Sunday, December 27, 2009

Listen to Santa!!!

Hello fellow travelers! I'm writing from Portland today, where I spent Christmas with the Bent Johnson family.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and that you got everything you wanted. I didn't really *want* anything - heck, I've got everything I need - but I got some really cool stuff anyway. Leading the pack had to have been the MUST have tool for a recumbent newbie: the Park Master Link Tool:

Yes - they make a tool for that! The oh-so-annoying master link that slides together so easily in your hands, and slides apart so easily at the shop, has a way of frustrating me - particularly when the chips are down and you HAVE to get something taken care of post-haste. Good news is - looks like it's not just me. In other words, I'm still quite possibly NOT the biggest dork on the block. And even though I'd NEVER admitted out loud to Santa that this was a frequent problem for me, he really does know when I've been bad or good, or at least he's tracking what leads to too many #$*&^@# swear words. And he decided that I was still close enough to being on the nice list that he'd do something nice about it.

So you'd think that when I went out on a ride on December 26, in the gorgeous (really!) Oregon sunshine, I'd have known that Santa intended me to take the Park
MLP-1 with me. After all, I even have a super race bag that would hold it:

But no...after all, when have I ever needed a Park Tool MLP-1 on a short, fun training ride before? Never - that's when. Until...yesterday. I was 95% of the way to Kerry's house - by which I mean I was 105% of the way to Kerry's house, and had just turned around to undo the excess 5%, when I heard a resounding CRACK, felt the drivetrain lose pressure, and watched the last few links of chain exit the chainwheel and aim for my wheels. Yuck.

I didn't have a chain tool. Mysteriously, even though I've got this amazing, huge race bag, I've stocked it with a weenie little micro-multitool. I've got a Crank Brothers tool that has a chain tool on it, but I didn't bring it. Kerry doesn't have a chain tool, either. We don't ask Tess; Mark already knows that Tess doesn't have a chain tool.

Fortunately, about half of the remaining trip to Kerry's house is downhill. And even more fortunately, Mark has a lot of bikes there. I got to borrow his Bianchi - a pretty danged nice steel bike. It kind of fits if I don't think about the top tube. So - I don't think about the top tube.

Since I didn't have a way home other than my bike, the first part of our ride was straight to the bike shop. I decided that it was probably a good time to be replacing my chain, anyway, so I bought two. And a chain tool. And a few master links, for good luck. Thank you, Bike & Hike!

Then we headed up to Mount Tabor, where we had an amazing view of Mount Hood with the city in the foreground. Fortunately no one had a camera - if we want to see it like that again, we'll have to wait for another amazing clear, cold day and ride up again!

Got back to Kerry's with the last of the light, and sunk into bike repair in earnest. Naturally, it takes just over two chains to do the job, so I've got to steal a few links from the old (dead) one. Even though I HAVE a chain tool, I decided that I'd really like to separate it at the master link, so that I could save one of the master links that I'd just purchased for a real roadside emergency. No dice. Of course, my PT-MLP-1 would've made short work of the job. I could hear Santa clucking all the way from the North Pole: you can lead a girl to water, but you can't....sigh. Eventually Mark jury-rigged something with a screwdriver and we got the thing to work.

After that, much pizza and RAAM conversation: Mark has gotten sucked onto a RAAM crew and I was trying to give him some sort of idea what he's in for. Then it was off into the really cold and dark (by now it was 9:30!), with an extra light and jacket for the journey.

An unintended (by me!) consequence of the borrowed goods was the need to return them, and the convenient way (!??!?) to do that was at a yoga class that Mark and Tess were going to this morning, right in my neighborhood. I was the first to arrive, and the instructor was, charitably, surprised to see me. I explained that I was meeting Mark and Tess there, which at least established me as a real person. She asked me if I knew that this was a "Level 2-3" class. That didn't bother me initially; I figure yoga must be a 12-step program, so if I miss the first step ("my name is Sandy and I have no flexibility...") I can probably fake it.

Naturally, I was incorrect. "Level 2-3" means "advanced". I was tossed into a room full of contortionists, doing moves that were WAY over my head, sometimes quite literally. I lived through it, but I can already tell that I won't be lifting my arms above my head tomorrow. And Mark has officially paid me back for the triple-tandem incident in August.

So, boys and girls - the moral of the story is, "Listen to Santa". Wear that sweater that he got you; it's toasty warm. Did he leave you a bottle of wine? Drink it in good health, with good friends! That nose hair trimmer...yep, he gave it to you for a reason.

Have a happy holiday and a wonderful start to 2010. I'll be down in Arcata celebrating the New Year with David Bradley and friends. I'm betting we'll talk RAAM a little.



Sunday, December 20, 2009

I've been....sick.

Happy holidays to everyone! Hope you're all where you want to be, doing what you want to do, or that your relatives are at least behaving decently and leaving you your fair share of cookies and eggnog.

I've been sick. As a RAAM athlete I've been extremely reluctant to admit it, even to myself. Being sick sets the training schedule back, you know?

So - here goes. My name is Sandy. I am recovering from a sinus infection. I didn't go in to see the doctor right away because I didn't even have a doctor in Eugene (because I wasn't planning on ever being sick, right?).

I'd just come off one of the most energizing training weeks I'd had in a long time - I could actually feel the power in my legs increasing through a workout; the numbers looked REALLY good and I finished every workout feeling like a champion. Maybe I overdid, but I don't think so; I think it was just my "turn" to get sick.

I knew it was there for about a week: the swollen glands, the fever, the headaches, the extreme fatigue...hours spent researching on the internet (instead of doing something USEFUL like GOING TO THE DOCTOR)...I had it down to a sinus infection, or lymphoma + simultaneous menopause, or a mysteriously-dead thyroid. At one point I was so wiped out and paranoid that I was thinking 'pneumonia', but that was an outside possibility. For some stupid reason I kept going to work. Notice that I don't say "working" - that's a little optimistic; I wasn't effective (duh).

I got in to the doctor on Monday and got the good news - yep, I've got a sinus infection. Hardest part was to convince her that a pulse of 72 was significantly elevated. Got the magic pink pills and I'm on the mend.

I've been on light duty workout-wise. 45 minutes on the trainer here and there has been enough to leave me drenched, so I've been adding more resistance work. Got a long ride in (Kings Valley) yesterday, not really fast but that's okay.

Slowing down a little wasn't all bad. Once my sense of taste returned, I tossed out all of the bad coffee and got some Cafe Mam Tango Blend. I decided that a really good cup of coffee, some good blues, and a Sensational York Peppermint Patty brownie (made a batch for the office Christmas party) constituted a Wellness Activity after a long, slow ride.

Bottom line - being sick sucks. Being well sure is better. Hopefully I've kicked this infection 100% the first time - but if not, I'll be much quicker to get it looked at again. And I guess it's better getting sick NOW than in April or May.

Suddenly, I've got a pretty compressed timeframe to get ready for Sebring, but I'm still feeling confident. I've got a lot of base behind me and I've proven that I know how to train to a peak performance.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Belated Thanksgiving Thoughts

I had a great ride on Thanksgiving! I did a loop from Eugene to Marcola to Crawfordsville to Harrisburg and back down Coburg Road to Eugene. Jt's a beautiful ride, the kind that I like best - not too flat, not too hilly, not really TRYING to be anything, just the road going where the road needs to go. I can see this loop being part of a great double century. (Watch this space, we don't have enough DCs here in Oregon and I'm on a mission!)

Sunshine for the most part, then a good soaking the last 15 minutes. I was actually grateful that the rain came when it did - gave me the feeling that I'd totally used up my day, as it were.

A four hour ride gives you just enough time to gather your thoughts. I've had a GREAT 2009, and I've got a lot to be thankful for. Working backward...

A dedicated group of friends and supporters who moved heaven and earth to get me to the Borrego Double Ordeal earlier this month. Logistics, financing, equipment loans, dogsitting - I just wouldn't have gotten this done without help. I had a great time, made new friends, and it put me in a great frame of mind for my RAAM training.

My mom successfully finishing treatment for lung cancer. She's currently cancer-free after surgery and chemotherapy.

A great new occasional training partner - John Caton. We get royal support from his wife Lena. I feel totally spoiled whenever I go out with them. I know it's making me faster. And faster is good.

A breakthrough race at Ring of Fire. This is where I mentally became a recumbent racer, not "a girl who rides recumbents sometimes...." I set a pretty high goal for myself, and I exceeded it, despite tough conditions. Expert-level crewing played a role; I was lucky to have Robert along.

An actual bike sponsor! Woo-and-hoo! I've also picked up Honey Stinger as a sponsor. I'll freely admit that I did it for the cherry-dark chocolate protein bars, but their gels rock, too.

A FINISH at RAO. Looking at the starters list, a lot of strong riders didn't figure out how to make a finish this year. I am very thankful that I did figure it out, did finish, and did requalify for RAAM.

The opportunity to chief Team RANS to their ground-breaking victory over all other 4-person teams. We had a great run, I learned a lot, and being there was a big motivator for me.

A great new job at Bike Friday. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that my favorite part of the day is the noon ride - what kid doesn't like recess? - but mainly I'm thankful to have landed in Eugene and that I'm starting to settle in.

A womens' overall, womens' recumbent, and overall recumbent record at the Lewis and Clark Ultra. Oh, yeah - this was my first 24-hour race on a recumbent. Won't someone else PLEASE show up next year??? I set the bar pretty low, not for lack of trying, though.

A (soggy) win at the Davis 24 - the competition included Leslie Horton, who competed in RAW, and Joan Grant, who was smart enough to ditch out after 12 hours...

I'm thankful for good times, good friends, good health, and all the things that we take for granted. Like running water (which I currently don't have; we have a busted water line...but unlike a billion or so people, I know I'll have it again in a day or so).

Have a great week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What I do

OK - This isn't the best title for this post. I don't make bikes. I sell bikes. But - every bike that we make at Bike Friday starts with a sale. We build 'em one at a time, after a (sometimes lengthy) process of consulting with the new bike owner and specifying every part that's to go on the bike.

This slide show documents the birth of one customer's Bike Friday New World Tourist, which she's named the "Other Trucker", because we matched its geometry to her current favorite touring bike - a Surly Long Haul Trucker.

Some customers are just more fun than others. Apologies if you're one of my current customers and you're reading this and I've NOT made a blog post about the birth of your bike - but Karen and Vinny (Karen's wrench in Vacaville, CA) were very involved in the process.

We likened the process to pregnancy, labor, and delivery of a new bundle of joy. I got frequent emails from Vinny reminding me that he was at home, boiling water, forceps at the ready, etc. I was sorely tempted to send candy cigars along with the bike!

That's all I've got for you - it's Friday (here at Bike Friday) and I'm feeling really good about making a customer happy with a shiny new bike (doesn't hurt that it's my favorite color - Candy Apple Red). I took pictures along the way - much to the amusement of the production staff.



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sharing The Road

Had a GREAT training ride last Saturday. Lena and John (and Moo) Caton invited me out to John's training ride. He was supposed to ride for 4 hours, and was looking for company. So I got a paced ride on beautiful, scenic Highway 126, with full support.

All I had to do was - keep up with John. Not an insignificant task, but I was really motivated. Moo barked EVERY time the support car came past. Lena says that he only barks for John, but I could tell he was starting to bark for me, too...

The weather was pretty nice - I'd hesitate to say "perfect" but it was really QUITE nice - almost 60, almost sunny, very little wind. Riding along the McKenzie was scenic, there weren't very many cars, and the kinder, gentler rollers were a nice change of pace from the Wolf Creek training loop (if you're ever in town, that's probably where I'll take you riding first...).

The two hours out was rolling upwards ever so slightly - I really pounded it out on the uphills (check out this picture of my big-ring climbing!):

I also got to show off my smiling skills - remember, smiling makes for faster racing! - for the camera. Lena took an amazing number of pictures, and an even more amazing number of them turned out well. I'd have to take a whole lot of pictures to come up with 143 winners. (How many? We may never know....)

I know I rode harder than I would've if I'd been riding on my own - it's easy to let yourself off the hook when you're not being pushed to ride steadily. I'm pretty sure that John felt like he pushed a little bit, too - makes for great training.

Afterward, we spent some time talking about this and that, trading stories and tips. John has some great motorcycle goggles that have prevented the dry eye syndrome that plagued Mark at Furnace Creek a few years back. We talked RAAM, RAW, and Texas Hill Country.

Add it all up, and it's clear that I've been riding by myself waaaaay too much. So - if I hit you up to ride with me sometime soon, don't be too surprised.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Blog Action Day - Climate Change and Cycling

Hi Gang -

Bloggers around the world are blogging about climate change today. To see more about what folks have to say on the topic, please visit here:

Cycling and (mitigating) climate change go together like (fair trade) coffee and (locally-sourced) scones. Or hands and gloves. Or pink and racing.
Bike commuting just makes sense! Exercise, base miles, save wear and tear on the car, and save the planet, one mile (or a few) at a time.

I've got to admit that sometimes I feel like an eco-slouch. RAAM certainly isn't about saving the planet! But in the long run, I'm hoping it more than balances out.

Here's a good way to keep track:

Have a great day! Lights - raingear - action!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blown Away

Sorry it took so long to post after Furnace Creek. We were...tired.
Here's the long - and the short - of it: Greg Olson, Oregon Sasquatch, finished the Furnace Creek 508. He was DFL. Not shabby - half of the field were DNF's. We arrived in Santa Clarita early Friday afternoon and sailed through h the inspection process. I got to meet/greet/hug about half of the race (it seemed). Good to see everybody!

Del was successfully inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday evening at the shortest Furnace Creek pre-race meeting in race history, and we got to the hotel in plenty of time to get rest. We didn't - we got an all-night party of Magic Mountain-goers rattling the walls instead - but we had great intentions.

The morning was a little crisp, but lovely, and punctuated by tailwinds. We were making great progress! Greg rode like a champ and took care of business. He was in 25th-30th place most of the race.

As it should be, the trip up Townes' Pass was difficult. The trip down to Furnace Creek started accumulating the winds that would be the undoing of many racers (and their crews). Between Furnace Creek and Asford Mills, the winds were horrific - steady 40MPH headwinds with significant gusts. Greg was making steady 5 mph progress through much of this stretch. We went several hours without seeing anyone. After Asford Mills, things calmed down, and the climb to Salsbury Pass (normally the bane of riders) was a huge, warm, sunny relief! We went back and forth with several solos and 2-person teams here, and everyone was in a great mood.

Clothing change and a nice breakfast in Shoshone, then on to Baker. "Light" headwinds punctuated the rest of the trip. We made decent time in this stretch and were calculating a finish around midnight to 2AM.

Del got Greg a milkshake in Baker, which perked him up quite a bit! So far, the nutrition plan had been a mix of Sustained Energy and HEED, with occasional gels, cup-o-noodles, and the omnipresent York Peppermint Patties. For the record, we also successfully tossed in a few Boost energy drinks, a couple of sandwiches, and the like....overall I thought that Greg ate barely enough (especially considering the hard work in the wind) but because he's diabetic I wasn't wanting to tinker too much. We were using about 50 mg of caffeine per hour in the latter parts of the race (Kelso on).

Despite everyone's best efforts, the wheels fell off 40 miles from the end. Greg had ridden extremely well to this point, but not without a cost: his left shoulder was weakened by the constant quartering winds, and his back had tightened up. Having to switch away from his favorite bike (the Trek Y Foil) did not help. He was noticeably crooked on the bike, and having troubles maintaining a straight line.

We took a quick break for downtime when he veered off the road and fell. He was pretty groggy - he'd been riding for 39 hours at this point - and we thought that a very quick power nap might help. He stayed down for about 10 minutes, then popped up wanting to ride.

The rest of the ride was very hard - the climb up Sheephole is not nice under good circumstances, and these were not good circumstances. By the time we were on the last stretch, Greg needed constant reminders to pedal. So as Del drove, I leaned out the car window and hollered "Pedal! Pedal!..." to keep him from coasting. It was a little disturbing to realize that the only thing keeping him pedalling was some deep, lizard-like reflex that heard my voice and reacted to it.

But - we made it. We got passed about a mile before the finish - actually a relief because it made it easier to show Greg the way in. His wife was waiting for us - she'd been waiting for some time, of course, and was worried, but was being a very good sport about it.

I was SO proud of Greg! He never considered quitting, never did less than his best, never complained (though he did mention, once or twice, that his shoulder hurt...), and out-performed riders who are serious legends in ultracycling.

Here's my slide show! I didn't have much time to take pictures, as you see...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Once More Into the Furnace

Well, the season wasn't supposed to end this way - I was supposed to be crewing for Del and Greg as a 2-man team down in Death Valley this weekend. Unfortunately, Del had a pretty bad crash, and his shoulder is broken.

We had a tough few days waiting for the news - would he be able to go down at ALL to accept his accolades? He's being inducted into the Furnace Creek Hall of Fame - the hard way - 5 solo efforts, no DNF's - AND a Death Valley Cup to his name. In other words - tough as nails. Fortunately his orthopedist gave him clearance to travel (but not ride).

That leaves - Greg. A pretty tough guy in his own right. So - we're switching gears, going to get him a solo finish. His totem is Oregon Sasquatch. Be looking for us out there. We'll be looking for you.

I always look forward to the 508 - it's usually the last stop on my annual tour (Davis 24, RAO, Furnace Creek). If I've not run into you at one of these events - do come next year.

I positively enjoy crewing! Hey - I got royally crewed at not one but FOUR events this year: Davis, Lewis and Clark, RAO, and Ring of Fire. Payback is sweet! Problem-solving, getting into your racer's head, staying ahead of time, weather, and terrain - a worthy challenge.

This will be my last weekend off of serious training for a while; The Season starts in earnest as soon as I get back. I've been kinda-sorta loafing since the Ring of Fire - bike commuting, a couple of unstructured fitness rides a week, and the occasional trip to the gym...the last being heavily slanted toward sinking into the sauna.

Now it's time to turn my attention toward structured workouts, strength training, intervals, and the like. Nineteen weeks to Sebring. Which is sixteen weeks before RAAM. When you break it down, the time goes FAST.

And - if you're going to be racing down in the Furnace, and you think it will make you ride faster, I *will* show you my tattoo. Probably. Mention you saw it on my blog...

Ciao bella,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Better than perfect?

Great day at the races! So many of my fellow racers had bad days - heat exhaustion, cramping, vomiting, worse - that it's almost embarrassing to admit that I had a PR on the course. By...quite a bit.

In 100 degree heat.
On a recumbent.
With something like 14k' of climbing.

My race support was excellent - I was well fed, well hydrated, and my core temperature never got close to redline. Thanks Robert (and Zoe and Cog - my all-star canine cheering squad - they were the GOOD dogs who didn't run away...unlike our pal Harlem, who made the Great Escape from the Team 2LiveCrew support vehicle).

I felt good from the get-go - I am SO glad that we pre-rode the course two weeks ago; it made a huge difference in my confidence level. I passed my 1:00 before the top of the climb at mile 3 - upright guy, full-on TT bike.

We kept it simple: I rode the bike, Robert did everything else. He didn't totally discourage me from thinking - if I had an idea, he would listen - but he did make it clear that I hadn't been hired for my brains, at least not that day.

The ride went on without incident; there were definitely times I wished for a bigger gear. We put an 11-28 cassette on the bike that morning, replacing the 12-26 that was there. Dumb move, Earl! For reasons we didn't have time to explore, I couldn't hold the 11T cog. So I had a 12-28. Still not a bad upgrade; I made AMPLE use of the 28.

One cramping moment of any consequence - on one of the steeper bits of FR44, just as the temperatures were starting to soar. We ramped the electrolytes a bit (actually just accelerated the next scheduled dose), upped the water, and went into core-temperature relief mode...much ice dumped in the jersey. I discovered one MORE benefit of riding a 'bent - you can dump ice down your shirt, have it totally exposed to moving air, and you don't have to worry so much if your shorts get wet - you're not likely to chafe as you would be on an upright.

Spent much of the descent into Dufur (OK, Robert, there's the Hunter S Thompson title for you: Descent Into Dufur....) totally spun out. Bummer - that's always been a working descent on the upright, and I've always had a blast pushing, pushing, pushing. I guess that coasting, coasting, coasting is okay, especially if you're catching racers.

The climb on Dufur Gap was okay! It was my undoing last year (on the upright!). After that, it was party time again, down Hwy 197 at breakneck speeds (disclaimer: no actual necks were broken in the setting of this course record, not to let the cat out of the bag...) and around to Hwy 216 (freshly chip-sealed, thanks). We saw Linda Bott quite a bit about then - it was fun and motivating to race her through this stretch.

Robert had been giving me periodic time/speed updates; I'd always been close to my goal, but, say, 1 or 2 miles short (55 miles at 4 hours instead of 56, for instance). Now he asked me, "Tell me again how many miles you want?" "ONE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT!" "OK, how many MORE do you want?" Oh - my. This was the first time I'd gotten that news - that I might actually be gaining on my goal pace. So I refocused yet again on best-pacing.

We finished the day loop in 8:01 - essentially 14.0 mph - so all I had to do to keep on track for 168 was to finish 2 short loops, then do two "bonus" miles before time expired. Naturally, those two miles would be straight up, so the more time I could give myself, the better.

We did a sub 1:00 pit, me picking up two bottles of fluids, a couple hundred calories of solids, and as much cold water as Robert could dump on me in :30. I was bone-dry by the top of the climb, but it had done its job: I wasn't cooked, and I got to cool off a little on the descent.

Somewhere around the 12-mile point on my first loop, I saw...Chris ("Tater.") Heron - Team Huffin Herons (brother and sister Chris and Carly Heron) were two members of my support crew from RAO. Their mom and dad were out on the course cheering. Jan had been my support person for my very first ultra race. Full circle! Woo-hoo!. Chris didn't take to being caught, especially by me, so when I hollered, "TATER!", he looked back and took off. I caught him in the flat section along River Road - we were both flying; I was just flying...faster.

Came in on the first loop in 1:45 - woo-hoo! An even shorter pit this time - Adrienne was along for the ride - 2LiveCrew was out on their first night loop, too, so she dumped water while Robert did ice, bottles, and food. Took on a Monster Energy shot - 200mg caffeine - did the trick.

Second lap: 1:46 - I had :33 left to get as far as I could. I made 5 miles. I tried SO hard to get something more going on those steepest two miles - just couldn't get myself to go above steady-state. Decided not to push it. Got to 3: 9 minutes left. From 3 to 4 - barely climbing...4 minutes left. To 5 - almost a minute on the clock, but I was NOT going to get to 6. So I sat there and watched time expire, just took it in.

And then I headed down. No particular rush. Literally rode into the sunset. Shower, burger, root beer float, join the night shift to support the 24-hour racers. A day well spent.

I'd figured if everything went perfectly, I'd do 168 miles, beating the womens' course record of 130 by enough to be respectable. I did 171. "Better than perfect" is a great way to end the season.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ring of Fire! Ring of Fire!

Well - here goes! Best wishes to ALL competitors this weekend - be it Ring of Fire or Hoodoo or something else. I've been hearing a lot of chatter about ROF this year - a lot of new folks - and a lot of folks who are challenging themselves to go further or faster than they've gone before. Hopefully just the right amount of pressure to keep everyone on their toes and at their best!

Folks I'm looking forward to seeing - gosh, EVERYONE! - but especially some folks who are traveling quite a ways to get here and race for their first time - Lew, Chris, and Brian.

Brian already stopped by Bike Friday on his way up to Eugene. He's looking great - the summer of training has put him in a really good place, I'd say! - and he seems relaxed and ready. He's doing a 2-person team with Mark B., who's done more crazy things already this summer than one can count - and that's just the ones I know about.

Everyone else, I'll see tomorrow - unless I get to Maupin after you're in bed, which will be the case if you're smart (hint!).

I'm feeling pretty calm. I know that I've got a big job to do - 168 miles is going to be a tough one, but I'm putting that number up on the wall and shooting at or above it. I'm looking at this race as a good indicator of how far I've come on a racing recumbent since Lewis and Clark, waaaaaaay back in May, and how far I have to go to get ready for RAAM, a mere 9 months from now (aaaack!)

I've talked to some folks who are way more nervous than I am - but in some ways probably far better prepared. Chalk it up to experience? Or maybe the Race Across Oregon endorphins haven't quite faded, yet? Or maybe because it's "just" a 12-hour race I'm not as mentally daunted...but on the other hand most of my problems in RAO came in the first 12 hours. Suffice it to say that Robert will have his hands full, crewing.

The weather looks good - as close to perfect as one could imagine. We might even get a mile or two of tailwind!

After my 12 hours is up, look for me at the start/finish. I'll be the tired-looking woman handing out York Peppermint Patties...and quite possibly sipping sake (but you can't have any of that 'till you're done racing).

In the end, Ring of fire is a "sink or swim" race - hopefully no one ends up as shark bait:

Here's to a safe passage through the Ring of Fire.....


Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Bike Commute ROCKS

I've been meaning to brag about this for some time. Simply put - my bike commute is cooler than YOUR bike commute. Sorry - but it is. I get to ride about 10 miles (perfect distance when I'm in a hurry, and I can easily make it longer if I want) through some great rural side roads, then along a bike path that goes through one of the largest urban wetlands in the US.

The other day an OTTER was hanging out in the slough, where the herons and turtles all play.
Not a shabby way to start (or end!) a busy workday at Bike Friday.

Since the BTA's Bicycle Commuter Challenge is going on this month, I just thought it was important to let you know.

My Commute

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Maupin ho!

I conquered Maupin this weekend. I've been trying to contain the "bents cant climb" hysteria. Really, truly, last weekend's ride SHOULD have been plenty for me to go with on this - but I decided that I had to see for myself that I'd not be facing the Worst Case Scenario of recumbent self-pity - a cold start from a dead stop, heading up a steep hill that gets quite a bit steeper just before you get out of sight of the start line - and having to get off and walk the last 50 feet of it.

Long story short, I made it around the Maupin loop TWICE without even remotely approaching the Walk of Shame. The town was buzzin' with the rafting crowd, big buses and vans pulling trailers, etc - good reminder that these folks will also be out during the latter part of the race.

The weather was pleasantly hot (ok, it was hot) - another good reason for a race simulation - so I was able to make good use of the new race bag on my bike - it holds the water bottles where they're easy to get to.

Climbing speed was adequate. Not quite as fast as the Fuji, but overall I'd say not enough slower that repeated bike changes would work out as an advantage, at least over the distances I was climbing last weekend.

For those who must know - i.e. anyone who's signed up for Ring of Fire, you'll be gratified to know that we'll not have to suffer the indignity of a Race Across Oregon event without the benefit of fresh chipseal. Highway 216 (at least the eastbound portion) has all been freshly "sealed" - so no worries about excessive speed (okay, maybe in the corner before the guardrail...) - the road surface will absorb all that energy for you.

My out-there goal is 168 miles in 12 hours. That's a day loop, 2 short loops, and 4 "bonus" miles. That would be 14 mph, and about 13000' of climbing. Energy output estimate: 7200 kcal, or 600 kcal/hour. That compares to roughly 550 kcal/hour output during the 47:43 effort at Race Across Oregon this year.

The difference? I'll be ALL BENT, which is more efficient on level or downhill grades, so I'll not expend as many kcal/mile. And there ARE some level and downhill grades in Ring of Fire. Hopefully not all of them will have wicked headwinds - though I noted with amusement that during my trial I was riding into the wind for 20 of the 26 miles on the loop.

Publish Post

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This weekend, I got over the "recumbent climbing thing". I may not be quite as fast as I am on the upright - yet - but it's not bad. I survived 50 miles in the West Hills with Dr. Chris "The Face Of Death is Pink" Young - we climbed everything that presented itself. He'd advertised it as a 1/10th-scale Race Across Oregon - 50 miles, 4600' of climb. It bore a certain resemblance - I never once got to an intersection and had to question which way we were turning - it was the way that went...up. Thanks, Chris!

Sunday, I went to Hood River and faced down the RAO finish line - rode from Hood River up to Parkdale, then up to Cooper Spur and up Cloudcap road to the RAO finish. Crept around the "Road Closed" sign, kept going. The pavement was even more broken and weird than I remembered it - and I remember the last few hours of RAO as being plenty broken and weird.

When I got there, I just kinda stopped. Looked around. Nothing to see here, really, but it was quiet and I stayed a minute or two anyway. Got chilled, a little, coming down. Had dinner at the Elliot Glacier Public House - a burrito, a glass of stout, and a half a piece of really good apple pie.

This weekend I'll head out to Maupin and double-check my gearing against a couple of the bigger hills in the Ring of Fire timetrial. With a finish at the 12-hour there, I'll be the first woman to complete the Northwest UltraCup - an official finish at all four local ultracycling events in the same year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Yes, I did it. I clicked the big mouse, sent the big bucks to RAAM.

So. I'm in. I show up on the website and everything, so it must be real, right? I remember the very first qualifier I did - Furnace Creek - I started telling people in, like, November that I was going to do it. It's in October. That's a lot of time spent explaining..."it's a five hundred mile bike race. In Death Valley. Without stopping. Except I'll get off the bike to pee..." - but every time I did, I got a positive vibe, even if it was a "gosh, you're some kind of nuts!" positive vibe.

It's a good reminder. We all have stories to tell. Tell the people around you, tell the people you WISH were around you (like my folks, who are finally too far away now that I'm grown up enough to figure that out). Tell your story. Here's mine:

In June of 2010, I'm going to race RAAM. It's a 3000 mile bicycle race. It starts in Oceanside, California. It ends in Annapolis, Maryland. I'll race around the clock, without stopping. Except to pee. And to sleep, a little (but not very much). I'm going to ride a recumbent bike. No woman has finished on a recumbent before. I'll be almost 47 years old.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

It feels like its a million miles away, but it's really just 10 short months.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Race Across Oregon 2009

Race Across Oregon 2009

Sandy Earl

PROLOGUE: I’d say “words fail me” in describing this race, but then you’d have to be pretty dumb to keep reading. So – you’ll have to accept that this is the best that I can do, and that it’s going to be a whole lot drier and hollower than the real thing.

I had a pretty unusual training plan – a few long rides – 200k’s, a lot of threshold work at the gym, two(!) 24-hour races in the month of May, and then…essentially nothing! I spent a week or so recovering from the Lewis & Clark Ultra, then trained a bit before heading off to crew RAAM. This was the “taper” phase of my training. I actually think it worked!

By the time I got home from RAAM, my legs felt really fresh and ready to go. Perhaps TOO fresh – when a coworker invited me to do a tandem crit, I jumped on it, rationalizing that I “needed the speedwork”. What I did NOT need, sports fans, was a crash-landing one week before my “A” race for the year. But everyone told me that Peter was a great captain, and having ridden with him I was inclined to agree. And tandem crits are notoriously restrained affairs! So the only way we were going down was a catastrophic equipment failure – and what were the chances of that? Um… non-zero, it turns out….we blew a tire and down we went, shredding lycra, skin, and dignity.

Fortunately no one was seriously hurt. And somewhere along the skid path, it hit me that I had an important choice to make, before I got up: either I was going to let it affect my RAO, or I wasn’t. Eventually it became clear that even that was a non-choice – by making the positive decision that having a Giant Purple People Eater of a bruise on my thigh didn’t matter one whit for a 500 mile timetrial, I’d already let it affect me – but positively. Something pretty scary had already happened, and I was dealing with it by showing off my war wounds at the pre-race festivities. Someone commented that I almost seemed proud of it…I was, but I was also proud of ME for handling it. So thanks for the mojo, Peter – even though this is one mojo that I won’t seek out next time.

ARRIVAL! The big day finally arrived. RAO is the closest this Midwest girl will ever get to a full-on family reunion. (One year when my daughter was crewing for me, she actually copped an excuse at work of needing to go to “a family reunion in Eastern Oregon”. Her boss thought to ask which side of the family it was, and she neatly replied, “the Spandex side”…Nancy seriously kicks ass.) I pulled into the parking lot; I know the majority of the people there. Lots of hugs. Lots of showing off the Giant Purple Bruise (“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT????” “Um, I fell off my bike…”). Adrienne and I got going on the van preparation for inspection. Somehow, Zoey Lynn, Robert’s pup, chewed through the better part of a package of tortillas while we were preoccupied with CAUTION BIKES AHEAD signage. At least, she’s the one who got blamed.

The inspection process went smoothly. It should’ve – Adrienne spent all afternoon inspecting other vehicles, so she pretty much had the routine down.

Off to Carly’s house! Carly laid out an amazing feast for us, which we ate under the shade of a tree. The crew repacked the van – Adrienne’s official job was to scowl at the contents, the organization, etc – and make it good. She’s on it. Grippy mat? Carly grabbed some of her husband George’s stash – awesome! Now the electronics won’t slide around on the dashboard.

We got to bed later than I’d hoped, but earlier than I’d feared. We needed to be back at the start line by 4:30, and I wanted to get up early enough to grab a shower and actually digest my breakfast…a 3:30 wakeup call seemed cruel, but – necessary.

START LINE: We arrived around 4:15 – plenty of time for me to hit the bathroom while the crew made up a couple of bottles and double-checked the bikes. I chanced a quick look in the mirror and saw – a happy person, relaxed, ready, sure. Made me smile, then grin, then – sorry – holler out loud: YESSS!!! Fired up – just a little, not too much to handle – perfect.

The start line was the usual crush of crew, fans, and supporters madly taking pictures of racers lined up for battle. My crew knows me, and my particular superstition: pre-race pictures are for folks who may or may not be taking pictures at the finish line. They don’t take pictures – good! While we’re lined up, I got to hear the one piece of race strategy that actually helps me: Ken Philbrick explained to someone how much FASTER it is to race while smiling – so he makes a point to smile at EVERYBODY.

The last thought that I remember taking in before we went off – something I had just written in the last Team RANS Crewsletter: “We’re the luckiest people in the world”. Something to hang on to….and – hang on, we’re racing!

The first few miles were a neutral start up a fairly wicked climb. I’m not blown off the back. I remember absolutely DYING on this climb last year when we did the September pre-ride…I’d been absolutely blown from mile 2 on. This year was a different story. Funny how training helped.

At the end of the neutral start, a couple of the guys called for a pee break before we took off. OK, I’m in – we’re RACING, no sense in giving up any free time, so I found a convenient sign to sidle up to. Ladylike? Hey - I figure I saved a minute or two right there.

And then the climbing began in earnest. The fast racers got away right away. I felt like I was doing a pretty reasonable job, not blowing up, enjoying myself, staying in the flow. One of the other women passed me, then almost immediately pulled over – for a pee break. Hah! I’d pre-peed! So she had to catch me again, further up the road.

At Bennett Pass, I switched to the recumbent for the first time. Now, this wasn’t just any old recumbent – this was a high-zoot, carbon-infused, stiff, light, efficient highracer – a Carbent that was on loan to me from Dana Lieberman (thanks Dana!!!) I’d had…one… training ride on it. Of course I’d planned more, but the tandem accident had put a damper on things. Fortunately, I’m directionally challenged, and I got lost on the one training ride that I did get in, so it was a little longer than I’d planned. OK, here goes.

I absolutely flew down the hill to the turnoff to FR48. I’m sure I had the biggest happy kid in a candy store grin on my face. On the other side of the turnoff, I had a few good minutes, then…CRAMP ALERT! Turns out that my body was just spoiling for a fight at this point, and I’d given it something to crab about – a change of position to the ‘bent. So – back to the upright, and in the process of the ensuing bike switch I gave back every advantage that I’d earned.

That’s how it continued most of the first day – I’d get some time in on the ‘bent, enjoy the fun of being on it, the speed, and the change of position – but pay for it with cramps for the first 5-10 minutes of the ride. Then I’d have the same experience going back to the upright – a few minutes of cramps while I adjusted to the new position.

All through this time, I’m sure my crew was alarmed, but it honestly didn’t bother me very much. I’ve been through this cycle before, and I knew that all I had to do was to keep moving, and make it to the night. I ALWAYS rock the night.

Somewhere on the way to Grass Valley I learned one of the corollaries to Philbrick’s “smiling is faster” theory: It’s hard to smile when you’re cramping, but it’s even harder to cramp when you’re smiling. I was amazed to learn that I could literally smile my way out of a cramp. More water helped, too – but smiling literally put me back in control of the process. We’re the luckiest people in the world….

On the monster climb out of Sherars’ Bridge, I got caught by Jeff Bonk. Much has been made of his name – how cool/uncool is that, to be a cyclist named “Bonk”? Personally, I figured it was a stage name – I can think of other lines of work where a guy named “Bonk” could make his mark. Fun guy – we rode together for a minute or two, just long enough to make introductions. He asked me how many of the folks ahead of us I thought would DNF – a third, maybe? It struck me that, like me, he wasn’t at all concerned about finishing – DNF was to do with “them”, not him – and apparently not me, either. Not arrogant, just – sure. Good. He “bonked” his way up the road, zig-zagging his way up the road on the climb, trading extra distance for a shallower grade, and making it look easy. We’re the luckiest people in the world….

Grass Valley, Moro…a blur. Crew stopped for gas and groceries in Moro. I caught Bryan Martin somewhere in there, for like the bazillionth time – we traded spots a lot, to the point where he joked that he was going to have some explaining to do to his wife. Looked like he might have had some cramping going on, too.

On toward Condon. I started calculating when the first teams would be coming through…seemed plausible that they’d be at least 50% faster than I was, and with the 4-hour headstart, I figured, 4PM? Koenig’s Kronies came through quite a bit before that, then the Grundel Bruisers, who gave me a great shout out as they hauled through (thanks, Brian!!)

Not far from Condon, the recupright team came through. Ah – I’d been waiting for this! Turnabout is definitely fair play, and in a great display of sportsmanship, all of the available racers and crew gave me an Adrienne-style flash! Woo-hoo! Yes, I would ride faster if you…true motivation only comes from within, but sometimes knowing that someone is out there to make you smile really helps, at least in the moment. So far by way of “motivation” I’d collected an impressive display of shirtless men, some fairly energetic kilt-hiking from Chris, some kilt-inching from a more conservative Ian…and the Bent Johnsons were still out there. Clearly they’d have to come up with something pretty impressive to keep pace. But with a name like Johnson, you know it’s got to be good. I could stand to wait. We’re the luckiest people in the world….

I got my last real set of cramps coming out of Condon, then things eased a bit as the temperature dropped. By the time we got to Heppner, it was dark. We knew that there were several quick turns in town, but got briefly confused. Fortunately, a local citizen was there pointing the way. Woo-hoo! Gravel! Everyone asks me when I’m going to start racing cyclocross, guess I’d best get at it. Then we were climbing out of town. I traded places a couple times with Mike Maughan. We ran into Alex, having stomach problems, not a great race for him – I’m bummed out – he was the other recupright entry, and I really wanted to see him rock this course.

Off into the night – climb, descend, climb, descend. Since it’s night rules, the crew can’t go ahead to set up a bike switch, so we’re only switching bikes when there are long enough stretches that it speeds us up overall – this means I’m on the upright to the top of Battle Mountain. Somewhere in here, I started having saddle issues, so I really wished I could be on the ‘bent. I was riding the Selle Anatomica saddle, and the leather kind of stretched out. I suspect that a very long, wet Davis 24 did it in…Adrienne snugged it up as soon as it was clear that it was a problem, but the rot had set in. Grrr. Doesn’t matter, keep climbing.

Battle Mountain is a fairly long, but not that steep, climb. I got up it without any serious issues, other than vexing my crew by not eating quite enough. (Note Recurring Theme: Sandy Doesn’t Eat Much Whilst Climbing.) Nearing the top, we passed John Pearch’s crew, off to the side of the road, taking a quick nap. At the top, I was going to have a nice, long stretch on the Carbent heading down to Dale. Woo-hoo! It was the wee hours. Within 100 yards of getting on the bent, I grabbed a handful of brake – and barely missed a spotty little fawn straddling the centerline. I really hoped she’d head off to the right, to be with her sibling(?) on the shoulder – and she did. NOW we could begin descending in earnest – I shouldn’t run into more deer, right? Actually, I didn’t.

We pulled into Dale with daybreak. John Henry Maurice, who was officiating there with his wife Joanne, clocked me with 8 minutes off-bike time – long by my standards, but there were flush toilets, so I invested. We left just behind Joan Grant, who’d gotten in front of me when I had my cramping issues Saturday. Now she was having back issues….ouch.

The sun was coming up, the temperature seemed to be staying down, and I felt pretty danged good. We’re the luckiest people in the world….

And hey – here come the Bent Johnsons! Adrienne got a hug from their crew chief (husband Robert) And – as I had figured, they had indeed saved the best for last – a full Monty moment. These guys are (ahem) nuts! Then they’re off up the road, and I’m back to climbing.

On to Long Creek. According to the route book, there’s nothing in Long Creek. We lucked out, because my slow eating was slowly catching up to me. My crew spotted a café – it had opened the day before. They scored Pepsi and – miracle of miracles – scrambled eggs. Woo-hoo!

John Pearch came past as I was climbing toward Monument. I guess the nap energized him! Fuzzy was crewing for him, and he refilled my water bottle while Carly, Chris, and Adrienne were making the café run. That’s what makes ultracycling the coolest sport in the world – help is offered, no questions asked. Safety and sportsmanship first. We’re the luckiest people in the world….

About the time my crew showed up with the scrambled egg delivery (nectar of the gods!), we passed Joan Grant. Her back was killing her, and she was pretty discouraged. Somehow I conned her into keeping going until Maupin – I promised her that she’d know, for sure, what to do when she got there. She’d never DNF’d an event before, and she was clearly looking at the prospect and not liking it much. Carly knew a great stretch for her back. Joan’s crew came up on her to find her lying on the pavement, with Carly and Adrienne contorting her…they were a little concerned, to say the least!

Back to the ‘bent – time to kick it down from the top of the Monument climb through Kimberly and Spray, to Service Creek, where I got back on the upright to work the hill coming into Fossil. By this time it’s become downright apparent that headwinds are going to be the order of the day. The ‘bent helped. The ‘bent MORE than helped. Powering over rollers was on it was downright therapeudic – reminded me that I COULD put out a fair bit of power for climbing when I needed to. I needed that reminder later, as it turned out.

In Spray we were able to get some intel on racer position. It was clear that I’d qualify so long as I finished. It was also becoming clear that I would have to stay focused to make sure that I hit the 48:00 time cutoff, given the winds. Good information, I thought; good information. I still knew that I’d be finishing. No question – just have to keep on top of it, keep figuring out new ways to make it happen. We passed several racers who were taking their time in Spray. I rolled through; the crew got gas and groceries – including a much-appreciated popsicle.

Between Service Creek and Fossil, here he comes – the Bonk! He’d taken some downtime in Spray, looked good. Was climbing a little faster than I was, descending a little slower. His crew was a little zoned out at this point, taking naps – Adrienne gave him some watermelon and some encouragement. He was riding well, within himself, sticking to the plan.

I rocked the Carbent down into Fossil, stayed on and made time until we got to the climb out. This is one climb that looks a lot worse than it is – really. But only because it looks absolutely horrific.

Coming down the other side to the John Day was nice. Then – back to climbing – the Clarno grade…one of the more relentless hills on this course. Fortunately the temperatures were moderating. Unfortunately, they were moderating because of the incoming thunderstorm. I was starting to have trouble controlling the bike going uphill, with the swirling winds.

With the winds, I started losing motivation to eat – it seemed more pressing to keep my hands on the bars and not fall over. This is the point where Chris took over as feeder – a stroke of crewing genius! He put food out the van window, and presented it as 100% non-negotiable: “Tater. Take it.” OK, OK. Meanwhile, Carly was doing a full-court press on bananas. She asked me several times if I’d like a banana, and I kept saying no…but she was determined. Bananas kept showing up, thinly disguised. My drinks started taking on a “smoothie” consistency. The smashed-banana-and-Nutella “pudding” almost did me in, it was so good! Then the crew discovered that the tortillas made excellent Frisbees! I’d given up on them early on – the dry air made them unpalatable almost from the second they came out of the package. Seeing them tossed to the winds makes me smile.

At one point, as I neared the top of the Clarno grade, I was climbing right into the wind. Thunder and lightning crackled in the background. And it was beginning to rain. And it hits me like a ton of bricks – everything was there – Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water - all the forces of nature working against me. Why? Why would the whole earth conspire to keep me from finishing this race?

I don’t know what happened then, but it wasn’t far short of magic. I went from puzzled and upset to calm and reassured – weather is just weather, hills are just hills, and I was going to finish this race, and to do it, I was going to have to climb better and harder than I’d ever done so late into a long race. OK. I informed the crew that I’d be having a chocolate mint GU – and AC/DC for music until I got to the top. Time to get serious! We’re the luckiest people in the world.

Getting to the top of the Clarno grade felt like a victory – back to the Carbent for the trip down. We switched just on the far side of Antelope, and I climbed on the upright into Shaniko. By now it was getting close to evening, and the crew was hauling out the chicken soup. I could see someone not far ahead of me. I had an inkling that it was Larry Kluck, and it was, but we wouldn’t be sure of that until Maupin.

Again, the Shaniko climb was one that looked much worse than it rode. I had such fond memories of going the other direction in RAO’s past, and somehow I’d allowed it to grow in my head to be one of the pivotal climbs in the race. But – overall, a non-event. Just a climb with a bunch of switchbacks. Go figure.

I waited a bit too long to get back onto the Carbent after the Shaniko climb. For some reason I thought I should wait until the Bakeoven “summit” to switch. By this time the winds were screaming, and I really could’ve used the ‘bent. I was crawling along the highway on the upright, struggling to stay on the bike and eat a bit of chicken soup at the same time. Mercifully, Adrienne pulled the plug on that and got me onto the bent.

The trip “down” Bakeoven took a solid 2 hours for the 24-mile descent. AUGH! Back in April, I’d been able to do the round-trip – ascent AND descent – in under 3 hours. There would be no making up time here, either. Suck it up, Sandy – the next climb will have to go a little faster. We’re the luckiest people in the world.

When we got to Maupin, Larry was still there, just getting ready to pull out. I left just a little before him, made him catch me. Good to have other folks out there.

We looked at the climbing and descending between Maupin and the finish. It’s not clear that I’ll make enough time to make switching to the ‘bent useful – the crew has to direct follow again, so we have to be stopped for at least a minute every time we change bikes. So I’ll be doing the rest on the Fuji, raw crotch and all. OK.

Got to the top of the first climb and had a nice descent down into Tygh Valley before starting the longish climb up to Tygh Ridge Summit. Not eating or drinking enough, crew is frustrated. More GU. More York Peppermint Patties.

The descent off of Tygh Ridge Summit was scary. This was the first time I felt like I wasn’t all there. I was able to concentrate on the road, and keep my eyes open, and feel safe riding – but I didn’t know where I was. Totally disoriented. I was terrified that I’d missed a turn, and eventually pulled off to the side of the road. The LEFT side, just so we’re clear on this. Not a great maneuver, but it does get your crew’s attention. More caffeine. MORE AC/DC. I’m not a metalhead in real life – maybe that’s why it was working so well for me. Hell’s Bells…we’re the luckiest people in the world.

Finally – FR44. For some weird reason I was looking forward to this. Maybe it’s because we were finally back in the trees. The first part of the climb is pretty shallow, and I was rocking right along. Traded back and forth a couple more times with Larry. He’d pass me when I was peeing, and vice versa. Thing is, it’s a lot longer than it looks on paper, and it was really hard for my increasingly-sleepy crew to get a good fix on just how far it was going to be to the summit – so all I could do was climb, get to Cooper Spur.

At some point in here, Adrienne said over the PA, rather calmly, that I had to stop for a driver swap. I didn’t protest. The ONLY reason Adrienne would give up any time now is because we’ll die otherwise. Turns out she was seeing aliens in my bike helmet. She’d actually been seeing them for some time, but now they were animated, and it was disturbing. Best to switch drivers.

20 miles to go, and 2:25 left. OK. How far to climb? Can’t tell. Keep at it. Not eating enough any more, and not caring. If I ate enough to sustain the effort that I’m putting out, I’d divert too much blood flow for digestion, and I’d have to slow down. If I slowed down, I’d not make it. I’m going to end the race in a huge hole. So be it.

Somewhat over halfway up the climb, after Adrienne had lost her battle with the aliens, and I was subsisting on half a York Peppermint Pattie every few minutes - just when I thought my life couldn’t get any stranger, it did. I saw this weird pattern of light behind me – bobbing and weaving. Then it hit me – BONK IS BACK! Woo-hoo! He was doing his special switchback dance up FR44, slowly reeling me in. Eventually he caught and passed me. Now I had two guys up there to chase. I never let them get totally out of my sights the rest of the way up. We’re the luckiest people in the world.

Ian – from Alex’s crew – spotted us on his way down the mountain, heading home, and cheered us all on – thanks!!!

WHEN WILL THIS HILL END? It had been so long. It just didn’t seem reasonable. But all hills end, and I could tell that I was getting close to the descent – how? Because the headwinds were picking up, that’s how! Finally – twelve miles left, you’re at the top of FR44. Reluctantly I tossed on some tights (good plan!) and down we went. Once again – almost immediately I started to lose my bearings. I couldn’t tell where I was, how long I had left to descend, anything. Adrienne had to use the PA to talk me down the hill – just kept saying over and over – you’re on FR44, in 0.7 miles you’re going to turn onto HWY 35, it will be a right turn, you’ll keep descending….you’re on FR44, you’re descending, you’re in a bicycle race…in 0.4 miles…this was exactly what I needed.

I reached Cooper Spur Road with 47 minutes on the clock. The crew was a little confused about the finish line – they momentarily forgot that we were going to the ski area, not the resort. I just kept climbing. Adrienne put Gloria Estevan on an infinite loop – Tu Es Conga, from the time we hit Cooper Spur to the finish line. The last time we’d had that for finishing music was 2007, when I was on a 2-woman team with Patti Jo Struve. Then, I was having trouble keeping my emotions in check all the way up the road to Timberline. This time – much better. My legs were on fire, and I was focused but not too emotional. Until. I. Saw. The. Finish. Line. To say that I “lost it” is a pale description. “Found it” might be closer. Either way, George’s description at the banquet of a “three-hanky finish” was dead-on.

EPILOGUE: It’s been almost two weeks. My body is recovering. The bruise was almost invisible after the race – perhaps all it needed was a little circulation to clear things out! My legs are suddenly asking for more miles after work than just the 10-mile commute.

My mind? It may never recover. I hope not. To want something badly enough that you suspend every doubt, think your way around or over or through every obstacle, and give yourself permission to do more than you know you can do – to want something that badly, and then to earn it, take it, make it yours - life changing.

To my crew – you rock! You managed to make SO much happen for me. You cooked potatoes on the car manifold. You were passionate and careful and smart, and stayed (just) rested (enough), focused, and in the game the whole way. You never gave up on me when time was getting short and it looked dicey. You solved problems - well. You brought better music than I had. You gave me your time, your effort, your heart and soul and something maybe a bit more than that.

To Team RANS – thanks for granting me the opportunity to work with you. It made a difference. Sometimes sharing our words with others is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to actually, literally, be as good as our words. I had the privilege of living up to mine for 47 hours and 43 minutes.

We’re the luckiest people in the world. End of story.

Triple Threat!!!!

OK, I probably could've come up with a MUCH more exciting title for this post - but it wouldn't be fair to the gentlemen involved.

I raced a triple tandem this weekend. The cast of characters was: Peter "Krash" Kaspar - the guy who (almost) never falls off his bike, me, and Mark "Berzerkski" Biedrzycki.

Peter built the machine - designed it, welded it, painted it - the works. It's gorgeous. It's made for racing. Probably for racing on flat ground, but we'll let that go....

Mark had never been on a multiseat bike before. Ever. My words of wisdom?

  • Bring your own pedals.
  • Ride like hell.
  • NO BODY ENGLISH (hardest of all for a harcore motorcycle guy).
I figured that was enough. No sense scaring the guy, right?

We warmed up on the bike - I rode to the course, Peter rode the bike to the start (mainly by himself, but we had enough empathy to go help him over Bailey Hill - the bike weighs about 50 pounds...). In warmups, Mark was audibly uncomfortable in the turns, especially at low speeds. Riding the back of a tandem is definitely an exercise in letting go. Mark gave himself a pretty steep learning curve.

And we're off! They even did a held start. Fortunately they'd brought a pretty big guy to do the honors - but looking at the pictures it's clear that he was glad to see us off.

It was a tough course full of rolling hills. We never got out of the big chainring. The 62-tooth chainring. It's that kind of a bike.

I was stuck in the middle between two gearheads. Peter would call out speed numbers. From my experience with Peter, I knew that hearing "TWENTY ONE!" means - "...and we need to pick up the pace back there!"

Then I'd hear even MORE helpful numbers from the rear "ONE SIXTY SIX!" - which was Mark's current heart rate; for comparison's sake, he'd told us that he was planning to do 163. To give him something in the middle of my back to look at (thus lowering his Body English coefficient), we installed his HRM on my helmet.

And so it went..."TWENTY ONE!...TWENTY TWO!...TWENTY...FOUR"...."ONE SEVENTY THREE!!!"...

My sole verbal contribution? "Um, guys, I'm about to CRAMP...". 26.5 miles into a 27 mile course. Not quite as much recovery from Race Across Oregon as I'd have hoped, coupled with a little more in the cadence department than I was used to...Rats! I clipped out for a minute to recover. It was gratifying to see that the bike slowed down, at least a little. I was able to get my feet back in for the finish, which I figure at least LOOKED a little smoother.

1:05:38....we were pretty pleased for a first effort. Peter thinks more tire pressure next time. More recovery for me, more experience working together - yep, an hour is definitely doable on this bike.

Final analysis - yes, everything you've heard is correct. Threesomes are a lot of fun.



Friday, August 7, 2009


I'm...committed. I'm racing in the solo division of the Race Across AMerica (RAAM) next year. The process I went through just in qualifying at Race Across Oregon cemented it.

I'm excited, nervous, excited. Happy.

I've got unfinished business - I DNF'd RAAM in 2002 and I owe it to myself to go back, find the edge, stare it down, and...finish.

I feel like I'm mentally ready - that's 90% of the battle. Maintaining and extending my fitness - that's other 10%. Oh - then there's organization...the other, OTHER 10%. Crew - the another 50%. Equipment - 20%. Luck - maybe 20%? - but I'm already the luckiest person in the world, so I've got that nailed.

So - to get my 100% readiness up to the 200% that appears to be necessary...

I'll need sponsors.
I'll need more crew.
I'll need bikes, supplies, and your good thoughts.

I'll be training - hard sometimes, less hard others, and doing a lot of cross-training to build strength and flexibility. Trying to train for RAAM while exercising "moderation" seems a little dissonant to the folks racking up mega-miles, but I'm convinced that it's the best way to do it.

More later. I've got stuff to do.