Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Let Me Tell You How I REALLY Feel About Nature.

I don't camp. Well, I do camp, but neither willingly nor excitedly.

Don't get me wrong, I love being outside. It is part of why I ride my bike (almost) everywhere.

But when it comes to camping, there are two diametrically opposed forces at work. One is an honest appreciation of the peace, quiet and simple beauty of nature. The other is my appreciation for uninterrupted sleep, mosquito-free space and fresh armpits and nether-regions.

My parents made it easy to ignore the internal camping conflict when, five years ago, they bought a cabin just outside the southeastern border of Crater Lake National Park. The cabin is an ongoing project, but has all the comforts...electricity, heat, laundry, kitchen and, uh, cable and a soaking bathtub. (My mom is as much of a camper as I am.)

The cabin has been a peaceful place to escape from life, in general, and the city, in particular. Depending on the quality of outside light and the quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed, I usually can usually average one book and nine hours of sleep per 24 hours.

Both Christy and I have been struggling through professional and personal rough patches since the start of the summer. It seemed like a good time to escape to the woods.

Here is the weekend, by the numbers:
  • Hours spent driving in 48 hours: 7
  • Varieties of Clamato-laced domestic beer available at Chemult gas station: 1
  • Hours spent on cross bikes riding to and from the Pinnacles: 2.5
  • Times cross bike's bell rung to ward off cougars, chipmunks and homicidal maniacs squatting in the backwoods: 15
  • Tourists made uncomfortable by reference to Pinnacles as "hermaphroditic" and "vaginal:" 5
  • Degrees at end of ride: 92
  • Pitchers of frozen margaritas consumed post-ride: 6
  • Times the words "this is a really strong drink" uttered by my mom: 10
  • Pages of Ayn Rand read: 200
  • Pages of Ayn Rand not driven by incomprehensible dialogue or unnecessarily heavy prose: 0.
  • Ratio of pages of Ayn Rand read to threats to destroy book by fire or throwing into creek: 3:1
  • Number of mosquitoes living within an acre of the cabin: 3.6 trillion
  • Alfred Hitchcock movies about homicidal birds viewed: 1
  • Episodes of the Muppet Show enjoyed while drinking coronas: 2
  • References made to "Man Island" and Ken dolls wearing diapers: way too many.
It was a short weekend, but a good one. Here are my favorite photos:

(Destination reached without cougar attack.)

(Christy contemplating the wonders of nature.)

(The hermaphroditic pinnacles.)

(The FTs!!)

(Quality Control.)

(Christy promoting literacy.)

(Lindsay promoting literary flogging.)

(Quiz A: Which beer was better? Quiz B: Which book is more infuriating to Read?)

(The effects of heat, tequila and literacy officially kick in.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catching Up: Mtn Bike Camp and Short Track Week 5

Two weekends ago I attended the Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camp in Hood River Oregon. I read about the camp in Bicycling Magazine in 2007 and decided that some intensive instruction would really help me get over the skills and fear plateau that I'd sitting at for two years.

I have a checkered history with mountain biking. I bought a mountain bike when I was in college after I met my now ex-husband, who was a great mountain biker. Unfortunately, when it came to mountain biking, their idea of a good time was to slap on a head lamp, smoke a couple bowls and bomb down something in the middle of the night while looking for Sasquatches. No thank you, stoners.

Understandably, this was not the best learning environment for a new rider who had a serious aversion to going downhill fast. And that crew were not patient instructors. After one broken wrist and numerous screaming matches, the bike was shelved until I moved to Eugene. I used it for transportation and was only slightly annoyed when it was stolen around the time of my divorce.

Fast forward to three years later. After my first season of cyclocross, three things were immediately apparent. One, I loved cross. But, two, I was not fit. And three, I needed to learn to stay ON my bike. Someone mentioned that a lot of the good cross racers used short track mountain biking as handling practice for cyclocross. So, in 2007, I bought a 43-pound, circa-1985 Gary Fisher and started "racing" short track.

"Racing" in quotation marks because, for the first two years, short track was more about survival, band-aids and arnica cream than it was about the competition. From the end of June through the beginning of August, my body looked like a two-year-old had picked out the bruise colors from the paint box and went to town on my legs.

This year I wanted things to be different. I was sick and tired of feeling uncoordinated and like I needed to be wearing a grizzly suit every time I rode on the dirt.

So, camp.

Great things about the camp:
  1. It is an all women's camp. I left mountain biking in 2001 partially because the men I rode with had neither the patience or ability to break skills down for beginner riders. And they were a bunch of non-helmet wearing flaming idiots that did not feel like a ride was worth doing unless there was the certainty of maiming and the threat of death. And lots of weed. Fuck you guys, seriously.
  2. The riders are divided into groups for both skills practice and group rides and the instructors are flexible moving riders to different groups. I was in the almost-remedial group for the entire weekend and was happy as a clam.
  3. If you attend the entire camp, you get almost 20 hours of small group and one-on-one instruction.
  4. I rode Post Canyon and Syncline for the first time. Whoop!
Opposite-of-Great Things About the Camp:
  1. It is an all-women's camp. As in, heavy on the rah-rah-rah and girl power. Although I did appreciate that element when I was working up the balls to ride my first rock face, at times it got to be too much.
  2. It was over 90 degrees the entire weekend. Summer can go blow itself at this point.
Things That I Learned at the Camp:
  1. I can't do switchbacks. A lot of the braking and balance required to do switchbacks is the exact opposite of what you would do on a road bike. My brain and body really struggled with how counter intuitive some of it was.
  2. I may not like switchbacks, but I rode a lot of stunts, bridges and rock faces without blinking twice. My riding group ended up nicknaming me the daredevil. If someone needed to be the first to go try something stupid, everyone looked at me.
  3. Flat pedals may be the way to go with more technical mtn biking. I was a lot more confident when I knew how easy it would be to bail out.
They tell you at camp orientation that one weekend at camp is like an entire season of riding on your own. As I don't ride anything close to a full season of mountain biking, it ended up feeling like two years. I still feel only partially competent, but its closer to 75% competent as opposed to 75% incompetent.

Somehow I felt like short track the following Monday in temperatures close to 95 degrees was a smart idea. Wrong. I had a decent start, but had too little air pressure in my back tire. After skidding and sliding for a lap and a half, my body decided to remind me that it doesn't like racing in sub-Saharan temperatures.

Didn't feel so good after that. Scratch that. I felt awful. I finished the race, but it took an hour before my the skin on my face faded from a deep coral, and I threw up the first few times I tried to put cold water in my system after the race.

It was 105 degrees at short track yesterday. I took the smart route, rode in the morning and spent the worst hours of the afternoon and early evening at the Kiwi Missile's going-away pizza party. Sometimes I am capable of making good decisions.

Next up: My report of Lindsay vs. Nature vs. Tequila at my parent's cabin at Crater Lake.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Short Track. Round Four. Fight!

I am feeling anxiety the likes of which I haven't felt since, well, since I first started racing short track three years ago. Even at low speed during the practice lap, each time my back wheel skids or shimmies, heart is in the throat and stomach is doing somersaults. Waiting for inevitable death or maiming.

Crash anxiety. How I loathe and fear thee.

Nothing about my spill last week should, logically, cause this kind of nervous energy. It wasn't a high speed crash or an error on technical terrain. Just a stupid mistake on an unfortunate choice of racing surface.

Unfortunately, humans are not rational. Thus--the anxiety. Humans also make questionable, albeit practical, wardrobe choices. Thus--my decision to wear a huge, circa 1996 rollerblading knee pad over my still oozing and swollen right knee. I feel like a spandex clad storm trooper. Unfortunately, Dawn is hurt and unable to show her solidarity by wearing the matching pad on her left knee. I'd be disappointed if I wasn't already spending all of my emotional energy trying not to vomit.

Seriously, Lindsay, this is short track. Short. Track. SHORT TRACK. Out of shape fun in the summer time. Not by any means a nausea inducing event.

But so it goes.

Kristin tells me that it'll all disappear once we start racing. I hope so. Irrational fear is not something I deal with well. Beth is not helping matters. She advises a new addition to our group that my wheel is the one to be on at the start. Hardly. My wheel is a pink and black clad anti-christ.

But Kristin is right. As soon as we're off and running, the rational-fearful-anxious part of my brain is unceremoniously steamrolled by the "I'm going to get that fucking hole shot" part of my brain.

I get the lead and keep it for most of the starter loop. Then I crash. Again. On gravel. Again.

But this time there is no pain, no shock. Just anger about losing my coveted positioning. I get myself up and quickly chase back up to the lead group. The course loop is short and there were very few places to pass safely. I work my way up to the back of a pack of 6 or 7 riders.

I get around Beth when she gets held up at the log (I don't see it happen, but I can hear it: Clank. Scrape. "FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!") and Sage, always gracious, lets me around on the motocross course. Now I'm sitting in the back of a group of four, one lap to go. Elaine is long gone. The fight is for second place.

The three ladies ahead of me are fading and I am within ten feet of the U35 leader, but I am quickly running of places where I feel confident enough with my handling to make a safe pass. The race has come down to balls and technique, not fitness, and I am, predictably, on the losing end of that battle. I surge, and get cut off. Catch back up and chicken out on passing on a corner. So I sit and soft pedal, frustrated and antsy.

I finish fifth overall, second U35. Second through eighth places all roll in within 5 seconds of each other.

The eight of us gather outside of the gate and, immediately, there are introductions and high-fives all around. Laughter and repeated exclamations of "Holy shit, that was fun" and "Sorry I crashed in front of everyone again!" (that was me, of course). This is why we put up with the anxiety and risk. For the moments when you realize that it is often more fun to finish fifth in a tight race than win alone.

It takes about ten minutes before I realize that my right hip is on fire and my knee is throbbing from the effort. I'm missing more skin, but the behemoth knee pad has limited the damage to my hip.

Another short track down, another hole in my shorts. Next season we need to find a kit vendor that makes Kevlar-reinforced side panels for their shorts. I'd buy, like, eight pairs. And wear one of them on my head.

This weekend: Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camp in Hood River. Also known as "48 Hours of Lindsay Learning How to Stay ON the Mountain Bike." Think good thoughts for me and for anyone unfortunate enough to get on my wheel.


P.S. For additional shits and giggles, I posted a weekend ride report on the team blog.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekends. Oh Lovely Weekends.

This weekend involved pedicures, beer, bachelorette parties and bikes. The swelling in my knee has subsided considerably and I was able to get in almost 110 miles over two days, including a Sunday morning team ride that reminded me why it is good to have teammates that you can tease mercilessly.

Back to Short Track tonight. If you can't pick me out of the crowd by my pink bike, the rollerblading knee pad on my right knee should help.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stupid is As Stupid Does

Anyone know a good couple's counselor? Preferably one that specializes in the complicated, and frequently abusive, relationship between a woman and her mountain bike.

I love that bike, don't get me wrong. It's exactly what I wanted when I bought the bike and, well, its pink. But a recent exchange of physical and verbal assaults has got me rethinking our communication style.

Saturday: 8 Hours of Independence Mountain Bike Race near Philomath, Oregon. Sam and I were a team, Jeff and Beth were a team. I thought: perfect way to spend the Fourth of July...four hours of mountain biking with some rest and plenty of time to refuel. Get some skills practice in and stay out of trouble until later in the day.

Problem....95 degree temperatures, no real mountain bike climbing skills and shoes that were most definitely not made for pushing a bike uphill for 10-15 minutes each lap. I started having heat problems almost immediately into the major climbing sections on my first lap and my feet were covered in blisters by the end of the second lap. Decided to call it a day. Sam, being crazy, fit and a remarkable mountain biker, proceeded to keep riding--for three more hours.

Our "team" did eight laps: LK-2, Sam-6. I spent most of that in the shade, reading and drinking beer. And being totally OK with being a lazy sloth. Although, I do have to say that reading fucking Ayn Rand is no walk in the park.

I'm going to start researching endurance athletes and adaptation to racing and training in the heat. When I sat down later that day and really thought about my history as an athlete, dating back to the dark period known as "high school," I have consistently had problems with overheating. My first half-ironman in 2006 and the Mt. Hood road race this year are the most egregious examples. But I can also remember struggling in overheated gyms when I played basketball and getting bloody noses in crowded dance clubs. Am I doomed to spring and fall racing or is there something I can do to change how my body regulates itself?

Monday: Short track. I rolled up to PIR fairly distracted by personal issues of the non-biking nature and not feeling an single ounce of competitiveness. But after two pre-ride laps and the discovery that there were some new, fun faces to race with this week, I could feel a little fire building in my belly.

Our start was on a gravel road this week, 100 meters of treachery before rolling into the grass. The course favored the better technical riders and I wanted a fast start to get a cushion.

This plan lasted 4 pedal strokes.

When the whistle blew, I took 3 stokes to get clipped in (or what I though was clipped in) and on the fourth stood up to build some speed. My right foot slipped off the front of the pedal, my back wheel slid out and down I went. Hard. In the Gravel. Straight onto my right knee.

I immediately covered my head with my arms, hoping to avoid becoming total roadkill. I think someone made it over the top of me, as I have a large gash in my left side that looks like it was caused by a chainring. Team Beer's Danielle had the unfortunate luck to be right behind me when I fell and her seat ended up wedged in the back of my helmet.

After the non-Lindsay carnage had been cleared, I just lay there for 15-30 seconds, head ringing and unable to move my right leg. Some friends hauled me off the course, as I couldn't really feel my lower right leg and couldn't put any weight on the knee.

Once safely in the grass, the feeling in my knee and leg quickly returned. But I do wish the knee could have stayed numb a bit longer. The skin on it was hanging off in huge flaps and blood was quickly making its way through the layer of gravel and dust.

The medics should really keep a bottle of whiskey in their supplies. Not for sterilizing wounds, but for placating idiot bike racers that are having a pound of gravel excised from their bodies after a crash. The inside of my fingers and hands are still bruised from grabbing the chair to avoid the more instinctive reaction of backhanding the volunteer medic. The latter would have been very bad form.

Made it home safely with the help of a teammate and made it to sleep quickly with the help of vicodin and vodka. The V&V was a great sedative and absolutely essential to working up the courage to unwrap the bandages and reclean the wound. Somehow, being slightly drunk and high takes the edge off of looking at a part of one's own body and realizing that it looks suspiciously like ground beef. Ugh.

I'm about 40 hours out from the wreck at this point and my knee has swollen to the size of a softball and is the opposite of aesthetically pleasing. Definitely won't be riding Tabor tonight (in fact, can't ride at all and have been guiltily driving to work) and my plans to head to the track Friday and Sunday are on hold for the time being.

The prospect of getting back into shape for cyclocross has become more and more daunting with each passing day. My plan to take 2-3 weeks of active recovery has morphed into a six-week streak of lazy hedonism and, now, dealing with the primordial, puffy ooze attached to my right leg. But my hip has stopped aching 24/7 and, if I can get through the acute day-to-day feeling of out-of-shape guilt, I think my body will be thanking me in December for being a clumsy fool in July.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And the Hits Just Keep on Coming

I think it has something to do with my doctor's office. It's got messed up ju-ju.

First of all, I really don't like my doctor. Haven't really since the beginning of our relationship, which epitomizes several things that are fucked up with our health care system. I always feel rushed and have a really difficult time getting her to slow down and answer my questions. Then there is the fact that she is Korean and I only understand 1 out of 3 things that she is saying, but end up feeling like a racist hillbilly when I ask her to repeat things so I can understand what the hell is going on with my body.

As a result, I only go into that office when I absolutely have to. I've even set it up that I can just call in when I get sinus infections and they'll usually just write up the prescription. Most of my other care needs are met by my chiropractor and acupuncturist. Both of which my insurance won't pay for, but ultimately keep me healthy and out of the overcrowded traditional health care system. Sigh.

Most of my visits to the doctor coincide with days that were already ridiculous to begin with and become more ridiculous during the visit. Two years ago, I was there the day after breaking up with my boyfriend, convinced I had ass cancer. Turns out it was just hemorrhoids (Hell-o, old age), but I was so distracted by the thought of dying alone with ass cancer and having my dead body eaten by my cats that I dropped my wallet on the street near the hospital and spent the afternoon scrambling to cancel credit cards, get to meetings on time and eventually picking the wallet up from the good Samaritan that found it and returned it to me totally intact.

Last fall I was there numerous times trying to figure out why I was chronically fatigued. At one point, it was twice weekly to have blood drawn. After the appointment where the doctor finally informed me that there was nothing physically wrong with me and recommended that I speak with a mental health professional (I ultimately went to acupuncture and was fine after two sessions), I dropped my keys in the toilet in the office bathroom and smacked my forehead on a cabinet fishing out said keys...and then spent an extra 20 minutes in the office bleeding out of my skull and being stared at in the waiting room. It must have been disconcerting...most people don't go into the treatment area unscathed and come out with a gaping head wound.

Yesterday, more of the same. I woke up with my period, thus beginning a fabulous day of cramping and fatigue. I was an hour late for the doctor's appointment, blaming it on my blackberry instead of my own incompetence. Then, the diagnosis.

To give this some context, over the weekend I was in Bend and, for the first time all summer, I got some sun exposure while wearing something other than a cycling jersey. I am really careful about sunscreen (my mother has had skin cancer and I'd had suspicious lesions removed as a teenager), but I did manage to get some color on my shoulders. And noticed that there were a few places on my left shoulder that weren't tan at all. Same with a few spots on my left leg.

I have a healthy sense of paranoia about these type of things, so I called the doctor on Monday morning and, two days later, found myself sitting in the waiting room. I've got a burrito in a paper bag on my lap and despite my best efforts, the whole area is starting to smell like steak and hot sauce.

The doctor first looks at the spots on my leg. Both look like scars, but are small cysts. Nothing that can really be done about them unless they start cause discomfort.

Then she takes a look at my shoulder and asks me if I know what athlete's foot is. I'm sort of confused, as we aren't looking at my feet and, again, I'm having a hard time understanding what she is saying. So I ask again and she tells me again, slowly, that I basically have athlete's foot on my shoulder. Not the EXACT SAME fungus as what causes athlete's foot, but a fungus nonetheless. And there is no way of determining how long I've had it or how much there is until my entire back gets tan.

Really? Seriously?

Its an easy enough problem to solve and apparently many people that spend significant time in synthetic exercise clothing get this type of skin issue. This doesn't really help my state of mind a whole lot. I'm already feeling decidedly unsexy this week...I'm three weeks overdue for a haircut, cramping, hemorrhaging out of my uterus and my legs still look like someone took a cane to them after short track last week. Now I have a fucking mushroom colony growing on my back.

With this I go back to work and try to get a memo written before I ride up to Tabor to "race." Around three, my nose starts bleeding profusely for no reason. I'm on a conference call and have no kleenex, so I end up sitting in my office for twenty minutes with a tampon stuck up my nose so I don't bleed all over my dress.

And finally, Tabor. I got my ass handed to me two years ago in the Cat 4 race and have been avoiding lining up since then. But Tuesday morning I opened by big mouth and told Sam (who is in the hunt for the series win) that I'd go try and help her if I could.

I helped set the pace for the first two laps, then my legs decided that enough was fucking enough. We had one of those "Hey legs, this is a RACE," "Hey Lindsay, you haven't been training for a month, so fuck off," that I ended up losing. Badly. I got unceremoniously spit off the back and spent the next five laps doing $15 hill repeats and getting heckled by my friends. Including a half naked man wearing only his bib shorts.

I was glad to get home in one piece after that kind of day and managed to have an almost debacle-free evening at home. Stepping on the walrus-cat can hardly count, as I do that every night.

Next up: Eight Hours of Independence MTB race as a team with Sam on the Fourth of July. This could be really fun or be a total suck-fest. Depends on how long I can stay upright, I suppose.