Monday, November 10, 2008

hopelessly spoiled~ VandeCross

Yesterday was the Old Towne VandeCross, Race #2 of the DICE series ("Double 'I' Cyclocross Experiment", I believe) out in an old Belgian neighborhood in Moline.

The weather, up until about Saturday, had been unseasonably warm- 70degF on Wednesday- so when Mother Nature decided to bitch slap us with sub-freezing temps and flurries on Sunday, many of us were caught unprepared. I found myself loaning out more than one piece of winter gear. I also wore my Craft balaclava (available for purchase at Healthy Habits) for the first time this year, and was pleased to discover that it smelled way too much like a urinal cake. I did not, to my knowledge, ever place it in a urinal, so I'm not sure where the smell came from. Not that the smell stopped me from wearing it...

Note to self: wash all winter gear before trying to use it.

Anyway, the course was sweet: lots of power climbs and fun, technical descents; corners that allowed speed (when handled with skill- which is not me, but made for fun race viewing); wide, sweeping areas that allowed recovery and acceleration. DICE has me hopelessly spoiled when it comes to race courses.

Did I mention the cold? Not enough to freeze a bottle, but defintely below anything I was prepped for. Layers, layers. I did my best, considering: I hadn't ridden since Thursday, and before that, Monday; my right eye has some sort of unknown (and mildly alarming) allergic reaction that makes me look a bit like I've had a stroke; and when I woke up yesterday morning, my G.I. tract was rocking like a Bosnian discotheque. I rode within my ability, and ended up fifth (in the money!) out of seven.

I'm just glad that this year I am actually racing the Women's races, instead of copping out and going for the Beginner's.

On to Psyclofest!

Friday, October 31, 2008

cultural jackass

Not sure if I did anything wrong here, but it seems highly feasible.

I just got done shooting a portrait of a man from Finland. His English was pretty good, but I still found myself making a lot of hand gestures, including the dreaded "thumb's up".

The first time I flashed the awful thumb, my subject startled a bit- as though I had flipped him the bird. I instantly realized my faux pas: many a hand signal means something else in other cultures. (Such as our "OK" symbol basically means "asshole" in certain Asian countries.) I do not know if a thumb's up is offensive in Finland or not, but it seems very possible that it could mean "up yours, shit tooth".

I never, ever use the "thumb's up". I know it's totally lame. So it's baffling that it was my instinctive first move with this guy.

But more horrifying is the fact that I continued to use it. I must've flashed my thumb half a dozen times, including as I walked him out. "Okay, thanks! See you later! Up yours, shit tooth."

I'm an asshole.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

sideways flying corn trash

So, last Sunday the DICE Women's Team (i.e.: Lindsay and myself) made it over to Des Moines for day two of the Spooky CX races.

The course was a little above what I have come to expect from some CX race courses. There. I said it. You know you're all thinking it anyway! Someone once said that adventure is one part poor judgment and two parts persistance, anyway. This race was at Living History Farms, and included some rolling forest trail (sweet), a murky field trail ending in a face-planting muddy ditch (dumb), a short but steep-ish gravel/asphalt hill (sweet), grass switchbacks with one more-than-180- degree left-hand downhill switchback (dumb), and a long, steady, grinding hill with a few low barricades (tough, but sweet). There was also and inexplicable double-mound of mulch. Weird.

The Women's Open field consisted of 9 riders, including me & Lindsay, Sydney Brown (I wonder who's going to win?), Brittany from ICCC, a couple of DesMoines riders and a few others I didn't recognize. Considering the weather, I consider this to be a pretty solid turnout. Speaking of the weather, did I mention the wind?

Iowans/Illinoians/ Nebraskans who are not in caves (and probably those in caves as well) experienced Sunday's winds: 32mph steady, gusting up to 54mph. There is no reason I should be able to see the side of my wheel like that while racing! The good news is, this leveled the playing field a bit. The field spread out pretty much from the gun, but that's to be expected in a Women's Open. The wind did keep us Cat 4's from getting lapped, though. I spent most of the race leap-frogging with Michelle from DMOS-- which was nice because I was able to sit on her wheel in a brutal headwind section for two of the four laps. She's a tough chick- she face planted in the ditch on lap one, successfully tried again on lap two, wrecked in the same spot on lap three, and made it on lap four. I have to say that after watching her face plant the first time, I decided to make this section a personal mandatory dismount. And you know what? The five to ten seconds lost for a dismount was definitely worth it. (With an honest assessment of my bike handling in mud, a wreck would have been inevitable.) I later found out that Lindsay had used the same tactic.

On the last lap, I sat up a bit in the tailwind section for a boost, and got away. Michelle stayed within sight of me for the entire lap, but didn't quite catch back on. I ended up 7th. Lindsay ended up third, but you can read about that on her blog:

All in all, a good workout.

On to Vandecross!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Just a quick anecdote from the bike path.

Last night I was going to take the CX bike out for a few hours~ the path to Devil's Glen, out towards Scott Co. Park and into some gravel. Got to the path and realized it was about 15 degF cooler than expected, so changed my plans on the fly. I decided to ride the path to the Riverdale end, then back towards a park where I could do some mount/dismount/carry practice.

Got really cold, headed into D'port a bit, and decided to turn around after about an hour of jacking around on different grassy knolls. As I was passing through the softball complex area, I saw a man. A man with a bike and a lot of bags. I assumed that he was homeless.

I should mention here that while vagrants in general do not frighten me, I do believe that in order to be a vagrant in an area such as the Quad Cities, there must be at least a small degree of mental illness.

That said, I gave the obligatory nod and kept riding.

He yelled something after me about how I should have a spare tire.

I kept riding.

Crazy Hobo: "Hey! You can't ride that fast!"

(I should mention here that I was traveling at maybe 16 mph.)

I kept riding.

CH: "I'm gonna whip yer ass!"

Me (under breath): "Grand."

I have never been good with threats anyway, whether they are idle or not. But when I heard the clicking of gears on the Crazy Hobo's bike and glanced over my shoulder to see him gaining, I must admit I kind of freaked. Fuck! This circus sideshow had legs. He was loaded down like a pack mule and rolling at about 24 mph on an ancient Schwinn Collegiate. Did I mention that he was missing a shoe? Nothing like a crazed derelict to start some forced interval training! I dropped into my biggest gear and got the fuck out of there. He chased me for a while, giving the occasional hoot, literally: "Whoo hoooo!!!". I lost him for sure around Duck Creek golf course when I opted off the path for the roads, where I felt much, much safer.

I know that he was probably just an old cyclist who had said "Enough!" to society, as many of us dream of doing. But the situation was this: I'm female, smallish (in comparison), it's getting dark, and the path was unpopulated. In these parameters I have to give a resounding "fuck that!"

Fuck, man! Where do these people come from? And why are they so attracted to me?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the thunder rolls

Saturday, Sept. 6 was The Thunder Rolls AR-- put on evil genius race director Gerry Voelliger. Sean and I did the 12-hour event.

Giving specifics of this race would take way too much time. Here are some highlights:

Section 1: the dreaded pack raft

Gerry (GV) threw a curveball this year, putting "pack raft" on the mandatory gear list. The forum was ablaze with questions, most of which boiled down to "what the hell is a pack raft?" A pack raft is exactly what it sounds like: an inflatable raft that is small enough to carry in your pack. Luckily GV was kind enough to not make us carry the rafts. We biked to the dock (TA1), where we inflated the rafts and hit the river.

Sean and I had tried out a number of pack raft formations. We had the 3-man boat and two single trail boats. When we were doing our military-style recon of the Mississippi backwaters, we actually ran into Gerry, who was in a single trail boat himself. He recommended using two trail boats and tying them side-by-side. We tried this and did find it to be somewhat efficient (a relative term when you consider that we were in an inflated craft).

However, on race day, we decided to use carabiners to attach our two boats, which creating a frustrating wobbling as our boats bounced off each other. Teams in the exact same 3-man boat that we had in the back of our car were flying past us. Kind of a downer. We got the two pack raft checkpoints (CPs) and got the hell out of the water.

Section 2: Loud Thunder o, also known as Shut Up, Eat, and Follow the Navigator

At the dock, the volunteers gave wristbands for the first orienteering course. We did alright on this course. I set my watch to beep every 15 minutes, so we drank every 15 and ate every 30. There was one CP that really fucked with us, but there were three other teams with us in the woods lost on the same CP. When we found it, we hadn't gone far enough... and had confused some of the other teams as well. {sigh}

This section was somewhat uneventful, but did present some mild exhaustion. We have a tendency to take a direct bearing from CP to CP, and just deal with the terrain... which ends up wearing us down really quickly. I think some of the faster teams might be a little smarter about this, finding trails and ridgelines to follow. {double sigh}

Section 3: canoe 1- never buy a kayak paddle from Dick's Sporting Goods

We got back to the dock, turned in our wristbands, and got our canoe. I climbed into the front, Sean got in the back, and as I was preparing to push off, I hear this: "Aw, shit! You've got to be fucking kidding me!"

I look back, and Sean is holding his kayak paddle in two pieces. (I should note here that we bought that paddle at Dick's about a week before and had only used it twice.) He is the stronger paddler, so I gave him my fully-intact paddle and took one of his halves to use like an oar. Luckily we had tried this formation during our recon, so it wasn't much of a stretch. We picked up the island CP and gave the duck blinds a wide berth, the way Gerry warned at the pre-race meeting. (Perhaps a wider berth than necessary...)
Section 4: Wildcat Den is under-appreciated and volunteers rule
At the opposite dock (Iowa side of the 'ole Miss), the volunteers had hot baked beans and 180 energy drinks waiting for us. As we were leaving the dock, the energy drink must've taken hold: "I feel awesome!! I am having so much fun!"
We headed into Wildcat Den State Park for six more CPs. On the two-mile walk to the park, we had to stop and wrap Sean's ankle. He has an old break that gives him problems at inconvenient times--such as at the beginning of a 3-4 hour hiking section of a race. The Ace bandage seemed to help and we went on about our business. We struggled a bit on this O-section, but the park is so beautiful that it didn't matter at all. One particular checkpoint was just off a sandstone creekbed. We got really lost on this section... but it truly didn't matter.
We also struggled with a CP in a cave. There are two caves at Wildcat Den-- one of which was too small to house a CP. The other, the Brandt Memorial, is placed high with a wide mouth and a low ceiling. I had to climb up several levels to get into the cave, only to not see the CP flag. We were stumped and ran into more teams. One team with a particularly tall guy climb into the Brandt cave (all the way in)... and found the CP all the way in the back. It was completely dark and I had to belly-crawl to reach it to punch my wristband!
The final checkpoint at Wildcat Den was a tyrolean traverse over the creek by the gristmill. This was as exhausting as it was fun. I was relieved to see Janelle at the starting side of the traverse-- she always makes me feel safe. I continued to refuse to believe that I have inherited my mother's fear of heights and made it across without shitting myself. We headed back to the dock, hopped in our canoe, and headed back to Illinois.
We approached the IL dock at almost exactly 6:00, the time we were supposed to be crossing the finish line. We still had a bike ride to Snowstar for two CPs, and a MTB ride at Loud Thunder for two more CPs-- in addition to the 45-minute ride simply to reach the finish line.
Needless to say, we opted to simply ride back in. We crossed the finish line at 6:55, exhausted, exhilarated, and not dead last (although nowhere close to first).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Team Fat Otter popped my cherry

I love to learn the hard way.

Last Sunday night, I was checking some emails from the CAARA list. I was drooling over different races the way an eleven-year-old boy looks at porn: I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I knew I wanted it.

Sean happened to see one about the Sweaty Otter 24-hour race. She was a sexy race, with smoky woods, great hills, and curvy routes... not to mention required toys (climbing harnesses!). We briefly entertained the idea of signing up ("Hey, maybe Stephanie would want to do it, too!") but laughed it off a bit. Later on I mentioned it to Stephanie ("Oh, yay!") and we all started to think about it seriously. We registered on Wednesday night. The race was Saturday, with registration starting at 6am.

Rookie mistake #1: Giving ourselves two days prep for a race.

Our house (Stephanie was staying with us) looked like the site of a death match between REI, the grocery store, and Farm and Fleet. We had half a dozen copies of the gear list all over the house as we scrambled to get everything together. We didn't have any UTM plotting devices, so we ordered some from two different sources ( and in the hopes that one would show up in time. No dice on that. What is it with these outfitters not having next-day air mail as an option?

Friday finally came. All three of us had to work (due to the limited notice), so we weren't on the road until about 5:30. Sean had a job in Watertown, so he had to take the truck & trailer separately. Steph and I had to turn around twice for things we had forgotten. We had to get to Madison before REI closed to get 2' sewn slings (we were short three), so we were off in a rush.

We got the slings and headed towards the park. We all decided to get a room in West Bend and try to get a little rest. The room (apparently the only one left in West Bend) reeked of cigareete smoke.

The morning of the race, Sean woke up and said, "Mmmm... let's get some biscuits and gravy." I almost puked right there. The motel had a waffle iron, but my old buddy nausea was hangin' with me, so I had some OJ and called it good. We met another team (Knome Hunters Too) and they gave us directions to the highway.

The race.

Registration was similar to other multisport/endurance races with packets and such. Rod from Fat Otter loaned us a UTM device which eased our minds a little.

The race started at 11:00 am sharp with a three-mile trail run designed to (effectively) break up the field a bit. Stephanie can easily run a 7-and-a-half minute mile, but alas, I cannot. We fell pretty far back right off the bat. Of note: there was a bright red thong hanging on one of the bushes on the run course.

After the run we were given our maps. The race was divided into ten "sections". Section 1 was a road ride to New Fane for a singletrack loop for the first checkpoint (CP). From there was a road ride to Mauthe Lake for Section 2- a nav course with six CPs. After Mauthe Lake we were back to transition 1 (TA1- the car). We did our version of planning and figured the first two sections would be "quick".

We headed out on some county roads with me & Stephanie in the lead. This is particularly stupid because SEAN IS THE NAVIGATOR. We got to Hwy67 ("off limits") and realized that we had headed north instead of south, adding about 7 road miles to our journey.

Rookie mistake #2: Not following the navigator.

Hammer had to loan us a bunch of gear, including his Bianchi Super Grizzly MTB for Sean. Stephanie had just purchased a new Diamondback 29er, which she rode for the first time during the race.

We lucked out with Stephanie's ride. (The guys at Healthy Habits sure know how to fit a bike!) Hammer's bike seat was visibly too low for Sean, so when we got to New Fane we raised his seat. This helped and all was well until the Bianchi started to ghost shift. We got it into a solid gear and hopped on to some pretty fun singletrack (Sean: "I could do this all day!").

We knew we were dead last at this point and decided that we would just chill out and try to survive. The Bianchi started to ghost shift again, so we had to put it in a gear suitable for the uphills, which forced Sean to spin out on downhills and flats. Pretty frustrating.

Rookie mistake #3: Going into a race on a new and/or foreign bike.

We finally got over to Mauthe lake and got our nav maps. Stephanie and I immediatley started plotting the UTMs on the giant map. When we finished, Sean held up a smaller, more specific map: "What's this?" Three of the six UTMs were already plotted! We checked our work and headed out--after spending more than an hour in transition.

Rookie mistake #4: Not looking through all of a packet before plotting UTMs.

Sean is a great navigator, but we made a few mistakes here, too... see rookie mistake #2. There was a lot of second guessing. At one point we were following an elevation line on the map, thinking it was the path we were walking on.

We finally finished up the nav course and got back over to TA1 after dark, exhausted and thirsty. The intention was to eat, but I was feeling nauseous. I asked Rod if that was normal. Rod: "Ooh. Only if you haven't been eating enough." Dammit! We were so sure that we would be back to TA1 right away, I hadn't brought along enough food!

Rookie mistake #5: Assuming that anything will be "quick".

We headed out to the slack line, which was fun for Sean & Stephanie. We then rode over to the Tower, where one of the checkpoints was at the top. This was one of the coolest things I have ever seen, seriously. The three-story tower has no roof, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The sky was a shade of dark that can only happen in the Wisconsin woods. There was a meteor shower, presenting falling stars every few minutes. The was a light breeze. It was a live planetarium, just for us.

Rookie accomplishment #1: Appreciating the moment.

Sean was cramping pretty badly, so we chilled a minute. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly. We were already below 50degF. Stephanie mentioned that she was prone to hypothermia. "If I get wet, it can get really bad." We decided we better keep moving.

The next leg was a longer road ride up to the marsh for the paddle section. It took a long time, and when we got there we were all so cold we had to bust out our emergency blankets and huddle together. When we got our paddle gear bag, we discovered that I had not put the glow sticks in. It was 3:30 in the morning. This would not fly. Stephanie, in charge of team morale and motivation, began scavaging glow sticks from other teams as Sean and I sat and watched team after team coming out of the water... soaking wet.

This was the point when I decided that I had to be the bad guy here. We were severely underprepared and getting in the water at this point-- me undernourished, Sean cramping, and Stephanie prone to hypothermia-- just seemed kind of stupid. We sat in a volunteer's heated truck and discussed the situation. We were done.

We never did the second MTB nav, the zipline, or the bonus nav back by TA1.

Rookie accomplishment #2: Knowing when you're in over your head and being honest with your team.

We rode back to TA1. This was in essence our trail of tears. It took hours. Stephanie kept fluttering back and forth, riding out in front and then circling back to us- until one time she just didn't circle back. Sean and I were maybe halfway when we got off and started to walk. As teams passed us, we asked them to send a vehicle back to get us. At the sign to the Tower, we parked our bikes by the road and climbed into the ditch to try and sleep. My stomach started to cramp really back, and when I looked over at Sean he was shivering at his core. We decided to keep moving. We got picked up by ___ in the truck we had warmed up in hours earlier. I decided that it is a "healing truck". Sean and I passed out on the 15-minute ride back.

I'm glad we did this race. Like most endurance sports, until you have attempted an event, you don't really know what you're trying to do. I thought I had been training. The truth was, I was training for a bike race, or an orienteering event. Not this. I have a lot of work to do.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

don't be confused, i'm not a navigator

The weekend of Jul 19-20 was the CAARA 2-Day Potluck, a free event designed to help beginners get into the sport of AR. The first day was an optional activity, either a MTB bike, a bike and hike, or a paddle. That evening, there were clinics on paddling, gear, and a storytime about Primal Quest. The final day was a practice race.

I did this event last year and felt that it rocked, so I decided to see if Stephanie wanted to go, too. She was down and we were off.

We got out to the park, which was a small city park in a small city (Spring Valley). There was, however, a pool. We checked in, set up our tents, and headed out for the MTB ride.

Day 1- Ride @ Mattheissen SP

The 'MTB ride' turned out to be a road ride to Mattheissen State Park, where there is some singletrack. The roads to Mattheissen (past Starved Rock) have some hills that would be challenging on a well-equipped road bike, so my heavy GF Tassajara (the AssJar) with knobbies was not necessarily the best tool for this task. I assume Mattheissen's singletrack is pretty sweet in the right conditions, but it had been raining and the trails were greeezy. If I've learned anything from Rage, it's not to shred trails by riding them in the wrong conditions. ("Somebody broke their back building that shit! Don't fuck it up!") We got about fifteen minutes in and decided to turn around. Stopping every ten feet wasn't really that fun anyway.

Now, heading in we were sure to stay on the "main trail", not taking any branches until we got our bearings. Turning around ended up being more challenging, as there were about a thousand feeder trails that we failed to notice. We had no idea which trails we had come off of. Forty-five minutes later we ran into the Hernanns, who had just started in. They told us to stay right and we did and eventually got back out to the sweet, sweet pavement. We had to stop and scrape pounds of mud off our bikes to simply make them operational again.

We ran into a few other folks and the Hernanns, and we all headed back towards Spring Valley- via the ice cream shop in Utica. Adventure racing is tasty!

Day 1 (evening)- Clinics

Not much to say, other than there was a lot of info involved here. A LOT. I won a pair of socks during the ARFE "Racing Green" clinic because I knew that you should pee on a rock in the woods. Gerry Voelliger gave the gear talk and I think may have given some hints for Thunder Rolls. Of course, I have been very wrong about hints before...

The night nav clinic had to be called off because a wicked storm ripped through. Again, super psyched about my Boy Scout-style Eureka pup tent! Handled it like a champ. Forgot a tarp so I had to cut up some garbage bags which worked just fine. I slept without problem during the violent thunderstorm- I was just happy to be dry and lying on the ground.

Day 2- Practice AR

I am fucking psyched about how this thing went. Stephanie and I went into this knowing that neither of us are navigators and we would have to be careful. The pre-race meeting was fast and furious, with me franticly taking notes. There has to be a better way to do that.

The race started with one teammate (Stephanie) running to the other side of a baseball diamond and grabbing one of many papers stuck in the fence. It was a word find, and there were different requirements. We grabbed a "find ten", which turned out to be one of the worst. We were third to last when we finally started out.

CPs 1, 2, 3

We jogged to the first checkpoint (CP) and found it pretty quickly on the top of a hill. We then ran down to CP2 on the river bed, where there was a descending rope (no harnesses required) to a sideways scaling (along the clay riverbed) into a woody area along the river. This may or may not be where I got poison ivy. We were already gaining on some teams. CP 3 was across a shallow section of river. This is where we saw Team Child's Voice, which was reassuring because Milan is a really awesome navigator. We high-fived and wished them luck. We jogged past them on the way to CP4.

CPs 4, 5
CP 4 was actually in the Illinois river attached to a kayak paddled by Neil Johnson (the Tax Guy- Team Critical Path). I did the swim portion and the water was refreshing. CP 5 was back to the start/finish to pick up our bikes. We were keeping a steady pace and transitioned quickly.

CPs 6, 7, 8, 9

The ride to CP 6 was fast and fun, with one wicked hike-a-bike gravel hill. It started on paved roads, but at the bottom of a fast, curvy road it transitioned to gravel pretty quick. I remembered this from last year and warned Stephanie. As we were pushing our bikes up the wicked hill, Chad came by in a truck and said he had to check on someone who wrecked and probably had a separated shoulder. We wished them luck and health and kept pushing on. We had passed another team or two in the bike transition, and thought we were maybe in third place.

CP 6 was the bike drop. Code and Yi Shun were manning the point. When we handed off our bikes I didn't see the other bikes, so I asked Yi Shun, "Where are you putting the bikes?"

Yi Shun: "We don't know yet."
Me: "Are we the first ones here?"
Yi Shun: "Yep."

Stephanie and I looked at each other and headed off. No way! We decided to take the fire roads into CPs 7 (at shed and shelter) and CP 8 (bottom of ravine). I think a lot of teams tried to take the gravel road around the outside (which is what I was proposing) and it proved to be harder. We found these CPs pretty easily. At one point coming out of the ravine, we heard the second place team and tried to hide by laying flat against the side of the ravine. This also might be where I got poison ivy. CP 9 was back to pick up our bikes. Code told us later that we had about a 45-minute lead at this point.

CPs 10, 11

CP 10 was right at the bottom of said wicked hike-a-bike hill, across some tracks. We found it and were on the gravel towards CP11. CP11 was on an old rail trail, right at the intersection with a highway. We slightly overshot the old tracks and turned back to catch it. Later we found out that some teams overshot on purpose in order to ride the roads in lieu of the grassy offroad route that we chose. However, we came out of the woods right on the highway, at the bottom of the trail up to CP11 and got it.

CP12- final CP, also known as the Trail of Tears

We knew we had probably lost a little ground overshooting the trail on CP11 (and stopping to pee- this also may be where I got poison ivy- so much for finding a rock), so we rode fast and furious along the old rail trail. Here I would like to pass along some of the things Chad said in the pre-race meeting: "Do not cross the creek on foot. There is no reason to cross the creek on foot." "Stay to the right." "Look for the spray painted arrow. Follow the spray painted arrow." "You will cross three railroad tressles."

We stayed right, but knew something was up when the trail went into the creek ("Do not cross the creek on foot. There is no reason to cross the creek on foot.") We turned back and checked some of the other possible routes, thinking that maybe the rights we had been taking might not have actually been trail. We headed up a steep incline to a corn field, which (out of respect for the farmer) we spent twenty minutes hike-a-biking around, only to find a sheer dropoff dead end. We headed back and ran into a group of teams also perplexed, including Child's Voice. Instead of staying and brainstorming with a known skilled navigator, we freaked and rode away from them- a total rookie mistake.

If we had stayed on pace, we would have finished this race in around two hours, forty-five minutes.

We got so severely lost on CP12, we finished in just under six hours. Luckily we had 100oz bladders of water and thousands of calories in bars and gels.

We did everything we weren't supposed to do, including crossing the creek on foot. We were six minutes (literally- "Let's give this 10 minutes and then head back") from quitting, when we heard voices coming out of the creek bed: "This is the worst fucking weekend! First my kayak flies off the truck, now you got us lost!"

Stephanie and I look at each other. Other racers!

We found them, and it was Dawn and Matt. They were in the creek (drivetrains submerged) trying to find the elusive tressles, too. We spoke to them and they had seen the spray paint but hadn't taken it ("Stay to the right"). We teamed up with them and they showed us the arrow- which turned out to be the only left on the trail. Stephanie and I had forgotten all about the spray paint.

Nonchalantly, I asked Dawn if they had enough to eat & drink, considering that we were over five hours in.

Dawn: "We had an apple."
Me: "How many apples did you have?"
Dawn: "We split one."

At this point, Stephanie and I both started pulling out gels and bars to give them, forcing them to get some calories.

As we headed out, we all stayed together. We laughed and pointed out that we were all so far behind that they would probably be sending search and rescue soon. A few times Dawn and Matt told us we could go on ahead, but that seemed ridiculous. The only reason we found CP12 was because they showed us the trail. We became a team of four as we headed back into town for the finish.

We finished third to last.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

cycling = terrorism?

Yet another encounter with the fundamentally insane. Where do these fucking people come from? And how do they keep finding me?

Today was the Mississippi Bluffs road race (MBRR), a super low-key local race just above Rapids City. Set on rural roads with wide shoulders and rolling hills, the MBRR course is one that many of us train on regularly. The course was 25K (about 15 miles) and the small field was divided into two groups: Beginner men/women, and Cat. 1-4. There were less than 30 racers total. Absolutely chill and no big fucking deal. A good day.

I sat this one out, due to my inability to shake this cold and my recent travel to Oregon (more on that later). I headed out to the race to help (DICE was putting this on, after all) and ended up being a corner marshall in a snappy orange vest. It offset the tattoos well.

This is where the weirdness begins.

This race was short. The Beginner group did one lap, the other group did two. After the two groups came through the first time, a man who lives across the street rolled by slowly in his red, shiny, what-the-fuck-ever car. He pulled into his driveway, paused, drove up to his house, reconsidered, turned around and drove back to the end of his driveway- about 20 feet total. He then got out and stood there, staring at me. after a few minutes of these shenanigans, he decided to shuffle across the street towards me. I should also mention at this point that he was missing at least four visible teeth. Our conversation:

Lazy Toothless Fuck: "What is going on?"
Me: "Just a small bike race. I'm here to direct bikers and make sure everyone's safe."
LTF: "You should have a sign."
M: "Well, there are signs up the road this way and down that way. I'm marking this intersection."
LTF (with a small 'smile') : "So you're the sign, then?"
M (smiling back pleasantly) : "I guess so!"

With that, he mumbled something about safety and shuffled back across to the sedentary safety of his car, which he then pulled back up to his house. All in all, not that notable an incident. Until he came driving back 20 minutes later.

LTF: "I called 9-1-1, and they don't know anything about this."
M: "You called 9-1-1?"
LTF: "Yeah, they don't know anything about this."
M: "Well, 9-1-1 is emergency services so I can't imagine they would. But there is a county sheriff at the next interestion who knows about it. He's guarding the course."
LTF: "Where?"

At this point, I give the man detailed directions on how to find a T intersection. I'll spare the details.

All converstions with this guy entailed him saying something ridiculously negative and/or paranoid, and me responding in a pleasant, telemarketer fact-giving way. I will now give you the best parts of this conversation.

LTF: "Black Hawk?" (pointing to the license plate on my car) "Is that where you're out of?"
M: "I grew up there, but I live in the Quad Cities now."
LTF: "Well, I reported that plate to the police."
M (saccharine): "Of course you did."

But hands down, the best part of the conversation was this:

LTF: "I wasn't notified anything about this thing. I didn't even see anything about it on TV."
M: "No, we won't be televised. This is a pretty small event. Just a group of people getting together to ride our bikes."
LTF: "That sounds like terrorism to me."

I am happy to report that I did not laugh in his face, nor shove--or get otherwise violent with--this man. I simply responded (happily):

M: "Terrorism? Really? You think we're terrorists?"

I have to admit I was kind of psyched at this point. Fucking sweet--I've never been called a terrorist before! I don't think it was the reaction he was hoping for, as this man obviously feeds on negativity. It must suck to be him...

LTF: "Well, a group of people getting together and not telling anybody about it..."
M: "It's more like a family reunion."
LTF: "Then that definitely sounds like terrorism!"

Wow. It must really suck to be this guy.

M: "I'm sorry. If you have any concerns you can direct them to the race promoter. His name is Donnie Miller and he is over at Adventure Quest right now."
LTF: "Don't talk to me about Adventure Quest! It's a gimmick."
M: "Okay. Well, I'm a volunteer. We're using the parking lot over at Adventure Quest, and that's where you can direct concerns. Or feel free and head down to the T intersection and speak with the sheriff."

The rest of the conversation between myself and this particular fucking idiot was simply a banter of him giving me some form of criticism, and me sweetly responding with directions to either Donnie, the sheriff, or both.

I would've been pissed if it hadn't been so funny... and kind of sad.

I swear to God, these people love me--and I have no idea why. How do they keep finding me?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mother Nature is fucking pissed.

…but I would be, too.

There’s a solid theory that the planet has been here much longer than you or I, and that it will remain much longer after. And let’s admit it, we’ve been shitty patrons. I can see why she’s trying to take a shower. We’re a pretty nasty species.
So everyone apologize to your mama, and be nice to her: drive less, recycle, minimize breeding, love the people that are already bred, eat seasonal.
Why am I repeating this hippie rhetoric? Because you know you're proper fucked when you make the BBC news.

i know that i suck.

i truly have posts for the AR camp, Iowa City RR, Sylvan Island Stampede, Hawai'i, and the recent weather.

but i let my home internet service lapse while i was on the island.

it's back on now.

i'll be sure to post what i have.

this weekend.

girl scout's honor.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

in the creep zone

last night i was supposed to complete a one-hour trail run.

i am totally sick of the trails around my apartment.

i thought i'd be clever and run out at the QCTri course. even more intelligent, i thought i could save a little gas and bike there. "it's not far," i thought. "i'll just take it easy."

i'm a fucking idiot.

there is no 'taking it easy' on west Locust Street. there are lots of cars, and they are driven by slack-jawed yokel fucks who hate cyclists. on the right is a gravel dropoff. on the left is a median with a curb. best to put it in the big ring and get the fuck out of there...

when i get to west lake, i am pretty fired up to be intact. until i realize what is going down.

apparently, West Lake in the springtime is where creepy fuckers go to hang out alone in their pickups. i am followed in to the park by one of these pukes, who stays behind me at 10mph... even when the road is clear for passing. there are two pickups with guys in the parking lot i want to head into, so i head for an empty lot. Slow Truck Guy follows me in.

i am obviously not going to be leaving my bike and running here. i can hear the news already: "unidentified woman decides to run alone at West Lake surrounded only by trees, water, and lonely men. details at 10." my imagination fills in the details with images picked up from various CSI and Law & Order scenarios.

Slow Truck Guy (STG) stares me down as he passes. i stare back and pull out my multi-tool, flipping oped the flathead screwdriver (the closest thing i have to a weapon). i then nonchalantly start digging at the cleat on the bottom of my shoe. STG pulls to the other side of the parking lot, gets out, takes off his jacket, puts it behind his seat, and gets back in. he then sits there for a minute before pulling out, just as slowly as he came in. maybe the douchebag just can't figure out how to get his truck out of first gear.

fuck. now i have to turn right back around and face Locust- just to get home and run those goddamned trails i have been avoiding all along!

...but you have to go with your gut. and i have no intention of having my limp ass pulled out of the lake.

Monday, March 31, 2008

a phone-lickin' good time

lindsay and i decided to have our DICE Women's training camp on Saturday.

of course this would be the day with 20 mph winds that gust up to 27 mph.

we went out in Iowa, did a Wisconsin/Telegraph Rd. loop, then braved the terrifying and glass-covered Centennial bridge in strong crosswinds to pass into Illinois. we continued out into the wind until we did a lollipop loop turnaround-and-back on Hubbard/Dennhardt Rds. we stopped at the Village RX (Hampton) for a little lunch. i had my phone for desert. we opted for the Arsenal bridge for our return Mighty Miss crossing, where we had to wait for the drawspan to close. the Arsenal bridge was just as horrifying as the Centennial, if not more so.

we were out for about 3 1/2 hours.

lessons: crushing headwinds do not make for an easy ride (i had forgotten this), do not put gel wrappers in the same jersey pocket as cell phone, i (heart) andrea's old TargeTraining jacket.

Jackson Hole rocks my socks

Feb. 27-Mar. 1: i headed off to Jackson Hole, WY for my cousin Megan's wedding. they put us all up at the Snow King resort, right at the base of the steepest (not tallest) ski run in the U.S. of A.

the wedding was a swingin' good time on Leap Day (February 29). hundreds of folks showed up(both the bride and groom are from Jackson, so a lot of the townies showed up), many rocking cowboy hats. Uncle Pete owns The Liquor Store. not much else needs to be said about that.

i got a chance to run about every day. one day i ran through town and stumbled upon Fitzgerald's Bicycles. Fitzgerald's is the type of shop you hope to find when you are out-of-town: the owner loves bikes and hangs out at the shop, the mechanics know what's up, Surlys in stock. i was worried at first- the shop didn't smell like a proper bike shop; it was pretty shiny in general. (for a moment i thought i had unwittingly stumbled into a trek store.) then i saw the Pugsley leaning against the counter, and i relaxed. i found out it was a brand-new location, so the shiny-ness will take care of itself in good time. they had a bunch of CompuTrainers, and the next day they set me up on a rental bike and off i went for an hour at altitude on a snowy day! i bought a t-shirt that says "Eat Food, Chop Wood, Ride Bike" on the front and has their logo on the back.

i also ran through the National Elk Refuge, which is home to around 3,000 head of elk. it really is something to see. i got a chance to snowboard at Teton Village. the smallest hill was 416'. i don't even know what the highest peak was.

i will be going back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I did my first event with Team POLeR, a six-hour "rogaine style" orienteering event at the Mississippi Palisades SP. We had a blast, and came in 9th (out of like 14). That's pretty good considering the field (lots of very quick, seasoned veterans) and conditions. Plus, we were the only team of four, which is generally slower. Oh yeah... they had me on board, and I am totally clueless. A bit of a handicap, one might say.

Mississippi Palisades is a beautiful park north of the QCA, covered with anywhere from 6" to 3.5' of snow. The temps ranged from 15degF to a balmy 25degF. I wore some old hiking boots, wool socks, running tights with cycling tights over top, base layers, ANdrea's old TargetTraining jacket, Salsa beanie, etc. The rest of the team showed up in mostly waterproof gear. Most noteable: gaiters. Oh shit, I thought. What am I getting in to?

I understood the need for the gaiters early on; after about 45 minutes we stopped because my ankles were caked with snow and I was walking in the resulting melted snow: water. I fashioned my own pair of gaiters out of a couple of plastic shopping bags and some duct tape, which worked well for a few hours. Luckily I had an extra pair of socks to change into. The only time we were truly on pavement was when we cut across the park to Hwy 84 to jog in. The cutoff time was 3:00pm; we checked in at 2:58.

I made a real effort to keep myself nourished during this event. Since we were hiking, I aimed for 20-30 grams of carbs every hour, as well as water the whole time. I had to keep my Camelbak Helena tube/mouthpiece in my cleavage to keep it from freezing. I also used my "boob warmer" to unfreeze gels and bars. Very handy! (Note: this area is also very useful as a garbage can in the warmer months.) My goal was to not embarrass myself and bonk during my first event with this group. Aside from the sock/gaiter situation, it all worked out well.
The were a few mishaps: in two and a half feet of snow, I walked straight into a tree stump- bashing my knee/shin. This isn't half as bad as when Code took a branch to the area right below his left buttcheek. Three inches to the right, and he'd a been fucked. Literally. He says it looks worse than it feels. Jesus, I hope so... because that looks like hell.

Results: immediate purchase of Gore-Tex gaiters, purchase of Ace ankle supports, 9th in a crazy strong field, flesh wounds for Code.

Friday, February 22, 2008

i made veggie soup!!!

i eat like a child.

so, i have decided to prepare food like a child. but i have limited what my ingredients are. i found if i just pick the veggies i like, throw them in a pot of veggie broth, boil 'em for a minute, then simmer 'em for 20 more, i have perfectly good soup that i will actually eat. it's worthy of an installment of The Boxcar Children.

here's what i did:
30-32 oz. of veggie broth. (i used Imagine Organic. it's tomato/carrot based.)
4 cups of any kind of veggies you want. this is where you can get freaky. i went with potatoes, carrots, spring greens (the pre-mixed organic stuff), onion, tomato, and chopped fresh garlic.
1/2 - 1 tsp. various seasonings. i used sea salt, pepper, chili powder, and basil.

boil it. simmer it. eat it!

there's hope for me yet!

Friday, February 1, 2008

blood sugar trainwreck

it's no secret that i have a strained relationship with food. we've never been buds... and i'm pretty sure the bitch owes me twenty bucks. lately i've been trying to incorporate more greens (blech!) and fruit, and eat fewer processed animal and sugar products. this week so far, i have had three salads and more PB&J than i care to disclose.

in my attempt to limit my processed sugars, i made a rule: when i am craving soda, i can only have Coca-Cola, and only in a can. this means that if i have a weak moment while driving and stop into a convenience store, i can only purchase a can of Coca-Cola. if they don't have cans, i have to opt for water. this is more effective than you would expect.

yesterday, about 45 minutes after having a lunch, i began to sweat profusely. my hands began to shake and i became lightheaded. lunch consisted of a small mixed greens salad with egg whites, kalamatas, and strawberries with some corn & potato chowder soup (i made myself!) and some caramel-flavored rice cakes. i drank water because the gas station i stopped at on the way to work only carried Coke in 20 oz. bottles... boo.

due to the timeline (45 minutes), i was pretty sure that i was heading into some pretty raunchy food poisoning territory, so i told my boss that i was leaving before we all regretted it. on the way home, i began to crave sugar in an unholy way. i stopped at known seller of Coke In Cans to get my fix on, to find the Coke slot empty! i stood there, betrayed, looking back and forth from the sprite to the diet coke. then- there, at the bottom of the cooler, was a 12-pack of the beloved Can! it took me three seconds to decide i was going to buy the whole fucking thing. i had the pack ripped open before i even reached the counter.

i drank my beloved Can in about two gulps, got home, crawled onto the couch and woke up two hours later... still in my coat. but no violent excreting, from either end. i felt better if not drowsy. a few armchair experts tell me they think it was some sort of blood sugar crash or hypoglycemia. any educated or medicated guesses are welcome.

my question is: why hasn't this posed a problem before?

this is what i get for trying to eat healthy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

i know what it feels like when hell freezes over

Frostbite Footrace 8K (4.96 miles)

Around this time, we all get a little sick & tired of trainers and treadmills. Our judgment becomes impaired and we can be talked in to just about anything. This is how races such as the Frostbite Footrace can be successful.

The course is challenging on a pleasant day; any cyclist that has done DICE's Cody races in the spring can vouch for the hilliness of Scott County Park. Add to that a start time temperature of -3* F, with a wind chill bringing it down to -27* F. So there you have it: I was in hell, and it was definitely frozen.

Yes, bullshit at it's finest.

I am very proud of my iPod; it almost lasted until the second mile before freezing. There is not much to say about my actual running of this race, except that it proved what Andrea & I have said all along: What doesn't kill you is going to hurt really bad. The third mile was the worst. This was where taking a deep breath started to create pain in my left shoulder/shoulderblade area. I also began to get the sensation that I was simply running on stumps instead of feet. Not sure, but I think this had something to do with numbness in the toes. My left knee also felt a bit out of whack. Good times!!

The race itself is always well run (this was the 26th annual), and they had a raffle with great swag. I won a long sleeve Mizuno Dryscience running shirt! Post race had hot cider and cookies. I was hoping to beat last year's time by at least a minute or two, but after hearing the weather forecast I let that go. I've never been much of a runner anyway. I ended up with the EXACT SAME TIME as last year. Literally. To the second. It was good for second place in my AG.

Anyway, I got my subzero fix. I'll be happy enough on the trainer inside a heated building for a while longer.

results: 00:46:34 for 8K, frozen iPod, images that will haunt me forever of men with snot icicles on their porn 'staches