Monthly Archives: October 2006

Horning’s Hideout

We were a little late getting out to Horning’s Hideout for the race. By the time we got there I only had 40 minutes to register, ride the course, warm up and report to the start line for staging.

I’d opted to ride the Men’s Beginner’s race at 9:00am for a variety of reasons but mostly because it offered the least amount of lead-in time to get nervous. I wanted to keep my nerves under control and the longer that I stood around watching races, the worse they would get.

I knew there would be a few other women in the field and I wasn’t worried about it. The only drawback is that the men’s beginner’s field is always massive. In this case there were 110 riders to start despite the fact that the race organizers claim all fields are limited to 100.

Sam and I pulled into Horning’s, which is nestled at the bottom of a long, curvy, gravel road. Race staff flagged us into a makeshift parking spot and I jumped out, found my way to the registration table, located the start line and the finish line and then hopped on the course to take a loop and see what I was in for.

I could tell right off the bat that it would be challenging – long, steady climbs promised pain. It was when we turned up and into the woods that I got really worried. Single-track. And lots of it. Single-track straight up and single-track straight down and single-track drop-offs with 90 degree turns at the bottom. I powered my way up the first bump and then came up behind some others who were previewing the course. The trail became too steep to ride so we dismounted, shouldered our bikes and started half-running, half-hiking up the grade.

It would have been hard even without the bikes. Murmurs passed down and back from rider to rider: “Holy shit…” “Oh my god…” “Dude, are they for real?”

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Coach Carter

I’m watching Coach Carter.

Yes. “Coach Carter” – the MTV movie about a “controversial basketball coach”. I am a complete sucker for sports dramas. Even very, very, very bad ones.

Basketball? The drama? The buzzer? The jumpshots?

Yes. I fucking love it all.

I was mediocre at basketball in high school. I played varsity for two years. If not for playing JV in basketball for two years I would have been a 12 letter award winner. 12 letters is perfect – 3 seasons, 4 years, twelve letters. Perfect. Instead I was a 10 letter winner. And that is exactly what I deserved. I was only mediocre at basketball.

I played killer defense but I hated shooting. I was too shy. We had a dominant point guard so I just passed off to her and let her put it up. She liked shooting – let her do it. During the last game of my high school career I went out on the court and said “fuckit”. I was sick of just dominating people on defense. I was shooting.

I scored 17 points that night. My coach and my parents both grabbed my shoulders after the game: “Why haven’t you been shooting all season??!!”

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Dropped.

Sam dropped me last night basically as soon as the road turned uphill. That’s ok – that’s what I was expecting. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if I have to get dropped to get stronger and faster then I’ll suffer the misery of dangling wildly off the back.

As soon as he rode away from me I dropped a few gears and cranked it to try to keep him in site. Chasing sucks. And it sucks more when you’re doing it on your own. But it does make you work harder and I guess that’s the point.

We climbed at a good clip and as the road wound around and around I could catch sight of him up ahead of me on the next curve. I gritted my teeth, pedaled madly through corners, tried to find the best lines. My legs were on fire.

I started to close the gap a little and thought to myself, “That’s impossible. I shouldn’t be closing a gap on him – he must be waiting for me.”

I was only half right.

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Therapy. Cubed.

Last night I left work at 5:30pm and ran the Esplanade. I ran fast. As fast as I could.

And it felt good.

I haven’t run in a while and I have no idea why. I expected to be slow, bogged down, pathetic, in pain. But I cranked “Lose Yourself” and found myself in flight. How I love my body in motion in running tights and a wife beater with my shmancy – technical – long – sleeved – wicking – fabric – everything – you – ever – wanted – in – a – running – shirt – shirt tied haphazardly around my waste. I don’t need that technical fabric! What are these long sleeves!?

Jockey wife beaters (in three packs!) may very well be the solution to all of life’s problems. Only time will tell.

I ran back to the office, changed into soft and stretchy yoga pants and cruised up into the Northwest for an hours worth of breathing and stretching and sweating like a madwoman. The sweat literally POURS off my body as I’m doing yoga. I have to put down a full-sized towel to prevent me from slipping off the mat. I have no idea what would happen if I actually tried the “hot” version. I fear permanent liquification.

Wouldn’t that suck?

“Wow, what finally did that crazy bitch in?”
“It was the yoga. She just dissolved and that was that.”

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Any given Sunday

It was pissing rain by the time we arrived at the course on Sunday morning. I planned to race so I went out with Sam to ride the course, got around 3 times and then flatted in a really major way. Sam was on another part of the course by that point and he had the car keys so basically I got stuck standing in the pouring rain for about 25 minutes.

By the time he came back I was soaked to the bone. That was when I realized that I’d only brought one set of riding gear and I was wearing it.

And it was soaked through.

Fuck.

So I played the day like a rookie and ultimately opted not to race.

But enough about me, let’s talk about the *real* racer in the family.

I let Sam sit on the trainer for about 5 minutes too long and then we were both confused about where the start line actually was. By the time we found it most of the field had already lined up.

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Pick a Sport

Last night as I turned on my bicycle headlight to ride home from yoga my legs screamed up at me, “Pick a sport!”

Annoyed, I replied, “Yoga isn’t a sport. It’s an activity.” My legs were unimpressed. I was tired going home, with little in the tank.

All the way across the Hawthorne Bridge I was trying to concoct a strategy that would allow me to get in a daily ride, a daily run and a daily yoga session. Since yoga is a fixed entity all I could come up with was ride in the morning, run at lunch, yoga after work.

Unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of running at lunch. I have to shower when I get here in the morning after my ride in and I don’t want to have to shower twice within 6 hours. It’s kind of wasteful, not to mention the fact that it’s really hard on my skin.

We’ll see how it goes. The running part is what I’ve been missing lately and a big factor in my lack of fitness on the bike. I have to work it in and I have to work it in soon. I also have to get better technical skills, and fast. Sam and I went to a park on Saturday and rolled around, practicing dismounts and remounts. I left the park a little bit discouraged – the skills aren’t coming as fast as I’d like them to. Watching the race on Sunday was intimidating.

We cruised through trails in Mt. Tabor and he took me down some really, really technical gnarly drops on river-rock. I didn’t know it was coming up and all the sudden I was standing on my pedals, weight way back, squeezing my back brake like my life depended on it. (It did.) Sam called over his shoulder, “Just relax, you’re fine!” Afterward he said the look on my face was one of sheer terror. I was kind of pissed that he didn’t give me more warning but he said, “Warning wouldn’t have helped. You were fine – you made it down, see?”

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First Cross Race for Sammy

The house is cold and dark at 5:30 in the morning.  Sam lets me sleep in a little while he makes the coffee and prepares his gear.  I wake up at  the smell and sound of the coffee brewing but I lay in  our low bed with my arms wrapped around the fatter of our two cats.  He is purring like an engine and we don’t get up until Sammy comes with the coffee.

I can tell he is nervous because he’s quieter than usual.  Focused and serious.  He cracks a joke every now and then to try to give me the idea that he is keeping it light but I know better.  Sam’s getting his game face on.

My job is to give him space to do it.

Having been on the other side of this coin almost a million and one times, I know exactly what to do.  I help pack the car.  I double check for gloves, glasses, helmet, shoes, vest, socks.  I fill the thermos with coffee and load water bottles into the soft cooler.

I’m the support crew this time.
And it’s amazing.

We’re not headed to some crazy softball tournament for an 8am draw, we’re headed out towards Gresham for a bike race.

The first bike race Sam has seen in almost 8 years.

His goal is simple for his first ‘cross race: survive.  That’s it.  Just finish.  Just get through it.  Just make it.

He left cycling just before his bump into Cat 2 after he and his two teammates watched from behind as a rider went down in a sprint, leaving half is face on the pavement.  “It’s not worth it” he tells me.  “It’s not that important.”

He’s right.  Even so, I know his return to racing is significant to him.  He loves to make bikes go fast.  This is what he does.  This is his deep-center-running-back-over-the-shoulder catch.  I get it.  He makes this shit look easy.  Moreover; he makes it look beautiful.

So the morning is about having fun but it’s also about celebrating the return of this really fundamental part of who Sam is.  He underestimates the weight of it but I don’t.

I keep my cool until  he leaves for the start line but the truth is that I want to throw up and cry my eyes out.  I’m nervous for him, proud of him, scared for him, in awe of him.  Instead of throwing up or crying, I make my way out to the first set of barriers and wait for his group to come barreling through.  When they do he is up in the front where I told him to be.

“You’re going to either suffer in the front or suffer on the back, Sam.” I said.  “You might as well suffer on the front for as long as you can.”

I’ve been reading cyclocross blogs for the past few weeks trying to glean as much information as possible.  Universally, race reports refer to getting a good or bad start – in most cases it sets the tone for the final results.  The start at Barlow was on pavement going a little uphill which suited Sam’s strengths.  “Jump on the pedals.  Get off the line.” I told him.

He reminded me that he was only racing to finish.

“Sure you are.  But at least give yourself a shot at getting ahead of the early crashes.”

“Good point, coach.”  he said.

He finished strong although the woman who registered him made a mistake and gave him a beginner’s number so he doesn’t show up in the official C Masters results yet (they’re working on it).  I think he finished 15-20th out of a field of 47 which isn’t bad for a first outing in which the only goal was to “survive”.

We decompressed at Hedge House over pulled pork, a chicken club and two Lompoc Strong Drafts on nitro.

“Oh my god – you just raced your bike!!!”

He was happy like a pig in shit. 🙂

I drove downtown to do some work and came home to seared scallops and a nice merlot from Napa Valley Vinyards.  We landed on the couch to watch the reunion episode of Project Runway and finish off the wine.  It’s Monday but it’s cyclocross season – I will take as many Mondays as you can throw at me, goddamit.

Go get muddy.

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