Category Archives: PDX

Rain Run

It continues to rain.

I may eat my words later (and I promise to own it when I do) but I love this weather. Riding home in the rain is fucking religious. Little drops accumulating on my face, the dark, cloudy night sky above me. My michelin tires spraying through puddles that I have purposefully ridden into. On Wednesday morning I wasn’t feeling well and Sam said to me, “You should take the car to work.”

“Are you insane?” I said. “This ride is my favorite part of every day!”

It was overcast and pouring. An angry, wet, cold November day. I pulled on my ridiculous knee-high wool socks and put booties over the top. Then I rode to work… smiling.

Later that afternoon the rain battered my office window fantastically. It was 4:00pm and I was planning to run around 5:30 or 6:00. The downpour was torrential. Rain in sheets. Huge, huge, amazing, pounding rain. I put on running knickers and a technical long-sleeve shirt and headed out early. Screw waiting for the weekday to end. You couldn’t pay me to miss this storm.

The cold air outside felt good in my lungs and I set my nano to shuffle-all and started running. There was only one way to get warm – run.

Fast.

So I flew. I lengthened my stride and let my smile carry me through the deluge. As I merged onto the Esplanade path two men were running slightly behind me. I determined not to get caught and bounded off toward the bridge, detouring at every opportunity to veer my route directly through a mud puddle. All of the detours meant I had to run even faster to keep the chase group at bay.

On the Hawthorne Bridge I opened my eyes to so many glowing lights. The city was bunkered down under the driving rain, the streetlights shone defiantly.

Omygod, I thought. This is who I am. I am this crazy girl who loves to run in the rain. Right in this moment – I am most me.

Like standing in center field during a close game in the bottom of the 7th.

I was soaked through and flying. When the downpour let up just a little bit I started running through bushes and jumping up to tug on branches so that I would continue to get wet. I wanted water all over me. I wanted to be soaked to the bone.

I kept running and got my wish. The chase group never caught me .

Back on the west side of the river I veered off into the grass and took a diagonal line back to my office.

I felt new.

I am my father’s daughter. There’s no rain yet today but I’m holding out hope. Maybe it’s because there is a large slice of me that is wickedly anti-social. When the rain drives the pansies indoors, more of the world is mine. I have more room to stretch and run. When the water pounds down onto the streets and rivers it drowns out the sound of so much mindless, social din.

Sam says, “Will this rain ever stop?”
“Not until March.”

I don’t even try to hide my elation.

*

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Filed under cycling, life, PDX, running

And on Sunday… We Race!

It has rained for a week.

On Saturday night I lay in the attic and listen to the raindrops hitting the roof. It has been raining forever. Our gutters are full and the downspouts filter water down the side of our house. In two years our house will be one hundred years old. I hope my downspouts still work when I am 100 years old.

I have a long way to go. I am 29 years old and rain makes me smile.

I sleep on Saturday nights dreaming of mud and puddles. I am as terrified of a cyclocross course as I am intrigued. I dream of mud spattered shins and gritty teeth. As I dream my Pinarello jersey sits peacefully in my gear bag, waiting. Some crazy Italian cyclist wore that shirt once but now it’s mine. It’s full of stories that I’ve yet to shake out of it. Lips are sealed. I can only engage in conjecture.

In my mind I am a crazy, Italian cyclist and it has been raining for months. The puddles are fantastic. There is grass lodged in my front, right lever, as always.

I always fall to the right.

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Filed under cycling, cyclocross, life, motivation, PDX

Montage Mondays, Stumptown Tuesdays

Monday night at the Montage is becoming a bit of a habit.  Wine bottles are half-price and the place isn’t nearly as crazy and loud as usual.  Last night we went out with new “couple friends” and split crawfish beignets, oyster shooters, two bottles of wine, a myriad of seafood entrees (catfish!  blackened marlin! ), and a big, bountiful bowl of bread pudding.

It was heaven.

I rode my bike there in the pitch black and was nearly taken out by an out of control skate-boarder.  I saw our lives flash before my eyes as he dug his heels into the edge of his board, swerving out of my lane just in the nick of time.

Life and death: it’s as precarious as a skateboarder’s skill level in some cases.

The ride to Stumptown this morning was cold and breezy.  I forgot to put my gloves on and didn’t want to stop to pull them out so instead I suffered the short mile ride, pulled my sleeve-mittens over my fingers and used the top brake instead of the levers.

I’m amazed by the way the air is changing around us every day.  The leaves are starting to skitter and darkness is getting… well, darker.  The pitch black more pitchy.  The air less inviting.  The wind more wicked.  It’s not even cold yet, really, and I’m already starting to slowly freeze.  The weather reports showers for today and I hope to god they are right for once – I need to see how my bike moves in the wet and mud.

The blond, soft-spoken kid with the new bike at Stumptown today turned out to be one of the instructors for the local cross clinics that are held in September.  I picked his brain a bit about good strategies for learning the remount and he gave me some useful tips.  Josh and I discussed chaos theory, cold-weather bike strategy, and cyclo-cross, in that order.  The clock hit 7:20am and we rolled down the nearest bike route into downtown.  I turned off the Esplanade at Stark and he continued into the Northwest.

The morning time feels precious to me these days.  A gift I have to cherish.  It’s the only time that I can see how things might settle, how everything I need to get done might get accomplished.  It’s my moment of clarity and peace before the shit-storm of my crazy job starts.

I’m hot and cold about work right now – there are moments where I really love the challenge and the insane hyjinx and there are moments when I just want it all to go away.  I’m sure this is typical but I’d love to get to a point where I feel more in control, where I feel like I am confident every morning when I get in that I will be able to check everything off my list and then some.  The important part is that I continue to learn and grow everyday.  Every day I am stretching myself to try something new, to be scared, to mingle with the possibility of failure both in my professional life and my personal life.

Cyclo-cross is important for me in a lot of ways.  Sure, I’ll get off on the adrenaline and I’m sort of “built” for the sport in terms of my love for both pain and mud.  But the truth is that I’ve always been intimidated by bikes and racing.  I’m intimidated by the gear and the shops and, sometimes, the speed.

My elementary school boyfriend went through the window of a car on Christmas Eve while riding a bike with no brakes.  We were in the fourth grade.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet and ended up in the hospital for about three months.  He had very significant lasting mental damage.

In middle school I was friends with a very athletic, amazing kid named Chris.  I fancied him but we only dated for about 2 days… you know how that goes.  He put his front wheel into a curb on a long descent at the end of a 70 mile ride with his father.  He was propelled off his bike, slid 50 feet on the concrete and wrapped around a telephone poll.  He survived but is a paraplegic now.

You could say that I probably shouldn’t get involved in the lives of cyclists. 🙂  And look at me – practically married to a veritable Italian Hammer who lives, breathes, eats and sleeps cycling.

It’s been hard over the years to relax about it and let go.  I can’t control what happens out on the road – I know he’s safe but I’m not worried about him, I’m worried about all those mindless, zipping cars.  I never make him tell me when he’ll be back from a ride but I always start to worry after three hours have passed.  He usually won’t ride much past three hours or, if he’s going to, I know about it first.

My heartrate increases and I begin contemplating calling local hospitals.  Did he remember to bring the little card I gave him?  The one that tells them who to call if something happens?  I can be a total head case.

I handle myself fairly well on a bike but I still don’t climb out of the saddle very cleanly and I descend like a freaking grandmother.  I always check Sam’s cyclometer when he gets home and I lose my mind when I click over to max speed and it says something like “47mph”.  I go for the brakes at about 35mph and even then I feel sketchy.

Cyclo-cross is a way for me to be competitive on a bike without having to descend at 47mph.  It’s a way for me to improve my handling skills and increase my comfort level so that I can feel better, safer, stronger, more confident on the road.  Every day that I ride my bike I try to be better, ride stronger, ride safer.

I’m still intimidated by the gear but it’s getting better day by day as I read website after website about geometry, frame construction, gearing ratios, and cornering techniques.  I’m like a pre-schooler at home trying to tap into every bit of knowledge that Sam has.  “How do lugs work?”  “What’s the advantage of brazing?”  “Why are the seat-stays wavy like that?”  “How do wheel-makers make wheels?”  “What’s the advantage of making your own wheels?”  “Why is Columbus tubing so special?”

I swear to god that man is made of patience.  I would have told me to shutup 2 years ago.

We’re trying to squeeze in a ride after work today and hopefully we’ll have some rain to make it interesting.  In the meantime, I have goats to wrangle.

*

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Another Convert

Sam and I rolled our cross bikes out to Forest Park yesterday after watching the first races of the Cross Crusade series out at Aplenrose.

I was on fire.  Inspired.  Over the moon.  Alpenrose had been crawling with cyclists, spectators, family, food and miles upon miles of beautiful, beautiful bikes.

We pedaled across Hawthorne Bridge, made our way through downtown, and climbed Thurman to the beginning of the wide gravel trail.  I felt good.  My legs felt strong.  The 12 hour drive we’d made the day before seemed miles away.

Every inch of pathway demands focus – let your mind wander for a moment and you’re going down.  Finding the delicate balance between speed and traction takes concentration.  The trick is to go as fast as you can without falling down.  I reveled in the way my body made tiny, fine adjustments to keep my bike upright and underneath me.  We tore straight up the trail and stopped about 5 miles in to practice the cyclocross dismount, which I had yet to learn.

It took me about 15 minutes to get to the point where I could do it clean and relatively quickly.  After my first successful dismount I turned around, beaming, “I did it!!!”  That was all it took.  I’m hooked.  This week I have to learn how to get back on the damn thing (going fast) which is significantly harder than the dismount.  The elites make it look so fucking easy it’s sick.  I figure a few good crashes and some determination will get me close enough to allow me to actually enter a race.  I checked out the beginning women’s group at the Cross Crusade and I think I can hang.  My fitness needs to improve a bit but I’m confident that I can get it where it needs to be.

It’s official.  I have the bug.

For now it’s back to this crazy rodeo that I call life.  My two full-time jobs and Tuesday Coffee with Josh.  My Local Cycling Hero is back in town and I saw her yesterday at the race… holy goddam she is fast.

Please commence with kicking Monday’s ass. 

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Filed under cross_crusade, cycling, cyclocross, PDX, sports

Best Morning Ever

Stumptown coffee on Belmont.

Josh and I huddle at the front window, chatting.

Not only did I get to sit within mere feet of a local pro cyclist whose blog I read religiously, I also got to watch in awe as other whippet-like riders gathered around me.  From our perch we could watch as they rolled up – wiry muscles and tiny little waists, shaved legs.

As they arrived they stacked their bikes against the rack outside the window.  Between the pile of amazing, beautiful fixed gears and cyclo-cross rigs I wasn’t sure whether to stare at the bikes or the boys.

I decided to split the difference.

O god.  Cyclists.  Little whippet cyclists.  Josh endured me as my eyes lit up and we commented on the bikes as they rolled in.

When we were finally (gloriously) surrounded by about 25-30 tiny little super-fast, super-efficient bodies with rock-hard quads and tiny arms, they departed.  Outside the window they sorted out their bikes and sat on them in that way that really good cyclists do while they waited for everyone to get ready.

I wish I wasn’t such a little sucker but I am.  Cyclists just do it for me.  Good, hard bodies in spandex?  That awesome blurring of gender lines with shaved legs?  Skinny boys on bikes can be mistaken for girls from a distance.  I guess that’s part of what does it for me.

Josh and I killed a second cup as the group departed, led by my secret hero.

I’m hopped up on two Americanos and memories of well-filled spandex knickers.  “Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins came on as I got on the Morrison Bridge and I smiled, cranked the volume and thought, “Today is the greatest.”

*

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Filed under cycling, cyclocross, PDX, stumptown

Rally Caps

This weekend was supposed to be my first tournament with the A-listers. I was getting pumped up, preparing to vomit before the first game, laying out my lucky socks and t-shirts. I rented a car for the purpose of transporting my body and gear there and back. I was about to rock a Dodge Neon, hard core.

But, as they say, the best laid plans…

Tourney Cancelled.

Long story. Not worth telling.

Anyway. Here is the part where you rally. I have started to think that The Rally is probably my favorite part of life. Take last night for instance. I was supposed to have dinner with my best friend and pal-o-pals, Mr Joshy Head, but circumstances worked against us, and though I rode my bike into the north to meet him, we ended up having to cancel.

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Filed under dealing, life, PDX, softball

Off the Radar

Yeah.  I’ve been off the radar for a bit.  Flying low.  Avoiding so much sonar.

Portland riding has me up, up, and up in a happy place.  But I’m dangerous like downtown traffic with ipod headphones cranked full-tilt.  Sammy tells me not to ride with the music in my ears but I can’t help it.  I feel emotional and wreckless.  I feel daring.

I’ll keep my helmet on – I promise – but I’m not getting rid of the headphones.

My mommy and daddy will come tomorrow with my sister’s children.  God knows what we’ll do besides yardwork (need a weed-whacker) and cooking (have kale, will steam).

I rode into the NE on Tuesday morning at 5:30am.  I did not realize that it was freezing.
(It feels like this is becoming a pattern.)

I was wearing Spring gloves (fingerless)
[This is the Entry De Parentheses in case you didn’t notice]

and my hands summarily went numb.  You think numb hands are bad when you are back-packing?  Try cycling.  Hands = brakes.  I was already over the top of Mt. Tabor before it struck me to turn around and go back for winter gloves.  By then I was able to convince myself that it was much more impressive to keep going, unfazed.

Except that I was fazed.

And my 20 mile loop abruptly turned into a 10 mile loop as I turned left on Tillamook, instead of right.

Home, home, home, home.  Have to get home.  Freezing.

I’ll admit. It’s nice to freeze and ride sometimes in the early hours of a Portland morning.  The coffee maker was still hot when I rolled in and I wrapped my hands around a ceramic mug and cringed as my fingers dethawed.  Slowly.

Getting up in the morning has become a kind of sport.

I have all manner of tricks employed for ensuring my prompt ejection from bed.  The coffee maker brews at 430am at which point I switch on the bed lamp and groan.  The cats begin to stir.

I try to convince myself it is too cold to get up, but I’ve strategically placed slippers and a sweater within arm’s reach, so the excuse loses validity in a glance.  Black coffee (black and hott) draws me out of bed… I stand in the kitchen sipping, like it is the only thing that will keep my alive.

The only promise that I make to myself is that I will put on my cycling shorts.  That’s the only promise.  I can put them on and then go back to bed, I can put them on and sit on the couch, I can put them on and then stand in the kitchen drinking black coffee.  I’m off the hook but for putting those things on.

And trust me, I have never put them on and done anything but ride.

It’s like there’s magic in the chamois.  Magic motivation.  Head-clarifying chamois-inspired motivation.

It feels strange to write here.
Hard.
And strange.

I don’t feel like myself and then every once in a while I do.

It’s a strange time.
So I keep riding.

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Filed under cycling, dealing, life, PDX