Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Feel it in the Air. The Summer's Out of Reach

 I promise this post will be one of those "less talk, more rock" dealies. You can thank me later.

Today I am looking back at the dog days of Summer. I consider Summer that time between my oldest daughter's birthday and my youngest daughter's birthday.

Coadster's birthday is May 15th and this year for her birthday, we gave her a graduation present of a weekend in Chicago to see a Cubs game on her birthday weekend. The Cubs were nice enough to win for her, initiating the victory dance documented in the photo above.

June brought me my first triathlon of the year and the first time I did TOMROV, since I got a real bike back in 2011. This time around, TOMROV was soooo much less stressful and way more fun. If I do it again, I will definitely work on hill climbing ahead of time.

 I also did an adventure race with my brother in June. The conditions were about perfect, and even though my legs failed me during the run, I was the first woman who finished.

 We finished the month of June in true nerd style - by riding to Riverside, IA to celebrate Trek Fest. We even got flashed by a Star Fleet officer. The things you see in small Iowa towns...

 I like to call July this year my super month. I can't imagine it being any better. We rode our bikes every day of the long 4th of July weekend and the next weekend we headed to Clear Lake, Iowa (the town where the music died) for a bike race. I wasn't able to do my time trial because of a migraine, but I had a great weekend and transferred my registration over to the road race the next day, which kicked my ass, but was a great ride.

Less then a week after that, we took our epic vacation to South Dakota and rode road bikes and mountain bikes and hiked and ran and swam and climbed rocks and it was the best vacation I've ever had.

We met RAGBRAI for the last two days and had a blast on Sutliff Bridge doing a dance-off with another team. Spectacular!

We did a lot of off-road riding in August. I raced my first gravel time trial and I had almost more fun pre-riding the course than actually doing the race.

I did my first real mountain bike race in August too. It was a lot of fun and I think I might try to do more MTB races in the future...After I get the guts to ride the black trails.

In September, I did my first duathlon. It was supposed to be a triathlon, but the e coli in the resevoir turned it into a duathlon. Without the swim, I had a lot more energy for the runs and the bike.

On September 21st we celebrated John's birthday by each riding three of our bikes and eating and drinking and eating some more.

The next day, September 22nd, we celebrated Stinky's golden birthday, with more really good food. The day after that, Fall started.

Looking back, this has been an incredible Summer full of fun, sun, runs, riding, reading, eating, drinking and playing outside almost every single day. Obviously, every season has its highs and lows, but this Summer tipped way more in the favor of the highs. We'll see what Fall and Winter bring, but I'm heading toward it with a leftover,  happy, warmth.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Snappin' Her Fingers and Shufflin' Her Feet.

It's after a weekend, which means another race report...Or two. This is the first week this year that I've done two cycloCX races in two days.

It's one of my favorite races of the year - Oakley Night Cap CX in Des Moines. It's at a bar called Mullets. I normally don't do that well at this race. They even offer a 45+ Women's Masters race, and every year I fail to make the podium. Sigh. 

thanks for the photo, Paul Buchanan
 Saturday is a night race. The women didn't go off until 10:15. I am WAY too old for that shit. John raced at 4, and we got there at 3, so I had SEVEN WHOLE HOURS to wait for my race. As you know, I'm a bit of a spaz, so I'm not that good at sitting around and relaxing, which meant that any chance I got in between races, I rode the course. It was a crazy twisty turny course, and I knew it would be dark by the time I raced, so I wanted to be familiar with it enough, that I didn't turn the wrong way and screw myself over. I was a little worried that I would exhaust myself before I even started the race, though.

I also spent almost a half hour spinning on the trainer before my race.

Photo courtesy of Heather Wince.
 It must have helped, because I had the best start to a race ever. They let the women racing the open category go first, then they gave us about 20 or 30 seconds and sent the masters women off.

I was about 3rd when we hit the tight turn. One of my teammates started to stall-out up the hill. I saw a little hole between her and another woman and sped through it. The women behind me got stuck behind my teammate, and so I was 2nd going into some of the twisty labrynths. One woman in my category passed me and then I passed the first woman who was ahead of me from the beginning of the race. I was pretty exhausted after the 2nd lap and another woman passed me. Damn! I passed two women in the open category and had a good gap on any other women who were behind me and feeling fine to be 3rd. I was even singing while I rode.

Coming over the barriers, I was in too low a gear and I was so oxygen deprived, I set my bike down too hard and my chain jumped off. Double Damn! One woman passed me, but she was in the open race and I was A-okay with that, but by the time I got my chain back on, the rest of the women in my category had almost caught up with me. I only had 2 laps left, so I tried to turn-up my speed. I was lucky and none of the other women caught me. I finished 3rd for the master's women overall and Third in the master's women 45 and over. It was the first time I've podiumed in the Saturday night race and I was very happy with that.

Sunday is a lot smaller field than the Saturday night party.  I was lucky enough to get another decent start. My friend J. got out first and got the hole shot through the first turn.

 I had to go around another woman and cut her off going up the hill, which sounds like an a-hole maneuver, but it's how you race cyclocross, Anyway, that's how I got out in front.

 I got passed by a woman, and I just rode right behind her, doing my locomotive engine breathing, which I can't help, but I'm sure it's unnerving. Finally she moved over and said, "Go on!" And so I did.

  I passed a girl from the open category and saw the gap between me and the women behind me get wider and wider.

 Next I caught up to another woman from the open women's race, but she fought me....For the next couple of laps we battled. I started getting stupid and trying to pass her at ridiculous times and going into corners too hard, so that I went off the course and hit a stump with my wheel. Dumb arse. I calmed down and just rode my bike.

I never caught the woman from the open women's race, but she wasn't in my category, so it wasn't a big deal. Since the two women who beat me the night before didn't race on Sunday. I won the the Women's Masters race.

Part of the prize I got was $20 worth of gift cards to El Bait Shop. I treated John to lunch and all the beer he could drink. Check out all of those taps! My goal of trying to get a little less last this year seems to be on track. Of course, I'm nowhere near most of the women in the open races, but that will give me my next goal...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Put it in Your Heart, Where Tomorrow Shines.

Oh, it's Friday again. Even though I had a short week, I'm still itching for the weekend. I'm ready for book reading and bike racing and good food eating...And mostly, no work.

Of course, I'm a little tired and pretty bored, but I only have about a half hour left at work, and it is Cat Friday, so I'm seeing some light at the end of my working woman's blues tunnel. May you all have weekends full of your favorite things.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today is the Greatest Day I've Ever Known.

 On Sunday we went on the Iowa City Culinary Ride. We've never been able to do it before, because we've always had cyclocross races on the same weekend. This year we were freed-up and ready to see what it was all about.

We started from the Co-op where they had wonderful samples of food and coffee. Then we headed to the University gardens where they served virgin bloody mary's  with really good veggies.

We went to Yotopia for excellent breakfast yogurt served with granola and fresh raspberries. I could have eaten a bucket of it.

We stopped at a berry farm and farmer's market outside of Oxford and they offered Cuban tacos. I did love the Culinary Ride, but I do wish they would have told us there wouldn't be all that many vegetarian options. The questionnaire we filled-out for the ride asked us if we were veggie or not and so I assumed that meant there would be veggie options. There were at a couple of stops, but the taco stop only had a very small amount of a veggie slaw and the rest of it was pork and we were told we could only have a tiny portion and I'm pretty sure it was gone before all the riders got there. Another stop only had a chicken pasta with no veggie option. Which, I get that it isn't always easy to make things veggie, but it would be good to know ahead of time that there wouldn't always be veggie food. If I were a stricter vegetarian, it might not have been worth it to me.

Again, I loved the ride and had a blast, but there is always room for improvement or better communication about everything.

 I also heard some people thought the ride was a little too hilly and hard. Friends of mine who had done the ride in the past said it wasn't quite as hilly in other years. I did feel sorry for some of the people who were having problems and exhausted after riding the end of course that seemed to be an endless succession of hills.

Of course, the last two stops were also my favorite ones. Augusta in Oxford served an amazing souffle', blocked-off the street and sold fun cocktails that I didn't indulge in, as I wanted to spend a quiet evening at home, alone, reading my book and didn't want to end up passing-out on my couch instead.

Our last stop was at a really cool farm. They raised chickens in a bus. No, really and they had adorable, but huge Pyrenees mix 10 month old puppies and food from Devotay. We had a 15 mile stretch left and we needed to get back home, so john could go play pool with his friend Bry, and I could, as previously mentioned, have my precious alone time. We missed the after-party at Trumpet Blossom, but our friends who went said it was a blast and they had the most awesome veggie food there...Of course.

If you like food, bikes and fun, I would highly recommend the Culinary Ride, just make sure you get some hilly training in ahead of time and be aware that there might not be a ton of veggie options, though I believe all the meat that was served was from animals that were happy when they were alive and could possibly have lived in their very own bus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Somewhere There's Heaven. How High the Moon.

We made a new friend by the bike rack at Leaf Kitchen.
It is the land of birthdays in our house this week. John and his cat shared a birthday on Monday and Stinky had her golden birthday on Tuesday.

Both John and I took the day off for his birthday. Probably one of the best birthday presents you can give yourself - a Monday off of work.

We woke up and drank coffee and tea and John opened a couple of his presents. Then we took a townie ride to Leaf Kitchen for brunch. we both had the smoked salmon eggs Benedict with potatoes. So amazingly good.

After lunch, John went for a short run and I read my book on the back porch. In the afternoon we played mountain bikes on the trails at Sugar Bottom. We hadn't been mountain biking and we really missed it, but we both were a little rusty on the first set of trails.

In the evening we did our Monday Night Ride with some friends and had a lovely time.

We all went out for dinner for Stinky's birthday. We checked out a new place in town called, Apres. They are a wine bar that serves tapas. Really, really good tapas.

We shared some fun dips and then we each got our own small plates of food. I loved everything I tried. I do have to say that they might want to add a few more chips, crackers and bread to their dips.

Instead of cake, Stinky wanted to do the table side s'mores. It was a fun concept, but again., I think they needed to even out their portions of each thing. We could have used a few more graham crackers to match the amount of chocolate and marshmallows we got. It's a new restaurant, and that is such a little thing to fix. I hope they do well, because we loved the place.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I Get by on Automatic.

As far as I'm concerned, John's extended birthday weekend was great. On Saturday we got up early and drove to Cedar Falls for a cyclocross race. It was a a lot of fun.

I raced in the Master's women's category. There were only 3 women in my category. So, if I finished, I would make the podium. There is another woman in my category, who is very similar in her results as I am. She is a lot better at the technical stuff and I can be better on the power sections. We tend to trade-off beating each other depending on the course.

I got called first. The faster women waited to register until the day of the race, and they got staged in back because of it. I chose to stage on the left side, because there was a lot of sand ahead on the right. When they said, "Go!" One of my teammates moved right in front of me and then had to slow down because she couldn't clip-in, which meant half of the women passed us. At first I was bummed, but one of those women crashed on a turn around a tree and if I had been up there, I might have been taken out with her. Instead, I was able to get around her and was 5th overall for the women.

I passed the woman I am usually neck and neck with on the 2nd lap, which meant I was in first for my category and 4th overall. The woman who crashed was in another category, but she was coming up behind me and I wanted to work hard enough to keep her from passing me. I was able to hold her off and finished first in my category and 4th overall for women. It was a pretty small field, so the next race I do, will probably see me with worse results, but I'll take this when I can get it...

 So, I won some money, which is always nice. I used it to buy John and I an late lunch, early dinner. I didn't want John to have to pay for anything this weekend.

 John did two races - a men's masters race and the open race. He won the master's men's race.

 He got 6th in the open race. A great result for that field. Needless, to say, he was pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

There were a lot of cool things about this race. They had Single Speed Brewery handing out free samples. The coffee stout was excellent.

There was also a band that played during every race.

Lastly, there was a guy out playing bagpipes during the later races. At one point, one of the racers was riding  by the officials and asked him if he could get the bagpipe guy to learn another song. The official said, "Why? On the bagpipes they all sound the same anyway..." Everyone is a damn comedian.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

We'll Make it Easy. We'll Make it Run.

I filmed my commute to work last October and finally cut it down to about 3 minutes and added some music. There aren't as many cars as there usually are because they were doing construction on a lot of the roads and people were taking detours to avoid it. The trees sure look lovely, don't they?

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Thunder and the Roar.

Well, kids. It's a dark and stormy Friday here in Iowa and apparently, that makes certain fat, orange, cats a little surly. Not me, though. It's John's birthday weekend. Actually, his birthday is on Monday, and we're both taking it off, so it will be an extended celebration. I'm pretty excited and the weather is supposed to be just about perfect all three days. We have many plans to play outside. Yea!

I hope you all have a surly-free weekend...Unless that Surly is a bike or a craft beer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

As Free as the Wind Blowin' Down the Road.

The sun rising over the misty lake.

Okay. Time for a race report from Sunday. We were supposed to do Iowa's Best Dam Triathlon, but on Friday we got an email saying the e coli (read: poop) levels in the water were too high (EW!) and they would replace  the 500 yard swim with a one mile run and call it a Duathlon. Since I haven't been swimming much at all this Summer, that worked for me.

John cooled-down after the race by hanging with a fellow competitor's sun and making sand castles.

 I have never done a Duathlon before, so I had no idea how to run that first mile. Should I go as hard as possible, or should I save something for the rest of the race? I decided to place myself in the back of the pack and see how anyone else was running it. Big mistake. I got stuck behind a group of women just jogging along and talking for fun and I couldn't get around them. I finally zipped around them only to encounter another group of women. I zipped to the right of them and had more room to run. Then we hit an uphill - not my strong suit. Three women passed me on that, but then we turned around and went down there and that's where I excel. I got on my bike after passing one more woman.

The other two triathlons I did this year, I died during the 5K run at the end. I was so afraid of that happening again, that I tried hard to go hard on the bike. The problem was that I forgot my gears were screwy from the last Time Trial race I did and I had to try three or four times to get into the big ring, which was a huge drag since the bike section of the race was EXTREMELY hilly. I did pass a lot of people on the bike, but I had no idea if any of them were in my category. I hopped off the bike and started the 5K run. My legs didn't feel too bad, but I warned myself not to go to hard, so I wouldn't die at the end. Some of the women who I had just passed on the bike, passed me right back on the run. After the turn-around, I still felt just fine. I told myself that meant I should be going harder. So, I stepped it up and got a decent stride. I came into the finish line 3rd in my category and 16th out of all of the women. I didn't really feel all that tired, which meant I should have been going faster. I'm sure a lot of this was because we didn't do the swim at the beginning, and that usually kills me.

Because I placed, I got to choose either a coffee cup or a pint glass. Since I won a mug the day before, I went for the pint glass.

I'm all smiles after the race.

John got first in his category and 5th for men overall. He chose the mug.

On the way  home, we ran into some friendly deer, and I was so glad they didn't decide to jump out in front of me when I was screaming down that hill on my bike. Whew!

After the race, we met-up with some of our RAGBRAI friends. It was our friend, Timmer's birthday and he wanted to ride to Sutliff Bridge and then to Big Grove Brewery for dinner. Hell, what's another 50 miles? We didn't go very fast, so it was fine.

Here is a photo of me and John and our bikes' shadows on the bridge.

After a duathlon and a 50 mile bike ride, we were both pretty damn tired. I don't think I even made it to 9 o'clock before I passed-out. That's the sign of a great weekend, right?