Monday, May 24, 2010

why I like dogs better

This morning when I walked into Colin's it smelled like cats.  icky.  Despite the fact that the little fur-balls were swirling their bodies and tails around my legs in an attempt to remind me that they were hungry, I immediately went downstairs to the basement to check the litter box (I had cleaned it once already since the bastard has been in southern Cali for going on 10 days--working his tail off at the Cadence Cali Camp and having to endure junk mile after junk mile, poor thing) and the sight as I gingerly stepped down, my 4-inch sandals crunching the pellets of litter on the stairs, was uber- GROSS.  Chimay and Lokie had  dragged a plastic bag across the top of the box, and then shit beside the box, no joke.  And the poo was not of the solid kind, mind you.  I did not know where to start and the smell and sight of it all was making me feel queasy.  I decided there was no salvaging that litter and the whole thing had to go. 

So I grabbed the rake and my hand touched more semi-solid cat poo as one of them had clearly made sure whomever had left them alone for 8 days was going to pay by smearing the rake handle with his excrement.  I thought of dousing my hand in gasoline and setting it on fire....but since I could not find any I cleaned up the crap on the floor and grabbed the whole box and took it outside.  I  washed my hands and then tried to find trash bags, no dice.  So I grabbed the kitchen trashcan and dumped the whole box in there....only to find that there was an inch of urine-soaked litter glued to the bottom of the litter box.  At this point I had to concentrate to keep from throwing up.  I was starting to sweat and the commuters across the street waiting for the train were looking in bemusement at the woman in chunky heels slamming a dirty litter box against a trashcan.  I thought of leaving it that way, throwing some fresh litter on top and letting Colin deal with it but I could not do it.  He would come home and the whole house would smell of ammonia. Ugh.

So I managed to scrape it off and fill the catbox with fresh litter.  I left the towel wrapped rake for Colin the Cat-Lover to deal with, since he would be well rested after a week of recovery rides.  Then I fed the furry little carnivores, cleaned my hands about 6 more times, and then jetted off the Cadence to drop off the Yeti yet again.  ^%#%^&!

There was a time when I dreamed of raising a kitty and a puppy at the same time.  They would be best friends and I would have a picture of them curled up together behind my desk at work.  Then I ended up rescuing 3 dogs and they were not feline lovers.  Not one little bit.  (insert video here Ian) And as I got older the thought of paws that had been in the litter box jumping up on my couches and on the counters where I prepare food relieved me of the desire to have a cat, as much as I once fell in love with the Ragdoll of one of my ex-fiances.  (There was only one really, the other one I stupidly married, but that's enough of that tale)

As gross as dog poop is, for the most part it is a phenomenon you only have to encounter outside of your abode.  Most of the time anyway.  I don't like the concept of animals defacating in my house.  Then again you don't have to walk cats but truthfully, walking Gryphon Madison and Chloe is about the only time in the day when I get to relax.  Except when a cat is chilling under a car next to the sidewalk and Chloe and Madison lunge at it, jerking me back to consciousness from whatever I was plotting or daydreaming about.

So the moral of the story?  Animal-love definitely is not a cakewalk all the time, when you have an animal, you sign on for the duration in my book.  There is no dropping off an aging animal at the SPCA that you are tired of seeing throw up on your rugs.  You take the unconditional love and affection they give and in return you take care of their (usually) simple needs.  A lot simpler than with children, as the animals never grow into teenagers and tell you to go f@#$ yourself.  I'll take cleaning the catbox any day over that.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

lost deposit

There is a fist-sized emblem in the wall
masked by a postcard of eagles in flight.
Cracks and splatters on once-white doors.
A broken window slices morning light
washing over bloodstains on the coverlet,
where we slept raged tumbled and swore.
The apartment won't even sound the same
once we've gone: the neighbors will enjoy
dull, placid dawns.
But what of it? Sketching blueprints to house
my loneliness, I resisted; yet what we've left
behind isn't a mess, but hallmarks of love:
luminous, torrential as our restored lives.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

french creek enduro, saturday may 8th

This was a 6-hour endurance race at French Creek State Park, my favorite local place to ride, and again, I had no idea how to pace myself, so I just started out easy and pretty much kept the pace steady for most of the day. Selene and another rider were ahead of me (this time I noticed) and as I was mounting the first gravel climb I heard a voice say, “Hello Andrea.” I was Andrea Slack, another woman in my class who I raced against in XC a few years back and who has done a bunch of these longer races. We chatted a bit and someone rode past us and told us were were obviously not going hard enough if we were talking but it was going to be a long day and I was not going to push too hard until I knew my legs were capable of sustaining a pace for over 6 hours.  He needed to mind his darn business anyway.

It was a tough course, lots of technical climbing and teeth chattering, tricep-wasting downhills that really required your concentration; you could not relax on them. The course was 95% singletrack, which I loved. Anyway to keep it short and sweet, I met my goal which was to complete five 10-mile laps which I did in 7:36. Selene did 5 in 6:19, Christina Buerkle from Speedgoat was second with 5 laps in 7:16, and Andrea came in 3rd with 5 laps in 7:21.  Which means if I had just pushed a bit harder I could have beaten all of them (except Selene of course), especially since on my last lap I was practically hanging out watching the elites rush by me.  As for Andrea,  I beat her in the first lap but she then passed me and finished ahead. The other two ladies did 4 laps and 3 laps respectively, there were only 6 crazy enough to do this. So I took home a 4th place finish, and I had fun. My triceps failed again, and I did take a few spills, but overall it was a good day. My drivetrain was having trouble at first but the as the day wore on the shifting got better, I think because we started the race in the pouring rain but by the second and third lap the winds kicked up and everything dried out. My bike got cleaner and the race wore on.

In 2007 when I was burnt out from a season of racing, I did a 50-miler at Michaux and decided not to race it, just to take it slow and enjoy the scenery. Michaux is rougher terrain than French creek, a bit more technical with several hike-a-bike sections. Even so I rode it in 7:20 ish which tells me I have some ways to go yet to get back some fitness. That’s OK, I’m having fun, and I’ve gotten much more patient with this sort of thing. After all, I do have a freakin pacemaker for God's sake.  Not that that is an excuse.  I think after completing the TSE camp I will be able to pick up the pace a bit and maybe become a bit more competitive.    I have a 8 hour solo endurance event coming up in late June at the MASS Festival Weekend in Marysville but after riding 7:36 at French Creek how hard will it be to do another 20 minutes?

TSE Camp Day Four, Bald Eagle/Coburn

i was busy taking the picture

At this point I had done 8415 feet of climbing in 3 days, along with Laura, Joe, Brad and of course our fearless leader Mike K. I had been wearing my Zoot compression tights (left) every night in an attempt to avoid having a miserable ride on Sunday, and each night I ate a decent sized dinner. So on Day 4 we were riding the entire final state of the TSE, the longest day, 45 miles on the Bald Eagle State Forest/Coburn trails. 70% of the ride was on gravel or pavement, so it was not as bad as it sounds, but as soon as I got on the saddle I was in pain. We started on the first climb and although my legs were tight they were holding their own, but my saddle sores were intense. It was really tough to sit on the seat at all. I guess it was the 7:36 I spent in the saddle last Saturday at French Creek in combo with the last 3 days and 16 hours on the bike.

The problem then became nutrition for me. I had filled my hydropack with 72 ounces of Infinit sports drink, and a bottle of Sustained Energy, and of course a flask of hammer gel and multiple bars purchased at Whole Foods. Except by that time in our journey my body did not want any of it. I was having a really hard time chewing on the bars and drinking the water. Luckily I brought a pb&j and I shoved that down in small pieces but we were not stopping as much as on the first 2 days and since I was no longer in the lead group when I did catch up to them they took off again. I could not tolerate anything that I brought, and as a consequence my legs were getting more fatigued. Even when we were on the flats we were pacelining and I had trouble staying on that wheel. It sucked.

We hit a railroad bed and we came upon 4 families with about 12 children riding alongside of us, Mike took a picture; the little girls with their pink and purple bikes were motoring alongside us, it was great. Then we reached a really cool, completely dark tunnel.   Then this cool old bridge.  Overall the course had really good flow with the combination of gravel climbs and descents, railtrail, and features like the tunnel and bridge. This was going to be an awesome adventure for the racers; I was jealous.

Then we came upon a porcupine lumbering next to the road. I have never seen one of those things up close, they are very odd-looking. He did not seem to be phased much by us at all, almost as if to say, “go ahead, I dare you.”

Thankfully, Robbie Lichtenwalner was giving Laura initially, and then both of us, pushes up the long mile-plus climbs. By the third hour I really needed it. Laura finished out the day riding stronger than she had on any of the three previous days. Sure she had a god bit of help at first, but even so, to get stronger after 3 and a half days of hard riding was pretty impressive. That never seems to happen with me.

I was pretty damn happy when we pulled up to the campsite with 45 miles on our Garmins. We rode for 4.5 hours and climbed 4615 feet today.

Back at camp everyone started packing up pretty quickly because Laura had a 9-hour drive back to North Carolina, Joe to Virginia, and Brad had to get back up to Boston. Laura and Joe were both racing the TSE, and with the training and pre-ride they got this weekend it will be interesting to see how they do.

Ray Adams, the other promoter of the TSE showed up at camp after Mike and I were still cleaning up the cabin and loading my stuff in the car. We talked for a while but then I told Mike we needed to bolt because I had to get home and get my stuff together for "work" on Monday.
On the ride back to Bethlehem Mike and I talked about racing, training and nutrition. I expressed my frustration that on the third day of every camp I crash and burn, and I am starting to realize it is a nutrition issue. I eat a vegetarian, plant-based diet with very little sugar and zero junk food. Constantly eating gels, bars, shot blocks, and sugary sports drinks makes me sick, literally. I start to have GI symptoms, and it is hard to even get the stuff down. Rob told me that maybe I should not eat food at all. He said he has done 24-hour races with just a high-calorie sports drink and gels. Mike said I just may need to be more creative with the stuff I eat to find something more palatable. He said Chris Eatough, for example, used to eat gummy bears and powdered donuts. Mike K did a 24-hour race and laid out a smorgasbord of food so that when he came through the pit he could choose something he wanted to eat, depending on how his stomach was feeling at the moment.  I guess I just need to experiment with some different foods and see how it goes. 

So I got back to Bethlehem, reset my GPS and headed home to 3 canines who were overwhelmed with joy to see me, although Ian had taken very good care of them, and had become charmed by Madison as I knew he would.  Overall I am happy with my performance at the camp.  I learned a lot about bike handling and my technical skills started coming back.  I learned about my weaknesses in regard to riding and nutrition and how I could correct them.  And I discovered that some of the most incredible trails in the country are right in my backyard, so to speak, in central Pennsylvania, and how they will be showcased in the Transylvania Epic which will be like no other race in the US.  I will undoubtedly achieve a bump in my fitness as a result of riding for over 20 hours in 4 days and climbing 13, 500 feet.  And most of all I had a great time doing what I love the most with a really fun group of riders.  Thank you to Mike for making me an offer I could not refuse and for my compatriots, Brad, Joe, Laura, Mike Festa, Mike Bowen, Jorge, Chris, Robbie, and Sarah.  It would not have been the same without you!

For all of the pics from the camp, click here.

Mike Kuhn and yours truly

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

TSE Camp Day 3, Raystown Lake

We had a bigger group this time  Chris Jones from Winchester, VA, Jorge Engroba, from Pocono Pines, PA, and Mike Festa, from Wayne, PA joined us, and they had fresh legs.  Here is Jorge showing off one of his jerseys, the "horse puking up a rainbow".  And the matching purple shorts with stars just completed the whole ensemble.

Raystown Lake is a man-made serpentine 29,000 acre project with 12 public access areas, a 8,000 acre lake, picnic areas, beaches, boat launches, campgrounds, trails, hunting, fishing, marina concession stands and is operated and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Several years ago, as Mike tells it,  the Corps contracted IMBA to create a trail network there.  They are the Allegrippis Trails:  rolling, machine-cut singletrack full of  banked turns, ups and downs and whoop-di-doos.  This XC was going to be Stage 4 of the  TSE. The terrain required a completely differnent type of riding than the first two days of the camp: as Mike described it, "this will be a day to work on high speed handling and short sharp efforts as the trails at Alegrippis encourage speed throughout." The singletrack was as well-groomed as White Clay, DE, barely a rock and nary a log or stick in sight, but the whoop-di-doos were higher than at White Clay and there would be several in succession which made it tough to keep your wheels on the ground.  They could LAUNCH you as I discovered later.

View Larger Map

We hit the first trail and realized that we were going to to do 35 miles of this sweet machine-cut singletrack. If you could handle the bike through the turns, berms and whoop-di-doos you could conserve a lot of energy,  but it was hard not to hit the brakes sometimes. Anyway, I felt fearless and although my legs were a little stiff at first I jumped into the woods right behind Kuhn, Chris Jones, and Mike Festa.  We were all a bit exuberant at first. At the next break I was out front and I just took off so I could see how my high speed handling was stacking up.  I tried to use my momentum and stay off the brakes as much as possible.  I was also trying to lose Festa, who was right behind me.  I managed to drop him a few times.  Of course when we stopped to wait for the others at the end of the trail (Kuhn and Rob L were in coaching mode) I was totally sucking wind and Festa did not look like he had broken a sweat, the bastard.   After the first run, after Kuhn talked about where this stage fell in the race and some tactics for handling the terrain, Rob Lichtenwalner, who started as a downhiller and has a couple of national 24-hour championships under his belt, spent some time talking to us about tips for keeping your wheels on the ground, managing turns, etc.

There was one trail called "Ray's Revenge" which had whoop-di-doo after whoop-di-doo.  Most had a rounded backside, but there was one that fell in the middle series of them on a downhill, when you were already going fast, especially if you were trying to keep off the brakes because your legs were as tired as mine were. Anyway I was coming down the trail fast and hit it, and my bike launched me into the air.  Sarah Lichtenwalner and Laura were behind me and later they said I was "way up there". It must have been over 5 feet.  As I flew above the trail I looked down and thought to myself, ok, I can do this, keep the handlebars straight, shit--my turned wheel caught the side of the sandy trail and wham! I went down hard on my ride side, slamming my head and sliding a few feet before my body came to a stop in the leaves.  I lay there with my eyes closed as Laura yelled for the boys to hold up.  After a couple of seconds I got up, dusted myself off, and said, "I'm Ok, but damn that hurt." It turns out that Rob looked at the settings on my rear shock and the rebound was set way too high. He did a quick fix on the trail and it was much easier to keep the bike on the ground after that.  However, we did do that trail over again later and I almost bit it again in the same spot.  We decided that someone  needed to mark that spot for the TSE or there would be more than a few accidents; you just don't see that it's different than the other ones until it's too late.

By that time my legs were bitching at me, and I was having trouble keeping up with the boys.  Actually I was having trouble keeping up with the girls too.  But I noticed one by one several of us were hurting too.  There was something about this  place really sucked the energy out of you. I felt as if I was cramping a bit and the fact that I had only water in my hydropack, and I had not consumed most of it, was wearing on me.  I carried a bottle of sports drink but that was long gone.  Chris, who is the Hammer Nutrition rep, gave me some electrolyte pills and I took 6 of them.  I felt a little better, but it was probably too late.  The rest of the ride was pretty much miserable for me, despite the great trails and the beautiful day.  That sucked, I really paid for my early exuberance.  This is what happens when you don't have any high end, I had been only doing endurance rides for 2 years. It felt so damn good to go fast though.

We were planning on doing the whole 35 miles, but it seemed as if everyone wanted to bail at 25, so that's what we did.  We changed, drove back to camp and showered.  I had my recovery drink and realized that I had only drank 40 ounces of the 72 I brought in my pack. Tomorrow I would fill it with sports drink and carry a bottle of Sustained Energy.

Later we went into SC to Cosy Thai and ate our take-out outside in the courtyard since they could not seat our 8-person party, this being graduation weekend. We went back to camp with full bellies to rest up for the 5 hour ride tomorrow, the entire final stage of the race.

3:25 saddle time/4:41 ride time/2588 feet of climbing/25 miles

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TSE Camp Day Two

Today I got up before anyone and made a badass breakfast. Whole grain pancakes, scrambled eggs with sauteed portabella mushrooms, spinach and cheddar cheese, and fresh coffee. Keep in mind that I don't drink coffee anymore, but I brought it to make for everyone else because you can't expect coffee drinkers to be civil in the am without their fix.  When asked about my need to take care of others needs I reminded the asker that I am the zookeeper after all.  Anyway, Laura made some excellent steel cut oats with currants. We ate like kings until we were all stuffed and did not get in the car until about 10:30.

We drove to the Rothrock State Forest trails which will comprise Day 6 of the TSE. We started with a 3 mile gravel climb that wasn’t even part of the race, I think Mike just wanted to make us suffer before the reward of the long gravel downhill, it seemed like dropped forever, a good 4 miles, what a rush. We went on a doubletrack trail, Little Shingletown Road, through a seemlingly enchanted forest where we stopped to take a pic: I think this one is going to be on the TSE brochure next year:

 I can’t even describe the beauty of the trails today. The riding here is as sweet as it gets. Once again, I feel the overwhelming desire to my house in philly on the market and move up here.  I would miss some things about the city I guess, but not too much.
We then climbed another 2.5 miles on a rocky, grassy, double track climb, my legs did not like that. Probably because we stopped for 15 minutes to take pictures and my legs were stiff and we went right into the climb. I could not get in a flow because of the small rocks that wobbled and sucked your energy as you rode over them. The three bridges trail was magnificent with logs and crazy rock gardens which were mostly rideable, we practiced some of them and Mike took more pics and gave us some tips. I was really happy that my technical skills were starting to come back, as that was one of my goals coming to the camp.

We hit a ridegetop trail on Tussey mountain; it was an incredible view on top of the mountain because there had been a forest fire and the top trees were leafless spikes that stood up like giant gravestones on the mountaintop.  The trails was fast and rocky with intermittant rock gardens and logs.  The flow was such that you could get a lot of speed, the riding was just too great to take it easy.  I was out front and I took off like a bat out of hell and dropped everyone (Mike was back there coaching, no I would not have dropped him). It felt so good to be going at XC race pace instead of the super slow endurance pace I had been going for the past few years.

We were stopping a lot to wait for Laura, who was struggling today.  That was painful because when we stop for 10 minutes my legs get tight again. Also we were supposed to do another 10 miles or so of riding but Mike had to cut it short because it was just getting to be too long of a day. By the end of the day we had 3:40 of riding time but we were out there for almonst 4 and a half hours.  That's the way it goes sometimes as these camps, you can't complain to much about waiting because there are times they group might be waiting for you.  As for me, overall my legs performed incredibly today for the morning after a late ride of 31 miles.  But it was only Day Two.

We finished the day with a fast fast doublettrack descent, Mike out front, me close behind, watching his lines carefully and trying to use my brakes as little as possible.  I am not sure anything in life is as fun as this is.  All I know is this race is going to be incredible, it will be an epic journey to remember.  I think I'm going to do it next year.

 saddle time 3:30/ride time 4:28/2665 feet of climbing/25 miles

Transylvania Epic Training Camp, Day One

As many of you might have heard the largest mountain bike stage race, in North America, The Transylvania Epic is being brought to you by none other than my former coach and friend Mike Kuhn and his teammate Ray Adams.  This epic 7 day adventure has its own blog and you can learn all about it by going there.  So this camp features a preview of several stages of the TSE course. 

At the last minute Mike convinced me to do it. I don’t really have the cash right now, and am kinda swamped at work as I have not hired an assistant since December when Louis the Inept was shit-canned, but heck, the prospect of riding my bike on sweet singletrack in the middle of the state for 4 days (about 20ish hours of riding) and staying in a heated boy scout cabin (read=cheap) was just too much for me to pass up. I could really use the miles for my training and I was already getting sick of 3 to 4 hour rides in the Wiss and Belmont. Besides anything I did with Mike was fun, he knows how to put on a camp just as he knows how to put on a race.  And Colin told me it would be good for my training, even knowing full well that if I left on Thursday he would have to find someone else to feed his cats while he was in California, at least until I got back. 

I left late from Philly of course; got on the road at 8:30 am and headed to Mike and Kris’s place in Bethlehem.  We loaded up his minivan with stuff for camp and then headed out to Marysville to drop off some stuff at his folk's place and then onto state college. We met up with 3 other riders, Brad Ewald, Laura Gleason and Joe Castle. Brad came from Somerville, MA, Laura from North Carolina, and Joe from Alexandria, Virginia. We got up to the camp around 1 pm greeted by the sweetest little husky I’ve ever seen.  I did not take a picture of him and I did not get to see him the rest of our stay, but Mike remembers him because he sneaked Mike's uneaten sandwich out of the door of his car last timaround. Sounds a lot like Gryphon.  If it's at dog-nose level then it's fair game as far as the canines are concerned, trust me.

Laura’s home turf is the Pisgah National Forest, which she describes as “a great mix of technical singletrack, technical climbs, harrowing rock like descents, dirt descents with waterbars, and roots.”  My teammates should know; they did the state race there last year and everyone hit the podium I'm pretty sure, anyway, I was kinda out of it last year.

So today we did the prologue of TSE which was about 3 miles of climbing a rolling gravel road uphill with no warmup. I got into a rhythym and it was fine. I paced myself behind Mike and Joe who were rolling easy and it felt pretty good, not easy, but not killing me.

Then we did the final stage which was very technical singletrack, a pine forest with south jersey pine barren-like fast rolling sandy berms, incredible rock gardens, long descents, and a monster 3 mile technical climb on the back end which hurt.  A lot.  But still the legs felt good, I was happy to be up front most of the time.  My technical descents came back to me pretty quickly and it was fun following behind Mike on those long ones and watching his line. 

We did not get back from riding until 7:30 pm, drank our recovery shakes and took showers in our heated boy scout camp which by my estimation was closer to the Ritz than to actually camping, which was fine by me.  Later we drive into State College to sit and eat at The Corner Room.  It was a blast. I was so happy to be doing what I loved.  And not having to work for the rest of the week.  And knowing that Ian was taking good care of my puppies.  I just wondered if I was going to ride this well for the whole 4 days. It was a lot of riding, my fitness was not the greatest right now, I had only been on the mountain bike for 6 weeks since December, and usually when I do these camps by the third or fourth day I would crash and burn.

Such beautiful country up here.  It really makes me want to leave the city and find a place in the mountains. One dream at a time already.

3:43 saddle time/4:39 ride time/3162 feet of climbing/32 miles

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

an auspicious start for a bionic heart

at the start with Eddie behind me

I got up early Sunday but not early enough, thanks to listening to Joe Reynolds tell me it was only going to take 45 minutes to get there (he would have been right if I had not gotten lost). I had stayed out at Meisha's a bit too late, and it took me too long to get my shit together since I have not done this drill since April of 2008.
Anyway, when I finally got myself out of bed it was raining.  It had not rained for several days and I guess the prospect of the trails actually being DRY at Granogue was too much for the Gods to bear so they provided just enough rain to make the off-camber roots and mud extra slippery.  The rain stopped, and I loaded up the car, fed the dogs and was off.  I was cutting it kind of close but since I was doing the endurance race (never done it before) and would be riding for 4+ hours I really did not need to do much of a warmup, and besides I was not taking this too seriously.  For XC races I used to lug my road bike w/powertap, trainer, a clipboard with my warmup zones printed out, ipod, etc etc.  It sucked, I had to get there 1.5 hours early everytime and if I did not hit my zones in the warmup I would freak out.  I am done with all that.  Christ, I have a pacemaker now, how can I take any of this too seriously?

I used google maps and of course got lost.  It clearly says on my checklist from 2008 to always "check 2 sources for directions" (what did I say about OCD?) but I used the GPS on my phone to get me there 25 minutes before staging.   I checked in, slapped my race number on my bike (with an imbedded timing chip thanks to John Miller) and rode back to the car to change and load up my bag for my "pit", which was next to Ed Moran's cooler at the base of the tower.  So anyway, zero warmup, my Garmin actually read "0.00 miles" when Fat Marc told us to "go."  Another first.

The thing about this race, and I guess other endurance races, is it is a mass start.  There were about 75 of us starting at once, men and women, so it made it really tough to discern what ladies were in front of me.  This ended up being an important point. I started out at almost XC pace, and then beat myself up a little later when I got caught behind some sport-level enduro riders who could not navigate the slimy roots and rocks in the first wooded part of the course.  I passed as many as I could.  But I was thinking I needed to settle into a pace I could maintain for 4 hours in 90+ degree heat and humidity. So I backed off a bit and just started enjoying the course.  My XX components were performing flawlessly, I was riding better over the technical stuff as the day wore on, and I decided that I had found my calling was far as racing was concerned.  I felt like it would be no problem to do 4 laps, and it was clear time-wise I would be able to do 5.  I also assumed that most of the women were ahead of me. I passed Wendy Bulotta on the middle of the first lap, and  young Cynthia Seaman and I traded places a few times before I put some time in on her later in the race.  Not that the course was not grueling, because it was.  It was incredibly hot and I made a mistake on my 2nd lap by not taking a fresh bottle. There was a lot of climbing and I was doing pretty well up most of them, until crossing the bridge before the tunnel for the third time a  2-inch diameter stick flew up from hell and got lodged in my drivetrain. I straddled the bridge and pulled it out but afterwards I could not get into my easiest 2 gears.  That proved to be tough as I needed those gears late in the race to get up those hills. I need to learn now to adjust my gears on the fly.

As it turned out, I was actually in second place, behind Selene Yeager who was riding an impossibly fast pace, she did 6 laps, no one was going to catch her, damn.  When I finished my 4th lap after walking every hill because of my ghost-shifting bike,  I had time to spare, which meant I could do another lap.  I decided not to. I was sick of dragging my bike up the hills and I had not eaten enough so my legs were pretty much toast. That was the longest mountain bike ride I had done in a year.

I managed to drag myself up another hill (sans bike) to retrieve my bag and talk to Eddie for a bit.  Cynthia came up the hill for her 5th lap and looked very surprised to see that I had finished with 4 laps.  She gave me a "WTF?" look and I told her my bike was messed up and then offered her a gel.  She said she was OK but was going to take the last lap easy. She looked like she needed a pb and j.

So Cynthia beat me by completing 5 laps, Selene in first place with 6, and everyone else with 4 or 3.  I left before they passed out the awards because I had no idea I had finished 3rd, I thought I was in second to last place.  My teammates informed me that I had podiumed.  Holy shit.  My first race back I hit the podium.  That felt pretty good after my abysmal performance at Belmont last week. 

Next up: a 6 hour endurance race at French Creek. I used to be really good at rock gardens but at Granogue, well, not so much.  I guess I will find out this saturday if I can re-learn that stuff in a 6 hour race.

How to Drink Vodka the Russian Way

compliments of Michael Chizkov and his Russian brethren.  After a few more of these along with a few beers, Colin ended up not riding the next day but he will tell you that was part of his training plan.  I left early so I could tear it up at Granogue the next morning, too bad because I got out of there just as it was getting good.  That's what sucks about bike racing sometimes.