Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Want It Wednesday: Giant Via 2 W (Accessories Sold Seperately)

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For the last year or so, I've been trying to become a better bike commuter.  It's hard to live up to the example of my husband, who has commuted by bike practically every day in rain, snow, sleet or hail since we moved to Bloomington in 2005.  Of course, he's a dude and a dude that works in a bike shop at that, so messy hair, runny mascara, or smudged/wrinkled clothes aren't an issue for him.  Luckily, I'm now in a job where I wear jeans most days, so I don't have to worry about running up a dry cleaning bill, although I still won't ride to work if there's a decent chance that I'll get wet.  I'll also admit to keeping a flat-iron in my desk drawer to tame the damp-ish wind-blown look before my co-workers arrive, although my current wavy, asymmetrical hairstyle seems to only get better with a 15-minute bike ride.

There's also the issue of security.  Neither my current nor my last job really allowed me to bring my bike inside with me, and I didn't want to leave any of my racing bikes locked to a bike rack all day.  Then when I got my current cyclocross bike, I kept my old one as commuter bike.  I added a rack and milk crate to the back and bolt on skewers.  This made things tons more convenient than they were before.  I could just throw my purse and lunch box on the back, and I could feel decently secure U-locking a wheel to the dumpster, old-fashioned bike rack at work that isn't very accommodating for the elaborate cable-locking through both wheel and frame that is required for bikes with quick-release wheels.  At least the rack is in the parking garage and sheltered from the weather.  It is also within site of the parking garage attendant, so if anyone were bold enough to bust out an allen wrench and try to remove the locked wheel, it would quickly raise suspicion.

So with all of the modern conveniences, I started commuting significantly more last summer and fall.  Enough so that when the 2012 Giant catalog came out, I couldn't help but drool over the pretty mocha-and-pink themed women's Via 2.  Adam has been through a myriad of different commuter bike options and for the last year or two, a men's singlespeed Via has been his summer vehicle.  As dorky as it was, I thought it would be fun if we both had city bikes.  So when I sold my Anthem last winter,  I bought this with some of the profits:

I went full-on with Beautiful Godzilla aesthetic and had to search far and wide for a basket big enough to hold my purse and lunchbox that was also white to match the fenders.  I had to forgo typical cycling channels and ended up with this for $19.99.  Not such a bad deal.  I also like to head straight from work to gym, so I needed a way to carry my workout clothes without adding anything more to my already over-capacity basket.  I remembered Laura posting a cute, brown pannier bag a few months ago when she also purchased a brown city bike, so I tracked one of those down, as well. (No Bontrager at Bikesmith's)

So I'm fully equipped to point that there are basically no longer any inconveniences associated with commuting for me, and the beautiful spring weather that we've had lately is only helping my motivation.  I do need to get a warmer coat for next winter (I'm not going to do the layering and hand-warmer stuffing that I do for sub-freezing training rides) to extend my comfort zone a bit more.  I know most folks of the traditional cycling training mindset would say that commuter miles don't count, but since I withdrew myself from the training log olympics last year (with great success), I don't really feel the need to focus on my totals too much, anyway.  However, logic tells me that as long as it is not otherwise interfering with my recovery, and extra 2-3 hours of low-level aerobic activity per week is probably going to be beneficial for my fitness, even if I don't look bike-racer cool when I'm doing it.

I most certainly will look some kind of cool, though...

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Race on Pavement and a Ride on Dirt

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You've got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin' [the roadies] pass you by
Don't you think it's worth your time
To change your mind?

Is it a bad sign when I already have my tongue out before I start?

When someone on Facebook tried to correct me earlier in the week on my referring to the Long Run Circuit Race as a road race, I rephrased my definition to "a race on pavement in which one is expected to draft rather than gunning it for the hole shot". It was definitely one of those cases where knowing something intellectually and actually acting in accordance with that knowledge are two different things.

Once the race began, I didn't quite go for the hole shot, but I did go to the front of the pack, along with pretty much all of the other cyclocrossers in the race. I made a joke about this to the girls next to me, and immediately regretted it. I've made the same mistake in my limited road racing experience in the past, and it didn't work well. I've got to learn to just keep my mouth shut and my nose out of the wind. I'm just not used to the first couple of minutes of a race being anything less than a lactic acid shower of hell.

I'd taken a couple of practice laps and figured out what I thought were good lines that allowed me to go through the corners with no brakes, although I was still a bit tentative about forcing myself to pedal through. However, as the girls around me starting to fall into a single-file line before the first corner, I realized that I was in a bad position in relation to everyone else and kind of panicked. A few people slipped in front of me as we entered the turn and I saw the girl in front of me lose traction just a tiny bit. She stayed upright, but it scared the crap out of me and going up the first little hill (where I got dropped in 2009), I found everyone was strung out that I had been pushed from the front to the back of the pack. This continued through every corner of the first lap, until I finally got gapped on the downhill turn into the second lap.

I tried to catch on, but I just couldn't close the gap. I watched Karen Elmore, my frequent cyclocross and mountain bike rival from the previous year, fly by me down low with her hands in the drops and reattached herself, as I thought, "Wow, she's looks like she knows what she's doing." I foolishly believed that I would be okay by just going through the turn at the bottom of the hill alone and full bore, and that I would reattach to the back of the pack as they slowed on the next hill. I got very close, but didn't quite make it. I observed a few little sub-groups breaking off at the top of the hill and hoped to at least join them, but they pulled away again on the downhill. And that was pretty much how the next few laps went. I would get really close to catching someone on the uphills, only to lose all the space I had gained on the downhills.

Finally the last person got within in a uncatchable distance and I had to proceed with the unpleasant task of the slow, painful time trial to the finish for DFL. Seriously? DFL? Yes, DFL. That was humbling. I knew I wasn't in tip-top shape, and I knew that due to my lack of road skills, that I could potentially be beaten by people I normally beat in cyclocross, but that was ugly. Ultimately, I think it has way more to do with the fact that I don't know how to road race more than anything, which means that I just have to keep at it until I learn. My whole point of doing this was to try and close up a known hole in my cycling skill set, but I just didn't realize how gaping the hole was.

Anyway, I get another chance to try and do better in the OSRS New Haven race this weekend. Say it with me: Mouth shut. Nose out of the wind. Find someone you trust and follow them through the corners.

Sunday was a better day, since Adam and I went to BCSP for our first mountain bike ride since the DINO Town Run race back in August. I think that's the longest I've ever gone without mountain biking since I've owned a mountain bike. Normally I go a least a couple of times in the fall, but I've never done such a full cyclocross season as I did last year. Anyway, it was nice to be out on the trails again, even if it did feel a little odd.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Quick and (Relatively) Painless Death

At least they didn't suffer...

But we might have preferred it if we did.

After all the plotting, scheming, a little training, and a lot worrying, the Sub-9 Death March came to a more abrupt end than Val and I were expecting.

There was a minor panic the morning of the race when our team director told me that Callahan Cemetery was in the drawing as possible mandatory checkpoint. Until the night before the race, the website had fine print saying that Callahan would *not* be in the drawing, so all Speedway Wheelmen route plans had eliminated it on the premise that it would not be worth the possible time bonus. As a result, the confidence in my navigational skills that I had gained from one last drive-though of the course on Friday was tanked, because I had *no freaking clue* where Callahan was located. Luckily, it was not pulled out in the drawing, and we were able to proceed with our originally planned route.

We hit the initial traffic jam where everyone was squeezing in to get their pictures taken at Fleetwood Cemetery a mile or so into the race, but when we hit the next turn on our planned route, we saw that only a couple of teams went the same direction as us. Knowing that Sarah and Liz, our teammates and likely the strongest competition within our division, were doing the same route but in the opposite direction, I started to feel pretty good when it seemed like most of the other women's teams were taking a much less efficient route than us. As we chugged along our mostly paved route, I found Val's pace a little hard to maintain, but I figured I'd just try and keep it up as long as possible and see how things went.

We got through the first three checkpoints in short order, and we had just turned on to the first gravel section of the day, a long climb our teammate Jeremiah refers to as "The Bitch", when Val started to gap me a bit, as she had on every climb of the day. Then she stopped. At first I thought she was just sitting up to pace me up the hill or something until I saw her derailleur flopping loose from her frame. Not good. After some deliberation and some unsuccessful phone calls, a pair of guys came along and rigged her bike into a singlespeed. I was a little worried about attempting to do the whole route with her on a singlespeed and the fact that we had lost 45 minutes or so due to the repair. But she is tougher than I am, and after already having to start the day wearing a pair of chamois-less tights when her shorts came up missing, she was still determined to complete the next 40 miles of riding with one gear. (Insert mad props here.)

And for a while it seemed like it was all going to work out fine. We hit Lutes and set out for Elkinsville via Story. Despite Val's top speed being somewhat restricted by gearing on the flatter paved sections, we still made good time (and I was still feeling smug about our route), and I was surprised at how quickly the tiny town of Story came into view. Unfortunately, our day ended just as I was thinking how well things were going (stupid positive thinking). We're not exactly sure what happened, but Val's crank locked up and would not move more than 180 degrees. Since locomotion requires the pedals to go in full circles, there was nothing more to be done. We sent a polite text to the cell phone number on the back of the map, and hoped there would be some mercy for us in the "you are responsible for you" race policy. We walked to Story Inn and waited while for a race volunteer to come get us while a few teams passed, including the Sarah, Liz, Scott, and Janelle grupetto who came flying by on their way to respective victories in the women's and co-ed team division.

So it was a little disappointing to have to take a DNF in the first race of the year, but we were fortunate to break down in a convenient place. We only wished we would have brought money for coffee or hot chocolate to keep us warm while we were waiting to be rescued. I do feel a lot more confident in my ability to navigate the area, though, and I'll be ready with the fitness, the chain tool, and the coffee dollars for redemption next year.

For now, I'll just have to settle for some Cat 4 road racing glory. And by glory I mean participation/ general life lessons. The Long Run Park Circuit Race was my very first road race back in 2009, and it was an unmitigated disaster. It was pouring rain, I got dropped at the first little kicker, and my chain snapped when I stood up for the last little kicker and I had to walk the last 200m of the race. I did one other road race a few weeks later and then decided to avoid that silliness for the next three years. Then I became good enough at cyclocross to realize that I could be even better at cyclocross if I had some road racing skills in my toolkit. Up until a few days ago I thought that the Long Run race was not happening, and I was disappointed since, despite the rain last time, it was pretty good beginner course and should have a decent-sized Cat 4 field comprised of much of my previous CX competition. Luckily, I stumbled across a link to registration page a few days ago, and I'm pumped to go out and give it a shot.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Blowing Off Blowout Mountain?

So the week of my 2012 racing debut is here, and I'm not sure how to feel about that. This weekend's Sub-9 Death March is going to be hard, but I think Val and I will be fine. It's been a little hard because she and I live somewhat far apart haven't had a chance to do a recon ride together. I'm not too worried about this because I've been on a couple of recon rides, and while I haven't done the whole route in one shot, I feel like my ability to navigate the area is pretty decent now. However, without having ridden together yet, I feel like we may each be worried about disappointing the other. She's been sick the past few weeks, and I've been intimidated to do recon rides with the guys, so I feel like I haven't got in as much gravel time as I should have. I've also been a bit lenient on myself training-wise with everything going on at work and stuff. I'd actually be 100% okay with coming into form slowly (still plenty of time to get ready for 'cross) if wasn't worried about imposing my slowness on my teammate on Saturday. Hopefully, she will be feeling better next week and we can just show up Saturday, ride decently, and have fun doing it.

Speaking of coming into form slowly, I've also been mulling over another conundrum that could affect my fitness deadlines. After the 2010 Ouachita Challenge, I won a drawing for a free entry to the 2011 race, but I had to decline due to the fact that my abdominal cavity was only tenuously held together by glue and scar tissue at the time. They were kind enough to let me delay my entry for a year, and now that my mementos from 2011 can be boiled down to a thin white line running from my sternum to my belly button and an awesome handmade beer stein on my shelf, I should be ready to use my deadlift-hardened legs to mash up Blowout Mountain once again. Given that all potential endurance mountain biking plans since my surgery have been pushed aside in favor of closer, speedier fare, I really planned to give this year's OC a go, just to remember what it felt like, and then explore my roadie-curious tendencies through the rest of the spring and summer.

However, those tendencies are creeping up on me faster than I thought they would. A couple of weeks ago, plans were cooked up for a Speedway Wheelmen team training camp in Tennessee the same weekend as the OC. Adam and his friend/teammate Josh usually go Josh's brother's house near Knoxville every spring break, but that didn't work out this year. Instead, around 20 or wheelmen and women, including Val, Janelle, and Sarah will be renting cabins in the area for a long weekend. The cabin situation is working out to look a lot like the USGP lodging arraignment, which was totally fun, and I suspect will be even more fun in this sweet cabin with a hot tub. So even though I want to do the OC, another part of me is whining, "I don't want to go to Arkansas by myself. I want to go with my friiiiends," even if going with my friends means riding up big paved mountains for three days instead of big rocky mountains for one.

I've joked that that April 1, 2012 may be known as the day that Lindsay Rodkey became a roadie and was never heard from by the endurance mountain bike world again. April Fools! Really though, if the last year has taught me anything, is that this is a long-term game and one race or even season of races is quite small in the context of an amateur racing career that I expect to keep moving forward (even with ups and downs) for the next 15 years at least. In 2009 I fell almost completely off the CX radar, only to come back better than ever in 2011. So I suspect that when the time is right I will pay good money to come back to the OC as one of those obnoxious roadie chicks who can hammer the gravel sections between stretches singletrack (but still remember how to ride the singletrack sections, too).

Also in the vein of altered plans, Adam's brother and his wife had a new Leap Day baby this past week. Daphne must have been quite determined to have a special birthday, because she held fast for an extra 12 days in the womb to make it. Adam and I debated on whether this Sunday or the next would be a better day to make the trip to Chicago to see her, which would mean a missed training day due to the length of the trip. Next Sunday looked better for me since I'd be shot from the Death March, anyway, but Adam preferred to go ahead and go on a day that the weather was relatively bad (in the context of our super mild winter), so that he could train on a nicer day the next weekend. We went ahead and made the trip, and we had a really good time. I even got to have some beef tongue hash topped with a poached egg and bone marrow hollandaise sauce for brunch. I was a little nervous about this, but it was the one item on the menu that didn't include bread (I hate being forced into the burger with no bun thing in restaurants), so I went for it and it was pretty good.