Sunday, November 30, 2008

Not Ready for the Winter Weather

The switch has been flipped: the day after Thanksgiving, the drizzle turned to wet snow. The kids, of course, were excited, but I cringed. For some reason, this year more than recent years, I'm REALLY not looking forward to the cold weather. Perhaps because we had such a long winter last season? I'm not sure. I'm not even excited in the least about dragging out the Christmas decorations, much to the kids' dismay....

Yesterday I took the 'cross bike out in search of something a little different. I'm finding I'm even getting a little burned out on riding over the last week, finding difficulty mustering up motivation to drag myself out. I left the house in a dense fog, which quickly drenched my jacket and face. I headed north to English Point, where I decided to do a loop of the trails for a little mud and snow practice on the cross bike. It was slimy, wet, and fun... Here's hoping that the winter will bring good riding and snowshoeing - and a quick spring!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Reflections...

Sunset on the way out to Higgens Point. This is the view I'm blessed with just a few minutes from my front door. The sun seemed to be trying to light the water on fire...

The neighborhood turkey gang on my way to taking the kids in to school. One of them actually got a little cocky and tried to peck the front tire to death as I tried to exit the street... big jerk.

The kids LOVE going to the Missoula races because we stop by the 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar... Only in Montana!

Me on my way to winning the Montana State Cyclocross Championship race. I placed 6th in the Men's B pack!

Mike on his way to taking an impressive second place at the Montana State Cyclocross Championship race. He KILLED it that day!

So I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the four of us this year. Managed to break a nice bowl that was given to us for our wedding, but the BEST part was when I totally forgot about the sweet potatoes broiling - the marshmallows caught on fire, setting off the fire alarm (thank goodness for Mike's big lung capacity and quick thinking to blow out the flames and rush the dish outside!), and convincing my kids for sure that "Mom really doesn't know how to cook."

Since it's Thanksgiving, I thought I would actually post a blog. I've been meaning to write for quite some time, but when it came down to it, I just got lazy. It was too hard for me to articulate all my thoughts....

I've been reminded almost daily of how much I am blessed. A few months ago a colleague of mine in the racing community suddenly lost her husband in a tragic accident. A few days after that a good friend told me that she and her husband of many, many, many years were divorcing. A day after that a dear friend and co-worker told me that her husband is newly diagnosed with cancer, and is fighting for his life. Another dear friend has just told me that her mother is fighting cancer, too.

I'm not sure what God is teaching me with all this, but I just look to be a good friend to my friends, and constantly thank Him for blessing my life. There are lessons here somewhere - I just need to be patient for them to present themselves...

So, enough of the philosophy. Since my last entry, the kids have been enjoying school. We travelled to Seattle at the end of September to race the Star Crossed and Rad Racing GP cyclocross races. It was my first elite-level cross race, and I appropriately got my butt kicked! But, it was a good experience, and I chalked it up to "it'll make me stronger."

Our local cyclocross series started in October, and just finished last weekend. I placed second in the series overall... Missing three races of the nine pretty much made it impossible to take the title. But, I was excited that my fitness has been holding, taking wins in every race that I entered in the local series. We went over to Astoria, Oregon for a Cross Crusade race the weekend before Halloween. Once again, I got my butt kicked by the "Big Girls," but I did better than I did at Star Crossed, and I was excited to be racing in a field of 25-30 Women A's instead of 4 or 5. Mike won his race that Sunday against some big-time 'crossers, complete in his costume as a triathlete:

In keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, then, I've decided to take the cliche inventory of all that I am thankful for, and post it here for all the world:
  1. My beautiful, witty, intelligent kids who constantly remind me that I need to be more patient, and who have given me some of the best moments of my life.

  2. My patient, loving, best-friend husband, who is my rock and my steady spot in the relatively controlled chaos that is our life.

  3. My parents, who have taught me lessons in generosity and unconditional love.

  4. My sisters, who I miss everyday.

  5. My network of friends that are such a huge support.

  6. My job and the people it has introduced to my life. Everyday I learn lessons from the children I treat, the families I try to help, and the colleagues that support me.

  7. My home and the place I live. I'm always amazed at what I get to experience everyday.

  8. My health, and the fact that I am lucky enough to be able to ride my bike almost anyday I want.

  9. My fireplace during the cold months of the year.

  10. My education and opportunities it has provided me.

I'm sure there are things I'm missing here, but overall, it's glaringly apparent how lucky I am. And I remind myself of that everytime I'm out on my bike enjoying that freedom and the beauty around me....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Miscellaneous August Happenings...

Kids with me at the Best of the Bunch finish line... I managed to stick with the lead pack of A men!!!!

Alli models her kimono, courtesy Aunt Jilly

Dad takes kids hiking to Settler's Grove

Silverwood August 17th - floating the "Lazy River"

Me and my boy waiting for Alli and Dad to get done with their ride...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Day at Silverwood

Today is our 12th anniversary. Crazy stuff, that is. Especially when I think that really, we've been together for 15 years... Wow!

My best friend Wendy got some tickets from her place of employment for a company day at Silverwood Theme Park. So, she graciously offered to take the kids out for the day so that Mike and I could have the day to ourselves. Thanks, Wendy!!! While the weather left a LOT to be desired (it was f-f-f-f-freezing too much to spend much time in the water park), the kids had a BLAST!

This is me at 98 years old.....

Sorry, got this joke from a friend and couldn't resist:

Toward the end of Sunday service, the Minister asked, "How many of you have forgiven your enemies?" 80% held up their hands. The Minister then repeated his question. All responded this time, except one small elderly lady.

"Mrs. Neely? Are you not willing to forgive your enemies?"
"I don't have any," she replied, smiling sweetly.

"Mrs. Neely, that is very unusual. How old are you?''
"Ninety-eight," she replied.
"Oh, Mrs. Neely, would you please come down in front & tell us all how a person can live ninety-eight years & not have an enemy in the world?"
The little sweetheart of a lady tottered down the aisle, faced the congregation and said:

"I outlived the bitches."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tuesday Night Brings Mountain Biking

See, Mike and I DO ride together every once in a while! Although he and Graham spent a fair amount of time waiting for me on the technical descents. Ugh.... definitely need to practice the ol' mountain biking skills!

This is what we locals call "the Lookout," near the top of Canfield. At this point, you can look to the north and see Hayden Lake (behind us), or look to the south and see Coeur D Alene Lake. Beautiful area we're lucky enough to inhabit!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mike's 24 hrs of Adrenalin World Solo Championships, Canmore BC, Canada

The mud was caked everywhere!

The obligatory pre-race photo, with Tommy, our "wrench" for the weekend.
Coming into the last lap...

The mountain scenery on the drive up was beautiful.

The torrential rainstorms soaked the course, and created rivers and puddles in solo pit row.
Sunrise over the last hill on-course.

Tommy gets some much-deserved rest.
A section of the course, between km 2 and 3, where the roots like to jump up and grab you...

The drive up to Canmore for Mike's 24 hrs of Adrenalin World Solo Championship race was absolutely beautiful. We were surrounded by such intense beauty - the mountains seemed to reach to the sky - like jagged, vicious teeth looking to swallow the clouds....

We arrived on Friday the 25th, with time to set a few things in our assigned pit, then suit up to pre-ride the course. Tommy accompanied us to "wrench" for the race, so he and I rode a lap together. Man! Tough course. It was riddled with rooted sections that seemed to sneak up to rip my wheels out from under me, and technical climbs that later would prove to be extremely slick when the rains came in over the course of the 24 hour race.

All over the course we saw signs that warned of bear sightings. Morning of the race brought announcements from the organizers reporting sightings on-course, and instructions to report any sightings ASAP. Ugh. Luckily we didn't see any.

The race started uneventfully. Mike held first place until around 11pm, when a BMC factory rider from Australia took the lead by about 2 minutes or so. Then the downhill slide began. Mike ran into technical difficulties with his light battery, which cost him a TON of time on an overnight lap. That, and his fitness being less than what he'd counted on meant that he slid to 3rd place by the morning. But, to be able to podium in a world championship race with less than 10 hours of training a week, against the Australian national team, is pretty damn good. I'm extremely proud of him. His guts, his talent, his perseverance.

I was actually thinking during the race how being a pit crew is almost as bad as racing. We spent our 24 hours worrying about how he was doing out there - especially when the thunder, lightning, and rainstorms continued to plague the race. I spent time checking the clock: what's his split? what's second place's split? what's he eaten? is he feeling okay? how's his hamstring? WHAT DOES HE NEED? I was anxious - I wanted him to be successful - for his sake...whatever "success" happened to be for him.

A day after the race, in the comfort of our own bed, I asked Mike what the hardest part of the race is. He said it was the hardest thing he's ever done - harder than his previous three 24 hour races and his two Ironmans. THAT said a lot to me. And then it got me wondering why we do this. Why do we race? I guess we could use the cliche: we do it to push ourselves to our limits, to see where that line between the possible and the impossible lies. But this race, with my 24 hours to dwell on all my thoughts while surrounded by perhaps the most beautiful scenery ever, made me realize how blessed we are to be able to do this sport we do. It takes us to some pretty amazing places, to face some pretty amazing competitors, to find out some pretty amazing things about ourselves.

Pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mud, Sweat, and well, Blood

Actually got some blood today (ROADIE ALERT!)
Just 40 minutes from my front door you can see this from the saddle of your mountain bike (I look like a giant bobble-head with this self portrait!!)

"F" trail looms ahead. Gorgeous, but technical for my crappy skills....

The past couple of weeks I've managed to put a day or two a week on the mountain bike. Yeah, I know - weird! It's been a really long time since I spent any amount of regular time on the knobby-tired machine, and I actually have missed it a bit. It's amazing to see how limited I am by my handling skills. Fitness doesn't seem to be the issue - it's figuring out how to maneuver the bike over, around, and through obstacles. My uncanny knack for managing to have my foot in the worst position was getting me down - literally. I kept hitting my foot on rocks, which in one case actually stopped the forward movement of my pedal and then proceeded to throw my momentum forward and up, raising my butt off the saddle in a surprise lurch forward.
But, it was totally worth it... riding out in the middle of the woods with no one else, with nothing but trees, trail, and the smell of the summer surrounding me. Again, I am blessed.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Gate City Grind

Weekend after weekend it seems we're off doing something. The weekend of the 28th and 29th we headed down to Pocatello for the Gate City Grind, a small little stage race that we primarily decided to hit because it's a race in the LAJORS series for the junior team. So, Mike being the great guy that he is, volunteered to take a bunch of kids on our juniors team down for the race. I had originally not intended to go, but figured I'd rather be on the road with him than at home by myself with the kids. Seems that a weekend together as a family is better than one split, even if it involves a lot of travel.

We arrived in Pocatello late Friday nite, or rather early Saturday morning (around 1:30 am). Dave, one of the guys on the VE cat 2 team, along with his wife Courtney, were generous in offering us their place to stay while they were road-tripping it to CDA (ironic). We had to roll out early Saturday morning to get registered for the road race.

My field was small - only 8 of us 1/2/3 women. Two teammates from Bob's made it - Kimberly Turner and Sarah Brown, so it was nice to have some familiar faces. There was one lady from Salt Lake that was supposedly the biggest threat for the weekend. I didn't know anyone else. The road course was suited to me - rolling, with small power climbs. We did 3 loops of the course for a total race distance of 54 miles. We stuck together for the most part, until heading up the starting hill of the 2nd lap. It was then that the Salt Lake girl and one other and myself found a break forming. I worked hard to get a good gap going, and we managed to stay away. At the same place going into the 3rd lap, the SLC girl and I rode away from the other lady, so then it was just the two of us. I was feeling really good, so I did the lion's share of the work for the rest of the lap. I realized that she would probably sprint me for the finish, and I didn't want to do ALL the work for her, so going into the last 3 or 4 miles we rode side by side, knowing it would come down to a sprint finish. With 200 meters to go, she went for it, and I came around her at the line to get the win. Truthfully, I could've ridden away from her at some point before that, but I was nervous about spending all my energy in the road race with the time trial scheduled for that afternoon. I felt like I was definitely the stronger rider, and was hopeful that I could take her in the sprint. It was a risk that I'm glad worked out.

The time trial that afternoon went great. I posted a time 34 seconds or so faster than 2nd place (SLC girl again), which landed me solidly in first place GC for the day.

The crit the next afternoon was awesome. Mike felt like my best bet would be to go from the gun and see if I could lap the field. I took off, and of course SLC came with me, along with Kimberly from Bob's. I looked over my shoulder to see who was with me, and was glad to see Kim - she was sitting in 7th place GC, and I hoped to give her some time advantage by towing her along with me. I drove the pace on the front, which eventually dropped Kim, unfortunately. SLC girl yelled to me that I'd lost a teammate, and I think she wanted me to slow down, because she didn't want me to lap the field and have it come to a 2-up race. But Mike yelled at me to keep going. I put my head down and kept drilling the pace, and eventually dropped SLC girl in another lap or so, then lapped the field. I took a lap or two to get my bearings, then worked my way to the front of the pack again to drill the pace and try to get Sarah a break - she was off from 3rd place by a mere 4 seconds. My plan was to get her on my wheel, take her with me on an attack, and tow her around to get the 4 seconds (and then some) on the 3rd place girl. Unfortunately, the SLC girl knew this, and being a teammate of 3rd place, she and one other teammate managed to do some serious blocking whenever I tried to go. Sarah had difficulties maintaining her position on my wheel. I spent almost the entire race either on the front drilling the pace or off the front attacking. Going into the last lap I drove hard, and sent Sarah off as third wheel in perfect position for the finish sprint - but she crashed on the hot pavement in the final turn up the little hill. She got a nasty case of road rash, but otherwise was okay. Even though the field was small, it was SO much fun to be riding so strong and feel so in control. It was great practice to just sit on the front and push - eager for the Twilight crit coming up in a couple of weeks!