Tuesday, August 30, 2005

BJ and Laura (aka Madonna and Britney) show off bronze and silver medals at VA State Time Trial. They rode 62:20 and 62:04 40-K races after having completed only their first full season of racing. Posted by Picasa

Summer for All

The question is have we all gone too far. It seems every ride I have done with the team this summer has been filled with deliriously happy people. So happy that well, people are taking sick days to ride. Sick days to ride and then go to Ocean Breeze Amusement Park. Not sick days to travel and ride. Sick days just to ride around town and eat at Panera afterward. These are bankers, mechanics, lawyers, teachers, contractors mind you. Adding prerides to prerides so that a former 30 miler has turned into 70 miles around town beginning at 6am. It has been non-stop. I avoided work all summer myself and upon my return today found that I quite simply had forgotten how to use my brain.

The women’s team has led the charge on this one. Hanging out with them at races is like going to a metal concert. We get there in just enough time to congregate in the parking lot. Someone goes into the porta pottie and continues to talk through the plastic walls. The main event begins and we claw our way to the front row and give it all we’ve got. We rove around in the aftermath, listening to stories and end up laughing and snapping photos under the tent of those competitors we just elbowed to get to the front. We end out on the beach, hiding beer. Yeah, kinda like high school—but I had fun in high school.

BJ has been a major inspiration. She won’t mind that I say she is 55 as long as I also say she beat me by 3 minutes in the state time trial. She has single-handedly uprooted all my images of “grandmother.” She had a laser focus this race season: win the VA State Cat 4 BAR series. We all heard the highs and lows of each race throughout the season. We all knew the main contenders. We spent mobile minutes discussing race strategies and, sometimes, counseling BJ that there is always a next time. I did not enter mass start races, so I did not directly offer race support. However, she was flanked by Carol, Mandy, Robin, Sally and Laura for much of the season.

A pivotal race was the state road race where they focused the entire team strategy on getting BJ to the line first. It was a long race (42 miles) and from what I hear, one where they carried out many attacks in an effort to get BJ off the front. It landed in a field sprint, at which time Carol knew exactly what to do. BJ jumped on her wheel and Carol motored her to a lead out. BJ ended up 2nd behind a non-contender, giving her enough points to go into the last 2 time trials with a comfortable lead. Their teamwork drew a great complimentary quote from Ann Hardy of Richmond Cyclismo and which ended up in the an article in Richmond Publication. BJ is looking to Masters Nationals for next year.

On the eve of winning the Bar, BJ suddenly shifted focus from winning to what color the championship jerseys would be. The color changes each year and it’s supposed to be a “surprise” when the jerseys arrive. She actively sought out the decision maker at the last race:

Liz and Bill are talking business. Liz would never dream of talking other than business to Bill, who is president of the cycling association. He is so serious she often thinks. She sees Laura and BJ bounding toward them. Oh, God, what are they up to, Liz thinks.

LIZ: Bill, this is BJ
BJ: Are you the one who decides what color the Bar jersey will be?
BILL: Well, what color do you want—(he studies BJ, suddenly knowing)—
BILL and BJ (in unison): PINK!
BJ: Yes! Pink! How did you know!?
BILL: Wellll, I don’t know if people will want pink—
LAURA: Are you married?
BILL: (quickly) Yes.
LAURA: Well, you better just run now because she is ready to do anything to get the color she wants.
LIZ: Bill, this is Laura.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

An Occurrence at Braley Pond

Beneline is pure mountain biker who probably owns a road bike only because she lives in Hampton Roads where there are limited off road opportunities. We have raced against each other lots and been on 24-hour teams together back in the days we could handle sleep deprivation. Her dream as long as I have known her is to live in the mountains. All the usual props stand in the way, but I have no doubt she and Donald will do the whole house and land thing out there eventually.

We drove to Braley Pond out past Staunton, VA for a day trip last week. We planned to ride a portion of the Shenandoah 100, a very difficult 100-mile mountain bike race she is doing Labor Day weekend. She heard Braley Pond trails connect with some trails further west so our goal was to figure out the loop. We first climbed up a road mountain pass on Rt. 250 as warm up. It had that Continental Divide feel at the top and sure enough the map indicates that we were straddling 2 counties. I read something about Stonewall Jackson up there but don’t remember what it said. The trick was to find the correct trails up there that linked to the Braley trails down below. We spent time trying out different trails, backtracking, etc. The map showed the several options, but avoiding the junky ones and avoiding trailblazing was the key. Enjoyable just getting to know the region.

It was hot hot. At one point I stuck my head in the river as Beneline took pictures. I hate to bring up Deliverance but how can you be near a river and not think of it? Especially during those times we trudged along the creek bed trail, knocking away brush with our guts just saying we were on the wrong path. It is times like those the woods feel evil, when the hot sun pours in exposing the terrain’s imperfections and encroaching poison ivy. We finally reasoned that the low trails were not feeling right, so we climbed back up to find higher, cooler, better crafted ridge trails that traveled in the same direction. These turned out to be the correct connecting trails we sought. When it’s wrong you can reason that it’s right but when it’s right the reason to reason is gone.

Funny that the flies were awful when we were off course but on the correct trails they were not bad. Speaking of insects we were just riding along and Beneline stopped abruptly shaking her head like crazy and pretty much flipping out. She hollered a bee was in her ear. I looked and saw no bee and realized she meant IN her ear. It was lodged inside turning flips against her eardrum. She beat her head sideways, blond ponytail in an uproar.

I thought about suction options in the woods and assessed there were none, so I grabbed a water bottle to squirt water inside to at least make me feel useful. She stopped me and screamed, “I think he’s coming out” and for 5 silent seconds we froze. We were up high, so there was none of the lower sounds of creek side birds or tree frogs. I studied her white ear and out crawled a brown bug about the size of a lightning bug. We died laughing. It was the best drive home story for everyone we called. Apparently we now need to rewatch Wrath of Khan for a more sinister account of insects in ears.

Whenever Beneline was up front on the downhills, she constantly shouted into the air to ward off bears. Seems the local talk is that some guy Mike hit a black bear as he was screaming down the Braley Pond downhill on his bike just last month. I inquired how hurt was Mike, what did the bear do, how was the bike, but these details were not known. I was suspect of the story and filed it under folklore even though Beneline’s 3rd hand source was very reliable. She was caught up in the theory that this bear (certainly a mama bear protecting cubs) was mad about the hit and was lingering around the same trail just waiting for a mountain biker to come back through. She has been reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place which explains a lot.

I figured the odds were so incredibly slim of such an event happening twice that I secretly welcomed it. She made me vow to “stay together” if we encountered a bear but I argued that if we separated it would be better since the bear could only follow one of us. She was quiet after that which made me realize this very experienced mt biker was honestly concerned. “Yeah, we stay together B-line,” I promised and then I went on still kinda hoping to see one.

Recycling the Classics

If bikes had been around in Twain’s day, Huck would ride a mountain bike and Tom a road bike. Huck would ride with Tom on the road occasionally but he would use only a fixed gear bike. Tom would ride on the trails with Huck occasionally but he would insist on proper planning rather than going by instincts found only by logging time in the woods. Becky, she’d go either way which would just make Tom mad, especially when she laughed when Huck would clear jumps on the trails no one else could do. Jim would use his navigation skills in adventure races where Aunt Polly would be head of his support crew. Huck’s dad would kick the habit and replace it with obsession with tri training and winning his age group.

I got to thinking about all that since Robert, Bill G and Susan B are driving to Colorado and Utah to mountain bike. They asked me to join them though they knew I would need to say no since I am due on a cruise ship the same week. I keep thinking of Huck all dressed up and civilized on a riverboat, can’t help it. I told them to think about me as they crossed the Mississippi.