37 and…

PREGNANT.

I always liked doodling

I KNOW! It surprised me more than anyone. Sometimes I feel about as ready for it as a teenager; I have my whole life ahead of me! So how the hell did this happen?

It all starts with a man and a woman, or so I’ve heard. About the man:

James and I have been together for almost six years. With three engagements, one almost wedding, and a few breakups, we’re pretty much your typical late thirties, early forties commitment-phobic, independent, successful adults (who also happen to have raced motorcycles and think crashing mountain bikes is fun).

But there has always been a lot of love.

We’ve had some really good times.

2010. Formula Pacific and Formula AFemme wins at Sonoma Raceway.

And some not so good times.

Suffering (and probably arguing) on Pine Flat, Sonoma County

But mostly lots of good times.

Cowboy party

Top speed runs at Sugar Bowl

As you can probably tell, I love sport. We both do. For me, I love to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. I love to feel fit and strong, it’s incredibly empowering. I love my independence.

And I love James. Although I’ve never felt a hard charging desire to make another human, and am scared as shit about how this will affect my delusional plans to become a professional mountain bike racer, I’ve wondered weird things lately:

  • What good is my life serving anyway?
  • Who will come to my house for Thanksgiving when I’m old?
  • I’m tired of my brother making fun of me for being an old cat lady.
  • My mom would be an AMAZING grandma!
  • Who will box up all my stuff and shred my important documents when I’m gone?
  • Will anyone miss me, or even remember me, after I fling myself and my bike off a cliff somewhere?

James is a big, tough guy but has a surprisingly tender side for animals and kids. And sometimes even me, too. But he was much more comfortable than I was when it came to admitting daydreams of parenthood. Given my quiet, yet bewildering feelings about my place in the universe, and having a willing and able man, I blithely suggested we take the goalie out of the game (wink wink, nudge nudge).

NO GOALIE.

I probably won’t get pregnant, I said. I’m 37, I’ve been on the pill for 20 years, my mom only had me, her mom only had her, we don’t even live in the same area code, for god’s sake.

That was in the fall. Sometime in December, this happened:

On Oat Hill Mine Road, I fell off my bike and landed on my head.

I think that the upside down, topsy turvy nature of the day may have encouraged this to happen:

Yeah. THAT.

But of course we didn’t know it yet. In the next week or so, my resting heart rate, measured with an iPhone app in bed in the morning to delay my transition to actually having to be up and do stuff, was up about ten beats, consistently, every day.

While on a trip to Santa Barbara just after Christmas, we giggled nervously as we bought a few of these:

These things are so confusing.

When we saw the result:

MAYHEM

Now that we’ve had a little time to ponder our situation…

Dude, wait, what?

I’m still riding my bike, and am feeding in a little running to prepare for the day when I decide being on the bike isn’t worth the risks (unless they come out with an intra-uterine fetal bicycle helmet), but to add to the fun, I’ve also moved from Saratoga, California, to the wine country town of Santa Rosa, two hours north (hello, first trimester exhaustion!).

I’ll be starting up some pregnancy updates, inspired by the format of my friend Marisa’s blog. I’ll do my best to keep it rad here at PassedByAPregnantChick.com, but there’s not a whole lot of radness when it comes to being extra tired, super bloated, and having to keep your heart rate under your threshold.

Thanks to Vanderkitten for including me in their 2013 VIP program in spite of my delicate condition! I’ll be rocking my Vanderkitten threads at prenatal yoga, on my runs, and during many endurance hikes this summer, and sharing stories of pregnant bad assery.

Yeah. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop being rad. I have skied, bombed down rocky trails on my bike, and ridden almost 80 miles in a day (with much internal debate and 3 a.m. googlings). I’ve already stopped riding unfamiliar, technical mountain bike trails, and will soon probably stop riding technical trails altogether. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay on my road bike, but I can already feel my burgeoning belly when I’m in the drops.

James and I are both really excited. And maybe a little scared out of our minds. Baby Mayhem arrives sometime in August…

Now playing, inside my uterus

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The MOB Syndicate: Mountain Biking Hawaii’s Mana Road

Looking at the photos Grant posted on Facebook of our Mana Road ride, a man I’ve never met before commented, welcoming us into something called the MOB Syndicate. Catchy, I thought. Mana-On-Bike. I found the naming of this adventure, or those who’ve completed it, fitting.

It’s not as mind-blowingly difficult as the Downieville cross country course, with its eight mile climb and varied, technical terrain on the descent, but Mana Road has its own challenges and mystique.

Prep

When researching mountain biking options on the Big Island, we decided we wanted to do something big. Not just the local Hawaiian equivalent to a run at Skeggs, or Annadel, but something more epic and unique. The quality of the terrain was equally, or even less, important than the overall experience. Something more like Tahoe’s Flume Trail. A ride you’d recommend to your friends who came from far away. A quintessential mountain bike tourist experience.

I researched rides on Google, Strava (which had no downhill segments on Mana Road), and dove into a chatty, Big-Island-Locals thread on the MTBR forum, and eventually compiled a list of options. At first I thought Mana Road was a 45 mile loop all the way around Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s fourth oldest (and dormant) volcano, and that sounded epic, and do-able.

Not knowing anything about the duration, terrain, directions, locations, et cetera, and with no apparently available commercial help (like, the Big Island could really use something like Yuba Expeditions: shuttles, high quality demo bikes, maps, guides), I was really hoping I could convince a local to join us for the ride. I reached out on a Facebook group of local riders, and also in the chatty MTBR thread.

When I sat down in my seat on the plane, I had no idea if anyone or anything was going to come through. Worst case scenario, James and I would have our rental bikes and would just, I don’t know, find a trail and ride around. It’s Hawaii. Anything’s still going to be fun.

A "trail" at Hilton Waikoloa. I was so desperate to ride, even this had me daydreaming...

I started getting some traction with a guy named Grant. He works for a telescope company and lives in Kamuela, near the base of Mana Road. We texted occasionally the first few days of our trip, and it seemed like he was down to ride with us. Better yet, he mentioned that we would self-shuttle to the top of Mauna Kea, a nearly 14,000 foot tall volcano, and then ride down it back to our cars. THAT ride was 45 miles, in and of itself. A loop would probably be more like a hundred miles, half dirt, half pavement.

I had no idea how this would all happen, but I took a deep breath, put my big girl britches on (and took my control freak pants off), and just trusted in the future. 6:45 a.m. Saturday was the meet time.

Friday, we went to Bike Works Kona to pick up our rental bikes. Cold, but generally polite, the staff there helped us get set up. We’d brought our own high-end saddles and XTR pedals, and yet still got the odd question, “wait, you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before?” I’m sure they must deal with all sorts of uptight, difficult, delusional triathletes and cyclists from the mainland, so I didn’t really fault them for the chilly reception.

Whatever. We were riding down a volcano! Tomorrow!

Ride

It’s not hard to get up early in Hawaii thanks to the time zone difference. We got to the Kamuela office of Canada-France-Hawaii-Telescope at 6:40, with Grant arriving shortly after. Quiet, but warm and happy, he seemed ready to ride, and also moved with a business-like efficiency as we de-wheeled and loaded up three mountain bikes (including one of an extra large size) into the trunk of an SUV.

Bikes. This Nissan Pathfinder had a rollbar installed, by the way. I was scared.

I was cozy in the backseat as we drove up Saddle Road, a big, expansive highway with cherry pavement and a bright, shining double yellow. We were impressed with Grant’s driving as he straightened out the corners and took us up the big hill. By the time we turned left onto the Mauna Kea access road, we were already up pretty high.

We parked Grant’s truck at a building used for astronomers while they wait for ideal observing conditions at the telescopes. The place had darts, pool tables, work stations, sleeping rooms. We unloaded and put on every article of clothing in our possession; the temperature was below 50, and we weren’t even at the very top, where the telescopes are. Grant, bless his heart, had even offered to drive us up to the telescopes so we could ride that descent too. He estimated it would add an hour to our already 5-6 hour long bike ride. Not knowing anything about anything, we decided against it.

And we were off like a herd of turtles. Literally, our backpacks were HUGE.

"I'm all in." Translation: I'm wearing every single piece of clothing I brought with me today.

Like a house.

After eight minutes of downhill pavement, we’d traveled four miles. I saw a top speed of 43, James, 53. It felt like 20. The pavement was smooth, and it really felt like I was just driving conservatively in a car. Then I remembered I was on a very inexpensive rental mountain bike I’d never ridden before, got freaked out, but then shrugged and went with my usual mantra: “it’ll probably be okay.”

Four miles in eight minutes. Fify more miles, in four hours and twenty two minutes.

At the start of the dirt Mana Road, we stopped and adjusted a few things, and then started pedaling. Mana is a fire road, never anything less, and the road ambled along, never really too steep down hill, with occasional sections of moderate climbs.

We saw some pretty trees and things.

Epic Hawaiian trees.

It warmed up quickly, and we started de-layering.

Loving my new purple Under Armour "Cold Gear" base layer.

And I saw some Nene in the wild (Hawaii’s endangered state bird).

I am delighted by Nene.

Mongoose, brought to Hawaii in the 1800's to control the growing rat populations, like to eat Nene eggs.

After a few hours, we got to “the Douglas Fir memorial.” I found it odd that there would be Douglas Firs in Hawaii. But actually, it was the place where the Scottish botanist who had named the Douglas Fir had died. No one is sure if he was killed or fell into the wild cattle trap accidentally, but it was here that he bought the farm.

Next to the David Douglas memorial in the Pit of Despair.

It was very “Pit of Despair” like. We rode down a very steep, slick, grassy singletrack that I actually walked much of on my hardtail 29er. There were stumps and basketball sized rocks hiding in the grass.

Umm, really nervous in this photo.

I hiked back up, and the boys tried valiantly to clean the ascent.

James clambering out of Dr's Pit.

Pain (or, BYOB)

Back on the road, the terrain became rockier and more interesting. We passed through some cattle gates and cattle guards, and rode through some pretty big, soft mud bogs. I was delighted by the trickier terrain and faster descending, but only until my bike bucked me out of my pedals and kicked me hard in my delicate girl parts, all while flying down a rocky descent around 20 mph. Then I got a little bit upset.

Upset, but usually still smiling.

This bike was making so much noise, and I began to suspect that the suspension on the front was really only there for looks. All show, no go. I felt like I was riding a jackhammer down the hill. It was all fun and games until my bike tried to kill me. I continued to let the bike roll down the hill, because in the case of things with wheels, things seem to go easier if you keep your momentum, but I was less happy about it and less able to enjoy the beautiful terrain.

God I’m spoiled. I know. I started daydreaming about my Blur TRc with its beautiful, gleaming suspension in front and rear.

About halfway through we stopped, sat down and enjoyed some food and the views.

And then we carried on. Not satisfied with one charge of attempted murder, the Rockhopper sled tried to kill me again, this time by throwing my left hand off its handlebars, going probably, oh, 30 or so, down a rocky section. I don’t even like to take a hand off the handlebars while soft pedaling along a flat, smooth dirt path. Me being tired and sore in the hands and wrists didn’t help, I know, so yeah, I’m a weak little girl and not strong enough for a big, mean bike like that one, but lesson learned.

Around the 40 mile mark, I was pretty smoked. My legs and heart felt good, but my body ached with every rock, every pebble, every washboard skitter, but I carried on as fast as I could so the agony would end sooner. Grant estimated we’d be back to the cars by around 54 miles. Pedal pedal pedal. Oh, look, pretty Hawaiian scenery. Pedal pedal pedal.

The bottom section of the road was a long, steep, fast downhill, oh so painful on the Rockhopper pile, and then flattened out, yet was now festooned by miles of washboard torture. I pedaled along, desperately trying to find the smoothest lines through the washboard, looking at where James and Grant were riding, scanning the ground, fantasizing about my plush Blur.

Eventually we hit pavement once again. It was still a few miles back to the cars.

Bliss.

We followed Grant on a fun little urban parkour mountain bike jaunt through town, across football fields, over curbs, behind stores, and back to his office.

Where bikes were promptly washed.

Can't even tell you how happy/tired/hurting I was in this photo. #wimp



Organize! Race! Fun!

Frankly, I was a little surprised by the lack of mountain biking events and infrastructure on the Big Island. What a big, beautiful island with so much challenging, varied, interesting terrain. Grant and I talked a little bit about it and I mentioned the Mendocino Coast Cyclists who build and sustain their own trails, promote races and organize rides. Saying it would be cool of Big Island Mountain Bikers to get organized in a similar fashion would be an understatement. So many opportunities for amazing riding and events there, especially with so many people already flocking to the Big Island for epic endurance events like Ironman, Ultraman, and more.

I haven’t experienced any of the other big island trails, but a MOB down Mana Road would make for a pretty interesting cross country race. I’m not sure where else you can find a 45 mile downhill dirt ride – one that takes sport-level racers around five and a half hours to ride casually.

There are nice staging areas at the top, near the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center. And plenty of room along the route for aid stations. You could make it an epic combined pavement/dirt ride, possibly the ultimate cyclocross race. There’s a dirt biking race around Mauna Kea, the Mauna Kea 200, which leads me to believe if they let nasty, dirty, noisy, smelly motorcycles (hee hee) race around Mauna Kea, why wouldn’t they let mountain bikers have a race?

Or even a shuttle service, with quality mountain bikes available for rent or demo. Matt at Mountain Road Cycles in Kamuela should set this up. I was a bit crestfallen, meeting him by the taco shop after our ride, when he told us he had full suspension Tallboys for rent. NOW YOU TELL ME.

Mana Road isn’t the most technical terrain, but from the looks of the Mauna Kea 200, it looks like there’s singletrack hiding around there. Mana Road is still a unique experience though. The weather, the volcano, the length, the endless rollers, the washboards, the rocks, the cows. I’m so happy that we did the ride, and beyond grateful to Grant, our local guide, for accompanying us.

The ride on Strava:

Thanks again to Grant, our ever gracious host! We couldn’t have done it without you!

The host with the most!

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Levi’s Pain Cave (also known as the Gran Fondo)

So, what’s the “Pain Cave?” At least, according to a cyclist?

It sounds almost cozy. Well, at least if you’re not claustrophobic, like I’m not. I’ve actually fallen asleep inside an MRI machine. Seriously! It’s like I’m inside a little cocoon, warm in a blanket, and with the earplugs all the knocking and clicking takes on an almost pleasant, hypnotic anti-rhythm.

Cozy! Snuggly! Um...

I remember reading a cycling acquaintance’s Facebook posts last year or the year before. She went to the pain cave often, apparently, and even took her friends there. I felt like people were going to a party I hadn’t been invited to, but could maybe crash someday if I were lucky and clever. It almost sounded like a wild party, one where you might accidentally smoke crack and run around with no pants on, like Shoshanna on that episode of Girls.

In my Training Peaks comments on my Levi’s Gran Fondo ride, I mentioned having been working so hard on Coleman Valley Road, somewhere around mile 80 and with 6,000 feet or so already handled, that I couldn’t really even see anymore. I mean, I could see well enough to stay upright, and not crash into things or other cyclists, but time and visual perception became distorted as I kept placing unreasonable demands on my little chicken legs. I was also an emotional wreck, billowing red mist trying to pass James back and also wanting to die but being unable to stop.

In an email response from Coach Thomas, he said, “oh yeah, the Pain Cave!”

I was kind of dismayed, not only because I hadn’t met my goals for the ride, but because I realized I’ve really only been to the Pain Cave two other times this year: once during the Sea Otter Circuit Race on Laguna Seca’s famous racetrack, while trying to hang on world champion endurance mountain biker Rebecca Rusch‘s wheel (who, coincidentally, has nicknamed herself The Queen of Pain) during her first ever road race (and my second).

The other time was during the Pescadero Road Race in June, while chasing a bunch of sassy little Cat 3s up Stage Road. But I didn’t go in the Pain Cave on Haskins, an even harder climb. Just Stage, and just on the first lap.

Three visits to the Pain Cave in 2012. Pathetic, and sad! Maybe I’m…the Queen of Crashing? Queen of Making Small Wattage, like, Forever? Queen of Delivering Emotional Pain? Queen of Zone 2? My ability to push my legs and my heart into this cozy rager of a bicycle party at the upper reaches of my Zone 5 is seriously lacking.

My sad realization almost overshadowed the entire day. Almost, but not quite.

The Deets

103 miles, 8,800 feet of climbing

2010 Gran Fondo elapsed time: 8 hours, 50 minutes
2010 Gran Fondo moving time: unknown due to Garmin user errors
2010 Gran Fondo average cadence: 41 rpm
2010 Gran Fondo average speed: 10.6 mph

2012 Gran Fondo elapsed time: unknown due to Garmin user errors and results not being up yet, but probably around 6 hours 45 minutes
2012 Gran Fondo moving time: 6 hours, 26 minutes
2012 Gran Fondo average cadence: 78
2012 Gran Fondo average speed: 15.9 mph
2012 Gran Fondo average watts: 134
Stops: 6
Crashes witnessed: 2
Energy Gels consumed: 5
Bottles used: 1 (although, had I stopped less frequently, might have used both)

The Queen of Pain’s 2012 elapsed time: 5 hours 12 minutes, a course record for females
The Queen of Pain’s 2012 average watts: 212
Age difference between myself and the Queen of Pain: -7 years

Which means I have 7 years to become that awesome.

Power

I heard an interesting figure last week. When discussing cycling power and epic rides with another cyclist, he shared with me that with proper training, most cyclists can enjoy a 7% increase in power year over year.

2012 CP20: 205w
2013 CP20: 219w
2014 CP20: 234
2015 CP20: 250
2016 CP20: 267
2017 CP20: 286
2018 CP20: 306
2019 CP20: 327

So I’ll be 44 in 2019 with a CP20 of 327w. That might be enough to approach the low five hour mark for Levi’s Gran Fondo. Of course, I might also have switched gears and become something really ridiculous, like, lazy, or a lawyer, or a mommy. Which doesn’t necessarily mean I can’t continue the the wattage trajectory, just, it might make it a little more difficult. And, the figures may have a decreasing rate of return. They probably do. But anyway, I’ve got time to get awesome.

More Deets

This day I was riding my Cannondale Super Six Evo with SRAM Red. I run a SRAM XX mountain bike derailleur in the back to accommodate a plus-sized 11-32 cassette. These days, SRAM is heavily marketing their WiFLi drivetrain to people who might ordinarily consider a triple front crankset, which seems funny to me because it’s not that difficult to achieve the same effect, all without the fancy new name and industrious marketing. Compact crankset + mountain bike derailleur + 11-32 mountain bike cassette = being able to spin up walls like it’s nbd. Thanks Coach Thomas for not giving up on getting me to switch!

The weather was absolutely horrifically freezing and miserable in the morning. James and I waited behind at least a few thousand people on the start, but were lucky to be next to a generator that was powering a coffee stand and pumping out warm exhaust fumes. But once we got going, I was the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

I didn’t start to warm up until we approached Occidental. On the first King Ridge climb, I got a PR, but missed it on the second one because of a bathroom stop (I skipped the crowded potties in Occidental and took a lightning fast stop at some potties on the side of the road in one of the switchbacks in the second climb).

Another stop at Tin Barn, and then Ritchey Ranch, and then a freezing cold, moist descent down to Highway 1 (damn you, Queen of Pain, for taking my one Strava QOM on Drop to the Ocean). It was pretty painful along Highway 1, because James and I were caught up in a pretty fast paceline and it was tough to hang on, but hang on we did, all the way until Coleman Valley and my date with the Pain Cave.

My Favorite Things

1. That Diana and Nikki, my two BFFs, both had great rides. Diana’s experience was pretty intense with her first Gran Fondo, and Nikki killed it on the 60+ mile Medio route. I was thrilled to not have seen her out on course (and I saw and passed plenty of Medio riders)

Happy, Crack Free Girls

2. That James is now the keeper of the key (although I was a little sour about getting dropped just miles from the end when this was supposedly a “together” ride).

3. That I wasn’t broken the rest of the day, or the next. After the Annadel Cross Country race in August, during which I worked very, very hard and yet didn’t find the time or inclination to visit the Pain Cave, I was useless, napping in bed the rest of the afternoon. Saturday after the ride I was ready to boogie.

4. That I was able to ride so hard, for so long. After a whole year of being a very good little Zone 2 girl during my epic rides, and then having had a pretty good, long sufferfest during a few long races, I thought I would see what I could get away with. I still tried to save some for the end, but was pretty happy that I could flog myself so thoroughly for nearly seven hours and still be ready for more.

I had no idea the Pain Cave was such an elusive thing. I don’t think my Facebook acquaintance really understands its meaning either. I hope to be there again a few more times next year; maybe like with anything else, practice makes perfect, and I’ll someday be able to crash that party all cool-like, without accidentally smoking crack and running around with no pants.

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Skinnies, and When to say When (The M5 Report)

Skinnies.

Not skinny jeans.

NOT THIS.

Skinny things that you ride a mountain bike over.

Wow, that guy riding over the skinny is pretty manly, said me.

I consider this a type of "skinny" as well. Photo of a skinny trail I rode by Nathaniel Gordon.


Murphy Mack’s Mendocino Mountain Bike Madness (M5)

The trails in Mendocino, that I rode as part of Murphy Mack’s Mendocino Mountain Bike Madness (M5), were sweet. Smooth, flowy, fern-lined, beautiful. I’d say a large majority of the trails were, well…skinny. Micro-track. Narrower than what people in the bay area commonly refer to as singletrack.

And that’s fine. Whatever. Except when the skinny trail is perched on a precarious hillside ledge, which much of the trails were.

This trail was so skinny, you needed a rope to keep yourself from falling down the mountain. Photo by Nathaniel Gordon.

M5 was an all-inclusive weekend; for $285, you got two nights of cabin camping, seven gourmet, organic, farm-to-table meals, a fun race, group rides, and instructional clinics, all centered around the trails at Jackson State Demonstration Forest. There were nice bathrooms with hot showers. It was probably the most glamorous camping (I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it “glamping,” as the bathrooms were outside of our individual cabins, risking one to exposure to bears, spiders and other things in the middle of the night when getting up to pee) I’ve ever engaged in. It might have been glamping, thanks to the efforts of Murphy Mack, the event organizer. Maybe I’ll try for a cabin closer to the potty next year.

We checked in Friday, found a cabin, and ate a wonderful dinner. It was very cold that night. No matter how hot it is in Ukiah (like, 95 degrees) it will always be cold in a Mendocino forest. I will never forget this again.

Saturday Morning: Sport Race

Saturday morning we were both signed up to race. I decided to race “Sport” class. Mountain bike racing usually has four categories: Beginner (Cat 3), Sport (Cat 2), Expert (Cat 1) and Pro (Pro). Beginner was only one 10 mile lap, and I wanted to ride two laps for a longer ride, so off we went at 10:30.

We all huffed and puffed along the fire road in a peloton, and I made sure to take this part of the race seriously, to put myself as far ahead as possible. Once we hit the singletrack, which was indeed rather skinny, I was a little bit miserable trying to follow the quick riders up the hill, and not wanting yet to give in and let the person behind me by. There as a 10″ root or water bar that most people stopped and clambered over, while one guy went riding the half-inch wide bypass to the left. Rude! How dare someone have more talent than me. Sigh…

As things spread out a bit on the climb, a girl was making her way closer and closer to me. I could hear her talking. By the time we got to the first mini-summit of the first climb, I let her by. My self-esteem was pretty low at this point; the climb was hard, and this chick was just handling it. AND she claimed to be a new mountain biker. I struggled my way up the hill; there were one or two very narrow, tricky sections that had steep dropoffs (i.e. cliffs). I think I dabbed. Like Lee Nails, all you can do is Press On.

The descent was like a totally-worth-the-wait roller coaster ride. It too was mostly skinny, but now that I had some momentum, I felt more confident in my balance. I caught back up to Lina, the chick with the motor, and she politely let me by. Sweet! Was pretty sure she’d catch me again so I hurried to try to put some distance between us. I was following a guy in a Metromint outfit and a big guy in a royal blue jersey. Royal Blue was slowing me down just a hair, but I took the opportunity to rest and followed him for a good while up the next climb.

During Climb #2, there was a big split in the trail; both routes were part of the race course. Metromint and Blue went one way, I went the other. Turns out the way I chose, while more difficult, put me ahead of Mint and Blue by a lot. I never saw Blue again the rest of the race, and Mint didn’t catch me until we were on our second lap, up Climb #1 again.

I never saw Lina again either. I wondered how many gnarly girls were ahead of me. I wondered where James was, and how he was faring. I wondered how Snoop Doggy Dogg got his name, and merrily sung a song of his to myself. I wondered if I might make it through the next lap without dabbing.

Towards the end of the course, there is a 18″ wide board crossing a stream. Embarassingly, I walked it. Again. Got back on my bike and sprinted for the finish, hoping against hope that my second lap would be faster than my first. It wasn’t, but I won the race! Amazeballs.

Saturday Afternoon Ride: Widowmaker, Etc.

We drank some beer, had some lunch, and then got ready for our afternoon group ride. We had an enjoyable shuttle ride to a place 45 minutes or so from camp, then wind our way back on some sweet singletrack.

It was sweet, mostly, and mostly terrifying. Lots of skinnies. Even more narrow microtrack, and the addition of occasional 2×6 planks over little gullies formed by draining water. No, I didn’t have far to crash usually, but riding over these skinny pieces of wood really shook me up. I was pretty fatigued from the race too. Frankly I would have rather seen a perfectly good man wearing skinny jeans than another narrow bridge or 2×6 on my mountain bike ride. I tipped over into a soggy ditch, soaking my right foot, and was vexed.

The trail reminded me though, at times, of some trails I’ve ridden at Pogonip and UC, in Santa Cruz. Very lush, with challenging and interesting terrain features strewn about occasionally. Only, these were mostly new types of terrain features, like the skinnies, the ledges, and so on. A good learning experience, yeah I cried okay there I said it, and I can’t wait to kick its ass next year.

Murphy Mack told us, upon checking in, that the alcohol would be flowing and that if we remembered the weekend, we would have not had a successful event. So we had some drinks that night, but were like two golden retrievers taken on too long a walk – two drunken retrievers – and we passed out early in our warm cabin (our neighbors made a fire in the adjoining fireplace, heating our cabin too).

Sunday Morning: Next Time Stick to Road Rides

There were a few choices for group rides on Sunday, but the slowest one was a 30 miler. We were both pretty smoked so over scrambled eggs and french toast decided to just do a lap of the 10 mile race course and head home. I thought, oh, you know, no big deal, just spin, go up the climbs nice and slow, be mellow on the downhills, it’ll be fine.

Well it wasn’t fine. My legs had nothing in them, my balance was all screwed up, and my brain was wandering even more than it usually does. I tipped over a couple times, making these awful, gurgling, scared noises, which I’m sure James thinks are sad and ridiculous, but whatever. I pretty much survived until that wooden, three foot wide bridge in the middle of the course. The one with the handlebar-height metal pipe railings. I took the fast approach, following my speedy boyfriend, after taking the slow approach during the race. Looked where I wanted to go, and then BLAMMO. Pain.

I’d hit my hand and handlebar on the railing at a pretty good clip. I didn’t crash but started howling. Stopped and rubbed my hand a bit, and god it hurt! Took my glove off and was just about blinded by copious amounts of florescent red blood. Swearing turned to tears, and then shock, and then pedaling, up the second climb, and down the second descent. We didn’t know a better way back to camp; turns out we could have been back in 10 flat minutes instead of 45 minutes of gnar. I eyed my left hand warily, watching the red spot of blood soak further and further through my black glove, but stayed focused on getting back and not falling over again.

Oh well. The on-site EMT recommended stitches, can you see why?

Just another flesh wound.

Lucky to have a driver, I started drinking, showering and packing, and we got the eff out of dodge. I boozily enjoyed the pretty ocean views on the drive home, and we stopped in Cloverdale for milkshakes, and then I got dropped off at a hospital in Santa Rosa to get sewn up.

Thanks to Murphy Mack and his merry band of candy colored cyclists for an amazing weekend. Coach Thomas would have loved these trails, his tips and tricks helped get me around an unfamiliar trail with utmost quickness (well, for me). And thanks also to the Cupertino Bike Shop for their undying support and love!

I started riding road again three days later, and was back on the trails Sunday. I consider it yet another very inexpensive lesson:

MAYBE YOU SHOULD RIDE ROAD INSTEAD OF DIRT WHEN YOU’RE SO TIRED YOU CAN’T SEE STRAIGHT!

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Revenge on Annadel!

There’s no Crying in Mountain Biking

This happens a lot: Boyfriend takes girlfriend mountain biking for the first time. Girlfriend cries. Girlfriend sells mountain bike or stuffs it back into the garage to collect dust.

It happened to me two or three years ago. My 1997 Specialized Rockhopper hardtail, which I’d only ever ridden on creek trails, but was now at Annadel State Park. I had no idea how poorly suited my mountain bike was, or how challenging the terrain at Annadel was, or what kind of bad ass my boyfriend must have thought I was, but after climbing the steep, rocky Canyon trail (“it’s just a fireroad”) and then turning onto some singletrack, I had what must have been a panic attack and started crying. I was more afraid of going 0.5 mph over a rock than I was going 120 mph on a motorcycle.

I had an opportunity last fall to buy a new, modern mountain bike at a great price (thanks Cupertino Bike Shop), so I thought I’d try it again, this time, on my terms, riding the trails I wanted, stopping when I wanted, and crying when I wanted. Rode a few times. Was still scared, but no crying, and I slowly dabbed my way into some more technical riding.

Obsession hit with the purchase of my Santa Cruz Blur TRc this spring. I rode a lot, I fell a lot (sorry Mom), and somehow I ended up placing second in the beginner class at Downieville last month.

So winning the beginner ladies’ cross country race at Annadel two days ago was kind of like having dinner with an old boyfriend who broke your heart – and looking rad. I crushed it. I mean, for me. I crushed it in only the way a novice mountain biking girl can crush such things, finishing the 24 mile course in 2 hours, 27 minutes, 45 seconds. I would have come in 15th of 50 in beginner men, and 2nd of 20 or so women (of the masters and beginners racing the short course).

If I wasn’t still in such disbelief, I might actually be thrilled, and proud. I keep fighting off thoughts of how slow I am still, how far away I am from actually being good at mountain biking. I don’t think them in a sad way, just, in a factual way. They keep telling me to quit fucking around. Go faster!

Practice Makes…Walking

The race itself was pretty much mayhem. 650 mountain bikers in a peloton speeding down the streets of Santa Rosa, then stuffing themselves into the mouth of Howarth Park like a big swarm of bees flying into a tiny bird house. I saw my friend Sarah Pittiglio, fellow motorcycle racer and general bad ass, and wanted to keep up with her so we picked our way forward through the pack.

With all the traffic, sections that were normally easy to ride turned into hike-a-bike sections. I managed to keep things clipped in until Violetti, a steep, rocky, loose fireroad climb. It’s a good thing I went and practiced Violetti, Cobblestone and Channel so many times, because all the hard stuff I finally was able to clear consistently, everyone around me was walking through. I’m sure they could ride it too, but it only takes one to bring the conga line to a halt.

Just after the conga line, and clearly looking for someone to save me

Up Richardson, a smooth, steep fireroad, everyone spread out and I had some time to think finally. My heart rate was around 180, unsustainable for me for a long effort, so I backed off and tried to pace myself. I didn’t pass anyone. I got passed a lot. I hated it.

Chain Drop, passedbyadude.com

My suckfest on Richardson knocked me back into a more compatible group, I think. When we hit the technical singletrack, no one passed me and I found myself keeping pace with riders ahead of me. But on Live Oak, a rocky, narrow climb, I dropped my chain again – in the back, to the inside – this has been happening more and more lately. I f bombed, getting off the trail, flipping my bike over and trying to wrestle the chain out from between the hub and the cassette. Saw boys passing me, swore some more. Got it sorted and ran up the hill pushing my bike up to an easier spot to remount.

I passed some boys back. I wondered how many beginner girls snuck in front of me, or were already in front of me. I wondered where Sarah was, I really wanted to try to hang with her sport class awesomeness. I tried to remind myself to have some fun on the descents. At some point on a rocky climb my right foot flew out of the pedal and I smacked my right inside ankle bone on the crank arm – AGAIN – and I howled in pain. Like a bitten inside cheek that keeps getting stuck between your teeth, my ankle was already raw, swollen and bruised. Time to amputate.

Pros. Descents. More Mayhem.

Feeling a bit like the Amazing Race trying to follow the directional arrows stapled to trees (I still don’t really know my way around Annadel), wondering where that horrible rock was before Marsh (the one that made me have another ankle incident a week prior), grabbing Gu and water from the volunteers, and waiting like a little lamb for the pro wolves to start getting up in my business. The pros took a “long cut,” and after riding it they’d be back on my trail.

When the pros came through, I hope I struck a good balance of riding my own race, but also cooperatively looking for convenient places to let them pass. I called out which way I was pulling over so they could get by. At one point I stopped and pulled over, and a short course lady got by. No! I pedaled furiously down the Ridge and Marsh descents and finally got her back on the Canyon descent (the same trail I cried coming up years ago). I flew over and around a thousand small boulders, trying to keep pace with some of the pros who passed me.

On the flat fire road at the bottom, I sprinted for the finish, imagining my other short course lady to be on my ass. I didn’t want to have gone through two hours of mayhem and ankle pain just to let some chick beat me right before the line.

She didn’t. I crossed the finish line, found my truck, tenderly laid down my amazing Blur TRc (I still cannot believe the things it can do), turned down a cold beer, and promptly died. I averaged 174 bpm for the duration of the two and half hour race, generating a much higher Strava suffer score than from the slightly longer Pescadero Road Race. I had no idea how I finished until our friend Maxine came over and told me I’d won!

Thanks Daydreamer Cinema for the photos - oh, and this chick Julie is rad

My race preparation was pretty good – Howard from Mikes Bikes Los Gatos, Team Buy-Cell.com, Trail Head Cyclery and Coach Thomas had all helped me with mental prep, tire choice, tire swaps, and road training, but my post-race prep was terrible. I had no recovery drink, was out of water, had no chairs or champagne, and it was hot, dry and dusty. The rest of the day I was like a wind-up toy with a broken wind-up thing.

I need to work on my outfits. Turns out sleeveless doesn’t look very pro, especially with elbow pads, nor does my pink Camelbak. Have to learn how to drink from bottles on the dirt bike (and how to not fall on my elbows).

Like I'm just out for a Sunday ride...with an elbow pad falling down.

And while I love the Specialized Prevail helmet, when I see pictures of me in it I think of this:

Mushroom

All in all, stoked about the race. Bike Monkey put on a great event. Happy to have crushed Annadel after it crushed me a few years ago!

Peace out Annadel!

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