Speaking of flipping…

Remember this post? Essentially, I told Pearl Izumi that their “buckle” droptail design (which, in fairness, is used by several other manufacturers) looked like it would not offer much convenience in comparison to their very awesome waistband type (which is not used by anyone else). The customer service person who was so quick to answer my initial questions about the shorts has ignored my request for an explanation as to what exactly they were trying to achieve with their buckle design.

There you have it- Pearl Izumi has, once again, given the middle finger to customer service.

I’ll wear the current shorts until they fall apart… which, in my experience with lower quality shorts, will be about May, if I’m lucky. By then, the Outdoors Inc team shorts should be in, and I will just deal with non-drop bibs. It’d still be nice, though, to have the “perfect” shorts. I have no idea if anyone in the business of bib-shorts making reads this blog, but if you’re willing to listen, these are my “demands”:

-Quality construction. Don’t use the thinnest spandex, and use strong thread to hold it together. Ibex is a champion of this. Hincapie also comes to mind. Thin spandex sucks. My first experience with poor-quality fabric was back in 2008 (racing with Kenda) when Verge went cheap, and lots of chicks in the pro/elite ranks were left showing off their under-shorts tattoos because the fabric was so thin. It caused a big stink amongst women’s teams that most of the general racing public didn’t hear about because, well, if you don’t have anything nice to say about a sponsor, then don’t say anything at all.
-Chamois that isn’t a diaper. Yes, women are different than men. No, that doesn’t mean that the fabric used in my chamois should be measured in square feet and the thickness of my chamois in inches.
-Droptail. Steal Pearl Izumi’s waistband design.
-Fit. Most athletically-built women complain about not being able to find shorts/jeans that fit their thighs without going up a size, leaving the remainder of the garment too large. Take this into account when making your women’s shorts. 8-inch inseam, generous leg-holes, snug around the waist, and snug-fitting suspenders.
-Price. I don’t mind paying a little more for good quality, but don’t put the “hey these are euro and cool” markup on your product like Assos and others do. I’m not paying $300 for a pair of shorts. Ever. It’s spandex. No matter how much quality you put into the construction, no matter how many panels it’s made out of, consumers realize that the cost to make the shorts is probably somewhere in the range of $.50 per pair (including the daily handful of rice you give to the kid in the sweatshop that’s running the sewing machine). Don’t insult me with a %9000 markup.
-Offer them as a custom-sublimated product.

Takers? Somehow, I doubt it. I think that with most clothing manufacturers, women’s bib shorts are somewhat of an afterthought.

Spa City 6 hour and the art of flipping your sh*t

As the Spa City 6 Hour draws near, the entry list has grown, and now includes not only Laureen Coffelt, but also Monique Mata (aka Pua Sawicki). Laureen is steady. In “short” races like a 6 hour, she’s waiting just a few minutes back, never slowing down, never having a mechanical, and ready to eat you alive should you waver. Pua? Well, two years ago when I started this off-road stuff, she was a big name. She still is, though in my typical pre-race e-stalk, I can’t find any recent results, and her blog hasn’t been updated since May of 2010. Maybe I’ve got a chance?I have yet to e-stalk the rest of the entry list. It could be full of additional badasses for all I know.

Since not everything can be an “A” race, I haven’t let up on training. I plan on breaking camp at Ceder Glades after the race and making the short trip west to camp and do some Ouachita Challenge recon with the Antique Gun Show on Sunday morning. If everything goes as planned, I’ll end up with a 17 hour training week.

If anyone knows of a good breakfast joint in Hot Springs, let me know.

In other news, I’ve recently come to realize that I am mastering the art of “Flipping my Sh*t.” Not in a “needs anger management” sort of way, but more like a “you just did something so dumb/thoughtless/etc. that I’m going to tell you exactly how I feel about your actions” sort of way.  If you’ve ever watched a show featuring Gordon Ramsey (Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares), you’ve seen a master sh*t-flipper at work. I call it an artform, because anyone can lose their temper and yell and act a fool. It takes a master to very sternly tell someone (in a way that he/she can understand) that the act that he/she has committed is so incredibly stupid/thoughtless that it’s blown your mind almost past the point of sanity. This must also be applied only at the appropriate time/place, and must be such an inarguable verbal lashing that the receiving person is left with nothing to say.

And, finally, I think I found my new spin instructor (thanks to Nate for the link):

Century #1

…of 2011, at least. I normally don’t like to make a post of nothing but complaining and whining, but I figured I’d tell you just how bad it was in hopes that other 100 milers this year will only be better. Also, I’ve been told by several people that they read to live the wannabe pro life vicariously through my blog. Well, it’s generally a sweet life, but sometimes it’s just fvcking hard.

My instructions for Sunday’s ride were to maintain a strict Z2 pace for 6 hours.  I’m in the process of digging a bit of a training hole, and I started feeling delayed effects of Southern Cross late in the week, so I started out feeling tired. The icing on the cake? It was damp, 40, and cloudy. The 50 and sunny forecast never showed up.

Light wind from the NNE and a mostly eastbound route made for slow going on the way out. I decided to take a route I’d previously used from Cordova to Williston and tack on an extra loop to the east side. It had been a nice 5 hours a few weeks ago, so I figured that the new (to me) roads would add more interest. Unfortunately, the interest I found was not of the rural, bucolic type.

At approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes into my ride, a medium-sized rat terrier came streaking across a yard after me. It was small and yappy enough that it made me giggle to sprint away from it. Once it peeled off, I sat up and turned around to watch it do the dog-chase “walk of shame” back to its house. Therein lies my mistake. When I turned around, there was a gigantic boxer and a short, fat, fluffy dog standing in the middle of the road. The boxer was hopping its front feet off the ground and barking with its hackles up from shoulders to tail. With two dogs in the middle, the sprint option is nixed. I had no choice but to face it down.  As soon as I was close, it began to lunge at me. Between lunges, I stopped and put my bike between me and it and proceed to chase it away from me with the chainring. Once it retreated, I got back on my bike and tried to get away before it came back. He immediately came after my right leg, which was not yet clipped in.

Luckily, that was on purpose. I managed to land a solid donkey kick to Cujo’s teeth.  He yelped and made a permanent retreat to the side of the road. The fluffy dog followed suit.

The remainder of that loop was similarly stressful. One trailer I passed had a massive pit bull chained  to a tree outside. Just as I was thinking, “damn, I’m glad that thing is chained up, I heard more barking as a 2nd pit bull- whom I’ve dubbed the “DJ Paul” of pits- with only 3 whole legs and the remnants of what I can only think is a leg that pit #1 had bitten off- came running (albeit slowly) across the yard towards me.

Then, I came upon a “road closed to thru traffic” sign. Hmmm… I wonder just how closed it is. The answer? Not closed enough…

After that, the remainder of the trip was uneventful. Thank doG. I ended the day at exactly 6 hours and 100 miles. My feet had fallen asleep somewhere around mile 15, and once I was in the shower, they turned bright red and felt as if they were covered in fire ants. The 100s can only get better from here.

…like an F-18, Bro

Between racing and training, my awesome mohawk was starting to get somewhat bushy and out of control. Also, between racing and training, I haven’t really felt like taking the time to make an appointment and drive to midtown to get my hair cut on my day off. I’ve got much better things to do… like nap.

So, when (beanpole) Matt volunteered to cut it for me after work on Friday, I was all for it. After getting iced in the parking lot of his apartment, we split a 40 of budweiser (for courage) and took to the bathtub… better in every way possible than going to even the most laid back hair salon…

(photo cred to Ryan and Steve Jobs)

In other F-18 related news, I’m riding 6 hours tomorrow. Today’s training was shortened because no one was riding Trinity at 8:00am in the downpour. In lieu,  The Wizard handed down some Z3 interval work for this afternoon. When I arrived home, I found this in my mailbox:

It’s a bitchin’ new Awesome Strap from Dicky. W00t!

In non F-18 news, things like this are why you should always bring your bike to Outdoors, Inc. if it needs to be worked on at a place other than your own garage:

Two unrelated things, enhanced by Charlie Sheen

In random order.

I’ve recently fallen in love with Pearl Izumi’s “drop tail” bib tights/shorts because they make the only disadvantage to wearing bibs no longer a disadvantage.If you look at the photo, there’s a waistband across the back…

However, they previously only made them in the “elite” line, which is not as nice as the “PRO” line. Honestly, I’d call them downright chintzy. Being the gear snob that I am, I was excited to see a pair of “PRO” level shorts labeled as “drop tail”  pop up on their website. They look like this:

Wait a minute, now… something seems to be missing. Where’s the waistband? After a little internet searching brought about no answers, I sent the following email to Pearl:

“I have a question about the W P.R.O. In-R-Cool® Bib Short. In the Product description on the website, it says that these are a drop tail bib short, but the photo is of shorts without a drop tail. I have a pair of the elite droptail bibs that I like, but I’d like to get something in the PRO series if it’s available. Thanks”

Within 24 hours, I had an answer:

“The new women’s P.R.O. bib does have a drop tail, but it’s not as large and doesn’t use the same overlapping panel as the one on the ELITE Bibs.  Basically, there’s a small clip on the strap in the center/back that allows it to separate so you can pull the back of the shorts down without having to remove your jersey to un-do the suspenders. Thanks for choosing Pearl Izumi!”

I looked at the photo again and saw what they were talking about. Wow, really? I sent the following reply back to the person who had previously given me such a quick answer:

“I see that now… honestly, the thought of having to unclip, pee, then fish around under a jersey AND re-clip a buckle in the center of my back sounds like a bigger hassle than removing a jersey and pulling the suspenders down. Not to sound sexist, but did a man come up with that idea? It’s not practical at all.”

So far, I’ve heard nothing but crickets. My next email to Pearl Izumi will include Charlie Sheen Quotes.

“I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen. It’s not available because if you try it, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.”

In non-Pearl Izumi hating news, I love being resourceful. I realized a couple of miles from my house this morning that the drive side crank arm on my A9C was loose. I don’t have a 10mm allen on my multi-tool, so I thought I was going to have to cut y ride short to limp home and fix it. However, I realized shortly into my limp home that I passed right by a Coleman Transmission Repair shop. At first, I got an odd look from the guy at the desk when I pushed my bike into the lobby, but once I explained my situation, he disappeared into the back for a minute, came back with a 10mm, and I was able to tighten it back down and be on my way (hopefully that was a one-time occurrence. Time will tell).

Back at It

Through my whirlwind 4 seasons as a bike racer, I’ve figured out that I need as much mental recovery from racing/training as much as I need physical recovery. If I skip that step, then I’ll end up in the same place I was when I broke down, quit the Metro VW team, and nearly threw my road bike in the Mississippi River in the process.

The lead-in to a big race like Southern Cross is not necessarily stressful. It just involves a lot of focus- eat right, train right, go to bed on time, etc. The race itself is both physically and mentally taxing. Physically…  that’s obvious. I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor, but I know enough from past training that I was laying down a solid near/at/over threshold effort for every second of the 3 hours and 44 minutes of racing.

Mentally? Well, for starters, It’s a little scary to be putting that sort of effort out on the first climb. I’ve done it in the past, and it’s only resulted in heartbreak a la Southern Cross 2009 and Cohutta 2010. This time, I had to do it and have faith in both my pre-race training plan and my during-race eating plan. Later in the race, I had to keep yelling at myself to resist the urge to slow down. On the second climb, I ignored a lot of screaming from my legs. Everything but my brain was saying “chill… pace yourself… use the 34×26…”

When I crossed the finish line, I wanted to scream, laugh, cry, and sleep all at the same time. The mental release is pretty intense.

For the few days following, I tried my best to live “normally” instead of like a wannabe pro bike racer. I rode a little, ate pizza, and drank beer. It worked out well since we had a kickass open house planned at work. It was kind of a combination meet & greet for some of the new staff, chance to show off how insanely clean the shop is, and release party for our new stock of Niner bikes. Yep- you heard it right- Outdoors, Inc. is officially a Niner dealer now!

So the timing on that worked out well. Today I got up, milled around the house a bit, then went out for a 4 hour ride. My legs and my brain felt superb, and I made 70 miles in 3 hours and 45 minutes at a zone 2 effort. Looking at my schedule on Training Peaks, I’m excited to see a killer block of training on the calendar. I feel the need to quote Charlie Sheen right now…

Southern Cross- Photos not of the Race

After a brief nap on the ground near the post-race food tent, I pulled myself together, ate a little lasagna, and went back to the hostel to clean up for the awards. You’ve read the rest of the story, so here are some photos from around the hostel and the awards ceremony. The gallery below is mainly artsy-ish photos of people and things, including (but not limited to) Todd the Antique Gun Show, Jimmy Deane, Dicky, a Canadian with a Knife (Chris), a two-person women’s “podium” with Brenda Simril, single speed podium, 45+ podium, Mike Stanley (regional Niner rep), Billy Dee Williams, Taste Activator Glass (being tasted), hostel chickens…

Southern Cross Race Report

I hope I don’t disappoint anyone with a brief race report, but I honestly don’t have a ton to say because everything was so perfect.

Friday night, I slept like the dead.

Saturday, Hiker Hostel breakfast (french toast, scrambled eggs, and oatmeal- all made in front of you in the kitchen) was great.  The night before, they ask what time the racers need to eat, and that’s what time the food hits the table. The coffee prettymuch kicks ass, too.

I knew going in to the race that with 2nd and 1st place finishes in 2009 and 2010 that I’d be a marked woman. Just in case no one noticed, race promoter Eddie O’dea did call-ups for the previous year’s podium finishers that were in attendance for this year’s race. the other women held their positions in the line up… I took the opportunity to move up a row.

The race began with a piece of break-neck speed, off-camber piece of cyclocross course. I rode hard, but smart (a repeating theme for the day), not wanting to fall behind, but not wanting to wreck or have a mechanical, either. I was passed by a few guys that started behind me, but no women.

Once we were on the road, I knew that I had to capitalize on having a cyclocross bike instead of a mountain bike.Just ahead of me, I saw a tall, skinny guy in a Clemson kit, riding at a good pace with his elbows on the tops of his bars. I pushed hard to catch his wheel, and he amicably pulled me several miles to the first of the gravel road hills where I decided that I no longer needed to be pulled, thanked him, and began climbing at a hard, just barely sustainable pace.

For the remainder of the race, I was either climbing at a pace as hard as I could maintain, or I was descending as fast as possible without risking a wreck or mechanical. The descents were a lot rougher than last year, so I knew that Brenda Simril (who was chasing me all day) was at an advantage on her mountain bike. I made it up the first insanity climb, through the first SAG, and down the first descent to the pavement without issue.

Once I was on the pavement and headed towards the next climb, I had to concentrate on maintaining the same effort that I’d put into the previous climb. Generally, if I wasn’t out of breath and my legs weren’t burning, I shifted to a harder gear and pedaled harder. Since the 2nd climb was much more moderate than the 1st one, the pavement strategy worked well for it, too. Between the 100’s of calories of Gu Roctane and a caffeine pill around mile 25, I started the 2nd climb feeling like I was ascending like a monkey on crack, and ended up reeling in a lot of the men who had passed me earlier in the race.

Before I knew it, I was at the 2nd aid station. Soon after, my only race mishap occurred when I lost a water bottle on one of the rough downhill spots. Luckily, #55 gave me one of his extras (I forgot his name, though he did say that he’s got a coworker that’s a reader). Hi! And, thanks again… you saved me!

The remainder of the rollers after the last long descent were hard. I had convinced myself that the other competitors were not far behind me, so I ignored how badly my legs hurt and hammered (as best I could) over the top of every hill. When I arrived back  at Montaluce for the final CX lap, I had a slight inkling that I might win. Eddie had re-routed the course to include a traditional Southern Cross run-up. I shouldered my bike, threw goats & made faces at the cameras, and trotted up the hill.

Ever since French Gulch in Breckenridge, all other hike-a-bike type situations seem somewhat “easy.”

I made my way through the remainder of the course and crossed the line. Ho-lee-isht. Did I win?!?! Eddie seemed slightly doubtful. Others congratulated me. I was 99% sure I’d won, but no one seemed to know for sure.

I have never been as exhausted after that race as I was yesterday. I changed, drank a recovery drink, and laid down on the ground in a fetal position near the food tent, where I passed out for close to 15 minutes. It would have been longer, but Skinny Matt called and woke me up with his SuperFlossy race report.

I eventually ate some lunch, went back to the hostel and changed, had a couple of beers, and returned for the awards ceremony. When I walked in, a bit of a nightmare started… Namrita (Eddie’s wife), approached me, apologizing. She said that someone had finished ahead of me by a few minutes. What followed was on the top 10 list of worst hours of my life. I’d absolutely destroyed myself to win, but I thought I hadn’t. I drank half of Jimmy Deane’s whiskey trying to numb myself from the horrible feeling of riding as hard as humanly possible and still being in being 2nd place.

Then, Brenda Simril stepped in. She asked me if I knew this person that had placed ahead of us. Uh… no. No idea. We talked to the men that had finished ahead of us. None of them had seen any other women. We talked to Namrita and eventually figured out that this person had entered the 50 mile race and only completed the 30 mile course without notifying the finish line staff (she wasn’t at the awards ceremony).

I was back in first place, and $500 richer.

Despite the emotional roller coaster, the day was amazing. After the awards ceremony, photos and celebration ensued…

Photos? I have post-race photos. You’re just going to have to wait until morning.

The blogoshpere is alive and well…

…at the Pre-SouthernX Hiker Hostel. Aside from a couple that’s thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail (the woman is nearly blind and told a humorous story about using her hiking pole as a white cane), there are a bunch of internet celebrities…

Chris– one of the many random Canadians that are here. Southern Cross is his return to bike racing after a bit of a hiatus (read more on his brand new blog)

Then there’s Jimmy Deane. He’s racing a 39×18 on his singlespeed tomorrow. Ryan says, “That’s just silly.”

Of course, Dicky is here, too. He looks like Mr. Peepers. My goal for the weekend is to get him drunk enough to spill the beans on the whereabouts of his next frame.

In Brickhouse news, the pre-ride with Antique Gun Show went well. The CX loop at the start/end of the road loop is going to be tough. Not French Gulch tough, but it’ll hurt a bit.