Monday, October 27, 2008

Campus Cross

The Deadgirl Express headed up to Red Deer at the crack of dawn for the Campus Cross race. This time, we invited Bill and his three legged dog in tow to make the ride interesting. As we were packing up, Bill was sitting in the drivers seat fiddling around.
Cindy: "what are you doing?"
Bill: "hooking up my radar detector"
Cindy: "uh, we're not going to need that"
One thing you learn very quickly with Cindy is that she's serious about safety. No speeding in the Deadgirl Express.
It was really windy when we arrived in Red Deer. Not only was the wind strong enough to kick up a lot of dust from the dirt parking lot adjacent to the course, it was strong enough to be pushing around racers on the course.
Pepper rode with the men this time. I thought this was really cool (and not just because it made it easier for the rest of us to podium). I like that there is a girl in the province that is good enough to take on the guys. I also thought it was good so that she had some stiff competition, which will ultimately help her get stronger (with Mical done for the season, Pepper has nobody against which to battle).
Early in my race, I broke away with two other girls. I held on for dear life until one of the girls actually got blown over by the cross wind. Then it was just me and Bridget. I stayed on as best I could until a dropped chain left me so far back that Bridget was out of sight. Keith was helpful from the sidelines, riding around the course and giving pointers and words of encouragement. There's a level of accountability that is performance enhancing when there are spectators. It's like you somehow owe it to them to do your best because they've taken the time to come out and give you support. Well, that accountability is even higher when it's Keith Bayly who's watching. He's not just clapping his hands as you ride by, he's coaching and dialing up the pressure. But, in spite of having this advantage, I was caught on my last lap as we ran through the sandpit. I'm not sure where Shatal got her energy, but I felt as though I were standing still as she powered ahead of me until she, too, was out of sight, leaving me in third place.
I felt like I'd raced my hardest race of the season. It probably wasn't my best effort strategically, but physically I was totally spent. I think I went too hard trying to stay with Bridget and that wiped me out for the last few laps. I was glad I'd done that - you learn a bit more about your body each time you push yourself farther into the red zone. Cindy had a great race, probably the best performance I've seen from her. Keith raced after us and took second, putting in a solid performance.
My prize money for third place brought my total season winnings to $205. I was wondering whether I would be expected to claim this on my income taxes. If so, do you think that would that mean I could expense my bike equipment and travel expenses?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shawntoberfest and Deadgoat Cross

Sometime around 6pm, Erik and I jumped into the car and headed down to Tubby Dog. The occassion? Shawntoberfest (Shawn Bunnin's 25th birthday). Though it was officially a bike pub craw, we wlected to drive so that we wouldn't be tempted to get carried away in the evening's festivities. That lasted about 10 minutes. There's something about sinking your teeth into a 2,000 calorie heap of chili, space cheese, and weiner on a white bun that puts you into a different frame of mind (I usually indulge in these things at the end of a bender, not the beginning - maybe that's the trick).
Before we knew it, we were at Melrose Place for some jager bombs, then it was the Ship and Anchor for a brew, then Ducky's Pub for some Karaoke. Eventually we found ourselves in front of a pizza place with four bikes piled on top of a garbage can (for safety??) and realized it was time to pack it in. Erik and I made it through our front door at 3:30am, feeling young and carefree, but happy to go to sleep.
We were out of bed just three hours later (feeling exactly the opposite of when our heads had hit the pillow) to help set up the course for the Deadgoat/Schmoe Cyclocross race. The task of course design and construction required slightly more independent thought and focus than at least I was capable of. But, somehow, I faked my way through it (it's a good thing that Lonn had a starting vision from which we could build). By the time that all of the stakes were in the ground, I began to think that it might actually be fun to race. What was there to lose? I couldn't feel any worse than I already did.
I'm not sure what the magic ingredient was (perhaps it is best that it remain a mystery, lest I be tempted to try to replicate it), but it was one of my best races of the season - coming in second to Pepper Harlton. I had the pleasure of having many of my good cycling friends out to cheer - Erik, Mical, Brenda, David, Keith, Devin, Tracey, PND, Bill, Bill, Olga, Alana, Clair, Shawn, Hillary, and Linda, to name a few. Mical ran beside me screaming wonderful things at me for several laps - which was awesome. She's an inspiration when she's riding ahead of me and it is so cool when she's out there cheering for me too.
All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend. But, I'm not sure how often this old body can take a beating like that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Screaming Down the Middle Finger of Death

The weather was looking up for our third day of riding. Peggy and Bill started out with us on a local mountain bike trail called the Bear Claw Poppy (also a mere five minutes from their door). The trail is a cobweb of woop-de-doos carved into the corrugated desert wash below the bluff upon which St. George is situated.

The trail itself is wonderfully smooth hard pack - buffed out by a myriad of bikers and hikers (and trail builders) before us. It's well marked, with "easy" and "more difficult" sections, so that you can customize your ride according to your appetite for destruction. Erik joked that the "more difficult" signs should have read "more fun".

After a few miles, the trail splits off; with Stucki Springs to one side, and Clavacal hill to the other. Though I'm not educated in physiology, I can tell you that the latter is not named as it is because it is shaped like a clavical. Erik seemed to really like this part of the ride - challenging to ascend and descend on account of pitch, rather than technical terrain.

Picking up on Erik's love and appetite for all things thrilling, Bob took us on a diversion to The Three Fingers of Death. The Three Fingers of Death are paths carved out on some steeper pitches than what we saw at Clavical Hill. Truth be told, there are more than three fingers. But, perhaps only three worthy of the title of a Finger of Death. I went up, and down, what you might consider the superfluous pinky finger of death. Meanwhile, Erik picked the steepest and meanest finger (the middle one, ironically) and blazed down it as we watched in wonder.

Eventually, Erik and I headed out together and Bob turned back. Erik rode slow and easy - sometimes riding ahead and looping back. It made it possible to spend most of the day together. I busted myself for going riding slowly when I yelled ahead for Erik to come back and look at something I saw on the trail. A tarantula!! Cool!! I spotted two in total; a small blue one and a giant ratty looking brown one, shown below.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cycling Lingo 104

dou*ble shor*ting [duhb-uhl shor-ting]

The use of two pairs of bicycle shorts for protection against the cold. In addition to reducing the temperature impact of wind against the skin, double shorting is highly effective in reducing the physical appeal of spandex, on account of the double chamois (chamois butt). Particularly useful when encountering snow and hail on a bike ride in St. George, Utah.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Biking in Bedrock

Keen to do some training for La Ruta, Erik and I headed to St. George, Utah for Thanksgiving. Erik's Aunt Peggy calls St. George home. She and her husband, Bob, generously hosted us for the weekend. St. George is a bit like Bedrock, but with modern amenities and no living woolly mammoths. 

We arrived in the late afternoon and Bob took us for a ride on the Zen trail, which is less than a kilometre from his house. Normally used as a hiking path, I think, the trail was somewhat technical and totally unspoiled (so much so, in fact, that we actually lost the trail). I was impressed with his technical riding skills and learned a few things by watching.
Mountain biking is a really neat way to discover different places. Unlike road biking, in which you are merely taking in the view from the comfort of the predictable pavement, mountain biking enables you to get closer to the earth. You can feel the texture of the soil or sand or rock upon which you are riding. You are closer to the trees and the vegetation. It is a much richer experience than you can get on the road. 
We rode until the sun was setting and it was too dark to continue. It was a perfect warm up for a weekend of riding and inspired Erik and I to scour the local maps to decide where to ride the next day. The icing on the cake at the end of a beautiful evening ride was a delicious homemade dinner and wonderful company. Peggy is quite the chef. 

Monday, October 6, 2008

Curbing My Curbophobia

Another weekend, another double header. After last Sunday's awesomely fun course, I was really excited to do a few more races. This time the course was at the University of Calgary campus and would be the same course for both races. To spice it up, the first race would be held in the dark (at night) and the second would be held in the light (during the day).
In addition to the usual tight corners, run overs, and off camber lines, the course featured a heinously tight, off camber left hand turn, and a dreadful, extended run through a sandpit. But that didn't scare me. What scared me was that there was a curb on the course.

I've spent a lot of time on bicycles over the last couple of years and learned to ride a lot of stuff that I previously would have considered unridable. But my dirty little secret has been that I'm terrified of curbs. I have to dismount and walk my bike up them. It's embarrassing. But, it's a fear/incompetency that I've somehow avoided overcoming. So, with only 20 minutes before my first race was to start and the discovery of the curb, I was faced with three options:

a) not race
b) shamefully dismount on each of my six laps
c) learn how to ride up a curb in the next 20 minutes

I chose c). Miraculously, it worked. As a bonus, I convinced a friend, Tanya, that she could do the same. We had a blast on what was an insanely fun course and conquered the curb on every lap.
The night race (The Dark Knight) was the most fun of any race that I've tried so far. Excellent for spectators - with glowstick-covered cyclists visible in all directions and a DJ pumping in the background.
I came away with two sixth place finishes (though I must have been going too fast to be noticed at the finish), which I was happy about. I also came away a better cyclist and a little less terrified of curbs. Not bad for two days in October.
(photo credit to Bill Quinney for the first two shots and to Stephen Burke for the third)