yes, i ride the short bus.

Race Report: Ken Woods Memorial Road Race

Today was the soggiest, windiest, nastiest colder-than-a-witch's-tit hellhole of a day anyone could have asked for. And I hope nobody did ask for it, because if I find out who it was, I will kick their ass. That sucked. When I peeled off my clothes afterward I squeezed about a gallon of water out of them. But despite the meteorological nastiness, 38 women showed up for the cat 4 race. Thirty-eight! That is absolutely a new record. I did not know there were that many women in the entire metro area that rode bikes. Hopefully it'll stay that way, because how cool is that?

My race, however, was not cool. Not at all what I had hoped it would be. I made the stupid stupid rookie mistake of lining up near the back, and what with the crazy sketchiness of the other women that were near the back, by the time I finally made it out of the parking lot alive (seriously, ladies, learn a few pack riding skills before jumping into a race... I'm glad you're enthusiastic, but please?) I was at the very back of the group. Then I made the stupid stupid rookie mistake--and this one was extra retarded, jeez, I still can't believe I did this--of just sitting there, even though I knew it would string out as soon as we went around the corner, but in the past it hasn't been that hard for me to get back to where I want to be even as people drop off, so I didn't make much effort to get to the front.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. When we did go around the corner it didn't string out, it exploded. Suddenly there were 50 foot gaps everywhere. I had to put everything I had into leapfrogging group to group, half of which was solo bridges into the wind, the other half of which was dodging slower people who were obviously not expecting anyone to go whizzing by them at twice their speed. It was nuts, and I was burning matches I wouldn't have had to burn if I'd been smart in the first place and moved up before the corner.

So there I was, five miles in and still not on the lead group, but making excellent progress... and then one of my teammates crashed in front of me and went sliding across the road (she's ok, she got up and finished the race), and I lost my momentum. I never did get on that lead group. I passed all the other groups, but then I was alone in the wind and as hard as I was trying to get up there, the group was busy chasing down a solo break so they weren't exactly lollygagging either. I was cooked. Fortunately, Alix pulled up behind me at that moment and we started working together to catch them.

We didn't get them while they were still a group, but eventually we picked up Penelope (formerly known as Bella P... I warned you, P, and you didn't object!), who had been shelled off the lead group, and then Sarah and one of my former GP teammates, and at this point we were so pleased to get a chance to rest that we just let the leaders go. Another stupid mistake -- after we caught our breath we should have attacked and gotten rid of the other three and gone after the next few, but we didn't. We stayed in our little group of five until the main hill at the end (we only had one lap).

I thought we were all going up the hill in a group, and we were going a pretty easy pace, but at some point I looked back from my spot on Penelope's wheel and the other three were gone. Penelope and I traded pulls the rest of the way up the hill, and when it seemed like a good time to sprint I took off, and Penelope didn't really put up much of a fight, so I rolled in alone in tenth. Which isn't bad, I guess, but it wasn't what I wanted, or what I would have gotten if I hadn't been a moron at the beginning. Live and learn though, eh?

Three of my teammates were up ahead, though, including Gilby, and they were seriously kicking ass. I heard later from the girl who came in 7th that those three totally controlled the race the entire time, and no break ever had a chance. This girl was shocked that Cat 4 women could be so organized! In fact, when I was hanging out during the afternoon races I talked to three other women who had been in the morning race, and when we were all introducing ourselves, I said I rode for Birchwood, and the three of them all let out a collective "Ohhh!" in this most impressed and awed tone. I warned you. The Blue Train is gonna be unstoppable.

Of course it had to be a Bella who took first, after all my trash-talkin'--Bella K, who I was in that chase group with last weekend at Durand, outsprinted my teammate Maria to take the yellow jersey in the MWCMR series, and yes, there was really a yellow jersey. But it ain't over yet, Bellas. We will be back. Next weekend, in fact, at the Avon Road Race, where we again have a separate cat 4 field, and hopefully I will be able to keep my retardation in check long enough to get on the front group this time. The suspense is killing you, I know it is.


not to give away our secret weapon for ken woods or anything, but...

So while perusing the internet for my super awesome new profile pic, I found some even awesomer things that I couldn't not share with all my nice readers. Check it out, yo.


public service announcement

OK guys, yesterday I was warned that if I trash-talked too much more I might be mistaken for Sickboy, but it seems that it is too late for that. This morning's peek at my statcounter revealed the horrifying truth.... the entire Velo Bella team is talking about me behind my back! Dang it, I hope I don't get a frame pump in my spokes now. For clarification purposes, because I would like to live to see another day:

1. If you are a Bella and you are cat 3 or higher, nothing I have said was aimed at you.
2. If you are a Bella and you don't know me from Adam, don't take it personally.
3. Races are more fun when there's a "showdown at high noon" element, and holy crap do we have a huge cat 4 team this year, and you guys are the other team with a lot of cat 4 women, so I want to see all y'all on the start line at Ken Woods for the cat 4 showdown of the century. Come out and play! Please! It'll be fun, I swear. But trash-talking is way more fun than abject begging, y'know?

Oh yeah, and Avon too. And all the other MWCMR races. Cuz there ain't room in this here town fer the both of us.... oh wait, there I go again. Whoops.


strap yourself in and feel the G's

Race Report: Opus Crit #2

Last night was the second of the six-week Opus series, which, thankfully, was not actually shut down after all last week's drama. It did have some changes made, though, and one of those changes was that the women's race is now twelve laps instead of nine. Apparently this extra distance is too much for the Velo Bellas to handle, because not very many of them showed up at all. Bellas, don't you know it only makes it worse when we can smell your fear?

Nineteen women lined up this time, eight of which were ours. Also a good showing by some of the fastest ladies in the metro area, including the fearsome Teresa and pro MTB'er Kyia. Scary stuff. With all the big dogs coming out to play, the whole race was faster and more aggressive than last week's, and no breaks ever got away for very long.

An interesting rule Opus has is that lower-category riders are allowed to bring their coaches into the race with them, as long as the coaches do not do anything to affect the outcome of the race. One girl did this last night, so for at least half the race I got to listen to some dude hollering "Get up there! Get up there!" constantly. His usefulness to his coachee ran out, however, when somebody attacked and the field started to break up. Not wanting to be left out of the front group, I started hammering to catch back on, and behind me I heard Coachie's voice bellowing "Get on her wheel!" Meaning my wheel, of course. I thought, "fuck that," and scooted over to the other side of the road so she couldn't get on my wheel, and I never saw her again. So thanks for that, Coach, cuz if it weren't for you I would've held my line and she could have gotten on.

It got a little more exciting in the second sprint, when Belgian Bella accidentally came out of her pedal and nearly caused a huge pile-up with all her fishtailing, foot-dragging, spark-shooting action. Fortunately everyone managed to keep the rubber side down this time. Whew.

Meanwhile, with the constant attacks at the front of the group, I was getting popped off the back over and over, and having to sprint to catch back on over and over. A few of those times I towed a teammate back up with me, though, so my story is that I was just doing my Super Domestique duty and going back for my fallen comrades. Which means that I was off the back on purpose, obviously. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

After the third prime on the ninth lap shelled a few more racers, the pack was down to maybe ten or eleven. Only three of the remaining racers were cat 4s, and all 3 of them were wearing blue. That's right, Bellas, read it and weep. Perhaps you did not hear the sound of the gauntlet hitting the ground before, so here it is again: THWAP! Next week you have no excuses.

We wound up for the final sprint, and I found myself a nice spot on the outside of the pack near the back and waited. When the time came I hit the gas and charged past a handful of others to cross the line in 7th position. Which I think translates to 8th overall, since Ann H (who had been at the front chasing Kyia down for two laps) sat up before the sprint and didn't even contest it, but she already had enough points for third place anyway. Points races are kind of weird. In any case, I was the first 4 across the line again, followed by my teammates Maria and Alison in second and third. Again, no phat cash for the 4s. This is going to be just like when I was in middle school and they didn't install air conditioning there until the year I started high school. As soon as I cat up there will be all kinds of races with separate cat 4 fields, I just know it.

Next up is the Ken Woods Road Race on Saturday, where there will indeed be a cat 4 field. All I can say is watch out for the blue train.


oh, crap

Race Report: Durand Road Race

I know, I know, I owe you race reports sooner than two days post-race. What can I say, I was too busy sitting on my ass drinking beer.

Anyway, Saturday morning found me at the start line of a 27-mile road race in rural Wisconsin, freezing my ass off but surrounded by teammates -- eight of us in total. AND, even more exciting than having so many teammates, there were 35 women there! More than 15 is a pretty big field around here, so this was huge. Chicks rule. However, the race organizers had kindly put the women dead last, behind even the juniors and the citizen racers, so we sat on the line for ages while they sent each group off ten minutes apart. At some point I realized (warning, gross personal information ahead!) "Dang, I need to poo," but since I was already sitting at the line, I did not go. This is generally a bad idea, guys, don't do it.

So I took off when it was finally our turn, and hoped for the best. This course was relentlessly hilly -- I don't think there was a single flat spot anywhere on the loop. Plus it was an open field, meaning that the fastest women were pitted against the women who had never raced in their lives. The obvious consequence of this: people started popping off the back the minute the road tilted up for the first time, and more people fell off at every hill. Within half a lap (the race was two 13.5 mile laps) the field was whittled down to half of what we had started with. Then someone in the front attacked and blew the whole thing apart, and I found myself in a group of four -- me, my teammates Alix and Maria, and a Velo Bella girl who shall henceforth be known as Bella K because I am still not any more creative than that. We worked together for a short time, but Bella K dropped off the back and then Maria, who is a former triathlete and therefore a monster time-trialist, bridged easily to the next group while Alix and I were still trying to recover. So then it was me and Alix for the next half lap, trading pulls and generally doing okay, except that my guts were starting to protest my earlier bad decision.

At the end of the first lap, Bella K caught back up to us and brought Bella B along, and at the same time we caught a Peace Coffee rider who had been dropped off the group ahead of us. The five of us started working together, but meanwhile my lower belly was starting to cramp a bit and it was making me nauseous, so my pulls were getting shorter and shorter and even hanging on the back was hard to do. And with half a lap to go, halfway up the steep hill on the back of the course, my guts seized up into one enormous cramp and that was the end of it for me. I watched them disappear up the hill in front of me, and then I watched the most gleeful grin I've ever seen spread across Bella K's face as she looked back and saw that I'd been dropped. Poor Alix.

But I did not hurl, and I did not crap in my pants, and I even managed to keep up a steady enough pace that no one else caught up to me. And I got to wave at all the cute little Amish kids that were sitting in their yards watching the racing. I crossed the line alone in 18th place, 6th amongst cat 4s. My diesel teammate Maria was the first cat 4, closely followed by another of my teammates, and Alix was 4th among the 4s, so you know who kicks ass? That's right, Birchwood. And next weekend we finally have a race to ourselves, and I can pretty much guarantee you that the B-wood ladies will walk away with the phat cash. Hear that, Bellas? The gauntlet has been thrown down.

So my race sucked, but meanwhile, Nate and the other fellas were having a fine time smacking the 4/5 pack around. Unfortunately somebody hooked somebody else's handlebar at the beginning of the sprint and there was a big pile-up, but all the boys in blue managed to avoid it, and my very own boyfriend powered up the finishing hill to take second! And the fella who took first was one of ours too! Nate won a tire. So did Dave, the first place guy. And the 35+ race was also dominated by two Birchwood guys, so all together we now have 4 tires. Yee-haw!

Unfortunately, there was no podium, nor were there skanky podium girls to get their skanky lipstick all over my boyfriend's cheek, but maybe next time. And if I can't win tires, perhaps I can be a podium girl. Yeah, that's it.

Stay tuned for scenes from next week's episode, in which Annie becomes a skanky podium girl.


heinz 57

More Opus race reports can be found at the Midwest Women's Cycling Made Real blog and Sarah's blog. Good stuff. Chicks rule.


The early part of this week was so crazy what with going to trial and getting the jury from hell, Opus starting, and trying to catch up with all the crap that piles up during trial prep, that I never blogged the events of the weekend. And for once, there actually were events. Here, then, is a catch-up (catsup, ketchup) post.


Saturday Nate and I went down to the Oxbow Spring Classic, which features mostly dirt/gravel roads and a monstrous 20% hill they call the Oxenburg. I did not race because I don't have a cross bike, but that didn't stop Nate. He slapped some bigger tires on his twenty-year-old Raleigh with the downtube shifters and off he went. While he was getting ready at the start line, I figured I would walk up to the hill so I could see the King of the Mountains prime, so I started walking. And I kept walking. And I walked some more. After a while I figured out that the hill was not as close as I remembered it being, so I stuck my thumb out and walked like that for a while. I must have looked like a pretty shady character in my pink tank top because it was a long time before anybody picked me up. When finally a car pulled over, it was already stuffed to the gills with six people and a Great Dane, but they let me in anyway. I got my ride to the bottom of the hill, walked to the top, and watched the A field go by, then the B field. I was expecting Nate to be somewhere near the front, but he was not. When he did go past he was swearing so much I started looking around for the Hell Week coffee maker.

It later turned out that the braze-on for his downtube shifter had failed and the shift lever had actually FALLEN OFF. He stopped and pounded it back on, but later it fell off again and he had to stop again. Despite all this, he finished the race, and even beat a lot of people whose shifters did not fall off. But he was very happy to get back to his good road bike.

Meanwhile, after the field passed me for the first time, I decided I would hoof it back to the car to put on some sunscreen and maybe change into my bike stuff and go for a little spin, since I had brought my bike with. Once again, the parking lot and the hill were not very near each other, and there wasn't anybody to hitch with this time, so I had a nice little three-mile hike in my flip-flops. And the sunscreen was more or less moot by the time I actually reached it. But I put it on anyway, and changed into spandex and got on my bike and rode back to the hill to see the finish. I must say, slipping around in the gravel was not fun, and riding up the Oxenburg was not fun, and I was not at all sad to have skipped the race. I will stick to normal roads, thank you very much.


The next day was also rather exciting, at least for about 15 minutes. Nate and I went riding with some of the team, most of whom had raced the day before, so it was an easy social ride. We were all having a good time until one guy, we'll call him Joe, hit the world's nastiest piece of road debris and crashed right in front of me, so I crashed right into him and Nate ran over my wheel and it was all very dramatic with cyclists piled in the road and bikes everywhere and people in cars stopping to stare. Fortunately for me, I landed right on the most, ahem, padded part of my hip/butt area, so I came out of it okay. (Word to the wise: extra 5-10 pounds come in handy sometimes, don't diet.) "Joe," on the other hand, landed on his shoulder really hard and while the other guys were changing his tires for him -- yes, both, I'll tell you in a minute what it was he ran into -- it swelled up quite a bit. Just in those ten minutes. Not good. He ended up calling his wife for a ride home.

Meanwhile, I had figured out that nothing was broken (except for a little skin) and checked out my bike and helmet, which were also intact except for a bit of bar tape. And one by one, everyone had gone to inspect the offending object. Folks, I have seen some weird shit in the roads in the years I've been cycling, but never have I seen a big chunk of an amplifier cleverly hidden in a plastic grocery bag and dropped in the road. Poor Joe never had a chance.

I also seem to have done something to my wrist/thumb, although lord only knows what, because it got progressively more sore that afternoon and I had to haul out my old Ace bandage to wrap it up for a couple days. It's still sore now, but it no longer hurts to move it. Of course I had a haircut appointment Monday evening, and the last time I had a haircut I was wearing the stress fracture boot, and my stylist just shook her head when she saw me. Calamity Jane, that's me. But she's the one who's talking about getting a motorcycle, so we'll see who's shaking whose head in a few years when she has no legs.

I saw "Joe" at Opus on Tuesday, and while he was still too sore to race, he said he had been thoroughly x-rayed and pronounced A-OK, and had even been back on his bike for a short spin. In case anyone was worried.


And today I got a spam email from someone who would like me to "Take just a candy and become ready for 36 hours of love!!" Thanks, dude, but some of us have to go to work.


who needs the thought police when you have statcounter

I see from my statcounter that my little brother was reading my blog at 2:38 AM last night. Go to bed, dude. I know you're in college and all, but seriously. Go to bed.


opus #1

Yay, another race report. Tonight began the six-week OPUS crit series, which is supposed to go every Tuesday night until the end of May. Due to the fuzz, the po-po, the (mmmm, I smell bacon!) boyz in blue getting a little crabby about some alleged traffic violations, there are rumors afoot that the series may get shut down. Just rumors though. Tonight's shut-down, just after my race finished, coincided neatly with the onset of some serious thunder and lightning, so I am suspicious of the rumors. We shall see.

Anyway, the women's open field tonight may have been a new record, either 21 or 22 racers. Last year we had between 10 and 15 most nights. I was hoping it would be hard from the gun so the pack would get strung out a bit, seeing as probably half the women there had never raced before, but I was toward the back and didn't have much say in that. And it didn't go that way. For the first three laps the pace was pretty moderate, but OPUS is a points race with sprints every three laps, and the first sprint usually breaks the pack up pretty well. I'm not sure what happened at the back, but from where I sat it went like this: the first three girls across the line, including both Belgian Bella and my illustrious teammate Paula, got a good gap on the rest of the field. I tried briefly to bridge to them but quickly realized that a) I was towing the field behind me, and b) we weren't going to regroup, it was an honest-to-god break, and my teammate was in it. So I sat up.

Nobody organized any real chase, so the break stayed away for the rest of the race. And since the three in the break automatically got all the points in the second sprint, we didn't have a second points sprint. The group stretched and bunched and stretched and bunched and did the usual inchworm thing for the next five or so laps, while I primarily occupied myself with avoiding one particularly sketchy girl whose team shall remain nameless, but she wasn't one of ours. Thank goodness for that. At one point I heard the terrifying sound of wheels rubbing together very near me, but nobody went down (again, thank goodness for that). And then, because there are only nine laps in the women's race, the bell was ringing and it was time to get my sorry ass off the back of the pack and into a workable position. I used the downhill to scoot up to about midpack on the outside edge, then moved up more gradually as we approached the finish, and waited for somebody to jump. The girl who finally did jump went way too soon if you ask me, but too late, game on, so I went after her and so did everybody else. I didn't have a wheel to lead me out, though, so I just had to try and hold it for as long as I could, which wasn't quite long enough -- I held second for a long time but it was a long long sprint and I started to fade, at which point two other girls came around me, and I crossed the line in fourth position for seventh overall.

During our race, thunder had started to rumble and a few fat raindrops were falling, but within a couple minutes of the finish, we ran out of luck. Between that and whatever had transpired with the cops, there didn't end up being any more races, so we went home.

Here are some pictures of the pack sprint (remember the three-woman break had already finished, so this was a sprint for fourth). I am on the left, blue helmet & armwarmers. (Shawn, as promised, I am on my bike yet not smiling. Those races, I tell ya. Something about the burning throat and the tunnel vision kind of wipes the smile right off.)

The pictures were taken by photographer extraordinaire Bruce Adelsman, and there are many more available on his page. Go check 'em out.


for shawn, who wanted to see me smile while eating peeps


happy friggin' easter


jelly bean update

Well, folks, this experiment has been quite the disappointment so far. Either people are keeping their reactions to themselves or they just aren't noticing. Although the boss man hasn't yet taken any, so there is still hope. But the receptionist ate some and said "These are good! Where do you get them?"

So we thought maybe they were defective. Not having purchased the Every Flavor Beans before, I was taking it entirely on faith that the beans are in fact flavored like bacon and vomit rather than just being regular flavors with funny labels. So one of the other paralegals and I decided to taste-test them. She ate a bacon bean and reported that it did indeed taste like bacon. So I ate a black pepper one and it tasted like pepper. Then I ate a soap one and it tasted like soap.

The secretary showed up at this point and figured out what we were doing. "Who's going to taste the vomit flavor?" she asked.

Paralegal N and I looked at each other. "Not me," I said.

"Oh, fine," she said, although I hadn't actually twisted her arm at ALL. Personally I think she secretly really wanted to taste it. So she ate it, and said that it tasted like.... spaghetti!

Whatever. In any case we stopped taste-testing them at that point, because nobody wanted to taste rotten egg or earwax, but it seems that people are taking their jelly beans downstairs and quietly spitting them out without coming back up to inquire as to why we have spaghetti-flavored jelly beans in our candy dish. Perhaps they are sitting at their desks, gazing bemusedly at their jelly beans and wondering if they're finally losing it after all these years. I hope no one ends up in the psych ward over this.

But the black pepper ones were actually kind of good. I might go get another one.


*giggle* *snort*

Our office has three levels, with all the conference rooms and bathrooms and stuff in the basement, most of the offices on the main level, and a secretary and three paralegals (including me) on the top floor. On the top floor we usually have a candy dish, and the downstairs people are constantly coming up here and stealing our candy no matter how many times we warn them. Apparently they think we are joking when we tell them to get their grubby paws out of our candy. Well, no more. We have taken matters into our own hands and stocked the candy dish with Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. We also bought some regular ones for camouflage, but underneath the lemon-lime and cherry and coconut, there are bacon and earwax jelly beans lying in wait. Stay tuned, folks. My very own boss is one of the worst candy-stealing offenders. Heh, heh, heh.


you want excitement? read somebody else's blog.

Happy Monday, y'all. And welcome to road construction season. At least on I-94, it officially began today. Whoopty freakin' doo.

Friday I interviewed for what was obviously the coolest job in the whole wide world, and of course I stunk it up so bad not even I would hire me. When I was done they gave me a coffee mug to "thank" me for "taking the time to see us today." They also said it was "to remember [name of organization] by." That is not something you say to someone you are planning to ever see again. Oh well.

At least things are livening up around here as much as they ever do. I'm "doing" my first trial next Monday. Most lawyers have a second lawyer sitting next to them in a trial, but at my firm the second chair is filled by a paralegal. I'm not sure if this counts as "second-chairing" a trial, because I'm not exactly sure what it is the second lawyer does, but I might call it that when I want to sound important in public. I guess I better get my hair cut before then, lest anyone mistake me for Luke Skywalker.

And I am still fully capable of eating an entire Chipotle burrito in one sitting. Thank God for that.


warning: graphic, disturbing imagery


boop boop a doop

So Bella S has posted her race reports from this weekend, and in the same way that I called all the Velo Bella girls Bella P, Bella S, etcetera, she's now calling all the Birchwood gals Betty A (that's me), Betty G (Gilby), etcetera. The problem with being the Birchwood Bettys (which the women's team does call themselves) is, well, see above. The other problem is that at least half our team has names starting with A. This could get messy. Bella S uses her real name (Sarah) on her own blog, so I'll just go with that until I hear otherwise from her, but if you race and you read this blog, this is your notice that you need to make up a snappy pseudonym for yourself and tell me ASAP. Or give me permission to use your actual first name, since when I told Alix to make up a snappy pseudonym she said "what, Alix isn't a good enough name for you?"

Moving on. In other news, Gilby gave me her cold, so all my plans to learn how to sprint in the next two weeks may be shot. I started to get a sore throat on Friday, then woke up with a horrible mucusy sore throat on Saturday, but apparently the virus feared my wrath because it waited until Sunday afternoon after all the racing was over to hit me full force. And now I'm stoned out of my gourd on Sudafed. I know I posted about it last time I had to use the stuff, but let me just state again, I do not understand why anybody bothers making meth out of Sudafed when it fucks you up so much straight out of the box. One day it would be nice if they could make a cold medicine that didn't turn people into jittery lunatics.

On the bright side, no matter how loony this medicine makes me, I will always be saner than most of our clients. At least I have that.


photographic evidence

So Nate and Andy both have race photos, but they're not coughing 'em up just yet, so the best I can do is blatant thievery. Amanda, the girl who won on Saturday and took fourth on Sunday, has a blog, and on it she posted race reports from both Saturday and Sunday as well as this lovely picture from Saturday's road race.

Look closely, way in the back. See the blue helmet? That's right, folks, what you see here is a pixelated immortalization of the precise moment when I lost contact with the pack. Sad, I know.

pancake flat and only one corner, that's my kind o' race

Race report: Waterworks Park Criterium, Des Moines, IA -- April 2, 2006

Yesterday morning I had stumbled halfway from the hotel room to the lobby (where the free breakfast is) before I noticed that it was raining. Fortunately by the time we got out to the race course it had stopped, and except for when the 1/2/3 guys got sprinkled on for about 30 seconds, it stayed dry during all the racing. Whew.

It looked like about the same number of women lined up for the crit as for Saturday's road race, but the results list is less comprehensive this time so I can't be entirely sure. In any case, I lined up near the back behind my teammate Alix. Good thing, too, because when we started I couldn't get clipped in to save my life and ended up having to sprint just to get on the pack, which is never the best way to start a race, but at least I wasn't in front getting in people's way.

Right away a two-woman break got away, less than half a lap in. We let them go because it was only the first lap, and who the heck gets away on the first lap and stays away, really. The main pack got loosely organized to chase, but apparently there weren't enough people willing to share the work (which I heard later from someone who had been at the front -- I was just sticking on the back, not sure what was going on up there), so after a while we backed off and just assumed the break would eventually wear themselves out and fall back. And eventually we did reel in one of the girls, but the other just kept going and going and stayed away until she won. Oh well.

Meanwhile, women in the main pack launched short attacks over and over, not enough to start a break, but enough to gradually whittle the pack down to eight or nine and leave me teammateless. Two laps from the end there was a prime (noun, preem, an intermediate sprint for some lame-ass prize that you didn't want anyway) for what turned out to be free entry to a race I won't be at anyway. Nobody wants to sprint two laps from the end, so it was pretty half-assed, and we all regrouped immediately afterward and took a couple easy laps to rest up for the final sprint. I somehow got confused and thought we were on the last lap when in fact it was only the second to last, and found myself in second position behind a girl who obviously didn't want to be in front any more than I did. Thus ensued a match-sprint game in which she would slow down to try and get me to pull through, and I would refuse to pull through and slow down even more, until we came back past the line at about 13 mph and the announcer made fun of us.

Finally the others got sick of it and the pace picked back up with someone else in the lead. Whew. I sat in and tried to position myself decently, but I pretty much never made it to any bunch sprints last year what with getting dropped and all, so I really had no clue what I was doing. Andy pointed out to me later that I forgot to even put my hands in the drops prior to sprinting. Whoops. If anybody wants to teach me how to sprint before the Minnesota season starts on the 18th, I could obviously use the help. Anyway, despite my utter lack of a clue, I managed fifth in the sprint and sixth overall. Once again, if they had scored the 4s separately I would have gotten the phat cash, but what can you do.

Then we all stood around and watched the rest of the races, where the 4/5 race was also won by a solo break who stayed away for the entire race. After that the masters and 1/2/3s wised up and didn't let any of that monkey business get by them. Once Andy was finished we packed up and headed out in the Molester Van, stopping at Baker's Square for a lowbrow but tasty feast. While we were in there the heavens opened up and delivered a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions. We ran back out to the van, hoping that it hadn't flooded while we were in there -- one of the many problems with the Molester Van is that the windshield isn't sealed very well and it drips when it rains. (Travelin' in style, people, what can I say.) We got on the highway and joined the parade of people who were crawling along at 20 mph with their hazards flashing, but that didn't last long before the rain turned into hail -- HAIL! -- and we were forced to pull over and wait it out, mopping the top of the windshield nonstop to keep as much water as possible out. The bikes, of course, were on the back of the van, and I am afraid to inspect my top tube. Hail damage is one thing that I never thought would happen to my poor bike.

But we made it back okay. Apparently there were tornadoes around there, but we didn't see any (we couldn't really see anything, so that doesn't mean much), and obviously I am back at my desk instead of in Oz so it turned out all right. Now all I have to do is get a lot faster in the next three weeks. I can do that, right? .......right? Guys?


first 2006 race report!

Altoona Road Race, Altoona, IA (not to be confused with the real Altoona)

Last night Nate, Gilby, Andy, Alix, and I hopped back into the same bigass broken-down van and drove to Des Moines for the first races of the season. This morning was the road race - 5 laps of a four and a half mile circuit (the boys' races were longer) with a short but steep hill coming up to the finish. 21 women started the race, 19 finished. It was an open field, too, which can be a little demoralizing. Seeing as I'm a lousy Cat 4, I feel like it doesn't count when a Cat 2 beats me, but in an open field in a foreign place (yes, Iowa is foreign, you should come here sometime) it's impossible to tell who is what. At home, of course, even in an open field I generally know what category everyone races and who I should worry about beating, but apart from two Bellas and my own two teammates I'd never seen any of these women before. My plan is to google everyone who beat me and see how many of them really count.

Anyway, we lined up and rolled out, and not much happened for a while. I've been in neutral starts that rolled out faster. Nothing at all really happened until the end of the first lap, when we hit the hill and the field started to break up. I stayed with the lead pack until the third time up that hill, then I found myself trailing a little and unable to recover enough to catch back on. After a while I gave up and waited for the two behind me to catch me. One of those two was my teammate, Alix. The three of us worked together for the fourth lap but when we hit the hill again I shelled them both and found myself alone for the entire last lap.

Which is never fun. I was glad when I came around the last corner and started up the hill for the fifth and final time, but of course the men's 4/5 field chose that moment to catch me -- they'd started just a minute or two before we had -- and I was trapped on the very edge of the road behind some other dude who had gotten lapped and who was going obscenely slowly. I wasn't in any danger of being caught by the next girl back, nor was I close enough to the front pack to be particularly worried about them, but I really wanted to pass this guy anyway. No such luck though; I was apparently invisible to the 4/5s and so I had to crawl up the final hill and just pray that they would finish passing me before the finish line so that the officials would at least see me.

And they did, just in time, and I waved at the officials just to be sure they knew I wasn't a 4/5 being dropped, and that was that. The orange-clad girl I'd worked with for Lap 4 crossed a bit later, and then Alix after that, and Alix and I turned back and started doing a slow cool-down lap going backwards so we could see where everybody else was. Gilby came in a few minutes later and apparently went straight to the van to wrap herself in a blanket and shiver. We finished our cooldown lap in time to watch the 4/5s come in, with Nate in 10th.

When the results were posted it turned out I came in 8th, out of 19 that finished (2 DNFs). No idea how many of the first seven were cat 4. If I ever get that information I will, of course, share. Otherwise known as "tooting my own horn."

Then the men's 1/2/3 race went, and the rest of us stood and watched that. We also had the outstanding pleasure of watching some dumbass in an SUV drive straight through the wheel pit and wreck four or five pairs of wheels. Sarah Stratton caught it all on camera, and Sarah, if you're reading this, I highly encourage you to post that picture. The cops were called and a report filed, and hopefully everyone whose wheels were destroyed will get reimbursed. Otherwise, we all know the driver's license plate number and they will be hunted down and killed, I'm sure.

Anyway, I'll let Andy tell his own story, but he did well and came away with some actual Phat Cash (not to be confused with the "phat cash" I won last year, which turned out to be a water bottle). We went back to the hotel to drop off the bikes and get cleaned up, and then we stuffed ourselves with Mexican food and I was naughty and had a margarita even though we're racing again tomorrow. (Last time I drank the night before a race, I got dropped in the first two miles and rode the entire race alone. I did, at the time, say I would never do it again, but... but... but margaritas!)

And now we're sitting here doing nothin'. Sit tight; barring tornadoes there should be another race report tomorrow.

Update: after mucho googling, it appears that (apart from one woman who appears to be a fairly high-level triathlete, but not much bike race info available, so who knows) only one Cat 4 woman beat me and Alix. And that one happened to win the whole thing, and her days as a 4 are obviously numbered, so I don't feel too bad about that. So way to go, me and Alix.