Thursday, October 18, 2018

Al Davis Said it Best, "Just Win Baby, Win!"

Today I'm going to write two race reports. Last year with the migraines and dizziness, I was lucky to write two race reports in a season, so it feels kind of nice to do two in a couple of weeks.

The first race report I have is from Jingle CX. Because of varied health issues, I haven't been able to race Jingle CX for the last four years. It was great to be able to race it again and now they even have a 45+ Master's Women's Race and I ALWAYS want to support that.

Anyway, I only raced the Friday of Jingle CX and it was a rainy, muddy mess. Which I normally love. I did a really good job of warming up before the race. At one point while I was on the bike trainer, a woman in the tent next to ours, said, "Wow. Are you really reading a book on your trainer?" I told her I was a nerd and I read almost anywhere I can. She said she thought it was great. She was a big reader too and was happy to see someone else nerding-out at a bike race.

The race itself started out great. I had a good start and I never have a good start. I always say I like the muddy races because the other women have to go a lot slower, and I ride pretty well in the mud. The only problem came when I had to run up the first big, muddy, hill. I use flat pedals on my bike and the shoes I wore with them had NO traction, whereas my mountain bike shoes that I would wear with clipless pedals had great traction AND you can put metal spikes on the top part of the shoe.

Soooo, I had this great start, I was feeling confident, and I get to the first big muddy hill and try to get up it and keep falling. Doh! I finally had to crawl up it on my hands and knees. I know, so graceful, so pretty...Or not.

At one point, one of the women who was a ways behind me originally, ran past me while I was moving with all the grace and style of a walrus and said, "They're called, toe spikes. Christmas is coming. You might want to ask Santa for some."

"Whatever!" I thought loudly at her back as she nimbly ran up the muddy hill with her godamn toe spikes.

I finally made it up the damn hill and did okay riding down the crazy descent right after. I even caught the snotty woman who told me to get toe spikes, but then when we hit the next muddy hill, she passed me right back. There was one off-camber muddy downhill that a few years ago, I wouldn't have been able to ride, but I rode every lap on this race. At one point going down it, I lost all control over my bike, but I couldn't break because I would crash for sure. I just had to let the bike take me where it wanted and hope that it didn't want to crash me down the hill. Luckily, it didn't.

After the first lap, I figured out that I should go to the very right hand side of the muddy hills and grab the fencing on one side and use my bike on the other side of me for support in order to get up them. It wasn't the fastest way, but it was way quicker than going up the middle on my hands and knees.

You'll be happy to know I finally passed and stayed ahead of snotty toe spike lady to get 6th place. Not bad for letting most of the field pass me up that stupid hill on my first lap. Yea me!

I was happy with my result even with my mishaps.

The next race I want to write about was two weeks ago. It was called the Rack Run and it was a way to make money for women with breast cancer who can't afford to pay their bills. A cause I can really get behind.

Stinky asked me to race it with her. A few years ago, she started gaining more weight than she was comfortable with, so she's been working hard at losing it now. She's lost 20 lbs since her wedding by running more often and trying to eat better. Go Stinky!

Anyway, when we race together I just go at her pace and try to help her stay positive when she starts to get tired and cranky. Lately, she's getting so strong that I worry I won't be able to keep up with her. During this race, we were going at a decent pace and I knew what her best time out of her past races was and when it looked like we might beat that time, I tried to pick up the pace. Then when we could see the finish line, she started sprinting. I thought, "great!" and sprinted too, thinking we could cross the finish line together.

I moved to her right, and she cut me off. I figured she didn't see me and so I moved to her left, where she cut me off again. That little Stinker, she was doing it on purpose. So, I stayed just behind her and I finished a second after her. She said she just wanted to beat me, and nobody understands competitiveness better than I do. You'll all be happy to know that besides beating me, she also beat her fastest time and got first in her age group. Competitiveness can really pay off.

Most importantly, we had a great morning running around Sand Lake and then we went to Midtown Family Restaurant for breakfast, where I got pancakes and chocolate milk. Yea us!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

October and Kingdoms Rise and Kingdoms Fall But You go On and On

This is the campus where I work. How lucky am I?
 Okay. I was bad about writing again this week...And I'm actually doing things to write about. So, I'll just write a little bit today about random stuff and then I'm off work tomorrow. Yea! We're going to beautiful Bellevue, Iowa this weekend to attend, John's ex-girlfriend's wedding. I'm sure I've said before that people I know think it's weird that we still hang-out, but I like her and her fiance and I have lived in a small town for many years. We weren't total whores when we were younger, but if I didn't hang out with people that John or I dated at some point, we would live a sad, lonely existence.

If you don't live in Iowa, it's Fall here and beautiful, but damn if it won't stop raining. All of the rain is making the beautiful leaves on our trees fall a lot sooner than normal. So, hopefully there will still be pretty colored leaves on the trees when we hang out by the Mississippi River this weekend.

I either put Marigolds or cat fur on the butternut squash to keep the squirrels from eating them.
It's weird that I haven't really talked about my garden on here, because I seem to be obsessive about it everywhere else, but I grew my first mutant butternut squash this year. Cool, huh? I looked online and some say it should take like a normal butternut squash, but I'm a little afraid to try it. If I get up the guts and it turns me green after ingesting it, I'll let you know.

So, Halloween is coming up soon. Yea! Even though it's always too cold out during it, it's one of my favorite holidays. I wish people would wear costumes and I would have an excuse to read ghost stories all year long.

Okay. You all have a lovely weekend. I hope it stops raining wherever you are and that you get to enjoy some beautiful Fall foliage.

Friday, October 05, 2018

That Was Wisconsin, That Was Yesterday

Let me start this post by going back two weeks ago to try and catch you all up on this crazy but wonderful month.

A couple of Thursdays ago, we were heading to Madison, Wisconsin to celebrate John's birthday and race at Trek Cup CX. Unfortunately for me, I woke up that morning with a screaming migraine. Wah.

I still thought I might be able to do it, since I wasn't supposed to race until Saturday morning. I tried my damnedest to get rid of the migraine without taking my meds, which would make it so I definitely wouldn't be able to preride the course that day.

We stopped in Dubuque for lunch on the way to Madison and had a nice meal.

We made it to the Trek Bicycle headquarters to try to pre-ride the course. I was feeling pretty weak anyway, but then I tried to ride up a very steep ramp and only got about 3/4 of the way up and I wasn't strong enough to go any further. Right then I realized I just wasn't going to be strong enough to race that weekend.

I promptly rode back to the car, took my migraine meds and threw in the towel for the weekend. At first I was sad that I wouldn't be able to race, but the course at Trek is so hard that it would have been too stressful for me and by not racing, I freed up the weekend to just have fun with family and friends instead.

We met my brother and his wife for dinner that night and then went home to bed.

Friday morning was John's birthday. We got up and John opened  his gifts and then we headed to Marigold, one of our favorite breakfast places in Madison where John got himself a fancy coffee and duck confit hash. So good.

We headed back to the Trek bicycle factory headquarters so John could do one of his favorite birthday activities - race his bike.

He didn't have the best race that day, but he still had two more days of racing to go to fix that.

It was a fun day to watch races and see stuffed sheep wearing helmets and socks.

We met my brother, his wife, her mother and my oldest sister at the Weary Traveler for John's birthday dinner. Since my oldest sister was having a lot of leg pain, we just went back to my brother's house to hang out afterward.

Coadster drove up after work that day and got to Madison around 9:30. John said he had a great birthday. Yea!

On Saturday morning we went to breakfast at Lazy Jane's Cafe and then went downtown to the Farmer's Market. They also had a craft fair downtown, so we wandered through that too.

If I had decided to race on Saturday, I would have had to be at the site by 7 am to pre-ride the course and then race and then watch John race and we would have been there all day.

So, it probably worked out better that I wasn't strong enough to ride up that steep ramp. After the Farmer's Market, John headed to the race site to warm up and Coadster and I decided to have a fun women's day about town.

On our way to the car, we saw this mirror lying in the grass. It made for a funky photo.

We decided to go to the zoo since I hadn't been there since the girls were much younger. We did make a quick stop at the beach. It was too cool to swim, but it was nice to hang out and check out the view.

Since Saturday was Stinky's birthday and she decided to stay in Iowa City to make money waiting tables on game day, we took a photo by her favorite animal, the giraffe.

The zoo was so much better for the animals than it was back in the 90's. The seem to have redone most of the exhibits to make them nicer for the animals.

Coadster and I went to the petting zoo, so we could meet some new friends.

We also got some expensive zoo ice cream that I paid for even though Coadster found $11 in the parking lot. But I guess that's how it is when you're a mom, even when your daughters are in their twenties...Ha ha.

We left the zoo and went back to the race site to watch John's race. My brother and his adorable dog came too. So, we got to watch some races together as a family. It was a lovely day.

Our friends Chelsea and Burne came to town by the time we got back from the race. We were all starving so we went to a pub to eat dinner and then we met my brother at the Tornado Room for a drink. The Tornado Room is super cool. The upstairs bar room looks like something from Goodfellas and it's pretty loud. The downstairs is amazing. It's very 1960's and has maps all over the walls and it's pretty cozy and quiet. I loved it.

On Sunday morning Coadster headed back to Iowa City and the rest of us went to watch John do his last race and then the pros race the World Cup. It was finally nice and warm.

John had a good race and we went to the new secret bar on the course. It was called the Decoy Bar and had all kinds of hunting related stuff around it. They also had snacks and the beer was free. It was a magical place.

I love bike races because people dress up in costumes and as I always say, I can't get enough of people dressing up in costumes.

The pro races were great to watch. As far as I'm concerned, the women's race is always more interesting than the men's race. This one was no exception. There were two women battling for first and at one point, the younger woman was trying to jump over the barriers on her bike and crashed. Luckily for her, she crashed in front of her competitor, so it slowed them both down.

We finally headed home after the races. We stopped at the lovely town of Mt Horeb on the way home. The town has a troll theme, but they also have a place that serves some of the best pizza I've had. It was a great stop on our way out of Wisconsin.

It was a such a fun and busy weekend, and then we only had a few days until the next Cyclocross World Cup race weekend, but luckily that was in Iowa City.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Me With Nothing to Say, and You In Your Autumn Sweater

Hey! I'm still here. I know it's been a while since I've written. We've been crazy busy, but I think things will slow down now that it's October. I will try very, very, hard to write more often...But not today. Today is crazy at work and then we finally go out for Stinky's birthday dinner (over a week late). THEN hopefully tomorrow I will start writing an actual post. Until then, enjoy the view.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Summer's Almost Over, Fading Like a Tan. Vacation Time is Running Out Like an Unplugged Fan.

Seems like a good day to write my books as escapism post for the month of August. Since we were transitioning from Summer fun to cyclocross racing season, I didn't have a ton of time to read, but I still got some good book traveling in with the six books I read. I didn't read any non-fiction in, but I did get a Young Adult book read. So, let's go.

1.) The first book I read in August was "The Leavers" by Lisa Ko. I loved this book. It took me to Upstate New York, NYC and China. It looked at immigration issues at what it's like to be a first generation immigrant in the USA.

2.) "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver was the second book trip I went on. It took me to the Appalachians in the near future. It was about what climate change could do to the Monarch butterfly population and to humans as well. It was a scary trip, but it's a journey we're all already on these days.

3.) My third book trip was "My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She's Sorry", by Frederik Backman. He's also the author of a "Man Called Ove" and if you haven't read that, you definitely should. Anyway, this book to me to Sweden and to an apartment building full of lovable freaks - my favorite kind of people. If you want to read something that gives you hope for humanity, I suggest you go visit this novel.

4.) "The Story of a Marriage" by Sean Andrew Greer was a beautifully written novel that took me to San Francisco after WWII. It talked about what war does to people and the kinds of choices people had to make during that time.

5.) My fifth book was the last book in Jane Smiley's trilogy, "Golden Age". It took me all over the place from 1987 through to the future, but mostly it centered around a farm in central Iowa. It wasn't as good as the first two books. I also wish she hadn't tried to predict the future in it. She was so good at her past pop culture references and now that some of what she predicted for the future has become the past and the present and her predictions are different than what actually happened (is happening), it really took me out of the novel.

6.) My final read of August was one of my favorites. "Eleanor and Park", by Rainbow Rowell is a Young Adult book that I wish had been around when I was a young adult. It takes place in 1987 in Nebraska and tells a really sweet high school love story. It's the kind of novel that I'll want to travel to again and again.

So, now that we're already halfway through September, I've already read some great books that took me to interesting places this month. I'm excited to see where else I go.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

But I Gotta Break This Bad Habit. Can't Take This Bad Habit No More.

When I was in junior high, as you can imagine, I was hilarious. I used to do this thing where I would stretch my face back with my hands, because it was funny, and it made my classmates laugh. When my teachers saw me do this, they all told me that when I got older, all the wrinkles it created would make me regret doing that. They were wrong. Stretching my face out here and there when I was in eighth grade had way less to do with my wrinkled skin in my 50's, than tanning when I was in high school and college did. Of course, back in the eighties I had never heard of sun screen, and we used baby oil, so we could really fry. And while the wrinkles are an annoyance, the never ending patches of precancerous cells developing on my skin are WAY more troubling.

Now that I'm much older than my teachers were when they warned me that my actions in my youth could have a bad impact on my (long past) middle age years, I thought I'd amuse myself by listing things I wish I hadn't done when I was younger for the impact those actions have made on me now. I'll also look at the things I'm glad I did when I was younger, because those things are still helping me now.

1.) Since I've already mentioned tanning, I'll mention jerky boys first. I wish I hadn't spent so much time or energy on...Or had kids with guys who weren't all that nice or good for me. My excuse is that my two male role models growing up were either clinically depressed/emotionally unavailable or controlling/abusive. For too much of my adult life, I seemed to go from one extreme to the other. Which, sadly, affected my girls too.

2.) I also wish that I had tamed my sugar addiction when I was younger, because it is still plaguing me now. I know there are many worse addictions, but I honestly love sugar AND it's legal and easy to come by, so it's not even a challenge to try to obtain. I suppose I'm lucky that I don't have type II diabetes...Yet.

3.) I wish I hadn't taken so much Advil in my life. With the migraines, I didn't have a lot of choice, but it has given me dry eye and I'm sure it hasn't helped my kidneys any.

4.) Money. I wish I figured out a way to have more money when I was younger. It's not that I'm bad with it once I have it, it's more that I didn't have enough to raise my girls and alleviate stress from most of my adult life. Some of it has to do with the fact that I had no money in college, so I worked over 40 hours a week and went to school full time and took out student loans I couldn't pay back and then there was the whole jerky man thing - especially having children with someone who didn't help pay for them. So, now I have a husband who makes about the same amount of money as I do, but I'm still paying off things from when my daughters were younger.

On the positive side. Here are some things I'm glad I did when I was younger and that still help me today:

1.) Running/playing outside. I'm glad I picked up my running addiction when I was 10. It has kept me healthy and strong physically, but it has also saved me emotionally. It's definitely helped my self-diagnosed ADHD too. It sure hasn't helped my feet any, but I guess ugly feet is the least of my problems at this point.

 2.) Keeping a journal/working on my issues. I have overcome a lot of shit in my life. When people tell me to "get over" things, I have to roll my eyes. I've never known anyone to be able to "get over" something. I have to work through things and it can take a long time. Keeping a journal and figuring out what my issues really were, and then finding books to read about them, made it so I could work through many things. Of course, I will be working on some of those things for the rest of my life. I'm up for the challenge.

3.) Not smoking. I have been lucky enough to never to have acquired a smoking habit in my life. I would probably credit my brother and my mother for that. Since my mom died of a stroke at 43, I've had that hanging over my head since I was 10 and then once when I was in junior high, I went to a party and my brother walked me home afterward. I told him that I had smoked a cigarette, thinking I was kind of cool for it. He basically lectured me the entire walk home about how exactly UNcool it was to smoke. So, except for a few times where I tried to smoke part of a cigarette for laughs when I was drunk in college, I never had that nasty habit. Which is good, because if you know me at all, you know that I'm not good at kicking my addictions.

4.) Reading/educating myself. I was lucky enough to grow up with nerdy parents. Everyone in my house read, and read voraciously. I hope to keep educating myself as long as I live. It calms me and it's great escapism. It's gotten me this far...

So, for the most part, I've been very lucky about the things I've done in the past. For the most part. Who knows what will kill any of us, but I wouldn't want to live forever anyway if I couldn't learn how to be happy and (mostly) centered. How about any of you? Were there things you did or didn't do when you were younger that affect you negatively or positively today?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why Worry. There Should be Laughter After Pain. There Should be Sunshine After Rain.

On Friday I got some good news. I went for my breast cancer check-up and mammogram and everything looked fine. My surgical oncologist said that I shouldn't have to meet with her again, unless my situation changed and so after two years, things are looking up.

Of course, I was a little scared the few days before. I know that was stupid. My breast ultrasound was fine in February and that is more sensitive than a mammogram, but sometimes I can't help but worry. I've gotten much better about not doing that. You know that thing. When I was younger I used to create all of these bizarre scenarios in my head. The bad kind where you imagine the worst possible thing that could happen and then you try to imagine how you'll react. I used to think that by doing that, I would be prepared for anything that would come my way. It was so dumb. What I really did was make something happen in my head, when half the time it never occurred in my real life, and when bad things did happen, they were never like I imagined them.

So, now every once in a while I worry and create stupid scenarios in my head, but generally, I try not to obsess on what bad things could happen, but instead put all my energy in what is really go on right now. It isn't always an easy thing to do...

Thursday, September 06, 2018

This Train is Bound for Glory, This Train

Sooo, I thought I'd do a race report from this weekend.

I raced at Cannonball CX this weekend for the first time. The race has been going on for the last couple of years, but I was recovering from breast cancer surgery the first year, and I had a bad cold last year.  Then this year, I finally got to race it. Yea!

It was a little muddy when we first got there, and I am a big scaredy cat, so there were several things I was afraid to ride. I pre-rode the course a few times and found the guts to ride a couple of the features I was initially afraid of, but not all.

There was a great group of women riders, with some strong talent from Minneapolis. There were also a lot of new Spin Devo women who were fun and tough too.

Now, I'm going to talk about the things I love about CX. Because, let's face it, I am never going to win the Cyclocross Olympics, or very many races at all for that matter. So people have asked me why I do it. Cannonball CX was a prime example of why I race cyclocross.

Like I said before, I am, as John likes to say, an overly cautious old woman. I have to fight myself again and again to get up the courage to do certain things. Riding down steep hills in muddy conditions is one of those things.

When I first rode the course, I was terrified to ride down the big, muddy hill, and every time after that on my pre-ride, I would think I could do it, and I would stare and stare down from the top of it for what seemed like three hours before I finally wussed-out and walked/slid down it with my bike in hand.

I started out the race okay and passed a couple of people before I got to said big hill, which I walked down. I was the only woman in the whole field who walked down it. And because I walked it, everyone passed me and I was in last place of ALL the categories of women. I decided right then that if every other woman could ride down that hill, then I could too.

So, when I got to it on the next lap, I took a deep breath, sucked down my "what-if's," and rode down it. Holy cow! It was so easy. Seriously. No problem at all. Derrrrr.

Then I spent the rest of the race trying to catch the other women. I passed some and the rest of them were way ahead of me. I even got lapped by a couple of them too. Which is fine by me, because it makes my race shorter and I am still in pretty crappy shape.

Toward the end of the race, I took a $2 bill hand-up, put it between my teeth, and came into the finish looking classy as hell...Or whatever.

I get so many things by riding cyclocross. I'm not winning many races, but I am conquering my fears, and taking myself out of my comfort zone, and meeting really fun people, and playing outside, and most importantly, I'm finding that I'm able to ignore (at least some of) the voices in my head that scream "I CAN'T" at me.

It's also a double bonus that I have a partner/husband who likes to ride bikes in the mud as much as I do.

So, after FINALLY getting to race Cannonball CX, I rate it a raging success for me...By my rules anyway.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Stuck Out In the August Rain. Out in the Cloudburst Again

So, here it is the end of August already and I've hardly written anything on my poor blog this month. Just to show off my lameness, I thought I'd do a quick recap of this month.

Let's start with the fact that I actually raced this month. Weird. I've been plagued with migraines and dizziness for most of the Summer, so I haven't been able to train, let alone race. We'll see if my stupid hormones let me race this Fall at all...

My first race this month was the State Time Trial Championships. Since I was the only woman who did the 40K race (two other women did the 20K race), I not only won my category, I won every female category...By default, but whatever.

We celebrated by having a HUGE breakfast at the Midtown Family Restaurant, complete with pancakes and a HUGE glass of chocolate milk. Apparently, I only race for the excuse to eat all the food.

Later that Sunday, we had our first team dinner at Big Grove in Solon. It was great to meet some of our new team members and to give one of our teammates a hard time. He couldn't make the meeting because he was on his way back from Colorado after racing the Leadville 100. He showed us a photo of him with his feet up and we sent him one back. I love our new racing team.

On the 14th of August, I used up my last day of vacation for the Summer. It was really hot that day, so I went mountain biking in the morning after I FINALLY got my name changed on my social security card.

Playing outside on my bike was a good antidote for having to be practical in the morning. You all know how much I hate to do practical things.

Another thing that happened in August, was that my fat, orange, baby, turned 8. How can he be eight already? Sure, he's big enough to be that old, but he will never be mature enough to be more than a kitten.

I also spent plenty of evenings on the screened-in-porch with an after work beer. Annoying my family by taking pictures of them was just an added bonus.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a friend. She was only 55 years old when she died, which was too damn young. She fell down the stairs and nobody found her for a day or two. It breaks my heart.

She worked at the Felton Place Elevator in Dubuque, so they had her memorial there. It was great to see so many friends and my brother and his wife. My friend Emily gave a great speech about her and we all got to hang out after he favorite bar afterward.

On the following day, we went my friend Harriet's wedding. She is part owner of a restaurant called Leaf. Part of the wedding was a potluck. I have never seen so much amazing food all in one place. Holy cow!

I spent a time hanging out with Harriet in the late 90's and early 2000's, so it was nice to see a lot of my friends from that time too.

Needless to say, it was a very social weekend, which was wonderful, but I needed a week of alone time to recover from it.

The students came back to town in August and so the last couple of weeks have been crazy at work. There is a part of me who thinks it's great to be part of the beginning of so many people's adult lives, and then there's the other part of me who just gets tired by the whole process.

I got six books read during the month. The cats and I still love our upstairs reading room and anticipate much snuggling in the coming colder months.

Thanks for the photo, Angy Snoop.

My second race of the month was my first cyclocross race of the year. As I mentioned above, I'm in pretty crappy shape, and it was ridiculously hot and humid last Saturday, so I didn't so very well. Which I have to come to terms with. I love to race cyclocross, and I can't get upset if I'm old, fat and slow.

I got back from the bike race and then had to get ready to go to John's ex-girlfriend's bachelorette party. One of the younger girls I race bikes with thought it was weird that I would go to her bachelorette party, but I'm friends with John's other girlfriends and his wife. Maybe that's the difference between being in your 20's and 30's and being in your 50's...Or maybe I am just weird.

Finally we had a "lovely" storm last Tuesday with 70 - 85 mile per hour winds. It was not at all kind to our garden. We lost most of our sunflowers and some of our other plants. Of course the squirrels and birds were pretty happy when I put all of the heads of the flowers full of seeds out for them.

Sooo, weddings, funerals, bachelorette parties, races, and big storms. Now you all know why I'm too busy to write. As always, I'll try harder next month.