Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Question

'If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?'.  This is a question that can spark many hours of debate depending on what your perception of hearing and sound are. It can even be taken further to ask 'if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it did it really fall?'.

This fall tree has obviously not fallen.

You are probably wondering why I am suddenly pondering such profound meanings. It is because today I did a cyclocross race and I won my division. Now, before you go sending me congratulatory messages and asking me for all my training secrets let me just tell you that although I was first, I was also last. So you see, this has me reflecting is it really a win if you are the only one racing? I mean the girl that lost couldn't mount her bike without coming to a dead stop and she wasn't exactly moving at the speed of light off the starting line. That being said, the girl that won was wearing some pretty sweet halloween socks and she seemed to be working pretty hard. It was muddy and wet and maybe those other So Cal women who are over the age of 35 just can't take a little weather. All I do know is that my name got called to get the winners prize package and I came home with it. So, being a glass half full kinda gal, I'm looking at it as a win today. Hey, it might be the only win I ever get in this sport. Maybe it is time to quit, you know go out on top!

1st place women 35+ prize package

Division winners- full disclosure is she SMOKED me!

Now that I have a win I may just ride off into the sunset and bask in my glory forever!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Camping in Yosemite

One of the things that I love about going camping is that sunrises and sunsets bookmark your day. Being outside in nature following the natural rhythms of the earth puts my body and mind at ease. There is something about connecting to the great outdoors that puts everything in perspective and calms the soul. For as John Muir said 'I went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in'.

Half Dome

Late Afternoon Sun

Lower Falls

Valley Meadow

Tunnels Viewpoint

'Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise , a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space'- Ansel Adams

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just for Fun?

Now that my big event of the year is over, you know that 100 miler that I spent all my spring and summer preparing for, I can now go on mountain bike rides just for fun.  Since the Downhill Diva indulged me all summer with my fitness training rides, it is now time for me to pay her back with all the single track technical madness she wants. Instead of finding rides with lots and lots of vertical gain that we can ride at a good clip we are now choosing fun loops. As much fun as a ride that has a section called the 'widow maker' can be, that is. We were riding Noble Canyon which is a favorite ride to shuttle for the downhillers. Of course we rode up Indian Creek to get there, we want to have fun but also get a workout. Is it wrong that the uphill was way more fun for me than the downhill? On the uphill we were awarded with fabulous views and lots of fun riding. There were tons of heart shaped rocks in all colors on the trail to keep the love flowing. Once the downhill began it was all going well, until the widow maker appeared. Not sure if it was named that due to the technical difficulty of riding over said section or the gnats that swarmed you there. I think if you stayed long enough you would be just a carcass at the end! In any event dear readers, you will have to excuse me for not getting a photo of the widow maker. The gnats were our constant companions for most of the rest of the ride. I am all for trail friendliness but this was ridiculous. We did not need an escort, and I kept politely telling them that they could go away! (if it is polite to yell four letter words). I especially didn't need them distracting me over the technical descent and I almost lost it several times when I inadvertently took a hand off the bars to clear the air around my head. I also found myself taking a little more speed than I should have over things because we discovered that the faster you went the less likely the gnats could keep up. Sure I was having fun!  At the end of the ride on Stairway to Hell I realized that our idea of fun might be just a little skewed from normal.

Downhill Diva in her element

'I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun' - Katherine Hepburn

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Whirly Whirl

I am still a neophyte at this sport of cyclocross but I have already experienced some great race courses. My favorite of the three races that I did in the Pacific Northwest was the Cumberland Cross on the Rock Race. There are numerous reasons why this should not be listed as my favorite race, the most prominent being that it was the day after my encounter with the beaver (whoop, I finally said that without using the F word, amazing what time can do). However, they did offer a $5 discount for all of us that did 'the double' that weekend so it just made sense. Right? Especially since I was so well prepared for the MOMAR and had danced until 2am to help speed up my recovery. I had stayed away from the booze, that should count for something. (there was no way I was drinking any of the Thirsty Beaver, the beaver was not good to me!) So really, if you take into account closing down the party and dancing all night I wasn't doing the double, I was doing the triple!

I practically needed a walker to get around in the morning but I wasn't going to be walking, I was going to be riding. That knee that took a stick the day before almost had half range of motion with the swelling in it and really how much did I need my left shoulder? I carry my cross bike over obstacles on the right. Body inventory complete and off to ride a practice lap. I had a great time pre riding the course, at my limp along leisurely pace it was all good, except I really didn't know where the course went. I just hopped on and started where I was closest and rode around. I was waiting for everyone at the start line, when I was told they were waiting for me at the start line. I barely got there and the race started and I wasn't even on my bike yet. Did I mention yet that I have not mastered a moving mount, not helpful when everyone sprints off the start and I have to swing my leg over the bike. I use the term swing generously because it was done very stiffly and gingerly and with no speed what so ever! Once I got going it was okay except for when I had to dismount and do the high jump. I couldn't lift my legs that high and running was near impossible. I really should have gotten a walker out there. About this point of the race I realized why I got that discount, it was to pay for the large doses of ibuprofen I would be requiring for the next week!

the high jumps on the course

Jason heading into the BMX track

The course wound through trees on the grass and then we got to ride through the BMX park. Of course Jason killed it in his race, but I have to put it out there. He DID NOT do the triple. He was not with Alison and I when we closed down the party! I would have been way faster and nimbler too if I had gotten all that rest;) After the BMX park there was a cool dirt jump section into some sand. At least I think that is what it was. My recollection might not be very accurate because I remember being behind a little kid at one point and there is no way I was that horrible! I think I passed him without pushing him into the ropes, or he could have just dropped me when I was doing one of my incredibly fast hobbling, stand still mounts! We'll never know.

BMX track

The bestest part of the course had to be the whirly whirl. Going into it I was sure I was going the wrong way and going to have a head on with someone, going out was the same way. I still am not sure how they made us go all the way into the center and back out without collisions. It gave me something to ponder the rest of each lap though, when I wasn't thinking about trying to bunny hop the barriers to avoid the remount. With how slow I am at learning this mount, that might be the way to go! The whirly whirl had magical powers and was able to distract me so much that I didn't realize that the finish line was right after it. I was sitting behind a girl at this point, how I caught up is a mystery, and I decided to just wait and take her at the barriers. Cause, I am so good at the barriers? What they heck was I thinking? Which makes me wonder what kind of vortex I had just ridden through!

My fans don't seem to care if I am a complete fledgling!

'You can learn new things in life at any time if you're willing to be a beginner. If you actually like being a beginner, the whole world opens up to you' - Barbara Sher 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The Raven is known to be a trickster. He is also credited for bringing sun to the earth. On my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest he was busy fulfilling both of his duties.
Awesome View I woke up to

The View I had on my daily commute when I lived here

Tana enjoying the Bainbridge Island Harbor

Zen spot in our campground

Love this community!

Thanks for bringing me the sun in the Pacific Northwest, Raven. It was a beautiful vacation time in Seattle but I am not that easily tricked, I know it rains there, how else would it be so green and lush!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beware of Thirsty Beavers

Best trails ever, that's what the volunteers said was coming up. Woohoo, I could use some of that BC single track love right about now. Remember, I am a mountain biker who did a 100 mile mountain bike race, I have this in the bag. That was what I was thinking when we made the turn onto the Thirsty Beaver trail. About 100 metres in I decided that I had misheard the volunteers and they had said something more like 'beaver tails are evil'. Have I mentioned that it was raining and the trails were wet? Have I also mentioned that I live and ride in Southern California? Well, just to be absolutely clear, mud is not something I am very familiar with and mud was everywhere. Not only that but the roots and logs were very wet and slippery. I felt like I had entered an evil spooky forest.

Seriously, the roots and branches were reaching out to grab me and the mud pits were sinking mud pits where I would get sucked in and never get back out. I was imagining Jason coming back to try and find me and only seeing my John Deer hat floating on the surface. At the same time, I was trying to figure out how the beaver could possibly be thirsty, there was water everywhere I looked. Perhaps, the beaver didn't drink water. This made me start to ponder all that I know about beavers, and I am not ashamed to say I do know a few things about beavers. I'm Canadian and it is our national animal, what did you think I meant? Anyways, I know that the beaver will use it's tail to slap the water to warn other beavers of danger. Um, maybe he was too busy looking for a drink cause the damn beaver didn't warn me and there was danger around every bend.  I also know that beavers feed on trees bark and roots and use the trees to build their homes. With all the stumps that I noticed (mostly I noticed them with my front tire) I figure that this particular beaver is living in his very own McMansion.

This is a hovel compared to what this beaver built!

Beavers also mark their territory by scenting mounds of mud with glandular secretions. By the end of the day, with all the mud I managed to land in and accumulate on me, I was owned by the beaver. The beaver is very graceful in the water and awkward on land. Hm, sounds like me during MOMAR, I was great until we got on land.

Looks friendly enough, but they are vicious!

Not only were there many, many, many mud pits and large logs and roots to contend with, there were also bridges everywhere. After the two earlier (violent) crashes that I had orchestrated, I had to assess my risk and reward. I rode across a few and noticed that the wood was very slippery and the higher the bridge got off the ground, the higher the risk became. Of course, I also had in the back of my mind the royal pain involved in using my health insurance out of country and getting reimbursement and all that rig a ma roll. Mostly though I just didn't trust that I could stay on the bridge, they were not wide. Jason tried to reason with me by saying that they were the width of single track and that I hadn't fallen off the trail. WHERE had he been all day? I mean, did that stick in the middle of the trail ram into his knee? NO, perhaps because the stick wasn't on the trail and I had in fact fallen off the side of the trail several times! My decision was quickly validated when I had walked across a bridge to witness the guy behind me tumble off of it in his attempt to ride. Here is a picture of Jason riding one of the bridges. Look in the background of this photo and you will see me avoiding further injury.

During my encounter with this rather evil and malicious animal the F'ing Thirsty Beaver, and trust me I can not say it without the F bomb, I realized that the only thing the beaver was thirsty for was my blood! Funny thing is all the locals loved the Thirsty Beaver and there is even a shrine to him with sacrificial beers.

Look closely, that F'ing Beaver is smirking!

I guess Jason didn't feel he got to spend enough time with the Thirsty Beaver, or maybe he just hadn't heard me rant and swear enough. Next time, Mr Thirsty Beaver I will be prepared but I will never be a lover of  beaver;)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


After successfully completing the Leadville trail 100 in August I thought I would be content to sit on the couch and eat my way into hibernation for the winter. Once again I was wrong. I found myself searching for an outlet for all the fitness I had gained over the summer. Of course, I had thrown myself into the world of mud and cowbells but as fun as that was it wasn't really making use of the huge diesel engine that I had built on the bike. Right about then, my mentor Jason suggested we team up for a one day adventure race. Sign me up! Crap, what the heck have I done, I haven't been running, I have no idea how to orienteer, unless they let me use my iPhone, and from what I have heard Jason is notorious for getting lost on the navigational sections. At least I had done some kayak training, well maybe not training, but I had been in a kayak in May. Muscle memory don't fail me now. If nothing else, we would rock the mountain bike sections because after all I had become a mountain biker this year. I knew that section wouldn't cause me any problems. Friday night before the race we packed up the car with 5 bikes, 2 dogs, 3 people and a plethora of gear to make the trek up island to the race venue. Luckily, our kayak would be delivered to the lake for us, we obviously had no room for it.

On our way to adventures

Our journey up island was quite scenic, well from the right hand side of the car, I couldn't see out the left. We got to Cumberland and checked in for our race. Before I go any further in my story telling I need to let everyone know that Jason is usually a contender for overall win at this race. He won't admit it but he is a big deal in these parts, little did they know that he had not imported a ringer but rather an anchor from California. Prior to the start though, no one knew this so I could pretend in my head that I was something too!

Race morning dawned bright and early. We got ourselves to the start. Got the dogs situated and got our gear in the appropriate places. One hour prior to the start we got a map that showed the order of events and a rough idea of where we would be going. The race was to go like this, kayak, mountain bike, run/trek section, mountain bike, urban trek, orienteering. We were to carry all of our gear, fluid, and nutrition with us. Jason carried our mandatory gear, hey, that space blanket might have really slowed me down! Our team was ready to go!

Two people who have never been in Cliff Clavens kitchen

We got about 5 minutes to warm up in the kayak and then we were on the start line. We lined up right at the front because according to my team captain, we wanted open water and no chance of someone t-boning us off the line when they weren't able to steer their boat. We rocked off the start and were paddling like we had paddled together forever. After a super clean and fast start we decided to use brain over brawn and we got ourselves up to a boat that was going straight on the correct line and sat in the draft. Of course a few times we got a little too close, those boys didn't like getting rammed from behind at all! Seems they didn't find my sense of humour very amusing either. Or, it could be that they were annoyed that I kept talking and they were working very hard while I sat in their draft. Maybe, they should get a bigger engine in the back of their boat next time! The paddle was over 10km in distance and we were the first coed team out of the water. If the Canadian National team is looking for paddlers, they can contact me through this blog. That one training session back in May seemed to do the trick, although my arms and upper back felt that the muscle memory was slightly weak!

Once out of the boats we were on to the mountain bikes. Fantastic, this is the one area where I knew I would do well and be just fine. I had ridden all summer, my skills were mad and I was a mountain biker. My amazing biking skills shined for all of 5 minutes. Then I hit the mud, literally. Going through a puddle following Jason's fast wheel I somehow picked up a stick into my front spokes and instantly braked myself. There were some load noises and a cracking sound. I now know that the cracking was the stick but at the time, I wondered if it was my bike or body. Of course, this crash had to be witnessed by all the teams behind us, damn, I wish we had paddled slower! I got up and bloodied and muddied remounted my bike. I told myself that was just a freak incident that could have caught anyone, I was still an amazing mountain biker, I had finished Leadville after all.

We got to the end of that mountain biking stage without any more incidents. I had ridden over roots, mud and managed to get through the windy, twisted narrow BC single track. On the trek stage we set off and made our way up and down steep hillsides and across creeks and freshly logged cuts to all the checkpoints. Jason did a fantastic job planning our route and we made up some time we had lost with my super violent crash earlier. (hey, I'm not embellishing at all, the guy behind me called it violent!)

The trek ended pretty uneventfully after 1 hour and 31 minutes. Not that I am counting the minutes but did I mention that I hadn't run over 1 hour 10 minutes since May 2nd? Not to mention that this running involved steep up and downs, man am I a rock star or what! This next mountain bike stage is going to be great, we are totally going to win our category. How can we not, now that we are back into the stuff I am prepared for? The first climb back onto the bikes I was right into a groove and passed a guys team. Woohoo, we are in it to win it! Lets go after it Jason. For some reason the sticks in Canada have an intense desire to humble me. Just when I thought I was going to really get my groove on a stick jumped out of the bushes and rammed itself into my left knee. Intense pain and instant swelling but only a small puncture wound. After a few minutes of ragged breathing on the side of the trail, I did not cry, we decided to see if I could keep riding. Luckily, we came to a gravel road section but the only thing that was fast about this section was the knee swelling. Jason nursed me along and we got to the next checkpoint where they informed us that we were going to be riding some of the best trails EVER now. I couldn't withdraw now, I wanted to experience this great riding! Onward and upward. (These trails deserve a post of their own so I will skip now to the rest of the race).

The urban trek was eliminated due to the course taking much longer than anticipated (that is a slight hint on my next post) so we headed directly to the orienteering section. Now, because my team mate has a reputation for sometimes losing his way navigating, I was prepared and provided him with extra incentive for staying on course. Even though I eat vegan, I have one exception to that, for pure survival reasons I will stray from my plant based diet. I did reassure Jason that I would not kill to eat flesh but if it was dead, I would eat it. Since, I have much more body fat than he does, I was pretty sure which of us would last longer! This seemed to work,  not only did we not get lost we managed to find all the checkpoints quickly and efficiently and make our way to the finish line. Woohoo, Two people who have never been in Cliff Clavens kitchen have finished MOMAR, despite a harrowing encounter with a beaver!

Adventure is worthwhile in itself- Amelia Earhart