Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Climbery, Wrong Turnery, and Finery

Happy Easter from Austin!

Yes, we are still in Austin. This morning as we took off for our daily exploration, I had this feeling that I now live here. I've become so familiar with downtown--it's time to check out a new area!

Dillon recommended we go to Mt. Bonnell. Using the Austin bike map, we decided on the best route. We would take the Lance Bikeway again to the end, then get on the Lake Austin Rd. At the end of the bikeway, the road we planned to get on appeared to be quite busy. I consulted the map and discovered another trail we could take.

First we had to ride to the western end of the Butler Trail. From there we crossed the road and got on the Johnson Trail. It wound around and allowed us to bypass the busiest of the roads. At the end of the tail we were dumped out onto the road. We followed the road to Scenic Rd. where we turned right. As we were riding on Scenic Rd, I heard a whole bunch of buzzing. Next thing I know, I'm riding right through a whole lotta bees. I shouted, "BEES!" to Christian. Believe it or not, I kind of slowed down (to not disturb them as much?) and continued to ride through. Christian followed right behind me. Neither of us were stung. I'm not sure if it was a nest, or what. I didn't stick around to find out!

Somewhere just beyond the bees, we missed a turn. According to the map, we were supposed to stay on Scenic all the way to Pecos St. Instead, we ended up taking our own "scenic" route (the "scenic mansion" route to be precise--there is some SERIOUS money living there!) that involved much going up and down of hills! Most were short, but all were pretty steep. After awhile, it seemed we were going in circles (lost track of how many times we saw Rockmoor St.). Finally, we came to a street that was on the map as part of the route. Okay! We are back on track! Uh...not so fast. We came to the end of one road. We still were not on Scenic. I looked at the map and thought we should turn right. We ended up back at Rockmoor! At this point the lightbulb came on (sometimes it takes awhile!) and I pulled out my phone. I opened up Google maps to see exactly where we were. Ahhhh...we should have turned left! We turned around. When we got back to where we had made the wrong turn, I realized if only we had looked more closely to the right, I would have seen the sign for Scenic Rd. (this is a lesson I seem to never learn)!

Now we were truly back on track but...not for long. After going up the steepest hill of the day (kept popping little wheelies on Betsy in Super Granny gear), we made it to Pecos. Correct turn this time took us to Balcones for another correct turn (amazing...two correct turns in a row!). Then, apparently, it was time to make another wrong turn. The map showed a road called Edgemont. We came to Edgemont. There was only one way to turn, so we did. As we went along Edgemont, I started to get the idea something was not right. When we came to the top of another big downhill, I stopped and pulled out my phone again. I wanted to make sure we were going the right way before we went down the big hill only to find out we would have to come back up. Good plan! A couple of people jogged by and asked if we had a problem. We told them we wanted to go to Mt. Bonnell. They said we needed to turn around (of course we did!) and go back to Balcones, go left, then left again on Mt. Bonnell Dr. When we did that, we saw the Edgemont that the map was showing. We made it the rest of the way to Mt. Bonnell without any more wrong turns (I'm sure that's only because we were so close by that time).

The view from Covert Park at Mt. Bonnell was worth the ride. Mt. Bonnell is the highest point within the city limits of Austin. Off in the distance was the Pennybacker Bridge to the northwest. We walked up to the monument for the mountain. Just beyond, we could see downtown Austin to the southeast. Photos are below.

We...okay...I had packed a lunch of a bagel, some almond butter and an apple (Christian packed a Snickers bar). We ate at a picnic table (I gave Christian part of my bagel).

Dillon had also told us about peacocks at Mayfield Park. Mayfield Park was at the bottom of the mountain. After making sure we would not have to do some big-ass climb back up, we decided to go ahead and seek out these peacocks--sure to be in their Easter finery.

The road we came DOWN was steeper than the steepest hill we had gone up. I have no doubt that had we gone that way up, I would have, for only the second time EVER (the first being the night I arrived), had to walk my bike! Even though I had to brake because there was a sharp turn at the bottom, I would have braked anyway--it was THAT steep!

We came out at Mayfield Park (woo hoo!--no wrong turns). When we pulled into the parking lot, I could already hear the peacocks. First, though, we walked a trail around the park. I told Christian if I saw a snake, the next thing he knew, I would be sitting on his shoulders, and he would have NO IDEA how I got there! Fortunately, we saw no snakes.

The peacocks were all in the trees or on the roof of the building. There were several males and a number of white females. One male was strutting his stuff on the roof, his feather finery on display (I'm sure not for our benefit). After a number of photos, we returned to our bikes. We decided on the most direct route back to Dillon's apartment. The map showed one 3-arrow hill we would have to go up. After the other hills we had ridden, we were a little nervous. Well, it wasn't that bad. We decided, if that was a 3-arrow hill, some of the other hills must have been 4 or 5-arrow hills!

At a stop light, I asked Christian if we saw a Starbucks, would he like a coffee? The poor boy hadn't had any coffee yet, and after all the hills, I thought he might like a pick-me-up. He thought that was a good idea, and was the first to spot a Starbucks in a Randall's (Safeway for Texas).

After the coffee break, we rode the relatively short distance back to Dillon's. The sky had been darkening and, just as we turned onto Dillon's street, it started to rain. We timed that just right!

I made a good Easter dinner (I think I used almost every dish Dillon and Andrew have) of Pork Tenderloin, steamed broccoli, tomato, cucumber, and avocado salad, cantaloupe, pineapple, and topped it off with pecan pie and Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. After all the hills today, we earned it!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lance, Lone Star, Licking Fingers, and Longhorns

Another day spent biking around Austin. This time with Christian.

We started our day trying to find a jeweler to fix Christian's watch band (needed a new pin). We rode up and down several streets downtown to no avail. Not a single jewelry shop! We decided to head over to REI (Christian wanted to get a chair like mine). Maybe we would find a shop along the way...nope.

At REI, Christian got his chair. I asked the clerk if he knew of a jewelry shop where Christian could get his watch band fixed. The guy said they probably had the pin he needed. A guy came to the counter and, sure enough, found a pin that would work. After several tries to get it into the holes, the guy gave it to me. I managed to get it into the right place. The guy didn't charge us for the pin. He said I did all the work anyway! So, we killed two birds with one stone (an idiom I had to explain to Christian). in Armstrong

Next stop was Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop. This is the shop Lance uses (used?). With all the Lance debacle, I wondered how prominent he would be featured in the shop. Turns out, not so much. Oh, they had a selection of Livestrong apparel and accessories, but I saw nothing that actually mentioned Lance's name. There were no photos either. Christian had planned to get a "Mellow Johnny's" jersey until he saw they were $120! Not worth it. Instead, we both got "dry-wear" t-shirts with the Mellow Johnny's logo.

Having completed our shopping errands, we headed to the lake trail. I noticed the bike path we took to get there was called the "Lance Armstrong Bikeway". We were only on it for a short while. We dropped down to the lake trail and rode out to the Crenshaw Bridge (like I did yesterday).

We crossed the lake and headed back. On the way, we stopped to take some photos. A gal asked me about Betsy. She is a cyclist too and is thinking of getting a folding bike. I still have the Bike Friday cards I got when I bought Betsy (they are a marketing strategy of Bike Friday's--I can give interested people one of the cards--they have my name on them--if someone orders a bike and mentions my name--I get a $75 credit to BF). I gave the gal a card. We'll see...

Soon, Christian and I were getting hungry. We left the trail and went to the road in search of a restaurant (no, not Subway!). We found a Schlotzsky's (more plentiful than Subway here).

While eating lunch, I noticed I had a text from Dillon. He asked if I could get him some new flip flops. Since we weren't too far from REI, we went back there. To get there we went over another great pedestrian bridge (I think there are almost as many pedestrian bridges across the lake as there are car bridges). This was the Pfleuger (sp?) Pedestrian Bridge. I did a panorama photo including the bridge (see below).

After our second REI stop, we returned to the Lance Bikeway to take photos and ride the whole length of it. We eventually returned to the lake trail (officially called the Butler Trail). This time we stayed on the north side and rode back to the Trinity Street entrance.

Lone in Texas State Capitol

Once back on the city streets, we rode up to the Capitol Building. We did our own self-guided tour including the Capitol Extention (underground). From there we cut through campus back to Dillon's. All told, we rode a whopping 16 miles (seemed like so much more).

Licking in BBQ

The temps today were in the low 80s and humid. Christian and I took showers upon returning to Dillon's. Tonight was the night for BBQ! Dillon had heard a place called Iron Works BBQ was pretty good. We hopped the #10 bus back to downtown. Turns out I have ridden by this restaurant twice (both times in the dark).

The food was pretty good. We all had the pork ribs (finger-licking good!). The building was pretty rustic, but appears to have been frequented by a number of famous people (particularly political folks...the Governor of Texas, Dubya, and even Obama). in University of Texas

After dinner we caught the #1L bus to Guadalupe St. so we could take a walking tour through campus. We went to the Clock Tower, and a few other buildings. We stopped at the Turtle Pond, then worked our way over to the music building. Along the way we saw a small crowd of people looking at something. We went over to see too. It was just a baby possum (had it been a baby armadillo, I would have been much more excited). I must say, I didn't know there were possums here.

We saw a couple of Dillon's fellow musician friends up in the practice rooms of the music building. Those musicians are dedicated kids. It's Saturday, and they are practicing!

It was a great day today! Austin is, by and large, a very easy town to get the hang of. There are tons of cyclists everywhere! I think even Dillon would ride here if he had a bike (that's sayin' something too!)!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lake That is Really a River, And Back to the Airport

I had a leisurely morning today. Dillon woke up late, and decided to skip his Psych class so were able to have breakfast together. After Dillon left for class I finished watching Grey's Anatomy and Scandal on my iPad.

After lunch, I donned my biking attire and headed out to ride the trails along the lake/river. Lady Bird Lake (named after Lady Bird Johnson, of course--this is the land of LBJ) is really just part of the Colorado River (no, not THAT Colorado River). The "lake" used to be called "Towne Lake". I think that is because it sort of runs right through the heart of downtown Austin. Anyway, now it is Lady Bird Lake and there are trails that line both sides.

I started out by riding to the end of Trinity St to get on the trail. There is a large boathouse that rents kayaks and single scull rowing shells. I went down to one of the docks to take a photo. A guy was in a shell out on the lake, but ended up coming back to the dock (it was pretty windy). As I was pulling out my camera, he asked if I would pull him over to the dock. The wind was not allowing him to get close enough to the dock so he could get out of the boat. I did that, took a photo, and continued on my way.

I rode along the path under the Congress St. Bridge. I looked up, but didn't see any of the 1.4 million bats that sleep there during the day (and come out every night--but more about that later). I decided I would ride all the way to the end of the trail. Along the way there were several more watercraft rental places. One could rent, in addition to kayaks and shells, pedal boats, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards. Even though it was windy and mostly cloudy, it was around 80 degrees. There were a lot of people out on the lake.

At the westernmost end of the trail, there is a pedestrian bridge that runs under the traffic bridge above. It is the Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge. A perfect way to cross the lake (since it is really a river, you can't go around)! I crossed to the other side and rode back toward downtown.

I had, pretty much, got on the trail in the middle. So, when I rode back, I kept going beyond the point at which I had gotten on (only now on the other side). I rode back under the Congress St. Bridge (still no bats, but I could smell the guano) and continued to the easternmost part of the trail. For a short distance, I had to go out to Riverside St. because the trail was closed for construction. I picked it up again off Lakeshore Dr. The eastern end of the trail is a ballpark that also has a frisbee golf course. Also, at this point, the "lake" returns to being a river. The Pleasant Valley Bridge is actually a dam that created the lake. The trail went slightly beyond the dam. At the Frisbee Golf Course, I turned around and rode back to the Pleasant Valley Bridge where I crossed back to the other side.

I, once again, headed back toward downtown. Along the way I met a guy from Killeen named Barry. He had come up specifically to ride the trail. Killeen is about an hour drive. Turns out he had spent some time in Olympia (it's such a small world). He bought his Kona bike there!

We rode together, chatting, back to the point where I had gotten on the trail. Since I still had time, I continued riding with him back to Congress where we went up and crossed the bridge to the other side. This time, however, we stayed on Barton Springs Rd. When we got to the Barton Springs Park, Barry told me there was a spring-fed pool across the road. We went over and had a look at it. It was closed today, but Barry said he heard it was supposed to open tomorrow. It looked like a great place to swim on a hot Texas day! It only costs $2.00. There are also botanical gardens and a nature center at the park. Quite the hoppin' place!

I left Barry at the pool area as it was time for me to head to the airport to meet Christian. His flight was due to get in at 5:20 (I would get there around 6:00 as he needed to set up his bike just like I had to do with Betsy). I wanted to stop and eat along the way. I reversed the route I had taken on Wednesday for part of the way back, but then went over to Riverside instead of Montopolis at Willow Creek. At the humongous intersection of Pleasant Valley and Riverside, I spied a Subway. Unfortunately, it was kitty-corner from where I was. It took forever for the crosswalk signal to change, but I finally made it to the other corner. I ate my dinner and filled up one of my water bottles with ice and water to give to Christian.

I got back to the correct direction of Riverside, and rode it all the way to Ben White Blvd. Now came the not-fun part of riding on shoulder-less Ben White Blvd through the nasty interchange with Hwy 183 at rush-hour. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad (it had to help that I was riding in the daylight instead of the dark)! I also took the cargo/cell lot exit, then got back on, now, Hwy 71, which made it easier.

As I arrived at the terminal, I was about to go inside, when I saw Christian's orange panniers at the next door over. I rode over to him. I was so happy to see he had made it and everything was okay!

Christian finished putting everything together and we headed out to, for me, once again run the gauntlet-of-danger of Ben White Blvd. We rode back to Riverside and then rode Riverside all the way back to where we could get on the trail along the lake.

We wanted to see the bats come out from under the Congress St. Bridge, so we stopped when we got to the bridge and waited. Tons of people were gathering both below in the park, and on the bridge sidewalk. We went up on the bridge because, two years ago, when Dillon, his roommate's family, and I came to see the bats, we found we could see them better from on the bridge.

We had to wait about 45 minutes before they slowly started coming out. Once they began in earnest, it was something to see! Hundreds of thousands of bats came out in waves! They all took off to the Southeast. Once they flew past the trees and higher into the sky, it looked like sardines swimming as they swooped up and around as a group. At one point, a bird came flying along. It flew through the mass of bats, scattering them. Clearly, the bird was doing this on purpose because it did it several times. I have no idea why the bird was doing that, but it sure looked like it was having fun!

Once most of the bats had flown, Christian and I continued on to Dillon's. Although we took the same route I had taken on Wednesday, it was vastly different on Friday. There was music blasting out of every honky tonk along Red River St. Of course, the bulk of the music was in the area of 6th Ave. A couple of blocks of Red River were blocked off by police. We rode on through (advantage of being on bikes). It was quite fun listening to all the different music as we rode along! It was a great taste of some of the Austin music scene.

We got to Dillon's apartment and brought all of Christian's stuff up the stairs. We made ourselves at home having some Blue Bell ice cream. Dillon arrived later (he'd been practicing at the music building). Christian and I have taken over most of the living room what with our two bikes and 8 panniers.

Below are a few photos from the day and the bats.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Own Snake Bite/Scorpion Prevention Tool

Dillon had class and other school stuff most of the day today, so I was on my own. That was fine because I had some things to do anyway.

First stop was REI for fuel for the stove. I had been to the Austin REI two years ago, so I knew how to get there. This time I didn't have to walk in 106 degree weather!

I find it difficult to walk into REI, get just what I need, and walk out. There are so many other wonderful things in REI! I wandered over to the women's clothing. I thought I might get another shirt that would be suitable for Dillon's orchestra concert and his recital. I found a nice REI brand short sleeve button up shirt that is UPF 50 and has side zippers that open up for ventilation. Attractive, AND functional!

So, having selected the shirt, I wandered back over to the fuel canisters and grabbed the ones I needed. On my way to the register, I walked through the "wilderness hygiene" section. I noticed they had a product I've been considering since I met a gal last summer on the Peninsula tour who had one. It's called the "Freshette". Basically, it's a tool that allows a woman to stand up to pee like a guy. Now, with all my bike tours, I'm no stranger to the "Adventure Pee". However, this tour will be my first in an area known to have such things as poisonous snakes and scorpions. I will not be wanting to venture into the bushes to take care of business. With the "Freshette", I won't have to!

After REI, I hopped across the street to Whole Foods to get a few items from their awesome bulk foods section. I was thrilled to find they had bulk unsweetened coconut! They also have every combination of trail mix known to mankind. Another cool thing about Whole Foods is that they have a bike repair station outside the store. Several stands with multi tools available for anyone to use!

I returned to Dillon's apartment and unloaded my purchases. Next up was checking off an Austin Subway for lunch. I looked on Google Maps to see where the nearest Subway was. I put the panniers back on and threw in a couple of grocery bags so I could go to HEB after lunch and get groceries for Dillon.

Back on Betsy, I rode out to HEB and stocked up on groceries. I managed to get everything on Betsy. Both front panniers were full and the two grocery bags were also pretty full. I bungy-corded the bags onto the rear rack and carefully rode back to the apartment.

I hauled Betsy back up to the apartment and called it a day. Dillon got back a few hours later and I fixed us some dinner.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What a Headache (Literally)!

After way too long of a day traveling, I have arrived at Dillon's in Austin!

After my last post where I was merely waiting for my flight to board, I had to wait a whole lot longer than planned. The plane had some sort of mechanical (which is always just the slightest bit worrisome), so we were late boarding. Then, once we finally boarded, we sat at the gate for another 20-30 minutes. We ended up taking off a full hour later than scheduled. Ordinarily, it wouldn't really be that big of a deal, just a pain. But, in this case, it meant I would for sure be navigating my way from the airport to Dillon's apartment mostly in the dark. Now, there's a challenge! Good thing I brought my Stella light, and good thing I am used to riding in the dark! This would be a little different as I would be on relatively unfamiliar territory (in most parts, COMPLETELY unfamiliar territory!).

The flight from Seattle to Austin is about 3 1/2 hours. For about 3 of those hours, I had an excruciating headache--one of those sinus headaches that makes you think your head is going to explode. I even asked the flight attendant for some aspirin and the guy in the aisle seat gave me some Advil. I took them both, but the headache didn't actually start to subside until we started descending. Looking back, the headache didn't start until we reached cruising altitude. When I fly home, I think I will take some preventative sinus decongestant. I do not want a repeat of that experience! By the time we landed, the headache was pretty much gone. That's good, because I had some work to do!

First thing I see as I reach baggage claim is the Chinese Shopping Bag on the carousel with white plastic straps all around it. It appears the zipper did not hold up to the less-than-gentle inspection. Fortunately, nothing was missing. I grab it and drag it over to the oversize baggage area to get Betsy (who I had seen come off the plane--now I know how the bag gets all those holes--glad I used lots of bubble wrap!). I didn't have to wait at all. She was sitting on the conveyor belt.

I got to work organizing the panniers first. I had to switch some things to balance the weight. Once the panniers were ready, I unpacked Betsy and set about freeing her from her bubble wrap cocoon. As I was methodically putting everything together, I noticed a gentleman watching. I said something like, "It's a process...". He said it looked like it required too much patience!

I, amazingly, got everything loaded up in about 45 minutes. I forgot that I had put my bike gloves (short finger) in one of the panniers instead of my handlebar bag. I didn't feel like digging them out, so I went gloveless (yes, it was plenty warm enough for that!). I also didn't take time to put the rear view mirror on either. In hindsight, that was not the best move, as it meant my hindsight was limited (HA!).

I turned on my Garmin, but it was having problems "acquiring Satellite". It still said I was at home. Fortunately, I had made a back-up plan of written directions based on a route recommended by the Bike Austin website. I headed out from the airport in the only way I could see to go. I was a little wobbly at first getting used to loaded Betsy again, but everything seemed to be working okay.

I followed the directions (this being the "safer" route given) and turned onto Bastrop Hwy. After a short distance, the directions said to turn left onto Ben White Blvd. Well, it was more like merging onto a road just slightly less busy than a freeway only with not much shoulder. In fact, the only shoulder I really had was a part of the road that was under construction. Then, to remain on Ben White, I had to cross a busy exit to another freeway. I did that, but then had no shoulder at all!

My "exit" from Ben White was supposed to be Montopolis. As I look ahead and see this Montopolis, I also see that it says "Exit Closed--U-turn to Detour" at some other street. WHAT???
Remember, this is darn near like a freeway! I come up to the "closed" exit and determine I'm going take it anyway. Whew! Now I have my own private road with zero cars (really, just a long exit ramp that takes me to Montopolis).

I continue following the directions as it gets darker and darker. The darkness requires me to slow down at each intersection until I can see what the name of the street is. Most of the left turns are too busy to cross to the left lane by the time I can tell it is where I need to turn, so I do the go-up-on-the-sidewalk-and-push-the-crosswalk-button plan. It works.

This route has me going on, seemingly, the hilliest streets of Austin! At one point, I have to do something I have NEVER had to do. I actually have to get off and push Betsy up this steep short hill! Maybe if I had been used to the load (or the load was better distributed) I would have been able to grind it out, but that wasn't the case, so I hopped off and pushed her up to the top. It was maybe 20 feet.

After several more rolling hills and some quiet back streets, I pop out onto S. Congress. I go across the Congress St. Bridge and, violá, I am in downtown Austin! This is vaguely familiar to me. I get to Red River and turn left (again being forced to do the crosswalk trick). As I am looking at the directions, I see they have me going off of Red River, but eventually returning to it. I decide enough of this circuitous route--I'm staying on Red River! I follow it for 30 blocks to 30th Ave, turn right, and pull into Dillon's apartment building parking area. I call him to let him know I'm here. He comes and helps me get everything up to his apartment. I made it! It took me an hour and 15 minutes from the airport. I'm pretty proud of myself since I did most of the navigating in the dark!

Here are just a few photos. Notice the baby cutlery (remember, I said they would feature prominently in the photos). The photo of Betsy is at the airport ready to go. The not-so-great photo is just a quick shot of downtown (in the dark).

And Now I Wait

There always seems to be the big rush to get out the door and to the airport. Excitement plays a part, I'm sure.

I left for the airport a few minutes earlier than planned. You never know what traffic is going to be like. It was fine--hardly any slowdowns to speak of. Sooo...arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. So much so, that I even offered to take Betsy back over to the "Streamline Baggage Drop" to get the stamp on the baggage tag that the lady forgot to do, before dropping her off at the oversize baggage drop.

I was tempted to get in the long line at Security Checkpoint 4 just to kill some more time but, I walked down to 3 where the line was considerably shorter. No sense standing in line when I could be sitting on one of the oh-so-comfortable seats at the gate.

At the full-body scan, I asked the guy if I looked like a reindeer with my hands in antler formation on my head. He said I was auditioning for the role as the Mariner Moose. Quick wit that guy!

Now I will wait for another 1 1/2 hours or so until time to board. Next stop...Austin!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

OOA Cat 4 Women--Trifecta of Awesomeness!

What a difference a week makes! Last week's Tour de Dung #1--rain, freezing cold, and gale force winds. Today's Tour de Dung #2--still a little cold in the morning, but sunshine and not too terribly windy!

Before I get to the Trifecta of Awesomeness of the Cat 4A Women's race, a thank you and Debbie's own moment of awesomeness are in order. A big big thank you to Terry and Krisel for hosting us again for Friday night--allowing us to get a good night's sleep before today's race! It's the things like this that help us do our best in this adventure of bike racing.

As for Debbie, she raced again with the Cat 4b Women (a mentored race). Don't be thinking this was a walk in the park. Nooooo, these gals were working just as hard as every other racer out there today! The mentors coached them on skills and strategy, but no amount of coaching would help if they didn't have the strength and guts to try those skills. Last week Debbie finished in a most-impressive 5th place. This week, instead of resting on her laurels, she used what she had learned, made her own personal plan (afterall, she was the only OOA Team member in her race), and executed a resounding 3rd place finish! She was spot-on with her sprint, and we were ecstatic! (The video I did of her finish has large amounts of screaming on my part!)

Us Cat 4A women raced last (again). The wind had picked up a little, but still nothing like last week and, the sun was out in full force. Sunglasses time! I even took my number off my vest and pinned it straight to my jersey. No need for that extra layer today! Some gals were even sporting bare legs! I left the arm warmers and leg warmers on (and I was just fine). Spring weather at last!

We rolled out after the usual instructions (this race was officiated much better than last week). I noticed right away that the wind was different. More than just less of it, it was also coming from a different direction. great tailwind action. Maria, Jean, and I had sort of planned to try to do what we had planned for last week (that was wholly unsuccessful). Just like last week, we were doing a pretty good job of staying together at the beginning. Awhile after we made the second turn, I started hearing a clicking sound. I thought it was the bike in front of me. Then all of a sudden, it got really loud. Maria came up beside me and I said, "What is that noise?" Maria yelled that it was "the thing" on my wheel. I looked down and realized the magnet for the computer was hitting the sensor with each rotation of the wheel. I drifted out of the pack and reached down to fix it while still rolling (this was the tiniest bit dangerous as I could have tangled my fingers in the spokes). In the meantime, the pack was moving ahead. Later, Maria tells me she was thinking, "Oh no! We need her!" The first time I reached down, I was able to move the sensor out some, but it was still clicking. I reached down again (being oh so careful to keep my fingers out of the fast-moving spokes) and pulled it out more. Ahhh...silence! Back in business, I sprinted up the left side of the pack back to Jean and Maria. As I came up to them, I said, "I'm back! I fixed it." Maria was a little surprised and told me I would have to tell her how I "fixed it"--without stopping (quite honestly, it didn't occur to me to do it any other way)!

We spent the rest of the first lap doing a good job of staying together and either, near the front, or on the front. By most racer's standards, I'm still spending too much time on the front. But, I like it there. I can relax and go the pace I want to go. Yes, my legs are strong, so that pace can be fairly fast, but I am relaxed and generally breathing pretty easy. It is far more stressful for me in the pack. Of course, gals go by me eventually, but I always seem to end up back on the front. In this case, Maria, Jean, and I took turns working for each other. We were doing our plan!

As we were coming up on the last corner of the first lap, another gal came up beside me and said, "Do you want to punch it once we get around this corner?" Not knowing exactly what she meant by that, I said, "Uh...okay." So we came around the corner and I sped up (not really a lot though, because...well, we still had two laps to go). It didn't really matter because, as we started up the first rise on the second lap, we got neutralized. This time the lead car did what it is supposed to do, and slowed us way down so the guys could safely speed past us. As soon as they were past the lead car a sufficient amount, the lead car sped up and gave us a hand wave to let us know we were racing again. After the first corner, we got neutralized again. We were slowed even more as there was some idiot driver coming in the oncoming lane as the Cat 1/2s were going around us also in that lane. The car finally pulled over to the shoulder as the wall of cyclists was bearing down on it!

Once we were back to racing, Jean, Maria, and I continued sticking together most of the time. Curiously, I was on the front in the same places as the lap before. Déjà vu?

I was having a great time taking the corners fast and controlled. The third corner of the second lap I was able to take the corner, holding my line (nothing sketchy here), and pass several gals. That was fun! (Don't get any ideas, fellow racers reading this. I'm still not enthusiastic about doing a Crit!)

Finishing the second lap, I was on the front again (also, I had made note of the fact that the finish would be in a slight headwind...better than a crosswind!). I thought to myself...12 more miles and I'm good to go to Austin (for my bike tour)! It was the final lap and the three of us OOA gals were still hanging together (HOLY SMOKES! This plan just might work!). We were also doing a bang-up job of communicating our whereabouts with each other. On the backside, where the rollers are, I was on and off the front. A few would go by me, then slow down, and I would go by them. Maria told me later I was doing a great job of controlling the race. As we made the final turn onto Kitchen Dick Rd., I was on the front. At the 1km sign I picked up the pace, just hoping Jean and Maria were close behind me. At the 200m sign I was still on the front, but I could hear the whir of wheels fast approaching. Please be there Jean and Maria! BE THERE BE THERE BE THERE!!! Then, I see Maria go flying by on the left (with a bunch of other gals trying to outsprint her), just as Jean goes by on my right! YES!!! THEY WERE THERE!!!

Maria won the race and Jean and I came in 10th and 11th! WE DID IT!!! It was a TRIFECTA OF AWESOMENESS!!!

So I didn't get a top 10 finish, but I was a Team Player, and it was the best race I've done so far!

One final note, the "merchandise" prizes for this race were...unusual. Mostly baby things. Maria got three sets of plastic (but colorful!) baby spoons and forks for her Women's Cat 4A 1st Place finish (okay, she also got a pair of L/XL Michelin Bike Tire socks--suitable for Men's size 10-13 feet!). She gave Jean and I each a set. I think I'll take them on tour, just for fun--look for them in photos!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring! Where Are You?

I was reading a fellow blogger's latest post begrudging the weather. He hails from "across the pond", but seems to be experiencing the same weather that we are having here. The difference between us is that while he has been holed up inside, I have been riding, and even racing, in all kinds of weather (except warm and sunny). Okay, mostly wind and cold rain (no snow). I've also managed to not be riding during the periods of hail the last few days (sheer luck).

I leave in an hour or so to head back up to Sequim for the second Tour de Dung and my fifth race of the season (again going to Port Townsend first--like last week). The weather is predicting 0% chance of rain (Is that where you are hiding, Spring?)! High is only 48 degrees but, as long as it's not raining, I'll be happy with that.

One more race, then I get to skip Spring altogether and go straight into Summer! The weather in Austin may be considered Spring for Austinites (Austinians?), but for a Washingtonian such as myself, it will be the height of summer! I can't wait!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's race report. My goal for this race is to stay safe and, if possible, have a top 10 finish.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One of Those Lucky Things

Tonight I was getting ready for a rainy ride with the team. I was trying out my RainLegs (a sort of a type of chaps covering the thighs, but open in the back). As I closed the garage door and started riding, I realized something was missing. Oh, no gloves. So I went back, opened the garage, and grabbed my gloves. I put them on, closed the garage again, and headed down the road.

I reached the intersection of my neighborhood and the main road. Across the main road there was a grey car sort of pulled over, and stopped in the middle of the street going into the neighborhood across from my neighborhood. As I was waiting to pull out onto the main road, I was watching the grey car, wondering what he was doing. He was sitting where I would need to go. He seemed to step on the gas and shoot ahead, still in the bike lane. Then he was up on the curb with two wheels, surging ahead. He came off the curb, but was kind of doing a jerky stop and go. Then he was back up on the side again. Traffic was slowing down giving the guy a wide berth.

He got a ways down the road. The traffic cleared enough for me to pull out. As I looked ahead, I could see the traffic was at a standstill. The grey car had gone up on the side again only this time plowing into a tree, breaking the tree off at the base. At least he was finally stopped. I was able to turn off and detour before getting to the accident. As I headed toward the trail, I could hear the sirens.

The lucky thing for me is that if I had not forgotten my gloves, I would have likely been in front of this crazy driver instead of safely behind him!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Did I Have Fun?

See what you might be surprised.

Today was the first of two races in Sequim. Officially, the races are called Tour d' Dung #1 and #2. My initial thought was we must be going past a lot of cow pastures. But, apparently not. Oh, we did go by a few pastures, and I even got a whiff of some cow dung, but that's not what the race is named after. Sequim is situated at the Dungeness River with a view across the water to Dungeness Spit. There is also the possibility of catching some Dungeness Crab if one chooses to throw a pot out in the water. So, therein lies the origin of the Tour d' Dung.

Debbie had to race at 10:00am. I didn't race until 1:35. To avoid a drive starting at 5:00 or 5:30 from Olympia, we drove up last night to bunk with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law near Port Townsend. They have a wonderful travel trailer that makes for the perfect guest accommodations. We arrived about 8:00, chatted with them for awhile, then hit the sack.

Even though we didn't have to get up so early, 6:45 still came awfully fast. We threw our clothes on, and brushed out teeth. I even ate my usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal with yogurt and a banana. We were out the door by 7:20. Debbie hadn't had breakfast. Her preferred pre-race breakfast includes eggs, so we stopped at a restaurant Terry recommended called the Spruce Goose. It is at the Port Townsend Airport. I just had some hot chocolate (next week I will eat breakfast there too--they have oatmeal).

The drive from the restaurant to the race start was quick. We arrived at 8:40 (note to self--next week, sleep later). On the way there we had periods of rain, then sunshine. Each time we would get hopeful about racing in sunshine, we would be back in the rain. When we arrived, the rain had tapered off, only to pick up again awhile later. Fortunately, I brought my long raincoat and my rain hat.

We met up with Jean (there early too, as Ron was racing in the morning). Debbie got checked in and I got my registration switched from Cat 4b to Cat 4A. Debbie got on my trainer (an advantage to us not racing together) and started warming up. I went to help another teammate get ready as he had arrived a bit late.

Debbie and the rest of the 4b racers gathered behind the Cat 5 guys. This was a mentored race for the beginning Cat 4 women. The mentors gave instructions to the gals, telling them how the race would go and what they could expect from the mentors. By this time the rain had begun again, but it wasn't too windy...yet. The gals rolled out with us cheering Debbie on. Then, we waited. For the Cat 4 women (both groups), this was a 36 mile race--three laps around the 12 mile course. The laps were taking around 1/2 hour (of course, faster for the guys).

As the gals came around after the first lap, Debbie was right in the thick of things. We were so proud of her! After the second lap, she was still going strong! Way to go, Debbie!

By this time, it was raining in earnest and we were cold. Jean and I decided to go change into our kits just to add another layer of clothing for warmth! So, I had on my short sleeve wool base, followed by my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers. Then I had my wind vest (it had my numbers on it) with my long sleeve jersey over the top. I finished off the layers with my wool coat and my raincoat. Yes, that was six layers! On the bottom I had my bib shorts, leg warmers, and pants. We were still cold (the rain was still coming down, and the wind was picking up), so we sat in Ron's car.

Debbie finished strong and went to the post-race clinic. Jean and I hooked up with Maria for some pre-race strategy. It was decided, if we had the opportunity, Jean would be the sprinter, and I would be the lead out. We had practiced this on Thursday. First Maria asked if I wanted to be the sprinter. I have to confess, I did not. I found out earlier today that if I win another 2 races, I will be required to upgrade to Cat 3. I don't want to do that (race distance doubles, and Cat 3s race with the Cat 1s and 2s).

By now, the wind was, seriously, gale force. We were not looking forward to racing in this weather. The team tents were getting blown over. We waited as long as possible before going out (we were sitting in Maria's car) to warm-up (HA! Like that would be possible!). As I was on my trainer in the rain and wind (the wheel hardly getting any traction on the trainer fly-wheel), I made a last minute decision to change from my short sleeve jersey and arm warmers, to my long sleeve jersey (still with the vest over the top). I changed while I was on my trainer (with Debbie's help). After I was redressed, I realized I had forgotten to put my heartrate monitor on. I made a half-hearted (no pun intended) attempt to put it on, but decided to forget about it.

I warmed up as best I could, then headed over to the start. Jean and Maria joined me and we shivered together until the official let us go. We were the last group of the day. That meant we would likely be lapped by the the Cat 1 and 2 guys. When that happens, the lead and follow cars neutralize our race (no advancing or jockeying for position is allowed when neutral).

Once we were racing, the pace was pretty easy (of course we had a tailwind at that time). I was a little nervous about the first corner because the guys had said it had the slippery-when-wet tar they use to patch cracks. We made it through without mishap. Coming into the corner, we had a pretty strong crosswind. As we made the corner, that cross-wind became an awesome tailwind. We still weren't going that fast. Jean and I were just trying to keep up with Maria. I'd get right behind her, then she would shoot through a hole and I'd be a couple people back. This happened several times. But, we were generally staying together. At one point, I got ahead of Maria, then got stuck behind a few gals and Maria went by me. Still, Jean and I were together.

Since every good tailwind eventually ends up becoming a headwind, we slowed considerably as we hit the full force of the headwind on the back side. But, that wasn't as bad as when we turned a corner and the tailwind became an even stronger crosswind. Talk about being blown about! One gal got blown into the grass on the shoulder. She, miraculously, stayed upright and got back on the road. Another gal who overlapped wheels wasn't so lucky. She went down. I don't think she took anyone with her. We continued on, fighting the crosswind--at times leaning nearly horizontal into the wind! At some point during the headwind/crosswind section we got neutralized as the boys came sailing by us. The problem was that we never saw the follow car. We did not know if we were still neutralized or if we were racing again.

As we completed the first lap, we finally just assumed we were racing. We picked up the pace. In the meantime, a breakaway of 5 gals (Maria was, fortunately, in that group) had gotten ahead of the rest of us. Just as we were getting back up to speed, we were neutralized again! Only, this time, the breakaway gals continued ahead, increasing their lead.

We got back up to speed, and I noticed Jean was having to fight the wind. I got ahead of her so she could hopefully draft behind me. Unfortunately, that was the last I saw her. We came into the massive tailwind section and I took off. Without a lot of effort, I was going 33 and 34 mph! Woo Hoo! At one point, I glanced back, because no one was passing me. I thought, great, here I am leading the pack again. But, there was no one behind me! I could see a group of 4 ahead. I wasn't sure if they were girls or guys that had dropped off. When I reached them, I found they were a group of gals--not the breakaway of 5 though. I stayed with them for a short while, working together, rotating to the front. Once it was my turn on the front, I was going along, pulling them behind me, until I, once again, glanced back and saw I was alone...oops. Oh well, onto the next riders.

As I made the turn back into the headwind, I could see one of the Starbucks gals ahead. I slowly caught up to her, then we slowly caught up to another Starbucks gal. The three of us took turns on the front. When we made the turn into the crosswind, I was taking my turn on the front. Even though the crosswind was nasty, I was still able to go faster than in the headwind. more Starbucks gals! From then on, I was alone. I could not see the breakaway group (I knew they were still ahead because I had not passed Maria).

I loved the tailwind section, and worked hard through the headwind section. I had no idea where, or even if, the follow car was still behind me. I was just riding. The rain had finally stopped and there was even some sun breaks. Quite honestly, I was enjoying myself!

After being passed, once again, by a group of guys, I could see another rider in the distance. Was it female? Turns out, yes. It was Emily of the Blue Rooster Team. As I came by her, I facetiously said, "Is this fun?" She gave a resounding, "NO!" I'm pretty sure she caught onto my wheel. I had a sneaking suspicion she would sprint at the finish. Sure enough, she did, and crossed before me. Since the finish was in the severe crosswind section, I could not safely get out of the saddle to effectively sprint. Besides, I figured several gals had already finished so it didn't really matter. I pulled back into the parking area, but there weren't that many gals there. Later, I asked Debbie how many had finished ahead of me. She thinks just the 5 and maybe one or two others (in addition to Emily). So, maybe I had another top 10 finish! We didn't stick around to find out, because it was too dang cold.

With all the wind and rain, did I have fun? Surprisingly, yes I did! I am even excited to do it again next weekend. Afterall, the weather can not possibly be any worse--yet, I still had fun!

Here is a photo of Debbie at her start.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Returning to my Roots

This blog is called Super Biker Woman's Bike TOURING. Some of you reading this might have forgotten. What am I saying???--I've almost forgotten! Well, all that changes in two weeks! Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed sharing my group riding and racing experiences, but I am looking forward to returning to this blog's roots. Two weeks from today!

Yep, in two weeks Betsy and I will be flying to Austin, Texas. We'll meet up with Christian and his, still un-named, steed for a tour I'm calling the "Classical to Rock 'n Roll Tour". It is bookended by a few days in the Hill Country and a few days with my half sister outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. First up will be a UT Orchestra concert that my son, Dillon, will be playing in. Then a short 4 days of riding in the Hill Country before returning to Austin for Dillon's Junior Year Solo Violin Recital. The morning after the recital we will point our wheels east and start pedaling the rest of the way across Texas to the Mississippi River. We'll pick up the Mississippi River Trail and follow it to Memphis, Tennessee. After we check out all things Elvis, Christian will head back to Germany, and I will continue on to a little town on the other side of Little Rock to see Kim and Gary. I'll be heading home May 1st from Little Rock.

Usually, with two weeks to go, I'm itching to get everything loaded into the panniers (okay, everything is usually ALREADY packed!). However, this racing thing has kept me well occupied, both mentally and physically. Today I set the racing thoughts aside for the afternoon and spent it preparing Betsy. She is all cleaned up, folded, bubble-wrapped, and placed in her flight bag.

I'm sure the next two weeks are going to go by quickly. Even with the two races I have left before I go, I'm sure I'll take some time to pull out my touring gear and get it all packed up. In two weeks I'll be back to blogging about my touring adventures! I'm getting excited!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Art of Racing in the Rain...

Is a great book by Garth Stein that has nothing to do with cycling. The title, however, aptly describes today's adventure in bike racing.

Today was the second of the two-race series at Mason Lake. Whereas last week's race weather was delightfully dry (and sunny for the afternoon racers), today was not so dry (but, curiously, the sun was coming out a bit for the afternoon racers--they seem to have all the luck--well, they've earned it as they are the Cat 1, 2, and 3's). On top of the rain, it was the beginning of Daylight Savings. So, not only did we lose an hour of sleep, but we, technically, raced an hour earlier. The temperature didn't seem that cold at first, but with the rain it was definitely chilly.

Debbie and I arrived at the same time as last week. We checked in and said hi to fellow teammates. We got our new kits on Friday, so we were all admiring how sharp they looked. My choice of kit for today was bib shorts with leg warmers, short sleeve jersey with short sleeve base layer and arm warmers, topped off with my new vest. My race numbers were pinned to my vest. I wasn't going to wear the base layer, but I was glad I did. I was certainly NOT overheated!

I did my, now usual, warmup on my trainer. Debbie, Jean, and another gal named Jen (don't remember which team she is from) did their warmup out on the road. I had also seen my new friend Kirsten from last week. She was the one who had, twice, dropped her chain. She said her plan was to stay on my wheel today. I told her I was making no promises of a repeat performance.

After my warmup, I drank 1/2 of a bottle of Heed and ate three Shot Blocks. That seems to give me enough energy for at least a 24 mile race.

We lined up as before, moving up the hill as each of the two Cat 5 Men's groups began their races. The official gave the instructions and, without so much as the blowing of a whistle, just an okay-you-girls-can-go-now, we headed down the road behind the lead car. This time we really did go 10 miles an hour on the lead out.

This Women's Cat 4 Race field was much larger than last week. We had 38 (compared to 20) racers this week. Jean said it was the biggest Cat 4 group she has ever raced with. We were also fortunate to have two of our own OOA gals (Jen and Michelle) in the lead and follow cars, analyzing the race as it took place.

As we rolled toward the beginning of the actual race, I noticed immediately that this group was much more talkative. I heard one gal say she was known as the "Cat 4 Mother Hen". She was complimenting everyone for their communication skills. Most often word hollered at the beginning? "SLOWING!"

After the first corner and the beep of the follow-car horn, we were racing. Since this was the same course as last week, we first had to go up the hill. I think we went up a little faster than last week, but still not too taxing. Near the top, a couple of gals did a bit of an attack. At that point, even this early in the race, I knew this was going to be a different ball game from last week! I also knew I was not going to have a repeat performance. I did feel pretty confident (most of the time anyway) that I could stay near the front and finish well.

The rain was making my thighs freezing cold. Of course, the spray from the wheels of the bikes in front of me wasn't helping. So much for the nice, new, white kit (turns out it washes up just fine!)! There was also more of a head wind (still not as bad as the test ride). I didn't spend as much time on the front this race. The pace was faster, and I didn't want to wear out in the wind. Mostly, though, gals were doing more attacks, so I would end up behind a few. I still tried to stay within the first 6 or so.

Coming into the first corner, I managed to be on the front which I was happy about. I took the corner pretty fast, even though the road was wet. I went through the next sharp curve with a few other gals, but everyone did well. There were a lot more experienced racers.

I was definitely working harder on the rollers, but I still managed to stay near, and occasionally, on the front. Kirsten was true to her plan, but didn't just stay on my wheel. We took turns keeping ourselves near the front, pulling for each other.

The second lap was just more of the first. It was still raining. Good thing was, I wasn't cold anymore! When we hit the rollers for the second time, I had begun to notice a pattern with some of the riders. One, in particular, would charge past, but then really slow down on the uphill parts of the rollers. Kirsten and I were behind this gal as we were heading down one of the rollers and getting ready to go up another. I would not be able to go around her unless Kirsten did first. So I told Kirsten to try and pass her before she slowed down too much and we lost our momentum. Kirsten was able to pass and I followed.

At the 1km sign the pace picked up. Ai yi yi! Coming down the last steep hill, I managed to get to about 4th. We hit the 200 meter sign and I tried like mad to sprint, but was only able to do it for a few seconds before my legs said, "Uh...yeah...we're done...". Three gals sprinted past me. I ended up 8th. However, this was a series. Thanks to my 1st place finish from last week, I managed to take 1st place for the Series (due, in large part, to the gals who finished ahead of me, either not doing as well, or who didn't race at all, last week). For my prize, I got a bag of swag that I divided up with my teammates, Debbie, Jean, and Katie.

After we had all changed into dry clothes, we had a post-race clinic with Jen and Michelle. They shared their observations from their respective positions, and gave us suggestions of things to work on. One thing I need to work on is not pulling the whole group up to the leaders when I try to catch up to them. I need to do a "mini-attack" and leave the group behind. I'll do my best to work on that!

The next two races are in Sequim, over the next two Saturdays. I registered to race in a special Cat 4 beginner race, but Jen told me not to do that race. She doesn't think I will get any benefit, and it would be unfair to the truly beginner racers. The good thing is that I will get to race with Jean and Maria! We will make a plan! It will be awesome!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Listening to Jiminy or...

Letting My Conscience Be My Guide

It's a sunny, albeit chilly, day. I've just come off a weekend of racing (see previous posts). What could be better than a nice easy recovery ride? I take Tessa and head out to the trail.

As I'm riding the trail just past the rise that goes under the power lines between 89th and 103rd, I pass a gal walking her bike in the other direction. I ask if she is okay. She says yes, just a flat. I keep going. Because I still have my race number zip-tied to my seat post, I have only one spare tube and CO2 cartridge in my jersey pocket instead of my whole wedge pack.

I get to 103rd and decide I don't want to do the gravel section, so I leave the trail and head out to Steadman. As I'm riding on 103rd, I start thinking I should go back and offer my tube and CO2. The gal has a ways to walk to even get to the next road. I think, but then, what if I get a flat? Jiminy (aka my conscience) says, "You can just go home. This is just a recovery ride anyway. Who knows how far that gal has to go?" So, I let my conscience be my guide and I turn around.

I catch up to her on the trail. I tell her I can fix her flat. Turns out, she has a tube and tire levers--just no pump. I offer my CO2. She introduces herself as Julie. She's not entirely sure how to change the flat (she would have figured it out though), so, together, we do it.

I offer to ride back with her just to make sure the tire holds, and all is well. It does hold and I leave her near her neighborhood. I also tell her if she wants to learn bike maintenance, I'd be happy to help. So, Julie, if you are reading this, you can email me at, or message me on Facebook--Colleen Welch (my profile pic is me at Haast Pass in New Zealand). I'll be around until March 27th--then back May 1st (don't know when in May you are moving).

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Well, THAT Was a Surprise!

Here we go again. This time, up at the "waistline" of dawn (vs. the butt-crack--in other words, didn't have to get up quite so early) to drive out to the first of two Mason Lake races. This is the course that Debbie, Manek, and I test rode a couple of weeks ago.

Today the weather was much better than our test ride weather. It was cloudy for us in the morning races, but it cleared up to blue sky and sunshine for the afternoon races (but also added a little bit of wind that we didn't have in the morning). It wasn't toasty warm but, afterall, this is just the beginning of March!

We got to Mason Lake County Park about 7:45ish. Plenty of time to check in (they just had to check us off the list), visit the restrooms, and prepare for the race. The Cat 4 Women (sadly, no Masters Women category) raced at the odd time of 9:43.

After yesterday's missed-start debacle, I was determined to finish my warm-up with plenty of time to spare. I put Tessa on my trainer and did the same warm-up as yesterday. If you want specifics, here they are (if not, just skim over this part). It is: 10 minutes easy, 1 minute high cadence, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes high cadence, 1 minute easy, 2 minutes hard effort, 2 minutes easy, 1 minute hard effort, 1 minute easy. A total of 21 minutes. In the hard efforts, my heart rate gets into the 150s. The recovery is back down to the 120s. It is a good warm-up. It was designed by our top Woman Cat 1 racer, who just so happens to also be the top BARR racer in all of Washington this year (besides getting an awesome trophy, she gets free entry into all races, AND her race number is 1).

So, I finished my warm-up with time to get the rest of my gear on and make one more stop at the restroom before lining up with Jean and Debbie and the rest of the Cat 4 women. There were about 3 or 4 groups of guys that went before us.

When it was our turn, we moved up to the start line. The guy gave us instructions (the lead car will keep the pace to 10mph until after the first corner, don't cross the yellow line, and you can take the whole lane if you are between the lead car and the follow car). He also mentioned that after the 200m sign on the second lap, we could use the whole road to the finish.

They counted down from 10, blew the whistle, and we were off (like a herd of speeding turtles). Jean told me she was clipped in (she was worried about that--one reason I like my two-sided pedals--I can clip in on either side). Although we were clearly not racing, we were also not going 10 mph! Jean and I both commented that was the fastest 10 mph we had ever gone!

We made the first corner. Okay! Now we are racing...well...okay, it was a hill. We took a, seemingly, leisurely pace up the entire first hill (don't get me wrong--it was fine by me. In the test ride, I thought I was going to die after that hill!). We got to the top. I was near the front amongst the first 5 or 6. The pace was still pretty slowish. We were basically doing a double paceline. I thought to myself--this is just like a team group ride (only slower)! Where is the sketchy moving around? Where is the yelling of, "Hold your line"? This all seems quite civilized to me! And, it pretty much remained that way for quite awhile. One gal shifted and dropped her chain. That was a brief moment of excitement (turns out she dropped her chain twice--I say, get that sucker fixed!).

Then, a couple of gals picked up the pace (not really a breakaway by any means). I stayed with them. We were now in a single line. The front gal peeled off. I stayed on the wheel of the gal in front of me. Then, SHE peels off! Now, I am on the front! Wait! I'm not supposed to do this! I'm supposed to stay NEAR the front, not ON the front! But...I'm not working hard...there really isn't any wind...okay, I'll just sit here and wait for someone to go by, and catch their wheel. Doop-de-do...nice day for a bike ride...

Finally, someone pulls up next to me, but she doesn't pass me. After awhile, I say to her, "You know, I think there are a bunch of bikes behind us!" She agrees with me. We keep on riding.

After another bit of time, a gal does go by me. She looks like she knows what she is doing, so I decide to stick with her. Now I get to draft for awhile. Then, she peels off. I'm back on the front again. In my head I hear Jen's voice telling me, "Don't spend so much time on the front." But, again, I'm not really working hard, so I stay on the front. I know they are all drafting behind me, but I don't feel like I'm expending much energy, so I figure, what the heck? At least there is not much chance of crashing!

As we came in to the first real corner of the race, I was still in the lead which suited me just fine. For a beginning Cat 4 racer, I am good at cornering. I was able to take the corner without worrying what was happening around me. No wild braking or people not holding their line. Same was true of the next corner. The next corner is really more of a sharp curve after a nice downhill. Well, weight always wins on the downhill, so I was still in the lead into that curve.

The rest of the loop was a bunch of rollers. I got to draft for some of those miles, never off the front by more than 3 or 4 people. As we finished the first lap, I thought to myself, okay, I feel pretty good--much better than I did when we practiced. Still, I think they are going to push it on the second go round. Will I have enough to pick up the pace for the second 12 miles? Apparently, yes. The pace did increase. There was a bit more moving around. Going up the first hill, a bunch went by and I did not want to get stuck in a slow group, so I worked my way to the outside and followed the front group. There were two gals that had gone off the front about 5 bike lengths. I decided it would be best to go catch up to them (one was the gal I was trying to stay close to). Of course, once I caught up to them, they slowed down. Again, they peeled off and I was on the front for the umpteenth time.

I knew I wanted to save some energy for the rollers, so my method for not having to lead for long periods of time was to just surreptitiously slow down until someone passed me and took the lead. Then I would draft until that person peeled off. Fortunately, it worked and I didn't have as much time on the front.

Coming down the hill into the last curve, I decided I would try and stay to the outside, after the curve, for the remainder of the race. I remembered the guy saying at the beginning that we could take the whole road after the 200m mark. I wanted to be able to use the other lane and not get trapped at the finish.

I totally missed seeing the 1km sign. Next thing I knew, we were passing the 200m sign. I moved into the other lane and sprinted out of the saddle for the finish. As I was sprinting, I noticed no one else had moved over. I was sure I had heard the directions correctly. I passed the two gals I had been with the whole race and crossed the line first. I had hoped to finish near the front, but I had NO PLANS OF WINNING!!! When I got back to the start area, Eric asked me if I won. I said, "I think so".

Everyone congratulated me, but I didn't really believe it until I saw the results on paper. Check out the photo below. See? My name IS first! What a SURPRISE!

Jean finished 7th. She would have been right behind me, but she got boxed in at the end. Debbie thought she finished second to last, but she actually finished 14th--ahead of 6 people! I think the three of us represented OOA pretty good! Now we will see what happens next week on the second Mason Lake race...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Not the Way to Start My First Race...

Or...The One Thing I Wasn't Worried About...Or, better yet...And They Heard Her Exclaim As She Rolled Down the Road...

I can say, regarding my first Time Trial race, I learned a lot (especially what NOT to do)!

I was up at the butt-crack of dawn to be dressed and ready for Debbie and Manek to pick me up at 6:30. Start time for the Cucina Fresca Icebreaker Time Trial (between Auburn and Black Diamond) was 9:00am. Then, this morning I noticed an email had been sent last night with the ACTUAL start times. My start time was 10:50:30. Debbie's was a minute before me at 10:49:30. Even Manek didn't start until 10:22. Needless to say, we got there in plenty of time. Maria was there when we arrived. She had a much earlier start time of 9:03. We, on the other hand had a good couple of hours. At least we weren't going to be late.

We checked to make sure we didn't have to do anything at the Cucina Fresca tent (waivers had been signed online). We watched Maria do her warm-up on her trainer, we waited in line for the potty shacks, and ogled the TT bikes and aero helmets. Most of the people with the really fancy aero bikes are triathletes. A time trial is like the bike portion of a triathlon. The rest of us have all kinds of set-ups from just your basic road bike (ie no aero bars), to road bikes with aero wheels and aero bars (stuff you can easily swap in and out).

When it was time for Maria to head to the start, Manek and I went over to watch. As she was waiting her turn, a gal comes riding up to the start at a little beyond the last second. They gave her the 5 second countdown and she was off, but about 5 seconds late (oops). The clock starts at your start time--not the time you actually start. After a couple more people, it was Maria's turn. One person held her bike so she could be clipped in and ready to go. Another gave her the last minute instructions (road is open, don't draft behind cars, turnaround is at 5 miles) and counted her down from 5. Then she was off and pedaling. We came back later and watched her finish, and also watched Katie start (Katie reminded the bike-holder guy to not drop her--I won't write what she actually said to him!).

Maria did great and gave us the lowdown on the course. There was a particularly bumpy spot not far from the finish that we needed to watch for. Also, the finish was not at the start line. It was earlier (which means we would want to start our sprints earlier).

I calculated I would start my warm-up at 10:15. I did the warm-up Jen had told us to do when we did the practice TT. It lasts 21 minutes. At the end, I took Tessa off the trainer, took a swig of water, donned my helmet, glasses and gloves, and Debbie and I headed over to get in line for our starts.

As we roll up, I look at the start clock and it says 10:50:34. WHAT??? I'm supposed to start at 10:50:30! I ask if they are on schedule and am I supposed to go? First guy says no, but the start guy starts counting me down! Okay! I guess I'm going! Manek and Katie are cheering from the sideline. What do I exclaim as I stomp on the pedals?..."CRAP!!!" I know I just missed my start! Even worse, Debbie was supposed to go a minute BEFORE me! DOUBLE CRAP!!!

I get up to speed and drop down onto the aerobars. I'm thinking, "How did we miss the start?" I thought we had plenty of time! Apparently not! My heart rate is climbing rapidly. I shift into a bigger gear to slow down my cadence a little. I won't be able to maintain this for 10 miles if I don't bring it down a bit.

My goal was to pass at least one person. I see my target ahead. I push a tiny bit harder and go by her. Whew! Goal accomplished! I continue out to the turnaround. I'm warm in my jersey, light base layer, arm warmers, and leg warmers. I ask myself, "Am I too warm?" No, I don't think so. I try to get a song going in my head, but alI I keep thinking is, "Crap! I missed my start time!"

I make the turnaround and head back. I yell, "Go Debbie!" as she passes going the other direction.

Maria had told us there were some inclines that would slow us down a little. Really, the course is billed as flat, and it is. It's just that when you are working as hard as you can, you notice even the slightest change--up or down. I pushed up the small rises trying to keep my speed up. Oh, that was hard! I periodically look at the distance--how much farther, how...much...farther!!!

A couple of riders have passed me (I didn't feel too bad as they were both on aero bikes). Cars are passing fairly frequently. Two motorcycles go by and I notice, a bit later, that they have slowed down, but are riding side-by-side, taking the whole lane. What do I do if I catch up to them? I can't cross the yellow line to pass them. I guess I'll yell. Fortunately, I don't have to. Perhaps they see me coming, because they speed up.

I go through the bumpy part doing a good job of avoiding the nasty humps in the pavement. Soon, I hit the 1 km sign. My brain can't calculate how far that means I have to go. I just know I can't start sprinting yet. Then comes the 200km mark. I see the red tent, which is the finish. My legs are too tired to get out of the saddle to sprint, so I just pedal as hard as I can across the finish line (I hope that's where I hit my maximum speed of 26.6mph). My time registers as 27:58:13. I slow down, but am still sucking wind like mad--a little dizzy even. I keep going until my heart recovers to a reasonable rate of 115 (my average heartrate was 155--max was 169). Debbie joins me back at the car. We both wonder--how did we miss our starts?

After we change and load the bikes back in the car, we go to see where we placed. I placed 5th out of 16 riders. All else being equal, had I started when I was supposed to, I would have placed 4th. I think 5th is okay for my first race.

So, coming into this race, I was nervous about getting checked in correctly (didn't have to do anything there). I was nervous about getting a proper warm-up (nope, got that done). What I wasn't nervous about was getting to the start line on time. Missing my start wasn't the best way to start my racing career but, you can bet that won't happen again! Otherwise, it was a good day!