Thursday, August 27, 2015

Vacation. All I Ever Wanted.


John emailed me the other day to ask about what kind of vacations I might want to do for next year. He was thinking about trying to get things lined-up in order to ask for vacation time as early as possible.

We had a few options and he wanted to know my thoughts. One option was whether we wanted to go to Cyclocross Nationals, which is in North Carolina this year. I've never been to the East Coast before, so that could be interesting and I think John would really like to go. I haven't been all that great at cyclocross the last few years, so it's not something I feel like I need to do, but we could go through Louisville and ride there and check out other areas to ride/hike and run around in North Carolina. Asheville is supposed to have great road cycling and I would love to see the Smoky Mountains. It's in the "possibly" pile right now.


 As you probably all know, I love going to a new place and discovering it by riding, running and hiking around it. seeing a new place gives me such a different perspective. I think John likes that too, but I'm not sure if he loves it as much as I do. Which leaves us to another option. RAGBRAI. John does love RAGBRAI. He is much more social than I am, so one of the parts about RAGBRAI, that can be a  little stressful for me, doesn't bother him at all. I do like RAGBRAI, I just don't love it. I get sooo overwhelmed by being surrounded by people, many of them drunk, and I have a harder time sleeping at night with the many drunk people partying close to our tent late at night. So, by the end of RAGBRAI, I am usually very sleep deprived (read: cranky).

I think John and I mesh pretty well, but we aren't exactly alike, and if we were, I'd probably be bored out of my mind with him, and so, like every other couple, we make compromises. There are things I do love about RAGBRAI. I love having a week of nothing to do but ride my bike all day on roads that don't have a lot of traffic. I also like the spectacle of all the craziness in every town and the cheesy photo ops. For me, I think it would be great to ride a few days of it every year. Because I know John loves it and I do like it and I want John to do the things he loves and I want to share that with him, I have no problem doing RAGBRAI for a full week next year.


In addition to RAGBRAI next year, I wouldn't mind taking a 3 day weekend up to Hayward , Wisconsin to do some cross-country skiing, especially if we don't get a lot of snow down here in Iowa. My birthday is on a Saturday this year. So, it might be fun to go to Madison, Wisconsin for a long weekend of road riding and mountain biking.

My fantasy vacation for next year, would be a trip to Utah to check out most of the National Parks. We could go for a week around John's birthday, or if he doesn't want to miss any cyclocross races, we could shoot for early September and include it during Labor Day weekend to give us an extra day. I have heard so many good things about the hiking, road riding and mountain biking in Southern Utah.

It will be interesting to see where we end up playing next year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

As They Speed Through the Finish, the Flags go Down.

thanks to Lisa Eggers for all of the great photos on this post.

Soooo, on Sunday I did my first real mountain bike race, that wasn't a training time trial race. It was pretty interesting, since last year I said mountain biking was just for fun and I probably wouldn't ever race it...


It rained the night before, which could have meant that the race would be canceled. Our trails can't handle tons of mountain bikes tearing-up the mud, and if it had rained too much, they would have canceled the race. Apparently, it rained jus enough. They gave us a two hour delay.

When we pre-rode the course, I slid-out on greasy corners a couple of times and used that as a warning to ride slow and steady during the race.

 The race begins going up a big hill on a gravel road. It's a great way to thin out the pack before you get to the single track section.

A race all depends on who shows up. I had no idea who I'd be racing against, and sadly, there were only 4 women in my race altogether. I didn't care if I was last or not, I just wanted to have a nice smooth ride and see what an actual mountain bike race felt like.

 I was second to last going into the single track. That gravel hill kills me every time. I figured I'd just see  how it went and ride as hard as I could. The first woman was a 17 year old racing phenom in the area in her first mountain bike race, riding a fat bike. She was easily in the lead, and I wasn't one bit surprised.

 I was able to pass the girl in second on an uphill part. I passed 2 of the beginner men, who started a minute ahead of us and then came upon a third guy who wouldn't get over to save his life. I feel bad for those kinds of guys who are so insecure that they can't let a woman chick them, but I didn't want to lose my second place and he was third from last and had almost nothing to lose in his race. So, the third time I said, On your left," I was much more forceful about it and he finally got out of my way.



I was worried about getting passed, because I knew I couldn't ride some of the things that the other girls could ride. So, I was trying to get out in front of the last two as far as I could, so they wouldn't pass me on a couple of the downhills I was too chicken to ride down.

I got to Cyclocross Hill and was far enough ahead of the two girls, that I couldn't see or hear them behind me. I got off my bike and walked down and then slid on the mud on the way up and wasn't sure if I'd be able to crawl my way up. Luckily, I finally got up, but not without a lot of teasing and heckling from John and the crowd- which I loved.

There was one spot where one of the beginner guys went through the tape. I missed my turn and got lost for a minute, but then figured it out and corrected myself and went back and found the right course. I was happy that no one passed me during that dumb mistake. I headed into the finish, and thought I was firmly in 2nd. Way better than I thought I'd do. The front runner's dad asked me where his daughter was. I had no idea. I thought she was way ahead of me. Turns out, she hadn't pre-ridden the course, so when she came to the part where the tape was down, she got lost and ended up DNF'ing. I felt badly about that, but it's all part of trail racing, I suppose. I ended up getting first and I won a new Camelback. They had great prizes. So, my first official mountain bike race is in the books and The Sugar Bottom Scramble was a lot of fun.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Oh, Oh, Telephone Line. Give Me Some Time...


 On Saturday we did the Courage Ride. It was a ride to raise money for cancer research. A bunch of our friends showed up and we all tried to wear our Red Shamrock jerseys. Red Shamrock is an organization that tries to raise money and awareness for the needs of Cancer survivors. Two great causes in one ride.


The ride was in Amish country - my favorite. John and I had a mountain bike race to do the next day, so we only rode about 68 miles and did that at a relaxed pace with our friends.


The countryside was beautiful and the weather was almost perfect - cloudy to partly cloudy and about 74 degrees. The wind picked up quite a bit, so heading South was a challenge.


The best part about riding through Amish country, is that they still have working pay phone booths, in case the Amish people need to make calls. We were really mature and spent time trying to stuff the phone booth and listening to the automated operator telling us to "Please hang-up and dial again". It's been a long time since I've heard that message.


John and I got home around 2:30. We showered and John took a nap and I read my book and then John went to the store and bought fun stuff to put in the veggie lasagna I made. I also made beet salad and they were both extremely tasty.

Friday, August 21, 2015

There Was a Day When I Just Had to Tell My Point of View.


I've been working on all of the videos I took from my Garmin bike camera while we were on vacation. This is a photo I made of some of the video I shot in the Badlands. I still have miles of video to go through before I sleep...

 This hasn't been the best week for me. I'm a Summer girl and this is really the last week of Summer in my world. The university and most of the public schools in our area start up on Monday.

Living in a college town means that your Summers are mellow and lovely, but then about 20,000 people, most under the age of 25, enter your town in one week and walk in packs and take up the sidewalk and text on their phones while walking out into traffic in the middle of the street without looking and drink every night, leaving puke piles on the downtown streets and drive like idiots. I do understand that those people help pay my salary and I am a grouchy, curmudgeonly, old lady, but I think I'm still allowed to be cranky about it for the first week of every semester.


The good news for me, is that I now own a home away from the downtown and university area. It's a nice little sanctuary away from the new student in town chaos.

If I hadn't used up all of my vacation time having wonderful adventures in July, I would love to take next week off, stay at home and read books, ride bikes, run, paint and draw and make tons of pesto sauce with the basil in my garden...


Instead, I'll have to use my breaks and lunches at work to hide in the secret garden behind my building and read books...And play mountain bikes tonight after work. Apparently, transitions are not my strong suit.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shakedown. Dreams Walking in Broad Daylight.

Looking behind me to make sure we were all still together.
 Sunday I tried to play every way I could. I did a short 1.5 mile run, to see if my ankle could handle it. Then John and I rode about 10 miles of mountain bike trails, but I was still pretty exhausted from the race the day before and John flatted riding on the rock garden, so we went home and I made grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch. Then we headed to The Amanas to reride that gravel route after a week without rain.

 This time we rode with our friends, Timmer and Burne. We headed out on the part of the gravel we did the week before. Our friend Timmer isn't the best at waiting for other people when we ride, so John thought he would have a little fun with him. Since John is a stronger ride than almost anyone I know, he can catch any of our friends, no matter how far back he is. So, John rode up to Timmer and told him that if we didn't catch him before he reached Green Castle Road, to take a left and wait for us at the top of the hill. Then he told us to slow down. There is a HUGE hill to left of that road. Of course, we were really supposed to turn left, where there was no hill.

I caught Timmer when he had just started up the hill and told him that we were just kidding, but he decided he'd get up as far as he could anyway. He made it most of the way up and we all had a good laugh.


Since I took pics of the first part of this loop last week, I'll only take photos of the last part of the loop that we couldn't ride the week before because it was too muddy.

There are about 3 water crossings on this loop. the first one the deepest and went almost up to our thighs. I got some good practice shouldering my bike.


This is a really scenic wetlands area and we came across some beautiful snowy egrets, that flew away before I could photograph them.


The second water crossing wasn't bad at all. If we took the high line, it only went up to our ankes.


The third crossing was actually rideable, if not a little scary because of the rocks on the creek bed. If I had been riding my mountain bike, I wouldn't have thought twice about it.


The field here was gorgeous. I'm not sure what the grass was, that gave it its yellowy tint.


The whole route took us a little over 24 miles. We got back to Millstream to more polka bands and good craft beer. A couple of our women friends showed up after they had a girl kayak excursion.


the girls were more hungry than thirsty, so we headed over to Phat Daddy's for really good pizza.


From start to finish, Sunday was one hell of a good day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Too Much Information Running Through My Brain

 Okay. time for a race report. It was the State Road Race Championships last Saturday. It was my 2nd race in 4 days and I was pretty banged-up from my crash at the mountain bike race. It was also the 3rd road race I had done all year. I went into it knowing I wasn't going to be very strong, but I like to support the local races whenever I can.


This race is located in Riverside, one of the nerdiest towns in Iowa.

Right before I was supposed to start the race, my tire blew-up and made the loudest BANG! I've ever heard. So, I got to be embarrassed, but luckily, John heard it, saw it was me and followed me to the car to put a different wheel on it for me.

There were only 2 other women in my race, which meant I would podium no matter what. So, I felt no pressure to kill myself riding my heart out. Plus, I got my period in the middle of the race. I know, some might say that is too much personal information, but that's what blogs are all about. If we weren't going to give out too much info, we'd get a damn Twitter account instead, and it's all part of being a woman athlete...Anyway, having my period can make me weak and tired and make my legs ache. That race was no different. I just didn't have the strength or energy to compete.

One of the women was really fast and strong she took off early. I got dropped up the first big hill, and then caught up to the second woman not too long after that. I asked, "Do you want to take turns pulling?" and she said, "Yes, please!" I went out in front and pulled. She was 23 years younger than me and pretty tiny, so she was better at the uphills and I was better at bombing the downhills. We came upon the first girl who had dropped her chain and a sheriff was helping her getting it back on. She passed us pretty easily. The second girl jumped on her wheel, but I knew I couldn't keep up that pace. The second woman, slowed down and let the first woman go and we continued to take turns pulling. We came across two of the junior boys and they weren't working together or at all aware of where they were on the road. They were going pretty slowly, so I came up behind them and said, "on your left". They let me go by, but then tried to jump on my wheel. I heard the second girl say, "I've got her wheel. We're racing together," and one of the boys yelled, "shot-gun".

As we got about 200 meters from the finish, the second girl attacked. I knew I didn't have it, so I let her go, but then thought, "I might as well put in an effort", so I pedaled faster and couldn't catch her, and got third out of three. I was fine with that. The second woman and I recorded an average speed of 19.4 mph for the 32.7 miles we rode and that's pretty fast for me.


We met some of our friends for lunch after the race. It was great to see them, but both John and I were fried from the race and the heat. It was about 90 degrees out there with no shade. So, we went home and slept for a couple of hours and I was STILL tired when I woke-up. Luckily, I had enough energy to make a vat of fresh salsa with many garden items my co-workers brought in work this week. It was delicious.

Friday, August 14, 2015


It's cat Friday on my blog, so the cool guy Archie cat photo has nothing to do with my post, but it's okay, because.....CATS IN SUNGLASSES!

My blog is 10 years old this year. Crazy that I started writing this in 2005. So much has changed, but it's nice to know that I'm still weird and loud and socially awkward. Yeah, so...Here is one of my first blog posts, from when my girls were 11 and 13 and I still owned a car without electric windows or lock or air conditioning.

So, here is one of my first posts:



I have always been a freak magnet. It doesn't matter if I'm in a bar or walking down the street, you can guarantee that the only homeless, no teethed, crack head, psycho who ditched their meds, will come up to me and get all up in my grill. I used to think I had some kind of special sign around my neck that only they could see that said, "Lick me on the face and call me sucker." But today I think that sign fell off of my person and attached itself to the front of my car.

I had just dropped Coadster off at the baseball fields and was heading to the store to pick-up a few things, when I saw a woman standing in the middle of the street just ahead of me. At first, it looked like she was stupidly running in front of traffic, but then she turned around to face me and held up both thumbs. I stopped my car and she put her hands on my hood, then she kept her hands on my car and moved around to the passenger side window.

"Can you help me? I need help." I thought she might be sick or injured but I didn't have a cell phone. We were right by a gas station, so it seemed odd to me that she didn't go there. "I need a ride to my daughter's house over by Sheraton Street. I'm so hot and tired that I don't think I can go much further without fainting. Please. You're a lifesaver." By that time, there was a line of cars behind me. If I had the girls, I would have said, no for sure. But I didn't have them. I used to hitchhike when I was younger, so I felt a little hypocritical not taking her. Although, I would never have been that aggressive about it myself.

"Um, okay..."

"Oh thank god. Shit. I'm on these new meds and they're fuc... I mean, messing with my system."

"Hmm, " I said. I didn't want to have to have a long, tiresome conversation about her meds, so I didn't ask her about them. I was just happy she was taking them.

"You know where Sheraton Street is? It's over by Summit. She don't live on Sheraton, though. My daughter lives on a street right off there."

"You mean SheriDAN Street?" I asked.

"Yeah. Whatever. My daughter lives over by there and I need a ride. Please?" 

We drive a little ways and I go the way I always go to get to Sheridan Street.

"Hey, where you going? I don't go this way. I go a different way."

"This is faster than going to Court and then tracking back. It will still get us to Sheridan."

"Oh, this is Sheraton. You gotta take a left here."

"Left? Okay."

"Now we're back where we started. It should have been right over here. Drive around some more."

"You don't know where your daughter lives?"

"I would, if you'da gone the other way. Just keep driving around." I used to be a huge push-over when I was younger. It was that orphan thing where I thought I was a huge imposition to everyone and it was my job to help people and put up with all their shit. I continually felt like I had to make up for my being alive and breathing someone else's air. I'm finally old enough and have met too many people who were happy to take advantage of me, that I have gone the other way. Now, I push back once it's clear to me that the person I'm dealing with is shot full of entitlement issues.

"Actually, I'm not going to drive around. I was being nice to take you here, but I have things to do. I was going to Hy-Vee, and we were right in front of it, when you stopped my car..."

"So, what? Do you expect me just to walk around and look for the house by myself?"

"Yeah. If you don't know where your own daughter lives, how would I know?"

"Do you know where Summit Street is?" She said this slowly and loudly, like she thought I might have a big learning disability.

"Yes. It's back the other way."

"Okay. Take me there and maybe I can find it that way."

"I'll take you to Summit Street, but that's it. I have things to do." I turned around and headed for Summit Street and two blocks away, she said,

"Stop! That's the street. I know it. It's here." I pulled over to the side of the road to let her out. She picked up her bright pink purse and said," Thanks, so much. You're a lifesaver. God bless you. I'll be sure to pay it forward." And while I'm sure she'll be paying something, I doubt it will be forward, backward, or sideways. I have a feeling it will be straight to her dealer...Er, I mean, daughter.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Don't Look Out, Gonna Break Your Neck


I know it kind of seems like my life is just a series of bike or running adventures, and now that my girls are grown and I have the freedom to do what I want, I guess that's true.

I do other things, of course, but when given the chance and the weather is nice and while I'm able bodied, that's usually what I choose to do. Finally, after 50 years on the planet, I have figured out what makes me happy and I try to do it as much as possible. I'm also lucky that I have enough money to maintain my bikes and can afford to work only one job, so I have the time to ride. I don't take any of that for granted.

So far this week, we did the Monday Night Ride with our friends after work. We rode to 30Hop, had a beer on the rooftop deck, ate dinner in the restaurant downstairs and rode home. It was a beautiful night.


I took a day of vacation on Tuesday to wait for the guy who would fix our internet to show. He didn't get to our place until 1 and then it took him and hour and a half to fix it.It is fixed now. Of course, they were supposed to call and let me know ahead of time when he was coming, and they never did. Instead, they sent me 3 emails at 7:30 pm to let me know a technician was on his way. How helpful was that, 6 and a half hours later on an internet that wasn't really working. Derrrrr.

Is this Buffalo Grass?
By the time the guy left, I was jonesing for a ride. I planned a ride through Amish Country. It's nice to ride on those roads, because cars are used to looking for and slowing down for horse and buggies, so they don't get so upset by bicycles that don't use up as much of the road.

I rode through Sharon Center, Frytown, Joe town and finally headed back to Iowa City. At one point in Frytown, I was confused about which way to go. I thought Angle Road connected straight to The Orville Yoder Turnpike (my favorite road name ever), but all I could see was 500th Street. I tried to stop the high school kid, who was driving his riding lawn mower down the middle of the main street, but he couldn't hear me over the the motor. I know - Iowa problems....I headed the way I thought I should go, and I was right. By the time I got to Jasper Road, I was starting to bonk. I stopped at an old, shady cemetery and ate a Cliff Bar and drank some water, before I finished the rest of my journey. I rode 46 miles altogether.


Last night, I did my first real mountain bike race. Technically, I did one last year, but I was so new to it, that I went REALLY slowly and kept getting off my bike and walking anything that was the least bit scary. So, I guess I should say, I was competitive in my first real mountain bike race.

John raced too. He did the A race, but I did the B race. We both felt like we were spaz riding. We would go way too fast into corners, be sliding out and then have to almost come to a stop, in order not to crash. We both know better, but I think it's the pressure of racing.

MTB photos courtesy of Ben Cottington.
Here's my race report:


My race last night turned out well…for the most part. I raced the beginner race with 5 women altogether. I got there later so I went off last. Which was good, because I thought I’d be slowest and I didn’t want to have a bunch of people passing me on the single track. I passed the girl who started 30 seconds in front of me pretty soon after we started, then I passed another girl who started first out of the 5 of us. Which meant I was going to be 3rd for sure. Then I started to slide-out on an S-curve I took too fast. I over corrected and fell straight back down a little hill into a sticker bush. Awesome. I was lying there with my legs in the air and my bike on top of me, when I realized the nose of my saddle was stuck in my kit right above my chamois and I couldn’t get up. I started laughing at myself, pushed the saddle away from my bike bibs and got up. Jumped on my bike and headed to the finish. I ended up getting second and have two big cuts on the back of my legs, a big welt on my forearm and am having some serious swelling in my left ankle.
It was good to crash and realize it isn’t the biggest deal and it was good to race against some other women and see how fast I was at mountain biking. I had no idea. Plus, it was sooo much fun.

Thanks Ben Cottington for a great photo.

So, right now. I'm not sure about my ankle. It could be broken, it could be that I bruised something, or it could be that I tore a ligament. I'm going to elevate it, possibly ice and not run on it until Monday. If it's still that bad then, I'll go see a doctor.

On my way to finish, after the crash. All covered in dirt and blood. Pretty. Ha ha. Photo by Ben Cottington.

It's just a damn good thing I have an ortho tech for a boyfriend if I'm going to continue to do all of these crazy shenanigans on my bikes. Jeesh!