Monday, December 21, 2009

Where to begin?

So Ive spend the last few months away from my blogity blog. I'm sure I've lost a 1/3rd of my readers, so now I'm down to 3. Better start building up the fan base again.

Where have I been?
Charleston, West Virgina
Beckley, West Virgina
Jackson's Mill, West Virgina
Denver, Colorado
Vail, Colorado
Avon, Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado
(where I saw a bear out front of our lodging and saw Denver people taking pictures of mule
deer - oh it's so CUTE!)
Salida, Colorado
(Where the best gluten free pizza in Colorado is located)
Durango, Colorado
(to visit my bed and stuff)

Why was I in all those places in less than 30 days? One word: work.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Mexico - The Land of Enchantment? Or July, July, July part 2

The 2nd to last week in July, I had my pre-service orientation (PSO) for AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). For those of you who dont know, AmeriCorps is the domestic Peace Corps. Except I already speak the language (mostly), I dont have to move half way across the world, just the country, and finally it is only 1 year requirement. I can do two if I love living at poverty. AmeriCorps whole mission is to eradicate poverty. It was started in the Kennedy administration. Poverty is apparently a bitch to eradicate.

So the newest VISTA in town, Mike, and I drive and drive and drive to Albuquerque New Mexico. The drive between Durango and Albuquerque is effing barren, and all reservations. Coincidence? Highly unlikely.

We were staying at some swanky Marriott for 3 days. Everything is catered, we have more food than we can possibly eat, there are 2 down comforters on my bed, and there is a 36" LCD Samsung in my room. Duplicate that for hundreds of rooms.

The 200+ lot of us was there to learn about AmeriCorps, VISTA, and poverty. The average age of the people there are 23ish. I'm an outlier at then 29. I'm not fresh out of college. I've had a real job. I've traveled to travel because I could afford it, not because Mommy and Daddy were paying my way for a term overseas. But there are plenty of cool people there. Lots of fresh young faces who want to make a difference in the world. Which made up for the palpable naivete in the air.

It was fun, I made friends who I hope I can stay in contact with for quite some time. I hung out with my peeps, who are in my team here in Colorado. We had lots of good bonding over beer. Mike will be my roommate when Bean moves out. Well, he is currently living in the nylon addition, aka a tent in the backyard.

My biggest problem with the whole training week was the whole discussion of what poverty is: how systematic it is in society, and how hard generations of poverty is to break juxtaposed with the posh hotel environment. But that was like a big huge elephant in the room. So we are living well on the government's dime for the week, to be preached at about poverty. Hypocritical? Yes. Starting the discussion at the very beginning - we are sitting here in a bubble - would have been a great start. If nothing else acknowledging it also would have at least gotten the doe eyed and freshly scrubbed recent college grads thinking.

Due to the fact that I loved New Mexico so much, the first week, I get to go back the following week! Yea! This was another work trip with my boss, Allan from DC, my 2 Colorado coworkers, Katrina and Torie, and my soon-to-be New Mexico coworker, Jhon. In 3 days, 2 nights we go Durango -> Taos -> Sante Fe -> Pecos -> Sante Fe -> Albuqueque -> Durango. That would 601 miles (according to Google) in 3 days, 5 people, and 1 large Dodge Durango SUV. Work trips require work. Especially when the boss-dude is around. We had a good time, met with a lot of good folks, learned shit-tons about the water quality issues, abandoned mine lands, the different regulatory agencies, and the culuture of New Mexico.

I found it facinating to actually realize that there were 3 distinct cultures in NM. Anglo, Native, and Latin. Within each main group, there are many subsets. Loads of different tribes and reservations dot the landscape. There are distinct Spanish and Latino cultures, and friction between them. It was insane to hear of remote areas that still speak 16th century Spanish and that towns have been around for 500 years. Then we stopped at Trader Joe's. and loaded the SUV up with goodies (ie beer) and high tailed it the frick home. I was soo very very glad to sleep in my own bed. Four days at home and 6 on the road is hard. Plus I had to start running since I couldnt take the bike with me on the second trip.
The not-so-grand Rio Grande, outside Taos

Post Trader Joe's

Albuquerque's love for Eric Estrada is second to none.

Found at a hotel in Albuquerque, needless to say I did not go swimming.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

July, July, July - Part 1

So in my normal lackadaisical fashion, I havent been very updative. But I'm back with a vengeance (sort of like Bruce Willis, but with less bad acting and blowing things up).

Its been a whirlwind of activity this last month. Where did it all go? Hiking, camping, mtn biking, and New Mexico.

So I spent many a weekend hiking, biking and camping. The trifecta of ings.

One awesome day, B, Emma, some boys, Teal and I went for a ride. We started at Coal Bank Pass, 10,000+', rode to above treeline, changed into non-spandex and "approach shoes" aka my
running shoes and summited Engineer Mountain (13000+'). We got chased down the mountain by a fast moving thunderstorm, changed and then hightailed it into treeline (who wants to be caught above tree line with 26lbs of metal between their legs?). Then we rode from Engineer Mountain to Cascade Lakes. This is a beautiful trail and I got beaten up by Cow Parsnips that were bigger than me (granted, lots of plants are bigger than me, but usually they are trees and shrubs, not flowers).

So what I forgot to mention: everybody but me is a pro rider of some ilk (downhill or cross country), and I had eggs an hour before I rode. I should never ever ever eat eggs before a bike ride, especially a mountain bike ride. I burped my front tire (let lots of the air out when I crashed), got some help from a couple of dudes who were behind me after spending a lot of time walking, getting rained on, and being pissed at myself/my bike. Needless to say, I was a bruised monkey, and learned several valuable lessons:

1) Riding with fast people can make you faster, it can also make you feel very very slow
2) Know how to use your CO2 airhead/cartridge set up
3) Make sure you have the bar plugs in your handle bars
3.1) I have a pretty 1/2 moon scar on my left knee cap to prove it

Sweet single track from Coal Bank to the base of Mt Engineer

From Engineer Mountain, NNE

From Engineer Mountain, Southish

Yea, that left a mark.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Utah, just incase you thought Oregon and Idaho were boring...

ROCKS! (because in Eastern UT thats about all there is, seriously, I dont think animals even live there)

In the land of the Mormons...I'm surprised that modesty hasnt gotten the better of this formation.

Only cool to a geologist.

Here we are descending through time as the road descends.

The CO leg...

The drive over the passes is about to begin...(cue ominous music)

No, thats not you, the town dips down to the right. I wouldnt want to be drunk here, you might fall off.

Leaving weird little Oury

Avalanche Protection. Also notice the stream running across the top.


The road between Ouray and Silverton...the white line was the edge of a large cliff. My mother was really freaked out, especially around the hair pin turns with the 6x12 trailer.

This is what Pim did the whole way.

This is what Eshe thought of the trip...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Le Tour

I sit here watching Le Tour de France, but I am sad. Usually watching the boys clad in candy colored spandex makes me happy. Esp when I can watch it with a roommate/fellow cyclist and we can share stories and swap jabs and cheers about the racers. But not this year. I am missing one of my friends.

My friend Matt Edmonds, a wonderful person, avid cyclist, and fellow geologist was killed when a drunk driver hit him and 2 other cyclists on a training ride in Tulsa (a 2nd cyclist was also killed). Matt was a huge fan of cycling. We used to watch the tour in our respective homes/coffee shops and then excitedly recount each stage. He got me to follow the Daphne and the Giro. We shared a fondness for Jan Ulrich and teasingly called Lance the Mighty Uniballed One.

But its not just him. KMac, vibrant, silly, and strong; had what could have been a catastrophic accident on June 2nd. She will thankfully recover.

Although I did not know Mr G from Portland Velo personally, my heart still hurts, he was a figure in OBRA and we are a close knit organization, any death hurts all of us. He was taken down by a twig. He fought a valiant fight, but the twig and fractured C2 vertebrae won that fight.

Who else? I dont think my heart can handle yet another. I hate this heavy heart. I am ready to be done worrying about my friends and family on their bikes. And I am tired of being sad. So please, my fellow cyclists, ride safe.

And finally, may there always be sunny skies, smooth roads and long descents for Matt and Mr G.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Rules

So there are always rules one has to learn when they move to a new area. Here they are (as far as I can tell) for the Durango area.

1) Texans are to Durango what Californians are to Oregon. But worse. They arent kidding when they say everything is bigger in Texas. People, cars, hair, obnoxiousness, and obliviousity (yes I just made that up).

2) You must like beer. Which really isnt a problem in my case, but there are the few odd people that might be an issue for.

3) Being a mountain biker is no longer special. EVERYBODY mountain bikes out here. I therefore need a new more interesting diving or mountain unicycling, or ultimate pinochle.

4) Most people here work at least 2 jobs to afford their ski/mountain bike bum lifestyle.

5) And lastly there are at least 3 dudes for every chick here. It makes for easy pickings, girls, come on down!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dearest OBRAland

I must say its been a good run.

From the very beginning of my cycling career the people who comprise OBRA have made me feel welcomed and encouraged. I've only been racing for a few short seasons now, but all of you who helped me along the way are very much appreciated. I couldnt have gone as far as I have without you all.

I am sorry that I wont easily be able to race in Oregon for many years to come. I just moved to Durango CO for an AmeriCorps position working with the Western Hardrock Watershed Team. We are doing watershed management in rural and ex mining towns that have issues with acid mine drainage. We help mitigate these problems while rebuilding the strength of the community through a connection to the river and the history of the area. It is awesome. So far, 2 weeks into it, I love my job and my new town. The people here are amazing and are very appreciative of the work

Although this is a great opportunity and will lead me to super awesome places (like an MS and a PhD and a career) I am still sad to have to leave behind all the wonderful people who are OBRA. I am going to miss racing at some of the most beautiful places, the mud (yes I said it, I miss the mud - I actually aimed for a puddle the other day on the trail), and all the ladies that make racing so damn hard.

So, thank you OBRA. You will be missed.

I'd also like to give a special shout out to the ladies of the Poplollies for putting up with my mountain bike antics on the road. And to Peak Sports/Team Dirt/Gregg Rouse/Mike Ripley/Chris Brandt for helping me make this season a great mtn bike season. And especially Ripley for not upgrading me to a Cat 1 before I moved. :D

Though this training at 6500' elevation will hopefully come in handy when I do see you all on a bike again.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pickett's Charge Race Report

I am leaving on the 18th to SW Colorado, Durango in fact. So Pickett's Charge was my last race in Oregon for at least 14 months, if not several years. Pickett's is my favorite course in all of Oregon mountain biking. I'm glad that my favorite course was my last race.

Whenever I warm up, especially at elevation, I always feel awful. Legs wont turn over well, stomach is all upset, mind wandering all over the place. I force myself to just do it, because I know it'll hurt more if I dont. It was with a little bit of a heavy heart that I lined up with the other Cat 2 ladies. I have been having a great season, so I was excited to really give it a go and see what I could do; though sad that I am going to miss all of this and all the women I see every few weeks.

So the "gun" (really it is an official who counts down into a loud speaker) and I punch it. I just go. Michelle and I are in the front, we had great starts. I keep up the pace, but it doesnt feel very fast at all. I feel like a slug actually. I am expecting the field to swarm around me any second. They dont. I look over my shoulder and to my grand surprise there is NOBODY there. I can see the rest of the field, maybe 20-30 seconds behind me. What the hell? I'm first into the single track?!? Thats never happened before. This is super awesome, I dont have to worry about passing people! Oh wait, thats right, I have to worry about people riding up on me and trying to pass me. Ugh. So my entire thought process at this point is "dont screw this up, dont screw this up!"

I get to the first technical section. Oh man. I've not ridden my mtn bike much in the last 3 weeks, opting for the speed of the road bike instead. I rolled over the first set of sharp poky rocks just fine. I cheered for myself. Still in the lead with one lady (Karen from Bend Bike N Sport) behind me I hit the 2nd technical section. I didnt have enough speed, which means I couldnt easily roll over the rocks. I got my front wheel hung up and that knocked me down. I wasnt really moving, which makes me feel even more stupid. I whack my left hip and left elbow pretty well. I see blood, but its not dripping so get back up. Or I should say I TRY to get back up, in doing so I stepped on the rocks with the heel of my right shoe. Not having any traction I lost my footing and hit the deck again, but this time with my right elbow. Great. I'm so damn graceful. All sorts of other women stream by me.

The rest of the race (15 of the 19 mile or so) go off with out much of a hitch. I slow down for sure in some spots. The course makes it very hard to eat, even to grab a gel that are tucked up in the leg of my shorts. I take a few pulls of the Cytomax (energy drink) from the bottle and some water from the Camelback. The course isnt super technical, but just twisty turny. Very speed controlled. At one point a girl tries to pass me when we are walking over non-rideable stuffs and she knocks me over (though it was an accident, I lost my full pack of Clif Bloks and dropped my chain - so I lost time, again). I am now pissed. I chase her down. I can tell I'm low on calories. I hope I can maintain and not bonk. Then all of the sudden we pop out at the T junction where we turn back on the fire road towards the finish. YES! I throw it in my big ring and push it HARD. I have a 1-1.5 miles to go. I can give it everything. And I can see this woman who knocked me down. I want her.

I power down the fire road. I finally have the woman close enough to give it a go, but we are 50m and closing from the finish chicane. I dig DEEP. We have to take a 90 degree left turn into the finish chute. But we are going from compacted dirt to thick deep gravel, this could be a disaster - but hey wiping out at the finish is better than at mile 5! She turns and I swing wide into the corner, Tokyo drifting as I go. I punch it for the last time and come into the finish hot. The officials and organizers are standing around pulling tags and are motioning to me to slow down. So I grab the brakes hard and slide sideways on the deep gravel into the finish. Not quite as good as a one handed wheelie. But I'll take it.

I thought I was like 5th-3rd. I can never tell in the Cat 2s (aka Sport) since there is a Masters 35+ and an Open 18-34. We all have the same tag color. So I'm standing around, changing, eating. Getting my elbow cleaned out by the very bored cute medic on site. I wander over to look at what placing I got. 2nd!?!??!??? Holy crap, batkids! I ended up 3 minutes behind the leader. Between crashing and being knocked over/chain drop I could have contested that. But thats how racing goes. All sorts of what ifs and and woulda couldas. But I'll take 2nd. Esp after crashing and not eating.

I know now I'm probably being called the sand bagger. I would upgrade if I was not moving to mtn biking heaven. I make no promises to be even remotely competitive out there.

I love mountain biking.

Pictures coming soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Thaw 2009

Yea yea, slightly out of logical order, since the was was on the 16th. Only 10 days late.

The weather persons called for a high near 90 in Ashland. When my start time came around it was sunny and warm. Two of my favorite weather terms, ever. So Spring Thaw is a true climber's course. About 10 miles up gravel roads, 8 miles across a rolling with a slight descent gravel/fire roads, and then the rest of the 24 mile course down hill on single track and downhillers course.

Everybody lined up super early when I was warming up. All the category 2 fields and single speeders were started in a mass start, and I got stuck at the way back. Whoops. I think to myself, great, now I have to try to pass all these ya-hoos. Surprisingly enough, it was easier than expected. I just kept the pace high and rode what was comfortable for me. I pass Michelle (Team Dirt) and Jenny ( who was glued to the back of Michelle's wheel. Michelle hops on my wheel and we off we go. I look back occasionally and see Jenny still there, so I turn up the pace just a tad. Soon we drop her. Soon we drop everybody, all the masters men battling it out for their world championship title every week, all the single dudes. We are climbing forever. I keep trying to visualize where we are on the map in my head and the spot that is me, is moving so very slowly compared to the size of the course. Ugh.

Michelle comes around me, I hop on her wheel, but she keeps cranking it up. My brain only screams why? I stay there for a couple of miles, but I have gotten bored on the gravel only climb and I'm having a hard time making myself care enough to stay with her. I let her and the couple of guys she was towing go. I find my own entourage of masters men to tow up the hill. We have jovial conversations about cycling and the like. Well I have jovial conversations, they are mostly grunting or wheezing at me. I hear one of them call me an animal on the only steep single track section. I respond back that no, I'm just 50lbs lighter than them so I have less to haul up a hill. That probably didnt make them any happier - I wasnt calling them fat, just pointing out that they are average to tall dudes, and I'm a mostly petite female. I dont know what it is, but this year I really feel like climbing and I have become close friends.

I finally get to the top! I dont have a watch or a speedometer or even a heart rate monitor on at this point. I'm just going. The side hill gravel road was in great shape, had a slight net decent of a 2-4%. Big ring time. Nobody in sight for the most part, couple of dudes who pop out of the woods and FLY by me. So I keep on trucking at my pace. I'm singing the Eel's "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues" (dont ask, I'm weird, and mostly it was the refrain of "Goddamn right its a beautiful day!") and grinning. I feel good, I've had enough to eat, I feel strong. I am going to decimate this race. I know it. I pedal harder.

I get to the downhill section. I was worried about this. My usual weakness is the descending part. I tend to be timid and over use my brakes. So I made pact with myself: Since I was feeling good and had plenty of calories in me I would go as hard as I could. I would let off the brakes, and let my bike do what it is supposed to do - ride over obstacles in my way. I giggled the whole way down. I kept off the brakes as much as possible and I hardly got passed by any of the guys behind me. I was wishing on parts of the course that I had full suspension. My legs started to cramp when I had my right foot forward too often. So I taught/forced myself to do it with the left forward (I'm totally 100% left footed, I snowboard goofy, and on the mtb when my left foot is back, I can control the bike much easier). I kept it upright until some young kid came bombing down the hill out of control, I let him pass but he wiped out on a sandy corner directly in front of me. I either
ate it, or I ran over him. I ate it.

So I get down into town. I have to finish on the road. As I'm hauling ASS on the road, so idiot in a mini van (go figure) backs up and turns to go down the road too. Except he has no clue that there is a bike race happening. So he is going down the hill at below the posted speed limit and braking into the corners. I am desperate to get around this dude, but I am not going to pass on blind corners. So I bide my time and get around the moron. I finish at 2:31. Michelle finishes 5 minutes before I do (probably due to that dumb van).

We both win our categories (Michelle is in the 35+ Cat 2, I'm in the under 35 Cat 2)! I won by huge amounts of time. And by huge I mean over 30 minutes.

It wasnt the hardest or even the most mtn bikey course I've ever ridden. But it still felt good to win. I am going to try to do that from now on. Well until I get upgraded that is.

Podium Shot