Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some Other Things Happened

I am delaying writing up a race report on PMBAR until I can be sure that my race partner has made it home safely.  Since one of the stated goals for this year was for bad-luck-magnet Thad to make it through the entire race weekend without losing any pets or cars, without getting hospital-level sick, without his home flooding, and without anything else too horrible happening, I figure I better hold off on my "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner until I am sure Thad and Hilary get home without their car floating down any rivers. I can promise, however, that the PMBAR report will be long, and complicated, and will include several life lessons.

Anyway, over the last couple weeks I've had a few conversations with people where I was like, oh didn't you know I...? Only to realize that in the foggy stress of the past couple months I managed to never write up a number of things I kind of intended to put here.

Call it the Omnibus of Spring. Let's do this.

First: The rebirth of Songline, my Niner SIR9.  During the Colorado Trail Race, as I was flooding my lungs with pulmonary edema, I was also scraping about two thirds of the paint off of my SIR9. The hideously rainy conditions meant there was almost a constant spray of mud, which then got caught between the frame and frame bag. When I finally took the frame bag off, there were acres of raw steel exposed, some already rusting. There's only so much that touch-up paint can do, and so I decided to get a professional sandblast and repaint. And I decided to further get S&S couplers installed in the frame while it was out of commission. The Niner is a dedicated singlespeed these days, and the lack of shifter cabling makes decoupling and recoupling the bike easy. Now I have an easy-to-travel bike that fits in an airline-legal sized bag. And it still rides like it always did. Yay!

Bilenky did the work. They have a really pro paint shop and also have tons of experience retrofitting couplers into steel frames. I love how the turquoise and sparkle-black paint scheme turned out, and how it sets off the steel couplers. I adore the little star on the I, and the blocky oversized letters outlined in silver. I have a long fascination with intermodal shipping containers and their stark, oversized, translingually legible logos and insignia. This seems reminiscent of some of the best of those. Especially Maersk Sealand and its seven-pointed star, but also the Taiwanese company Evergreen, or even the celebrated MOL logo-- although no alligator, sadly. And yes, the last three sentences come dangerously close to crazy trainspotting-type geekery, but may fall more on the side of trendy font-design snobbery instead. I think? Anyway, I'd rather be a geek than a snob.

Second: on the ride when I took those photos, I also endoed on a steep section of the Black Mountain trail where a rock had rolled into the middle of a gully. I landed on my face, AGAIN, because apparently I never put my hands out when I fall. This time I managed to end up with a bunch of gravel and dirt inside my mouth, and also to have microscopically chipped the underside of two teeth and made all my front teeth hurt. It appears I do not stop smiling even as I hit the deck. Yay? The dentist bombarded my head with x-rays and poked around before telling me the teeth were not dying or cracked or heavily damaged, my bite hadn't changed, and the chips didn't even merit smoothing out, so to stop being alarmist. Then she handed me a nice-sized bill.

Third: I did one of those giant road group ride thingies. I have never done one of those before, so I figured why not see what it was like. It was a pretty good one, like 60 something miles with a fair bit of climbing including Caesar's Head. If you've always wondered what kind of person shells out for a extra-elaborate technicolor custom paint job on their high-end bike, it is the kind of person who is sitting mid-pack at the Assault on the Carolinas. I have never seen so many exotic and expensive road bikes in one place ever before. At one point I realized I was in a paceline with about ten people who were all on titanium bikes of one variety or another except for one guy on a lugged carbon Calfee and one guy on a super nice vintage steel Bianchi.

What did I think of the event? Brevard is a great little town and it was very cool to see so many visitors there all at once. I only decided to go do it at about midnight the night before, so wasn't exactly prepped for it very well at all and actually didn't know much about it before it started. I had a long road ride on my training schedule and was getting really sick of riding alone. I was supposed to stay in zone this-or-that, but I was pretty burned out on the whole idea and wanted to just go ride with other people. I didn't realize anyone would ride it so seriously, or that it would be soooo many people. I expected it to have more of a "5k fun run" feel to it, but lots of people seemed to be there with their game faces on. Anyway. It was fun to crank up Caesar's Head with an endless line of carrots in front and an endless line of chasers behind. That's a damn fun climb, it really is.

What else happened in my bicycling life? Ah yes, Fourth: I got informed via a fairly mean group email chain that I had been kicked off my cyclocross team. I had been planning to leave it before the 2011 cross season anyway, because I found the people running the team very unpleasant. In fact, I'd grown so disappointed with the way they ran the team that I had not worn the kit at least a month. Originally I'd also raced mountain bikes for them, but for the past year only cyclocross because I'd become tired of being associated with them for my mountain biking. As the team leaders were kicking me off they told me they had actually secretly kicked me off in December, but had not informed me at the time. Which seemed very strange and childish, but also made it clear that my only mistake had been delaying so long in leaving the team. 

I don't really know why they decided to recruit me to be the sole woman on the team, only to immediately become the subject of pretty intense and prolonged nastiness from a couple of the guys. I am sad that many racing photos from recent years show me representing a team which never respected or valued me as a person. What really frustrates me, though, is the fact that I chose to stay affiliated in one way or another from fall 2008 through early spring 2011 despite all this. Why didn't I leave sooner? At this point in my life, I should know better than to let people treat me that way! Anyway, I wish the team itself well, and still have a couple good friends affiliated with it.

I am happy to have some great sponsors now [listed over there to the right] who are all awesome. Thanks to each of them for helping me get where I want to go. And none of them are mean!

Fifth: That fourth one and this one are not all that great, but this is a chronicle of my cycling and these are things that have to do with my cycling. So, here goes. I spent the time after Trans-Iowa really wondering what was wrong with my fitness and my physiology. I just felt awful on and off the bike, to the point that I was wondering what I could really expect from a racing season. I felt burnt out. Was this still left over from the lingering pneumonia that plagued Fall 2010? I asked for some advice, and was told I needed to cancel out on PMBAR, the funnest race of the year, in order to do three or four weeks of structured workouts full of lonely interval sessions. I said no thanks. I guess the coach and I have an insurmountable difference of opinion, and since this is my fun hobby and not my job I decided I didn't need his services anymore. I will find some other training modality that doesn't seem to depend entirely on depriving me of technical singletrack, group road rides, singlespeeding, Bent Creek night rides, and everything else that is fun. I have a powertap, a stack of books, and WKO+. Maybe I can figure out some decent training plans that let me create structure and also keep the fun. Maybe the trick is just to focus on the fun, find the passion again, and remember that it's just riding bikes. I guess I'll see what happens.

Anyway. A few days passed. I still felt kind of bad. By the day before PMBAR, I was very ambivalent about the whole idea of racing. My legs still felt pretty crappy and generally not as race-ready as I would have liked. If it wasn't for the fact that Thad was going to be counting on me to be a racing partner, I might well have considered bailing entirely. Luckily, I started the race, and by about two hours into it I was feeling really great. By the end of it, I was starting to wonder if maybe I should go to 12 Hours of Tsali next weekend. What changed? I don't know. Healing power of Pisgah, I think. Anyway, tune in again soon for the actual race report... it will be a pretty good one.

Sixth: Let's end the Omnibus on a high note. Also on that same ride where I chipped my teeth, while we were pushing up to the high point of Black Mountain we saw people riding unicycles down an extremely technical section of the trail. They were insane, it looked like they were bouncing wheel-shaped pogo sticks down the trail. Each of them fell at least once, but then, they are on unicycles, so give them a break. They also stopped for a moment to suggest we might like to try unicycles. Um... no. Bask in the crazy:

 There was also a dog and one dude on a bike in this crazy entourage. I didn't take photos of them but you can see them both behind the guy in the yellow.


  1. We realized yesterday morning that it's not my bad luck, it's Rich's touch of death.

  2. Pisgah life lessons! i love it. can't wait to read your report. great seeing you & Thad out there, as you guys passed me on the climb, a minute or two later, around the bend i heard you say " Ahhh Pisgahhh" you could tell it wasn't fake, in anyway shape or form.. but a true love for such a cool place to spend the day .brought a smile to my face, thanks!

  3. Haha! Brad, you are right! I love Pisgah so much, even when I am pushing my bike up Pilot in the midday sun!

  4. I liked never knowing when we'd run into Brad O. and Goldie (Hawn). Right after the awesome bacon and donut CP, then as you took my picture on Pilot - had me caught between to firing photogs, I expected to see him one more time before the end.