Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week #8: The Girl with the Black Cat Tattoo

I kind of wanted to save the tale of #callahannightride for my regular weekly update post, which I normally worry about being too boring and picture-free. However, this week has been more of the opposite problem. There was so much awesome that I wanted to put in all it one mind-blowing post, but frankly, it's probably better that I split it up into two.

So here's the deal. When I typed up my #callahannightride post on Thursday evening, I knew it wouldn't be the last cool story of the week. I had a little ace up my sleeve that I'd revealed to only a couple of close friends ahead of time. That was the fact that, by Friday afternoon, I would have something else up my sleeve, and it was definitely not a playing card. After months of courage-building and trying to come up with the perfect design, I finally got my first tattoo. What can I say? It's perfect, and I'm totally in love with it. Too bad it's the middle of winter and I won't get to show it off for a while.

This photo is supposed to show the "The Mud" of bike shop legend, but Adam says that it's misdiagnosed.

Even though I got a bonus legit ride on Wednesday night instead of my usual one-hour spin on the road bike, I still needed to get in my weekly ass-kicking on Saturday. I'd been wanting to ride with one of the guys from Adam's shop and his girlfriend for a while, since I'd found out that they are really into gravel racing this season and are training for the Dirty Kanza (big time serious gravel race that frankly scares the crap out of me).

So we drove to a undisclosed location in Green County and set out on a 50 mile ride of gnarly grinding gravel through open farmland. It was surprisingly hard, and I was in kind of in stare-at-the-ground-and-suffer mode, but I figured it was good for me. I also think my "weekly ass-kicking" training plan is beneficial for me, because I'm more willing to suffer when it's time to suffer if I haven't had all my willpower drained from dragging through a training plan I hate during the rest of the week. Basically, it's like I've finally found a method for training for endurance racing that mixes enough fun in that I don't mind the pain, which also seems to be making me faster. Win win.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all fun, as me and my permanently-emblazoned symbol of bad luck seem to inadvertently bring a little drama to every ride. About two hours in, Corinna's derailleur snapped completely off, and rigging it as a singlespeed didn't work. We were able to cover some of the distance back to the car with her coasting while Dustin rode alongside pushing her. It was pretty funny riding with what appeared to be two people riding bikes while hugging. Then we hit a super muddy road with some rolling hills, and the pushing didn't work anymore, so Corinna and I had to walk to acceptable pick-up point while Dustin got the car. My bike was still fine, but I thought I should walk for moral support.

Anyway, the my first attempt with riding with them definitely did not turn out as planned, but as always, it was fun in its own way and also made for a good story. I just hope that people don't decide that I have a few too many good stories and start refusing to ride with me for their own safety.

I don't think it's ever looked like this even after a 'cross race.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Incredible True Story of #callahannightride

I posted this meme on Facebook this morning, but didn't provide details as to not ruin the story for those who would be hearing it in person today. However, I guess I should provide an explanation, so even if it leaves me short of material for my Monday post, I'm doing a special mid-week blog to fill curious parties in on The Incredible True Story of #callahannightride.


It was born of a concurrent discussion of the insomnia that has been creeping into my life lately, and the negotiation of a potential Friday morning Death March ride. Unfortunately, the proposed ride would have to happen just too early to be practical, but the discussion was not without a riding at 4 a.m. joke. Somehow in my insomniac brain seized on this suggestion, and I just couldn't let go of how awesome a story a nighttime trip to Callahan would make. It would also solve training ride scheduling issue.

I first considered Thursday night, as I could just shove the sleep into my now unscheduled time on Friday morning, but the forecast looked grim. I decided that if there was anything positive about my recent insomnia, it was the fact that I knew that I was actually able to go to work on 3 hours of sleep and still function okay, so I figured it might be nice to use that ability for fun instead of anxiety. Wednesday's forecast was cold and clear, and a ride that night would only force me to slug through one last day of the workweek in a state of fatigue. So I convinced my hashtag-loving Death March partner that #callahannightride was the best idea ever.

The ghosts of Callahan are pissed that we are disturbing them.
And it kind of was. The night was cold, but it was clear and beautiful, with a good amount of light from the moon and stars. We reached our destination without a hitch, although taking the requisite POIDH proved a bit difficult with the riding lights. Overall it was a good, solid ride, and a fun adventure.

Then we got back to the car, which had been parked a Maumee Boy Scout camp, the host site of the last two years' Death Marches. I had thought nothing of parking the car there, but apparently it's presence on a cold Wednesday night caused quite a kerfuffle. There were two sheriff's cars awaiting our return, and after having our ID's inspected and receiving a long lecture involving suicide, meth labs, and mini skirts, we were informed of the apparent massive manhunt for our frozen, dead bodies. Because, you know, we'd been gone for like two hours.

Because the car was registered in Adam's name, they'd already called both him and his parents and pretty much freaked everyone out. Apparently they were looking for his frozen, dead body first. Then when they determined he was alive, they gave him so little information that the actual presence of frozen, dead bodies was actually implied, instead of just vague "missing" person of whom the authorities didn't even know the identity. I felt horrible to have caused so much drama. After some profuse apologies to the deputies and the caretaker of the camp, we were finally allowed to leave. So I don't think we were ever in any actual danger of getting arrested, but it makes a better story to say that. We had quite a few laughs about it on the way home.

In the end, it was a memorable night that can only be described as both awesome and mortifying, but I would say the balance is heavily leaning toward awesome.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Week #7: 50 Shades of Red

Once again, another week of winter training has been knocked out. Spring is just around the corner, and soon I will have race reports to write again. I'm glad that I decided to keep up a weekly chronicle over the winter, because I really feel like it's kept me motivated.

And last week my motivation got tested. You see, after years of hermit-like training, I have suddenly developed an aversion to riding alone. It's fine for an hour or so after work, but on the weekends I want company. I had an obligation for Sunday, so I rearranged things so that I could do my big Death March training ride for the week on my partner's normal day off, Friday. Unfortunately, that fell through and I got pretty cranky about having to train alone for the second weekend in a row. Like, inside my head there was a Teen Mom cast member yelling at her baby daddy. Of course, no one would want to watch a show called 32-year-old mom, because there would be significantly less drama. I could at least recognize that this race is my metaphorical baby, and mine alone, so it's my responsibility to take care it. After a bit of pouting, I went out and did the route from last year's race, which was 53 miles, and finished not terribly far behind the time of last year's winning co-ed team, all on my own.

What?!! No red carpet at the Shamrock Cycles NAHBS Preview Party?
The upside to getting the big ride of the week done on Friday was that it made the weekend's workload pretty light. I actually woke up Saturday morning feeling trashed from the Thursday weights/Friday long ride combo, so I rested during the day and partied in the evening. Of course, "partied" is pretty relative for me, but since I've been locked into training mode the last couple of months, (Didn't I make a New Year's resolution about that?) the opportunity to go up to Indianapolis for a viewing party of Shamrock Cycles' North American Handmade Bicycle Show show bikes could be considered a huge night out. It was very refreshing to dress up in clothes that were neither office or workout wear, including super tall turquoise platform wedges, drink a couple of beers, and see friends that I haven't seen since the end of cyclocross.

Hoping the outdoor light would show off the color.
Finally, I'll confess to the "obligation" that kept me from riding on Sunday. I had the opportunity to be a model for a makeover photo shoot at the salon where I get my nails done. (Yes, bike girl gets manicures.) The deal was that I had to let a hairstylist that I barely knew do whatever she wanted to my hair without question. (Sounds like a less badly written version of 50 Shades of Grey.) I've secretly always wanted to do this, so when the opportunity arose, I struggled over committing to losing a perfectly good Sunday, but ultimately decided it was worth it to fulfill a longtime fantasy.

The result? No mohawk as everyone was predicting, but a shorter, assymetical bob to replace the grown-out regular bob I had already. No big deal. However, she got more interesting with the color. She dyed it a few shades darker brown than normal, and bleached out some pieces underneath. Then she went back in and dyed the bleached pieces bright red. It's hard to tell a huge difference in the picture above, but it's kind of awesome when the bright pieces peek out from the bottom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Week #6: Callahan Found

This slope is treacherous
This path is reckless
This slope is treacherous
And I, I, I like it

Trying to look excited, mostly came off as crazy.
Confession time:  I was kind of dreading my mission to Callahan this weekend once I found out that I would be stuck doing it alone, but Indiana winter weather waits for no man or woman, so I couldn't risk putting it off another week only to have more snow dump down or something equally terrible. Luckily, the worst thing that happened was that, since I was alone, I listened to a Taylor Swift album on the drive out to the starting point. I guess I did miss my turn onto the trail to Callahan on the first pass, but I figured out my mistake pretty quickly and was back on track in no time. The trail itself was also not nearly as bad as it had been rumored to be, although I can see it getting a lot worse in muddier, high-traffic conditions. As it was, though, it wasn't too bad.

So mandatory checkpoints and time bonuses are set, and the final route is mapped, scouted, and committed to memory. All that is left now is to see if I can squeeze any more speed out my little body in the next four weeks.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Week #5: World Championship Edition

It's funny how a few weeks ago the stretch between the holidays and race season seemed like an insurmountable hurdle at which I was white-knuckledly chipping away. Now it's half over and it almost seems like time is flying too fast. I have a mere four Sundays between now and the Death March, and I have non-bike obligations for two of them. And I still haven't been to Callahan yet.

Of course, the biggest highlight of this week was that the cyclocross world championships took place in Louisville over the weekend, so training wasn't the number one priority this week, but it still turned out pretty well. I took Friday off with the intention of getting a good recon ride in before being out of town and off the bike for two days, but the 12 degree temperature that manifested on that day threw a monkey wrench in those plans. Luckily, I still got in a good mountain bike ride on my day off. It was less than two hours, but the combination of the extreme cold, the ungroomed trails, about a half-inch of snow, and an ample dose of boy pace made it a sufficient ass-kicking for the week. On one hand, my training so far this winter has felt kind of unorganized and random, but it really works out as consistently hitting all of my weight workouts with some aerobic riding in between, then adding one proper on-bike ass-kicking per week. I feel like it's working well for me.

Since the world championship races were condensed into one day, I considered a second self-imposed ass-kicking for the weekend, but too much additional snow fell yesterday for the HNF roads and trails to be anything less than miserable.  Plus, I think I've just had my fill of cold in the last 48 hours.

Anyway, I guess I should mention the worlds races themselves. With the exception of the unfortunate incident dramatically depicted above and the fact that I was overwhelmed by having to stand in a huge line for everything always upon arrival, the experience was pretty fun. I'm sure everyone has seen lots of much better pictures already, but here is one from my perspective as I was pinned to the railing during the elite men's race:

It was cool to say that I was at a world championship and to see such huge crowds at a 'cross race, but in the end, I have to say I prefer regular ol' 'Merican-style cross races any day. Oh well, in nine more months I'll be back at Eva Bandman wearing a costume, drinking any "outside beverage" I want, and coming and going from my car as I please. Oh yeah, and hopefully not being DFL this year. I'm definitely looking forward to that.