatures in Portland are supposed to reach 104 today, and because I promised myself that I would ride the Swan Island Crit tomorrow and wanted to spin my legs out this morning, I got my arse out of bed at 5:30 this morning to get my ride in.

Cruising down the Springwater Corridor around 6am, I noticed another cyclist bobbing and weaving his way down the middle of the path (and then on the right side of the path, then the left). As I got closer, I noticed that (1) he was in his aero bars fully weighted down with a backpack-so much so that the backpack had shoved his helmet over the top halves of his eyes and (2) not wearing a shirt. Nothing about this setup was safe or appropriate for the eyes of small children. And I know this guy was a triathlete--not just some doofus commuting in aero--because I've seen him at local events.

As most of you know, I started cycling so I could compete triathlons. I was, however, lucky enough to begin my riding career with a group of road cyclists who were big on learning proper riding etiquette and common sense (thanks Tessa, Kenji, Dave and Danielle!).

A couple of things for my triathlete brothers and sisters out there:

1. It is neither necessary nor advisable to commute in downtown Portland in aero bars. Home is not T1 and work is not T2. You are not wearing a timing chip and there is no prize for hitting 30 MPH on Fourth Avenue. Sit up and keep your hands near the brakes.

2. Please learn how to hold a line. If this phrase is a foreign one to you, let me explain. It's pretty simple. Ride straight.

3. Most our cycling lives do not take place on a clean, closed course. Please learn to signal, point out obstacles and let the poor lady on the Electra cruiser know that you are going to pass within an inch of her life at top speed. It's just the nice thing to do.

4. Triathlon race clothes are great for what they were made for-racing in. Understand that when you wear your race clothes out in the normal world you will subject yourself to the ridicule of the slightly more cool identically kitted-out road racers, the definitely more cool bike messengers and the infinitely more cool zoobombers. Just an FYI.

On a different note, for several weeks I have meant to give Kristin S. props for her inspired addition to our HTFU line of energy bars.

The OMT: The "One More Time." This is the bar that you thought tasted so good that you had to back and try another one, only to realize that it really didn't taste all that great the first time. Good for closure; not recommended to have more than once. Tastes like black licorice.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The View from the Top of the World Includes Two Dudes Smoking a Joint.

A week and half ago I returned from my vacation to Colorado. Two nights in Colorado Springs, followed by three nights in the San Juan Mountains, then a final night in Colorado Springs before returning home.

I can't say that I was that impressed with Colorado Springs (but this has to be taken with a grain of salt because I am, admittedly, very "Portland is the best city ever"-centric). The are great vistas of the mountains from spot place in town, but the entire urban landscape is littered with strip malls and is not easy to move through by means other than a four-wheeled vehicle. And preferably in a four-wheeled vehicle with truck nuts and that gets about 3 miles per gallon.

My observation, one that Emily concurred with, is that CO Springs doesn't have the neighborhood culture that Portland has. Most of the bars and restaurants are located in a strip mall. And make their bourbon and gingerales with Jim Beam, sprite and coke. Hmph.

But on the bright side of strip mall-dom, almost every one has a Vietnamese nail salon and a liquor store. This I am not opposed to. Here is Emily modeling the latest in prosthetic hand accessories at our Tuesday afternoon stop at the local pedicure express:

And here is the cart of pirate's booty obtained for the camping trip: four six-packs of Mike's hard berry, a jug of Bailey's, two bottles of bourbon and some pear vodka. Surprisingly, we only made it a 2/3 through one bottle of bourbon (I was honestly concerned that two would not be enough). It turns out the bourbon makes its way through one's system much easier at 9000 feet than it does at sea level.

I also visited the little community of Manitou Springs, which reminded me a bit of Sisters. Kitschy shops peddling faux-western wares and a couple of boomer-aged hippies playing the mandolin for an appreciative audience of other boomer-aged hippies. (The short version of how Emily and I first became great buddies: Over beers, we discovered a mutual dislike for hippies.)

Manitou Springs does have a very cool retro arcade area in the center of town. Most of the time I am openly hostile to games and game playing, but I do enjoy a rousing game of pinball and found an old bowling game that kept me occupied for a good fifteen minutes.

Wednesday morning Emily and I rolled out of the Springs and headed toward Lake City. Arrived about five hours later at our campsite. Also out for the adventure were my brother Chuck, his wife Deidra, her father Monty and his girlfriend Vicky and my brother's friend Nolan. Nolan and my brother work together doing something that they can't tell us about. But they know an awful lot about (1) Chinese satellite technology, (2) purchasing humans on the black market and (3) how to dispose of dead bodies. Put it together yourself.

Thursday was the pre-hike, a warm-up to the main lung busting event-summiting Handie's Peak on Friday morning. We took the American Basin Trail from about 11,000 feet to 12,500 feet. The road out to the trailhead was bumpy, narrow and cut into the side of a cliff for about a half mile. We rode in the back of a 1978 Ford Pickup. I get carsick. We passed the time by flashing gang signs and listening to my brother and his wife yell at the dog in the front of the truck. It was a fun drive.

My brother is pretty smart and did a great job of planning this trip in the height of the wildflower season in the Rockies. At the parts of the hike where I thought that I was going to succumb to a mixture of lack of sleep, excess of bourbon and altitude, I thought to myself that at least I picked a unworldly beautiful place to kick the bucket.

We hiked/climbed/wheezed for about an hour before reaching our destination, an alpine lake at about 12,500 feet. I have never seen this shade of blue outside of a crayon box. It was spectacular. And spectacularly cold. This didn't stop Nolan from jumping in, thus ensuring that his balls would not be chafing on his shorts on the way back down the mountain.

Friday morning was the main event, summiting Handie's peak. Here is the elevation profile:

And the topographic map of the route we took up through Grizzly Gulch.

Our group of adventurers (from L-R: Deidra, Chuck, Nolan and McKenzie, LK and Emily)

From the point this picture was taken, it was all uphill. First mile through the trees and the second through a huge alpine meadow. This picture to the right is Emily and I in that meadow with Handie's Peak in the background. Then we kept going uphill. For another mile and a half. The last 150 feet or so of elevation gain was scramble of the ridge.

Now, let it be known to all that I don't like heights. I don't like being on bridges and once barfed at the top of the Washington Monument. The scramble, therefore was a bit of a challenge. At no point were we ever in an danger of slipping and sliding off the ridge, but about halfway up I made the mistake of looking down (see left). Whoa. I looked at Emily and she suggested that we stop for a few minutes and just chill.

After the scramble, it was an easy five minute walk to the summit. My brother has all of the summit pictures and I'll post one when I get those from him. Being at the summit was like being at the top of the world, although I'm pretty positive we weren't at the top of the world because it is well-recognized that there are no cell-phone talking, joint-smoking douchebags at the actual top of the world. And there were two of those at the top of Handie's Peak.

We ate lunch at the summit, then headed back down the mountain. The meadow was still beautiful, but I didn't appreciate the biting flies too much. Actually, I don't think I appreciated them at all. But I did appreciate the journey.

Saturday Em and I headed back to CO springs. We decided to take a longer route home through south central Colorado. Let me give you a heads up on this one...don't bother. There's nothing to see out in south central except a bunch of trailers in the desert. Although it was not the most scenic route, it did allow us to play a three hour game of "There's Your House." The rules of this game are simple. When you see a really crappy house, you poke your friend and drawl, "Emily, thayuhs yo house!" The game can be modified to "There's Your Van," "There's Your Boyfriend" or "There's your Burnt Out Golf Cart Sitting on the Shoulder of the Road." Basically "I Spy" for bored adults.

It was great to see Emily and I miss her already. Rumor has it, however, that she will be flying out for Halloween Cross...

Gimlet Cave of Pain

Sunday was the OBRA Time Trial State Championships. I had originally planned to spend the weekend with Sarah T. and some other fine folks mountain biking in Oakridge. Had to scrap that plan after getting the prognosis on the shoulder a few weeks ago.

So I was left scrambling to find an activity that was at least that fun to fill up my weekend hours. Came up with the perfect plan: how about getting catastrophically trashed at a party on Friday night, spending most of the day Saturday trying not to vomit, then racing a 40K time trial on Sunday. So much more fun than epic singletrack.

My journey into the cave of pain started Friday afternoon. I took the day off from exercise and, as unfortunately happens on many of my rest days, I basically forgot to eat for most of the day. Two Americanos for breakfast and a mediocre tuna sandwich around 11-that was it. I really do know better, I swear.

I rode the Il Pompino over to the Pearl around 3:30 to get my hair cut and colored (red!). Here was the evening's drink count:

Glasses of white wine consumed while color processing: 2
Beers with Jeff and Shari between hair appointment and Twilight Crit: 2
Beers at Twilight Crit: 2 (?)
Beers at home between Twilight Crit and Susan H.'s birthday party: 1
Gimlets at Susan's birthday party: approximately 2. Who the hell really knows for sure.

Between 3:30 and 12:30 I ate a half a bowl of rice and beans and a piece of pie. This puts my rough and unscientific booze to food consumption ratio during that time at about 308:1. Which also means that at about 12:30am, I more or less fell off of the side of the mountain that I had been climbing steadily and loudly for the prior seven hours.

I remember (1) D and I giving a friend a lift home, and (2) brushing my teeth. And that was about it until about 11:00 the next morning. I think the last time I was that drunk was at Susan's wedding (a wedding in which I ended up in the pool twice: once wearing a bridesmaid dress and once wearing absolutely nothing at all). Damn Susan and her damn gimlets.

Saturday was interesting. Until around 3, I alternated periods of laying face down on D's bed trying not to puke while he worked on his TT bike with periods of laying face up trying not to puke. Against my will, we took the TT bikes out for a 20ish mile spin in the late afternoon. Can't say that was the most enjoyable ride of my life, but at least it allowed me to sweat out a bit of my misery. And I did feel better afterwards, but I think that had more to do with the post-ride Haagen Das than the ride itself.

Sunday morning came a bit to early for my liking, but I was over the worst of the hangover and was looking forward to taking the Kuota out and getting her up to speed. The TT was held in Peoria, a few miles east of Corvallis, OR. The course is a smooth and flat out-and-back that notorious for the headwind in the last 20K.

Colleen, D and I carpooled down together. I have a sneaking suspicion that Colleen will never ride in a car again if we have complete control over the stereo. Personally, I really don't have a problem with Paula Abdul remixes at 7:45am, so i have no idea what her issue was. To each their own, I guess.

I was scheduled to start around 9:37 and got in a pretty decent 40 minute warm-up on the trainer beforehand. I don't have a set warm-up, but tend to favor a few sets of 30, 60, 90 second ladders at 90% and at least one 5 minute set at about 80%.

The race didn't really start the way I had planned. My rear race wheel is really finicky and if the skewer isn't tightened exactly right, the wheel will either (1) fly out of the horizontal dropouts as soon as i put any major force on the pedals or (2) refuse to spin. Fifteen seconds in, I realized that I was dealing with the latter problem. So I had to pull over and fiddle with the skewer for about 20-25 seconds. Then went back to business.

I didn't realize until the turnaround that the headwind was coming from the opposite direction as it had in years past. So I spent the first 20K feeling like total crap...I couldn't sustain over 22 MPH for more than a few minutes and had to settle into a gear that I didn't particularly feel comfortable racing in. I just tucked in as much as I could (which limited road visibility and led to me riding straight through some serious roadkill) and tried not to think too much about how much the final 20K was going to suck.

The turnaround brought some serious relief. Tailwinds. I think I spent most of the last 20K at around 25 MPH and got up to 27 for a few minutes while pushing some gears that I usually only used on downhill grades.

Came through the finish at 1:04.50. Almost six minutes faster than my 2006 time. Good enough for first (out of two) in the Womens' Masters 30-34 division and...a new course record for that division. Not bad for someone who hasn't done intervals in months and, 24 hours ago, had been laying face down in a miserable heap of her own trouble-making.

Mt. Tabor is the turf for the skinny gals with light bikes. Flat, powerful riding is my turf. Granted, nothing about the race is particularly fun. Both of my piriformis muscles cramped as soon as I sat up and my feet and undercarriage were so numb I refuse to ride the Kuota again until I find a new saddle and better road shoes.

That being said...there is something totally bad-ass about TTs. There is no place to hide, spin or coast in a TT. No rest for your legs and no distraction from your inner monologue. Your team and your competitors have nothing to do with your results...its just you, the bike and the road. Gotta love the simplicity of it.

(Colorado Adventure Recap Coming Later Today!)