Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Race Report - 24 Hour World Championships

We had a very excellent trip to the Coachella Valley, where I raced the 2013 World Championship 24 Hour Timetrial. We had a lot of surprises (good and bad, as ever) along the way, and lived to tell this tale.

The race had a Friday evening start. We got to Thermal in good order, leaving just after work on Wednesday, and arriving just before dark on Thursday with a good load of groceries. We'd scoped out a pretty nice campground which was perfect for hanging out in The Red Pearl. Pearl had auspiciously turned over 100,000 miles on the Grapevine, which we duly noted and celebrated. She was running like a champ.

Dinner was chicken and salad and baguette under the stars, and we turned in early. After an incredibly good night's sleep, we woke up, showered, and started down the list. Bikes detailed - check. Lights – check. Car systems: heating, cooling, lights, music – check. Clothing, glasses, helmet, shoes – check, check, check, and check. When we ran out of thing to check, we headed up toward Mecca to get final supplies (ice, gas, pizza) and to kill a little time before the pre-race meeting. 

In the spirit of “killing time”, we stopped in at Brown's Date Garden – a cute little out-of-the-way place that's right on the race course. The sign at the road said that they were open 9-4. We rolled up a slightly dusty driveway and peeked in the screen door. People came out of the back, apparently quite surprised to see us – they were just getting the place ready as a retail storefront. What followed was a very thorough and gracious “tour” of the facility, followed by the opportunity to taste varietal dates. After we'd made our selection the proprietress asked us where we were from. We started in with our standard, “Oh, Arcata – it's a tiny town WAAAAY up north, almost Oregon, you've probably never heard of it...”. What ensued was a 20 minute reminisce on the “old days” - both she and her husband and Bill had been at HSU in the 1970's. Her husband had been on the football team, and do you remember getting “fog passes” at the drive-in, and did we know any Sundbergs? (Of course – Bill works for a company that deals with every contractor in the county...) Yes, sports fans – there is probably precisely ONE date grower in the Coachella Valley who's got a tie to Humboldt County, and that's where we landed. Go figure.
The lady in the back ("Little Donna") sold us our dates

Sign at road. Eat Local!
Dates Are Great!!

After the date incident, we made for Mecca to get gas, ice, pizza. Milano Pizza is a little off the beaten path – and not at all where Google Maps shows it - but reasonable and actually quite good. A lot of the offerings had jalapenos on them, which I figured was NSFRF (Not Safe For Racing Fuel), so we stuck with the Hawaiian. By the time we managed gas, and ice, and a new pirate flag (impulse purchase!), it was almost 1PM, which was going to make us a little early for racer checkin at 2, so I would try to get a quick nap in....

Except. About a mile down the road, 10 miles from the checkin, the engine...stopped. As though it was out of gas. I got us semi-gracefully perched off the road. By the time I had my blinkers on, and Bill was reaching for the door handle, the first police officer had arrived. I'm guessing that being stranded and alone in the desert doesn't end well. We explained the situation, and Bill hitched a ride with some locals back to the gas station to start finding help. Within minutes, the second officer arrived. He offered to stay with me, which I figured was overkill. Then he headed back to the gas station to verify that Bill hadn't expired and was actually finding help, and came back to the spot of the foul to let me know that, indeed, against what must've appeared to the officer to be long odds, Bill had been able to make a couple of calls and help was on the way. Then he offered, again, to stay until Bill got back. I told him I would be fine.

I did the two things that I could think of to do mechanically: I checked the oil (it was fine) and the fuel pump relay (it looked fine, but who can tell, really?). That left me to bag up the slices of pizza and the mountain of dates (we bought a 12-pound box 'cause they were SO GOOD), drink three bottles of water, pee, and fuss. Just about the time I figured I might as well take a quick nap, Bill showed up, having gotten a ride from the Guths, who were headed for the start line as well. Not far behind him was the mechanic guy in his pickup truck. I did not get his name, but I'll call him Angel. That's what was tattooed on his right arm in what I swear were 8” tall letters, owing to the sheer size of the canvas. Angel mainly works on big rigs, but he's happy to moonlight. He has me crank the engine (nothing). Again (nothing). He makes a couple of noises, grabs some tools and a gas can. We explain that we just fueled. Like – JUST fueled. Undeterred, Angel detaches the air filter and hands it to Bill. Bill wants to do something – ANYTHING – useful, so he methodically whacks the filter to remove dust while Angel dumps gas into the engine. “Crank it!” (vrooom-vroom-sputter). He adds more gas. “Crank it!” (vroom-vroom-sputter). “OK”, he says. “It's your fuel pump.” He winks at me: “Mexican diagnostics, ma'am”.
Not actual arm. Not actual tattoo. Not actual size. Not even close.

Well, when the car initially sputtered to a stop, I figured that the worst case, literally, was a fuel pump. That would require a part, and it was Friday afternoon, and we're in the middle of nowhere, and the local cops already fear for our lives, and...well, you get the picture. This is where Angel grows his wings. After a long ten minutes of phone conversations with several different folks, Angel agreed to tow us to the race start. His tow truck was not going to work (remember, it's for big rigs, so it's too wide), so he attached a tow strap to the Astro and off we roll behind his pickup truck. By now it's a bit after 3:00, so we're right on schedule (I guess...)

Arriving at an ultradistance race with your crew vehicle towed to the start behind a pickup truck is certainly memorable - just not confidence-inspiring. Factor in the distance we'd traveled, the fact that this ended up being essentially my ONLY race this year, and that it was Worlds, and – well, I was inclined to feel sorry for myself. As we got closer to the start – at Oasis Elementary – I was amazed at the sheer number and variety of cars that were lining 74th street, and the buzz of traffic. Then I saw the orange semi truck marked “FOOD BANK” and the line of people snaking down the side of the school, and I remembered how lucky I am to have all of these problems. The actual race was going on around the corner. Angel towed us to a perfect parking spot and we parted ways. If you'd like to read a little bit about the people who live in the environment I was riding through, look here.

I stepped out of the van and into my “normal”. Packet pickup. Portapotties. Inspection. Old friends, people I know by reputation, others. Swapping stories. Didn't even bother having the van inspected as it wasn't going anywhere fast. Bill loaned our spare lights to a team who was struggling with theirs. We put together a drop bag that the race organizers would have ready for me 60 and 180 miles into the race. Having a drop bag isn't nearly as nice as having Bill right behind me with light and music and all the good things that a van can provide, but it will just have to do. It's not like I can't ride by myself, after all – though I do wonder casually what odds those policemen would lay on a middle-aged lady making it back alive, out by herself on a bike all night. Drop bag highlights were pizza, Boost (chocolate flavor), honey stinger chews, water bottles, and caffeine gum. In retrospect I should probably have put more stuff in the drop bag.

I decided that in the interests of time I would forgo clothing changes, which meant that what I wore would have to be pretty adaptable to temperatures from 50 to 80F. In the end I left every one of my lovingly-selected pink jerseys in the van, and went for the long-sleeved capilene T that I'd gotten at the Badwater 135. That and a pair of light capri leggings would have to do. I considered tossing a jacket in the drop bag, but abandoned that idea: the only time I would be tempted to pull the jacket on would be at the 180 mile mark, and by that time we would be just a couple hours from sunup. And why waste time over just a couple hours of being just a little cold? In theory I would be going fast enough to stay warm down to 50 degrees.

Being immersed in the start line hub-bub always makes me feel a lot better, but all this time, the huge, unavoidable fact of the dead fuel pump in the Astro kept rolling around in the back of my head. My math said that Bill might be able to actually speak with someone who might order the part Saturday morning, and it would take a full day to arrive from (wherever parts come from down here – LA?) After that, it would take a miracle to get someone to work on it on a Sunday, and we could take off Sunday night....if we were lucky. If not – gaaaah. I just started a new job a couple of weeks ago. My new coworkers are supportive of and slightly amused by my cycling excesses at this point, but if unforeseen circumstances stretch out my 5-day weekend any further, who knows?

I did my best to stay focused on matters at hand. Not knowing many of the people there, I semi-randomly picked three rabbits to chase. I figured that my BEST rabbit, was, appropriately, Mick Walsh, (Furnace Creek totem: Irish Hare). Mick had added just a drop of gasoline to my fire when he mentioned that it was weird to be at a race where a 400-mile day would be not-so-great. Hey– it is NEVER easy, or a given, to bag 400 in a day. Too many things can get screwed up. Like...a fuel pump. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks just how lucky we were that the fuel pump expired when it did. What if it had been, say, 80 miles into the race? Yuck.

Pre-race meeting, just as it's getting dark. One burning question for me was the Border Patrol checkpoint: what would happen there? When we'd pre-ridden the course in September (on our long and winding bike/van camping tour of California), I'd been stopped for a couple of minutes. Since I showed up without a drivers' license (oops – it was in the van!) I got to answer some extra, special questions, just to make sure that I wasn't trying to sneak into the US on a pink recumbent bike. Fred has warned the Border Patrol that we're coming, so in theory we should be waved through with only a minimal stop, but he's not guaranteeing anything – so we should definitely carry ID. Actually, I did get waved through both times without a holdup, which was nice.

6:05 – we're off! They did a wave start, and I was in the last wave. I try to remember my detailed notes about the road surface, and maybe I do, subliminally. There's a sliver of moon, which I know will disappear later at night. Knowing the surface really helps since I'm running a little less light than some folks, to preserve battery life – about 200 lumen. At that rate I'll go all night, no problem. Plus there is plenty of ambient light from the cars of my fellow racers – at times, too much. The scene at the major stoplight (where 66th crosses Highway 86) is pretty intense: racers and vehicles all over the road trying to get a jump on the light. Unencumbered by needing to stay with my vehicle, I sailed through that pretty well, and then had to pick my way through the field as folks were sorting themselves out on the other side.

After that, just a lot of smooth, flat racing until we reached Calipatria. Mainly there's a good shoulder and there are areas of excellent pavement. I pass the campground where we stayed last night. It seems to take forever to get to Niland, where the road turns a bit before the quick run into Calipatria. I move over for the occasional passing vehicle, including, to my self-amusement, the trains. I'm pretty sure I didn't HAVE to move over for the trains – if I did, someone was having a way worse day than I was – but it was just ingrained. Every so often I pass someone, who may or may not pass me back as they gain steam after a pit stop. In the dark it's surprisingly hard to tell who's who, but I figure loosely that I'm in the upper middle third of the race – not bad. We can get some hard data at the end of the lap.

When I get to the clock tower in Calipatria, Fred himself is staffing the drop bag site. I did a quick forage – swapped a water bottle, snagged a Boost and a bag of chewies, and shoved off. Need to make this a quick stop because I have a matter of importance to deal with down the road....

There is an actual Highway Rest Area on 111 between Calipatria and the turnoff at Rutherford Road, but it is on the wrong side of the street, so we're not going there. Rutherford Road is off the beaten path and will have to do. I can see blinking lights a ways up, where other racers have made the turn – reassuring me that I did not miss it. There are signs marking the turns but you'd have to know they're there for them to be helpful.

Rougherford Road (ooh, was that a Freudian slip?) is a truly Humboldt-worthy piece of pavement: rough, unpredictable, no fog line, no center line. The moon has just set, so it's really dark. That's great for my purposes, though: “Piss on Rutherford Road!” is my mid-lap rallying cry.

There were race staff marking the turn onto Bannister with bright lights and great enthusiasm – a very welcome sight. After Bannister, almost no navigation, so I was feeling pretty good.

I got back to the start line in just over 6:30 – a little slower than I'd hoped, but all things considered, not too bad. About 5 minutes behind the Guth 2x team, which I thought was pretty nifty. Tanked up, more Boost, quick stop at the porta, and off for round 2...which was much like the first lap, except that there were WAY fewer cars, and it was light toward the end. One of the absolute highlights of the second lap was the number and intensity of the shooting stars that I saw.
Not actually taken during the race. But shooting stars, palm trees, and water...you get the idea. 

The guy at the Calipatria outpost (mercifully Fred didn't have to stay there all night!) said that I was something like 8th or 9th, which perked me up a bit. It had seemed at times like I was riding through molasses. I knew I was a bit slower but I couldn't find much motivation to do anything about it: no car, no music, nobody particularly close ahead or behind, and I was probably running just a bit low on fuel. I reached into my bag of tricks for some caffeine gum, and I managed to spill it before I got it down. Crap. That's okay, only 50 miles until I can get some more....

I arrived back at the start finish a bit after 7:30 – later than I wished, but earlier than I feared. Making the last turn onto Harrison, Mick passes me. I had no idea that he'd been one of the racers I'd passed in the night. With a 3 minute difference between us, I'm still ahead of him – sort of – when we get to the start/finish. There's the motivation I need! Bill sprang to life and took care of the stuff I needed: food, drink, daytime glasses. Now it was time to hit the short loop, which I would do for the rest of the time.

The short loop is even flatter than the long loop, but there are complications – specifically, DOGS. There is one area where the race officials actually marshalled folks through since there wasn't any way to restrain the dogs. I figured that eventually they would wear out (the dogs, not the officials!). I was right.

On Saturday morning, an organized century ride is using part of our route (66th street). The first lap I encountered them, the riders were fresh and fast – passing them was quite a challenge. Every succeeding lap, the riders were a little slower and easier to pick off, which made for fun “target” practice. Everyone was having great fun and enjoying the sunshine and the nice weather.

With the new day, Bill's job went from fairly easy (be awake and helpful every 6 hours) to incredibly difficult (be awake and helpful every 50 minutes or so, ingratiate yourself to the folks who can help us out of the jam we're in, grab some internet time from the race director, start calling around to figure out how to get the car fixed....). He made it look easy. Of course I only saw a tiny fraction of the action, and when I was there he was 110% there for me. One lap when I came in Ron Swift's truck was re-charging our batteries so that we could keep refrigeration going (thank you so much!!!!)

As the day wore on, my lap times were up, then down, then up a bit, depending on shifting winds, porta-potty stops, and the like. I was right on the edge of being able to do 11 laps, which would've been a great result. Eventually when I came in, the Astro was on a tow dolly, ready to be hauled up to Indio to be repaired. Against very long odds, Bill had managed to find a place that would replace the fuel pump on Saturday, and have it ready for us after the race! He made the tow truck driver wait while I pitted, which amused the driver quite a bit.

At some point he mentions that “Vic is here”. Vic Armijo (if you know him, you probably know him from RAAM Media One) is a Humboldt guy, too. He's currently living in Big Bear while Kathy is on assignment down there. He's an amazing photographer, and took these pictures of me during the race. He took a lot of other people's pictures, too, but they have their own stories to tell.
Aaaw, he even turned his signature pink for me (-:

Vic nearly called this photo "in the pink". Unfortunately, I was already feeling a bit green.

Now our stuff – or at least what of it was spread out on the lawn in front of the school, yard-sale fashion. Ron Swift's team (thanks again!!!) let us store our popsicles in their freezer, which was great because that is exactly what I was craving. If you have never had a rice pudding popsicle, you should. In Spanish, the word is “paleta” - little shovel – which is good to know since I've never seen these morsels in places where English was the predominant language. They are available in many flavors. Look for “Arroz con leche” if you'd like to try rice pudding!
Paleta Arroz con Leche - YUM! About 300 calories in this little gem...

In the early laps, I pressed to build up some time cushion. Sometime late morning to early afternoon, the hotfoot monster got to be a little harder to handle. More ibuprofen – okay, a little better. Eventually it got warm enough outside that dumping water on my head and torso seemed like a good idea. I never felt hot, exactly – but it did occur to me that the conjunction of 2PM + slightly sleepy might have something to do with the heat of the day. Winds picked up in the daytime and in the moment they seemed very capricious – seldom the same two laps in a row. In retrospect, there was a very orderly progression of valley winds from NW to WNW to WSW to SSW. One or two laps it seemed like a headwind was dogging me the whole way around – then the next lap a friendly bit of tailwind would appear where one had never been. Pretty typical racing stuff.

In mid-afternoon the hotfoot came back with a vengeance. By this time I was starting to feel a bit nauseated, so I knew that more ibuprofen would be a bad idea. I had underfueled a bit and it was catching up to me. I asked Bill for some “where am I” guidance: 400 miles was going to be a soft target so long as I kept riding, none of the other female competitors was close, and my main rabbit was about 45 minutes back. Dialing it back served both my feet and my stomach, so that's what I did. In the end game, you have a choice: cater to the weakest link, or risk catastrophe. This is why I worked hard early on – to have the option to play it safe.

Before I took off for what would be my last lap, Bill informed me that he would probably not be there at the finish – he was heading to Indio to retrieve the van via – I kid you not - “Yellow Cab of the Desert”. He'll leave stuff for me at the start/finish. I imagined him being swept away by Omar, the camel, the whole nine yards, but evidently he had a very smooth, fast trip with a guy who was a local and an excellent tour guide. It's starting to get dark. Lights on, I head off one more time.
Despite my concerns, the Taxi of the Desert was apparently a Crown Vic.

Down the long stretch of Harrison toward 66th. The wind is totally flat, which I appreciate. A couple of 6 hour guys pass me, fast and furious. Turn onto 66th. Still calm, starting to get darker. Then a car flashes its lights at me. RATS! After 12 hours, my headlight has finally conked out. I know that I've got a 20-minute emergency reserve on it, but I guess I'd better save it for when it's REALLY dark. Pull over and switch it off. Fortunately the back-up light (a Blackburn Flea) is still lit. Just to be safe, I switch it to flash mode; that way it will last a bit longer. Past the turn onto Pierce, past the official at the Rez road intersection. Still no wind. Oh. It would be a bit LESS dark if I took the sunglasses off....just about then, the Flea sputters from dim to dark, too. Now I've got to get home quickly – I don't have much reserve light power at all, and the very last thing I want to do is to race 400 miles into a DQ. Soooo....pull over again, switch the light back on, and do my very best impression of someone who's riding a bike kinda quickly.

It worked – at least, I arrived at the finish line with my light still on, and rolled through at a little past 5:30, leaving about a half an hour on the clock. I was okay with that. I'd punched over 400 without long-loop support, I'd beaten my rabbit, and I was the womens' world champion. Enough already! Getting off the bike was comical. My legs wanted to keep spinning. Then my stomach wanted to keep spinning. Guess who won that battle? Yup.

After I puked, some adventurous soul put a camera in my face and interviewed me. I have not seen that video, but I imagine it's hilarious. I got into some clean(er) dry(er) warm(er) clothes that Bill had left and took up a cheering position next to Vic (my actual cheering was on the feeble side, but I was there in spirit) until Bill got back. After what seemed like a very long time of me sitting and alternatively sipping 7Up and NOT sipping 7Up, The Red Pearl sailed back to the race site. Bill packed everything up, then we said our goodbyes and thank-yous (not enough of the latter, sorry if we missed you!) and headed home.

The trip home was supremely uneventful. We made it as far as the top of the Grapevine before hanging it up for the night. I managed to sleep a little bit and woke to a much happier stomach. You'd think I'd sleep like a stone after being up for so long; not so! The Sunday drive was LONG, but we made it. I actually drove for an hour or so when Bill finally wore out in southern Humboldt county. We picked up Cog, our faithful dog, who was staying at the El Rancho Turk.

A couple of notes about the race. People presume that a flat race is an “easy” race; not necessarily so. On flat ground, you are either pedaling or slowing. In a race, slowing isn't so good, so you are pedaling constantly. I figure that my feet were turning nearly 23 out of the 24 hours. Training specificity is something that I think a lot of people overlook for a long, flat timetrial. Climbing hills is great training, but it does give you occasional relief. I am actually blessed with some really flat, boring places to train here: my 10x Samoa loops, 150-lap neighborhood 200k, and even the long, headwindy trips back from Breakfast in Miranda runs put the right kind of load on my legs.

I also benefited greatly from having a very simple bike setup. Friction shifting, fresh chain/cassette and tires, and a dialed-in bike all meant that I had zero mechanical issues. I have a light system with more than enough light to make it through the night (if I'd have been thinking, I could've turned it off the last hour of the morning before I came in from the second loop and avoided the problem in the final lap...), so I didn't have to do any swaps. More light might have been better/faster, but I think I maximized what I did have by using less early (when there was a moon and there were other racers in the vicinity) and more on the second lap. 

I cut it pretty close on clothing (almost too chilly on the second lap), but I think the capilene tee was a great choice - just warm enough, and it had already been well tested in the heat. 

And...dates are really good race fuel. 

Bill was a total rock throughout this whole adventure. Never panicked, always there, always upbeat, always taking care of business. You'd imagine that after this experience I would never, ever even consider doing a race without Bill on the crew. Guess what? You'd be wrong. And you'd be wrong because I happen to know that if there is anything that Bill is better at than crewing, it's being an AWESOME teammate. Next up...Bill and I are racing RAW as a 2x team. We've already rented out the Adobe Cottage down at Oceanside, and we're expecting to have a Most Excellent (if slightly pirate-themed) Adventure. We're recruiting crew....

Still the luckiest person in the world, and signing off....Sandy

Monday, November 11, 2013

Recovering from a 24 hour (or longer) race

It seems like every time I do a long race, someone asks, “How long does it take for you to get back to normal afterwards?” Usually I brush this question off with some seriously raised eyebrows, a shrug of the shoulders, and a sharply-inflected, “Normal…????”.

As a tribe, ultradistance athletes tend to put a lot of obsessive thought into preparation and execution, and let the aftermath sort of happen. But it’s a serious enough question that it bears addressing – if for no other reason than to give your coworkers and loved ones a better idea of what to expect in the days following a big effort.

Putting it all out there for a long race means that you have exposed yourself pretty fully to the elements for long enough to matter. By definition you’ve been up for 24 hours or longer, and you’re hungry and physically exhausted. Depending on the course conditions and how you and your support team coped with them, you could also be injured (soft tissue or otherwise), dehydrated, nauseous (or worse), and so on. So there’s a wide range of recovery timelines.

But in general, racing ultra strips us down to the bare minimum of human existence at the finish line. Fittingly, the recovery process seems to strongly parallel a fast-tracked human development:

Finish line: Delivery! Your time of arrival is recorded. You are greeted, hugged, and swaddled. You quite possibly spew bodily fluids on your crew. Everyone is excited and happy, even though you may be bawling your head off. Awww - you’re the best li’l racer in the world – possibly in the whole of human history!! Bazillions of photos are taken and posted to social media.

Over the next minutes to an hour, things calm down a bit, you are given something to drink and closely watched for signs of trouble.

From there, you start to hit those little milestones: She burped! She smiled! She can stand all by herself! (by this time, there’s probably a new racer finishing, so folks are starting to lose interest, and the photos become less frequent. Welcome to the real world, baby…)

Soon, you’ll be eating sold food, just like a big kid. You’ll still need a sitter, and you’ll not be left alone or allowed to handle sharp tools or such – but your crew’s attention is freed up to take care of packing up the van.

For the first day you will nap frequently and need small-but-frequent feedings. You may be a picky eater.

As recovery continues, you reach the awkward, teenage stage. Your sleep pattern is totally whacked out, you obsess over all of the imperfections in all of those photos posted to social media (“OMG - did they HAVE to post the one with barf on my jersey??”), and you check and re-check the event results page (“Why can’t they get a simple set of results posted to the internet? It’s been EIGHTEEN HOURS???”  -- it’s still lost on you that, just like you, the event director put out a ton of energy and did not sleep for a day and a half, and needs some time to be sure that they’ve got it right before they go live with results). Distressing pimples may show up in distressing places where hygiene was lacking or logistically impossible. You are unable to think straight (what’s your zip code??) but have clear memories of the race that are so intense that you laugh or cry readily. You can talk about your race, but little else. You want to help drive the race van home, but the crew won’t let you. Stupid parents. What do they know?

Day two should in theory end with a good night’s sleep. Let’s hope so, because from here, it’s a steep slide back to the real world and adult responsibility. You wake up and realize that the party is really over, and you will be going to work - tomorrow. That you have a report to read and edit before then, that the dog is out of food, that the grass grew three inches while you were gone, and that the coffee supply is dangerously low. And that the words “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” are NOT just words. And that thankfully you’ve got someone amazing to help you cope with all of this, because it just seems like too damned much to deal with, at least today. Racing is so much simpler than real life….

Spend this day doing the minimum that you need to do to make the transition less brutal. The lawn can (and should) wait for the weekend, but feed the dog, skim that report, and for cripes’ sake, get some coffee! Eat well, and start inching closer to your normal meal pattern. Treat sore muscles to whatever works for you – massage, hot tub, easy recovery ride. Mentally rehearse what you’re going to tell your coworkers about your adventure. Double-check your closet: do you have clean clothes for work? Turn in early, and give yourself a few extra minutes for the morning “routine”, which may seem absolutely foreign for the first day or so of re-entry.

A feeling of letdown following a big race is common. It’s easy to slide into a funk/depression that can really mess up your recovery. Don’t let it. Real life CAN’T be what racing is, and we CAN’T be racing all the time. Your real life is just that: Real. Life. And it’s damned good, and you’re really lucky to be able to have both your real life and your racing life. If you can’t bust out of this funk on your own, get help, quickly. Life is too short and too amazing….

When you choose to return to physical activity depends a lot on how stressed you were by the race.  Let any injuries (saddle sores, large contact blisters, broken bones…) heal fully – and follow medical advice if you landed in the medical tent. You don’t need to wait until all the muscle soreness subsides, but sore muscles are stressed muscles, so you should be doing short, easy rides. Taking off a full week  - or two, or whatever your body needs - WILL NOT HURT YOU, even if you have other races planned for the season.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Labor Day Weekend 800k: Musashi Meanderings

There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love.

Had to take Bill on a Long Trip prior to the 508. Labor Day weekend was an excellent opportunity! Our friends Adrienne and Robert had just completed their move down to Santa Rosa, a healthy 400k south. I figured – let’s make a weekend of it! One day down, a short visit, and two days riding back. Not shabby. We knew that we could easily make it from Willits to Arcata during hours of daylight, so we got a motel there for Sunday night.

We wanted to “sort of” simulate race conditions – in other words, we wanted to travel fairly fast, and fairly light. So instead of doing a true “pack-it-all” tour, Bill sent a change of clothes ahead via UPS. Still, packing everything we thought we’d need into the Musashis, even with two of the Nashbar frame bag “triangles” each, was a challenge. I packed tires and tubes. Bill concentrated on tools. He also had to bring a pair of shoes (Adrienne had been considerate enough to borrow a pair of mine the last time she was up, so I was already set in that department). We would start out WEARING the jackets, but of course we’d need a place to put them once things started to heat up…after a bit of finagling we were pretty sure we had it nailed.

4AM is an awfully early start, sports fans – but we managed it. Out into the dark, through Eureka, taking in the very last of the “blue moon” (even though it was technically the first of the month, I still counted it….). I got a flat just before sunup. It wasn’t quite light, and we couldn’t quite figure out what had caused it, either – no obvious sign of a struggle within the tire. I HATE replacing a tube without any idea whether the tire is okay or not, but the universe wasn’t giving me much say in it. Fortunately the tube held the rest of the way.

Avenue of the Giants just before sunup. Flying along! Woo-hoo!!! We pulled over in Miranda to use the facilities. A touring group pulled in shortly behind us. They had seen us go past their camp, had tried to buck themselves up to catch us, then decided – nah. Best not to work so hard before breakfast…One guy mentioned our kits – mine pink on pink on pink, and Bill’s with the black and blue flames thing going on. I ventured that it made it a lot easier to remember which bike to get on. They had started on Thursday, were headed to San Fran, and would get there Monday. We suggested the breakfast burritos at the Miranda Café. They went for it…

We weren’t quite ready for a full stop, yet, so we soldiered on to Garberville and picked up breakfast burritos of our own (there’s an Azteca restaurant embedded in the Chevron station; it’s fast AND good). A strung-out dude was drumming outside the gas station; I wasn’t sure if folks were supposed to pay him to play, or to stop.

Onward. Can’t believe we (okay, “I”) struggled with the hill to Leggett last year! Of course, it was quite a bit warmer then. By now it was early afternoon and although the jackets had come off, it was maybe mid-70’s. 

From the south end of the Avenue through to nearly Ukiah, it seemed like every second or third vehicle we saw was a Cal Fire rig. Fortunately there wasn’t much smoke!

Laytonville – only real business here was to make sure that Wheels was still open. Yep. That’s the “second breakfast” stop on the way home, for sure! Willits – 83 minutes later (a full 7 minutes faster than last year, despite a lingering headwind!) – we blew through, making sure that we found the Pine Cone (where we’d stay Sunday night).

Shortly before Ukiah, we need to get off of 101. Astute readers will recall that this is the section of 101 that I rode last year where I got (a) four flat tires in forty miles, and (b) escorted off the road by the California State Patrol. We found the right exit – North State Street – and started navigating the maze of instructions that Google Maps had given us. In the end it was pretty simple. We stopped for some food in the middle of it – at a (gasp!) McDonalds!  - and were on our way…onto some of the most beautiful roads I’ve ridden in quite some time, actually. The 101 detour took us east of town, then South along River Road to Hopland. Wine country, quiet roads, excellent scenery, and great company (for me, at least).

At Hopland, we stopped for pizza. Actually, we stopped for “anything-I-can-cram-in-my- mouth” and it ended up being pizza, which was just fine with us. We had a nice chat with a young family who were very curious about what we were up to, and how the bikes worked…and of course the little girls wanted to know all about my (very pink) bike. Fun! 

It was almost 7PM by the time we rolled out of Hopland. We used a bit of 101 again, then onto side roads until we got to Cloverdale, then Healdsburg. Healdsburg was a bit of a challenge, navigationally – GM had planned LOTS of little turns for us. I don’t know whether this was to take advantage of bike lanes, to avoid stop signs, or to take us closer to businesses who pay to advertise on Google, or what. Any way you slice it, lots of unnecessary complication. At any rate, we blasted straight through town, and although we spent a lot of time at stop signs, it wasn’t so bad. 

We got lost in Santa Rosa. Specifically, we got lost in Santa Rosa, less than a mile from R&A’s place. Significantly less than a mile. Then we compounded the error by heading back the wrong direction for quite a ways before it hit us that, as omniscient as Google Maps is, Adrienne would probably know just as well how to get to her own house. So we called. We were right. Once we got straightened out, Robert headed out to the street to be a human traffic signal. We could see…blinky light….yellow reflective something….headlight…yellow…blinky…as he slowly circled at the entrance to their private road.

Woo-hoo!! We made it!!! Chris is there, too – his whole family is, but Hope and their boys have gone to bed, as have Axel and Liam (Liam’s a champion sleeper for a li’l guy). Apple pie, THEN dinner (life should always be so…) as we catch up. We open up the box of clothes and stuff, shower, and turn in.

Sunday morning was a hoot! I think I was the first up, then Axel, then his bleary-eyed Dad. Coffee was amazing (oh, I do miss something about Portland after all: Stumptown Roasters….) and we were generally decompressing. Axel gave me the tour of his bedroom. Nash caught frogs in the compost. Everyone had an amazing farmhouse breakfast.

Then – off to the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market. We all biked there – a fun mix of different bikes, all traveling together. Chris had his pretty-in-pink Pocket Rocket, Hope on a Bacchetta, Henry on his bike, and Nash riding a teeny-tiny Pinarello that was to die for gorgeous. Lucky kid! Adrienne was on her touring bike, Robert had the boys in the box bike, and Bill and I had our Musashis. The market was colorful and crowded and had a lot of good things to eat and look at. I grabbed a raspberry lemonade iced tea. Bill grabbed pastries.

Home again, then a quick lunch, and it’s time to pack up. We put our dirty clothes in the box, with a pre-paid label for Adrienne to UPS them back to us, and stuffed everything else in the bike bags. I used a combination of electrical tape and zip ties to fasten my sandals to the chainstay. By the time we left, it was 1:30. We’d “planned on” getting started by noon, but we had been pretty flexible on that from the get-go. With kids and all, and wanting at least a little time for visiting, we weren’t in that big of a rush. We called the Pine Cone and let ‘em know to keep the lights on for us.

The trip back to Willits was actually slightly faster than the trip down, even though we were going uphill rather than down. We attributed that mainly to better navigation. There’s a pretty good climb between Ukiah and Willits – as a matter of fact, it pretty much dominates the terrain once you get back onto 101 north of Ukiah. I was pretty determined to get that punched out before it was “really” dark. With a gentle tail breeze and a setting sun, we were kickin’ along in a middle gear and really not bothered by the climb. Comparing notes later, we both were in our big chainrings and a biggish cog – something like a 52/28. I stopped briefly as we hit the top and punched my light into top gear. It made a big difference on the short descent down to Willits.

We pulled into the Pine Cone. Bill checked us in while I sent text messages out to let the folks who were keeping track of us that we’d made our evening’s destination safely. I also noticed that one of my three water bottles had cracked (bummer, but we’ll survive). After we got the bikes parked, we weighed our options for dinner, which were few and far between given that it was now 9PM. On Sunday. In Willits. We probably could’ve hoofed it down to the Safeway, but we were not in a mood to wander – so McDonalds it was (again – sigh). After that we picked up some yogurt and snacks and coffee/energy drinks at the minimart next to the hotel and called it a night….

…since we were getting up at 5 AM, which came around very soon. We were planning to take off at 6AM. I know that it doesn’t seem like it OUGHT to take a full hour to launch two bikes out of a hotel room, but there’s some fearsome logistics to consider: you have to….
  • Get up (no mean feat)
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Use the bathroom
  • Pack everything up
  • Double check the bike
  • Zip-tie the sandals to the frame (OK, I could’ve done that last night, but I was lazy…)
  • Double-check your double-checking (and still miss something, as you’ll see…)

And so on. We were rolling just a minute or two after 6, which I figure was stellar. We were using headlights for the first hour or so, and saw LOTS of deer. By the time we were out of town the Cal Fire folk were stirring, too, but other than that, there’s not much traffic on a Labor Day morning.

We were riding pretty hard. Destination: Laytonville. Home of Wheels Café. It’s a great breakfast stop, and any day when “second breakfast” starts before 8AM is going well. I had the “keilbasa special” which may or may not have been a small strategic error. On the one hand, it stayed with me a long time. On the other hand, it made darned sure that I knew it was staying with me….

Onward. Up and over Rattlesnake Ridge, which somehow came and went without remembering to bite us. Standish-Hickey – we were spotted by Barb and Cammy, who managed to pull over and call Mary to report a “Bindy Sighting” without us noticing them one bit. Figuring on our next stop being Garberville again…but we stopped a bit short, at the gas station across the street from the “One Log House” – just south of Richardson’s Grove. Since I was down to two water bottles, I needed to load up.

We took advantage of the facilities, got ourselves fed. By this time Bill had totally given up on “healthy” and was digging into anything with calories. He grabbed two beef and cheese “Tornados” (tagline: “A whirlwind of flavor”). He offered to share. I was hesitant, but eventually I succumbed. Jackets off again. Why is it that every time you stuff a jacket into the same @#$&* space it takes up a little more room? Hygroscopic expansion?

Past Garberville. Hit the south end of the Avenue at about 1:00 – good time. We’re flying along up the Avenue – definitely on familiar roads today. By the time we get to Redcrest, it’s pretty warm, and I’m out of fluids again. So we stopped for ice water, iced tea, and…ice cream. Nice to have a theme….back on the bikes. This is where I discover that I’ve got a slow leak in my front tire. I’ve not checked it since we left Arcata, and it’s almost flat. We pump it up and hope that it will hang in there. I hate suspense, so I’ll let you know that it does. By the time we get to the Blackberry Popsickle stand in Pepperwood, we’re not inclined to stop. We’re really ready to get home.

Off the Avenue right around 3PM, and headed for Rio Dell, Fortuna, and points North. Arriving back on 101 means that we can’t hide from the wind any more, and it’s a pretty stiff headwind. I took stock. For the past 450+ miles, Bill has ridden steadfastly behind me – just out of a legal draft. When I’ve slowed, he’s slowed, even though it must be painfully difficult for him to climb as slow as me. I don’t know what’s motivating him to do that, but it struck me that forcing yourself to follow in someone else’s tire tracks might be a pretty good training tactic. So I decided to be the very best training partner I can be, and I kicked it up a notch. Or two. Or more.

It worked. We pulled off at Fernbridge – our last opportunity to hit a blue room before Eureka – and Bill was nearing his limit, too. Woo-hoo!! We were having a GRAND time, and when we rolled into the gas station, we were both gasping for air and laughing like loons. Reminded me suspiciously of the ride where we met…

Honestly, I don’t remember much about the very last bit of the ride. We were just really, really focused on getting home. We so much wanted to tell David and Mary about our adventure. Part of me was thinking, hey – we should just ride straight to their house, don’t waste time showering, it’s right on the way, and time is short. But when we got to the point where we would turn up Janes’ Road to David’s house, there was a strange van there. So we didn’t. 

If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, well, I don’t blame you. You can stop right here and rest assured that the two of us had another very excellent adventure, and know that when you come right down to it, there’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love. I won’t blame you for quitting while we’re ahead. Because quite frankly the rest of this post sucks.

I’d planned on calling my folks while we waited for breakfast. Since they were such a big help in getting Bill’s Musashi home, I wanted to make sure that they knew we were out having fun with it. But I didn’t have a signal in Laytonville, so I turned my phone off.  When we got home, turns out I had missed several text messages. One of them – “Call when you get home”…well, I knew. We would never tell David about our amazing adventure. David died while we were pounding along 101, right around Rio Dell – the site of the infamous Team Raven Lunatics Golf Tournament.

David had liposarcoma. He lived about thirteen years after being diagnosed. About half of his kids’ lives. He worked like crazy to stay alive. But the cancer won. And that sucks.

There is not one good thing about this. Some people say that they really “find themselves” after a cancer diagnosis – that it’s a wakeup call, that they live life more fully, that they get to do things that they might never had if cancer hadn’t come along and given them a good, swift kick in the pants. And I’m glad that some folks have found that positive, or at least that peace, within their cancer.

But that’s not David. David did not need a good, swift kick in the pants. David WAS a good, swift kick in the pants. He already knew who he was, he already knew what he wanted to do, he was already DOING it, and he was an amazing friend and advocate and just overall good person. He made the people around him laugh, and he made us better people. Cancer didn’t make him that way. It just chipped away, little by little, at his ability to do the things that made him who he was.

David was an incredibly hard worker. It seemed to come naturally to him. And the cool thing was that no matter how hard he worked, there wasn’t ever a trace of irony, bitterness, or martyrdom to it: if something needed doing, he was doing it, not worrying about who WASN’T doing their share. He could see what needed doing and he did it without fanfare. He wasn’t shy about telling those close to them when they were slacking, or that they’d missed doing something important. But he was always nice about it.

Lots of people will say/have said that David fought a “brave” battle against cancer, and how much that inspires them. That’s cool: David inspired me, too. I’m lucky that I knew the “non-cancer” part of him better than a lot of people. But I don’t know about his personal war on cancer being “brave” – I’d not argue against it, but the main thing that struck me was that he fought as HARD as he could for as long as he could. It could have been equally “brave” to face a deadly cancer by not going for state-of-the-art treatment. It certainly would have been easier.

He fought so hard because he very much loved being alive. He was not neutral on this one bit. Clearly he wasn’t afraid of dying – every treatment that he endured carried the risk of killing him quickly and without mercy. Through the years he put up with a lot of shit that you or I or many perfectly reasonable and equally brave folks might have decided was just not worth it for the privilege of being alive. It made him sick. It made him weak, which he hated even more than being sick. And from time to time, it kept him off his beloved bike, which he really, really hated. But he did it. And he did it because it represented his very best mathematical odds of staying with us until a real cure emerged. To stay alive. Here. Doing things and being David. Because that was worth it to him. And he was right.

When I look back on all the things that David was able to do in the last years of his life, even with the cancer and the chemo and everything, it’s amazing to me. It’s a real testament to his force of character, and a constant reminder to me: Every day matters. Even the sucky days matter, because they are what get you to other, possibly better days. And you just never know what your presence here might bring….

… I strongly suspect that December 31, 2009 was at best a medium-sucky day for David. David had just finished a way-too-long siege with chemo, and then radiation, in Houston, and he was facing major surgery in a few weeks. But – he was alive, and he was home, which meant that I was down visiting, and he was being an amazing host. He could barely make it up a couple of the local hills, but – being David – he knew that I needed some good, healthy exercise. So he brought this friend of his, some neighbor guy, out to ride Fieldbrook with us. Whoever he was, this guy was pretty strong – I’d be the first to admit it – and he handily beat me up the hill. He waited patiently for me at the top, and we even got to chat a bit while we were waiting for David. He told me about the other side – the descent, and then the slightly descending rollers…and we were off! I let him go first, figuring I would only slow down a “local” on the real descent…but the rollers? Woo-AND-hoo!! I was off like a shot. We were both working as hard as we could – no quarter given, none asked. And when we arrived at the bottom, we were both gasping for air and laughing like loons, waiting for David to roll down at his leisure. What fun! There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love… 

David’s last ride was STP. Yes - he was able to kick out a 200 mile weekend just a few weeks before he died. I would LOVE to get my hands on just a single can of whatever personal whoop-ass he opened up to get that done. But his guts had already decided to revolt. No food, no energy, no strength, and, after STP, no more biking. It was becoming too much to fight against.

Friends came to visit. Bill and I took everything we’d learned from David about Raven Lunatic hospitality and we tried to apply it to the utmost. We called and emailed the people who were close enough to care a lot, but not close enough geographically to “get” that this was, really, it. He was amazed at how many people called and wrote. “So-and-so called today”, he’d say to me. “Someone must be really worried…” (rolling his eyes). It was a tough line to walk. I didn’t want him to feel like I was ratting him out – but I worried that by the time he thought to tell people, he’d be really too weak to talk or visit.

Relatives came, left, came back, stayed. There were a lot of visitors and gatherings. They tired him out sometimes but he never complained, or at least he never complained to us.

David died on Labor Day. He slipped away gently and without pain. It was duly reported in the paper, on BROL, and on his Caringbridge site. Mary gathered up the family and friends and had an after-party at the Grange. Folks who don’t know David other than as a cyclist might not have guessed that he was an accomplished square dancer. He met his wife square dancing – at the same Grange hall, some years back. It was a potluck gathering. A total feast. Great music, great company, good times. Mary hung David’s event tees in the hall, and urged folks to take one home with them. Many did. It will be good to see those shirts all over town.

We cleaned up the hall, and went home, and went to sleep, and woke up, and had breakfast. There’s so much to do. We’d best be at it. Because making the most of being here, and being alive, is an incredible privilege. There’s nothing much finer in this world than the sharing of great times with the ones you love. But I sure wish David was still here, sharing those times with us.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

First Annual....Golf Tournament??

Yes, sports fans - it's come to this. I've turned my attention to golf.
(An audible gasp rustles through the gallery: "Ooooh. Has she cracked? Is she retiring from cycling?? WTF???)
Nope. But some months ago, on one of our "Breakfast in Miranda" training rides, Bill noted that there is a golf course in the heart of Rio Dell, and that it might be cool to ride down sometime, play a round, and ride back.
Since the 4th fell smack-dab in the middle of the week this year, he got the brilliant idea that we should do it then - and since so many folks wouldn't be traveling, we should invite the Latte Warriors to join us. Thus was born the Team Raven Lunatics First Annual Fourth of July Bike and Golf Tournament.
We called the clubhouse and - sure enough, they were planning on being open. So: - I put out a flyer, and David and Mary sent it out to the Latte Warriors and a bunch of other people.
Oh. This is the point where I should mention that we're talking about the sort of golf that traditionally involves windmills and clowns' mouths (though the logging-themed Redwood Mini Golf actually features neither).

Now a golf tournament that has "closest to the tee" and "best costume" as goals is somewhere this side of "serious golf", even for mini golf. Still, I wanted to make sure that everyone's efforts were amply rewarded. So - in true ultracyclist fashion, Bill and I headed off to the Dollar Store for prizes.

At this point we were figuring maybe a dozen people would show up at the outside. We could count 8 for sures. I decided to go deep with the prizes - we were set for at least 18. A $1 golf set? Sure! Expand-o-Towels - throw 'em in! Hey, there's a great "best dressed" prize. I had no clue who was going to win the pink leopard hat, but it certainly caught my eye and would have to go to someone special. Ribbons for the winners, a fan for closest to the tee...a few more random goodies, and - The Coveted Raven Lunatics Cup for overall best-of-event achievement.

We were all set. David, Bill, Mary and I were taking turns driving the Team Van down for a sag wagon. We figured that many folks would want a ride home since it would be late afternoon before we finished, even if we did hit my predicted "high noon" teetime.

And they're off! Four of us - David, Bill, Ryan, and me - took off from City Hall just after 9. Carol, Steve and Noreen joined us along Old Arcata Road. We took the back way through town, coming out to 101 at Elk River Road, where Mary had parked the van at the park-and-ride before riding south with Wendy, who she'd picked up along the way.

I got to the van first. Mercifully, I had time for a quick errand behind the van before the rest of the gang got there. Noreen and Ryan went straight onto 101, but the guys headed to the van to help sort things out. Before I could mention anything, Bill popped behind the van. "Careful over there, I spilled some coffee...". Of course he was spilling coffee, too. And to mis-quote Arlo Guthrie, one big puddle of coffee is better than two small ones...

I volunteered to drive the next leg, vowing to get to the regroup and take off straightaway. Hah. Our regroup was the Loleta Bakery, which sucks cyclists into its caffeine and carbs time vortex and seldom lets them go without a struggle. Or, at the very least, a snickerdoodle.

When I got there, several cyclists had arrived ahead of me. No one was in a particular hurry to leave. Can't say as I blame them - perfect weather, picnic table, prime pastries...and the certain knowledge that you weren't the last one as there were a bunch more riders on the road.

My resolve crumbled faster than the cookie I was about to consume. Double chocolate chunk and a cup of dark roast. But then I needed to turn my attention to more important matters: I was the director of a golf tournament, for cripes sakes. I'm...responsible. At the very least, I should get to the links before noon, just in case someone was planning on meeting us there and was taking the noon start time seriously.

So off I went, with a fair head of steam. I opted for the freeway rather than the longer route around the Three Sisters (the early warmup climbs of the TUC). I got there a few minutes before noon and headed for the clubhouse.

During the trip down, I made some decisions about how to organize the "tournament". Sometimes decisions are driven by the oddest things and since I'd really not had a clue how many were showing up, I pretty much figured I'd wing it on game day. It turned out that a few of the prizes came in threes, so it made sense to do threesomes. There were seventeen folks playing, so that meant (almost...) six threesomes. With six groups, I could break up all of the couples and pair each of our junior participants with one of her parents. Give each team a team color...just have to figure out how to put an extra score onto the one team that was going to be short....

I grabbed scorecards for everyone and headed out of the clubhouse to ponder this. As I stepped into the sunshine, something familiar caught the corner of my eye. But it didn't make sense - every 2011 Sebring T shirt in our neck of the woods belonged on the back of someone that was riding a bike several miles north of here. Slowly accumulating data...ambling gait, desert hat, pruning shears...whatthe...JIM KERN. Not only that, he'd brought Tim Woudenberg - two of the deans of recumbent distance cycling drove up from San Fran to crash "my" golf tournament. Go figure...well, of course they were mainly there to sneak in a visit with David and catch up on RAAM gossip. Well, that made filling out the last threesome easy: I assigned the two of them to tag-team it.

We took off in color order: ROY G BV. I was in the red threesome, which I guess sounds slightly less interesting than being in the "blue threesome", which David headed up. But going first gave me a little more time to tabulate results.

Mini golf is a fairly random sport - by which I mean that (a) you can't predict who's going to be a putting ace, and (b) random luck smiles down on you every so often. Doug got the first ace, shortly followed by Bill, and Steve, and then some others. Sometimes Lady Luck frowned, and you 5-putted. Sometimes your teammates inadvertently improved (or demolished) your lie. The wind picked up, which I suppose affected someone, sometime. But no one complained.

Here are some photos...

Team Blue in the sahdow of Logger Dude Statue

Wendy surveys her shot

Despite Hawaiian shirt and flaming socks, Bill did NOT win "best costume"...

Doug (Team Orange) in the foreground; Team Yellow in the background.

Coco waits. And waits. Having a physicist on your team OUGHT to be an advantage, right??

No clowns, lots of loggers - welcome to mini golf, Humboldt style!

Noreen fights through the wind on the front nine.

Coco watches as her teammate putts.

Team Green putts again!

Team Yellow watches nervously - will the Blues catch them?


not sure how to improve this lie...

...words fail me.

Coco won the "dramatic finish" award - pink AND leopard!

Tim brought Jenga to occupy the gang while they were waiting for awards

...with the predictable result.

Some highlights of the tournament:

Willard got the low individual score, but the Yellows won the team competition. Coco nearly aced the nearly-impossible last hole, and David...well, he came close, too, sort of (see photos above). Wendy won the closest to the tee competition. If I'd gone three or four places deep, I think she might've won more than once. Coco won the "high drama" award for her amazing finishing shot, which netted her the amazing pink leopard hat. Last, and certainly not least, Mary won The Coveted Raven Lunatics Cup. Not only did she anchor Team Yellow, she was second low score overall, AND she had the best decorated bike. 

After the awards ceremony, we packed it up. Bill and I headed for home. David left a few minutes behind us, not far behind Noreen, Steve, and Doug. The rest of the gang (I think, mostly) piled into the Team Van and headed north. Tim and Jim were kind enough to drive north and cook up an amazing barbeque dinner before turning around and heading south. Quite the whirlwind tour for them...
That left nothing for us to do but - Fireworks! Last year we'd been a little bit too tired after our "through the trees" cyclo-touring adventure, but this year we were up for it. Great display, though I'm not quite sure that I'll ever get used to the West Coast tradition of hats, gloves, and down jackets in the middle of summer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Going nowhere...fast

Every once in a while, people ask me, "What do you think about during those long rides?". Admittedly, sometimes it comes out sounding more like, "What were you THINKING???", which might or might not be the same question.
Either way, on my last stupid-long ride I did my best to record my thoughts, as they occurred, for your reading pleasure.
The ride was Sandy's Neighborhood 200k - 150 laps of a 0.79-mile loop. It's the longest route that you can take through our immediate neighborhood that (a) keeps us off main roads, (b) avoids most left-hand turns, and (c) goes conveniently past our house. Astute readers will note that it would actually take 157 laps to make a true 120k. I cut it off at 150 because it's a convenient number that's arguably close enough.
This is ALWAYS a night ride, because I want to do it with as few vehicles on the road as possible and during the daytime there's no reason to stay so close to home. Bill and David often join me, but this time I was solo. David is winding down for the upcoming STP, and Bill had a full day of climbing ahead of him on Sunday morning (yes, he's one of those guys who CAN get a full day of climbing in before noon...) in preparation for Furnace Creek.
I started at 0100 and finished just before 0630, with 11 minutes of downtime.

Here we go.....
Lap 0: Whoof. Strong odor of skunk. Hope Cog is inside.
1: there's a cat.
2. there's another cat.
3: whoopsie. further outside on that corner. Pothole.
4: hope that was a cat.
5: better. take the line through the black mark on the pavement.
6: cat is crossing my path. Hope it isn't black. REALLY hope it isn't black and white.
7: THROUGH the black mark, not inside it.
8-13: mu-mu-mu-mySharona (didn't bring iPod, singing to self...)
14: wonder if cats get sprayed by skunks? Everyone talks about dogs and skunks. Probably not.
15: THROUGH the black mark, doggone it! (quick stop to readjust light, which is now aiming straight up courtesy of the pothole).
16: speaking of lights aiming up - the searchlights are still going strong at the Eureka waterfront carnival.
17: only 33 laps until my first planned stop.
18: love the new seat pad.
19: nice cornering! Did that one with ONLY countersteer. Cool!
20-24: Hey, Soul Sister!
25: halfway to the planned stop. Guess I should drink something.
26: OK, seriously need to get on a schedule here. I'll take a drink every time I pass the little motorhome on the left.
27-37: Here's the motorhome, take a drink.
38: That's too often. How about every OTHER time we pass the  motorhome...
39: OK, if the lap is about 3/4 of a mile, I'm drinking every 1.5 miles. On a 3/8 mile lap that will be every four laps.
40: ten laps to a potty break.
41: I don't think I'm going to need a break, wonder if I can make it to 75? Then I'd only have one stop.
42: bar traffic is heading home. Watch yourself.
43: I swear that every youth in Arcata is issued a black hoodie to wear when they're wandering at night.
44-49: bring pace up slightly. Smoooooth in the corners.
50: Nope, I don't need a pit stop. Nearly done with one bottle. Start in on an energy bar soon.
51: Really wish I'd have opened the bar ahead of time. This is a pain.
52-60: I love my bike. I love my bike. I really...love...my...bike.
61: Whoa! I've blown the same stop sign 61 times in a row. Wonder what the record for that is?
62: Car parked by side of the road, motor running. Clumsy sex, pot deal, or both?
63: cats are active again. There are a LOT of cats in this neighborhood.
64: I wonder if I'll have to stop at 75, or if I should push it on to 100 laps? So far, so good...
65-69: mu-mu-mu-my Sharona.
70: I am NEVER doing this ride without an iPod again.....
71: Oh, yeah! We were going to put reflective tape on that fire hydrant to mark the turn. Wonder how long it would last? I've got leftover pink from my wheel pinstriping.
72: and while we're at it, we should paint the line THROUGH the black mark so I don't go into the pothole.
73-75: hey, I'm going to keep going. Switch the bottle over and let's shoot for 100 laps.
76: more road traffic. Wonder where they're going.
77: drunk kid in requisite black hoodie and miniskirt walking a chihuahua while smoking a Swisher Sweet gives me a thumbs-up. Arcata make its own hallucinations...
78-80: Let's see how close I can shave the corner at Frederick.
81: there's the skunk!
82: there he is again. Wonder how many people leave out cat food? Hope Cog is inside.
83-87: Born to be wi-i-i-ild!
88: Hey, I could probably ditch this stop and keep going all the way to 150.
89: No, you can't, either.
90: French press coffee hits the kidneys faster than espresso. Wonder why that is?
91: that's 91 times I've blown the same stop sign.
92-100: nothing particular, just counting down to 100...
(11 minute rest stop; bathroom, pet Cog and remind him not to mess with skunks, refill bottles, discover a chafed spot on my back. Originally thought it was due to a tag, which didn't seem reasonable since they're old shorts. Nope: for some inexplicable reason a sliver of plastic film got in there...like a piece of a plastic mailing envelope. How the HELL did I not notice that??? Quick first aid over the raw spot, get on with it...)
101: pick up the speed, pick up the speed, pick up the speed...NO. THROUGH the black mark, not inside it...
102: adjust the #$*( light, and while we're at it, let's run the high beams since we've only got an hour or so until light.
103: wow. high beams make a big difference.
104: wonder where all the cats are, now?
105: owl overhead; maybe the cats are on to something?
106: hm. Maybe they're onto the skunk?
107: wonder if that's the same skunk? It's halfway across the course...
108: won't be that much longer until there's some light.
109-12: nothing much.
113: when was Ride the Rogue, again? Would it be good training for Bill, or should we bag it?
114: this is one sweet bike. Love the way it corners. Correction: love the way WE corner, this bike and I.
115-119: I could do 200 laps before the Latte ride, no problem....current lap time is about 2:10, let's see...that's, what, three hours? Yeah. No problemo. 200 laps would be almost 160? New goal.
120: Wonder when Bill is getting up? Saw the bathroom light on a while back Surely he's sleeping in...
121: Car! Stopped in the middle of the road....now rolling slowly...grrrrrrrrrrr.
122: Same car. Stopped in the middle of the road AGAIN. AUGH. It is too late in the day to be coming home drunk, dude!
123: Same car, further up the course, driving slowly, veers into cul-de-sac and gets out. OH. Newspaper delivery. Maybe a substitutue? It would be faster on a bike, dude!
124: Bat overhead, getting the pre-dawn bug bloom. Should see some light before too long.
125: Car on Janes' Road. Need to start slowing more for that stop sign...
126: Almost a hint of light to the sky.
127: cats are getting scarcer. Still can't believe how many cats there are out here!
128-130: should I find a good mounting point for the big battery or should I see if I can get Bill to splice a longer wiring harness and run it where I've got the smaller battery? I am seriously loving the high beam and I can run it all night with the big battery....eat another energy bar.
131: there's the skunk AGAIN. That little guy sure gets around. Glad he's staying away from our house!
132: ok, it's starting to get light.
133: it's getting lighter.
134: ...and lighter.
135: Hey! I can see the display on the computer! Reminds me that I might want a headlamp for that.
136: Cars each way on Janes road. Didn't "quite" stop, but close.
137: It's light enough to see. More cars. I will have to start stopping at the stop sign.
138: Funny thought: This is exactly what dogs feel when you throw a ball for them. Driven, happy, driven, happy, tired, driven, happy, happy, happy happy. Woo-hoo!!!!!
139: I just realized that I am stopping at 150 laps because I won't be happy having to stop at the stop sign, and traffic is going to pick up, and I don't want to piss off the neighbors.
140: OK, if this is it, hammer down....
141-149: Counting down, no particular thoughts besides "Ten - Nine - Eight..."
150: Woo-hoo!!!!!!!