Sunday, November 24, 2013

Clydesdale Category, part 4, final

Test Of Endurance

I'd already locked up the series championship, so I had the luxury of choosing between the standard TOE (50 miles) and the extended TOE (100K).  Only the shorter race counted toward the series - it was two laps around the course, and the extended course added a jaunt up to the top of Mary's Peak.  I'd never ridden on the trails up there, so I figured I'd do that.

Race day came and I headed out.  I had gotten a free entry from a guy on Facebook who'd won it in a raffle and wasn't going to use it (yay).  It looks like I didn't warm up much, which was kind of my game plan as it was going to be my longest MTB ride ever - 62 miles.  I vaguely remember getting a few minutes of spinning in - and I was pedaling in circles as Ripley talked us through the race.

Ripley drove us out for a mass start, and I steadily made my way toward the front.  At one point I was in a group that was falling behind the leader group and I realized it was just silly of me to sit back here resting when w/out too much effort I could be in the lead group.  So up I went.

I rode next to Trevor Norland for a little bit - he seemed impressed.  I asked his heart rate, and he was cruising around 130 - I didn't let on that I was north of 150.  I remember thinking that I was probably pushing a little too hard for the beginning of what was to be a long day, but I was a little stoked to be with the lead group.

About 5 miles in, the grade got quite a bit steeper and the lead group got away from me.  I stuck with Trevor for a couple of minutes, but he too slipped away.  I dialed the pace back a bit and settled in for the long climb.  At some point, Melissa Norland caught up with me, and we rode together for a few minutes until we hit the first aid station.  She pointed out the only other Clyde - he was just ahead, but I let myself get psyched out (he regularly races in the 100 mile races) and I figured I'd just let him ride away.  At the aid station, Mel downed some fluid and took off - that was the last I saw of her.  I ate a bit, rested for two minutes and took off.  On to the trail up Mary's Peak.

I didn't realize the course we were doing would take us past where Mary, Simone and I go mushroom hunting, but it did.  The race course traversed across to the Woods Creek gate, and then up the North Ridge trail.  I guess folks generally come down this trail, but we were going up it because Mike figured people were less likely to crash going up and perhaps he'd save himself the hassle of coming to rescue someone.

The trail going up is pretty rooty.  The conditions were great, sunny but cool, the roots were dry and the trail smooth (aside from the roots).  At first I tried getting up all the roots, but as the trail got steeper, and the roots larger, I started walking some.  The pucker factor (aka fcsk-up factor) was pretty high at points due to the steep fall if you went over the side of the trail, so I was OK with walking some of them.  But, the entire time I rode up I marveled at the beauty of that trail.  I've really only hiked up it in the rain and/or snow - this was the first time I'd been on it when it is at its prime.

I was pushing pretty hard going up, and right about the mid-point of the climb (just over 2 hours into the entire race) I started to blow up.  I realized this and pulled over (as much as you can on a trail that's 18 inches wide) and stopped to eat some corn nuts and drink some water.  I stood there for a few minutes, letting my heart rate come down.  A number of people passed me, and while I felt a little disappointed about that, I knew it was the right thing to do.  There was no point in wrecking myself when I hadn't even gone 1/3 of the race.  After 3 minutes and half a bag of corn nuts (there is just something wonderful about salty and crunchy when racing) I hopped back on the bike and resumed the climb.  Looking at my heart rate data, I didn't really ride much easier, but I did feel tons better.

I kept an eye on the roots, and another eye on the odometer, and I pushed my way up to the top.  At the top I sat down and took 6 minutes off the bike just to rest and relax.  I was in no real rush.  Justin was at the top helping folks out.  I saw the 14 year old make his way past me and realized - I've got to beat him.  So, after a couple more minutes sitting down, I hopped back on and began the descent.

The trail down was fun and fast.  Luckily, I didn't run into but two or three groups of hikers, and I cleanly rode all but the one corner that was well advertised as being full of loose, slippery rock.  The down was over super fast, and then the course followed a road back to the Woods Creek gate - rather disappointing to lose all that elevation on a gravel road.  Luckily, right at the gate the race course dropped into a two mile stretch of singletrack - which helped ease the loss of elevation.

A quick ride back on the road and we were back at the aid station to continue on the standard TOE course.

The rest of the ride was a blur.  I remember stopping and resting at each aid station in an effort to ensure I had all my facilities available for the descents.  I remember riding Dinner and a Movie and cleaning the "Danger" section both times (it was scary as all get out the year prior).  I remember enjoying the Side Trail as much as ever (my favorite section of trail in that forest) - and getting passed by a gal on a single speed on it.  I don't know where she had been before passing me, but she was flying when I saw her (so why was she behind me to begin with?).

At some point I did pass the 14 year old kid.  He's a part of the family from Washington who did all the OBRA XC races last year.  I remember seeing his sisters (they ride in long skirts - very noticeable) dominate the podium, and it turns out he's no slouch himself.

I ended up finishing the race after 7.5 hours of riding, 8:12 total time - yes, that's a lot, and nearly 11,000' of elevation gain.  The other Clyde was a mere 12 minutes ahead of me (I rested 45 minutes total) - I could have made up that time had I wanted, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

I could see doing that race again, even with it being as long as it is.  The trails are pretty darned fun, and Mike always runs a well-stocked and well-marked race.

That was it for the XC series, I'd locked the series up with my Pickett's Charge race, and this was just gravy.  Actually, it was more for training, as the next race on my calendar was but 2 weeks away, and would be guaranteed to be longer and harder - the High Cascades 100 miler...

Clydesdale Category, part 3

Pickett's Charge

I love this course.  It's just so different than what we have in the Willamette Valley - lots of bermed corners, open pine forest, mini rock gardens, and the start is so well done that there's never been any confusion.

I headed over to Bend to camp out the night before the race with Jason Saunders since the course is so far away.  We got over there a few hours before sundown and pre-rode the course.  It was a beautiful evening and we did the full lap.  This year's course added a couple of miles of dirt road in the beginning - I think to let the groups stretch out a bit more before diving into the singletrack.  Nice idea in principle, but it did mean sacrificing about 3 miles of singletrack.

We had a lovely ride around the course, chatting away.  Jason seemed adamant about picking paths through the couple of challenging rock gardens, and he made several attempts at each of them.  I was content to watch the sun cast shadows through the forest.  We started a second lap, the part that was now skipped on the first lap b/c of the extra road mileage, and after about 15 minutes on that, we turned back for dinner.  It couldn't have been more idyllic - the sun low in the sky, just a few gray clouds.  Two hours of riding and no drive home to deal with.

We ate dinner and chatted until it got too cold.  We said goodnight and went off to bed.

I slept in the back of the Subaru - I was too lazy to set up a tent, and the forecast was for a little rain, so I wasn't about to sleep under the stars.  That turned out to be a good call as it rained off and on all night.  The bright side of that was that the rain would keep the dust down on the trails.

We ate breakfast, registered, did a nice warm-up ride - nearly 40 minutes.  I then got a little cold, waiting for the race to start.  Things were delayed a little bit by some guy deciding to drive his pickup truck through the racers.  Everyone thought this was rude, but it turns out, he was going to pick up Bryan Ross (see previous race) who had crashed and suffered a concussion during his warm-up.  Luckily, he seemed to turn out OK, but he didn't race that day.

It had been sprinkling on and off all morning, and the start of the race was no different.  The Clydesdales and the Cat 2 Men 50-59 and 60+ all started together, so it was a bit challenging to see who I'd be racing against.  We took off and began the nearly 4 miles of dirt road riding.  I didn't start quite as fast as I should have and had to spend a few minutes of energy catching up to the lead group - you'd think I'd learn.  We cruised pretty fast in a pace-line, eventually catching up to a few of the stragglers of the Cat2 40-49 (Jason was one of the first, he hadn't been riding much this year).  The pace-line spread out a bit, and I worked to stay with the top 4 or 5 guys, letting the others spread out behind us.  This meant I was in good position - the first Clydesdale.

Since I had pre-ridden the course, I knew the turn off of the road onto the single track was a crazy sharp left turn (think 120 degrees), and as we flew up to it the first few guys totally missed it.  I was beginning my turn when a guy came up on my inside and I fell.  I scraped my knee just a little bit, but was OK other than that.  But, that did mean I lost some precious time there as a bunch of people passed me while I was dusting myself off.  I didn't lose but a minute or so, but even Jason caught up and passed me.

I spent the next 5-10 minutes just getting my composure back.  I think things like a little crash, or having to get off and walk the bike, really throw me off.  I'd been pushing pretty hard, but I think the transition to singletrack would have been ok, but after the crash, it really felt challenging to get back up to speed.  I was definitely having to work to breathe - granted, we were at 5200' elevation, but still.

It turns out, a Clydesdale passed me at that point.   grrr....  He finished 4 minutes in front of me.  Jason finished 20 minutes behind me, happy to be done.

The race was fun, as usual.  The overall topography is all downhill the first half, then all uphill to the finish.  I pushed pretty hard on the first lap, and kind of settled into a nice rhythm in the second.  In general, I tried not to let people pass me, and there were but a few - generally much smaller - guys who did.  Right at the beginning of the second lap I was riding with a couple other guys - they were stuck behind me (they didn't ask, so I didn't pull over).  One of them was the Cat 2 50-59 series winner.  He figured he was third in this race and I told him we could try to catch the other guys, but he wasn't too worried, so we just chatted and rode.  We eventually dropped the other two that were with us and it was just the two of us.  I'd like to say I beat him, but I've a feeling he dropped me at some point.

I rolled across the finish line after a final burst of speed (just to make sure no last minute passes happened), and that's when I found out I was second.  Bummer, but it was by 4 minutes, which is a lot to make up.  I chatted with third place after the race, he was almost two minutes behind me.  He said he kept on seeing me, but just couldn't catch up - go me.

I stayed for the awards ceremony, and of course the Clydesdales were the 2nd to last to get awards, by which time it had begun to pour and most everyone had left.

Jason and I packed up and drove home.

Clydesdale Category, part 2

Alsea Falls

For some reason, this race was pegged as the XC championships, which basically means it's a regular race, except that the winner of each category/age-group gets to claim to be the "state champion."

I like Alsea Falls, it's got a nice, paved road up to the top, and then a mixture of logging roads and pretty nice singletrack coming down.  None of it is very technical, it's all pretty shaded, and it's close to home.  I volunteered to help set up to get the race entry fee waived (thanks Mike!).  And, until about 10 minutes before the race, I was the only Clydesdale registered.

I didn't get much time to warm up - I changed into my gear and then switched places with Todd - who was directing folks driving in.  Todd hadn't even registered at that point.  I got about 10 minutes to spin my legs before the race, which wasn't very good, but since I was the only Clyde... no big deal.

Of course, as I rolled up to the start, Ripley is on the microphone and entertaining people as the different flights take off.  He points me out, along with one other Clyde - Bryan Ross.

That name won't mean much to you, but I recognized him.  At the end of the Cascade Chainbreaker I remember chatting with him briefly, well, it was more like I butted into a conversation I overheard.  He talked about winning his category, and I noticed he was kind of a big guy, and a little older than me.  Not real tall, maybe 5'7", but pretty barrel-chested.  You could tell he wasn't a fat guy, just large.  I was confused, because I remembered seeing my name atop the Clydesdale category, so I made a mental note of his race number and looked him up when I got home.  He had won the Cat 2 Men 40-49 group, and gotten 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the other races (same category) - obviously a fast dude.

Well, his team had convinced him he should race Alsea Falls as a Clyde - for team points.

Not only was I racing against a ringer, who was older than me, he also had his grandchildren at the race to watch him.

He was a legitimate Clydesdale, tipping the scales at 220#.  Evidently, he had weighed 305# at one point, dropped down to 180#, didn't like how he felt, and he was back up to 220# and happy there.

The starter gun/beep went off and we took off, along with a young group (15 year olds).

Bryan left me in the dust going up the hill - and I figured the hill would be my strength.  As it was, I had to work pretty hard to stay even with the 15yo's - some of which passed me.  By the end of the climb, I'd caught all the 15yo's and saved a little face.  I was reassured myself that they were faster going up because they weighed but half of what I weighed... still.

I didn't see Bryan again, but I heard he had a pretty hard crash.  You can judge for yourself - his crash is on YouTube right here.  He cracked a few ribs, brushed himself off, and finished the race 7 minutes ahead of me.  The man is a machine.

I don't remember a lot of details about the race.  There were the big water ditches (that Bryan crashed on), and at one point a guy in green asked if he could get by - and I've never seen anyone disappear that fast.  He flew past me at nearly double speed.  If only I could acquire some of those skills...

I remember catching a few of the other Team Dirt guys who had started a couple rows ahead of me, so I felt good about that.

I look forward to more races there.  Team Dirt and the BLM are working together to put in nearly 20 miles of trails in the next few years (2 miles of MTB specific trail have already been put in since this race).  It should be an awesome place to bike. 

Clydesdale Category, part 1

I finished the XC series, racing at Sister's Stampede, Alsea Fall's, Pickett's Charge, and The Test Of Endurance.  Wow... so much to catch up on.

First, spoiler alert.  I won the XC series for Clydesdale.

Now, on to the races.

Sister's Stampede

First, the Sister's Stampede.  As usual, it was over the same weekend as Simone's birthday.  She and Simone gratefully helped me get to the race.  It was HUGE - the promoters had to turn away around 150 people, but I had pre-registered and got in no problem (though I did miss out on the complementary socks).

I warmed up for a nice, solid, 30 minutes, weaving my way through the beginners as they started 30 minutes before the rest of the riders.  I lined up with some 20 other Clydesdales, which was pretty amazing.  I'd never raced with such a large group before - it was pretty exciting.

So, the gun went off, and the pros took off, then the Cat 1 guys, then the women, ... and various other groups until us big guys lined up.  They said, "go" and we went.  I was about a third of the way back in the pack and figured I should head up to the front.  I worked hard and by about a mile and a half I was with two other guys in the front.  I wasn't quite topped out, but pretty close.  We had put a little distance between ourselves and the rest of the pack, so I felt content to hang with them knowing we were the top 3.

At about mile 3, we started catching up to the stragglers from the wave in front of us (Cat 2 old guys), passing them pretty easily.  There's a straight away road section at 3.5, and we settled into a pace line, passing guys right and left.  The guy in front took off, and I was in third and didn't immediately jump after him - I guess I was waiting for number two to do so, dumb of me.  I didn't have much left anyway, so I don't know if I could have kept up with him, but I still felt like a dork missing my chance to stay with him.  After about a minute I decided I shouldn't let the guy get too much of a lead, so I took off, and number two fell in line behind me.  We were passing people quickly, but then number two (now number three) passed one guy too closely and clipped the guy's front wheel - instantly taking him out.  I looked back to see if the guy was OK - he was swearing enough to confirm he was pissed and not hurt.  I didn't (still don't) know the etiquette of what to do when that happens, but it wasn't me that caused the crash so I kept on keeping on.

I put a little distance between me and number two as the road continued to climb.  At one point I thought I might be passing number one (it was a guy with crazy hair), but it turns out I was mistaken and number one was long gone.  Number two eventually caught up with me - I couldn't put too much distance between us, because he caught me when we got slowed down by a group of Cat 2 guys.

So, we chatted a little, as we waited for opportunities to pass the choke points - we agreed to work together to catch number one.  There was a lot of singletrack with small rock gardens sprinkled around.  Every time we got to a rock garden things would back up quite a bit.  It's like an accordion - the first guy slows down a little bit because of the rocks, the person behind him slows down even more, eventually someone is forced to come to a stop and then it's all over, everyone gets pissed off and folks start yelling.

At one point, when the yelling got real loud I snapped and went around the rock garden, with number two right behind me.  It worked out - I was able to find a clear path around the rocks and made it through before the first guy left the garden.  And we were off!

Number two and I chatted a bit, and then the trail started heading downhill.  I tried to go real fast, but number two wasn't going anywhere.  He asked if I minded letting him in front, and as he went by he said, "just hang onto my rear wheel!" - and then he disappeared.

Seriously, I don't know how to descend well enough - especially in the Bend/Sister's terrain.  There was little to no chance of me keeping up with him.  I caught up with him and passed him on the next climb, but he was in front again as soon as we turned down.  The climbing was over for the most part by mile 14, and that's pretty much the last time I saw number two.  oh well.

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful (plus it's been 6 months, so I don't recall much).  I felt good, the descents felt better than they did the year prior.  I rode most everything cleanly, passing fewer and fewer people as the day went on, and only two or maybe three guys passed me - all pretty small - so no worries about losing positions.

Long story short, I rode pretty hard.  I left a little in reserve as I approached the end of the forest.  I didn't want any Clyde passing me in the last 100 feet like the year before.  I punched it pretty hard on the last little bit.  I rode into the finish area, feeling confident about my position.

Turns out I got fourth.  No idea where the first place Clydesdale came from, somehow he came in front of the two guys I was racing with.  None of us recalled a Clyde passing us.  We all lodged complaints (independently), but no change was made.  I didn't really care - the difference between 3rd and 4th for me wasn't important (1st and 2nd - that's a different matter).  The guy's story is that he actually started behind us with the Cat 2 women - only thing is, there are no pictures of the guy on the photo pages.

It was my second time racing that race, and I improved by four minutes and 6 places - boo-yah!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Downtown Fountain

At some point this summer, Simone and I had a trip down to the fountain.  She played and played, had a grand time.  We chased each other on the grass to dry off, and then finished up with fries and a rootbeer.

Simone is so zen

Caped crusader

A pink burrito underfoot

Finishing with fries and a rootbeer

Monday, November 11, 2013

Artsy Beach Photos

We've gone to the beach twice in the past three months, and while there I did take a few artsy photos.
Seaweed in Newport

Seaweed in Newport

Gearhart Ripples

Sand Worm?  Gearhart

Signs of Bigfoot in Gearhart

Classic "fairy" mushroom, Gearhart

The trips themselves were fun, but I thought I'd have a post just for pretty pictures.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Meow Meow Cat Deluxe

Simone made a third coloring page to finish the set.

Meow Meow Cat Deluxe by Simone

She's made books in the past, books for reading, books to teach you how to draw... perhaps she'll make a coloring book in the future.

Witch Cat

Simone has come up with a second coloring page for folks to use and play with  We've already colored the first one.  She promptly cut out the cats and we played with them.  And those are a bunch of brooms for the cat to ride on.


Witch Cat by Simone

Cat Deluxe

Simone enjoys drawing pictures, and coloring in coloring pages we find on the internet.  So, this morning Simone decided she wanted to contribute back to the world.  She drew this picture and wanted it to be available for all the kids to find and download to color themselves.

I hope people find it.

Cat Deluxe coloring page
And, if anyone does download it and color it in, Simone would probably be tickled pink if we got to see the colored version.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Wait.... what? Yup, We Got A Dog!

Her name is Ruby.

She is a Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle.  Mary did a bunch of research to figure out what kind of dog should be the best fit for our family.  Long story short, Labradoodle is it.

Happy with her new puppy.
We picked her up the first weekend of August, at the ripe young age of 9 weeks.  She was somewhat potty trained and had been socialized to some extent.  We were excited to see how a puppy would get along with Simone and Jupiter.

What's this camera thing?
We began puppy play classes pretty quickly to socialize her with other puppies, and started with the joy of potty training.

Simone loves her puppy.
Simone loves Ruby and they get along well.  We're not sure if Ruby thinks Simone is more alpha than herself, or if they're siblings.  Time will tell.

You have a treat for me?
Ruby potty trained pretty quickly, she began sleeping through the night in just a few weeks (yay!), with really no accidents after two months (ignoring the two pees at the beach house this past weekend).  We've been doing daily walks, playing with a flirt stick, and lots of training.
The first week or so of sleeping in the crate was a little brutal - she would whine for 10-30 minutes, and finally settle down.  But we've been fortunate as she is a quick learner and has adjusted real well.
As she is a Labradoodle - she doesn't shed, so we need to trim.  You can see in the picture above, her eyes are kind of obscured by fur... so we trimmed it the other night.

I have Wallace & Gromit eyes, don't I?
The trim looks fine - we think she can see a lot better now as she's picked up an annoying habit of barking.  She must not have been able to see anything before, and now, gee, there's a whole world out there to bark at.  Or, it could be that she's right in the middle of her (equivalent) teen years.

First Grade

This is the year of first grade.  Yup, Simone began the school year with Mr. Highfield - who will be her teacher through 8th grade if all goes according to plan.  She and 16 other kids are all getting to know each other real well.
Yay, first grade!!!
It's been a little bit of an adjustment, she gets to sit at a desk, which is both exciting and challenging.  She's currently in the "gold" row, and every month she gets a new desk partner.

So far they've gone through a unit of reading/writing and a unit of math, and while she loves reading, she had some resistance to math initially.  It seems as though Mr. Highfield was able to get through that resistance and she had a good time.
Also, she learned to finger crochet, and then made some knitting needles and is now knitting like a mad woman - I think she's knit more than Mary has in the past week.  She's made a scarf for her stuffed animals, a small kitten and a momma cat.  I'm sure she'll soon learn the purl stitch soon.

Snow queen outfit
We had the Halloween celebration just last week, and tomorrow night we have the lantern walk with the 2nd and 3rd grade classes.

Gwinna costume - made by Mary

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Cost of Being Fat

I got an email from some guy I didn't know some months ago.  Somehow he'd found my post about an OSU study on obesity. It was kind of odd to get a "cold call", but it was definitely personal and not spam.  So I checked it out, and it's an interesting video that gives a good visualization of some of the changes in our food supply recently.  Check it out:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Early Morning

Everyone was up early this morning. I was the last to rise at 5:20. It's going to be an interesting day. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sunday Afternoon

After church, Simone and I headed home to grab some lunch before our big adventure in the woods.
We loaded up the car with our bike and a half. Simone had her Camelbak full of water, snacks, tools, and extra clothes. Yes, I made her carry stuff - she did it without complaint. 
Riding toward Dimple Hill
We started at Lewisburg Saddle and took the high road to the top do Dimple Hill. There we ran into some friends, Maddie and Ashley, who had walked the same route we rode. The girls played in the leaves while Ashley and I caught up. 
Making a bed out of leaves
We had a little snack and then it was time to get back on and ride down Dan's Trail (singletrack), over the road Horse Trail. We actually ran into some folks on horseback while on the roads, which pleased Simone to no end. 
We passed a gaggle of college kids on bikes at the bottom of Horse, so I macho-ed it up by riding with Simone up Horse Trail.  Most of it was ride able, though I faltered on a couple of the switch backs.
Simone definitely helped out quite when she pedaled - it was pretty easy to go up the slight inclines. I think she was probably pulling more than her weight at those points.

Horse Trail
Another glorious fall day in Corvallis.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sunday Morning

I got out for an early morning ride on Sunday. I like early morning rides, but they're just too early for me in general.

Due to our Sunday plans, early was the time I'd get. 

I rode through the fog and dark, heading up to Chip Ross from Timberhill. I stopped near the top of the climb for some photos (I could have continued climbing).

Watching the sun rise and moon set
Then I scooted over to Dan's trail, descended into the fog again, and then began slogging up Dan's trail to the top of Dimple Hill. 
Fog thinning out a bit, between Lower and Upper Dan's

After not biking much for the past two months, I got out three times this past week - and each ride ended with riding down The Face (crazy steep - 0.3 miles at 29% grade - too steep to walk). 

Looking down "The Cheek"
So here I was, at the top for a fourth time. I took a couple of photos of the fog blanketing Corvallis, and I dropped down a different trail (The Cheek, if you will).
I used to climb this trail weekly when I took Hazel on walks to Oak Creek, but it has some poison oak, so I tend to avoid it. But right now the conditions are perfect - the poison oak has died off for the season, and the trail isn't muddy yet. Even better, a huge tree blocking the road had been removed, and a new entrance to some trails opened up a quarter mile early.  This all resulted in almost a continuous single track experience from the top of Dimple Hill to the gate at Oak Creek. Simply awesome. 

I made it home in time to help Simone finish breakfast as Mary headed off to some training.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Who's Ready For Ski Season?

Simone is!!!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

And I'm Back

So much going on in the past months. Quick recap:

Simone turned 7. 
I finished the XC series and won the Clydesdale category. 
I completed a 100 mile mountain bike ride. 
We went to Alaska on a cruise with my folks. 
We got a puppy dig, Ruby. 
Simone started first grade. 
My uncle, Burr, died and we went to Denver for the memorial. 

There ya go, all caught up now.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Question of the day

Jupiter came to our back door tonight, proudly displaying his catch (a small mouse).
Mary ran out and freed the mouse, bringing Jupiter inside. 
Simone asked Mary why Jupiter was so mean, and Mary explained about cats being born to hunt and all that. 
After watching the mouse recover for a while, Simone turned to Jupiter and solemnly asked. "Why do you have kill God's nature?"

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cascade Chainbreaker 2013

This past weekend I had the Cascade Chainbreaker - an XC race in Bend.  We took this opportunity to make a quick camping trip - staying overnight at Tumalo.

We packed up the Prius and headed out, driving from sunny Corvallis to cloudy Bend.  hmmm... we were greeted by thunder clouds and a sprinkling of rain.  This was not in the plan.  Luckily, the rain was light and only lasted 10 minutes.

We set up camp, got a fire started, and set down to have a delicious dinner of hot dogs roasted over the fire, salad, crackers and cheese, followed by (of course) s'mores.  After cleaning up we took a short walk along the river and enjoyed the sunset.

The next morning Simone woke up at 5:30, but let us snooze until around 6:30.  We packed, ate some breakfast and headed to the race at the very prompt time of 9:15.

At the race, I did all the usual registration stuff, and Mary and Simone got ready to hang out.  The race course actually loops through a central area three times in a short distance - which is great for spectators.  They could hang out in a shaded area and watch riders constantly streaming in and out, up and down over obstacles.  It's probably the best race from a spectator point of view.

I started warming up and did the start lap and the looping through the central area, then did a second start lap.  I had plenty of time to warm up and felt relaxed.  The start lap reminded me that on the narrow, windy singletrack in Bend, you have to pay attention every second because otherwise you'll end up off the path and crashing into a bush or rock.

The start was staged along the road with signs for each wave.  Clydesdales, fat bikes and all the CAT 2 men were a part of the same wave.  I got in line about 15 minutes before the race was to start and was in the middle of the pack of CAT 2 guys.  I'd have liked to have been closer to the front, but wasn't worried about it - I knew we were all in the same situation.

I felt a little anxious/nervous before the start, which was unexpected, but what could I do?  I ate my banana, a little bit of a clif bar, finished my electrolyte bottle and swapped in the energy bottle.  I was getting tricksy - different mixes in each bottle.  Mary and Simone came up to the start right before the race began and cheered me on.

The gun went off, and we started up like a herd of wildebeast.  Other people seemed to know about my secret game plan of starting off strong to get good position heading into the singletrack, and they tried to do the same.  I passed some people, and luckily was able to avoid two guys who took eachother out on the initial climb.  The pack stretched out a little bit by the end of the dirt road climb and we headed down the dusty doubletrack.

Man was it dusty.  On that initial down section, I gave up any thought of passing people and tried my hardest to follow the line of the guy in front of me - in the hopes he was following a clean line from the person in front of him.  For long sections I literally could not see the trail.  It was a little freaky, but there really wasn't choice.

At this point, I caught sight of a guy I figured was a Clyde and stuck to him.  I'd have tried to pass him, but I was pushing my hardest and couldn't go any faster.  I stuck with him as we rolled in and out of the looping finish area.  At some point we caught up to/were caught by another Clyde, and the three of us stayed close for a while, leap frogging each other and passing other folks.

As we headed out on the main loop, it turned more into me chasing the two of them.  I kept them in sight, until the larger Clyde slowly gapped us (that's what happens when someone else gets between people).  Then I just focused on staying close to the smaller Clyde.  I wasn't feeling super strong, and definitely not zippy.

I figured I was in 3rd place at this point - there was no point in worrying about any Clyde that was way in front, and we were passing people - not getting passed.

Unfortunately, the smaller Clyde had two guys between himself and me, and I knew I needed to make a move to catch up as a gap was forming.  I was right on the tail of a slightly slower rider, thinking, "gotta pass, gotta pass", when we got to a corner and he fell.

I ran right into him, falling.  I heard my front tire lose some air as I went down.  We both got up, apparently physically OK, but I knew I had a near-flat front tire and I was angry.  At first I was angry at the guy for falling, but it's just easier to be angry at someone, rather than the situation.  He took off, and I started digging for my pump.

Prior to each of the past two races, I've thought, "gee, I rode all winter with the pump strapped to the frame of my bike - exposed to all the mud and water of winter, I should really check to ensure it still works." And now I had that chance to check.  I put the pump on the valve, started pumping, nothing.


I let out a very frustrated scream and set to work.  I unscrewed the pump, brushed off the caked on mud, put it back together, and started pumping like a madman.  The pump is so small, the tire is so big, it was like filling up a bathtub with a turkey baster.  Meanwhile, many masses of people flew by.

After what seemed an eternity, the tire felt full enough to ride - about 25 pounds of pressure.  I put the pump away and hop on the bike, hoping that 25 pounds would be enough.  I generally ride at 35-40, and most resources show I should have a minimum pressure of 30.  A little nervously, I rode off.

I resigned myself to being off the podium and came up with a new game plan.  I decided to just work on catching people and passing them.  So, go fast, catch and pass - repeat until I finish the race.

I got up to speed and started riding.  I finished the lap, passing a few people along the way.

I entered the looping start area with people cheering.  I heard Simone and Mary cheering me on, but couldn't really respond because taking my hands off the handlebars would just be courting disaster.  They had a spray station set up, and Simone got to spray me with water as I rode by.

I started the second lap, determined to keep on going.  As I left the start area and passed the water station, I sucked on the CamelBak only to find it empty.  sonofa!!!!  An entire lap, of dry, dusty trail, and no water.  I had most of my water bottle with solution left, but I couldn't believe I'd drunk my entire CamelBak (turns out, I still had water left, just a kink in the hose... but I found that out when I got home).

I slowly overtook people, but felt pretty far behind.  At one point, early on in the loop, the trail is split in two and the two directions pass close enough to touch.  At that point I saw the 2nd of the two Clydes I'd been following zip by in the other direction - which meant he was nearly 2 miles ahead of me (and only 10 miles left).  sigh...

Oh well, I continued on, attacking where I could.  I gritted my teeth, grumbled, and rode up the "Boneyard" for a second time - a football field length of trail with an average grade of 15% (peak of 34%).  At the top I passed another person.

It kept on like that for about 6 miles of the 2nd lap.  I got a thumbs-up from a Clyde when we passed each other going opposite directions at that section of trail I'd seen the other one - kinda odd, but encouraging.  I also caught and passed Mike Ripley, who seemed to be really slogging it out slowly.  Lucky for him, he was racing as CAT 1 and had an extra lap to go...

I was feeling pretty parched, I had mud stuck on my teeth (dust + saliva = yummy!), and my only hydration was stuck in a bottle on my bike.  I caught a big guy on some double track, passed him, and then realized it was a good opportunity to get a drink.  I pull the water bottle out and notice that the double track was ending shortly.  I took a quick drink and didn't get the bottle back in time for the turn - so I decided to crash.  gah.  My handlebars went sideways and I went down, hitting my chest, hard, on the handlebars, with my chest.  ouch.  Worse yet, the big guy I'd passed, nimbly bypassed me and headed out hard.

I spent a long time, several minutes, working hard to catch the big guy.  I finally did.

Other than that gaffe, I actually felt pretty relaxed for the second lap.  I wasn't having to gun it the whole time, and I was actually catching and passing people - which I hadn't done more than a couple times in the earlier races.  Even on the downhill sections!

Right about the spot where I'd crashed into the

With about 6 miles left, I noticed I was catching more and more people, it seemed as though folks were really slowing down.  I started to see people with tags on their backs bearing the number "15" - the indication of Clyde, and I was passing them.

As I worked my way up through the ranks of people, I decided that I'd finish the race passing as many as I could, and going fast enough that nobody would pass me.  That was my mantra for the last 20 minutes.

I entered the looping area for the last time, paying close attention to every detail so as not to fall.  I think I heard Mary and Simone cheering me, I don't really remember.  Over and around and up and down, I passed a couple people, and turned out for the last, tiny out and back.  I caught one person after little the hill climb, and caught a lady person about 150 feet from the finish, and after checking my flank, I relaxed and rolled across the finish line.  There were two people right in front of me, but they were obviously not Clydes, so I didn't stress out.

Simone and Mary were there at the finish line, waiting for me.  It was good to see them, though I felt pretty spacy.  The race workers took the slip of paper with the "15" off my back and took it over to the results board.  They walked it over and stretched up tall to stick it onto an empty board... empty, until my name went up.  I got first!

I was shocked, surprised, and pretty excited.

I walked around in a daze as Simone bubbled on excitedly about how she just knew I was going to win (I appreciated the support).  Mary laughed at the mud on my teeth and did her best to see that I started my recovery with whatever I needed.  I ate some chips, drank a bunch of water, a couple Cokes, a PB&J, and rested up a little bit.

Long story short, we headed back home, eating dinner in Sister's, and got home safe and sound.

I really appreciate the support of Simone and Mary, and was very glad that the race course was set up so well for spectators.  The camping trip was short and sweet: Tumalo is really pretty.

At home, I looked at the results, and I was first of 11 Clydes that finished.  I was but 1 minute and 15 seconds ahead of second place.  I looked at the race data on Strava and figured out that I spent over 5 minutes on the flat tire.  I was very close to not finishing first.

Also, I actually had a negative split on the race.  Of course that was due to the 5+ minutes I rested while fixing the front tire on the first lap - everyone else had positive splits for the race.  I don't know how to manage a race with that plan - I think I'd be too nervous to get stuck behind slow people and not be able to make up the gap.

The looping start/finish area was fun, but the course overall was probably my least favorite of the races so far.  I did have a good time on the trails, and there wasn't anything bad... just no views, no real tight single track, no steep descents,

The whole time I was using the pump I thought about a C02 pump...

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Great Ride

While Mary is out of town for a conference, Nana is down here helping take care of Simone.  This morning she managed the whole morning routine (hey, I cooked dinner and did bedtime duties) and I took off for an early morning ride.  I was riding by 6:15am.

The sun was just rising in the sky, and though it was a bit chilly, it looked to be a great day for riding.

I biked past the barn at Dimple Hill and headed toward Skillings.  I've had a goal to ride up to the top of McCulloch peak in under 40 minutes, and recently Scott threw down the same challenge to folks.  Today was the day I'd give it a go.  The climb is up the south side of the mountain, and is entirely on gravel roads.  It's 3.3 miles and has over 2000' of elevation gain.  It's a real grind of a climb.  My previous best had been over 42 minutes, and taking 2.5 minutes off that seemed doable.  So I put some Depeche Mode remixes on the iPod and started up.

40 minutes is a long time, especially when you're trying to push it the whole time.  I didn't have anyone with me to keep me honest.  Every couple of minutes I'd realize I was spacing out and had slacked off, so I'd up the tempo again.  The whole thing averages a 9.6% grade, and it ends with the last 0.7 miles being nearly 16%, with brief spurts of over 25%.  I gritted my teeth and pushed on.

The view from the top was mediocre as there was some haze in the distance and I couldn't see the Cascades.  I cracked open a Clif bar and caught my breath.  I hadn't really paid attention to what time I'd started, so I wouldn't know the result of my climb until I got home and put it on Strava.  ooh, the anticipation.

I threw my coat back on and headed down the new singletrack to the north of the peak, thoroughly enjoying the sun beams streaming in, lighting my way.  I headed over to Iris Meadow (oddly named because there's really no meadow, and I didn't see any Irises today) and I hit all the single track I could, descending down into Sulfur Springs.

I tried a singletrack trail that juts off Road 720 that Joe had pointed out and was treated to yet more idyllic trails.  These pictures don't do it justice, but this is the kind of trail I rode down for the majority of the ride from McCulloch:

The whole time I was riding I just couldn't stop grinning.  The trails were perfect, the weather just right, and I felt strong and fast on the bike.

Once in Sulfur Springs I had to do yet another climb.  It's just a third the length of the McCulloch climb, but is almost half again as steep.  I took it "easy" and tried to relax my way up.  It looks like I kept my heart rate down, but it didn't feel very relaxing going up.

I had one last goal - and that was to push myself going down the Horse trail.  As I've mentioned, my descents are my weak point in racing, and I'm working on them as much as possible.  I blasted down Horse, climbed out the little bit of a hill toward Timberhill, and then cruised on home.

This particular ride has to be about my favorite loop through the forest when the trails are dry.  I'll try to hit it a few more times before the summer is out.  I did the Dimple Hill/Dans loop probably 30 times this winter and I need to give it a little bit of a rest.

It turns out, I crushed my goal climbing up McCulloch and did it in 36:44, nearly 6 minutes faster than my previous best - and 9th best overall (woo-hoo!).  I also jumped into 3rd place on the "Two Bridges" trail, and into 10th going down Horse trail.  A pretty good day overall.

Wouldn't it be great if I could get paid to ride?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bear Springs Trap

Time for another race.

This time it was Bear Springs Trap, which is a little south of Mt. Hood just off Highway 26.

On a random note - the Prius got 40.1 miles per gallon, even loaded down with 3 200# men, and a bike hanging off the back of the car.  Pretty impressive since it included climbing over Mt. Hood, twice.

We got there pretty early, and snagged a choice parking spot right near the course.  We stood around, killing time until about 45 minutes before the race, at which point I started warming up.  I rode up a gravel road for a while and then hopped on a single track to follow some people riding around.  It turns out I got on at the far-point of the initial lap, and I rode the single track back to the start.  I tried to keep the heart rate low and gentle, but some of the singletrack was pretty rocky and technical and I got pretty revved up.  But I was happy with about 30 minutes of riding.  I downed some water and a Clif bar to make sure I was topped up.

I thought I might have a few more minutes to warm up, but realized that the Pro men were starting at 11 sharp, so I should find the start and get ready.  You see, I'd looked at the starting schedule when I checked in, and I knew I would be starting after the CAT 2 men, and just before the CAT 2 women - right around 11:14 am.

Well... it appears that the Clydes were moved up and started ... I still don't know when.  When the last bunch of CAT 2 men (45+) were lining up, we heard the OBRA official say that after that were the CAT 2 women.  Someone shouted, "wait, what about Clydesdale?!" - and we were told that they'd already left, and the official had announced it 3 times already.


I was pissed.

I let out a frustrated curse and tried my best to catch up to the Clydes in front of me - wherever they were.

I'd read about the start on Mel's blog from her post about last year's race, and as I rounded the corner and saw that the course went straight up the power line.  And... there was a huge pack of people walking their bikes up.  Gah.  I rode right into the back of that, and luckily most of the people had already reached the top and I was able to ride up the whole thing, passing the tail end of the CAT 2 men.

I knew that I had to get in front of as many folks as possible, because like all the other races, once you enter a single track section, you're pretty much locked into place - and if you're behind someone slow, the people in front will begin to gap you.  And I didn't know where the other Clydes were...

I was in the middle of a group of around 15 guys when we hit the singletrack, and we got pretty bunched up early on because of some rocky sections.  People began to get frustrated and yell "if you walk, move to the side" - which doesn't really apply when everyone has to walk b/c some dude is clogging up the entire trail.

A few passes later, we finished the first of the 3 loops of the ride, and were a little spread out.  We entered a climb, and my mad dash had caught up with me.  For the first 20 minutes, I had an average heart rate of 181 - which is basically my limit (using the standard calculations).  Ignoring the fact that I shouldn't be able to sustain max heart rate for 20 minutes, I knew I couldn't keep it up.  And, sure enough, right after that first loop the trail began to climb again, and I had to slow down.  A handful of people passed me going up (what?  that's my strength damnnit, they can't do that!) and I settled into a slower pace to recover, and the next 20 minutes I was down to an average of 170.  The numbers are all thanks to Strava, I wasn't looking at them during the ride.

The trail so far had been an absolute blast.  There were long sections of rollers - where you couldn't sit down because the rollers would throw you into the air.  I'm still not quite sure how to ride these fast going up.  Going down, you pump them like the BMX kids do in the parks, but up ... I like to sit and power the pedals, but you can't sit - so stand I did.  So, when there weren't rolling bumps, the corners were well banked, and mixed in all of that were short sections of big rocks.  You wouldn't fall asleep on this ride.

I tried eating a little snack and getting some fluid in, but it was a challenge given the terrain.  I opened my little snack bag up and had a few Dots, and I drank some water from the CamelBak.  I left the snack bag unzipped for easy access ... and lost nearly all the Dots at some point.  Live and learn - don't pack the bag so full next time.

After about an hour of riding I was still thinking about the late start and lamenting that, but the pack had stretched pretty thin, and I could only see two or three people at any one time.  We hit a few straight roads and descended toward the ravine.  The CAT 2 folks take a sharp left at the ravine, while CAT 1 dives down it for a quick lap of hurt.  The trail traverses the top edge of the ravine with what I imagine are some pretty views - I was more focused on the fist-sized rocks littering the narrow trail, threatening to dump me off the edge.  That whole section is actually a 20 minute long climb - the first 10 are next to the ravine, and the rest are a bit safer and steeper.

We then dive down a half mile to the bottom of the ravine and then tackle a very technical 10 minutes of trail along the stream.  It's very rooty, lots of little ups and downs with twists and rocks and more roots.  I did pretty well, but did walk a couple short sections.  I remember thinking, "I could spend half an hour here, trying until I can ride the route clean, or ... I can spend 20 seconds walking it." Walking won out.

Then it was time to climb out of the ravine - over 6 minutes climbing up a 12.5% grade, with a couple of tight switchbacks thrown in.  This was where I had planned on catching and passing people, giving them my best Lance Armstrong look and dropping them like he did Ulrich in 2001.  But... at this point, there really were no other riders.  I'd passed one guy in the technical terrain next to the stream - and one guy passed me (never to be seen again).  That was it.  As I climbed out, I was tailing a really young kid - a teenager, and I couldn't quite catch him.  I nearly did just before we got to the road at the end, but I didn't push it because he wasn't in my category - and there was nobody behind me.

I officially finished in 2:05:33, about middle of the pack for CAT 2 men, and a minute and a half in front of second place.  I don't remember passing him, but I obviously did.  I chatted with him briefly and asked when he started the ride, and he was the one Clyde who started early (I think with the first CAT 2 men).  So, I really beat him by several minutes, but I'll just take the gold.

Sam and Dad were there at the finish to congratulate me.  They took my bike and I wandered around in a bit of a daze, eating some potato chips.  I changed and we drove home.

Looking back on the race, I'm very happy with my descents.  I caught some people on the down hills and even passed them - which I haven't done in other races.  I think I rode the banked corners pretty well (still going a little slow into them), and I managed the rollers pretty well too.  My climbing was a little disappointing because I did get passed by a number of people, but I was a bit strung out, and it was just skinny guys who passed me.

As always, a good start is critical.  Had I started with the other Clyde, I'm sure I could have been in front of quite a few guys going up that big, initial, climb and been better situated for the long sections of singletrack.

I did end the race without much air in the rear tire.  I could hear it on the corners - all the tread was digging in.  Great traction, but I was a little worried I might burp the tire and flat out.  I'm glad I played it a little safe to finish on that tire, instead of pumping for air (and likely losing the race).  Time to buy a bottle of Stan's.

All in all, a great course - I had a good time once I let go of the start.  It's very technical, and my bike handled it great - at least once I was out of control and on a horrible line only to have the shocks absorb the obstacles in my way.  I think the brains really did help on the climbs as I saw other folks bouncing on their bikes during warm-ups.  I'm very glad that I got a good warm-up in, I was able to punch it right from the start and didn't have any weariness in my legs until the end of the race.

Food-wise, I need to pack it a little better so I don't lose it on the trail.  I liked having water in the CamelBak and an energy drink in the bottle - it felt good to get some tasty beverage during the ride.

Two races and two first places.  Granted, today's race only had 3 other Clydes, only one of whom was competition, but it felt good.  I feel confident that a top-3 placement is possible for any of the rides I've got coming up.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Mud Videos

Another video of the Mudslinger from this year.  Very well put together.

I even make a brief cameo in it at 3:33 (good number, eh?)

And the guy made a video of the start of last year's Mudslinger, poor quality, but again, I'm in it -front and center at 1:27 - I take up more pixels than anyone else...

And another Mudslinger video from 2012, it has good quality but does suffer from not showing me...

Friday, April 12, 2013

There Was Mud

This past weekend I raced in the Mudslinger, the second OBRA XC race of the season.  As predicted, the rain came and saturated the trails, ensuring the race lived up to its name.

I hitched a ride with a buddy from Team Dirt and we helped man the registration tables.  I enjoyed meeting a bunch of the riders and checking out the competition - they certainly ran the gamut from very casual to the nervous beginner.

With about 45 minutes to the start, I was released and I got ready for the race.  One of my goals this season has been to get a proper warm-up, and I certainly didn't have enough time to do so here.  In some of the races last year I didn't feel quite ready to do a sprint right at the beginning of the race, and a difference of a position or two going into the singletrack can have a HUGE effect on how the race unfolds.  After dressing and getting my gear situated (how does one dress for a 2.5 hour event that could either be sunny and still, or driving rain - possibly switching between the two in the span of 15 minutes?).  I opted for the knickers (a no-brainer), a long-sleeved undershirt and my thermal, long-sleeve jersey.  I carried a jacket, rain knickers, over-booties, and my buff - figuring if I needed to stop and put those on I was out of the running and just needed to stay warm.

So, with about 15 minutes before the start, I started biking around.  Ripley gave his little spiel before the roll-out to the starting line, and I kept on circling around.  We all rolled out and headed to the starting gate about a mile away.

I made sure to be near the front of the mass because last year I didn't hear the announcement for the Clydesdales and I missed starting with them by 30-45 seconds - which was no fun.

All the pros, CAT 1 men and women, and CAT 2 men started in various waves, and then it was time for us Clydes to show our stuff.  Of course the CAT 2 women were right behind us - giving us a hard time.

Off we went, up hill for 2 miles and 600' elevation gain.  We all sized each other up, and about three minutes into it I realized that this was my time.  I'm crap for downhill, so I'd better use my strength to my advantage.  So I turned on the afterburners and took off up the hill, first catching the straggling CAT 2 men, then passing a bunch of them.  I didn't really look back to see if any of the Clydes were following me - I was hoping not.  Once in a while I'd glance back, but my short term memory is about as good as my descending (not good) and I didn't see any Clydes behind me.

My goal was to put some distance between me and the other Clydes, hoping that I could get a few slow CAT 2 men between me and the others, letting me maintain the gap I'd (hopefully) built up.

I turned down Super Tree - the first downhill section and focused on staying upright.  It's not terribly difficult, but it was a bit muddy and I didn't want to pansy out.  I was riding and heard a voice behind me saying, "you're good... you're good" (indicating he didn't want to pass me).  The singletrack opened up into a road for a short bit before continuing with the descent and WHAM! a Clyde passed me.  sonofabianchi!

I was pretty surprised by his blowing past me so fast and didn't pick up the chase fast enough - he was gone.  I tried picking the pace up down the last section of descent, but I didn't see him again - I actually didn't see anyone until the very end when someone else caught me just as the descent finished.

So, after 15 hard minutes of climbing, I lost my lead and then some in just 6 minutes.  damn.

We had another climb, so I started plugging away, picking off CAT 2 after CAT 2, and then I saw the Clyde.  I caught up to him and we chatted.  He was impressed with my climbing saying I had left him, but he was immediately on my tail maybe a minute into the down, so I couldn't have gapped him very much.  He asked if I'd let him in front if we entered the singletrack down at the same time and I agreed.  I don't think that was a mistake - he was obviously better at that than me.  My mistake was to keep chatting with him and slow down for a few minutes.  We entered a singletrack going up and he missed a shift, so I continued up and up until we reached the next down - Collar Bone Alley.

The day before the XC race, Ripley held a hill climb and a downhill race.  The downhill went down Collar Bone Alley and then down Panama Canal  (I thought it was going to include the top portion of Root Down, but it didn't).  Someone posted a video of his ride down this section during the downhill race.  It's kind of fun to watch - he edited out the 4 minutes of flat/climb between the two downhill sections, and it's not as muddy as it was for me on Sunday.  That said, he finished the downhill in around 12 minutes - it took me 18 minutes to do it.

I successfully navigated the twisty singletrack entrance to the Alley and got into the wide, water-berm studded road section, only to hear a swear and feel someone ride into my rear wheel.  It was that damn Clyde again.  He stayed upright somehow and zoomed on.  I kept on riding, focusing on doing my best to feel safe.  I think that's what I need to work on with the mud - to push that envelope - especially on this section where it's muddy and wide - it's about as safe as can be with wide open mud, so I should let'er rip (a little more).  I don't need to worry about slowing down/stopping because the course is pretty ride-able.  I just have to have a little faith.

I pushed pretty hard once I got to the flat/up between the Alley and Panama Canal, but I didn't see the Clyde.  I settled into navigating Panama - which is about 1/3 twisty and tight, 1/2 flowy, and a little bit of scary.  At the same spot where I split my lip the year before I got off the well-worn path (slightly off-camber and high) and ventured into a branch-filled rut off to the side.  I put a foot and a hand down as two people passed me and I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have a real crash.

Just a minute later I reached the bottom and turned up the hill, resolving to catch the Clyde.  Afterwords I checked results, and he finished the downhill section of the race in 13 minutes, where it took me 18 - so I definitely had ground to gain back - likely too much.

So I started grinding up the hill.

To my surprise, I see the Clyde riding back down.  I asked what happened, and he said he broke his wheel. "yay" I thought, I'll take that.  I relaxed a little bit knowing that he wasn't going to be passing me on the downs any more that day.  Of course I had no idea how far ahead of the other Clydes I was...  And, to be honest, a number of the CAT 2 men looked like they would have qualified for the Clyde category.

I kept racing, and no big dudes passed me (though, honestly, I was the largest Clyde by a fair margin).

During the first two climbs I didn't pay attention to my heart rate much, but when I glanced down I could see that the rate was at 91-92% of my "max" (just determined by age, but it's generally been accurate for me).  I usually can't handle riding at >90% for more than a couple minutes, but most of the first two climbs were above 90%.  I don't know if my heart rate monitor was a little off, or if the warm-up just dialed me in.

Back to the middle climb...

This climb has some pretty steep sections at the beginning, and it took me 36-40 minutes to finish the climb.  I didn't push as hard as the first two climbs (hmmmm... mistake?) but I kept the effort level pretty high.  Nobody was passing me - so that was good.

I knew that the top was just past the aide station, and that Root Down was next.  Last year I walked a section of it because I was scared.  I'd asked a number of friends from Team Dirt who were good racers for some tips on riding in the mud.  Their tips were useless: "don't use the brakes, ride it out." I guess there's no magic bullet.

At the top I resolved to give it my best shot, to grow a pair and actually race as though I wanted to win this thing.  I knew that if I walked it, it'd be slower and I'd let the other Clydes catch up.  So I rode.

I took some sections real slow, and I put a foot down once on the first section of downhill.  Actually, as I did that, a guy went to pass me (plenty of space, it was all good) and he fell.  I had to laugh a little.

When I got to the bottom of the first section of Root Down I let out a huge WHOOP! of excitement - I'd ridden it all, in the mud.  I didn't remember what the second section held, but I was pumped and ready.

It turns out, there's more roots and a big switchback with a steep drop.  I walked that little section - about 100-150' total.  I saw other guys walking it too, so I didn't feel emasculated.

At the bottom of all that we rejoined the first loop, did some climbing, and re-descended the Collar Bone Alley and Panama Canal - staying on my wheels the entire time.

I felt like I rode the downhill better in the second half - I remember letting the brakes out and picking up some speed in sections, but looking at the Strava data...

I took descended the downhill in 18 minutes the first time, and 19 the second.  Bummer - I thought I was going so much faster.

Of course, after reaching the bottom of Panama Canal, I still had 2 miles of riding on a gravel road to reach the finish line.

I felt pretty good - nobody had passed me on the ups, and only a few small guys (and the one Clyde) passed me going down.  I started riding on the road and noticed two people behind me.  Nobody was going to catch me on the gravel, so I upped the tempo.

With these two miles left, things changed for me.  The previous 2 hours and 20 minutes I was limited either by my aerobic/lung capacity going up or my fear going down, and in these last 10 minutes my lungs felt great - but my legs were starting to die.  I pushed on, seeing that I had a good chance to finish in under 2:30.

Officially, I finished in 2:28:27, 8:40 ahead of the next fastest Clyde.  Woo-hoo!  Not only had I gotten on the podium, I'd blown through my goal of finishing in 2:45 and did a sub 2:30 race.  I looked back on older race results (Clydes have only been a category for 3-4 years) and I finished faster than any Clyde has finished the race!  Course conditions were comparable to last year's - at least Trevor Norland's time was within a minute of last year's.

So, I was super stoked with my performance and the overall results.  I talked briefly with the Clyde who broke his wheel - and he'll be at the next race too.

My takeaway ... a good warm-up is key, I did OK this time and it really helped.  Being in the right starting heat calms the nerves, and my time to hammer is on the climbs!  Also, I can ride mud better than I could last year, but I need to keep working on my descending - I'm losing too much time.

I was 1st out of 6 Clydes (only 5 finishing), and if I'd raced as a CAT 2 40-49, I would have placed 8th out of 27 - pretty reasonable.  No CAT 2 women caught me, so I didn't owe anyone a beer.

Thanks to Oregon Velo for the photos.  In the last two you can see the Clyde I was leapfrogging in the white jersey behind me.

Snow and Sun

I haven't skied in years, and Simone has never skied. We changed that a couple of weekends ago when we went to Hoodoo. Mary stayed home because she was feeling under the weather.
We got to Hoodoo at noon, ate a little lunch, got our gear on and headed to the lodge.
The conditions were perfect: no wind, just below freezing, and turned from high clouds to sunny blue sky.
I signed Simone up for the beginner class and left an excited girl in a room of strangers.
I hit the slopes and got in a fun hour and a half before Simone's lesson finished. Hoodoo is so nice - a full day and a half after a 9" dump, I was still able to find little pockets of untracked powder in the trees. It wasn't quite like riding a bike, but it came back pretty quickly.
I checked in on Simone halfway through her lesson - they'd just come outside from the instructions inside - and she was still having fun. I kept Mary updated via text messages.
I skied down to Simone at the end of her lesson to watch a little snowball fight and got the scoop that she was doing great. The lesson only progressed to them walking up a green carpet and sliding down 20 feet of practicing pizza slices and French fries (snow plow and parallel).
I asked Simone if she wanted to ride the lift, and she was game.
I think I was more nervous than Simone about getting on the lift. She hopped up with a little help from me, and as soon as we were up in the air she said, "this is FUN!!!"
We spent an hour skiing down the bunny slope together, and finished with snow angels and and a snowball fight in a huge patch of fresh powder.