Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

Someone I taught with at Putney got a job teaching in Kazakstan. As he prepared to move, he started giving away everything he owned. I was worried, wondered if he were preparing to leave this world. Years later I understand his wisdom. I am charging once again on "less is more." But prods out of narrowness such as The Places In Between, about trekking across Afghanistan, not to mention Colbert's I am America - are still appreciated. Note eco-wrapping: napkin cinched with bulk food baggy tie.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Follow these Adventures!

I decided not to enter a life-long funk as a result of a few flat tires. Instead I got sick while cramming for my last exam, forcing some rest and eventually apartment-cleaning, postcard-shopping, and card-writing. I once coached rowing with someone who would go off speaking only in cliches - she was incredible and hilarious in her repertoire - I think of her now to say "it's about the journey," and "it could have been worse," and "c'est la vie," and "don't see the forest for the trees," and "there is always next year." Indeed! Next year, I plan to do my absolute best attempt at cross, building on this season and skipping the pitfalls. For now, even as I follow Rebecca's Euro cross adventures with some longing and sense of how close I came to joining her, I am quite enjoying the chance to tend to the rest of life. (World Cup or DMV? DMV any time!) My most excellent friend Celeste (we met at day camp where the story is that I told her "if I were a boy my parents were going to name me Babar") was trying to tempt me to do a cross-country ski race today but I am wisely opting out. Instead I might venture out on the bike after a record FIVE days off, mainly to say goodbye to Curtis, godfather of Yale Cycling, who is moving back to California on the cusp of wrapping up a dissertation on ancient Greek warfare. But quickly and with uncertainty of how to steer clear of cliche, one consequence of looking back on this season has been recognizing real gratitude. To take part in and share this big bicycling adventure with friendly rivals, teammates from across the country, officials, strangers who open their homes, sleepless promoters, cross mentors, a coach of tremendous dedication and knowledge, my bike mechanic in New Haven, mechanics bailing me out at races, my enthusiastic family, blog-readers, photographers, journalists, my team director, and loyal sponsors, well, I am lucky lucky. Now to point you towards better reading: besides Rebecca's blog, Katie Lambden is writing about a road race in Hong Kong and Velo Bella rider Kathy Sherwin (who did have a near miss at Nationals, flatting on the last lap while riding in 6th) has a great Nationals account. And if you ever get cold, you can read up on my brother in Fairbanks. Here is a Gloucester photo from my mom. Happy new year everyone!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Know your Valves and Lube your Skewers

The return of the digital camera means I don't have to write much. I am embracing the view of this all as a failure to take responsibility for my bikes rather than a confluence of bad luck, which doesn't make the situation any less hollow but is in the end empowering. Did not start fast enough Sunday to avoid getting T-boned at the hole shot and the double flat on lap one probably could have been avoided with proper detective work on Friday's valve extender problem. Cold weather combined with moisture and super low pressure can I guess cause valves that have held air all season to suddenly leak (this is probably not mysterious to those who truly know). As far as lube your skewers, evidently when the cam gets jammed with grit it gives resistance upon closing that does not translate to resistance against the hub, thus the flying wheels Friday. Non-greasy Teflon lube is supposedly what to use. That smiling man is Tom Stevens, who taught me cross and showed me how to ride those icy ruts on Sunday, with characteristic infectious exuberance. So you can see one of the many reasons why self-sabotage by equipment oversight does not go over so well. Tim Johnson is my hero.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This or something better is manifesting itself for the good of all concerned…or maybe not.

I had been having a happy week of flow, flow as in green lights while bike commuting, finding unlikely parking spaces, happening upon the best songs pressing seek on the car radio, not having to pay to fly my bike, and coincidental meetings, like having a favorite professor stop into the bike shop Wednesday night to offer me a good TA job and running into the Olympic Track and Field coach I met in the Newark airport two weeks ago at Bradley on Thursday. I had been doing my athletic homework too – visualizing how I want to ride these races, because good start vs. bad start smooth technically vs. spastic, these are 99% mental with me. Visualizing for sports does work, setting those neural pathways so they are tuned when you get to race day. My legs had come around at just the right time, and I wanted my mind to be ready too. When I mentioned the “flow” concept to Sue MacLean here in Kansas, she asserted somewhat cynically, “This or something better is manifesting itself for the good of all concerned,” a phrase that represents the idea of creating one’s reality stemming from the near-cult book The Secret. We buy it – sort of. Move ahead now to yesterday’s masters 30 race, which I believed was possible to win if I put it all together. Everything was seemingly set for my best attempt: good legs, good warm-up, good friends, Tom Stevens in the pit. Then: Rear flat off the line, bike change, racing, moving up, freak hard crash into the gully before the stairs where my front wheel flew out of the fork, racing, bike change, moving up, freak hard crash into the same gully, losing the front wheel a second time, ripping three spokes out, running the whole paved section, etc. As I was running I was asking myself, when do you throw in the towel? The first supportive words I heard went something like “At least you still have Sunday, which was more important to you anyway,” and “at least it wasn’t a near miss,” and the dependable “that’s racing.” But ultimately all these mechanicals, even the fluke ones, were my responsibility. We got back to the hotel and Sue said to me “This or something better is manifesting itself for the good of all concerned,” and then the laughing started. Sue recounted her wish for a fully-attended podium for her masters 50 race then they messed up the results and they had a podium of six. And then Sara had me read this aloud,, an account by a Slate columnist attempting to use the power of The Secret to procure a new kitchen floor and desk, and get rid of clogged sinuses. We were all just laughing and laughing. Sara is manifesting tons of nice snow for Sunday so we are not racing in a death trap of frozen icy ruts, Sue manifested the windshield clean, and me, watch out Katie and Georgia, here I come!

In terms of the actual racing: Go New England... and Velo Bella! Kathy Savary became a 4-time champ with her win in masters 50, followed by teammate Sue MacLean. Cris Rothfus battled with my Velo Bella teammate and former pro ballerina Shannon Gibson, ending up second. Marci Titus-Hall and Pauline Franscone rode great for 4th and 5th in masters 35. Mo Bruno rode superbly in the mud to win the Masters 30, followed by Josi, then - wow - Sally Annis. Kristi Berg, also an excellent mudder and technical rider, was psyched with a strong ride for fourth. She and her husband Chad adopted me once four years ago at a weekend of Northwest racing and they remain great race friends - Chad LOVES his job as a fireman and has taught me all sorts of useful lessons like not to leave the dishwasher or dryer running when you leave the house. And hot off the press, Amy Dombrowski roared to victory in what sounds like a hair-raising ice bike in the U-23 race this morning! Here I am outside the laundromat.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yowsas: Blog Long Overdue

Wowsas, so much to catch up on...

Portland 1: Two laps in and I was racing in a part of the race I've never seen before (up front). Then I ate it, jammed the brake under the rim and made my way to the pit. Still 12th but something else maybe could have been. But taking away from it some self-belief. Amy rocked. 7th. Rest of the VBs too. City is way too rainy, for all its hip progressiveness.
Portland 2: Resourceful teammates charmed Clif Bar into lending us trainer space in a deluge. Good temperature management, decent start but just not good legs. Think I am really become a granny with this recovery stuff. No messing around.
Last Week: Actually I had a lot of fun at school, fodder for thought on relative risk, CT scans, mercury in tuna, and smoky coal use in rural China for heating and cooking. In my other life, I aspire to be a pundit, a la Colbert. And then the brother comes in to visit from Alaska.
Steadman: New venue, but still a power course. If I can only stop crashing, I might let good legs carry me to a win. Brother in the pit. 5 minutes of fame. Thanks super fans! Oh and I evidently have become a maniac in the car or my brother has fallen victim to Alaskan pace of life, because I was scaring him (and I was getting impatient with him driving). Bike carnage: one bent hanger, one irreparably bent hanger.
Castor's: Bad start and course so technical it was super hard to move up. Ride of the year by Amy. Mel on a great ride but flatted. 3rd for New England Series. 10-year-old xc-ski gloves are going in THE TRASH. Cry for jubilation or sadness, not cold fingers.
This week: BE A PRO. Someone has got to finish top 5 in nationals. Someone has got to win masters 30. Someone has got to go to bed. Photos by Sarah and Dave McElwaine. Thanks!