Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Missing: Two Inches of Knee Skin on the Alpine Trail. Reward if Found.

It is only appropriate that my favorite section of single track during Mountain Bike Oregon ("MBO") was the Jedi Trail, because so much about mountain biking is letting go and using the Force. And because I spent most of the weekend feeling like a fucking Ewok on an out of control jet scooter.

(So I tried to use Google to find a picture of an Ewok on a jet scooter to post here. I didn't find one, but DAMN, people sell some weird shit on the internet.)

MBO involved three days of camping, sweet Oakridge singletrack and beer. I had the distinct honor of camping with the Portland Velo crew. Sal and Kender scored a great camping spot next to the river:
(Shade, good company and the finest HUB and Ninkasi have to offer.)

Sherry and I rolled into town around 3:30. It took me three beers and almost an hour to set up my borrowed tent and camp cot. Tents are frustrating. The poles need to be numbered or something to help the camping-impaired. Or there needs to be instructions, with pictures. Some things just aren't self-evident to city folk.

"Fun with Tents" was followed by a Bortnem-led trip to a secret swimming hole. This involved drunk mountain bike riding, pissing off some locals and throwing a lot of rocks. Throwing rocks is just as fun when you're 32 as when you're 12.

Ate some food, drank some more beer and I went to bed at 8. Yes, 8. Nature is hard work, people. It takes a lot out of you.

Friday: Alpine-Tire-Cloverfield. I decided that if I was going to do a big ride, Friday was the day. Fresh legs, maximum enthusiasm.

I can't say that the maximum enthusiasm (i.e., two thermoses of coffee) had kicked in at this point.

We signed up for the 25-ish mile ATC ride. Here is the elevation profile of just the Alpine Trail:

I think the ATC ride broke off of Alpine at about mile 6 or 7, then there was a lot of up, then down down down. Then up. Then more down.

Here is the meadow at the top of the first climb. I had brilliantly stuck my glasses in my helmet on the climb up to this meadow and they bounced off two-thirds of the way through. This sucked for numerous reasons (1) The glasses were green with green lenses. Notice the abundance of green in this picture. This did not make for easy searching; (2) The glasses aren't mine, so it wasn't as though I could leave them lost and (3) I completely fell off the back of the group after taking fifteen minutes to find said glasses, then having to stop to buckle my helmet. Then again to fix my cleats. Then again to fix my seatpost.

It was gorgeous trail and due to the almost 4000 feet in elevation loss, we passed through several distinct ecosystems, including some old growth forest.

The worst part of the ride was the halfway point, where I hadn't eaten enough and was having a really hard time focusing and keeping my eyes up trail. I ate it two or three times at really stupid places and reopened several of the scars on my right knee.

But I survived the 18 or so miles of singletrack mostly intact and tacked on another 15 miles for good measure with the three mile ride to the shuttle and, after deciding that riding home from the trailhead would be a great fucking idea, twelve more miles of road back to camp. That last twelve was a great fucking idea. Note: hope you didn't miss the sarcasm in that last sentence. Note 2: if Sal and Kender make a gentleman's agreement to take it easy back to camp, they are lying sacks of crap.

That night I barely made it through dinner and two beers with my eyes open. Was in bed again by 8:30.

Saturday: Alpine Top. This means we rode the Alpine Trail from start to finish. See above for elevation profile. This ride was my favorite of the weekend, even though Aunt Flo made an unexpected, and very unwelcome, appearance mid-ride. Which was TOTALLY AWESOME, by the way. Mountain biking is all about focus, and its exponentially harder to focus with Rage Against the Machine playing in one's belly.

Heidi, Kristin, Sherry, Stephanie and I rode with a slower paced group led by Tori Bortnem. Less uphill, more swoopy downhill, including the aforementioned Jedi Trail. Although this picture hardly does the trail justice, this is what much of it looked like:

I would pay someone to shuttle me up and down all day, just to ride this trail over and over again. It was THAT good.

Here we are taking a short breather mid-ride. Me, Heidi, Kristin and my very angry uterus.

Wisely took the shuttle back to camp.

At this point in the weekend, we are 48 hours in and I haven't bathed. This suddenly became unacceptable. So we threw on the bathing suits and headed upriver with some beer and Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap.

The beer did nothing to take away from the fact that the middle fork of the Willamette is FUCKING ASS COLD AS HELL. But it did make the whole hair-washing, Tecnu-rinsing experience a bit easier to bear.

Heidi and I then headed into town on a beer/Dairy Queen run. Here is a haiku in honor of the Dairy Queen run:

Blizzards are awesome
When you have spent the whole day
Dodging poison oak

Did some more reading, some eating, some Hard Lemonade drinking (nothing says white trash camping quite like Mike's). Back in bed by 8:30. Feel like I'm turning into my parents.

Sunday: North Fork and the Pump Track. Having nothing to prove and feeling grateful to have escaped any major debacles thus far, we decided on an easy Sunday ride. North Fork runs along, you guess it, the North Fork of the Willamette River. It's a Sunday drive kind of trail. No major climbs or descents.

Heidi and I rode the six miles out, and decided to take the road back after I noticed that my knee had started to swell again and had never really loosened up that morning. This gave us around 45 minutes to play on the pump track at the trail head. Rode some skinnies, hopped some curbs, took a nap in the sun.

The drive home was a frustrating reminder of why I bike commute. As in, I HATE being stuck in traffic. More than I hate bananas. Or Fox News. Or Jack Johnson's music.

My MBO bike assessment: Definitely worth it, especially if you've never ridden Oakridge singletrack. Rides are guided, trails are beautiful and challenging. I was tested the entire weekend. Granted, simply riding a switchback without face-planting is a test for this roadie. But the weekend was the perfect opportunity to practice the skills I learned at camp and my confidence improved each hour we were on the trails.

My only regret was not having the energy to drink enough beer to justify the entry fee. But there is always next year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

[The Lights Blink, Signaling the End of Intermission]

Haven't felt much like writing about bikes lately. Don't get me wrong, there has been plenty of bike in my life-commuting and intervals and Tuesday PIR and cyclocross training and mountain biking. My short track knee healed, then became my Mountain Bike Oregon knee. Riding home late now requires lights and my days of carefree commuting on my race bike are numbered. The winter bike is tuned up and ready for the first September rainfall. Cross is starting soon and I have a lot of work to do to get rid of my double-hopping, triple salchow remount.

What was lacking was any inspiration to write about riding. The acts of training had become so scheduled that they were performed almost mechanically. Which may sound bad, but it wasn't. Rather, it allowed me to get my fitness back for cyclocross without expending a lot of emotional energy.

What I have been writing about is relationships and love and sex and my own perceived loss of sanity. Not here, obviously. Once I realized that there are people out there that ACTUALLY READ THIS THING, I decided that a private blog would allow me to get my verbal knickers untwisted with minimal risk of catastrophic embarrassment.

There has been a lot of "relationship" cycling (pun totally intended) through my life in the last few weeks--both on the romantic and friendship front. Things that are promising. Things that are disappointing. Things that disappear from my life just as quickly as they appeared. Things that were old that become new again. Things that appeared new, but were in fact old but wrapped in shiny new clothing. Things that keep me up too late at night. Things that just make me want to sleep for days.

As is my custom when my life gets complicated, I tried to simplify and focus by selecting a song and listening to it 20, 50, 80 times in a row. This strategy frequently backfires, as I usually pick something sticky sweet and romantic (currently playing: James Yuill's "This Sweet Love"), which begets a trance-like manic and repetitive inner monologue:

I am lonely.

I lost five pounds!

I am a bad friend.

I got laid!

I think I am going crazy.

Frye boots!

I am going to die an old cat lady.


I need new cyclocross tires.

I love my life!

I hate my life.


And so on and so forth. I really did feel like I was going, as Burns eloquently puts it, "cuckoo for CoCo Puffs." Luckily, the timing of this most recent spell coincided with reading a book on chemistry of the female brain. As an aside, this book was given to me by an ex-boyfriend who claimed that it helped him understand me. I, therefore, refused to be understood and refused read the book until I found myself going away for a long weekend with nothing to read (Ayn Rand did not count as reading material. Getting through that book is basically a character building exercise.).

There was a chapter on what happens, chemically, to the brain of many childless 30-something women. In a word: Bonkers.

This made me feel a lot better. I may be insane, BUT ITS NOT MY FAULT. I can blame hormones. I no longer had to be accountable for crying uncontrollably during minivan ads. Or when Fred Meyers runs out of gummy bears. Or when wedding pictures for people I don't even KNOW are posted on Facebook. Because these events have all happened in the last six weeks.

So I wrote about all of it. Obsessively. Then erased everything. Compulsively.

Now that the estrogen wave has subsided, I'm back. Back to thinking and writing about "normal" things. Bikes, bikes and more bikes. So stay tuned for a scratch-and-sniff post on Mountain Bike Oregon and how I survived three days without taking a shower.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Short Track Finale: Another One Bites the Dust.

My knees and calves are breathing a huge sigh of relief. As of Monday night, Short Track 2009 is officially over. It was a fun evening...I had a decent individual race, anchored our team for the relay race, made the series podium for the Cat 2 U35 women and...won a f#*&ing bike frame. Unreal. Now I can't say that I never win anything at raffles.

The individual race was nothing to write home about. I wasn't going to be able to win the series and just needed to finish in front of Sarah T. in order to hold my spot on second place. I hit the deck hard in the first lap (see photo from prior blog entry) and, after that, rode just hard enough to stay in front of Sarah once I caught back up to her two laps later.

Here I am attempting to look serious about racing while we waited for the team relay to begin. It is, however, hard to look serious when covered in dirt, with a grease spot on your boob.The relay ended up being a lot harder than I thought it would be. Because I was the last rider, I had to ride a lap, then an extra half lap, of the motocross course--at full speed. By the time it was my turn, my legs were stiff from standing around and the sun had gone down. Since I have a hard enough time staying upright with good light, I was flirting with disaster by going balls to the wall in low light. But there were no crashes or debacles and HV finished somewhere midpack.

Then it was time for awards and raffle. My teammates are awesome-most of them stuck around to watch my three minutes of glory on the podium. Brooke McDermid won the series. Its too bad she's got a bum knee, she'd be a helluva cross racer.

Sarah and I with our Second and Third Place medals, pretending to be excited that we have to be Cat 1s next season.

After my podium, we sat around for a bit and debated about sticking around for the grand finale of the raffle. The debate took so long that by the time we had decided to leave, we decided that we might as well stick around.

And then we waited...and waited...and waited. No one from our team had won any of the big deal prizes. Which was surprising, because the only folks eligible for those prizes were those that had raced 5 or more races and there were at least 5 of us who had sacrificed life and limb at least that many times.

The grand prize was a Niner mountain bike frame. They pulled one, two, three names of people who had left early. Then they pulled my name. And, yeah, sorry for ruining the family event by yelling, "Shut the FUCK up" at the top of my lungs.

I'm now the proud owner of a beautiful, shiny 29er bike frame. But, as you all know, I need another bike like I need another hole in my head. So the decision has been made to build it up for Christy, so that the Blonde Ball of Hate can bring her special brand of fury to the dirt next year. Watch out, ladies. She has a mountain bike and isn't afraid to use it.