Monday, June 29, 2009

The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix 2009--Rock Racing Wins Again


Residents of Manhattan Beach and the surrounding areas are blessed. Where else in America can a person be treated to a spectacle of world-class cyclists racing by her door?

Coachubby and I walked over to watch pro men, including the controversial Floyd Landis, and women race in the 48th Annual Manhattan Beach Grand Prix yesterday.
(Landis is in the Ouch kit.)

The fast course features only two turns--tight, fast right turns I have dubbed "evil turns of death" that always delight twisted spectators with wicked crashes every year.

This year was no different, although I didn't actually witness the crashes. The women had a crash on their last lap, destroying the cohesive peloton that left the start/finish, leaving racers limping in in mini pelotons--all behind 16-year old Proman Hit Squad rider Coryn Rivera, a cycling prodigy if there ever were one, who took the women's field. Click below for a little screechy action from the far corner.
video
Rahsaan Bahati won the men's race for the 3rd year in a row! Luckily for MB cycling fans, Rock Racing wasn't out in all of its "in your face" glory this year, keeping it's team RV and blaring music out of sight. Although the efforts to blend in a bit made for more pleasant race viewing, a few calls of "Rock Racing Sucks!" still bellowed out of the crowds. One thing's for sure, however: Rahsaan Bahati doesn't suck. He rocks it.




And so did Team Type 1, who royally kicked my butt in February, and who got team member Kenneth Hansen the 3rd place podium spot. For full pro results, click here.


Just another awesome day at the beach! Yea for tapering!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The "Coolest 24-Hour Race Boggs Mountain": Hurts So Good

(Update: To view Boggs results, click here.)
There are two reasons the trail became strewn with wet spots at night. Well, actually one reason: pee.

But there are two reasons it was on the trail:

1. There's nobody around for hours on end, so why waste time hiding behind a tree?
2. Sticking your bum out into the cold, dark unknown at night is like asking to become a human midnight snack.

The first few night loops, I tried not to stop for too long--just long enough to add purple leg warmers and eat a pb& pretzel sandwich.

Then two things began to sabotage my chances at winning. Big time: A propane heater, and a 5-hour energy.

I found the heater at midnight. Then I didn't want to leave.
I. Hate. Being. Cold.
The terrible thing is, if I had just kept going, I wouldn't have gotten cold; I got cold standing around eating.

Then I took a 5-hour energy--the first I have downed in my entire life, and began chatting. With anyone and everyone who was up and willing to listen to me. I had energy, and I wanted to talk, dammit.

I discovered on my subsequent loop that I was lonely. The excitement of having all of the 8 hour people out there was gone. I saw nary a headlamp for more than half an hour at a time. I wanted to talk to someone. To jump up and down.

My breaks began to get longer as I started to talk to race leaders for other teams, other teammates being staged, random people who couldn't sleep. Coachubby.

To my delight, a drunken crew of 8-hour racers plus coachubby had walked over to the course's only aid station to heckle riders as they passed in the night. I stopped.
"Hey! You're beating this guy's wife!" one said, while coachubby gave me salt pills.
"Dumbass, that is his wife--why else would she be taking pills from him?"
I needed the comical interlude.

My 5 hour energy lasted 4 hours. I ate a Red Bull and kept on going.

Then, the magical loop came: the Dawn Loop. It was beautiful. I would be able to make out at least a silhouette of a mountain lion before it pounced on me. However, I'd have to be more careful about willy nilly bladder emptying--other riders could more easily sneak up on me without lights blaring.

I was re energized. I wanted to keep riding, but my right knee, bless her, was a mess. I started to walk parts of the big ass backside climb like a little sissy. I also started to get technically impaired (not that my technical skills were too great to begin with). I rubbed up on some trees instead of going around them.

Then, I had my one fall of the race: I stuck my foot out to balance a sharp ziggy-zaggy turn, then fell over. (Make that fall number two, after I stepped to the side to let someone pass, then just fell over. Classy.) I checked to make sure nobody saw, then continued through the chute to my almost final lap.

At 8am, I came through the chute. If I didn't stop for too long, I could do two more loops.

Thus began a big, failing brain battle. On the previous loop, I figured I had one more loop left in me. The clock thought differently. So my brain made me take a big, fat break at 8am, for like 20 minutes, essentially making it impossible to squeeze in a loop after 10:30am in my damaged condition.

The bike karma gods were out strong on my last loop. Some male member of a 24-hour team screamed at me to get out of his way while he was bombing through the last technical section. I was pissed--how rude! Every body else for the past 22+ hours had been encouraging and kind.

Just when I was thinking what a d-word that guy was, I came around a corner, and saw him struggling to fix a flat.

Thank you bike karma gods. (He must've been really, really mean earlier, too. I later learned the same guy had crashed and broken his finger, then snapped it back into place himself!)

I rolled in around 10:30am. Done. No more loops--the final one would not count if I did it. Then another woman rolled in behind me--a loop ahead. Bah! Curse the glowy warmth of the propane heater!

I was covered in dirt. My teeth were covered in dirt. My purple leg warmers looked like compression socks on my swollen legs. Life was good.

Except we were in the middle of nowhere...how to get un-covered in dirt?

Coachubby and I drove to a hotel down the road and offered $20 to the maid to let us use the shower, while I hid in the car so she wouldn't see exactly how gross the shower was going to get from my being in it.

We had to skip awards to make the 9 hour trek back to LA.

But the rule of race-to-driving ratio was obeyed; with 22.5 hours of racing and 18 hours of driving, the ratio was greater than 1. Totally worth it.

Who's up for the Tahoe-Sierra 100 Mtb Race September 12th?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Race Across Oregon Racer Profiles

The Race Across Oregon 2009 route and rider profiles are up! Check it all out here. Sandy Earl wrote the ladies' profiles, and they're pretty hilarious.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The "Coolest 24-Hour Race Boggs Mountain": Chugging Along



"We have to stop at CVS if you see one!"
"Why?" asked coachubby as he navigated up windy roads through Napa and beyond.
"Because I want to dye my hair!"
"Are you kidding me? You've never dyed it before."
"So?"
"Shouldn't you be thinking about, I don't know, the race?"
"What's there to think about? I just ride until 24 hours are over. Done."
"You should think of motivators for when it gets tough."
"Because I can. Done."
"Ok...."

In an act of boredom, I had cut bangs into my hair a few days before, and in the act, had lobbed off the natural highlights that came from spending hours in the sun with the bottom of my hair sticking out of my helmet. The bangs were oddly dark. That's what I was thinking about going into my first 24-hour mountain bike race.

Coachubby was appalled. We hadn't driven 9 hours north of LA to dye my hair, apparently.

I tried to wake up at 9am on race morning, but at about 7:30, I had already had 9 hours of sleep and couldn't sleep any more. Ah, the joys of a noon race start. I waited until 9am for coachubby to come back from his marathon-length recon run--2 loops of the 11-mile mtb course, plus a few more miles.

"You're gonna like the course!" he said, "A big sketchy part in the beginning, then there are some rollers, and a sketchy downhill that turns right just at the bottom, then a big ass climb for a mile up a fire road."
"Great."
"I ran with a huge stick just in case I saw a mountain lion."
"Great."

I downed a skinny Elvis, packed my stuff into Laree, and off we went down a very dusty dirt road until we came upon the campground housing the race directors and my competitors. And by campground, I mean forest--there were no facilities besides about 8 porta potties somebody dragged in. Just us and mother nature. Hardcore.

"Here's your number with the timing chip on it. And here's another one for your other bike. Do you have two bikes?" asked the check-in lady.
"Am I supposed to have two bikes?"
"Well, you can come back and get this number if someone loans you one."

Was I going to destroy Qeee, my 6-month old baby mountain bike?

After a pre-race meeting with all 69 24-hour participants--39 of whom were on teams--and 85 8-hour participants, I killed an hour reading about renegade DIY Los Angeles bike-lane builders in Bicycling, then stood in the back of the mass start.

Good idea for placement, bad idea for breathing in dirt. Lots of dirt. One smart, yet uber dorky, competitor had a bird flu mask on. No dirt spores would be prodding around his lungs.

A few of the other four 24-hour female competitors introduced themselves to me. We all had red numbers to distinguish ourselves from the 8-hour racers, and make a statement about our mental health.

I was apparently in the right spot, sitting in the back. And I must've looked like I had no idea what I was doing, since they all said, "This is your first one," with the slightest bit of a question mark at the end.

We were off! Then two minutes later, we were all bunched up as 114 riders approached the coachubby-dubbed "super sketchy part in the beginning".

Pam and her cohort Tom, two of the solo 24-hour racers I had met at the beginning, who were apparently there to ride the entire 24-hours in unison, would have none of this bunching up, picked up their bikes, and tried to run down the mountain. Chaos and a flat ensued.

I stuck to the course. I had 23hours and 58 minutes, after all, to make it through. The laid-back mindset of riding for more time rather than less was easy to adopt.

Unless you're world-class mountain biker Tinker Juarez.
Yep, he was there. And he was racing like there was only one loop to do.

I rode the first 6 loops without stopping for too long. Then, at the end of my 6th loop, not only did the 8-hour race conclude, taking away the bulk of the riders on the course, but also night began to fall.

Oh the creepiness of twilight in the forest with nobody around to forge ahead and scare the mountain lions away from the trail. Just like swimming in the ocean with real swimmers, I imagined that by riding through the forest with real mountain bikers, I would look like the gimpy one--the easy meal for predators.

The wind began to blow hard across the tops of the trees, sending branches to their death, crashing all around me, crackling like someone--or something--had just stepped on a creaky floorboard on his way to murder me.

Then, it got cold. Really cold. The forecast called for lows in the mid-50s. It was 40 degrees outside.

Terrified and freezing, I had about 8 hours of night riding to do. Even though Saturday was about the longest day of the year, Saturday night felt like the longest night of my life.

To be continued...



Thursday, June 18, 2009

24 Hour Lance Leg Candy

Check out this picture of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France-ready lean legs from a recent Carmichael Training newsletter:


Sick!

P.S. If you happen to be in Cobb, CA this weekend, come cheer at the Boggs 24-hour Mountain Bike race! Quadleft and Quadright are trashed...and they haven't even started! Good times.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The California Triple-T: On Hold


Starting to look past your summer race schedule and into fall triathlon options, you might've been excited to read a slew of press releases about the famous American Triple-T coming to CA.

The California Triple-T, scheduled for September 18-20 in Lake County, CA, has sadly been called off this year. HFP Racing customer service rep, Dan Davis, said it was canceled due to a lack of interest.

The killer triathlon weekend, traditionally held at the end of May in Ohio, was going to make its West Coast debut this September.

A 3-day extravaganza, the event would've treated triathletes to 4 races: a Friday night super sprint, 2 olympic-distance races on Saturday, and a half-iron distance race on Sunday. Athletes can choose to go it alone or as a part of a team. (But they must do all of the races!)

Basically, it's like breaking up an Ironman and doing it over 2 days--in the hopes that athletes can keep their race intensity far above what they would've done in Ironman. And if the athlete participates on a team, the team members can draft one another in the third and fourth races--but they must finish together.

When HFP tries to put the California race on in 2010, DO NOT wait until the last minute to sign up (like I usually do). As Mr. Davis says, "the Cali race is dependent on early registrations."

Let them know you're coming, so we can get our West Coast Triple-T on!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Becoming an Ultra Geek--The Cycling Fashion Hierarchy

It happened somewhat gradually.
First, I started wearing a jersey with three big pockets instead of two cute ones.
Then, I began wearing an acid-yellow wind vest for visibility on PCH.
And pink arm-warmers.
And purple leg warmers.
Then came the acid-yellow jersey when it got too warm for the vest.
And the white arm coolers, to shield my arms from hours of sun.
And the stick-on reflective stickers that run down the back of my bike, placed there for my first double and never since removed.

And then, the straw that broke the cycling fashonista's back: the Camelbak.

Riding longer and longer meant I began to favor visibility and hydration over cycling fashion.

It never occurred to me, until this past Saturday, that I had become a wholehearted ultra dork, fashion-wise, until I rode with the group of cyclists that pure cyclists abhor: triathletes.

It seems that triathletes (make that Los Angeles-based triathletes), in an effort to put someone down for their cycling fashion choices just as they are put down by pure cyclists, have chosen the ultracyclist as their prey. It's a strange situation to be in, considering most ultracyclists, obviously including myself, are triathletes.

The first sign that I was not worthy to ride in a peloton of aerobar-ed triathletes: nobody, of the 30+ people gathered in Santa Monica to start the ride, talked to me.

The second sign came later on in the ride, when the only people still riding were me, and 5 dudes in their 30s-40s: The ride's leader asked me why the hell I was wearing a Camelbak.

I had several options for my response:
I'm doing a mountain bike race next weekend, so I have to get used to wearing it.
I need the extra weight for training; this ride isn't hard enough as it is, suckas!
I went with the harshest truth I could think of, thinking they'd back off.

"Because I have an arrhythmia and I need to drink more on my long rides." Boo-ya. Try to say something mean to me now.

"So you have to drink more, not carry more," said the ride leader.

Point taken. I looked like a major dweeb. But a dweeb worth waiting for, apparently, as they didn't ditch me on the last few climbs. In fact, they were waiting for me at the top of the last major climb, so I stopped to down some salt pills.

Then one of the 5 remaining dudes took to dissecting my Silver Bullet, aka Frankenbike, aka my only road bike who was recently remodeled and, I thought, was looking pretty flashy.

"Did you build this yourself?" one of them asked.
"Yes. I got the shifters from being hit by a car." Will you zip it now?

If only my legs hadn't felt crispy-fried before beginning the ride that morning. Then I'd have kept up and shown those dudes that it's not the bike that matters, it's the engine.

At first, I was concerned that I had lost my fashion edge; my cycling fashion has recently been taking cues from Rainbow Bright rather than Bicycling.

Then I realized a simple truth: the most fashionable people on earth are always ridiculed for the risks they take. However, taking risks is what makes them seriously fashionable in the first place à la Lady Gaga.

Therefore, though the cycling fashion hierarchy is traditionally viewed as follows:
Pure cyclists --> triathletes --> ultracyclists
in truth, the inverse might be the true order of cycling haute couture.

Ride on, ultra trigeeks!






Friday, June 12, 2009

Eastern Sierra Double Century--No Guts No Glory

Sometimes the greatest good comes from the worst evil.
(Photo taken of Joan Grant by Mike Deitchman at Eastern Sierra '09. For more awesome photos by Mike, click here.)

Case in point: The Eastern Sierra Double Century '09. Yes, it sucked to be out there. No doubt. But did it really suck suck?

No. In fact, it was actually quite awesome.

WHA? you're thinking, You don't make any sense, nutso! I just read 3 days of your biotching about the event.
It would appear that you're correct. But I'm a girl, so I'm allowed to make no sense and contradict myself, right?

If the ESD had, in fact, been pleasant, I wouldn't have learned anything about myself that would further my confidence in my training for Race Across Oregon. (Crossing my fingers RAO will be warm!)

Like that I don't give up that easily. (As long as nobody gives me the option. I hope you're reading this, RAO crew.)

Or that I love being outside, getting dirty, with my friends--even if it is in a ditch on the side of a road. How many friends have you, grown men and women, huddled in a ditch with in the middle of nowhere lately? It's quite a bonding experience. And it reemphasized the importance of friendship in life--above all else, really.

So, along that vein, I have to thank ESD for being so evil, because in its evil, it gave me a better understanding of myself, and of my capabilities. But most of all, it brought me closer to my old friends, and allowed me to make some totally awesome new ones.

Joan Grant, ultracyclist extraordinaire, suggested I do ESD in the first place. I was excited to go just to get to meet her in person, as I had already adopted her as my ultra mentor (whether she knew it or not), and to meet her equally ultra crazy boyfriend, Mike.

Seeing Joan out there on the course was inspiring. (FYI, she was whooping me, but I got to see her because of the out-and-backs.) She was riding alone, and seemed to ride through the rain like it was just a minor annoyance. Same goes for the wind. As I huddled behind a tandem, Joan refused to draft off of anybody, and wound up dragging a long line of emasculated men behind her.

Mike was the world's best adopted crew member to Robyn and me when we arrived at lunch, filling up our water bottles and asking how we were doing.

Coachubby drove around all day, cheering for us and taking pictures.

Ultracycling's a neat-o thing to do, because it's simultaneously all about you, and all about your crew and friends. Without them, ultracycling would seem lonely, selfish, and pointless. Without you, they'd, um, probably be enjoying a hot tub and some margaritas instead of driving 10 mph behind you at 1am trying to stay awake.

Everyone's efforts were sweetly rewarded the next day, when we met Joan, Mike, and two of their ultra friends at the best bakery I've visited since living in Paris--in Bishop! (Who'da thunk?)

As we sat out on the patio, taking in the warm, sunny day that was Sunday, exchanging horror stories from the day before, and from rides before that, I was supremely happy. And wheezy and in pain. But happy.

We followed Joan and Mike up to a bathtub-like hotspring and enjoyed more time in each other's company, soaking in the hot water and the scenery.


The hot tub, the bakery sweets, and the warm sun would never have seemed as heavenly had they not been contrasted against the freezing, PowerBar-ed, rainy day before.

And so, like a cruel lover, ESD was both the most evil, sadistic thing I've ever encountered, but also the most rewarding.

And what's even cooler? Joan will be riding at RAO as well.

Bring it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eastern Sierra Double Century Craptacular Conclusion

"You descend like a man!"

"Um, thanks?" I said to a newfound cycling partner--a Berkeley-educated engineer whom Robyn and I had swallowed up on our way up the mother f'in final climb.

The 7-mile out-and-back had no official ending, and none of us had cycling computers. We thought we had reached the top, so we put on our jackets, peed behind rocks, and got ready to descend when a few cyclists came by shouting, "Only 200 meters to go! Turn around at the car!"

Are you kidding me?...at least I didn't moon them.

Turns out the magical turn-around car was Laree. Coachubby had climbed up on some rocks to cheer, but we hardly paused. We shouted "bye!" to him and began the final stretch to the end of the evil.

Where did everyone behind us turn around after coachubby jumped in the car to greet us at the final rest stop? We'll never know--the final mileage of the whole day was very approximate.

(Laree and I at the turn-around, as seen by coachubby.)

(On a completely unrelated note, somebody has been playing the same Seal album all day long, over and over again, while building a house next door. I liked Seal. Until now. If the Seal-loving construction worker had waited until evening for his Seal extravaganza, everyone in my building could've used it to romance their special someones. Seal will never be sexy again.)

Robyn and I turned onto Highway 6 to grind out the final 36 miles back to Bishop. We still had faith that we'd make it back before dark. Robyn took off. I tried to let that massive headwind that was now a tail wind blow me all the way back without pedaling, but a funny thing happened: the wind died down.

No. Freakin'. Way.

Can't a girl get a break? At this point, I concluded that absolutely nothing about this ride was "fun". N-o-t-h-i-n-g. And as I mentioned before, I don't have a bike computer, but I do have eyes and I watched the mile markers on the side of the road count back down from 36 to 0. Very slowly. I counted every one as I rode by. For hours. 4 miles to go was the most painful 4 miles I have ever ridden.

I arrived back at home-base to little fanfare. A few people sat in lounge chairs at the entrance to a motel, leftover pretzels were strewn across the table, and a 3 Snickers bars sat in a large box, staring at me.

"Name?" someone asked.
"Erin."
"Yeah. You made it."
"Right. Thanks."

Then I did something I didn't think was within my capabilities. I changed into new cycling clothes in the parking lot, mounted a bike light, and began to ride out the first 30 miles of the course again.

That's right. 60 more miles to go. I had an 18 hour ride on my training schedule, and figured I'd only spent 13.5 of the last 15.5 actually riding my bike. I left the hotel at 9pm with coachubby following and Laree lighting my way on back country roads.

In my delirium, I saw (and no, these weren't hallucinations), in this order, a skunk, a mouse, tons of suicide rabbits, a giant spider, lots of beetles, cows, and a raccoon.

And a cop.

At midnight, I turned onto the 395 15 miles south of Bishop. I watched a cop flip a u-turn and knew he was coming for me.

Oh crap, what'd I do wrong? Am I not allowed to be riding out here?

He stepped out of his car. When he spoke, I realized he thought I was the absolute last person in the day's ride. Like I was a poor, lonely rider who just wouldn't give up. Which was partially true, but he really thought I was getting my arse kicked. He felt sorry for me.

"You need anything? Some water?" he asked.
"No, I'm alright. Thank you!" I croaked. How about an inhaler?

I had made an important, life-altering discovery about an hour earlier: I couldn't breathe. Maybe it was all of the cold air I had shoved into my lungs all morning, or the ridiculous amount of breathing I had done all day, but my lungs weren't having it. I felt like I was breathing through a straw. And my exhale made me seriously believe that someone with squeaky brakes was following coachubby and me. But no, it was just me wheezing. Like a smoker.

Due to my diminished air capacity, I pedaled for approximately 10 revolutions then coasted as long as I could to try to suck in enough air to keep on going. For miles and miles. Poor coachubby.

I could see the stoplight in Bishop for EVER. I thought I was so close,then I'd ride for 10 minutes, and it wouldn't get any closer. Pure evil.

I finally knocked on the hotel door at 1:45am. I was done. Did it. Couldn't breathe. Totally disgusting. And Robyn was still awake!

I wish I could say I passed out and slept for an eternity, but I couldn't sleep; I hurt too much. And you know, the breathing thing.

And so now, we draw several conclusions about the day's ride:
1. There is absolutely no way in hell the original route could've been as bad. Seriously.
2. Mr. Toyota Tacoma has since been renamed Mr. Woodcock; Robyn and I should be happy he didn't let us give up on ourselves...But he's still an a-hole.
3. If race directors know the race is going to be cold, have soup and heat at the aid stations. Duh.
4. Porta-potties at the aid stations would've been nice, too. I know the route was redone at the last minute, which was the excuse for having none, but the final aid station was along the original route, and there was no porta potty there, either. I felt like somebody took my $120 and ran.
5. If you ever plan on doing a Planet Ultra double, and the weather's looking nasty, but you're still going (don't ask me why), get a GSM satellite phone and someone to be your personal SAG.
PU doesn't like taking responsibility for much when ice hits the road.

Another similarly-priced option in the same area with way more swag (free race photo, tons of aid stations, race t-shirt, etc...) is the Everest Challenge. I've never done it, but it looks sweet.

There was one fun, good thing that came out of the death ride that was the Eastern Sierra Double Century '09.

And it's coming tomorrow...

Ride on, homies!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Eastern Sierra Double Century Craptacular #2

"Maybe we should try to ride down," said Robyn.
"Ok, you're right."
We stood up. The wind blew against our frozen, wet legs.
We resumed the fetal position in the ditch.

"Maybe we should try to walk down," said Robyn.
"Ok, you're right."
We stood up. The wind blew against our frozen, wet legs.
We resumed the fetal position in the ditch.

"Ok, we're going to make it down, then it's over," I said. "There has to be a van at the turn around. Let's do it."

We stood up, slowly mounted our bikes, and inched down the rest of the mountain into the valley below. (Eureka Valley?)

Lo and behold, a van was there. As were a few other people, food, and the greatest sight of all: a tiny gas-powered camping heater in the back of the van. Robyn and I made this our permanent residence for another half an hour.

Then another angelic sight: the official giant SAG van. Its bike racks were full, and its interior was full of people. I poked my head inside to see if it was warm. It was. So lovely and warm. And in doing so, I spotted a friend in the front seat.

"We've got room for one more," the SAG driver said.

"Go Robyn," I said, "You've got your whole life ahead of you. Get out of this evil valley and live like you've never lived before!" (Or something like that.)

"You're not going?"

"I'm going to kick this mountain's ass!"

"Then I'm coming with you!"

And so it was. We had warmed up just enough to begin climbing again, and judging by the clouds, it seemed like we might just make it up and over without getting rained on.

We tapped into newfound pissedofficity to fuel the cycling fire; we had just seen Mr. Toyota Tacoma quad cab drive by--with 2 other cyclists' bikes on top, and cyclists inside his truck. HOW RUDE!

The aid station began packing up. We had stayed so long, everyone else who was trying to soldier on had come and gone. It was time to face the beast.

Slowly I turned my crank...pedal stroke by pedal stroke...inch by inch...

We began to pick off a few people here and there and after a few hours, we were back on top of the mountain that just 4 short hours ago tried to claim our lives. Only there was no evidence of its previous homicidal efforts--it was sunny out, the roads were dry. It wasn't warm, but it wasn't bum-numbingly cold, either.

Then, halfway down the descent, another angelic vision appeared: Laree! With Coachubby at the wheel! He'd come to save us after all!

After relating the horrors of our morning, we instructed coachubby to meet us at the lunch stop at approximately mile 100, then proceeded down the rest of the mountain, straight into a relentless head wind.
(Robyn and I at lunch.)
We reached mile 100, which, cruelly, was the start and end of the ride as well, at 2:15pm. We had started the ride at 5am. It had taken us almost 9 and a half hours to ride one hundred miles--a new slow-poke record if there ever were one.

We still had hope that we'd finish before sundown and took off north along the 6, which was supposedly a relatively tame stretch of road.

It's ironic that my gmail just decided I should read an article entitled, "Winds Losing Umph in US." That is ridiculous BS. Either that, or all of the winds in the US abandoned their usual haunting grounds to blow in my face for 36 miles straight on Saturday afternoon.

I figured we had about 5-6 hours left. Then it took me an hour to go 10 miles. It was going to take me freaking four hours just to get to the next rest stop 36 miles away!

I stopped to eat a PowerBar. It began to rain again.

I wanted to cry.

Then, another spectacular sight: a tandem, with the rear rider signaling to latch onto its draft! I was saved! (Robyn had put her head down and blasted off toward the begining of the wind tunnel of evil.)

For 20 miles, they pulled me--and eventually Robyn and a whole slew of other people.

Then, when the front rider signaled for me to take a pull, I obliged. But when I downshifted out of my big ring on an uphill and subsequently slowed down, I heard the sound no cyclist ever likes to hear: metal on pavement.

The tandem had eaten it. Was it my fault? What happened? What is proper ettiquete in this situation? They had pulled me and Robyn so far...but when another woman rode by and said the tandem had messed up its handlebars, we knew there was nothing we could do to help, and kept going at it alone.

(Robyn and I coming into the final rest stop.)
At the rest stop, we only had a 7 mile out and back, then we'd have a killer tail wind all the way home!

But the man at the rest stop had some sobering news: the 7 mile out and back was a climb...a 7% climb for the last 3 miles of it.

O. M. F. G.

Coming soon...the actual conclusion to the Eastern Sierra Double Century Craptacular!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Eastern Sierra Double Century Craptacular!

A scale of awesomeness must be applied to double century rides. So here it is:

The Scale of Double Century Awesomeness
The scale goes from 0
(0=ridiculously awesome. Beautiful weather. Great aid stations à la Heartbreak Double '09.)
to
the EASTERN SIERRA DOUBLE CENTURY '09.
(We'll make that approximately 11. This scale goes to 11.)

Apparently, upon receiving an email from the Planet Ultra Embassy, explaining that the original course was due for rain and highs in the 30s in some places, 51 of 227 people didn't even start.

They were the smartest ones.

At the last minute, Planet Ultra changed the course to ride East toward Death Valley instead of West into the mountains, in a misguided effort to evade horrific weather.

So off Robyn and I went, with 176 other people, confident we would not be led to our deaths by Planet Ultra. They care, right? RIGHT?


The first 25 miles went by quickly. Then we turned onto Death Valley Road.

It began to rain as we began to climb. Not hard rain. Just sprinkly rain. So we kept climbing and climbing and climbing as it got colder and colder and colder. Then, not only did my sweat turn to ice, so did the rain. Near the top, it began to hail, sleet, and do other ungodly things the weather only does in Discovery's "Deadliest Catch". Except we were in the desert. And my legs, hands, feet, face, and head weren't waterproof.

After somewhere around 12.5 miles of climbing came a descent. A huge descent. I have never not wanted to descend so much in my life. It was pouring freezing rain. My feet were soaked, my legs were soaked, the roads were soaked. And somehow, it seemed, I was going the wrong way--even though there was only one road; everyone who had been climbing in my vicinity had vanished. Nobody was coming down behind me.

Strange, I thought. They're taking their sweet time putting on rain jackets!

A few miles down, I lost all control over hand function and had to pull over for a good 20 minutes to swing my arms like a windmill to get the blood back into my fingers. Bear Grylls taught me that trick. Although it is somewhat intuitive...

I figured someone had to be at the turnaround. There had to be an aid station. If I could make it down this approximately 12.5 mile downhill, I'd be rescued.

Then I came around a corner and Robyn was standing to the side of the road. (As usual, she kicked my bum up the climb and was way ahead.)

"I'm so cold!" she lamented.
"Me too!"

We decided we didn't want to descend any more, so we moved our bikes closer to the mountain and huddled in the fetal position in a ditch on the side of the road. SAG would have to come by at some time, right? We'd seen the van before a few times on the climb.

A few dudes rode by going back up. "Been there!" said one. A trickle of people came down the other way. We stayed huddled. The van would come. The van would come. Those big boys had way more insulation than we did. That's why they could keep going. We are not wusses. Right? RIGHT?

Then, a vision: a 4-door Toyota Tacoma with an empty bike rack on top. WE WERE SAVED!

He slowed and rolled down his window.

"Are you OK?"
"Um...."
"Are you cold?"
Duh! "YES!"
"You know, you'll get warmer if you head back up. It's warmer on the bottom of the other side."
He rolled up his window and drove away.

WTF!?

Robyn and I were going to cry. We both ripped out our cell phones, hoping coachubby would be done with his long run and could come rescue us...even though he had no idea where the new course route went.

"No signal!" lamented Robyn.
"Me neither!"

Bring on the tears--the almost tears from the realization that although we weren't the only people out in this freezing desert, we might just die there anyway. And it'd be all Toyota Tacoma's fault.

Stay tuned for the chilling conclusion of today's EASTERN SIERRA DOUBLE CENTURY CRAPTACULAR!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The $17,000 Triathlon--XTERRA Deuces Wild

The drive up the 60 from Phoenix to Show Low is supposed to be spectacularly scenic. I wouldn't know. Every marked scenic overlook looked into a dark abyss.

Coachubby and I did, however, see several deer. I hoped they weren't suicidal--Laree did not need any body damage in his first 24-hours in our hands.

We arrived at the KC Motel at 12:30am on Sunday. I was pleasantly suprised at how nice it was. I pictured a cold dumpy place, not a quaint place to stay filled with fellow Xterra people.

I passed out, only to be awakened at 5:15am. Time to race! I seriously contemplated sleeping through it, but coachubby would have none of that.
(Coachubby's self portrait.)
We sunscreened up, picked up our packets, and joined the other 150+ people getting ready to race. I finally saw Xterra 29er and his wife, my favorite fellow Xterra people with whom we were going to spend the weekend.

And thus God's 2nd Goal of the weekend for Erin (GoGoFoE#2) manifested itself: I can pull together a decent race on 4 hours of sleep.

I sprinted out of the swim start. I don't know why. But I never dreamed I'd actually be the first person in the swim, therefore I'd never bothered to look at the buoy placement, and had no idea where to go. After I settled into a comfortable pace, a few other women overtook me and my glorious start was put to an end. That's what I get for having a sprint-swim background.

One of these women had pink feet. I kid you not. She taped them or something, thereby making them very recognizable and easy to follow. I followed her right out of the water, then had the luck of getting a better wetsuit stripper (hell yes, wetsuit strippers! Love them!) And dashed into transition only to take a small eternity trying to get my gloves over my wet hands.

Then out onto the bike. I haven't mountain biked since the Xterra West Cup, and Qeee was ready to go. Then we hit something we'd never encountered before: mud. Tons of mud. Qeee was ecstatic; now she actually had a reason for being outfitted with fancy schmancy disc brakes.














At one point, I had to stop to clear the mud out of her vital organs. The back wheel was hardly spinning. Apparently, Xterra 29er had the same problem, only he's a better mountain bike racer and didn't want to take the time to stop...so he wound up breaking a chain and bending his deraileur into his back wheel, and running the last 2.5 miles.


















I was happy to see him run out of transition while I was biking in.
"I'm coming to get you!" I shouted. I had no idea he'd already been running forever. With a bike. And an old-man back.

The run course was fun, and the "Eliminator" was a cute little hill that was actually labeled so you'd know it was the "Eliminator". There was a "mini eliminator" as well, but I'm not sure where.

Coming into the final miles, I heard water moving, and wondered who on earth wanted to jump back into the freezing lake to rinse off. Then I realized nobody wanted to--we had to run across a damed up part of the lake.

So much for new shoes.

A girl my age was running just behind me with another woman. I know because I passed her pretty early on, then heard them talking to each other for the rest of the race. I tried to keep them off of me, but the mystery woman was dead set on helping the 28-year old keep pace with me. I knew she'd go for it at some point, and knew my quads wouldn't be able to lift my soaked shoes to stay with her (shoes that were a gazillion lbs heavier with soaked massive arch supports...can I get a woot woot from my flat-footed friends?!)

The other woman led her out and at about 1/4 mile to go, she made her move. My legs didn't. Goodness only knows what would've happened had I raced the half the day before. I don't know if "running" would have been the word for my movement on the third segment of the Xterra race.

Then, just before the finish, the lady running with the 28-year old in my age group peeled off, saying she wasn't in the race, and the 28-year old crossed the finish line.

SHE USED A PACER!? I'm pretty sure using a pacer who's not in the race is illegal--in any triathlon. Quite unsportsmanlike. FOR SHAME!

In the end, coachubby and I managed to nab 2nd in our respective age groups (actually 3rd for me. You gotta count the girl who got 5th overall. The race organizers took the top 5 overall out of the age group awards...)

We scarfed down a post race bbq--delicious--of pulled chicken/pork on a bun, cole slaw, beans, chips, and soda, while attending the awards ceremony. Then it took 20 minutes to clean off Qeee and Coachubby's mountain bike (kudos to him for kicking ass with v-brakes!), load 'em up, and off we went...

In the wrong direction!

When I saw a sign that said New Mexico was 43 miles away, I knew something was wrong. We had driven 25 miles in the wrong direction right off the bat, and had to return to Show Low to try again.

We were trying to drive through Flagstaff back to LA.

Once we got the hang of it, Laree transported us smoothly across the state border. And after a low-blood sugar freak out that could not be sated by any McDonalds (they are all closed inside after 11pm and we couldn't drive through with coachubby's tri bike on top. A Pilot Wendy's frosty did the trick.) we pulled into LA just minutes before midnight, with cool little race award plaques, dirty bikes, sore quads, sunburns, and a new car.

In conclusion, an approximation of our trip:

Race fees + hotel: $700
New Car + Uhaul + rental car + repair diagnostics + gas: $16300
Racing XTERRA in Show Low: Priceless

There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's coachubby's credit card. And a learned ability to not hurl from internally freaking out at unexpected life events.


The things we do to race 2.5 hours at an Xterra event...

The $17,000 Triathlon--Deuces Wild Part Deuce

"What condition is the Blazer in?"
My mom, dad, and I shot our eyes at coachubby.
"Uh, he runs a little rough--but he's 9 years old, so..."

We had spent the entire morning putting the Blizzay Wizzay back together, returning the UHaul, and test driving horribly wussy American crossovers and terribly girly-looking Japanese crossovers.

After the Chevy salesman tried to sell us a car that was already sold, then tried to have us test drive a car that had a dead battery, we left for lunch. Chevy is running a little rough. All of Chevy, not just the old Blazer.

After deciding Toyota's crossover options were not competitively priced, or particularly manly enough for coachubby, I suggested we go to a Jeep dealership. They're all closing--they'd give us a car!

Our salesman was friendly. He knew nothing about the cars, but that was to be expected after he explained that he was actually a laid off civil engineer. I'm guessing he didn't build cars.

When coachubby laid his eyes on a kakhi green 2006 Grand Cherokee, I knew any efforts of mine to have our next car be infinitely more fuel efficient than the Blizzay were shot. Turns out, after all of that looking, coachubby wanted a mantruck afterall.

The salesman was visibly relieved when I had finished the second half of a footlong sub, and was no longer dangerously dangling sweet onion sauce over his clean cars. It was time to make a deal.

Coachubby offered $4000 below asking price. They came back at $2000 below.

We drove away to think about it.

Half way home, a phone call came. They'd do $4000 below, everything included (taxes, etc...) out the door, if we came back right now with the Blizzay as a trade in.

SWEET!

We rushed home and prayed the Blizzay would fire up. It had that morning. All it had left to do in its entire life was go 7 more miles. What's 7 more when you've already gone 155,000?

After a quick charge, coachubby and I jumped in for one last Blizzay ride, followed by my parents.

2 miles into the ride, the Blizzay died. Completely. We rolled off of Scottsdale road into a parking lot in front of a Mexican home furnishings store. We had to roll the car back and forth to fit it into a spot.

DAMN IT!

Jimmy called the dealer.
"So, what if the Blazer doesn't run?"
Our salesman consulted with his boss.
"Deal's off!"
"OK, so I should just have it towed home, then. OK, bye."
"They'll call you back," I said. I felt it. They needed the sale.

We called AAA, thereby using up the 3rd and 4th calls allowed this year in 2 days. They'd come in an hour. It was 102 degrees outside, so naturally, coachubby and I went to Dairy Queen.

While we were walking back from Dairy Queen, the phone rang.

"OK, here's the deal," said the salesman, "If the Blazer doesn't run, it's $1000 more. If it does, same deal's on."

It was like playing Russian roulette with a blue heap of metal. Whenever the Blizzay cooled down a bit, it would start. We ran over to the Blizzay.

Rrrrrr...Rrrrrr...RRVRroooom! He started! Praise the Lord! We'd tow him to the dealer so as not to squelch his juice, then start him up, then drive off the lot in a beautiful, new(ish) Jeep!

AAA arrived in the form of a beefcakey bald guy about 30 years old with a major 'tude.

Where you towin' it?
To the Jeep dealer, I said. It's gotta run when we get there, so don't start it now!
What's wrong with it?
It's dead.
Then how's it gonna run when you get there?
We're trading it in. If it runs, we make the deal. If it doesn't, we don't. So don't start it up!
I don't know if I can do this.
Do what?
We don't tow to dealers. I'm not going to tow it if its not getting repaired.
OK, then we're towing it to the dealer to get it repaired.
No, you're not.
What do you care?

Bald AAAss rolled up his window to call it in to AAA headquarters. Without a word, he took coachubby's key, stuck it in the ignition, rolled the Blizzay onto the bed, then drove like a madman to the Jeep dealership. The day before, the Blythe AAA guy gave coachubby his car keys back. Bald AAAss was draining the Blizzay of his final life force, and coachubby hadn't thought about it.

My parents and I followed.

The Blizzay, Coachubby, and the salesman disappeared into the back lot. WHAT WAS GOING ON!? Would he start? Could the Blizzay give us one final hurrah to prove he was worth $1000 extra than he would be dead? Oh please, oh please.

Coachubby walked out of the back. We all stared at him.

Didn't start.
(Final photo with the Blizzay.)
I knew exactly why. I wanted to sell AAA man to medical research and demand $1000 for his body.

It was 7pm. In the end, we got $1200 for the Blizzay, but it wouldn't live indefinitely in my mom's front yard, which she was happy about, and we'd be rid of it for good. Even at $1000 more, the low-mileage, 1-owner leased Jeep was a fab deal. It felt strange to drive it off of the lot after 2 days straight of AAA, waiting in the heat, and dirty Blizzay issues. It was so beautiful. So shiny. So dent and stain free.

I called him Laree. (Pronounced Larry.)


We ate dinner with my parents, then loaded up Laree, stuck the bike rack on top, and headed off into the night to drive to Show Low. There was no way we were missing XTERRA now. Even after such a mentally, financially, and physically exhausting 2 days. That's the reason we started this adventure.

We had to finish it.

TO BE CONTINUED! STAY TUNED FOR THE FINAL CONCLUSION THIS AFTERNOON!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The $17,000 Triathlon--Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival

"When's Jimmy going to buy a new car?" my dad asked Thursday night.
"I don't know. When we've saved up enough when I'm done with school. Like in a year--it has to last one more year. That's it." I said.
"It's going to stop running pretty soon."
"Thanks for your faith in the Blizzay Wizzay, padre. It's gone this far, I think we can get one more year out of it."

***

There is nothing 25 miles West of Blythe, CA. It is a hot desert, with bushes so sparse, they can't be used for shade, nor to hide your bum from mooning passers by on the I-10 when you have to pee. I know. I sat out there for an hour Friday. And I really had to pee.

Coachubby had been filling his coolant up regularly lately, as it seemed to keep disappearing. Sparky, my car, had had the same problem. However Sparky was incontinent, and his mess always appeared wherever he was left alone for a little while. The Blizzay Wizzay seemed to be more of a coolant gourmande.

Had we been people, like, say, my brother or dad, who listen to their cars instead of driving them into the ground, we might've thought twice about taking the Blizzay Wizzay across the desert with such a coolant binge disorder.

So when the engine started overheating around Palm Springs, we dumped more water into the coolant tank, and kept on keeping on. Almost all the way to Blythe.

When the Blizzay died 25 miles West of Blythe, we knew we had to do something to keep him going a little farther--basic AAA only covers 7 miles of towing.

5 different cops hung out on a freeway on-ramp with us, waiting for a call from an airplane I couldn't see so they could take down some highly unsuspecting speeders. After letting the Blizzay Wizzay cool down a bit, he fired up again, and we used the on-ramp's downward momentum to try to get closer to Blythe so we could save a buck. Or $100. We certainly weren't worried about being busted for speeding. Impeding traffic? Yes.

The Blizzay finally started to clank and rolled to a stop next to a call box. It might've been just about 7 miles from Blythe.

Two chatty AAA tow truck operators came to rescue us, telling us how it was nice that we stood to the side, because some dumb stranded people stand directly behind their cars while the car is being loaded onto the pickup bed and the operators don't trust the hydraulics and the car could roll back at any time and have you ever seen the Darwin Awards? because that would be a stupid way to die and man it's freakin' hot I want a milkshake what's wrong with your car?

I realized later that God had three goals for me this past weekend. This was the first of God's Goals for Erin (GoGoFoE):
  1. To get me to stop calling Blythe, CA, "the Devil's Ball Sack", by proving friendly people live there.
After an $85 diagnostic check, Shain, a skinny, grease-covered mechanic about my age, told us it was bad.
How bad?
The Blizzay needed a new engine. There was coolant in the oil. The engine block was cracked.
How much?
$3500.
How much is the Blizzay worth?
$2500.
Right... Can we rent a UHaul and haul the junker to my parents' front yard in Phoenix?
No UHauls left.
What do we do?
There are UHauls in Quartzite.














We rented a Kia Minivan--available only for 2 hours that afternoon--to drive 20 miles East to Quartzite, pick up a giant UHaul, drive it and the minivan back to Blythe, pick up a tow dolly, strap on the Blizzay (but only after paying another $25 to have Shain take apart its drive train, since it's a rear-wheel drive truck, and we didn't want to destroy the drive train...I don't know why it mattered, really), and start driving the 150 miles to Phoenix at 55mph.

The late-afternoon Kia renters passed us 10 miles into our trip.

We got to Phoenix at 7pm. We had left LA at 6am. There was no way we were driving (and in what would we drive?) another 3.5 hours to Show Low. Poof! There went 2 half-ironman entry fees, and a hotel reservation.

After filling up on mom's good cooking, we passed out hard. Just as hard as if we had raced on Friday.

There was no way we were going to miss the Xterra race, too. We needed a car and needed it now.

TO BE CONTINUED!