Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sometimes DFL doesn’t hurt

Last night was rather cold, but there was still a huge turn out to night racing. Unfortunately during the previous week those little imps the loggers had been at work installing massive fences and cutting down trees and there were changes afoot to the course. These changes were not suited to those of us rocking one gear as there was a lot more flat 4wd track in the second lap. In fact the second lap was predominantly 4wd track and it wasn’t really much fun. The course was also longer so it’s difficult to compare times.

Despite this I really enjoyed the race, my legs feel good and I had fun on the slippy wet singletrack. My strategy from last week let me down somewhat with the addition of more flat 4wd track and I wasn’t able to catch up with people in the last lap at all. However I did have company throughout these boring flat sections and it was most welcome. Firstly, because riding with someone else made me push harder, and secondly, because my companion was most amusing. Being a gentleman I insisted he finish before me as I was mentally prepared for the DFL (Dead Freakin Last) I received.
I was quite happy with it for a number of reasons.

Why last doesn’t hurt
Reason 1.
It is expected.
Last night was the coldest night we’ve had so far and often the colder nights are the ones that whittle out the slower riders. There were about 20 less people there last night and some of those would be from my end of the field. Also with the change to the course I knew I would be fighting a loosing battle. Much like during the Hammerhead race, having a realistic expectation of getting last serves to blunten the trauma that may otherwise be felt.

Reason 2.
The race was successful in other ways.
Last night I felt really strong throughout the race, and even better, I was able to push harder for longer when riding with my companion. I conquered nasty pinch climbs stronger, ran up Tip Hill faster, helped someone whose lights had failed and felt like I had definitely improved over the week. I finished the race exhausted and muddy and grinning.

Reason 3.
Fear of getting last can keep you off your bike.
Last year, when I was fitter, I was terrified of getting last. It seemed like the worse thing in the world. This year I know I’m slower and that there’s a risk I’ll get last. If I let getting last be something I must avoid at all costs I’ll have to stop racing. I don’t want to stop racing. I find it one of the most enjoyable, satisfying, motivational and challenging things I do. Someone has to get last at every race and if that person is me occasionally I don’t mind.

Reason 4.
You stay warmer.
On cold nights being the last one in means you don’t have to wait around for the prize giving. It’s sometimes underway when you get there. You stay warm from your efforts and then its time to go home with your bacon sandwich and dry change of clothes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I’ll always be satisfied with last. In a couple of month’s time I hope to be getting back towards being fit again and then I’ll be expecting to avoid getting last like you avoid ebola (I was going to say swine flu, but apparently some people don’t want to avoid that). For now though I can read the situation well. On warmer nights when there are more people racing I don’t expect to get last, when there’s more singletrack and less 4wd track I don’t expect to get last and when there’s a new course I don’t expect to get last (I’m gifted with track brain). Next week I’ll see what the race gods throw before me and adjust my expectations accordingly and then I’ll ride my bike as hard as I can and be happy to be out doing something I love with a huge group crazies who like racing around in the dark.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Am I Bendy?

No, not really. Cycling tends to bring about a certain level of inflexibility in the pelvis regions. This being the case I was keen to sign up when my work introduced a yoga class one lunchtime a week. Fortuitously, this class falls on the Thursday so I get to do it when I’m nicely zombied out from racing the previous night. I was quite apprehensive about this for the first class, as I shuffled in bleary eyed and aching from the exertions of the night before. The class quickly filled up and I soon discovered that being tired was the least of the things I had to worry about. Doing yoga with your colleagues can be a slightly uncomfortable experience initially. For me there are 3 primary sources of discomfort.

What to wear
Obviously my business suits and high heels aren’t the best for yoga so some form of gym attire is more suited. However I generally like to wear quite baggy tops to the gym. Our yoga class spends quite a bit of time in that ever-favourite pose Downward Dog:
As you can see from the picture an overly loose t-shirt worn by an unwary student could easily result in all sorts of hilarious garment slipping action. Really loose clothes, nope, not for this one!

Face to butt proximity
This is the big one, so to speak. It turns out there are quite a few budding yogis at my work and the class is very popular. This means the our mats are usually quite close together. This is fine for poses like downward dog and other forward facing poses. You’re too busy concentrating on not collapsing, exploding, falling over and keeping breathing to notice what someone a couple of feet in front of you is doing. However not all of the poses face the front, some of them we face the side, and when we face the side the person in front of you is only a foot away at best. And when you are doing a Wide-legged forward bend this does not seem like enough room:
There’s a helpful animation of this pose if you click the picture. Now imagine you are leaning forward and the person in front of you is doing the same thing, a foot away. You face will not touch their butt, but it will be uncomfortable close. Luckily we haven’t had to do that pose much.

Snoring in class
While unlikely, this is quite possible, given that I’m attending the classes in an already stupefied state. After all the exertion and twisting and bending and breathing and stretching of the class we always finish in Savasana, or Corpse Pose:
It is one of my favourites. The problem is it is very very relaxing, and we “hold” it for what seems like a long time. And the longer we hold it, the greater the danger that I’ll just dose off for a second. I can’t even imagine how horrifically embarrassing it would be if I did drop off and some sort of snoring noise escaped. Actually I can imagine, and I don’t want to have to resign my job so I best not fall asleep and start snoring in class.

So those are the three potential perils of yoga, however the benefits are fantastic. I always feel 100% better after class and even though it hurts my arm it also strengthens and straightens it. Our teacher is a gorgeous tiny creature called Katie who is great and makes the class fun, there’s no problem if you can’t hold a pose or bend just so. I’ve been enjoying her classes so much I’m going to start doing another one and I’ve put a link to her website in my sidebar. So while I may not be very bendy yet, I will be soon.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Singlespeed to the rescue, with a little help from Iggy

This is not a face to inspire cycling:

Unless it’s biking away from it as fast as possible. And these lyrics are perhaps not the most cycling friendly lyrics either:
I am the passenger
And I ride and I ride
I ride through the city’s backside
I see the stars come out of the sky
Yeah, they’re bright in a hollow sky
You know it looks so good tonight
I am the passenger
I stay under glass
I look through my window so bright
I see the stars come out tonight
I see the bright and hollow sky
Over the city’s a rip in the sky
And everything looks good tonight
Singin la la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la la-la

So when this was the last song I heard before pulling into the car park at Bottlelake I wasn’t feeling very inspired to race. Given that my last 2 races were utter misery and subsequent rides around the sand puddle haven’t been significantly better I wasn’t holding out great hopes for a triumphant comeback this week.
I did have a new plan though. The bouncy bike has been horrible so I brought the SS Betty in the hope that being forced to go a constant speed would be better than the pitiful gear dropping efforts of previous evenings. Betty was ready for action with a lovely new color coordinated, and, more importantly, super cheap chain for her duties in the sand.

After signing up and meeting up with others of a like mind I noticed the TVNZ One news van. Fantastic! I always look my best while cycling and with a ghetto light strapped to my head. Oh well, it was dark and even though I did manage to be in the front row for the race briefing I’m hoping not to appear on the news in any way shape or form, unless it’s a shot of my wheels and ankles “zooming” past.

As usual I stationed myself at the rear of the field for the start, there’s no point in being run over. After blowing up at the start in the previous race I resolved to just go at my own pace from the start and soon I was at the back of the field, but not dropping away from those in front of me. I managed to keep up with these other tail-enders along the 4wd track and catch up through the singletrack, but was slightly thwarted by tip hill where I got halfway up and couldn’t get round them and ended up running up the hill. Urgh, I loathe running, especially with my bike, but it wasn’t for long and soon I was flying down the other side. The sand up the dunes got me again, but as I whizzed along into the headwind on the track I realised that I was actually whizzing along and I didn’t feel like dying. In fact, I felt fantastic! At this point The Passenger by Iggy Pop entered my head as I thought it would. His morose voice became my internal monologue, but fortunately I could only remember a few words, so what was going through my head was:
I am a passenger, and I ride and I ride,
Singin la la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la la-la

This, it turns out, is a fantastic riding refrain. I kicked the tempo of the tune up to match my spinning legs and it was fantastic. I was flying through the singletrack before I knew it, loving every second. And then something amazing happened. I passed someone! And then another, and then two more! This was fantastic. I reached the cross-over and the cones were still out and I didn’t have to wait. Through the rough track past the logging was awful leg sapping, bumpy yuckiness, but then I was out on the singletrack again and catching and passing another person. Tip hill was never going to happen the second time round, but as I ran up it I noticed that I was going faster than I had riding my geared bike so life was good.

By now I knew I was heading for a greatly improved time and I pushed a bit harder along the beach and the 4wd track. Through the singletrack again and I passed one more person and then I was out and actually sprinting for the finish. It was good and when I looked at my speedo I realised I’d gone 10 minutes faster than the last race. Fantastic! Obviously I haven’t got 10 minutes faster in the last couple of weeks, although it would be brilliant if I had. Betty is made for this race, even though she’s ghetto and cheap. Being on a hardtail makes keeping the speed up so much easier and having these extra 4 pairs of wings helps too:

Today, I’m destroyed, which is great. I gave it everything last night and for the first time since my break it felt really good. I really felt like I was racing and I will be back for more for the next 4 weeks, even though the horrid course isn’t being changed. I love my singlespeed.
Singin la la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la
La la la la la-la-la la la-la

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hi, my name is Oscar and I’ll be your grouch today

It’s 8am on Saturday morning and I’m still asleep. Mmmmmm sleep, how I love you at the moment, I wish I could have more of you all the time. The significance of me being asleep at 8am is the previous night I’d agreed that 9:30am would be a good time to go riding up Rapaki and had asked my lovely hubby to wake me at 8am to ensure I had plenty of time to wake up and get ready. Unfortunately he was unable to keep track of the time once he got up and the next thing I know I’m being abruptly awakened by my phone announcing it has a text for me. Sometimes I truly regret my Invader Zim ringtones.

Through bleary eyes and with fog filled headed I eventually regain control of my limbs enough to press the necessary buttons to read the text and discover, to my disgust, that it’s a beautiful sunny day and 9:30am is the kick off for the ride, as I foolishly proposed the night before. I hate it when I’m the author of my own downfall. I flop out of bed and into the kitchen to remind my lovely husband to wake me at 8am. He is surprised and amused at his oversight, I am not. I am grumpy. Breakfast is quickly eaten and biking clothes are gathered in front of the heater. The many layers are donned and the search for a clean and dry headband commenced, in vain it turns out. No clean headbands, and sun glasses are MIA. I am grumpy.

My lovely husband attaches my bike to my car as penance for not waking me up while I fill my camel back with clean water, gather helmet, gloves, and shoes and then pile into the car. The call of my warm bed is still strong but I start the car and head off. I feel ever so slightly sorry for my riding companions, but it passes quickly because I’m grumpy. The spin round the road from scatter’s house is ok, but I’m feeling a little light-headed and am pining for my sunglasses. Up the seal on Rapaki Rd I manage to go quite woosey (the medical term) and ride into the gutter and almost fall off. Hmmmmm I am grumpy and a muppet. Guess which one!

After some emergency shoe-stuck-in-pedal-repairs for one of our small group at the gate and some bike swapping we’re off. I have no power at all. I will be riding slooooow. The sun is out, but we are completely shaded in the valley, but we’re also sheltered from the wind. Up we go and I go slow. But I go. It’s weird. I get in a zone where my legs just go round and round and while my heart isn’t racing, I can’t really talk, that may have more to done with grumpiness than exertion, and I am determined to just keep pedalling till I get to the top. We pop out of the shade at the track temporarily levels off and BAM! the wind kicks in. Typical.

The grind up the final section is unpleasant with a mixture of gusty cross winds and nasty head winds. I’m slightly less grumpy as the wind gives me something to think about other than how feeble my legs feel. I’m also glad for my heavy bike and frame as I’m not so susceptible to buffeting by the evil wind. At the top the wind is howling and freezing and another layer is quickly added before we set off up the road. The road ride is yucky and by the start of the traverse I’m very grumpy. We go straight into the Traverse and I’m nervous. This is my first ride back here since my break and this is the track I’ve crashed on the most, usually through the rocky section. My nerves block out the grumpiness and I flow along the track and smile. It’s good to be back. I completely stuff up the rocky section and have to walk it, but I don’t care. Along I go and it gets better and better. The surface is dry almost everywhere, and I’m loving it. The second half is even better and I’m grinning through the new bermed corners towards the end and we are at Vic Park.

Dun dun DUN!!!!

My first visit to the scene of the accident and I feel a bit sick looking at where I crashed. I do not ride Brake Free, but we make our way to the start of Sesame St and as I drop off the cattlestop I ask aloud “What am I doing?” I’m really nervous and completely nana it along the track and through the sweet corners. I stop and admire the wall ride and I long to ride it, but not when I’m this nervous. I get to the bottom full of adrenaline and stoked. Down Dazzas and my bung arm sort of collapses and I almost endo, I am grumpy and berate myself but make it down in one piece and happy. The 4wd track is rutty and wet and the drainage ditches are not fun. We come past Double Drop and I stop and look back at it and cannot believe I ever rode down it. Insane. On down the 4wd track and I get some air over the speed humps and I’m loving it and I know I want to shuttle again. Nothing else makes me feel this good when I’m this grumpy.I’m bloody tired when the ride is over and I’m still grumpy, but overlaid on top of that grumpiness is a thick juicy layer of happy. I love riding my bike, I love pushing my limits, I even like scaring myself trying hard stuff and I love riding with mates. They all seemed to survive relatively unscathed from their encounter with Oscar.