Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Cross Weekend 2008

You know a weekend was good when you're still laughing about it, and hurting from it, on Wednesday.

This past weekend was the annual throw-down of ridiculousness know as the Cross Crusade Halloween weekend. Crossers from all over the Pacific Northwest converged upon the Clatsop County Fairgrounds in Astoria, Oregon. There was plenty of sunshine, blood, sweat and many laughter-induced tears.

A new addition to Halloween weekend was Saturday racing. D, Beth and I were out of Portland before dawn, after dropping a car off at the airport so EMILY MOON could join us for the big weekend. The drive was uneventful, and D managed to make it through Longview without getting pulled over. Apparently he has been using his down time to learn about how a "35 miles p/hour" sign means the same thing in Washington as it does in Oregon and Missouri.

D had a helluva a race on Saturday, winning the Clydesdale/B.B.M. category by a good 45-50 seconds. Every time he finishes race, I breathe a big sigh of relief...after Wilsonville I thought he was done with cross for good.

Before my race reports, a brief comment about the Women's B field. Is it just me, or is our field 5 times more competitive than it was last year? I am in five times better shape than I was last year and am still finishing back in the 14th-20th zone. Granted, I haven't ridden a clean race since Starcrossed, but I still think the overall quality of racing has skyrocketed. Which definitely doesn't suck...I have no desire to upgrade and the ladies that I'm racing with right now are awesome on so many different levels.

Saturday: I'm lining up in second row now based on points, and I do have to say that not being at the front really helps with my stress level. I really didn't belong up there and it was giving me performance anxiety. The race started on pavement and headed into a long downhill, ideal for my skill set. I got a great start and was in a pack of about 10 women that separated from the main pack. I knew if I could manage to hang on through the two climbs in the first 1/3 of the course, I would be in pretty good shape for the rest of the race. I lost a little ground on the climbs but was closing the gap on a bumpy downhill--when I lost my chain. For about the 12,072th time. Was back on my bike quickly, but the leaders were still in attack mode and long gone for the rest of the race.

I lost my chain again in the 3rd lap and slid out on one of the hairpins between the livestock barns, but managed to have a really strong race and am really pleased with the effort I put into it. I felt better and better each lap and was disappointed when, once again, I was in the first group of riders to get pulled at the finish. (For those of you unfamiliar with cyclocross, the finish time is based on the position of the leaders on the course. If they have lapped you or are within about 120 second behind you on their last lap, the officials will usually call the race for everyone coming in.) I really wanted that last lap to catch a few more ladies that had been fading in front of me. But it was good for 15th place.

Saturday night was the costume party at Pier 39. I went as Donatella Versace. Easy costume, really. I found an obnoxious dress at a vintage store, and accessorized with long blond wig, cigarette holder, a fake European accent and the sequined pimp chalice Malia found at Ross. And lots and lots of bronzer. Had a few beers and was in bed by 9.

Sunday: Sunday was the official costume race. Team Group Health came out as cowgirls. I felt more like a rodeo queen in my American flag sequined vest:

(From Left to Right: Ms. Klamath Falls Bike Rodeo 2008, Tessa, Jan and Jen). The back of our shirts read "Save a Cowboy, Ride a Cross Bike."

D bought a gorilla suit and wore it for the entire race, despite the fact that it was already 63 degrees when his race started at 10am:

I have downloaded a few more picture that can be found here.

I couldn't get clipped in at the start of the race, so my position was not what it was the day before. And I lost a ton of ground when I picked the wrong gear the first time up a steep paved driveway. I was a lot more agressive, though, through technical sections and up the climbs and I thought that I was solidly top 15 throughout most of the race, even though I took a spill or two in the hairpins between the barns. Midway through the fourth lap, I could finally see Megan ahead of me and knew that Heidi and Sierra were really close behind. At a pavement section that dumps into chunky gravel, I went to pass a beginner rider on the right, thinking that I could catch Megan with a good push and that Heidi and Sierra would have a hard time getting around the beginner in the upcoming off camber sections.

And just like that, my back wheel skidded out and I was on my left side sliding through the gravel. I came to a stop about five feet from where I started and just laid there, stunned. My head was swimming and I couldn't get clipped out on my left side. Some guys immediately jumped on the course and hauled me (still attached to my bike) out of the way of the oncoming riders. I sat on the side for a minute or so to assess the damage. Once I realized that nothing on my body or bike was broken, I gingerly hopped back on to finish the race. I rode like hell, deliberately not looking at my left arm and hip, even though I could feel the blood streaming down my forearm and into my gloves. I made up 3 or 4 places in the last 1/2 lap, good enough for a 19th place finish. (oops-i guess 20th...the results are different every day.)

Now I'm suffering through the aftermath of the crash. There is nothing much that is fun about road rash. No stitches were required, but I'm missing a lot of skin on my left elbow and hip and my hip is eight colors of the bruise rainbow.

Special thanks goes out to the Portland Velo and Tireless Velo gents who hauled me off of the course when I was too stunned to clip out or otherwise do anything useful after the crash, who cheered mightily when I got up and kept racing and who gave me several pints of post-race beer to dull the pain. PV and TV have been great tent neighbors all season...thanks y'all! Hee Ha!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The following interaction just took place outside of my office:

Lawyer 1: I think we have a commitment issue.

Lawyer 2: What to you mean?

Lawyer 1: I need you to commit to not answering your phone while I'm talking to you.


This interaction, although had in dead seriousness, was amusing in and of itself. But it struck a chord in me for a different reason. I realized that, in a work setting, I have a very hard time sticking up for myself.

Two weeks ago, there was an incident at work where I basically got scapegoated on a project that didn't quite meet client expectations. It was a perfect storm of a client that refuses to return messages if they come from me (I'll save the monologue on sexism in the legal profession for another day) and some not unexpected and completely typical communication issues with a supervisor. I haven't done anything about either issue. And it doesn't help that when I get frustrated and worked up, I tear up at the drop of a hat. Its just been easier to let the storm pass, keep my head down and get my work done. Ultimately, I'd rather be a doormat than "the cryer."

What's crazy about all of this is that once I'm on the bike, its a completely different ball game. On the same afternoon that I spent in my office with the door closed, completely miserable, I was riding up to intervals after work when a car almost hit me while trying to squeeze across the bike lane into a right hand turn lane.

I didn't even think twice. I rolled up the driver's side window and tapped on it. The startled driver rolled down her window just a fraction.

"Did you see me?" I asked.

"Wha-What?" was the response.

"M'am. (Insert exasperated sigh.) There is a bike lane all of the way to the intersection. You ignored that and almost hit me."

The light turned green, and because I was running late (two flats on the waterfront), I rolled my way and she rolled hers.

I don't know what it is about two wheels, lycra and helmet that turns me into a different being, but I need to figure out how to bring some of that spunk to my job.

Monday, October 20, 2008

This Race Report is Mostly About my Ass

The long and short of the Rainier Race is that I have most definitely lost my front line starting position. Which is OK, because I'm not racing like I, in any way, deserve that position.

So, if you race cyclocross in Portland, you know that the Cross Crusade course in Rainier has a huge goddamn hill in the middle of it. Roadies love this course. My left butt cheek really didn't really feel the same way and, halfway up that hill on the second lap, decided to unmercifully cramp. After laying on the ground for about 2-3 minutes trying to stretch it out, I hopped back on my bike and just rode in circles for the next 30 minutes. Faceplanted at a barrier, dropped my chain a few times. Winced a lot. Good times.

Cramping aside, I'm not sure how well I would have finished. I have been so tired lately. No amount of rest days and 9PM bedtimes is alleviating my fatigue. So the question now becomes, what to do about it?
In more positive news, I just got back from the pool. For the first time in five months, I was able to swim more than 1/2 lap. Twenty minutes with zoomers, stretching every 100 yards. Not by any means painfree workout, but it felt so good to be in the water.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Villebois: The Big Psyche Out

Short race report: new bike and out of control nerves. Not a top ten finish, but I did win some beer.

Long Race Report: This was the first race on the new Kona cross bike. Everything is great about this bike, except its operator. She needs some training. And she has GOT to lay off the sauce on Friday nights.

D and I met Heidi, Sal, Sherry and some other PV folks out at Villebois Saturday afternoon for a pre-ride. This was my first and only constructive accomplishment on Satruday due to the hangover I earned on Friday night.

Friday afternoon I met D over at the Manifest. He got to shop all afternoon for a steel frame to build up as a winter bike (ultimately deciding on a Proletariat Bicycles frame). I drooled over the pink and black De Salvo track bike, but eventually scratched my shopping itch with the purchase of a purple and orange wool winter cycling hat with ear flaps. I love it primarily because it doesn't match a single thing that I own.

Total Friday damage: two beers at the Manifest, a dirty bombay martini and two glasses of wine at dinner with Heidi and Sal and another beer at W&K after dinner. I went to bed feeling good. I woke up feeling pretty awful. And pretty much stayed steady at "pretty awful" until after the pre-ride.

Love it or hate it, the Villebois course was interesting. Lots of ruts, bumps and terrain changes on corners. Only one real incline and a serious wall of a run-up. It definitely favored mountain bikers and confident bike handlers. We rode 4 or 5 laps on the pre-ride and I was pretty excited about racing it the next day.

That excitement faded at about 11am on Sunday. That is when the nerves took over. Quite honestly, dealing with that is a higher priority right now that learning to handle the new bike. Nothing like debilitating anxious nasuea to take most of the fun out of a beautiful fall raceday.

D lined up to race with the Master B's, but he rolled a tubie three minutes in and called it quits. I'm going to buy a bottle of champagne for the day that that poor man actually makes it to the finish of a cross race.

I warmed up for about 45 minutes. Probably longer than necessary, but spinning was my only distraction from being a total head case. Heidi and I lined up ridiculously early, but did manage to get a good spot: on the front line, but away from the squabbling that was taking place on the edges as people tried to squeeze in at the last minute. (Note to gal in pink tank: claiming that its okay that you've cut up front because "you're really not that competitive" is not going to endear you to anyone. If you're not competitive, please take your ass to the back of the bus and let those of us who want to do battle, battle.)

The start was on pavement, with a sharp right hand turn onto gravel after 75 meters. Thus started a first lap of full-on idiot bike racing manuevers. The first was forgetting that the brakes on the Kona are reversed. Instead of gently slowing into that first turn, I almost pitched myself onto someone's backside.

My second (or maybe my first, depending on the way you look at it) idiot maneuver was not getting my ass right to the front to begin with. As a result, I got stuck behind 4 or 5 trainwrecks on the first lap as some of the gals that had started fast got hung up when the course got technical and when several pulled off of the course completely at a more nerve-wracking downhill. Nearly flew off the course several times when I hit the wrong brake on switchbacks and/or when I hipchecked the bike through a turn (the hipcheck that worked for the Redline is about 5 times too much for the Kona: a bike that weighs five pounds less and doesn't need to be bribed with a pedicure into responding at corners).

I pulled my head partially out of my ass by the time we started the second lap and had almost made up contact with the back of the lead group of B riders. Then I dropped the chain when I didn't soft pedal through a rutted downhill. And promptly put my head back in my ass for the rest of the lap. We were already passing some of the beginner and masters riders midway through the second lap. Instead of working to get around them and maintain contact, I just coasted along and got pissier and pissier with myself.

My legs were also not having any of my half-assed efforts to keep up. I can usually HTFU and ignore leg fatigue. Instead I started obsessing about how much the dead weight below my waist had to do with spending Saturday hungover and dehydrated and how much of it had to do with all of the energy I had expended by being a pre-race head case.

The third and fourth laps were uneventful (other than the fact that I finally got my head completely removed from my backside) and I was picking up a lot of momentum through the end of the fourth lap. Then the officials started pulling riders. I was a little peeved about this for a few reasons. First, by my watch, we had only been racing for 35-36 minutes. Second, I would have caught a few more gals on a fifth lap if I hadn't ridden like a total jackass during the second lap. I understand why they were pulling riders (we were coming in with some ladies who were probably doing 17 minute laps), but it still sucked.

Final results have me at 14th place. Assessing this finish is a matter of perspective. My best finish last year was ninth, and I usually languished in the mid 20's. So, relatively speaking fourteenth is great. At the same time, this was my kind of course and my fitness and bike handiling this year is better than a 14th place finish.

All bitching aside, it was a fun race on challenging course, on a gorgeous day filled with the company of a bunch of really fantastic people.

So I've got a new strategy for the next few weeks. First-Lay off the sauce. Its pretty stupid to wreck a whole week of 5am workouts and after dark training rides in five short hours of revelry. Second-Chill the hell out and remember that, five years from now, I won't remember how I finished in a race. What I will remember how much fun it all was: Jason "riding" a whole race without a chain, D's attempts to diffuse my nerves with inappropriate humor and well-timed ass-slapping, Heidi's face as she finished running a bike race and all of the friends that got in my face with words of encouragement.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Addition to My Family

I will be rolling up on a new (i.e., safe) rig at the Cross Crusade Wilsonville Race, thanks to the boys at Sellwood Cycles, who are going to strip the Redline Demolition Derby Bike and put the components on this:


Monday, October 6, 2008

The Jinx is Wearing off, Slowly: Alpenrose Race Report

The Cross Crusade opener was Sunday. Weather was absolutely perfect: intermittent rain, low-60s.

D and I got up early to go stake out a good heckling location on the course. Tent went up, as did our new Squivvy changing tent, which was almost as much of a hit as the new custom built cross rigs that were rolling about. We left the car, went out for breakfast and rode back to Alpenrose around10.

And I immediately get a twitchy stomach. This is a phenomenon that I still don't quite understand. I've raced this course twice, rode it for 60 minutes on Saturday and yet I still wanted to yak. In all honesty, I think most of it was that I was anxious to figure out whether my result at Starcrossed was a fluke, or whether, just maybe, I was turning myself into a decent bike racer.

I was pleased to see that the course was getting torn up under the pressure of the rain and the 800+ men that were racing on it before us. I may be a disaster on a mountain bike at times, but those experiences have really helped my handling skills. And mud is a decent equalizer between the roadies and those of us who concentrate on cross...handling will often trump speed.

Heidi and I made the mistake of not lining up until 20 minutes before race time. There were over 50(!) B's lined up. We got stuck three rows back. Not only did both of us want to vomit all over each others bikes, now we were in an unfortunate starting position.

I went into elbows-out-bowling-ball mode as soon as the horn sounded. I made up ten places into the first pavement turn, ten into the second and had weaseled my way into the top fifteen by the time we hit the singletrack. I accelerated up all of the inclines, took the inside lines in the trees and by the time we saw the lap counter for the first time, I had worked my way into the top ten.

During the second and third laps I was feeling really strong, so I stood up coming out of all of the corners, hammered through all of the "recovery" sections, managed to clear all of the barriers at full speed (I may stutter step on my remount, but at least I can stutter step quickly) and managed to pick off several more riders. Beth passed me in the Velodrome on the third lap...and promptly ate shit right in front of me. I saw her front wheel go out and made a lucky guess as to which way she would spin.

Then I was fifth, then fourth, then third. I had a pretty good idea of where I was at, but it really helped that D was paying close attention and not only knew my position, but how far I was behind bad-ass Abby from Bridgetown Velo (who schooled all of us on a singlespeed!) and the gal that was in second.

I felt confident going into the bell lap that I would be able to hold my position until the finish. I was working hard, but never felt like I was close to redlining (although, if you look at my race photos, you would think I was about to puke the entire race).Then...classic beginner mistake. After running up the stairs, I got lazy and dropped my bike instead of setting it down gently. And my chain promptly popped off. It only took me about 45 seconds to get it back on, but by that time I had counted at least seven gals that had passed by while I was fiddle-fucking with that damn chain.

So I basically time trialed the final 2/3 of the lap. It had been a while since I'd gone to plaid and seen jesus in the same race (I think jesus was hanging out in the team beer tent), but I felt like I had to out-race all of my self-doubt and bad luck.

I picked off one B on an incline, another at the rock wall, another on the run-up. I could see two more ahead of me coming into the velodrome. I caught them at the barriers and knew that if I could get within a bike length coming onto the velodrome, I could outsprint both of them.

So that is what I did, complete with a nice throw at the end for good measure.

I thought I might have worked hard enough to get back into the top-five, but am really happy with the sixth place that I ended up with. It was enough to quell the self-doubt.

It was amazing to have friends at all points of the course. Jeff and D (who ran three of the run-ups with me-- in size 14 rubber boots) were able to tell me where I was at each time I passed by and, although I'm sure there were others out there screaming encouragement, a special shout out to Danny Klube and the Portland Velo crew...you all rock.

This is what a week of jinxed living and all-out effort looks like. Pretty sexy.

Thanks K-man, for not posting this to the general public.

Return to Sender Part II

Seriously, take the goddamn pins out of the goddamn voo-doo doll already. I'm screaming "UNCLE" over here.

Last week ended pretty much as it had begun...with me wanting to hide in a closet waiting for it all to be over with. Thursday and Friday were mostly uneventful, but Saturday more than made up for two days of calm.

Saturday morning I went on a light pre-race ride with Jeff, Beth and Fergus. The rain had managed to let up long enough to give all of us a chance to loosen up the legs for Alpenrose. All was good in the hood, except for the fact that I got a flat mid-ride and all (yes-every single one) of my spare tubes had holes in them. C'mon, really? Then Beth and Jeff also flatted. My bad ju-ju was rubbing off on everyone.

Rolled home around 11, quickly changed into clean bike shorts and headed over to pick up the Redline (with a new rear derailleur and steel fork) from Sellwood Cycles so that I could pre-ride the Alpenrose course. I had an itch to race the singlespeed, so I brought both bikes along.

After about 60 minutes of pre-riding the course, I loaded the bikes onto the rack and headed for home. One hundred meters out of Alpenrose, I heard a horrible noise and looked in my rear view mirror. No bikes.

My hitch rack had somehow failed and there was bike carnage trailing out from behind my car. I stood there shellshocked for about 45 seconds before two guys (one was James from Yakima Bike Vigilantes, who is graciously hooking me up with replacement parts for the rack) rolled up behind me and helped me peel the bikes off the pavement and get them back on the rack.

The singlespeed was on the outside and took the brunt of the crash. Both wheels are tacoed in ten different directions, but there doesn't appear to be any damage to the frame, crank or handlebars. The Redline is fine, but it looks like someone took a hammer to the frame in a few locations. Dented, but rideable.

The top photo is the top tube. That white mark is not cell-phone camera glare. That is where the paint is now missing right below a dent. The bottom is the down tube...the quality of the picture hides the truly depressing depth of the dents and paint destruction.

The back wheel of the singlespeed...the front one doesn't look much better:

I called D immediately to commiserate. He didn't say anything at the time, but when I was re-telling the story later on that afternoon, he turned a little green. Turns out that when he came by on Wednesday to jump start the Subaru, he had to go in through the hatchback because I had locked the doors and, with the battery dead and the keys in the ignition, the key-fob opener wouldn't work. When he went to put the rack back up, somehow the pin didn't get secured correctly. Therefore, crash boom bang with the bikes.

I was able to race the Redline at Alpenrose (and did surprisingly well considering I was riding a demolition derby bike), but given the amount of damage to the frame, I think its going to be demoted to pit bike status.

So I'm currently on the lookout for a 49-50" frame and fork...and some good karma...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Return to Sender

Whoever is out there with the Lindsay voo-doo doll, would you be so kind as to remove the pins and let me be?

Yesterday was a series of one clusterfuck followed by another clusterfuck. It started at 5:20 am when I went down to my car to head to Jeff's class and the car wouldn't start. Dead battery. D borrowed the car the other night and accidentally left some of the map lights on. Usually this wouldn't be a problem...I would use his car. On this particular morning, however, D was up and out of the house before 5 for some clandestine strike-related operative.

I trudged back upstairs, ate some breakfast and got ready to ride into work. Discover that none of my decent bike lights are working and that my period has started with a vengeance akin to biblical sulphuric rain. Decide to tempt fate, slap on one weak rear light and some ankle reflectors and ride like hell into downtown. I finish showering and realized that I have forgotten to pack underwear in my bag.

My first Americano ended up in the carpet in my office. I barely have time to grab the second before heading over for a full day of BPA settlement meetings. By noon, we are still on the first agenda item (of six). I compose, then erase, several emails threatening to quit my job if I ever have to sit in that meeting room ever again and listen to lawyers quibble for two hours about the difference between the terms "lawfully" and "authorized by law."

I spent the lunch hour trying to dry out my khaki pants in the ladies room after spilling an entire cup of hot tea on my crotch in the BPA cafeteria. The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful (other than an interesting incident involving being kicked out of a public meeting), and I left the meeting early in order to catch up with Beth and Jeff to ride.

The ride, amazingly enough, was also uneventful and I thought my luck had changed when by sunglasses survived being run over by Beth.

D was nice enough to pick up some jumper cables and was able to skip out of strike activity long enough to come over and help me jump the car. First, the cables aren't long enough. Second, turns out that Subarus won't go into neutral when the car won't turn over--unless you remove fifteen different panels and monkey with five other things with a screwdriver. Third, if you've left your key in the ignition when the battery completely goes dead, Subarus won't give you your key back. If I could have rolled that car off of the Fremont bridge, I would have done so last night.

Normally, all of this would be entertaining, but nothing is entertaining when you are off the charts hormonal and trying to get back on schedule after a week off. I went upstairs and broke my healthy eating streak--with two nasty beers and a half a pint of ice cream. Because the only thing better than being crabby and hormonal is being half-drunk, crabby and hormonal with a serious case of gas.

So my car is currently sitting in the garage with the key in the ignition. If you know where I live and would like to jump the thing and take it for a joy ride, knock yourself out. All I ask is that you leave behind the snazzy new bike pump I won at Starcrossed.