From the Road…

You’re Not Going to Believe This But…

It is raining in Portland.

It has been raining in Portland all week.

I am as sick of writing that as you are of reading it, believe me.

During the winter the rain is a backdrop. As expected and unnoticed as waking up in the morning.

Training rides are not a question, just a problem to be solved. How many layers on the feet?  Which rain jacket this time?  Will the winter jacket be too hot? Have the gloves dried from yesterday’s ride? 

In the winter I walk from heater vent to heater vent checking things.  Sal’s gore booties still wet, Heidi’s booties dry.  Score one for Heidi.  Shoes are upside down getting smaller while the furnace blows dry heat onto the insoles. 

In the winter there is a rhythm to the misery that becomes familiar.  The toll is not so profound.  Cyclocross mixes with beer and provides mayhem.  We go 68% crazy and make it through.  We ride in typhoons so that we can tell stories.  It’s ok in the winter.

It’s not winter now.  It’s June.

I feel my skin getting thinner as the wind gusts at 26 miles per hour outside my house.  The lilac trees brace against the weather – I can see them through the original 100-year-old glass.  It is rattling. 

The lilac trees are covered with blossom-corpses, rusty brown and brittle.  Why?  Because it’s June.  April has come and gone and with it the purple of my trees. 

This is why the storm is getting under my skin.  I have paid my dues, I’m thinking.  I have weathered the hail.  I have trained through the winter.

I deserve sun.

I know it’s coming.  We all do.  In a few weeks I’ll be writing about how I’m sweltering in the attic master bedroom at night and I’ll laugh when I read this.  In a few months the kermesses and cyclocross races will creep onto the schedule and I will kneel by the bed each night praying for rain.

For now, the rain is my enemy and every drop a personal affront. 

Make it stop.

Make Believe People Who Really Do Exist

Blogging can be strange.  You develop relationships that fall outside the traditionally accepted parameters of interpersonal relationships.

I “know” you, but I’ve never met you. 

It’s disconcerting at first, but it gets better as you go along.  A few weeks ago, Kenji Sugahara was a name I associated with OBRA and gerbils and VeloReview (I know they’re guinea pigs, but if you call them gerbils he gets really upset and it can be entertaining – trust me on this.) 

Then all at once my hand goes out and shakes his and I tell him I’m that crazy girl who writes the cycling blog about getting shelled off the back a lot.

“Oh, I know you!”

Yes, I know you, too.  And suddenly we’re friends in real life, just like that.

Two-point-five weeks later it’s NoPo Girl at Tabor.  She is hard to miss these days what with the little Barker-Bump.  Despite my frantic end-of-workday time-trial up Lincoln to race, I miss my start by a mere two minutes, which is exactly how I ended up standing next to her at the finish line.

The intro is always awkward: “Hey, are you NoPo Girl?  I’m the Everyday Athlete.”  There is no way to make that sound cool.  I mean, what is this, a weird online role-playing game?

Kind of.

I’m happy to report that NoPo Girl is as bad-ass and funny in person as she is online, and KMan is probably one of the nicest people that you can ever hope to meet. 

BarkerNews and OBRA are both in good hands.

Now You’re Cooking With Gas!

The body is humming again. Legs coming round, lungs feeling good and full.  I am more at peace than ever with the progress of my fitness and the trajectory of my training. 

I get sick and I heal.  I get tired and I rest.  Everything in balance, everything in moderation. 

“Piano, piano.” as the Italians like to say.

I took the trainer-wheels off of Nonna the other day and she flew.  ErikV may have been right when he asserted the Armadillos with flat-resistant tubes are overkill and that Sal was trying to do me in.  Those wheels with that set up are inconceivably heavy.  The rotational weight multiplies and compounds until the bike moves in slow motion and my legs are slabs of clay; thick and useless.

With the Ksyriums re-instated, the result is mind-blowing acceleration. Sweet Jesus!  Who knew!  The legs feel snappy and fresh. 

It’s a feeling that is worth saving for special occasions.

Fighting Weight

The calendar is telling me that it is time to get light.  Light in the body and light in the bike.  ‘Cross season looms big and amazing around the corner.  You think I’m jumping the gun here, but I swear to you – it’s almost upon us.

I don’t have a new rig yet and I have instituted a cost-savings plan the likes of which this household has not seen in years.  The money, it must be pooled.  I’m scouring the internets for just the right setup.  I refuse to haul a 25 pound bike over barriers this year. 

Taking 8 pounds off the bike will cost me dearly, but taking 10 pounds off the body is free.  10 plus 8 is eighteen.  Eighteen is almost twenty.  Hitting ‘cross season twenty pounds lighter with a couple thousand miles of training on the legs?  Priceless.

I’ve been quiet on the road racing scene lately and I don’t feel a bit of remorse.  It’s a different world for a different type of racer.

The boys are always telling me, “Don’t do the work. The one who wins is the one who does the least amount of work.”

My response: “What’s the point?”  It seems like a swindle.

This makes Sal sigh.

I’m not saying that it’s smart.  It’s just how I feel.

I want a 45 minute off-road time-trial with 50 square yards of mud thrown in for fun. No hiding in the peloton. No staying out of the wind.  Just pain.  As much as you can handle.  Race with your heart in your throat until your head is about to explode and your eyes are crossed.  Throw up when you finish.  Then shoot whiskey. That sort of thing.

I’ll probably hop in another race or four before ‘cross hits, as the training is second-to-none, but thinking about it doesn’t make my heart sing the way thinking about getting up at 5:30 in the morning to race my bike through mud in 42 degree rain does.

Who knows, I might come around eventually. There are a lot of years left for bike racing.  There are a lot of miles left in these legs.

In the meantime, my eyes are fixed on September and I am on the hunt for a weapon. 

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  1. I hear you, sister, about the rain! It was fun riding in the rain on my 20-mile commute to work in the winter, but now it’s gone beyond old. Throw in the headwind, and I long for the days when I complain about it being too hot and sunny.

  2. Awwww, you’re sweet! NoPoGirl is the best and the Barker Bump is gonna be an awesome little training weight for me to drag around in a bike trailer.

    By the way, we’re in Austin for the weekend where it’s sunny and 90, Mellow Johnny’s is the coolest bike shop ever and we’re going to spend the afternoon by the pool. So there.

  3. Everyone I have met in person is the way I expect them to be – just 3d. It’s pretty cool!

    Summer hit hard. No spring here. Soaking wet humid heat at 6am. Sigh.

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