Monday, December 29, 2008

Friday morning, I wake up determined to get in a good training ride outdoors. I'm so sick of the trainer -- after one week -- I would rather shove carpet tacks in my gums than turn one more pedal stroke indoors. I'm fully dressed for the 25 degree weather by the time the weather guy tells me that its icy out. I decide to give it a go anyway.

I get the cross bike and head out the gangway . . . to find the gate is snow/iced in and I'm not getting out of the yard that way. So I go in the back door and out the front door. The front porch is a touch slippery, and I can see the glossy sheen of sheer ice covering the front steps and sidewalk. But I have good balance, ice is rarely a problem. Confident in my abilities, I pick up my bike, put one bootie-encased mountain shoe on the top step . . . and fall down the stairs. All the stairs. Happily, I fell feet first and landed on the sidewalk on my butt -- I don't want to think about falling head first. I get up and check the bike -- looks OK; check the new iPhone in my back pocket -- it turns on; look around for my keys . . . and can't find them. Not on the ice or in the snow or in my pocket. They are, yes, at the top of the icy steps where I dropped them on my way down. I have to climb back up to get them, and then down again. This time, I make generous use of the railing.

I figure I'll give the ride a go -- I can always turn around if its impossible -- but considering how crazy icy my carefully shoveled front walk is, my plan of riding the lakefront path is out. I stick to the roads and head out towards Highland Park. The main roads were largely clear of ice, traffic was light, and I had a good ride.

Saturday its in the 50s when I wake up. I'm going on the team ride! I get my road bike off the trainer and pump up the tires. I tape the ankle I whacked on my trip down the stairs the day before, get my rain coat out and slip bread bags over my socks. I head down to Wicker, but find no one there. I wait around for a couple minutes, then head north up Damen -- people often join in on the way, and there should be a couple up at Pratt & Ridge. But there isn't. I am the team ride this week. I again head north towards Highland Park, enjoying the feeling of being on my road bike again. Its wet, but its warm, so I'm not suffering. North of Evanston, it gets misty, which is a bit freaky. I have several lights blinking on my bike and person, so I'm reasonably visible, but not being able to see more than 30 feet ahead isn't optimum. By the time I get back on Sheridan after the little detour on old Green Bay and Scott, its raining in earnest and the fog is increasing. At the top of the hills, I can't see the bottom. So a mile or so from Scott, I pack it in and turn around. Back on old Green Bay, I run into a Pony Shop guy, and we do a loop up Green Bay back to Scott together. Nice to have company. We diverge north of Evanston, and the rain lets up as I ride south. I'm half dry by the time I get home.

Sunday is sunny and bright. Its cooled down to the low 30s again, and there's a wind, but its a lovely day for a ride. I head to the lakefront path, sick of traffic and stop lights. There's a little ice, but nothing that gives me much trouble. Stiff wind from the southwest to get my heart beating. A really nice endurance ride.

I'm hoping the reasonable winter weather persists and the trainer can sit alone and unused.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I noticed this last night. Heh, I wonder if all the medals say "trail" instead of "trial" or I just lucked into this one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Got back on the bike yesterday for the first time in two weeks. And I surprised myself with how much I WANTED to be on the trainer and how much I enjoyed it. Heh, that won't last.

Everything's a bit disorganized right now. I raced Montrose Harbor two weeks ago and haven't touched any gear since. I can't find my heart rate strap or embrocation [my new word, learned from Velonews and now used in a sentence]. Or my fingerless gloves. I can pedal for an hour without that stuff, but longer than that will be a problem.

I bought my plane ticket to training camp last week. I'm already excited!

Chicago Bike Racing has an interview with Kristen Meshberg up. She's teaming up with Devon next year -- the two amazing women who've dominated the local bike racing scene. I'm hopeful that I will grow to be competitive with them at some point. It won't be easy or quick, but consistent hard work should get me there eventually. Right? OK, it'll never happen. But I'm interested to see how the season will unfold anyway.

We have some new women joining xXx for 2009, and I'm very excited about that too. I can't wait to get them on the road.


I was flipping channels last night and came across concert footage of David Bowie as Ziggy Startdust and the Spiders from Mars. Which was pretty awesome -- I haven't seen it in a long time. I was reading Velonews while Mick Ronson played a 15 minute guitar solo in the middle of Width of a Circle while Bowie changed costumes [from something FloJo would have worn into a onesie an adorable 2 year old girl might wear]. Bowie finishes the song, then portentiously walks [barefoot] to the back of the stage. The camera lingers. Jackie yells "Mime! Do mime!" And Bowie runs forward . . . into an invisible wall!!! He actually does MIME! Jackie wails that she didn't mean it! But for several minutes he feels his way back and forth along the invisible wall until he finally finds a crack and pries it open. I watch, horror-stricken. Cringing into the couch. I want to die, both FOR him and just in general. When he's finally free of the wall, I go off to bed. Reconciling the absolute coolness of David Bowie with mime [and not even inventive mime] is too much for my tiny brain.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My team had our annual banquet Sunday. It was a warm and friendly evening at Goose Island. Lots of food and mingling. My special lady, Jackie, DeeJayed -- and thus actually thoroughly enjoyed a cycling event.

I was again voted women's road MVP by my teammates. And was again overcome by that honor. To be respected by my peers means so much to me. My teammate Heidi presented the award and said so many nice things. I had the privilege to present the award for Women's Super Domestique to the person responsible for me not only being on xXx, but for getting into racing. Gigi is one of the hardest working people on the team -- on the road and off -- and I was very happy to see her recognized.

I'm still off my bike. The weather was temperate enough for riding over the weekend, and I hated to miss the opportunity. But it was excellent to spend time with Jackie. I'm hoping the weather will cooperate over my xmas vacation days so I can get in some long outdoor rides. Otherwise, I'll have ample time to practice riding the rollers. Ugh.

The iPhone continues to revolutionize my life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Got an iPhone today. I feel like I'm on Star Trek.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I LOVE that the little list of heart rate zones by age on the Lifecycle elliptical trainer in the fitness center here lists the 'fat-burning zone' and 'cardio zone' heart rates up to age 100. Its so hopeful.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rats. I just went to Velosnaps website and checked out her pics of the women's 4s race at Montrose Harbor yesterday. Unless they skipped a few racers, it looks like I came in 6th -- which isn't as good as I wanted but certainly better than the 8th that the posted results had. Rats.

It was a frustrating race for me. I got there early, in the bitter cold and snow, to pre-ride the course. Which was key to not falling 50 or a hundred times during the race. I learned how to ride the steep, slippery little descents with a narrow 90 degree turn at the bottom, how to ride up the steep, slippery little ascents with almost no momentum. How to ride through the sand trap, and the deep snow before the second barrier. So technically, I rode the course well.

Except for the start. Which I muffed. I just didn't go hard enough and ended up trapped behind some slower riders on the narrow, snowy path, while the race rode away from me. Arg. I ended up trading leads with an unattached rider -- I think the same woman who rode a single speed at Woodstock. She had gears yesterday and it made a difference. That and I just wasn't on my game.

The fabulous news is that my teammate Eileen CRUSHED the competition and won the state championship handily. No one was even close to her. It was awesome! JT also took the junior state champion title [he was very polite as he sped past me, calling out "Tamara! Coming by!" with a South Chicago Wheelman hot on his heels].

The really bad news is that my coach crashed in the men's master's race and ended up in the hospital. Broken ribs and a punctured lung. At least its now officially the off-season.

Speaking of which, I have two weeks off the bike. I need it.

Maybe I was a tad overdressed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the face of the weather report for today, I caved and sat on the trainer for two hours this morning. The Lakefront Path is icy and I can't get a good workout in rush hour traffic. So I pedaled and watched "Fried Green Tomatoes." It was that or "Angel" reruns. I can only watch the news for so long --too many commercials, too much repetition. I missed the ending of the movie . . . but didn't they barbeque the abusive husband and serve him to the chinless police detective? Ew.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Man, I'm really hating this snow.

I rode out early to attempt some cross intervals. The Lakefront path had been plowed, but there were long stretches of iciness. I could ride it, but not fast. I despaired. At Irving Park I got off my bike and jogged down to North, where I work. At least I got my heart rate up. And destroyed my shoe covers. Rats.

Rebecca Much passed me as I trotted along -- she was riding. Slowly.

Today is my birthday and I'm really sort of resenting that the weather isn't cooperating with me. My birthday last year was so awesome that this birthday was never going to be as good . . . but still. High point so far: my new knee socks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cranberry Fig Chutney

12 oz bag of cranberries [if you can't find fresh, dried will work -- but use less sugar]
8 oz dried calimyrna figs, chopped into small pieces [the smaller the better]
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 lemon, chopped, seeds discarded
2 T. minced, peeled fresh ginger
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. water
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar [you can use red wine vinegar, but the balsamic really gives it a better flavor, I think]
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground clove [optional]

In a nonreactive three quart pot, combine all ingredients. Heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 - 90 minutes. Its done when you can 'pop' all the cranberries by pressing them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

Ladle into glass jars, refrigerate until well chilled -- at least 4 hours.

Enjoy with Turkey, meatloaf, on sandwiches and burgers.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Woodstock cyclocross. It was a good course -- not as technical as St. Charles or Northbrook, but long with LOTS of painful climbs, some fast descents, one set of three barriers, bumpy, bumpy ground, and some tricky downhill 'S' curves right before the finishing stretch.

I started better, but still not great. I was fifth or sixth through going into the first climb, and I could see Emily of VQ already pulling away from the rest of us. I was a bit blocked in, but managed to stay in the first chase group. At the barriers, an unaffiliated rider on a single speed tore past me and it took me until the next climb to get around her. I went through the start/finish in fifth place, and quickly passed the woman in fourth.

I caught up to Lara of mission bay and Carly of Tati on the long descent in the woods -- noting that they braked into the turn -- on the hill, I passed them, but was again passed by Lara. I chased her hard, and then she made a mistake: she took a wrong turn up towards the barriers and had to turn around and get back on the course. This gave me enough time to make my painstaking way over the barriers [I can't jump them, I just can't get the height] and ride on in the lead.

They were hot on my heels the whole way to and through the start/finish, but I had ridden the course 4+ times before my race and was able to take good lines, hit turns without braking and put a little more distance between us. But Lara was a jauggernaut. Coming into the final climbs, my teammates were yelling that she was 20 feet behind me. I worked SO HARD. I was at my absolute max and just kept pushing and pushing. Down through the gravel, around up the hill, onto the pavement, pushing harder, across the road, swooping down, braking to make the 180 turn -- right here my teammate Mike hollers, "don't mess up these turns and you got it!" forshadowing my downfall. -- back up the hill, around the 180 at the top, braking into the first 'S' turn, braking for the second, which you can shoot right out of and into the finishing stretch . . . but I was trying just too hard and missed the angle on the second turn, the easy turn, and slid out. Mike was screaming for me to get up, and I tried, but stepped on the side of my foot, rolled my ankle and fell again -- Lara passing me, of course -- I finally got on the bike and finished in third.

So frustrating. So disappointing. But that's bike racing. Skill is as important as strength and speed. Lara made a mistake that cost her and I made a mistake that cost me. And third is my best result yet. [My goal for next year is to be as powerfully dominant as Emily of VQ.]

The ankle is tender. I can walk on it fine, but it's weakened and if I twist it again it would be bad news. I have it supported and am being careful. Got to heal for Montrose Harbor!

Note the mud all over my left side and the grass sticking out of my brake levers. And my roar of rage at screwing up.

Thanks to Carolyn Golz -- velosnaps -- for the awesome pics!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

HEY! I finally made the top ten in the Chicago Cyclocross Cup standings! In fact, I'm ninth. I'll get my first call-up on Sunday at Woodstock. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Riding without my [prescription] glasses in the dark turns out to be a MUCH bigger handicap than riding without my glasses in daylight.

So I was riding on the Lakefront path this morning and enjoying the solitude. I could see the lake effect snow clouds on the horizon but it was clear and crisp and the sun was just starting to come up. I passed Oak Street beach and was watching the waves wash up. There was a little crispy ice, but nothing my knobby cross tires had trouble with. I turned the corner . . . and was suddenly on a solid sheet of black ice. Before I could react at all, I was down. Hard. I hit my head harder than I ever have and broke my glasses [rats!]. I sorta wanted to just lay there and cry. But its 20 degrees and the ice is cold and I still have an hour and a half of endurance and I am a tough and hard bike racer so I make my way off the ice, get back on my mercifully unscathed bike and continue my ride.

On the way back, I dismounted and picked my way carefully across the ice, hugging the wall. But the rubber soles of my shoe covers still slid out and I ended up crawling again. As I did, another roadie came around the bend and before I could warn him was on the ice and then crashing and spinning out. Its SO treacherous.

I'm fine -- nothing but my glasses are broken. And I think I can glue/tape them back together until I can afford another pair. My helmet seems intact . . . still might be time to look into getting a new one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Unfortunately, I looked like this all too often at the Lansing cross race yesterday. My skills were terrible -- especially mounting. I seem to have forgotten how. I need to spend some time practicing getting off and on my bike this week.

The course was completely flat and fast. No place to recover for a moment, just all out effort the whole time. I got a better start this week and hit the first corner in the top five. A few women passed me after that, and I got caught behind a slower rider and ended up 20 feet off the lead pack. I worked my way up to them by the barriers, but my skills were lacking and I lost a place or two there. The barriers and the sandpit really broke things up. By the third lap, I was in fifth place. In the fourth I was in fourth place and closing in on Eileen in third. I caught her at a barrier and she and I were yelling at each other to go go go.

And then I crashed into the barrier before the sandpit. Got myself up and over, dashed to and through the pit, hopped on my bike . . . and my chain was off. I was afraid to try to pedal it on as I'd gotten it completely screwed up a week and a half ago trying to do just that. So I dismounted, fell, got up, fiddled with it -- Randy ran over and started talking me through it. When I'd finally gotten it on and gotten going, three people had passed me. I easily caught and passed one of them [might have been a junior], but Eileen and the other rider were just too far ahead. I really pushed through the last lap, but I never got close.

On the good side, we'd opened up such a huge gap that the women behind never got close to me either. So I finished fifth. Not bad considering. I feel like my fitness is returning.

Afterwards, some lovely women in the team tent cooked brats and veggie burgers for us -- a delightful post-race meal. Eileen finished third, so we both won $20. Nice! We got our registration fee back. All in all, a very fun day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The cross race in Northbrook yesterday was the first really COLD race. By the time we lined up, I could barely feel my hands and feet. The woman next to me was visibly shivering. And I was pretty intimidated by the course -- two practice laps and I was not confident I wouldn't end up in the pond and was filled with terror at the thought of the crazy 'ant farm' switchbacks.

I again did poorly in the opening sprint, ending up 10 - 15 women back when we hit the narrow, twisty part. But the group stayed pretty much together to the stairs -- This course had no barriers, substituting two punishing stair climbs, the first leading to extravagant, long switchbacks down the steep hill, the second to a fast, but slippery descent. To my surprise, I was able to pass a couple people on the stairs and even more in the switchbacks. I chose not to ride the first two -- running them instead. the corners were way too steep, muddy and treacherous for my ability-level. So up the stairs, set down the bike, haul ass to the corner, skid through it, haul ass to the next corner, leap on the bike, shoot through the next two switchbacks [with teammates coaching me!] and be on my way.

I came out of the 'ant farm' fifth, which helped me immeasurably. On the flat, a racer who's been regularly finishing in the top 3, sped by me like I was standing still. Clearly, she was operating on another level than I was. Definitely something to aspire to. In the second lap, I painstakingly worked my way up to the strong racer ahead of me and got around her in the mud before the second stair climb. I could feel her running up the stairs behind me and tried to angle my bike to make it impossible for her to pass me, then hit the descent fast and tried to put some distance between us on the paved section. It worked . . . and I saw a rider ahead of me that I'd never gotten close to before! I could see she was tiring, but I had a lot of ground to make up. I caught her as we started our third lap and then really concentrated on staying ahead. Again the stairs and switchbacks favored me -- I was so far over max at the top of the stairs, the run was sheer orneriness. I could barely think and my feet still felt like blocks of frozen meat, but I came out with a gap that I managed to keep.

As I came through the start/finish, steeling myself for another lap or two, the officials were standing in front of the lap counter. "How many more?" I asked, they called back, "You're done!" Woooo! I came in fourth, my best finish so far. I met my goal of breaking into the top five.

I'm feeling more and more comfortable racing cross. I rode this course better, saw the way to do it sooner. Looking forward to next weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Welcome to the new world!

I wish I could be completely joyful about this, but the passage of Proposition 8 in California, amending their constitution to limit marriage to male/female couples, really sucks. Especially when our president-elect agrees that "separate but equal" is good enough for same-sex partners. I don't understand how people who have suffered from discrimination their entire lives can turn around and openly and willingly discriminate against others.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Raced cross in St. Charles yesterday. It was a VERY technical course, which did not play to my strengths. But it was still super fun. Part of my problem is that I only start figuring out the best way to ride the course on the last lap or two. Then I can see the line I should have taken in the beginning sprint, the way to get through the off-camber turns and deep gravel. A couple practice laps are great, but I'm not experienced [or smart] enough to work it out then.

I lined up on the outside to start --the inside was the better choice-- and ended up 10th or so in line up the first hill. Trapped behind some slower racers, the front group rode away from me. [JT, racing juniors, passed me in the first third of the first lap -- the boy is FAST.] I again spent the race working up to the woman in front of me, passing and dropping her, then setting my sights on the next one until I ran out of laps. A Mission Bay woman gave me trouble for a while, then a Tati girl remained tantalizingly out of reach for two laps -- every time I got close, I'd screw up at a barrier or in the gravel or in the off-camber turns, and she'd get out ahead of me again. I finally caught her on the last lap, passing her on the way up the hill and somehow managing to stay ahead of her through the barrier and run-up. I could see an Alberto's girl way up ahead, but finished sixth way after she'd crossed the line.

So basically, I need to nut-up and really kill the opening sprint. Got to practice that.

After the race, Beth and I went to Loyola Medical Center to visit Emily who had crashed Saturday on a pleasure ride with her husband and fractured three vertebra, including the all-important C-2 -- i.e. she broke her neck. She's all screwed into the halo device that will hold her head and neck still while the fracture heals. She'll be in it for the next three months. Hard core.

It was good to see that while tired and on a lot of pain medication, she was in good spirits. She has full movement of her limbs and they think that after she heals she'll have full neck movement as well. It could have been a lot worse. For Emily, the glass always seems to be half full. She should be home by now.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween everyone. Do yourself a favor and check out the best Halloween song ever: "It's Halloween" by the Shaggs. If you haven't heard [or heard of] the Shaggs, well, you're in for a treat.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lost another screw from my eggbeater cleats this morning -- left foot this time. I'm trying to unclip as I approach a red light and the foot won't come out. I was very proud of myself for not simply falling over, as I have in the past [even when my pedals aren't malfunctioning], but pulling up to a wall and leaning against it whilst I got myself sorted. Managed to get the shoe out and rode the rest of the way unclipped. Even did some one-legged drills down the lakefront path. Heh.

Despite the issues, I really like the eggbeaters. Now that they're broken in and I'm used to them, they're excellent. Many thanks to my teammate who passed them on to me at a crazy discount.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We voted on Saturday. Early voting is convenient . . . and sorta weird. I can't shake the suspicion that they aren't counting those votes. Conversely, I feel like I do when I make a pledge to Public Radio on the first day of the pledge drive -- irritated that they continue asking for money for another week and a half! I have voted, people. Election OVER.

A friend of mine got to meet Barack Obama the other day. She was very impressed by his kindness and sincerity. He must meet hundreds of people every day, yet he makes a real connection with each of those people. Because he actually CARES about them. About us. I'm worried that racism will keep him from being elected. I worry that he will be assassinated.

Speaking of discrimination, if you know anyone in California, please urge them to vote 'NO' on proposition 8. For many years, I thought that marriage didn't really matter. If two people loved each other and made a life together, it was just as good. But then I was able to get married and I was overwhelmed by the experience. It DOES make a difference. To us, to our families, to our community. And this is beside all the legal rights and privileges that marriage bestows. It doesn't change anything for mixed sex couples -- it doesn't hurt straight marriages, it doesn't harm children, it doesn't force any religion to accept anything they don't want to. It just allows people who love each other to participate in this powerful ritual that binds you to each other publicly. And that's beautiful.


Right now my cycling team has the opportunity to vote on how the memorial to our fallen teammates -- Beth, Pieter, Eric, and Thomas -- will be remembered. There are five options. The team has worn hearts on our sleeves for Eric and Thomas for many years, so its a big decision to change the design. Do we keep the hearts? Do we move on to a simple black armband? Or something else entirely? Its in the team's hands now.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rest week is over. I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike in earnest.

I dreamt last night that I worked in a large, lofted room with many other people. I had a six foot square wooden table, chest height, to myself, over near the large windows. Lots of room to spread my work out, lots of sunlight.

Then someone comes in and asks us all to try sitting elsewhere for a moment. My desk is moved towards the center of the room and I am sent to the back to sit in a row of workers for a while. When I get to go back to my desk, it has been replaced by a child-sized table and chair. Maybe two feet across and so low I can't get my knees under it. This is my new workspace. I point out that I can't sit at this tiny table and I get another the same size, but taller, like a child's schooldesk. I have no storage, no room, and I'm far from the airy windows. But I have a desk -- the writers are all sitting three to a couch with their work on their laps.

This dream pretty accurately reflects how things have changed for me at work.


Women's program had a potluck last night. It was so nice. The host's home was warm and welcoming with lots of oak everywhere and a burning fireplace. There was plentiful food and wine and animated conversation. Two of our members had won races earlier in the day, so we celebrated them and all our successes this season. Its a good group.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I was almost doored on my ride to work this morning by a cop. On the phone. She didn't even look up as I shouted and swerved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wow. Bike Snob really does know it all:

"But let's be honest--part of the bicycle's appeal is its swift mobility. What cyclist hasn't fantasized about living in some kind of Apocalyptic wasteland with only his bicycle and his wits to keep him alive?"

Seriously, the bike would totally be the way to go -- all those empty cars jamming the roads and you and your trusty cross bike ready for anything. You can go fast enough on the knobbies to outrun the mutant zombies, right? Think how much MORE awesome '28 Days Later' would be with bikes. You could do a whole chase scene thing with Cillian Murphy et al doing freestyle BMX through London, jumping staircases, revolving in mid-air FOR THEIR LIVES.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I raced in the Carpentersville Cyclocross race on Sunday. And it was just super fun. The more I race cross, the more I really like it.

We had 21 women [yay!] in the cat 4 race, and the start was hot. I need to practice sprinting from the whistle -- getting out ahead at the start is SO important in cross. I ended up in a pack tearing over the grass and through the narrow corners -- something I was not completely comfortable with. I overcooked a corner before the first barrier and lost about 15 places. I spent the rest of the race catching and passing, catching and passing. Which, I have to say, was extremely gratifying. Especially as I was catching women I know to be very strong.

I was more comfortable dismounting and mounting, but still have a long way to go. My strengths continue to be that I'm fast in the straights and have the endurance to keep racing hard in the last laps. My endurance was better than at Jackson Park -- the "3 laps to go" sign wasn't anywhere near as daunting.

Coming through the start/finish for the last lap, someone yelled that I was in 7th place. I'd just passed and dropped two women and had another one 30 feet ahead of me. But the top five were long gone. I was able in the last lap to catch and drop the racer in front of me, and finish 6th -- which is a great result for me. As I improve my handling skills, my running and jumping, my mounting and dismounting -- and when I get better at the opening sprint -- I should be able to finish in the top five.

And it was just FUN.

Props to the organizers -- it was an excellent course that used the park's width, breadth, bumps, gullies, gulches, hill, and sandbox to the fullest extent -- and to the volunteers who kept everything running smoothly and on time. There was a drum corps, a live band, food stalls and prizes 10 deep [I won a tool set!]. There were tons of xXxers to cheer for and hang out with and a large and very strong women's cat 4 field. An excellent race.

Photo by Luke Seemann

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As the days grow shorter, I find myself on my bike before dawn. There are a few minutes where the morning light is such that the streetlamps cast multiple shadows. Three shadow Tamaras racing each other down the street. The first time a shadow comes from behind, I think its some other cyclist trying to pass me [close, on the right]. For an instant, I'm filled with adrenaline ready to take on this challenger . . . but my shadow selves have it covered.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three things that should not occupy the same space:

- beer and clamato
- science fiction and fantasy
- the bike lane and the door zone

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gigi and I went jogging this morning, following Coach's cross-training advice. I'm just waiting for the joint pain to begin.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rode home in the pouring rain last night. One of those rides you know is going to be unpleasant and then exceeds expectations. The clothing that had been perfectly adequate that morning for laboring into into the stiff southeast wind, was no match for the rain and wind together. I chose to ride conservatively on the wet pavement, so my heartrate never got high enough to keep me warm. As I got progressively colder, I reminded myself of TRULY unpleasant rides in the past. Rides that went on for hours with frozen gloves and needle-like sleet. Rides where I thought I might lose toes. Rides where I constantly had salty, filthy slush shooting into my face. Yesterday really was not that bad.

But I was still SO happy to get home, get into warm, dry clothes and wrap my numb hands around a mug of hot tea. And then dry off my poor bike.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I heard last night that I placed well enough in the overall standings of cat 4 women at the Northbrook Track to win some money. Which is just crazy -- I SUCK at track. I only raced three nights and I don't think I placed higher than third in any race -- and at least one night that was because there were only three women racing.

Which basically means that not enough women race track right now.

I went to the Northbrook Velodrome site to see exactly where I placed . . . and the results haven't been updated since June. So, really, I have no idea what the deal is.


I started strength training yesterday -- and I really enjoyed getting back into it. My entire body would like to take this opportunity to say "OW! Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!!!"

Monday, October 6, 2008

So, its hard to make out -- my phone doesn't take great photos -- but this is evidence that the magnetic ribbon on your car thing has gone too far. Far, far beyond supporting the troops or AIDS research or breast cancer research or whatever the autism one is about or even the magnetic ribbon supporting magnetic ribbons. This magnetic ribbon was green with a turtle graphic and said "I brake for turtles."

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Highlight of my training ride today was riding a couple Freds off my wheel. Without really meaning to. Its the little things.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

I'm starting to wonder if the mouth guard the dentist made for me to wear at night isn't his idea of a joke.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Well, here's hoping that Joe Biden can restrain himself from rolling his eyes, sighing, complimenting her outfit, verbally lunging, staring into the camera with a put-upon look or anything else that can be construed to be in any way condescending, sexist or superior. Don't lose your temper, don't lecture, don't use anyone else's words. Just be the smart, experienced guy you are. Be unflappable. Or she will win this debate despite her vast ignorance and inexperience.


First off: Bosniacs? Joe, Bosniacs? Really?

My fervent hope is that I never have to watch her smirking her way mechanically through her talking points ever again. [When did "Joe Six-pack" become a good thing? She isn't talking about abs.] If there were any doubt that she was doing anything other than parroting her bullet points, her complete non-reaction to Biden's authentic emotion when speaking of his experiences as a parent in fear of losing his child, washed it away. It was chilling. You betcha.
Saturday's crash is catching up to me. More lurid bruises blossom every day on my right leg and every pedal stroke hurts. Its making me feel pitiful and I hate that. I prefer feeling tough. I'm glad tomorrow is a rest day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Here's the question: Why aren't I independently wealthy? Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah and I had it off. It was SUCH a nice, relaxing day. I slept in, I had a great training ride, read my book, did some chores around the house, ran some errands . . . it was just *nice.* [Thank you, Jews.] I keep trying to figure out a way to make every day like Rosh Hashanah.

A nice guy on a fixie rode my wheel for a while on the Lakefront Path. When we hit the light at Navy Pier, he asked me if my name was 'Debbie.' As in 'Debbie Dust!' I was pretty thrilled to be mistaken for her, even by a Fred.

AND I got rid of that horrible temporary filling that was rapidly deteriorating. My gold overlay is fantastic -- it feels so smooth. MY other fillings are fine, but this one is luxurious. Which is probably why it was so incredibly expensive. But now my corpse is worth more $$$. Heh.

In addition to the gold overlay, I got the mouth guard I'm supposed to wear at night to keep from grinding my teeth together and destroying them. Last night, I kept dreaming that I was sitting down to a meal and had to take the thing out in order to dig into my burger and fries [or the felafel sub from Subway!]. I actually woke myself up taking it out. This is going to take some getting used to.

Coach says no race this weekend. I'm bummed, I was looking forward to racing cross again. But he doesn't want me to get burned out. And neither do I.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spoke with Jean on the phone this morning -- she's OK. She's at home and each day is easier than the last. I was happy and relieved to hear from her. Hope she heals as quickly as possible -- and I hope she can get back to enjoying her bike at some point.

I also spoke with my teammate Brian who was hit by a car last week and had to have surgery on his ankle -- the same surgery my mom had where they install metal plates with screws to hold your broken bones together. Serious stuff -- but I'm grateful its only his ankle that was shattered. He's going to have a long healing process too -- and he's the sort of guy that never sits still, so this is really hard on him. But it sounds like he's got his technique on the crutches down.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

OK LOTS of nasty bruises. And a stiff neck. But considering all the serious injuries my teammates and fellow racers have suffered, I have nothing to complain about.

Had a nice training ride this morning with Bob & Gigi -- her elbow is healing nicely -- and then had brunch with Robin, who is pining to get back on her bike.

I'm happy my rest week is over and I can get back to business.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Raced the Fall Fling road race today. We started out with about 10 in the women's masters category -- mixed 40+, 50+, 60+ and 70+. I was feeling good and had no problem following the moves. By the second turn of our last lap, we were down to 5 -- and none of us were going to drop any of the others. It would come down to who could sprint the best after all the attacking on the hills after turn 3.

But before we got that far, the two women ahead of me touched wheels, one went down and took me out in the process. Which, c'mon! -there were only 5 of us! It shouldn't happen. But a moment of inattention, a bit of nerves . . . and there you are.

My first thought was to jump up and chase. Then I saw that the racer on the ground next to me -- Jean -- was hurt. Really hurt. She was making the same kind of moaning noise that Stocky was making right after his crash at camp. All thought of racing gone, I tried to help her best I could.

Then the men's cat 4 field crested the hill behind us -- we were in the middle of the road and not going anywhere. The guys on the front started shouting surprised warnings and the moto guy helped wave them around us. Poor Jean was in a lot of pain, was having trouble breathing and was panicking a bit. The first aid guy and I did out best to comfort her and keep her still. Finally the ambulance got there. I spent a couple hours at the hospital with Jean and her husband. She'd landed hard and broken her collar bone in 4 places, broken [and overlapped] a couple ribs and had a concussion. She'll heal, but she has a couple weeks of pain ahead of her.

Driving myself home, I started to feel my bruises. Happily, they're minor -- I don't even have any road rash. Jean took me down, but also broke my fall. I'm disappointed that we didn't get to finish the race. And I'm sick of crashing! But I'm very lucky I wasn't hurt. My bike seems to have survived intact as well.

So, there's my road racing season.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I hate rest weeks. No matter how much I need it, it screws everything up. I end up tired and sick and totally out of synch with my usual schedule. I feel more burned out right now than I have since Downer's Grove.

It might partially be the migraine pills, which make me logy. I had this headache all yesterday, just not quite bad enough to take a pill. Then it woke me up last night, full strength. So awful. I just wanted to get back to sleep, so I put off going downstairs and getting my pill . . . so the pain kept waking me up over and over. I don't know why I don't just take the pill right off.

I finally woke up enough to commit to getting up and taking it, and 30-40 minutes later the pain had receded. But it wants back out now -- I can feel it struggling inside my head. Like a weasel in a cage.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thinking about doing the Fall Fling road race on Saturday. Can't decide.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rest week. Its like bizarro world. Staying up past 10 pm, sleeping in past 6 . . . kee-razy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

My first cross race yesterday -- Jackson Park. Extremely well organized, great turnout, well-designed course. Couldn't ask for a better first race.

It was super fun and crazy hard. I'm getting better with the eggbeater pedals, better riding on grass, dirt and mud. Still really bad at the flying dismount, getting across the barriers and the flying mount. I got passed a lot at the barriers.

It was a good course -- lots of turns and chicanes. Four barriers, two together at the bottom and top of a little hill. A couple long stretches where I could open up and pass people. I did OK on those parts. I got a good start too. Next time I'm going to work even harder at the beginning -- at a certain point I could tell that at least 5 women weren't getting any farther ahead. In fact, I'd gain a little bit each lap. Not enough to get near them, but still. If I can stay with them in the first half, I should be competitive with them in the second half.

I ended up 9th out of about 19. Not bad for my first cross race, considering my lack of technical skill.

And the way my teammates cheered! Bob yelling encouragement by the registration tent, Jackie giving me pointers at the barrier on the hill [other people are getting back on farther up], Luke pointedly NOT laughing as I muffed the flying mount over and over, Emily shouting at me to gun it after the little chicane maze . . . its just such a great atmosphere.

Eileen was amazing. I didn't even see her after the first half lap -- she was way up front. She finished a strong third. I think she'll be winning soon. She gave me a very good bit of advice -- commit to the flying mount. I yelled that at myself during the race and while my mounts were shaky and at times downright comic, they were better than they could have been.

Beth, Heidi and Emily raced in the women's 1-2-3. I loved watching them -- so graceful and powerful. They did well in a tough field.

Can't wait for the next cross race! In the meantime, lots of practice getting on and off the bike. And maybe some hill sprints. I'm OK on the bike, but SLOW on my feet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

- There's a rough spot on my temporary filling that I CANNOT STOP MESSING WITH. Its like a magnet. Its been one day and I already have an irritated spot on the tip of my tongue.

- I took the wheels off my road bike and put them on my cross bike for my endurance ride -- I'm hoping to break in the pedals a bit. As I put my road bike on the workstand, she was so beautiful and delicate, my heart burst with love for her.

- Brenda, the cross bike, and I are still working out our relationship. I think she's one of those tough girls that smoke in the bathroom at school.

-Don't tell me you don't name your bikes. And your car.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dentist appointment today -- my fifth or sixth since crashing onto my jaw. I went in to deal with a cracked tooth, but as I was having a lot of pain in another tooth and was having a weird thing going on with my gums way back in there, they took some more x-rays and thought my wisdom tooth was finally coming in -- sideways. Likely that the proteins sent in to heal my jaw caused the tooth to express itself.

So he decided to pull it right then and there. And, you know, better to get it over with. I cranked up my iPod and stared at the ceiling . . . and it came out very easily. Turns out it wasn't the wisdom tooth, which was firmly entrenched in my jawbone, but a vestigal molar. Guess I'm not so highly evolved.


So now I have a mouthful of gauze [a scalpel was involved] and that crazy numbness over half my face. As its wearing off, I've decided that painkillers are definitely on the agenda.

I'm thinking cream of wheat for lunch. Maybe some chocolate soy milk on the side. Mmmmm . . . soft food.


Still laughably awful at cyclocross. But its super fun and a huge challenge. I'm having a bit of a problem getting into and out of the eggbeaters, but I hope they'll loosen up/I'll get used to them. After charging around and around the park, through the trees and muddy bits and over barriers and up hills . . . its so nice to get back on the pavement -- even on my half-inflated knobbies -- and remember that I DO know how to ride a bike.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

O my god, I am going to suck at cyclocross. I'm comically bad at mounting and I still haven't managed a dismount where my left foot actually comes out of the cleat. That is, if I can FIND the cleat. Eggbeaters are very different than Keos.

Coach says the Belgians invented cross *because* its way harder to ride through grass and mud and sand. And damn, it sure is. I'm an idiot.

How much should I be riding my cross bike? All the time? Or should I mix in some road riding?

Confidential to the guy who tried to run me off the path as I passed him this morning: I'm faster than you. Deal with it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Had a great ride this morning! Its so pretty out -- crisp and sunny. I rode my road bike -- I probably should have stuck with the cross bike, but it was dark and Brenda doesn't have lights {the cantilevered brakes are in the way} yet. And it felt good to ride fast on fully inflated tires. The knobbys take a bit of getting used to.

Ran into a bunch of Spider Monkey/Roscoe Village Cycles guys [and girl] and rode with them for a while. That was fun. Then I hooked up with Cecile and rode north with her. Also saw the Tati development group heading to Northerly Island for some intervals.

I'm thinking about the Fall Fling road race. I wonder if anyone else on my team is up for it. It falls on a rest week. Hmmmm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Here's Brenda!

I went with the hot pink bar tape. I saw some matching tires that I think I have to get. That would totally pimp my ride.

The cross clinic on Saturday was, to understate, wet. There were 15-20 of us out there in the pouring rain. Randy went over all the basics: starting strong, off-camber turns, the flying mount and dismount, suitcasing and shouldering, running over the barriers. I was uniformly bad at it all, but I now know what to practice.

I've never done any off-road riding, so it was a revelation. Riding through the mud and roots and ruts and pools of water was SO different. I really have no idea how well or poorly I'll do. And I don't want to weigh myself down with expectations. I want to have fun.

I've been pretty glum for the past month or two. Picking up this bike on Saturday, I realized I felt really happy. I want to hold onto that.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I'm picking up my new cross bike today! I've built it out differently than Davide Frattini [his bike pictured], but I'm getting the Blue carbon cross frame and fork. I really wanted something lightweight so I wouldn't hurt myself picking it up and running with it. Tomorrow is the xXx cross clinic, so hopefully I'll learn some approximation of the flying dismount.

What color bar tape should I get? I'm sick of black.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What is the deal with all the negativity out there? I've been screamed at twice in two days -- once by a driver who almost hit me [by wanting to turn right, without signalling, when I was right next to him] and once by another cyclist when I said "on your left." And I've heard people screaming at each other on the path a couple times. Is it the weather? Is something in the water? Is the moon in an inauspicious position? Is everyone disconsolate over Sarah Palin?

And Lance is coming back. Which doesn't surprise me -- like Michael Jordan and Brett Favre, Lance is the kind of guy who can't stay retired. A friend of mine opined how classy it would be if Lance didn't pursue another tour de france title, instead sacrificing himself for Contador [or Levi. Remember Levi? Anybody?], and setting his own goals on other races. And yeah, that would be awesome. I would totally respect and enjoy watching that guy. But that guy isn't Lance. He can't NOT be the star.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I raced the ABR Team Time Trial National Championships on Sunday. It was really, REALLY fun. I had great teammates, really strong women, and their enthusiasm was exactly what I needed.

We had a few challenges going in. One of our team fractured her elbow last week, so we had a last minute replacement. Another was racing in Europe and didn't get back to Chicago until Saturday night, so she had a bit of jet-lag. The third forgot her shoes and ended up racing in borrowed sneakers. And I, well, let me count the challenges I had: I didn't have an aero setup, I'm still struggling a bit in the corners, and I've lost fitness since July. And we'd never been able to practice together. That was a big one. And we didn't get a chance to drive the course -- I was the only one who'd done this race before and had any familiarity with the course.

What we had going for us was Heidi, Noelle and Eileen -- all accomplished triathletes. Noelle led us out fast. As we rode, we got better at pacelining. We echeloned well. We were able to communicate and Heidi was great at giving positive encouragement. Unfortunately, we lost Noelle before the turnaround. The jet-lag and her inexperience in the paceline took its toll. Soon after, I was on the rivet, riding at my limit -- and beyond -- the rest of the way. Eileen was impeturbable. Heidi was a machine.

I was 100% focused on staying on Eileen's wheel. As Heidi dragged us around the second half of the course, I just hung on and tried not to drop the speed too much as I rotated through. When we got to the second to last turn, Heidi yelled "This is the last turn!" No, it's not, I told them. Then we turned into the crosswind and Heidi yelled "This is the hardest part!" No. I had to tell them, No it's not. Then we turned onto the interminable finishing stretch into the headwind. Heidi was pushing 23 into the wind. Eileen and I were doing our best to keep it above 20. I kept thinking I saw the end . . . but over and over we realized we weren't even close.

Finally, we got there. I tried to give it one last push and cross the line with Heidi and Eileen, but I had nothing left. Our time was 1:20:56 -- third place! And only 3:30-ish off the leaders. Our average speed was 23.9. If we practice and get good at pacelining, we can do even better next year.

This was a great way to end my road season.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Had the deck torn off my front porch yesterday. I knew there was a colony of carpenter ants -- I'd called an exterminator and they guy told me to put down poison, which he sold me. He poo-pooed any on-site examination or that they might be in the house.

Three weeks later, ant colony still large and active and when the workmen destroyed the nest, they all march down the support beam and disappeared into the house.

I called the exterminator back. He told me to put down more of the poison and again poo-pooed any suggestion that they might be in my house doing damage. WTF! I did what I should have done in the first place and called another exterminator [got both their names off Angie's list]. This place immediately suggested a perimeter check and a top to bottom examination of the house for infestation. I'm furious.


Team time trial is Sunday. I'm sorta excited about it and also sort of not. I'm feeling out of shape. My team seems pretty gung-ho and some are proposing extremely ambitious goals. Well, I'm always willing to suffer.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Carpenter ants. Aaaaaaiiiiiiii.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This morning on the Lakefront path I passed a woman whose shirt said "slow and steady wins the race." And I thought "Wow, that is SO not true."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I'm on the lakefront path this morning when the guy ahead of me suddenly endos. Nothing in his way, no one near him, he just jerks sideways and then dumps himself over the bars. It was surprising.

I stop and he very much wants no one to pay any attention to him. He's wearing one birkenstock [!] and pacing distractedly. I pick up his [heavy!] vintage road bike w/ top tube shifters and lay it down off the path. Then I move his messenger bag out of the way. I look around for his other sandal . . . and finally find it in his front spokes. Mystery solved. He tells me that the cage on that side broke this morning. Probably in protest of birkenstocks being shoved in them every day.

He wants me to leave. As I ride away he lays down on the grass.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First ride since Wednesday this morning. Feeling better -- not fantastic, but better. It was truly bizarre not riding at all this past weekend. Instead, I painted the wrought iron fence in front of our house with aluminum colored rustoleum. So that was 8 hours well spent.

My TTT team keeps trying to get together to practice. But with illness, rest weeks, travel, and wrong cell phone numbers, we haven't managed it. I thought we were meeting this morning, but when I got up I had voicemail suggesting we weren't. Then I flatted within 10 minutes of leaving the house, so I was late getting to the meeting place. Oh well, I did my 20 minute intervals instead. That's good practice for the TTT too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

So my racing bike hasn't been feeling as stiff lately. I was never sure quite what that meant. I mean, I got the jist, but as I've only had one road bike, I have nothing to compare it to. People ask if I like it, if it's stiff, and I tell them yeah, I like it.

But in late July I started hearing a noise when I'd stand up and pull on the handlebars [as when sprinting or climbing]. I asked neutral support about it at a race and he thought it was the bearings in my headset wearing out. He tightened it down and the noise went away. And then I crashed and forgot about it.

Then last week, when sprinting, the bike didn't feel stiff anymore. There was definite give. It was subtle, but noticeable. I took it into my mechanic and he leaned on the bars and they shifted around spongily. Ack! He's taking apart the headset and checking it out. Probably the bearings.

I also need to replace my chainrings. I currently have a 50/34 compact and I'm considering going with a more standard setup. A 52/38 or 53/38. I've asked coach what he thinks. I'm having a compact put on my cross bike, so I'll still have that option. Thoughts?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More lamentations from the women:

Still tired. I ended up watching too much BMX last night [so cool despite the incredibly ridonkulous bikes], and waking up way too early at the sound of Jackie's alarm. So I got less sleep than I needed and will spend yet another day wanting nothing more than a long, peaceful nap. There has to be a way to get more sleep . . . I desperately want to start feeling better.

And I'm hungry. SO hungry.

I wonder if meditation would help. With all the stress from work, it couldn't hurt. I wonder if I could breath out the hunger and breathe in satiety. Or I could continue to breathe in popcorn -- not so great for my power to weight ratio, but fantastic for sating hunger.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fitness Check Time Trial #4 today. Considering how awful I feel right now, I was thrilled to be only 3 seconds slower than last time.

Coach says to take the next 4 days off the bike. While usually I'd hate this, right now I feel like I've won the lottery. I get to sleep in! I can work on my house over the weekend without being worn out from my training ride. I can spend some quality time with Jackie.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I am so tired.

I'm burned out. I can't get my head into racing. I just want to sleep.

I raced poorly at Downers Grove. I just wanted it to be over -- my last race for weeks. I tried to psych myself up, but I'm just so weary. I couldn't get excited. I'm still choking in the corners too -- waves of cold fear hit me before every corner, be it in a race or in training, and I forget everything I know about cornering on a bike. I consciously tried to set that aside, but I couldn't and finally ended up off the back for good.

And as humiliating as that was, all the emotion I could muster was relief that it was over.

But even so, I was talking with someone yesterday and when cycling came up, found myself engaged and excited by the conversation. [too bad most everyone I know thinks there's no duller subject] So after I rest a bit, I'll regain my appetite for racing.


Got up at 4:30 this morning to watch the Olympic Madison live. It was fun to watch, but I was surprised that 'Cav & Wiggo' pretty much sat in for the whole race. The Belgians, Argentinians and Germans animated the race, but our British heroes only managed one point. Weird. I wonder if one or the other of them is injured.

Friday, August 15, 2008

My race tomorrow is 20 minutes plus 1 at 2pm. Have to admit, I'm a little worried about all the turns as they haven't been kind to me lately. But this is the last race I have scheduled until the TTT. I'm looking forward to my rest week!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Crash number two on Sunday at the Glencoe Grand Prix. Much less dramatic -- a racer ahead of me took the last corner before the finishing sprint too hot and hit the curb, taking out the two women behind her. I was braking and thought I was going to get stopped OK when the woman behind me took me down. Happily for me, I only have a couple bruises and a scuffed elbow [the woman who hit the curb wasn't so lucky] and neutral support trued the wiggle out of my rear wheel right away.

I wasn't racing particularly well. I was keeping up just fine, and was doing much better in the corners -- however Gigi said afterwards that I was letting myself get slightly gapped and then having to sprint the 6 ft to catch back on [especially at first, I think I got better as the race went on] so she quit riding my wheel. Arg. I hate letting a teammate down.

I put in an attack or two but there were about 5 really strong racers who chased me down easily. On the last lap, I found myself on the front and decided to stay there -- which wasn't especially smart if I wanted to place well. I ramped it up hoping that I could keep the pace high enough that we'd be safe through the corners. But a couple girls used that last corner to launch themselves -- which I should have been doing -- and that's when the crash happened.

Four races since catting up -- crashed twice and got dropped twice. Can only go up from here.


Saturday at the track was interesting. I blew the 500 m pursuit -- didn't get up to top speed and didn't spin. Afterwards, I figured out what I should have been doing and wished I could do it over. But I used that experience and improved in the 2K. I don't think I had an awesome time [I forgot to check, had to get home], but I was consistent, doing all the laps in about the same time. And this time I did get up to speed and I did spin OK and I stuck closer to the black line, etc. And I was gassed afterwards. At least now I know what to work on.

And the aerobars were very comfortable.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Only three women raced track last night! It was ridonkulous. Every race was the same: the cat 2 racer took first, the cat 3 racer took second and the cat 4 racer [me] took third. At lease I gave the cat 3 a run for her money a couple times.

But why so few women racing this year? In general, there just aren't as many. Road races, crits, track, you're lucky to get more than 10. And it's certainly not because we who DO race don't recruit and encourage! It was pretty salty for those of us who SHOWED UP to race Elk Grove to be lectured about how few of us there were. WE KNOW! And it sucks for us worse than it sucks for you.


So the 'silver lining' to landing on my jaw when I crashed has been multiple trips to the dentist -- not for the jaw, that's healing nicely, but for actual dentistry. I hadn't been in a while due to a bad experience, but its good to know my gums are fine and my cavities taken care of, etc. For not having been in 7-ish years, my teeth are in pretty good shape.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My coach informed me on Monday that he wants me to race the 500 m pursuit and the 2K pursuit this Saturday at the State Track championships. He said that I should just use my clip-on aerobars on my track bike.

So,I bought a set of clip-on aerobars yesterday. This will be my first experience using them and my first time pursuiting. At the State Championships. Yes, I'm a little nervous about it.

Right now they're on my road bike -- I figured I could practice a little during active recovery tomorrow. And I hate them. I hate the way they look on my bike. I hate that I will be one of the multitude of aerobar-sporting Freds that populate the lakefront. I hate them an irrational amount. Especially as I really need them for the TT part of stage races.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Greta's in town for a few days and I've had the pleasure of training with her a couple times. Girl is STRONG. But of course she is, she's headed to the paralympics at the end of the month. It's a very nice change to let her tow me up and down the lakefront.

Regarding not doing so well in the women's open field -- I'm willing to suck. Its not an easy thing, to do something you aren't good at when you're really not good at it. A lot of people are good at bike racing right away, and sometimes I envy that -- I could have an avocation that I excel in immediately . . . but despite feeling like a total loser sometimes, I want this challenge. Every gain I've made on the bike, I've worked for. And it feels great to accomplish a thing this hard. So, I'm willing to suck at bike racing right now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So far, being cat 3 is sorta like going back in time two and a half years. I've raced a Pro-1-2-3 and a Women's open and gotten dropped both times.

To be fair to myself [ie make excuses] crashing at Evanston two weeks ago has made me very timid in the corners -- something you cannot be in a field dominated by cat 1s & 2s. And I wasn't even able to eat solid food when I did the first race.

But I feel like I'm getting some form back and my next two races are in 3/4 fields. I should do better.


I was supposed to have a 3/4 race at Elk Grove this past Saturday. But only 27 women showed up for both the women's races, so they combined us into a women's open on the line. Which I understand, but I was also mucho pissed off about. I didn't do well -- again, I pretty much freaked out about the corners and ended up at the back with the girls who were going to get dropped. I had chances to move up and didn't take them -- which I'm furious with myself about -- and when the elastic broke, I was on the wrong side of it. I rode a lap on my own, 15 seconds behind the pack, and then sat up for the other dropped women. I organized a pace line, but it was very apparent that they were suffering at 20 mph, and that was never going to bridge us up.

I had no issues in the corners with so few of us, and actually ended up teaching one of the women HOW to corner. At the end, I simply rode away and crossed the line with them nowhere in sight. If I could have made myself sit in the pack, I think I could have stayed with it until the end and had a pack finish. But I didn't. I HAVE to get over this fear.

After the race, the mayor gathered all of us together and gave us a lecture. Every year, fewer and fewer women show up for this race -- and he does a lot of work getting sponsors and large purses. Why should he do all that if no one is going to come and race? I don't know why the field is so small --other than women's fields are always small and Elk Grove is right after Superweek and lots of people are on a rest week. I don't know why I was the only xXx woman there. Upshot is that next year, there probably will ONLY be a women's open offered. Which won't encourage lower category women to participate. But then, they aren't anyway . . . the snake eats its tail.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Got the itemized bill from Evanston Hospital yesterday. My favorite line item was "face repair."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today is the first day in a couple weeks -- before my crash, even -- where I've felt energetic. I had a good interval workout and I'm alert and functional at my desk. My jaw has improved to the point that I was able to eat a cupcake last night . . . coincidence?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Things I hate:
watching others eat crunchy, delicious pretzels
not enjoying riding my bike
stress at work
waking up tired

Things I like:
cool scars
keeping up on a fast team ride

Monday, July 28, 2008

I disappointed myself yesterday. I lined up for my first 1-2-3 race at the Chicago Criterium, knowing that the large cash prizes meant it would be very fast and very hard. And indeed, on the line there were some very professional looking teams with matching bikes and race radios. The whistle blew, I got clipped in OK and got myself going. As we approached the first corner, we went faster and faster . . . and I choked. I let the pack go through the corner without me. And that was it, I was off the back.

If I'd been more aggressive, I think I could have stayed with the pack until the first prime sprint. But I wasn't, I was a coward.

Bike racing is humbling. I hadn't forgotten that, I just haven't been so thoroughly humbled in a while.

Which just means I have a lot of work to do. Endless hours of training, practice crits, sprint drills. Today I'm feeling daunted.


Oh, and take if from someone who wasted $21 -- skip the new X-Files movie. It's dumb and deeply unsatisfying. The plot could have been a lesser TV episode if you drained all the life and humor from it. It's hard to believe that THIS was all Chris Carter had in him.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Feeling much better. I really can't believe how lucky I am -- some bruising, a couple stitches, a swollen jaw and a bit of whiplash. As long as I ingest a steady stream of ibuprofen, I feel almost normal. Still not able to chew much. But I can get my back teeth to touch now and it doesn't even hurt that much.

The valium, on the other hand, turns me into a zombie. Better to stick with the ibuprofen.

I have my bike back and I'm looking forward to a good, hard team ride tomorrow. And then the Chicago Crit on Sunday. Not exactly sure what to expect -- other than FAST.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today is not a good day. Maybe because my bike is in the shop so I didn't ride this morning and loosen everything up. But today I really feel like I hit the pavement at 20-odd mph.

My neck muscles started to ache yesterday, which quickly grew into a monster headache. Thank god for valium. I feel just exhausted and battered and a little sick to my stomach. I want nothing more than to go home and lie on my couch in the dark eating pudding and complaining about how sick I am of eating pudding.

And I'm not even really hurt -- people who've broken bones or separated shoulders or lost vast swathes of skin . . . I can't even imagine how craptastic they must feel. Heh, I guess self-pity is part of the healing process. I hope it passes as quickly as the scuffs on my upper lip did.

On the bright side I had an amazing peach smoothie last night.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Took my bike in -- bent derailler hanger for sure. Who knows what else. I won't get it back until tomorrow or Friday, and I have to say I am SO looking forward to a few extra hours of sleep tomorrow morning. I can hit the gym after work.

I haven't had any hesitation or fear on the bike yet. No problem drafting or leaning into turns. I know people who crash and that's it, the end of their racing career. And I know people who've broken bones or destroyed multiple helmets, who race better now than ever. What is the thing that makes the difference? I don't want to -- as Paul Sherwen says -- 'lose my bottle' over this.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I can tell when the ibuprofen is wearing off when I get increasingly whiney. Everything between my navel and my nose just hurts. It's not terrible, it just aches and wears me down. But a couple advil and maybe half a valium and I'm good. As long as I have my pharmacy with, I can resist being a big baby about this.

Just got back from the dentist. Good news is that there aren't any microfractures above my loose tooth. And he thinks the swelling in my jaw will decrease over time -- I have to stick to 'soft foods' for two weeks and then go back to the dentist. Considering I can't chew anything yet, I don't think that will be a problem.

Soy pudding is quite good. Soy yogurt is better than I expected [ie edible]. Oatmeal, lentil soup and protein drinks round out my menu. The lentil soup I had yesterday tasted AMAZING -- it was the first savory thing I'd had all day. I started eating it cold out of the can. It wasn't as gross as you'd think. OK, I must have been really hungry.

I had a good ride this morning. I'm not 100%, but all the aches disappeared while I rode. My bike is screwed up -- my shifting is off, my chain skipping around all over the place. I ended up pushing a largish gear because it was stable, which was fine until I hit the headwind. But I did OK.

Unfortunately, I won't be racing tomorrow at Whitnall Park. I'm bummed. But I won't be able to get my bike working by then. And Jackie would kill me. She allows I might be OK to race on Sunday, but not tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Had my first crash yesterday -- it was bound to happen sooner or later. I'm just not very experienced with larger, aggressive packs -- and the Evanston crit course is technical with lots of turns. So when another racer swung across my line in a corner, I touched my brake -- my front brake -- probably harder than I needed to. D'oh! I went over the handlebars and landed on my chin and chest.

Happily, from the chest down and nose up, I'm unscathed. I have some stitches in my chin, a swollen jaw, and various lumps, bruises and abrasions on my chest and right arm. And that's it. I didn't even lose skin.

Because of the jaw, I can't close my teeth or chew. But a day or two of smoothies and soup isn't going to hurt me. Brushing my teeth this morning was a whole new adventure.

So I think I need to get out to Matteson to practice being in a big, fast race. While I was with the front group the entire time, I was giving up places regularly, especially in the corners. I was rarely in a good position. I saw breaks go off the front, and had the energy to chase, but I was nowhere near where I needed to be to do it. I really have to work on that.

Thus went my first race as a cat 3.

Heh, still seated.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cavendish is just spectacular. Its like there aren't any other sprinters in the race. I wish Boonen and Petachi were there too -- but I strongly suspect the results would be the same.

Will this be Cav's last stage? Is it time to go home and rest up for the Olympics? 'Cav & Wiggo' are going to dazzle us in China.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is my current dillemma -- I'm riding to Evanston on Sunday to race. I can't carry an extra set of wheels with me. Do I race on my chewed up training tires or do I ride my race wheels to Evanston and risk my racing tires on all the broken glass between Logan Square and Evanston? Or do I just get new training tires and use those? This is taking way too much thought.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not sure when I'm going to stop rewinding and rewatching my man Jens singlehandedly dropping 90% of the peloton on Tourmalet. It almost makes up for not seeing him on the podium yet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Good for Christian Vandevelde! Homeboy is really doing awesome in le tour. I wasn't surprised to see Valverde lose time and I wasn't surprised to see "Cuddles" Evans do well despite feeling like absolute crap after yesterday's crash. [On a side note, he punched a cop the other day! Who knew he had that much personality?] The race is so much fun this year!

And best cyclist nickname ever? Spartacus Cancelara. Hee.

For myself, I'm girding my loins for my first P-1-2-3 race. I was planning to do it in the Evanston Crit on Sunday -- and I still might -- but I've just realized that the Chicago Crit doesn't have a 3/4 field, just 4s and P-1-2-3. I'm on a rest week this week, so I won't be very snappy on Sunday . . . hmmmm. Do I want to experience the BK Stacker with the pros or the beginners? How many miles IS 50k anyway? You know you're getting yourself into something serious when all the other races are listed in miles.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I've been upgraded -- I'm now cat 3 on the road.

I'm SO glad I've got that done. Now I can relax. And race for the team.

This is me right before --or maybe right after -- the line at the UWW RR. The SUFFERING!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ladies night at the track tonight. I've pre-registered and I'm excited to race my first keirin. It should be intense. -- and of course now it's raining. Arg.

Good day for Kim Kirchen! I think Valverde has already peaked, but I'm hoping Kim is still working up to it. We'll see what happens in the alps.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Craig Hummer is growing on me. Dude is a pro lifeguard, that's sorta like being an Eagle Scout, right? Explains the earnestness.

Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow on Superbesse.

Monday, July 7, 2008

OK, who is this Craig Hummer person? What happened to Al Trautwig?

Has anyone else noticed Phil lisping through the spanish names? Its "Maurithio" and "Alethandro" this year.

The guy who sings the "I want to get myself straight . . ." folk song should have insisted on being paid per airing. I think it's great that Versus is acknowledging the problems, but its been two days and I already want to drive an awl through my eardrums.

While its not environmentally friendly, I liked the 'born from jets' ad way better than Saab's take on the HeadOn commercial.

Despite Pants' smug voiceover, I love the 70+ year-old triathlete in the Nike commercial. However, I'm beginning to hate the guy -- and his dad -- who finished. Or maybe I'm hating Morgan Freeman? I'll see it 50 more times this evening and let you know.

Have to say, this has been the most exciting TdeF in recent memory. Both finishes have been non-stop action -- more like a Spring Classic. The decision to eliminate the prologue and the time bonuses was brilliant. And with no clear favorite to win [I mean, what will Valverde's form be in two weeks?], everyone is going for it. FUN.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I was pretty nervous yesterday, on the way to the UWW Road Race. It was an unfamiliar course with some good hills and I really wanted to do well -- coach said one more strong finish and I should apply for my upgrade. And I want that upgrade monkey off my back.

15 women lined up for the cat 4 race, which doesn't sound like much, but there were 9 at Spring Prairie and 4 at Fox River Grove. So 15 was cool. Two teams had two or more racers. We had 5 laps of a 6-ish mile course that started out with a series of short climbs and false flats, turned into rollers, and two longish flats with a long descent in between. There was a little downhill into the finishing stretch.

I mostly sat in for the first two laps watching to see who climbed well, who seemed strong. I'd raced with a couple of the women before and had an idea what to expect from them. On the third lap the little Kenosha Velosport junior attacked on the hill. I started to chase . . . but then I realized a) the junior was not a threat on her own, and b) other women were also chasing. So I tucked in behind them and we let the junior dangle off the front for a few minutes, wasting her energy.

I figured that the real action would start in the fourth lap, and I wasn't disappointed. When we hit the longest in the series of hills --the only small ring climb -- a Tati girl jumped hard. This time I chased in earnest and caught her at the top of the hill. I looked back and realized that she, I and the junior had a good gap on the rest of the pack. So I got on the front and pushed hard. We quickly dropped the Tati girl, but Kenosha Velosport and I kept pushing.

Towards the end of the first flat stretch, I looked back and could see a chase group. They're coming, I said, we can't slow down. The junior pointed out that we had another whole lap. We have to build this gap now, I insisted. I was frankly surprised that two or three of those women had let us get off in the first place.

The junior and I were working well together, and I couldn't drop her -- she clung to my wheel tenaciously -- but she didn't have a lot of power. So I dragged her around the course for the last lap, making sure she pulled through regularly so she couldn't save up for the sprint -- and I could. When we crested the little rise before the finishing stretch, I popped up to a big gear, stood up and mashed gamely, maxing my HR well before the line -- while I'm not a good sprinter, I figured I could beat junior gears. And I did, handily.

I have to say, I'm really excited about this win. I beat a number of strong competitors, I read the race well, and I had the strength to seal the deal. And I get seven points -- enough to finally upgrade!

Friday, July 4, 2008

I just slept for 11 hours. Best Independence Day ever.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Crazy wind out there today. Hard to keep your HR up riding south and hard to keep your speed up riding north. And the lake reached out and soaked my feet.


My bike is clicking. I think its in the crank/bottom bracket area, but I'm not sure. I'm mildly alarmed, but I won't get a chance to have it looked at before my race on Saturday. Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I was on a rest week last week so I missed the official Fitness Check Time Trial #3. So coach put it on my schedule for today -- I always prefer to do it on the day everyone else does, facing the same wind and weather, so I can truly compare my time with my teammates, but as I'm really comparing myself now against myself six weeks ago (and six weeks before that), it doesn't really matter.

There was a head/crosswind riding south today and a tail/crosswind riding north, but no motor vehicles or anything to slow me down. I finally have my powertap back, and being able to monitor my HR, speed and power output all at once really helped -- instead of simply trying to keep a steady HR, I could decide that I could push a little harder to go a little faster. I met my goal of beating 27 minutes: 26:45 -- 34 seconds faster than last time! Yay.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The question I have is this: Why go with maximum nastiness when you don't have to? It's an effective choice, I grant you, but does it ever get the result you desire? I mean, unless you're TRYING to hurt and alienate your friends.

It's not like I don't understand -- I'm a hothead too (and that's been nothing but trouble). So here's what I'm going to do, I'm going to forgive. It's hard for me and I'm not saying I'm going to forget. But I forgive you.

And that's all I have to say.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Beth was killed a year ago today. She was impressive in so many ways, I can't help but dwell on the void her passing has left.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I ended up in a ditch yesterday. I was on the team ride and had pulled to the left in preparation for the turn onto Old School road, but then the guys ahead of me went straight [they were taking a different, longer route] and I didn't expect that. Then Loukas was right next to me so I hit the corner a little wider than usual and skidded on the little patch of gravel and in recovering couldn't keep myself on the road. I went into the grass, managed to get a foot unclipped, and as I rode into the deep little ditch, got a foot on the far bank. So I stayed dry and upright. And it actually got the guys to slow down on Old School hill -- a place I usually get gapped. Not that I'd want to repeat the experience.

I wonder how all my teammates did at Proctor today.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I'm having a hungry day. I'm sitting here at my desk, stomach rumbling, trying to decide if I actually need something to eat or if I should tough it out until lunch. I had a larger breakfast than usual for a rest day already. Hmmm. I might start gnawing on the tape dispenser.

My quads are a bit sore today. I was on the lakefront for my endurance ride yesterday and ended up 'having to' ride a fuzzy legged guy with aero bars off my wheel. I didn't mind that he passed me the first time . . . but then he just dangled 30 meters in front of me. Uhm, no. Don't speed way up just to pass me when you can't maintain it. And then try to do it again. Chasing the rabbit is irresistible. And pedalling away from the panting and exhausted rabbit is shamefully satisfying.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Robin racing track.

Proctor is this weekend. After what happened to Beth last year, the road race is off. Just crits. Very short crits for the women [15 minutes!?!?!]. A lot of my teammates are going, but I'm not. Even if the race were a reasonable length, I couldn't. All I can think of is Beth joking around in the hotel room, Beth in the hospital on life support.

My teammate Robin was doored last week. She was riding in the bike lane when a car stopped in traffic opened the passenger side door right in front of her and the impact threw her into a steel girder supporting the El. She ended up with 7 or so broken ribs and internal bleeding [not to mention a destroyed bike]. The people who caused her accident drove off without even checking to see if she were OK. Which she wasn't. They left her lying in the street barely able to breathe from the intense pain and a partially collapsed lung. In the ER - after liberal doses of morphine - I asked if she'd passed out and she said she WISHED she'd passed out. The pain was unbearable.

Those thoughtless and criminally selfish jerks just fill me with rage. I want to channel that [non-productively] into personally beating the crap out of them. Perhaps [productively] spreading this around will suffice:

I really hope that Robin doesn't give up racing. I've seen other teammates crash and never recover their desire to compete. I can understand that, I just really, really hope Robin sticks with it. She was so into cycling and was really gaining strength and speed. We'd been training together on the Lakefront that morning and everyone noticed. This is a big setback, especially right at the beginning, I hope racing isn't another casualty of this crash.

On the other hand, Brian, my teammate who crashed so badly at camp, was on my long ride on Saturday looking strong and feeling good. Anodyne.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Johnny Depp period movie is filming around the block from where I work. I drove through a flock of model Ts this morning. All the women in my office suddenly have the vapors. There's talk of a field trip.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My mood is black. BLACK! It's probably the extra special lady hormones, but nothing is right. I'm hideous. And I hate everyone. Gah.

Worse, Coach just decided that I'm on a rest week. And I am NOT happy about it. I will now miss the fitness check time trial Wednesday morning, racing track Thursday evening, the Elm Grove Crit on Saturday and Fond du Lac crit on Sunday.

My life is pain.
RATS! Rats! Rats! Rats!

Amassing upgrade points in the small women's fields is like pulling teeth. The number of points awarded depends on the number of racers -- which I understand, its not as hard to beat five other people as it is to beat 15 other people. If only 15 women would show up! If there had been one more racer in my field at Spring Prairie, I would have gotten 7 points instead of 3. Now it turns out there were only four cat 4 racers at Fox River Grove yesterday -- we were combined with the masters racers and its hard to tell who's who. Points are awarded to fields with five or more racers. So despite SOMEHOW managing to win the damn thing, my goal of amassing points is foiled. Not to mention that half the points I have won aren't listed on the USCF site.

I will never get twenty frickin' points.

And I am SO WEARY of my race goal being "get points." Sometimes I want to race for the team. I want to chase down breaks or bridge a teammate across, or give Gigi a strong leadout. I want to be useful. Instead I'm anxiously chasing this upgrade. And my awesome teammates are helping and that's starting to sit heavily on my shoulders.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Well, I'm shocked to report that I won my category at Fox River Grove today.

This race has a serious climb. Right after the start/finish line you turn left onto a long, bendy hill with a couple plateaus near the top. Then left down a descent into a sharp left turn, around a couple more sharp lefts into a short finishing stretch downhill. When I warmed up on the course, that hill sucked out my will to live.

In the race, I was handily dropped the first time up. My teammate Denise shot up that hill like a rocket - it was beautiful to see. Jeanette [who was racing masters] and two of our competitors quickly climbed away from me as well. And I figured, well, that's it. There's my race. As I powered through the rest of the course, I could see them up ahead. Way too far away. The second time through, they were gone. But there were a couple juniors [the women and the juniors were started together] in front of me and I was gaining on them. As I picked them off, I realized that one of them was a woman -- if I could get by her, I was racing for third place instead of fourth! We were together to the hill and somehow, I put some distance between us. By the time I was halfway through the back part, I could no longer see her behind me.

As I came around again, Gigi hollered that I was only 10 seconds behind the leaders. Fat lot of good that was going to do me -- they were CLIMBERS. But I had them in sight again. This time on the descent, I saw Jeanette ride away from the other two, and Denise fall off a little. "Catch her, Denise!" I hollered from 50 meters behind.

She did and then I did. Denise was sitting on the other woman, making her do the work. I sat third wheel and recovered a bit from my effort. Two laps to go.

I was gapped a little going up the hill, but easily caught on again. One to go. This time I WASN'T gapped on the hill! I stayed right with them. I again sat third wheel, looking for the spot to jump. I went on a small uphill before the last turn, hit the turn hot and then stood and sprinted and threw across the line -- for FIRST!

I'm only an adequate climber, but I guess I had the endurance to climb that hill consistently -- as fast or faster the last time as the first. While other riders tired, I was able to recover quickly and keep pushing hard. Heh, I think that's the recipe for all the success I've had -- persistence.

And Jeanette was amazing. She rode everyone off her wheel and soloed brilliantly to cross the line first overall. I want to be that strong someday.

3 more upgrade points! (or not. !#*$%!!!!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Probably not so smart to ride 90+ miles today when I'm racing tomorrow.

Friday, June 20, 2008


"•Women who exercise experience an increase in the hormones that stimulate appetite; men have less of a response. This means women tend to get hungry after exercise and have a harder time with weight reduction than do men. Science finally validates what women have known all along…"

I'm screaming inside.