NOTE TO SELF: When wearing white jeans, always -- ALWAYS -- put the third layer of gauze over the oozing hip wound.


Today, in lieu of an update on my life, I will post a list of stupid things non-cyclists have said to me recently. Of course, all you cyclists out there know that non-cyclists say stupid things ALL the time, but going around with visible bandages is (apparently) an open invitation. (Names are changed to protect the innocent.)

1. What happened? Did you fall off your bike?

No less than eight people have asked me this. I have to confess I was a little rude to the secretary today, who finally noticed me on my third straight day of bandages, and being the eighth person to ask the exact same stupid question is a little like being the 247th person to ask the Subway employee if she can do the "wrap dance" (okay, that was a while ago). But "fall off" my bike? Come on, people! First of all, it's a really insulting question. Second, it's not actually physically possible. You can fall off a horse. But to literally fall off a bike, you would have to end up on the ground while the bike was still upright, and unless you have training wheels, well.....

I emailed Nate, complaining about this, and he pointed out that under certain circumstances, such as "tallbike jousting tournaments," it probably would, in fact, be possible to fall off of your bike:

I also discovered a four-person bike that would be possible to fall off of, although it would take a very special person to manage this:

So maybe you can. But they have all seen my bike. On two separate occasions it has spent the entire day leaning against the wall in the lunch room, and at one point I actually ended up giving a demonstration of how clipless pedals work, so there should be no ambiguity over whether it would be possible to "fall off" my bike. So I'm back to just being insulted.

2. Why didn't you just tell her you were there? I always tell my son to say "on your left" when he's passing people.

Ah, if I had a dollar for every time I heard a question starting with "why didn't you just," starting in childhood with "well, why didn't you just ninja-kick him? I would've!" Now, I'll give poor D some credit here, because "on your left" is good bike etiquette, but there is a world of difference between a finish-line sprint and a Sunday-morning toodle down the bike path on your Huffy. Imagine the mass chaos if one of these guys suddenly hollered ON YOUR LEFT! How would anyone know who said it or who it was directed at? What would be the point? And who has the breath to spare for etiquette when you're sprinting for the line anyway?

Nate pointed out that I did tell her I was there. In fact, I swore at her rather loudly. Unfortunately, I didn't remember this while I was actually having the conversation with D. I could have suggested that she teach her son that instead.

3. Why don't you guys have mirrors to see who's behind you?

I don't think I even have to say anything to that one.......

4. You're not going to ride your bike this weekend, are you?

Uh, yeah, actually, contrary to popular belief, you don't really need that skin on your elbow (hip, knee, etc.) in order to pedal. That's a little like stubbing your toe and then refusing to walk for the next two weeks. If I had actually hurt myself, I might think about it. But I'm supposed to be scared now? Jesus.

5. (And now for a non-crash-related one that took place several months ago between me and the other secretary):

secretary: So have you got any big plans this weekend?
me: Yeah, Nate and I are going to go up to Detroit Lakes to see his family.
secretary: Oh, that's nice. Are you going to ride your bikes up there?
me: Yeah, we'll bring them.
secretary: I mean are you riding there.
me: Like from here to there?
secretary: Yeah.
me: (laughing) Uh, no.
secretary (puzzled) Well, how far is it?
me: I dunno, two hundred and some miles.
secretary: So how long would that take you? About six hours?
me: (laughing even harder) Jane, it takes four hours to DRIVE there!
secretary: So?
me: So it would take like TWO DAYS to ride there.
secretary: Oh my gosh! That long?
me: (having Google-mapped it by now) Jane! It's TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY FOUR MILES.
secretary: Oh. Well, I thought people who ride a lot like you do could.....

Could what? Ride at highway speeds? This is the only non-cyclist I've met who is consistently UNDERwhelmed by how far/fast I ride. I suppose it's refreshing.

And now we will all see if my new HTML tags (yeah, look at me go, I learned how to make bold AND italics) work.....


mom & dad, you are banned from reading this post.

Well, ten bucks says that won't actually work -- Mom, I know you're still reading this, but the disclaimer makes it no longer my fault if you find out things you didn't want to know.


It was cold. Cold is relative, but when it's July 26 and it's 67 degrees and windy, that's cold.

This time just seven of us, and none of the slow people showed up. Plus they put corners in the course this time - it's a driver's ed course, so where we go is determined by where the race organizers put the orange cones. Corners are, um, not my specialty. Euphemistically speaking.

So the first time we hit the corner section, the field was split into two groups of three: three that can corner well, and three that can't. I was in the latter. A familiar place, anyway, the chase group. It was getting to be a while since I'd been in a legitimate chase group ("group" being the key word) and, you know, it's an okay place to be. The other two ladies in my group, Liz and Paula, each took a one-lap pull, and when we came around the last turn I figured it was my turn to do the work and accelerated to get in the front. As I was doing so, I recalled last week, when I thought about attacking for something to do and then got chided by various people for ultimately not doing it. What the hell then, I thought - third is already out of reach, so might as well. I got a gap between myself and the other two and held it until the corner section came back, at which point I was slowing down and waiting for them anyway. When they came by I jumped back on and figured I'd sit in until the end, then try and sprint it out for the noble position of not-last.

We came out of the final corner with me in third position, with the most ground to make up in the sprint, and so I jumped and put everything I had into making up two full bike lengths in less than 50 yards. Liz and Paula were both a little to my left, Liz only a few feet from the right-hand edge of the road, but wide enough for me to squeeze through, so I dove for it. Liz threw her bike (link for the benefit of my parents, who really do have to stop reading now) as she crossed the line. I was going faster than she was at that point, so right as she was throwing I came up alongside her on the right.

She didn't see me. She assumed nobody would be coming through that space. And so, a la Paolo Bettini in Stage 4 of this year's Giro, she veered off her line. I hollered SHIT! HEY! right in her ear. Slow motion, she looked at me, surprise and ohFUCK registered on her face, but it was too late and next thing I know I'm in the gravel at the side of the road at least six feet away from my bike. Later reconstruction, though highly unscientific, has me hitting the ground with my right hip first, followed by my knee, shoulder, and head, then a sort of rolling skid across my back and onto my left side. Sometime in there my bike detached itself from my feet and apparently went spiraling through the air on its own date with destiny.

I sat up right away and I'd like to provide an account of what I was looking at or thinking about or SOMETHING, but I'm not actually sure I was looking at or thinking about ANYTHING. Attempting to reconstruct my thoughts from that moment, I get this:


Then Liz was standing over me, wanting to know if I was okay, and suddenly with both of us all right it was extremely funny. To me, anyway. An EMT appeared in my face and asked me how many fingers am I holding up, what's your name, what day is it (Tuesday), no, what DATE (dude, I'm one of those people that has to ask the cashier what day it is every time I write a check, ask me something else), all right then, who's the president -- at that I had to bite my tongue hard not to say Hitler, after all, my helmet is cracked like a hard-boiled egg that's been dropped on the floor, the brain damage check is probably legitimate and not a good time to be a wise-ass. He took my sunglasses off and checked my pupils, felt my collarbones to see if they were intact (they were), then made me stand up to prove I could.

Somebody told me to get on my bike and ride to keep from stiffening up. Sure, I said, where is it?

The rear wheel looked like a Salvador Dali painting. So did the handlebar. My shiny new bike. I almost cried.

Here are some highly intelligent things I said during the next 20 minutes:
1. Did anybody see that?
2. But how am I going to race on Sunday if I don't have a bike? Can I sell my registration to somebody else?
3. (to Liz) Hey, look, I don't have any skin there either! We're twins!
4. If you send your helmet to Bell what color do they send back? It better not be pink.
5. Are my shorts okay?
6. Who was last?

The answer to #6 is, of course, me. All that work for not-last and I didn't even make it.

After a while I decided that standing around in torn Lycra applying ice packs kind of sucks when it's 67 degrees and windy, and people were starting to accuse me of being in shock because I was shivering. People who were wearing jeans and sweatshirts. YOU stand here in almost no clothes and rub ice all over yourself and we'll see who's shivering, eh? So I went home. I took my shorts off in the hallway and about a pound of gravel fell out. I ran around trying to avoid my dog, who thought the blood running down my legs would be a tasty treat. I dug through the enormous mound of papers that passes for my desk, searching for the receipt from my helmet, and miraculously I found it. I soaked in the bathtub for about half an hour, hoping the rest of the gravel would work itself out. And that was my evening.

This morning I was 20 minutes late to work, not having taken into account the amount of time it would take to mummify myself in gauze and medical tape. (One benefit of living in a two-cyclist household is that we already had these things on hand, including four different sizes of gauze pads.) Then I was treated to a perfect sociological illustration of the difference between men and women:

WOMAN: Oh my gosh! What happened to you? Did you fall off your bike? Are you okay? Did you go to the hospital? Did you get stitches? Are you going to go to a doctor? What does it feel like? Are there more bandages under your clothes? Oh my GOSH!

MAN: (cursory glance at bandages) You must be a bike racer or sumpin'.

Okay, so there are five women in the "woman" sample, and only one man (that's a direct quote from my boss), but still. And "fall off" my bike? Give me some credit, people!

Liz and I shot emails back and forth all morning, and she's okay too. Aside from the road rash and bruises, both of us have sore necks for some reason. And my head has a lump on it. Actually, I'm not entirely convinced that I escaped brain-damage-free, since at lunch today I managed to dump my entire bowl of soup onto my pants, and now I smell like soup, which seems like it might be a characteristic of the mentally retarded. Normal people do not go around smelling like soup.

today's news of the weird

Check this out. I mean, I had some crazy last-day-of school schemes when I was a kid, but a) I never carried any of them out, and b) it takes a twisted little shit to even think of this one, let alone do it. Sign of the apocalypse? You decide.


help meeeeeeeee.........

DEAR LORD. TALKING BATHROOM LADY JUST WALKED IN THE BACK DOOR OF OUR OFFICE AND STARTED TALKING TO ME. Fortunately she was looking for the co-worker I mentioned in my first TBL post, the one who recently had the baby, and so she didn't spend a significant amount of time in my doorway, but NOOOOOOOOOOOO! I thought I was safe in here! We'll have to start locking the doors. (She left again, thwarted, as the co-worker in question managed ONCE AGAIN to successfully avoid her. Wish I knew the secret.)

The office move, which is scheduled to take five days (no hired movers for us, of course), starts one month from yesterday. Or four weeks from Thursday. Not soon enough, however you count it.


oh, me rheumatiz!

As an update to my 7/22 popping-back post, I checked with a couple other co-workers this morning, and while nobody else's back is quite as noisy as mine, everybody else hurts constantly too. Now, there probably aren't too many bike-racin' paralegals named Annie in the twin cities area, so I'm going to post about this topic as little as possible, but is constant pain a good reason to start looking for a new job? Surely there are paralegal jobs where you get to move around a little more than this, and possibly also talk to people (I currently spend all my time trapped in front of my computer), without sacrificing my flexible hours and jeans-and-flip-flops dress code? Is that too much to ask?


oh god, i feel sick... BLOG!

Nate hates the word "blog." He thinks it sounds like a vomiting noise. Which I guess it does. BLOG! It's rather appropriate, too, since a blog is a place to spew out whatever random thoughts you might have in one big mixed-up, half-digested puddle. So this, of course, makes "blog" into my very favorite high-school English vocabulary word: onamatopoeia. BLOG!


but everybody says chiropractors are quacks...

It can't possibly be a good thing when a loud popping noise comes from somewhere in my spine every time I take a step. I don't know what it means, but it's making walking from one end of the office to the other somewhat embarrassing. All day yesterday and all day today. Can't be good.

Y'know, when I decided to take a desk job, I knew it would be boring, but nobody told me I was going to end up with all sorts of bizarre damage to my SPINE. Maybe I should have gone back to my old bookstore gig.

get thee out, satan

Through a long, strange chain of internet surfing, I recently found myself reading the blogs of Christian housewives. These are not your ordinary, garden-variety Christians; these are the women that firmly believe that because they are female, it is a sin to have a job. (I kind of wish it was a sin for me to have a job, actually. As it is, not having a job would make me "lazy," not "godly." Maybe I'll convert.) Anyway, the blog that drew me in the most was one called Biblical Womanhood, which is presently engaged in a roaring debate over whether the author is "acting independently of her husband" or not. The author is all in a tizzy about being accused of such a horrible thing, and is desperately seeking as many opinions as she can of whether people have seen her thinking or acting for herself, because she certainly has not meant to do so!

"I really want to know if you see that I am acting independently from my husband. And to the anonymous commenter, I would SO appreciate it if you would email me privately and share with me how you have specifically seen me getting off-course and acting independently of my husband. I know it is so easy to do and I am ever trying to keep my eyes focused on Christ and the role that God has given me as wife and mother."

If any of you are worried, fear not, she did get a lot of responses reassuring her that there is no evidence of any independent thought going on. Whew.

Another anonymous commenter, clearly intending to hold herself up as an example of how to be, posted this: "As you completely submit to God's leading through him, God can change his heart. This is the beauty of submission--we are no longer trying to push our will upon our husbands, but we are at peace to allow God to work through them." Thank you for not suggesting, as some Christian women do, that this is one area in which we should not submit. I whole-heartedly believe that we are to trust our husbands leadership...even if he should desire to limit the family size. In our case, my husband chose to have a vasectomy after our second child was born. As he drove to his appointment on that particular day, I prayed that the Lord might change his heart and prevent him from going through with it. But, that was not the case. I have not been bitter or angry with my husband for it. We are a joyful, fun-loving family...and it may always just be the four of us. I will be thankful for the two precious, healthy children that we are training up. Perhaps someday my husband's heart will change. Or, perhaps we will have a "surprise" pregnancy! I've heard of this happening! So, thanks again, for affirming those of us who choose submission, even when we're not sure of our husband's decisions.

There is also a lengthy discussion of whether blogging is an appropriate activity for Christian women, since it's time spent selfishly which may "allow Satan to creep in the cracks." Whoops. Hey there, Satan. Guess you and I are pretty cozy, since not only do I have a job, I have a blog. And I make my own decisions. Oh, and I'm not married, but if my husband were to do something that I thought to be a terrible mistake, I think I'd let him know rather than praying for God to stop him. I haven't seen too many burning bushes lately, so I'm thinking divine intervention may have gone out of style a little while ago.

I suppose I'm being offensive and should stop writing this post, but geez. Does this disturb anyone else? These are the same people who seem to believe that all Iraqis secretly want to be "liberated" even though appearances suggest otherwise. If they're so into liberation, could they start at home, perhaps? Holy crap.

All right, I'll stop now.



My Salsa is here! I spent at least two hours at the shop today getting it fitted and built, and now it's sitting in my living room. It's crazy light. I can't wait to ride it for more than five minutes. It's also the Skittles bike because it's already black and white with red, yellow, and green accents, and now it has the blue bar tape and bottle cages from the GT. Taste the rainbow...

why buy the cow?

I figure if Gilby can post about her vibrators all the time, I can at least put this, since I didn't even make it up, I just got it as an email forward!

For all those men who say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

Here's an update for you...

Nowadays 80% of women are against the idea of marriage.


Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

well, if i can't have the roubaix....

When I started this blog, the template automatically included a link for "wish list." I thought that was rather presumptuous, publishing my materialistic desires for the whole world to see, and I still think leaving such a thing up there year-round would be rude, but the countdown to my birthday (quarter century, AGH!) is now exactly 28 days and I just found this today. It's much cheaper than the bike I was asking y'all for the other day! Pleeeeeeeeeease?


phat cash


I skipped #1, but y'know, that's what it's called.

Not a lot to report on this one. It's a four-week series, every Tuesday, on the Dakota County Technical College's driver's ed course, which means curvy roads with no curbs or hills. I couldn't go last week because I didn't have a bike (and today again I don't have a bike, because last night was the GT's last hurrah. Poor GT). It was windy and 90 degrees, and I showed up without water, but Marti and Julie (who are probably going to start hiding when they see me if I annoy them much more) were kind enough to give me some. Whew.

There were only seven women at the start line, including the local big cheese Teresa Moriarty, who races with the women just to warm up for her later races against the men. Our race was eight laps, and for about the first six Teresa and Shana sat at the front chatting, and nothing happened. I was starting to get bored enough to contemplate attacking just for something to do, but I thought I had a chance at third so I didn't want to waste my energy on a pointless attack when I knew Teresa and Shana were so much stronger than me anyway. So I sat there and stayed bored. Finally Teresa and Shana accelerated enough to whittle the group down to four, and the final sprint came down to Teresa and Shana fighting for first and second, and then me and a 15-year-old named Missy who was in her first race. She hopped on my wheel when the sprint started, so I was stuck leading her out and I didn't know how to get her off my wheel. (Tips, anyone?) Oh well - all I could do was hope I was enough stronger than her that I could still beat her even with the lead-out, and as it turned out that did actually work and I got third by about 3/4 of a bike length.

Which meant prize money - told you I was going to quit the day job - presumably in the amount of $5.00 since that's what the 4/5 men got for third place, but I wanted to go home and when I asked the guys at the registration tent when I was going to get my phat cash, they laughed at me and told me some story about empty envelopes. I interpreted that as "don't hold your breath," so I just went home. Maybe they'll save my five bucks for me and I'll get it next week. Whatever.

Before I left I put my bike in the Silver Cycling trailer to go to Hollywood Cycles, where Jay "Hollywood" Henderson himself is going to dismantle it and put all the components on a brand spankin' new Salsa Campeon frame for me, which I will get fitted and take home tomorrow evening if all goes according to plan. Yippee!

In other news, the scale this morning said I weigh 117, which is eight pounds less than yesterday, and I didn't even do any meth! Neato burrito.

Wonder if there's a warranty on the &*%$# thing.


talking bathroom lady strikes again

I currently share an office with the law clerk here, and just now she came back into the office after about a thirty-second absence, having gone out into the hallway and seen Talking Bathroom Lady on her way to the bathroom. TBL said, as she is wont to do, "HI THERE! HOW'S IT GOING!" (I could hear her from in here), and my office-mate turned right back around and ran back in here rather than go into the bathroom with her. She says: "I can hold it." Then, after thinking about it for a while: "She doesn't know WHY I went into the hallway, after all. I could have been.... uh...."


requiem for a bicycle

Well, I guess I was supposed to post my sob story a whole week ago, but I was using all my slacker-breaks at work to research framesets. So if I was keeping any of you in suspense, I'm sorry... here it is...


Since 2001, I have ridden a huge, ugly-ass yellow Caloi road bike. It weighs almost 26 pounds, and all of its components are Shimano Sora. Its front derailleur doesn't work. Its chain falls off when I shift onto the granny ring, and it grinds and crunches for a good 20 seconds before shifting when I try to go onto the big ring. So I effectively only have the middle ring available to me, a 42. A 42 in front and only eight cogs in back. The brake clearance, even when dialed in as far as it will go, is so wide that I can take the wheels off without flipping the lock-flipper-thing up. It creaks when I stand up out of the saddle. It is too long for me. The headset works itself loose about once a month, and is the kind without a top cap so I can't even adjust it myself, so half the time my handlebar is pointing in a different direction than the front wheel. I have been dropped in races going DOWNHILL because I couldn't get into the big ring.

However, I can coast faster than anybody on the planet on that bike. I can coast faster than some people can pedal.

Anyway, the time had come to move on and retire the yellow bike, except that my bank account was not fat enough to even consider a new bike. The amount I had available to throw around wouldn't get me anything much better than the yellow bike, and why spend $800 to still be dealing with most of the same issues? So no new bike.

Long story short, I dusted off my eBay account and in mid-May the FedEx guy brought me this:

That is the eBay picture. I haven't even gotten my new-bike photos from May developed yet.

The Freewheel guys were impressed as hell with the deal I'd gotten - the headset alone was worth $130. And a couple people I rode with were impressed with how well the bike fit, especially considering I'd bought it sight-unseen, no professional fitting. The best part, though, was how much I felt like a rocket when I got on the thing. I could keep up with the men on Wednesday nights! I could zip up the high bridge at 3mph faster than before, with the exact same effort! Best yet, I could spank my friends on hills, whereas on the yellow bike it was always me that got spanked. It was a pretty warm fuzzy feeling to discover that I was not, in fact, the worst cyclist in the entire metro area, it was just my bike.

I settled in for a long, happy relationship with the GT. I bought it blue bottle cages to match its paint, and a new cyclocomputer, and started looking through catalogs for exactly the right carbon-fiber seatpost to absorb some of the road vibration presently being eaten by my lower back. I was going to get blue tires, too. And then we were going to take over the world, my GT and I. It was going to be my ticket out of "pack-fill" status, and it would be beautiful.


As the weeks went by, though, I became aware of this obnoxious little irregular ticking noise that could MAYBE be interpreted as a "creak." After each ride I started inspecting the bike, pushing it around to try and replicate the noise so that I could figure out where it was coming from. I never could, and Nate usually got fed up and went inside after a while. About two weeks after I started this, I found that I could make a creak by putting all my weight on the saddle and rocking it back and forth. Solution: grease the seatpost. This shut the bike up for exactly two days, both of which were group rides and therefore pretty noisy on their own. On my next ride the creak was back.

During one of the earlier post-ride inspections, I did find a two-millimeter hairline crack at the top of my head tube. This couldn't be it, though. Something that small couldn't possibly make that much noise, right?

About a month later the creak was constant and a lot louder. My head had to come out of the sand, if only because the consequences of my head tube suddenly breaking in half during a rough descent would presumably be more expensive than a new frame. Think of the front half of the bike suddenly ceasing to exist at 40mph. Now whip out your medical dictionary and look up "maxillofacial reconstruction."


After the race in Iowa, I dropped it off at Freewheel for dissection and diagnosis. The guy that did the work for me, Jim, gave me the bad news: yeah, it was the crack making the noise. I had been secretly hoping he would say "What, that? That's nothing. All you needed to do was tighten this bolt." Ha! If only! However, the good news ("good" news like it feels "good" when you stop beating your head against the wall repeatedly) was that the crack didn't actually go through the metal yet, and wasn't the type of crack that would cause "catastrophic frame failure." If it grew, it would do so gradually, and my head tube would never actually disintegrate all at once, rough descent or no. It would probably go through the metal eventually, but for the time being it would be safe to ride while I started shopping for a new frame. A new frame! I just got that one! Two goddamn months!

Turns out the guy I bought it from was a class-A moron, which I had more or less figured out when I emailed him (after the bike arrived) to see how many miles were on the chain, so I would know when to replace it. He informed me that the way to tell when you need a new chain is when you're going up a hill and the bike shifts on its own. That was a red flag, since what that actually means is that you needed a new chain LAST YEAR. But I figured the bike was little-used enough that a lack of routine maintenance wouldn't hurt much, and I replaced the brake cables, and all was well. However, on top of neglecting routine maintenance, he seems to have removed the stock headset WITH A SCREWDRIVER before putting in the Chris King that I now have. A screwdriver! You know how much it costs to have a headset swapped out at a shop by people that know what they're doing? Twenty bucks! If you can afford a Chris King headset, you can afford to have it installed with an actual headset tool. In the immortal words of Napoleon Dynamite:


Even if the warranty applied to second owners, the screwdriver stunt would have voided it. On the bright side, all the parts are still good, so I don't need a whole new bike. Just a frameset. Which is a little bit like "Well, gee, my house burned down, but I still have some furniture!" but does allow me to look at new frames on closeout rather than used frames, which is a path I will never go down again. I was kicking myself for buying sight-unseen when Nate pointed out that even if I had gotten to inspect it before buying, there wasn't anything stopping the guy from painting over the crack, in which case I wouldn't have seen it at all. Gives you faith in humanity, doesn't it? So no more used bikes for me.

I have a couple leads. Stay tuned to this channel to follow the riveting saga, but my birthday is coming up, and if anybody wants to hold a bake sale and buy me the bike I really want, it's unfortunately not available as frameset-only and therefore not an option this time around. Maybe in a couple years.

Now excuse me while I go back to beating my head against that wall.


shoulda put tea bags in my water bottles

Holy crap but it's hot out there. 97 degrees and counting. Then when you add the way heat radiates back up from asphalt, it is hotter than a brass monkey's balls. (I know that's a winter expression, but imagine, if you will, leaving a brass monkey out in the sun for a few hours on a day like this. See?) I'm not sure riding my bike today was a good idea. You know what I'm glad I'm not doing? RAGBRAI. That would suck.

In the immortal words of Greg LeMond: "Dairy Queen. God, I dream about Dairy Queen."


more good clean smiley fun

Notice he doesn't pedal. I smell cheating. Where's WADA when you need them?

random british lunacy of the day

Since Anna refuses to get her own blog, I guess I will have to post this for her. Watch out, this site makes noise. Don't open it at work!

professional driver on closed course. do not attempt.


Last summer I took a four-week class at the NSC velodrome to learn the intricacies of riding a bike with no brakes and only one gear (and a fixed gear, at that) on a 250-meter wooden track that is banked at 43 degrees in places. It looks an awful lot like a wall if you stand at the base of it, yet for some reason what intimidates most people is the lack of brakes. Just for the record, what do you suppose would happen if you suddenly braked on a 43-degree bank? You'd fall off, that's what. You don't want brakes.

So then after I finished this class last summer, I raced the last few nights up there in August and September, but up to this point this year I've been too lazy to drive all the way to Blaine after work. It's harder to be motivated when there are races every single Thursday all summer. I've been doing the "I'll start next week" thing since May. I realized not too long ago that there are less than two months of racing left for the year, and besides, with my road bike woes forcing me to miss the Dakota crit on Tuesday, I'm out of excuses. So I went. On to the race report.

The way track racing works is that each field actually gets three races per night. There are a number of different races, including a "scratch race," in which you go round and round for a while and try to cross the line first; a "miss and out," in which every other lap the last person to cross the line is pulled from the race until only a few are left, who then sprint for first, second, and third; and a "points race," which has several intermediate sprints for points, and the goal is not to finish first (although that helps, since the points for the last sprint are usually double those of the intermediate sprints) but to finish with the most points. There are more, too, some of which you can read about in this cheesy, large-print "encyclopedia article" if you're interested. If that article is too dumbed-down for your tastes, the complete USCF rulebook is available for download here. Knock yourself out.

Last night the women's field had a ten-lap (2.5 kilometer) scratch race, a miss and out, and a 40-lap (10k) scratch race. The last was the state championship scratch race, a fairly arbitrary designation since there's only one velodrome in the state and there aren't any qualifiers or anything. There were eight women present, though, which might be a new record. There's usually more like five.

The first scratch race was very laid-back. With a race that short - just over a mile - it's perfectly reasonable to go balls-out right from the gun, but nobody attacked this time. There is an interesting new element to the women's races this year, which is that the U of M team now has FOUR women racing, as opposed to ONE last year. This means essentially that the vast majority of the field is ganging up on me. And that's what I realized too late last night, riding on Elena's wheel on the front inside, assuming she would sprint out of turn 4 and thereby give me an opening. So I didn't make any effort to get out of that position - not that I probably could have anyway, since I was boxed in from all sides. As we came around turn 4 during the tenth lap, I started accelerating in anticipation of Elena's sprint, and then she didn't go! No acceleration whatsoever. I damn near ran into her. Then I realized that the four U of M girls had taken the top four spots, and that they had ridden such a smart race that they didn't even need to go fast, as they had managed to control the front to the extent that nobody could get around. I squeaked out a fifth place in front of Barb (Velo Bella), Sarah (also Velo Bella), and Miranda (Flanders), but was kicking myself pretty hard for not even considering that people on the same team would probably work together. Oh, and then I got a stern talking-to from den mother Barb about being squirrely and almost running into people. Whoops.

A little later, after some men's races, we lined back up for the miss-and-out. The thing with those is that they're of undetermined length. With eight people, the longest you can go is 14 laps (with a field that small you whittle it down to two before sprinting for first, rather than three or four), but somebody's race is only going to be two laps long. There are a lot of ways to approach the miss and out, the best being to have three teammates and control the front so you don't have to accelerate across the line. I, however, was (and usually am) the only female representative of SPBRC, so I had to hang around on the rear outside corner of the pack and surge out of turn 4 every time. It worked pretty well, as I hung on while Miranda was pulled, then Sarah, then Hannah, then Ann, then Elena. I should have gone earlier than turn 4 on the last lap, though, if I wanted to get around Barb in time without going into an all-out sprint. The track bikes are too twitchy for me to be comfortable in an all-out sprint just yet. Remember I'm a newbie. So I got pulled with a third-place finish, and watched Julie and Barb duke it out for first and second. Julie won.

Both Barb and Miranda left before the final scratch race, so only six of us lined up at the rail to fight for the title of "state champion." This meant, of course, that now two-thirds of the field were U of M. Sarah and I were screwed. The best I could do was to refuse to take any pulls at the front. Hell, there were four of them, they could do their own work. I was still smarting from the race on Sunday where I blew myself up pulling everyone else up to the two attackers. Wasn't going to let THAT happen again. At one point I heard Bob (Bob Williams, the track director, and also the Phil Liggett of Thursday night racing) over the loudspeaker commenting on that.... "With four Gophers in the field, Annie doesn't want to do any work for them, doesn't want to pull four Gophers behind her...." Tee hee. That makes me a "wheel sucker," the most reviled of all bike racers, but it's not like I was much of a medal threat anyway.

That race was pretty chill as well, with only one attack by a U of M girl that for some reason was chased down by other U of M girls in a rather spectacular failure of teamwork. About three laps from the end I weaseled my way out of the inside position and tried to come over the top at the end, which worked well enough to get me fourth place, but again, without being able to throw down an actual sprint, I'm not much of a medal threat. There actually were medals, too. I laughed when I saw them. For some reason it's hard to take a "state championship" seriously when the field was only six and half of them said "Oh, really?" when the official announced that this was the state championship scratch race.

Afterward, there was a Madison race, which is this crazy tag-team thing that's kind of like a relay race, with teams of two. One person is racing while the other circles slowly, waiting for their turn. When the faster rider comes up to the slower rider, they actually grab hands and the faster rider literally throws the slower one into the race, transferring his momentum, then goes up to take his turn resting. It's pretty hard to follow what's going on if you're a spectator. I don't know how it turned out. I know that about halfway through, while I was busy changing shoes, everyone watching suddenly started yelling in a way that made me look around going "oh, god, what happened?" -- and sure enough, there was Tom Hagerty crumpled up at the bottom of turn 4 with a broken collarbone. The race was neutralized and then actually stopped while some people got him into a sling and found someone to drive him to the hospital. They eventually started it up again, but I left before it was done because I didn't know who was winning anyway. Poor Tom. I hope he heals quickly. I haven't broken my collarbone, but I imagine it hurts even more than that separated rib I had back in '02, and that was no picnic.

Full results (well, full down to the top 5 or 6 in each field) are posted here. Y'all should come out and watch sometime. It's good entertainment for a Thursday night. You can even win burritos.


you know it's a bad sign when the race goes through a wind farm...


Yesterday (Sunday 7/10/05) Nate and I were in Clear Lake, Iowa, blowing off the Hopkins Raspberry Festival crit in favor of a road race through flat, windy cornfields. This is a new race, in its first year, so not very many people were aware of it, and the fields were tiny. The biggest was the 4/5s with 19. The 1/2/3s apparently only had eight, and the women's open only had 6. I knew it would be good when the USCF official at the start line said "Okay, ladies, there are six of you, racing for six prizes. All you have to worry about is the size of your check."

Looking around the parking lot before that, I thought there would be more. I saw a number of girls with road bikes who were wearing running shorts and t-shirts, but I figured the bike meant they were racing. I even saw one of them in the registration line. This seemed reasonable to me, since all the flyers emphasized "Everyone welcome! If you don't have a racing license, that's okay!" But it turned out the woman in the registration line was somebody's mom, and all the other girls were supportive girlfriends, and when we lined up at the start the field looked to be much less in my favor. There was one girl who had never raced before (but she looked pretty fit), and one girl who was a little bigger than the rest of us, with a bit of a gut, but with quads like tree trunks. I figured either she'd get killed carrying the extra around or she'd turn out to be an unstoppable diesel. Had to wait and see, though. The other three definitely looked fit, and they all had very nice bikes, so I figured I would mostly see their derrieres disappearing into the distance. Oh well.

We had a neutral start that was about four miles long. Each group had a motorcycle pacing them out, and of course the women got the pink motorcycle. The driver was SMOKING though! Could somebody please get the word out that a constant stream of cigarette smoke is not something most bike racers appreciate?

Once the neutral start was finished, the course turned south into a headwind, so we kept it pretty friendly and all worked together to get through that stretch of road. Everyone was giving pointers to the girl who hadn't raced before - don't take such long pulls, drink some water as soon as you pull off each time, that sort of thing. I was right behind her and I saw that she was in her little ring, which was going to be a definite liability if someone attacked. You don't want to be stuck in your little ring when everyone else is sprinting. My thoughts about this were: 1. I'm right behind her. I wish I wasn't right behind her. If she gets stuck during an attack, I'm going to have to get around her. 2. I could tell her that she shouldn't be in that ring. I probably SHOULD tell her she shouldn't be in that ring, but those two seconds she spends shifting may be the only thing keeping me out of last place, so I'm not telling her. So sue me, this is a bike race, not Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

So I didn't tell her. And sure enough, the minute we turned east out of that headwind the big girl attacked, and next thing I knew I was charging up the road at almost 30mph trying to catch her and the girl that was on HER wheel, with no idea who was behind me but hoping I could be the only one to catch them, which would put me in a lead group of three. That turned out to be a pipe dream, though, as when I finally caught them I looked over my shoulder and it turned out I had just spent all that energy towing two others up with me. The girl with the little chainring, though, was gone.

Then we settled into a beautiful echelon, which it was nice to see I still remember how to do despite not having done one in over a year. I wasn't getting to recover, though, even with the shelter, since we were still barreling along at 26mph. I was still suffering a mile later when the road tilted up and the big diesel girl attacked again. I had nothing left to answer with, so I fell off fast with half the race still ahead of me. A minute later what was left of the pack apparently blew apart -- the next time I came to the top of a rise I saw them all strung out along the road ahead of me. The next girl up was only 100 yards or less ahead of me. I thought it would be pretty cool if I caught her, but I guess she thought it would be pretty cool if I didn't. I never did catch her. For the rest of the race the distance between us stayed about the same, and the roads were so straight and long that I could see her the whole time. I found out later she had the same distance to the girl ahead of her, and that girl could also see the girl ahead of her. And the girl with the little chainring could see me. Talk about mental torture.

The course did go through a wind farm, by the way. It's a little disconcerting to be surrounded by giant windmills that are turning full blast while you're down on the ground struggling through the wind alone. If only Graham Watson had been there.

The race was supposed to be 42 miles, according to the information we had before the race, but I wasn't sure if that included the 4-mile neutral start or not. I was hoping it did, since the heat (it was about 90) and wind had left me with almost no water - about half an inch in the bottom of each of my two bottles. My computer said I'd gone 39 miles when I passed a course marshal who yelled "Only nine more miles! You can do it!" Nine miles made the total 48, which is two more than I expected even if the neutral start DIDN'T count. And at least seven of those nine were going to be completely dry. My two ounces of water weren't going to be around much longer.

A minute later I saw a tiny sign stuck in the dirt at the side of the road. It said 1K on it. One kilometer to go? That's less than nine miles. As I passed it I saw that the other side said HOUSE FOR SALE. I decided to take it with a grain of salt. Maybe a 5K organizer was selling his house.

Then I saw a van, and a guy with a clipboard, and some orange cones, and about 20 people standing around. I thought: "That looks like a finish line. But the nine-mile lady was less than a mile ago. This can't be the finish. Maybe it's a feed zone. Would they have a feed zone this close to the finish? That makes no sense. I sure hope somebody hands me some water. What will I do if I get a new bottle? Will I get in trouble if I throw one of my GP bottles on the ground? Damn, then they'll know what team it came from. I should have brought plain bottles. Maybe I can come back and get it after the race. Wait, there's Nate. Why doesn't he have any water for me? I need water!"

And as I was thinking all this, I rode over a white line in the road and people started clapping. I thought: "Was that the finish? Am I DONE?" And then I saw the other four women standing by a water cooler. That WAS the finish! So I stopped. I said, like an idiot, "Was that the finish?"

The diesel girl had won. She probably had a killer sprint, too, but nobody got to find out because she just powered away from the girl that got second and crossed the line alone. The girl with the little chainring came in about two minutes behind me and started loudly ranting about how she KNEW there was going to be an attack and she SAW that everybody else was in their big ring and WHY DIDN'T SHE SHIFT IN TIME!

Whew, that was close!

So I got fifth place, otherwise known as next-to-last. Not my best result ever, but hey, there was a prize coming! The women's field had been the last to depart, but the 1/2/3 race was 70something miles and those guys were still out, so we had a while to wait before the awards presentation. I dumped a bottle of water on my head and then had a hasty sponge-bath in a gas station restroom so that I wouldn't have to stand around in sweaty spandex, and then plopped myself under a tree to wait. When the awards presentation finally started, an hour later than scheduled, I got a check for $25. Now that I've been paid to ride my bike, I'm a professional cyclist, right? Time to quit the day job, folks. That's right, you heard it here first.

Of course, that creak in my bike had me fearing for my life a few times, so before we even went back to the house we stopped at Freewheel to see what they had to say. It's not official yet, but they pretty much confirmed my worst fear. The prognosis is not good. More on that when I get it back tomorrow....


the curse of the talking bathroom lady

Part of the hellishness of the office park my firm is located in, besides it being a dirty ghetto building just off the interstate that gets broken into on a regular basis, is that the bathrooms are not exclusive to me and my co-workers. Not that I'm a snob, or a misanthrope, or any of those bad things. Certainly not me. And yet......

You see, there is this woman that works in one of the office suites down the hall. She must drink as much coffee as I do, because she goes to the bathroom a LOT. And every time I see her in there, she says hi. It's not the usual half-whispered "hi" that most people give to strangers in the bathroom, acknowledging the other person and identifying oneself as Not A Snob Or Misanthrope while simultaneously respecting the rules of the bathroom, which are that you are all there for an EMBARRASSING REASON and therefore should not be too brash. Right? I mean, mostly the word "hi" doesn't even escape people's lips. It's just kind of a half-smile and momentary eye contact which is IMMEDIATELY discontinued the second it's made. That's just how it is. This woman from down the hall, however, says:


Loud, strident voice. I can actually hear her from my desk when somebody out in the hall has the misfortune to be caught by her. And caught they most certainly do get. The rules for interactions with Talking Bathroom Lady are this:

1. Do not make eye contact.
2. Do not -- and this is the important one -- do NOT respond with "Fine, how are you?"

Because if you do, she will tell you how she is. It's never a short story, nothing that could be summarized in 25 words or less or be described as "in a nutshell." She will also tell you how the weather is, how the air conditioning is in various rooms of her office suite, how her lunch was. It doesn't stop when the stall doors are closed, either. Usually if you're talking to someone by the sinks and then you both go into the stalls, conversation stops. It's like talking on the phone while using the toilet at home. You just don't do it. Talking Bathroom Lady sure does, though, and when she's finished she comes out of the stall and keeps talking while she washes her hands, and has been known to trap people in front of the office door they're trying to go through.

In my defense, it's not just me. One of my coworkers recently had a baby, and up until she went to maternity leave this woman would follow her into the bathroom asking intensely personal questions about her pregnancy. A couple times she even came INTO OUR OFFICE and sought out my pregnant co-worker. Since this co-worker came back from her maternity leave about a month ago, Talking Bathroom Lady has been asking ME about her. The reason: the co-worker herself has somehow managed to avoid Talking Bathroom Lady for an entire month. It's a mystery to me how she's managed this, because I sure haven't.

I've tried, though. I'm so afraid of her that if I'm in a stall and someone comes in, I will stay put in that stall until I either identify that person's shoes or actually see the person through the crack at the side of my door. If I can't do either of these I will stay there with my pants around my ankles, crouching and peering and very alert, until the person leaves. It's all very Seinfeldian. Kind of like the spare a square episode, really. Except that the characters on that show are famously misanthropic, and I AM NOT.

We're moving to a new building in late August. We will have exclusive rights to the bathrooms there. This will be great.

I'm not sure who's going to clean them, though....

when smileys get out of hand


bobke wisdom

Bob Roll just referred to the TdF peloton as a "seething mass of lunatics," then within three minutes said bike racing was "a beautiful analogy to everyday life." You do the math.


today's wacky tidbits from the legal profession

If anybody out there was not yet convinced that Wal-Mart is evil, read this. Yeah, we have one of these cases. Beware the "stacker stores!" If you walk into a store and see boxes near the ceiling, run for your life......

smells like teen spirit

One of my primary duties at the law firm where I work is to put together "demand packages," which are six-inch-thick envelopes full of evidence demonstrating a) that the defendant is at fault, and b) that our client is significantly injured. This is mailed to the defendant's insurance carrier with a long, overwrought cover letter detailing how YOUR INSURED has RUINED our client's life(!) and the DIMINUTIVE coverage your policy affords your EVIL insured can NEVER be enough to compensate for our client's RUINED LIFE(!), but we promise we will go away and not SUE YOUR ASS OFF if you give us all the money RIGHT NOW(!!). I get to write these letters, and it's kind of fun. I get to use the soap-opera language professors never approved of. As an example, here is a direct quote from an actual demand letter I wrote: "Once she got out of the car she stumbled around in a frantic daze, with blood running down her neck and soaking her shirt, only sitting down after a couple in another vehicle pulled over and tried to help her." Does that deserve a place in the Dark and Stormy Night compilation or what?

Anyway, the attorney I work for is busy enough to use phrases like "That is the last thing I feel like caring about right now" when I ask him questions, so at last check I had twelve - count 'em, twelve - of these things stacked up in his office waiting for him to edit and sign off on, since I can't mail them until they have his final approval, him being the boss and all. I have not actually gotten one of these back since early May, possibly even late April. Well, today I have the toe-curling pleasure of actually putting stamps on three of them and dropping them in the out-box, never to be seen again! There are nine left, but still.....

So I told Nate about this, and he told me I was "25% of the way to paralegal nirvana."

If this is all I live for.......

thoughts on teaching dogs to swim

Earlier this weekend I tried to post some pictures, but Safari shut down every time I tried to upload the pics and Explorer wouldn't even show the picture-posting button, so I gave up. Now I'm trying again on a different computer. The pictures are from Sunday - Nate and I went with Nate's friend Jason to one of the lakes to go kayaking. Dylan went in the kayak once, but he wasn't a big fan of it. It didn't last long.

There were only two kayaks, so most of the time I let the boys go and just hung around the shore giving Dylan swimming lessons. That's right, teaching my dog to swim. You WOULD think dogs were born knowing how to swim - most people probably think this, as I did until last summer - but this is not in fact the case. Dylan hasn't got the first clue. He won't go in over his head no matter how badly he wants to fetch the stick; he'll get within five inches of the stick, but he won't take the extra step if it's too deep. He will instead stand there in neck-deep water, crying, until I go fetch it FOR him.

However, if you carry him out into the deep part and drop him (it's called "tough love"), he can swim well enough to get back to shore, but he does it wrong. Another common misconception is that you can't screw up a doggy-paddle. It is actually possible to doggy-paddle the wrong way. And just try explaining to your dog that it would be much more efficient for him to keep his paws UNDER THE WATER. Here is what that looks like:

Sorry, dudes. I have a photogenic dog and this is probably not the last you'll see of him.

This was all taking place in Detroit Lakes, by the way. DL is near Fargo, but fortunately has lakes and trees and a lot less wind, so it's much better. Nate's parents live up there, so three-day weekends often find us making the trek on west I-94. DL is quite the tourist town during the summer -- it's surrounded by literally dozens of resorts. Yes, there are resorts in Minnesota. The people-watching in a tourist town is fantastic once you've been there in the winter enough times to know what the place is really like. Here is the way I discovered to tell a tourist from a local: the locals wear pants! That's right, pants. Tourists apparently spend so much time at the beach that they forget to put their pants back on before going to the bar, the store, whatever. Here in Minneapolis I don't think I'd see people walking around in just a bikini bottom and t-shirt, so why are the rules different in DL? Are the rules different any time you leave home? And since I'm not a local there (though not a tourist either, so who knows), can I walk around without pants any time I go out with Nate and his sisters, who are presumably required to wear pants by these rules? Wouldn't THAT be great. In fact, maybe I'll take my pants off right now.

maybe I'm working at the wrong place

From the Rake, the shinier of the two local lefty publications:

Agony of Defeat >> Live Wrong
Behold, the evil influence of Lance Armstrong on the American workplace.
by Dan Gilchrist - July 2005

In anticipation of Lance’s final ride in the Tour de France this month, let’s cast a look back to one year ago. High above the 494 strip in Bloomington, on the twenty-fourth floor of a glass office tower, at the stroke of noon on a “summer hours” Friday, twenty amateur bicyclists sweated, sprinted, and occasionally fell over to the cheers of adoring co-workers. It was the first annual Tour de Colle & McVoy, a tribute to Armstrong’s cruise to a record sixth victory at the Tour de France, and proof that the crap economy has not completely undone the Nerfy, anything-goes creative workplace of the late 1990s.

The circular hallway that rings the ad agency’s offices provided a natural course for the indoor race, which went for twenty laps and “somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes, I think,” according to race organizer and official timekeeper Brian Ritchie, who also rode the tour. According to Ritchie, the race had its genesis in cable coverage of the Tour de France. “Every morning we’d get in and be glued to the Tour on TV,” he said. “People started getting a little competitive—there are some of us who ride on a cycling team. I decided there was only one way to determine the best rider, and that was to have an all-out race right here in the building. Also, the boss was on vacation. That had a lot to do with the scheduling of the event.”

Among the riders on bikes of every type and price point, one competitor stood out. Kicking a foot scooter in white flip-flops and a denim skirt, Project Manager Teresa Demma estimated that she completed three laps on her unorthodox vehicle, although she admitted to some Rosie Ruiz-style tactics—namely, cutting through an internal hallway that bisected the race hallway. “I did finish with the pack, so I feel like I accomplished something,” she said.

Training appeared to have its advantages in this race, as members of the Birchwood Cafe’s cycling team took the top three places, winning the yellow jersey, a case of Diet Dr. Pepper, and gift certificates to Krispy Kreme and White Castle.

There was not a lot of jockeying for position in the peloton, because the narrow hallways made passing difficult. Aerodynamics played no role, and there were no major ascents. Asked what the biggest challenge was, top finisher Ryan Carlson said, “The water, definitely the water,” which had spilled from competitors’ cups onto a slick concrete floor out in the atrium, causing the skinny tires on his fancy-looking road bike to hydroplane out of control. Indeed, several riders careened into an office wall after encountering the water hazard, leaving distinctive black rubber skid marks. Asked how he would explain the damage once the boss returned, race chief Ritchie said, “Hopefully, we’re going to be moving soon.”



During the month of July, Coldstone Creamery will apparently be serving wasabi ice cream. No one in the world but me and Nate will possibly care about this, but here is the link anyway.

what a hottie!

Here is a picture of me. I think it is pretty representative. If anybody would like to tell me how to put this in my profile instead of just in this post, I am not smart enough to figure it out myself.

uh, yeah.

So now I have a blog. Ten bucks says I'll post on it five times and get bored.

I'm actually already mad at blogger, ten minutes into my relationship with it, because it seemed ENTIRELY reasonable to have it be endorphinjunkie.blogspot.com, since the name endorphinjunkie has, in fact, belonged to ME ME ME since at least 2001, and yet some fuckstick seems to have already taken it. The kicker? He hasn't even posted to it. He's just squatting on it, with nothing to say. True story. You can go look at it if you like.

The fallout from THAT, then, is that I can't name my blog what I wanted to, which was "endorphinjunkie, high priestess of the 27-tooth cog." I suppose I could still do that with ladyvelo but now I'm bitter. Plus I only just swapped out my trusty 11-23 for a 12-27 the other day, for no apparent reason (I believe "just in case" was how I justified it to the shop guys), and I'd probably be embarrassed in a couple weeks to have named my blog after it.

So, yeah. I'm actually at work right now so this is probably not what I'm getting paid to do....