Oct 18, 2009

It's Joseph, not Jesus: Sherwood Forest Cross Crusade Week 3

A seven inhaler race: Sherwood Forest. Well, it was an equestrian center, therefore a horseshit obstacle course. Horse shit was not present on the course, but lots of hills were.
I did get to pre ride the course, which is always a game of luck and timing at the cross crusades, since there are a million races going on all day long. As Molly said recently "You have exactly 4 minutes all day to pre ride the course". Pre riding is a blessing and a curse. You know what you are up against, and you know what you are up against.

I was going to be up against my lungs. The fact that the women's field has grown to 300 racers did not bother me, it was my asthma. I told Nissy it was going to be a 3 inhaler race, turned out to be 7. 4 puffs of albuterol pre race and we're off. I got staged in the middle thanks to number call ups, and all of a sudden this does not freak me out. I was not missing my usual happy place in the back, because all of a sudden I am competitive about cross.

My free wheel hub, or something like that, started to fail this week, and I work for the Community Cycling Center I get full service advice and repairs now. The advice was: buy a new wheel, spend 25$ on your already crappy wheel, ride it till it dies, borrow a wheel from Alice, switch tires and ride my touring wheel. With too many options on the table I settle on Alice's wheel, which turns out to be the wrong something or other day of. The new suggestion is go to the Shimano PIT and get them to give me a wheel. They say they only have two nine speeds, and the are out on the course, so I can't get one until right before my race. No way, it takes 5 minutes to ride from the PIT to the start, and I would miss call ups. I race my busted wheel.

Busted wheel is fine, I don't drop my chain, and I feel CONFIDENT on that course. I get asthma really really bad that I am not yelling at my friends, I am breathing for dear life. I pedal faster and jockey for position, I pass people, I actually yell "On Your Left" a good handful of times. My mouth is gaping open and I am able to tell roughly how many women are behind me on one section. It is a lot. I pedal harder. I let go of the brakes on a downhill super bumpy section and all of sudden fear for my endo life as I gain enough speed to not be able to touch the brakes since it is so bumpy.... I have to ride it out. It's fine, I'm fine, no endos for me.

I hear "GO ZANIMAL" on every turn, and even tell Tim at one point he couldn't take a picture of me when I was walking over the log. I did not manage to ever ride over that log. There are Sorellas everywhere I look, and at times I can't tell whose who. I notice two of them get mechanicals, as does my co worker Nissy. Somehow my 10+ year old Redline with a broken something or other hub manages great on one of the toughest courses to date.

Last lap, I tell myself I can do it, race hard, don't let anyone except Beth Burns pass you. I push hard. Breathe even harder. I really wish we had a Nebulizer at the Sorella tent because my breathing is getting really bad and I am having full on asthma. I feel the low oxygen getting to my head and I am dizzy. For some reason I just can't stop, thinking I may pass out at the finish I pedal as hard as I can.

39th out of 79, I cross the line and get right off the bike after I yell really loudly at some random guy on the course right after the finish line. Apparently I had enough oxygen to yell. I walk to the tent and sit right down, 3 more puffs on the albuterol and some lemonade from Shellie. I sit for a bit and regain my head and lungs which had been dangling off the back of my jersey for a minute there and manage to stand up and get on Kronda's trainer to cool down. I have to hold onto the roof rack of the car next to me for stability, but I manage to spin my legs.

Sweet victory, I told Anne I was going pro, which is my new line when I don't come in last.

On the car ride home Alice and I are talking about the Blind Date series, and I tell her that my favorite part was the light praying Jesus statue on the tight corner, and she tells me it's Jospeh, not Jesus. I don't believe her, until she confirms the fact by telling me he also lives with her, and has seen some wear from the series and now has a huge crack in him. He lights up their window at night. Ahh cross racing.

Molly Cameron won the Men's field, which rocked. We chatted with her at the end and caught up for a minute. Like old times out in the horseshit. I love racing.

Oct 11, 2009

Cross Crusade Week 2 - Rainier - "Get Those Socks Up That Hill!"

Ok, so given that I am not a cross racer, as mentioned before, I had such a great race today at week two of the series. After mountain biking on Friday, and doing a cross training ride on Saturday with my team, I was wondering if my legs wouldn't be fresh at the race. We planned well, and Jen and I arrived with plenty of time to warm up and test ride the course. I hit the inhaler pretty hard, and took a bunch of albuterol into my lungs, to try and ward off the asthma on this dry and dusty course. There was such a huge field of beginner women, 62 racers in all, that they called us up to line by number, and I was called up about 2/3 of the way into the field. If you know me at races, you know I like my happy place at the back, since I am not fast, and so being 2/3 way back made me a little nervous, because it made me think that 20 women were therefore going to pass me soon enough, which can slow you down if they don't pass well. I sucked it up, ditched my water bottles, and off we went. Right away I felt good, and not only did no one pass me, I started passing people right away. I figured I was going out too hard, and they would pass me back... but I gained ground. I shoulder checked a couple times and saw a sizeable gap between me and the 1/3 of the pack that was behind me. This made me want to race harder. All of sudden I got really competitive and wanted to hold my position. I raced, and I raced hard. The course favored me, with nothing too technical, and a serious road style, and you know I like road style. I flew on the downhills, and even passed folks that way. I wondered who I was, passing folks on decents, and when did I learn some cross skills? I could barely breathe, and sounded like an asthmatic freight train as I passed women on their left, but I couldn't stop myself. My legs felt great, and if I had any oxygen I could have gone faster. I heard lots of cheers, lots of encouragement, and at one point I heard "GET THOSE SOCKS UP THAT HILL!", and the base of the biggest hill. I had over the knee fluorescent stipped socks, that match my fluorescent bar tape and cable housing. I was not to be missed.
I finished just as strong as I started, and knew I had at least 20 women behind me when I crossed the line. After cool down we checked the results, and sure enough, I was 35th out of 62, which is unheard of for me. Stunning in fact. So awesome that I told Anne I was going pro, and that she needed to watch out :)

Mountain Bike Trail Around Haag - Don't let any cross organizers see this!

For some reason the fact that the 15 mile mountain bike loop around Haag Lake is AMAZING has been kept a secret from Kronda and I, and neither of us had ever tried it. I've raced on the road so many times out there, and swam in the lake, and run in triathlons, that my history with Haag is long and storied. We arrive on a stunning Friday, on this last weekend of sun for the year, and head out not knowing what the trail will bring. The short answer is that it includes a little bit of everything and comes with a full face smile for 2 hours straight. There is one part that truly stands out, with a nice woodsy decent, with a 2 plank "bridge" at the bottom on the hill, followed immediately by such a steep ascent that there is a rope layed on the ground from a tree at the top down to the bridge. Basically you both can't bike down the decent, nor over the planks, and definetly not up the other side. It was the most amazing cross run up we had ever seen, and we pondered how to simultaneously climb up, hold the rope in one hand, and hold the bike in the other hand. We decided that no cross organizer should be allowed to see this, and get any funny ideas about making a run up so steep that you need a guide rope to hold onto and pull yourself up. We took on the challenge and took some pictures, and continued on our merry way. I can't wait to go back, and like Alpenrose, it is relatively in our back yard. We are so lucky to live here.

My Blind Date at the Dairy

After not racing on Sunday, I was feeling much better come Monday (false cold alarm, thank goodness), and was ready to race on Wednesday night when the next opportunity rolled around. Unfortunately I arrived home to find my car out on an adventure with my housemate, and I had to scramble to track him down and get him to get home, so I could make it out to the race on time. With no time to spare I was negotiating rush hour, panicked that I was going to miss the race, because for some reason I am all of a sudden totally excited to race cross. OK, let me just say that I have had a cross bike for 10 years, and have ridden it almost every day of those last ten years, and it has seen a lot of Oregon, and taken me to work every single day.... but I'm not much of cross racer. I love the road. Asthma knocks me off my bike in cross races, and so I have not done many of them in the past.
I arrive. I am almost late. 10 minutes to race start and I navigate the very disorganized and slow registration process. I love OBRA but I will say the Dairy registration was poorly done. So I had exactly zero seconds to do anything, and made it to the start line in time to go. The biggest problems for me in that scenario are no warm up (induces asthma), and no time to take my inhaler (induces asthma). Off we go, and I can't breathe. I slow down, and I know I am not in last place, so I am dedicated to staying in the race. 10 minutes, maybe 15 in, I really can't breathe and decide it is smarter to pull over at the start and grab my inhaler out of my bag. My co worker happens to be standing right there, and hands me his, and off I go again. I have no idea if I am now in last place, but I want to race. Men are passing me constantly on both sides, and I hit the brakes constantly. It was not pretty, but it was still fun. The laps were too short in my books, meaning that there were other fields constantly overtaking each other, basically there was no room to move. Given all that, it was still fun, and the light up plastic praying jesus statue on the sharp corner was priceless. I went directly over to that corner once my race was over so I could snap a few pictures in the amazing dusk light. The results were a series of quite cool blurry racers. There is one more blind date in the series, and it is a toss up really.... good time to practice cross, but the men passing constantly was a real battle. Women's field please!

Cross Crusade Week 1 - Alpenrose

After a long week, and a very painful Ironman tattoo, I was feeling sick on the first day of the Cross Crusade Series; Alpenrose. Being that Alpenrose is in our back yard, and given that so many of my teammates and friends race, I went out to watch. It was a beautiful day and there were some fun additions, like these stairs, so being a cheering squad with my also sick co worker was both fun and torturous. Anne had passes for our team, so I bought all the rest of them, locking my into the next 7 races. I knew I didn't want to miss another one!