April 23, 2006

Well, I got my bum on the track this weekend. The first go of the season is always funky feeling. Yesterday, I was all nervous and silly about the banking the first 2 laps, but then it was alright. This morning was better. I felt more comfortable. I think it's going to be a good summer for track racing.

April 18, 2006

P.I.R. 1/2/3s OK

I comfortably rode with the cat 1/2/3s tonight at P.I.R. Attempts at this last year usually resulted in me getting shot out the back at some point of the race- sometimes more than once if I managed to get back on. But, now I feel that this is the right place for me. We started with 87 riders (ugh) and the results go down to about 40. The race was 15 laps.Technically I didn't finish, because I rolled in before the line to get my water bottle, since I raced dry- left water bottle sitting by my bag.

There were a couple of times I looked over my shoulder and saw... the track behind me, so that's not good. I did get in the mix a little, but spent most of my time in the back third or so of the group. So, my goal next time is to move up more and try to be useful to my team. I guess I'm still getting my feet wet with this whole "race with the big boys" thing and the fact that I have about 8 teammates out there- there's a new concept!

April 12, 2006

I Swear I Passed Kindergarten

If you've somehow made it through your day without running into one idiot, here you go. I thought I'd be original and make a t-shirt, showing that when I say "track" that I'm not talking about a rubber oval around a football field. Unfortunately, flipping over the letters to prepare iron on transfer is not my strongest skill. Maybe I can just claim that track riders are just supposed to react, not think.

Boat Street Criterium was fun. I was introduced to the traditional Rubicon (well at least Tuckie's) warm up. Norrene and I left with plenty of time to get to Seattle, but traffic was tight and I didn't actually rush when we got there. I registered, changed, put in my orange devil eyeballs (Nike Vision contacts), and busted up the hill we were parked on 3 or 4 times.

The race before ours was down to it's last 5 or so laps, so it was time to go. At the line, there were 18 racers- 9 of us were cat 1-3, and the others were collegiate racers. They had their own primes. The first 15 minutes of the race hurt as a warm up. I hung in the back quite a bit, but when I had to come around a rider that crashed herself out, I was done being there. Once I warmed up, I felt great. I helped Norrene get one prime by leading the lap, allowing her around the outside, then closing it up, so she could get a gap. Yey. She got the next prime as well, after getting a flat. Luckily, one of the primes included a gift certificate to a local bike shop- new tube and some pocket change.

With 4 laps to go, I stuck on Norrene's wheel as we scooted to the front. A group of 5 of us controlled these last laps. With one to go, my trusty lead out ramped it up. Coming out of the last turn, she stayed wide and I had the whole road. Unfortunately, I ran out of gas before the line. Little Taylor G. had the best lead out of her life, coming around me right before the line. Oh well. I'm happy with the race overall and it was fun.

Tragedy stuck the men's race that night. Adam and Doug drove up later, so we didn't see them. Doug says they saw us on the road going home. About 10 minutes into their race, a rider suffered cardiac arrest, passed out, and crashed. He died soon after. Shocked, the riders went home. The rider, Brad Lewis was a memeber of the promoting team. They offered the racers their registration fee back, but in good form, all told the promoters to give it to Brad's family.

April 8, 2006

Spring Break
This is a lengthy post. I recommend a glass of wine as you read.

“ You know, it’s kinda nice, even riding on these windy roads without a shoulder, not ONE car has honked at us.” Just then, the ONLY car to do so, barreled past us with a “HOOOOOOOOONK!” But really, that was the only one. The Sonoma Valley seems to be bike friendly and very Oregonian it it’s landscape with the exception of an occasional, lone, random palm tree. It thought that it would make a nice area for a stage race. Oh yea, the first stage of the Tour of California ended in Santa Rosa.

Other than the complete downpour just south of Redding, the drive was quite pleasant. We arrived at the Worldmark Windsor resort around 3:00 on Tuesday. Anxious to stretch our legs, we embarked on what we thought would be an hour ride. An hour and forty minutes later, we rolled back. The next town to the north, Healdsburg is connected by the Old Redwood Highway, with about 9 winery vineyards on the way. By the end of the week, I would decide that Healdsburg is my favorite town. On the ride, Chuck discovered that something was wrong with his pedal. Luckily, we already found 2 of the 3 bike shops within 5 miles. That evening, we dined in on homemade tacos and a store bought bottle of Kendal Jackson Merlot, which was silly, since their vineyard is just down the street.

Wednesday morning, we drove back to Healdsburg to Wine Country Bikes. Rumor had it that they were the folks to talk to about rides in the area. Querley, the deaf, shop dog, welcomed us with Jack Russel Terrier kisses and jumps. The guy marked off a route, popular with the locals. He warned us that parts were a bit hilly. We’d head southwest and loop around to the Armstrong Redwood Park. I wasn’t too worried about the hills. It couldn’t be any worse than Germantown. Besides, we were in the Sonoma Valley right (valley not equaling hilly)? I neglected to remind myself that I live in the Willamette Valley, with plenty of hills. Based on the distance we rode yesterday and how today’s loop looked in comparison, we estimated it to be 25-30 miles- with some hills.

Within the first 5 miles of the ride, we discovered what “Flooded- Road Closed” really meant on the sign. Deep enough that we weren’t willing to ride through yet, the water didn’t look much more than a foot deep, since we could see the yellow line. Unfortunately, we were about 3 miles past the sign and had to double back and edit our course a little. The scenery was amazing. Just miles of vineyards, with curly branched trees and green grass on the hillsides. Happy cows really must come from California. Little more than foliage sprouts burst from the bark of the grape vines, this time of the year. Some vines are very young and others are old, with trunks up to a foot thick.

Before reaching the redwoods, I noticed that we were already about 15 miles in. Luckily the weather was only partly cloudy. The Armstrong reserve was beautiful and uncrowded we casually rode through the park. At the end of the park trail is a one lane, paved trail that heads up, up, up to a nice view. These switchbacks towards the top forecasted the climbs to come. We didn’t actually make it to the top, knowing that we had some work coming up.

The map that we got from the shop is made for cyclists, by cyclists. For only $11, we could tell which roads were busy, where bike lanes or shoulders were, and grade percentages…. According to the map key, one “>” indicated a climb 5-9%, “>>” meant 10-14%. Guess what “>>>” meant for the riders? BAD NEWS FOR THE RIDERS! Sweet Water Road began with the sign, “One Lane windy road- next 10 miles.” Um, there were 6 sets of “>>>” on that Sweet ride. I think the views were worth it, but I was delirious at the summit. Then there was a teaser descent, before more climbing. I also got a flat somewhere in there. I get about 2 flats on average per year. Ian, this ride is for you! Just imagine Logie Trail, over, and over, and over again. (cattle guard) BUT, since I had my new climb worthy Orbea Orca (cattle guard), I did survive and would actually do it again someday, but not until next fall (cattle guard). Brian says no more hills for me (cattle guard). Finally we reached Westside road, and the end of the cattle guards keeping the happy California cows safe. One mama cow was actually in the road. I stopped to talk to her, but she was more interested in crewing on some luscious green grass and re- joining her posse, sprinkled along the hillside. Returning to the flooded area from three hours prior, the water had receded enough for us to brave the forge. It was worth not riding the long way. Back at the resort we had 46 miles, 3.5 hours, and a 14mph average (shut up about the speed- you weren’t there.)

We found dinner in the town of Windsor, where every downtown building has been restored to look like it’s original architecture and an obvious sponsorship from the local paint company- without much brown- more reds, greens, and mustard. That night we hopped the shuttle bus to the River Rock Casino. So, this bus drives along this dark, windy road, which outlines various vineyards. All is dark, until in the distance, we can see one lone, well- lit compound. Don’t know why Hotel California popped into me head just then. By strange coincidence, the cover band of the evening plays this song not long after we get inside. This casino does not have a liquor license. Imagine that- the reservation is not allowed to compete with the counties biggest business of wine making. That and the government is reluctant to grant a license to a bar that sits half way up a hill, with a teensy, windy road as a 10 mile driveway. However, the pineapple slushies I drank were super great, and after winning over $300 on the quarter slot machine, Blazing 7s, I felt drunk anyway, knowing how much wine we’d be able buy tomorrow on our tasting excursion.

Thursday morning, we awoke with a mission- ride to Starbucks for jet fuel, then round out the ride, while admiring a hot air balloon for a light hour’s spin. Off to Healdsburg we drove, with that cash begging to be exchanged for some old grape juice. The first stop was the Kendal Jackson tasting room. We left with an overpriced bottle of merlot.

I recommend that everyone purchase wine from the next hole in the wall, tasting room, the Toad Hollow Vineyard (www.toadhollow.com). Known as Dr. Toad, the winemaker himself, was our host. Turns out that Dr. Toad (Todd Williams) is half brother to another funny man, rather famous, with the same last name (Robin). We shared the bar with two other couples. This man was such a character, with a story behind the name and label of every wine, along with jokes to boot. One riesling is rumored to be the choice wine at gentleman’s clubs, because he said, it keeps the girls from falling off the pole! To top off, the wine is pretty good, and most are $10-$15. One special blend was created in the spirit of his business partner, who recently passed away. We joined the wine club, saving 20% off our eventual case of Toad Hollow variety. The man signed a poster for us. Seriously, you have to meet this guy.

Further north, the Clos Du Bois Winery greeted us to some sampling and quite an education about the art of winemaking and the history of the winery. We were right on time for the afternoon tour. Our only classmates were a couple visiting from Georgia. A heavy oak smell permeated the enormous warehouse, where we witnessed the crew topping off the barrels. We were lucky enough to barrel taste two different red wines in process. At this point, they do not even know which tier of wine it will become, but the raw version was awesome. A free souvenir glass was packed in with our single bottle purchase of their reserve zinfandel, only available at the winery.

A little fuzzy, but still well able, I drove myself and my very good looking boyfriend along the relaxing scenery of the Silverado trail en route to the Sterling Winery. Many nicer restaurants serve their merlot, which is the most asked for wine by the glass in the country. A gondola carried us from the parking lot up to the southwestern style establishment. The tour here is self guided, which was nice, since we getting a little tired by this point. A very nice woman showed us to our table in the tasting room. We purchased two bottles of their yummy finale, a desert or cheese wine, Malvasia Bianca, and one of that merlot I mentioned. A chilly Chuck picked up a Napa Valley sweatshirt.

Coming down from our buzz, the cozy Chuck chauffeured us back to Healdsburg. We had done the wine thing. It was time to check out the local micro- brewery. The Bear Republic Brewing Company served up a mean burger in the Speed Racer themed pub. The beer sampler reminded me of most of our microbrews in town (Lucky Lab, Mc M’s.), with names like “Racer 5” and “Red Rocket.” Sat next to a west- facing window, we got to “eyesdrop” on an apparent bridal shower on the patio. We tried to figure out who all the people were at the party. It was a fun way to pass the time and beer.

Walking around the town after dinner, reminded me of Bend a little, with quaint shops and groomed landscaping. Powell’s candy shop was quite the find. Chuck found an area of the shop with movie theatre seats in front of a showing of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the real one.) He watched Agustus Gloop get sucked up the chocolate tube as I dispensed various mixes of m&ms in colors like maroon, gray, purple, and navy blue. Powell’s has all types of nostalgic sweets and gooey gelato, which we enjoyed on the rest of our walk around town. Tired, full, and sober we headed back.

After watching the new version of Bad News Bears, we hit the sack. The drive north went by surprisingly quickly. We took the small-highway-through-towns-and-lights-that-you-shouldn’t-take-ever-if-you’re-trying-to-get-to-I-5-by-way-of-the-Napa-Valley route for the first 2 hours. But after that. And a stop at Starbucks, it was smooth going all the way to Chuck’s parents house and his mom’s yummy spaghetti. Tomorrow, the boy races and I officiate King’s Valley Road Race and Sunday I race in Seattle. I just might need a rest day to recover from vacation!

April 2, 2006

Piece of Cake Road Race

#1- Icebreaker crit yesterday, got 2nd of 6 riders. Boring and windy. Felt more like a bad, training day, than a race.

#2 It's about stinky time I win that Piece of Cake. Well I actually won a little cash and a basket of goodies. Darien was out today. One year after Miss Tessa arrives and she's rolling and racing again. Damn, that's awesome.

It was nice to ride tempo for the first lap. We actually managed an organized, rotating pace line and everyone did their part. There were a few attacks here and there, but again, on a flat course, nothing stuck. Seriously, everything was reeled in within 30 seconds. I wish a couple of the women would have wanted to go long to see if we could get away. There was a lot of action from about 4 of us. We could have at least tired out a few.I jumped a few times, but where I earned my stripes was being in the front for the last... foreverness. I'd be out front, someone would jump, I'd help chase, and drive to the front again. I didn't feel like I was really working all that hard, more just controlling the pace and watching everyone. I did see a lot of the, um... gorgeous Woodland river bottom wilderness most of the last 5 miles. After the race, many riders would tell me that I deserved the win, since I was out there so much.

Finally, coming out of the last turn. I was still... there. soon after, a Group Health girl took a jump, with Mindy announcing to her that she was on her wheel. Thank you Mindy for announcing that the two of you were ready to sprint already. I think I'll jump on your wheel. Plus, I know you can sprint, and would be a lovely lead out. Then Andrea jumped inside and unfortunately for my cozy train, she was going a little faster than us. She was not going to win again this weekend. Thanks for the 30 yard ride, Group Health, but I have to go know. Bye.

I quit worrying about a wheel to follow. Mindy was the only one I trusted. I put my head down and drove home. I opened a bit of a gap, but didn't keep it. Luckily, as you can see in the photo, the finish line came when it did. I wanted to crop this shot, but I love Darien's screaming face on the left.

Don't know why, but I keep getting the same ridiculous song in my head when I'm racing. I just realized this today. Eminem's "Without Me," must have a spin tempo or something. At Mason Lake it was the verse about "... No, I"m not the first king of controversy, I am am the worst thing since Elvis Presely to use black music so selfishishly, to...." This week, the repeated verse was the bridge, "This looks like a job for me, so everybody just follow me, cause we need a little controversy, cause it feels so empty without me." The strange thing is that I won both races. I'm not sure that I want that to me my song.

So the family down under is all here now. First impressions are good. Logan is still shaking off jet lag when the time change hit. Poor kid is all messed up. He's got really long legs and he's quiet, which I know won't last long in this family. Richard has a lot to say. We chatted the whole way to Saturday's race. He's funny and was totally amazed voer the change machine at Safeway. And Aaron is.... well, Tuckie is Tuckie- seems to have mellowed out a bit (which he would deny.) It's going to be a good year with the guys. Everyone has that sense of humor to go along and get along. Adam has the hippy hair- do again. He's taking care of Sadie and Pepper next week- hope he doesn't feed them beer or wine :)