Early Memphis

Last night, I was feeling down, so I figured this morning I’d join Matt and Joel for a ride in Overton Park, which is prettymuch on the outskirts of Midtown Memphis. This meant that most of my riding would be on city streets that are rarely seen by visitors to the city, so I took the camera along to catch a few shots of the morning light on the road.

At 6:00am, I headed out on the road for a few miles to get to the greenline…

I decided somewhere along the greenline that I’m very fond of pre-dawn rides, and since I’ve got the badass Trail LED light that I want to do them more often now that the weather is nice. Once I was off of the greenline, I realized that I was going to be early to our meet-up spot, so I rode backwards on Matt’s route to meet up with him.

Matt and I soon met up and went to the corner of East Parkway (which runs north & south) and Avery to wait for Joel. Joel was running a few minutes late, so we hung around in someone’s front yard, ate Gu Chomps, and discussed life as well as how much more awesome the ghetto smells in the morning than the fancy parts of town.

Once Joel arrived, we rode up the middle of East Parkway to Overton Park, which is incredibly cool because it’s a few miles of twisty trail through an old forest in the middle of the city. Matt bent a wheel on the log ride. I took more photos…

I made it home just in time to clean up and eat breakfast before work. The ride ended up being nearly 2.5 hours rolling time and 35 miles. It was somewhat over what was on my schedule, but my brain needed the saddle time. On tap for the weekend- Trinity Ride/aka Weekend World Championships followed by another Sunday Solo Century. Next week’s taper for Ouachita is gonna feel gooooood.

This is only a front.

Actually, it isn’t. This blog is one of the most real things you can find on the internet as far as blogs go. I tell you what I’m thinking, what upsets me, what makes me giddy, my hangups, my feelings… I could go on. Over my nearly 30 years of time on earth, this is the person I am… proudly and unapologetically so, and, if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know that I’m like this in real life. [Side Note: I’m not saying that I don’t tone myself down appropriately when the situation demands it. That’s something totally different, and I consider being a bit of a chameleon to be one of my most cunning, useful, and awesome personality traits.]

…Which brings me to the point of this post. It has little to do with bikes and everything to do with being true and honest to yourself and the rest of the world. If your life is an idealistic front that is different from how you actually feel, what you actually care about, or what you really believe, then you will never be truly happy, and it’s going to eat away at you from the inside.

What I’m saying goes far beyond bloggers on the internet. I will admit, though, that the thing that brought this post to the front of my mind was the Tumblr page of a friend of a friend. The Tumblr page makes this girl appear to be a very religious individual who has dedicated her heart and soul to Jesus. It’s not that which bothers me. It’s that in real life, she acts just like any other “Christianity-identifying, but not really practicing” person that makes up a vast part of the US population. I also have no problems with people who are not necessarily “good” at following their faith of choice… I’m not here to call you a bad person when you don’t follow your identifying faith to the letter, I’m just here to call you out on portraying yourself as something that you don’t really care about.

I call myself out far more than I ever do anyone else. In the past, I’ve tried to be Martha Stewart, a graphic designer, dog trainer, a pro road racer… just to name a few. If you’ve been reading a while, you were here for the whole “pro roadie” thing. I tried my damndest to convince myself that I was happy working towards that goal. I knew all along that I wasn’t, but I was too afraid to admit it to myself and everyone else because I’d already gone so far down that road that it seemed illogical to turn back… not to mention incredibly frightening to change what I’d identified myself as for a good bit of time. It was destroying me from the inside out, and I knew that I didn’t have the dedication it took to put in the time and effort to train hard enough to be as fast as I needed to be.

Lucky for me and all of you that are reading, I did the massively terrifying thing and took off through the bushes on the side of the road in search of another route. That’s what it boils down to. If you are not living the life of the person that YOU want to be and working towards the goals that will satisfy you and not everyone else, then you will never be able to fully dedicate yourself because you’re trying to dedicate your life to a lie.

I’ve figured this out very recently for myself. I can say, without a doubt, that I want to be one of the best endurance racers in existence. I know this because, in the last two races as well as in the training going into those races, I’ve pushed myself in ways that are only possible if the level of dedication is just that high. I couldn’t do it before because I didn’t want it bad enough.

I think that, in general, people decide what they want to appear to be based on the standards of their peers. Anything else would be scary because it may result in exclusion and/or ridicule from the group. I’m here to tell you that yes. It is scary. If all of your friends want you to be a bike racer, but you don’t really care enough to dedicate large portions of your time and money into doing so, then don’t. If society says you should be a pure, sweet Christian girl who prefers mission trips to missionary, but you really just want to let your hair down and be wild, then cancel your appointment for that malaria booster, go buy a pack of condoms, and head to the social gathering spot where alcoholic beverages are served. If your friends all listen to Slayer, and you have a secret shrine to Justin Bieber in your closet, then tell them to STFU and deal with it next time they’re in your car and Bieber fever attacks your radio.

What’s the worst that could happen? You disappoint your peers? People talk about you? People spread rumors? People don’t want to be your friend anymore because you no longer abide by their standards of what you should be? Who cares? You are living life exactly how you and no one else wants you to live life. Anyone who hates you for doing so should probably spend that energy reflecting upon themselves instead.

Spa City- the Good and the Bad

Good things about my weekend:

-Racing hard. Really hard. The results with lap times aren’t up yet (order of finish results HERE), but other than the pedal thing, my lap times were very consistent. Lap #6 was one of my fastest. I’m usually not consistent… to the point of being notorious amongst my peers for blowing up early and death marching late.
-Mean-mugging Pua during the pre-race meeting. She’s so damn fast, I figured that it’s not often that someone looks at her like they’re about to rip her legs off. It’s a skill worth practicing, and I was bored, so I gave her the WWE staredown. I don’t know if she even noticed, and if she did, she was probably wondering wtf was wrong with that chick in the green… then she proceeded to lay into the trail like it had insulted her mom and was the fastest person all day to complete 6 laps.
-Training really damn hard. After thrashing myself for 6 hours, 11 minutes on Saturday, I found a motel room in south Hot Springs, ordered a pizza, and kicked my feet up. Sunday morning, I met up with Todd the Antique Gun Show and Frank (who was a top 10 finisher at SouthernX) to pre-ride the first (and likely hardest) part of the Ouachita Challenge course (~4 hours and close to 40 miles of riding). Everything hurt, and I was moving a little slow, but I still had a good time.

Bad things about my weekend:

-Equipment failures of my own doing- first, the chainring thing… I made it over that rock without incident during the entire race on Saturday. Also, the fact that I failed to bring spare anything- bike, wheels, pedals, etc. I chock it up to not being in the lap race/pit mindset. Just before I found someone to borrow from during the race, I was flipping my sh*t on myself big time.
-Equipment failures not of my own doing- the pedal thing sucked, obviously, but it was kind of a freak accident. Will I switch to another type of pedal? Not sure yet. I like my Crank Brothers. My bigger complaint is that I’m riding a component group that retails for >$2k. It really didn’t work like that this weekend. Unrelated to the chainring/rock thing (which I am confident is totally fixed at this point), on several occasions, it groaned and strained to shift to lower gears. I had another chainsuck incident on the Ouachita trail when I tried to shift small-large before a long descent. The result was chainsuck so bad that it yanked my front derailleur sideways into my rear tire. Then, this morning, I noticed that the x-loc on my XX fork lockout is not really working.
I can take care of this stuff- either through working on it myself or calling up SRAM and getting warranty replacement parts. It’s not often that I feel entitled to anything, but I feel as though if I’ve meticulously installed a really expensive component group onto my bike that it should work perfectly. If I didn’t mind occasional reliability issues, I’d pay half as much for cheaper parts.

I’m not 100% sure about what I’m going to do equipment-wise. It’s likely fixable with a couple of phone calls. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a giant PITA to fix it before Ouachita Challenge in a week and a half.

In other news, here are some race-day photos…

Spa City 6-hour Race Report

This is a bit of a long one-

Last time you heard from me, I was sitting in Hot Springs Starbucks thinking that I was capping off a slightly bad day with a decaf, a cookie, and some venting. Unfortunately, my daily shipment from the failboat was still being unpacked.

Back at camp, I’d already set up my tent (as a changing spot) and hammock (the snazzy new one from Eagle’s Nest that I got as a Christmas present from my parents). I was getting tired, so I settled in and got cozy. At first, the hammock seemed like a cocoon of awesome. But then, the wind blew gently… rocking the hammock ever so slightly.

I felt seasick almost instantly.

After deciding that I’d rather NOT be seasick all night, I ended up lowering the hammock enough that my butt touched the ground , which prevented the swaying/seasick combination. It was surprisingly comfortable, so I was out pretty quickly. Of course, some other campers rolled in around midnight and decided that a race course/ campground was a great place to drink and make lots of noise at midnight. So, at midnight:05, I yelled at them to please be quiet.

Stunned silence… then some muttering, very little noise, and a patchy remaining night of sleep.

In the morning, I took the advice of commenters on my previous post and went to the Pancake Shop in Hot Springs. Damn, that was good. I went back to camp to do the last of my race prep.

10:00 rolled around, and the race was on. I don’t mind a LeMans start, and I felt well-positioned and paced during the first lap. I decided on the 2nd lap that I’d stop big-ringing (39t) the climbs and start hitting the 29 on the steeper spots in order to keep from killing myself early. Unfortunately, one shift from small to large at the top of a hill resulted in chainsuck, which somehow resulted in the chain dropping to the inside of the small ring and wedging itself in between the ring and the frame. I had to stop and muscle it out, which took what seemed like hours. As I re-mounted my bike, Laureen Coffelt and Heather Ladd appeared on the trail behind me (remember what I said about Laureen being ready to kill you if you have a mechanical? Yeah… it was like that). I rode like a scalded cat.

When I passed back through the pits, I stopped to swap bottles and grab half a sandwich. Laureen passed me without stopping. Since it was only the 3rd lap, I decided to play bulldog for a little while and stuck to her wheel. I thought I had everything figured out… then we crossed a small creek. My foot came out of my left pedal. I tried for a minute to clip back in and realized that something was amiss. When I pulled over, Laureen never looked back (well, at least not when I was watching her ride away). Heather passed me soon after. The spring in my left eggbeater was broken, and I made the limp back to the pits.

I’ve never hated myself as much as I did at that point. I’d prepped as if I was going to an NUE-type race rather than a lap race. I had tools, but no replacement parts. No one in the surrounding pit area had a spare pedal of any type. I wanted to curl up & die in the back of the Element. I made one last effort to find a replacement pedal, and if finally paid off- I found a nice man that had an unfortunate wreck and was not continuing on in the race. He was using crank brothers Smarty pedals, and offered one to me for the remainder of the race. I slapped it on and took off into the pain cave of redemption.

The next two laps, I was passing people like they were in slow motion. As I rounded the last two corners of singletrack before the pit road on my 5th lap, Heather’s rear wheel was in front of me. I passed her, made my fast pit-stop, and told the officials that I was bangin’ 7 gram rocks, and going for a 6th lap. Heather was right behind me, but eventually dropped away. The effort had landed me back into a podium spot with Pua (who had pwnt all of us) and Laureen (who I finished about 7 minutes behind).

Photos and a rundown of everything I f*cked up to follow. For now… bedtime.

Hectic pre-race day

Right now, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Hot Springs, AR. The car charger on my phone isn’t working, so I figured I’d come up here & charge it since I’m camping, and there’s no electricity. If my phone dies, then my mom might have a massive panic attack since, somewhere in the Memphis area, there are convicts on the loose.

Yes, I know I’m in Arkansas… a long way from loose convicts.

I digress. It’s been a long day.

It started well- I avoided the rush hour traffic out of Memphis and arrived at Ceder Glades in time for a nice course pre-ride. During the ride, I managed to smash my large chainring into a rock. My chain would no longer stay on the large ring, and shifting was out of the question. I finished the lap in the small ring, but not before I called up Kenny (co-worker) to tell him to take an XX chainring from the shop so I could replace it when he arrived early in the morning.

Once I was back at my tent, I found the offending tooth on the chainring. With a little tough love from my channel locks, I straightened it up. The chain would shift up, but only if I were in the highest gears on the rear cog. It would, however, stay on the large ring, whereas before, it would jump around all over the place. Just in case Kenny didn’t make it in the morning, I decided to go by the local shop (Parkside Cycles) and see if they had an XX chainring that I could purchase in case of an emergency.

They did not. The mechanic there was a really nice guy, and he had me bring it in so that he could take a look. With a little more tweaking, it shifted. I took it out for a spin around the block, and it shifted perfectly. When I came back, he told me good luck and sent me along my way. I think I owe someone a 6-pack tomorrow.

Once I was back at camp, registration had opened. I then realized that I didn’t have my license with me. Luckily, I was able to pull my authorization to ride up from the USACycling site. I got my number and goodie bag, then went off to Rolando’s (awesome “Nuevo Mexican” food in downtown Hot Springs) for dinner. I sat on the porch, where the man playing guitar and singing played “Mad World” and “My Girl” back to back. Talk about a Sheen-sized mood swing…

I figured I’d find a coffee shop to kill time and charge my phone. I passed two closed coffee shops on my way to Starbucks. BTW- Hot Springs apparently has a 7:00 rush hour in the Oaklawn Track area. It took me 20 minutes to drive 4 miles. Before I saw this end of Hot Springs, I thought it was an odd but almost cool sort of place. Now, I sort of hate it.

At least in the morning, I can go to the Pancake Shop when I wake up. After that, all bets are off. The solo women’s field is a tough one. I’ll destroy myself as hard as possible and hope for the best.

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: