Tuesday, June 28

Words to live by

I'm sitting here watching the trailers to True Grit, catching up on my friends blogs and thinking back to Mt. Hood, it all melds really well together! Again, an encyclopedia worth of life has passed since the last Mt. Hood climb but that last stage remains an amazing event.

I have found some awesome write-ups on Clara's blog about why we train and race and leading through her experiences training for the 2012 Olympics. If you have a chance, check them out HERE.

My day began by receiving a really endearing text from my boy Brian: "Harden up and earn your crust today!!" That's my boy! In fact perfect words to give me the swift kick in the bibs I needed to start the race.

Elated to have made it to the final stage of yet another stage race, I was primed and ready to go. I had studied the maps and route and knew where the tough spots would be. As I waited for the race to begin I felt the Northwestern Hospitality at it's best with massive bugs, flying things and critters crawling on me, flying into my helmet or my mouth. Ew! I would take a desert tarantula any day!

This stage was rad! I was able to stay with the bunch and with Clara way longer than expected and do slight moments of "help". When the road turned right onto a graded road covered with dirt and asphalt pebbles, I saw Clara go to the front with Peanut Butter so I jumped into the dirt and pedalled on up to flank Clara. I said "I like to ride in the Dirt!" She said "Ya, your a dirty girl!" It's the simple things you know. We, Clara excluded, were no match for the stronger teams heading into the mountains and as we blew past the 60 minute mark I plead with myself to just stay till 1:30, make it to the QOM! Time ticked by, I was with the group and I saw the 5k to QOM Almost "there"! The pace cranked up and the shuffle began, sifting out the strong, and at 1:28, I joined half the peloton, in the back.

As we rode up through the QOM, we were chaperoned by tall walls of snow on either side of the jeep-wide forest service road. The temps were in the 80's with high humidity, covering us all in sweat and splatter from the snow run-off which was cascading down the center of the road, which in fact was covered with moss. Awesome!!! We rode through gravel, dirt, switchbacks and freshly cut pines which smelled like Christmas Eve! Lost Lake lingered close by and the base of Mt. Hood seemed to be right around the corner.

Beyond the grandeur of the scenery, I was so pumped to in fact still be racing at 40 miles in. I was with a group of 5 leading into a screaming descent where I promptly got dropped, the caravan squeezed by and the chase began. I rode so hard my cheeks were streaming with non-tears, I was seeing black spots and going cross-eyed. The group of 4 was just beyond the caravan and in order to get past the caravan I had to ride the mossy shoulder with a rock covered drop off on my hip. With the group we gathered momentum and picked up 3 more, then 5 more and finally we were rolling steady and fast with 18-20 racers! I was in fact still RACING my bicycle. Rad.

With said group, however, there was of course the standard in-fighting and 5 out of the 18 were actually working. Of course since I am silly, I was working and promptly sat up to take inventory. It's these scenarios when you assess the competition. Who will draw the short straw and get dropped first? Who would be next? Whose gonna win the sprint? The thing that sucked the most is that the short straw came up in my hand. It was only a matter of moments.

At approximately 101 K of 110 K, I cracked. Nothing like the Gila crack where I was able to ride after. A crack that begins in your belly, heads to the quads, and fixates in the head with cramping, aches, shaking, and dizziness. The ironic fact was that I am a Sherpa by nature, carrying bars, gels, squishies and bottles. Yet, I take care of everyone else and HELLO!!!! I had consumed a ton but immediately remembered my breakfast sucked. Good job Joy Joy.

As I fell out of the pack, right next to the "Oregon Illegal Feed Zone" (Signs read "1 finger: Water; 2 Fingers Coke; 3 Fingers Gatorade- just awesome. but they were out of coke!) I realized I was riding to survive not for a placing today. Entertainment came from watching the rest of the group implode on the climb and the bets I had placed on the next riders to crack rang true - I would expect nothing less from a PE teacher, we can read through the most stalwart of bluffs.

Heading into the last turn, where the grade would peak at 16% on a gravely surface of shale and dirt I started to truly struggle. The zig and the zag began and oddly I found my front wheel diving into the left ditch. Oops. I stopped. Straddled my bike and put my elbows on the bars, head in my hands. WITH 1K TO GO! Wow, how can that happen? I went big and dug a Gu out of my jersey pocket and slammed it. Again, with a K to go. Befuddled I got back on the saddle, in the nick of time at that! The Peanut Butter entourage came around the corner in sync with my first pedal stroke. Phew, that would have been awkward!

As I crossed the line, Michael grabbed my bike and said "Every pedal stroke counts!" And that it does! With bloodshot eyes, shaking arms, unzipped jersey covered in salt, we had completed yet another one. "SoCal you look like crap" is something I remember hearing as well as the belly-laughs when I confessed to my Gu shot at the 1 K mark.

Always learning with eyes wide open, doing my best to Harden Up and Earn my Crust with the steady reminder that Every Pedal Stroke Counts. Great combo.

HERE you can find photos of the amazing racing, especially the 4th stage! I HIGHLY recommend this event to everyone especially if you are looking for a little taste of adventure, amazing food, and a great opportunity to Harden Up.

Friday, June 17

It's almost Brian's birthday...

Brian get's to blog for his team as well, you can check out his Memorial Weekend Report HERE.

There must be something in the water, because between the two of us we have each crashed 3 times (as of Memorial Day haha), gone through multiple wheels and shifters and Brian went big and broke his frame. The subtle yet ever present stress that crashing adds to our racing life is becoming palpable.

A few weeks back at Barrio Logan, I was warming up on the trainer near turn 2 and just had an eerie feeling. I heard a crash, counted CashCall riders and asked a spectator on the corner "What color kit is down?" They replied with "Blue and white but not Swami's" Yup, that's Brian. I ran up there to find him having been jettisoned from the bike, into a tree and sitting on the sidewalk with a wide open finger drenched in blood. He is tougher than nails but as stubborn as an Ox. What needed stitches became a home art project of glue and tape.

Fast forward to Barry Wolfe Grand Prix. Lots of wind on the course and the boys were ripping it. Brian was railing up the outside with his team on his wheel, elbows brushing the hay bales. The strong wind blew the course tape onto the course, hooking Brian's handlebars and tossing him like a Bull Rider head first onto the asphalt. (He seems to always land on his head, I prefer to land on my left shoulder.) Teammate Devan rode over his bike after a few other riders ran into his back and when I got to him he was laying on the curb, arms crossed casket-style, eyes closed, with quite a bit of blood on his face.

It's actually slightly funny, because he just said "I'm ok, I'm just relaxing, Hows everyone else?" He claims he goes to his happy pace to deal with such issues. But it kind of freaks me out because I can't figure out what's wrong with him. Come to find out he had been knocked out for a bit and Devan had moved him and talked to him. A layer of his ear basically peeled off, so we called him Sloth from Goonies because it was super swollen and stuck out from his head. I know, we are super kind.
With two laps to go in the race, we turned his chair in the medic area so he could watch the finish and cheer for his teammate Dave as he won the race!

With a broken frame, helmet, seat rails and massive bruising on his neck and head, we took him to the ER. What a rodeo. They were horrible. Just put tape all over his head and scrip for Norco. He refuses to take Advil. A Norco would knock him out for a few days, so to say the least he did not get it filled and other than some surface wounds, he was just fine.
We have matching shoulders! But mine is on the left :)

Thankfully his little Bro Nich was around to help with comic relief!

While I was racing Mt. Hood, Brian and the boys were throwing down at the District State Road Champs where his teammate Dave won. I got back on Monday and the boys packed up and headed to Tulsa Tough on Thursday!

Tulsa was rad because it was Live Streamed through VeloNews. But I soon found this to be extremely stressful. I got so spun out watching it I color coordinated my closet and drawers! I will spare all the gore, but day one: Night crit in the rain. Crashes every lap, it was like Sharks vs Minnows with 10-15 riders coming out of the pits into the group every lap! 3 of his teammates crashed, one went down 2 times! Somehow he stayed upright. These were NRC races, so the big ballers show up and give no mercy to any riders! I was tweeting for CashCall and acting as Paul's eyes on the parts of the course that I could see.

Thankfully the race on Saturday was dry and the boys stayed safe. Sunday the race during the day with a massive climb called "Cry Baby Hill" which I think is rad! It was much easier to see the boys and I was glued to the computer! They were getting beer and water thrown on them each lap up the climb and Paul went through over 30 bottles in 60 minutes due to the 90+ degree weather and intense humidity. I could tell all the boys were suffering immensely and just kept watching the laps tick down. Finally 3 to go, their gonna be good. 1 to go....BOOM!! Brian comes into the last turn and ROLLS A TUBULAR tire and crashes, sliding on his belly across the screen! NOOOO!!!! The announcer says "Well Brian McCulloch has had enough of the race and has thrown his bike on the ground." So Funny! He was so bummed though. I sent Paul a text "Hey Brian down hard on last turn. Just let me know if he has a lacerated liver or something." He was fine. I was so proud of him! It was rad to watch the races live, to see him and his team dicing it up with the best in the country. Announcer Dave Towle said "CashCall Cycling is a team that fights above its weight and I love it. they show up with true determination." So cool.

I've said it before, but being a spectator is more stressful than racing!!! The CashCall Wives Club has decided we will have some bake sales so we can travel with our boys to the next race. :)

We know that this is all part of the beast. Training, nutrition, rebuilding our bodies and trying not to allow the things that are out of our control consume us. We are blessed to be in a great community and with directors/teammates that we trust implicitly and know have our best interests at heart.

Maybe I should work on planning the wedding now. :)

Thursday, June 16

Crit Fodder

Clara, Jade and Hilary warming up at our host house, which was on turn one of the crit!

Hailing from the industrial crit capital of the country, the IE, I was feeling primed and ready to race the Mt. Hood crit. The field was smaller than the NRC crits with less horse power on a course I could dig my pedals into. I was ready for redemption and some good juju. But usually the things we want the most we just can not have. I mean, all I wanted to do was ride with my team and be useful.

However I am a diesel and it takes me a few, er, laps, to warm up to the pace of crits especially with stacked up fatigue. I thought I warmed up well enough, but as I rode the back 1/3 of the group, trying to move up but kept finding myself in the gnarly headwind as the peloton strung out, a girl crashed in front of me and as I avoided it I saw a massive split created and BOOM I was dropped. IN A CRIT! I stayed in at San Dimas, Redlands, Gila, and now I got dropped. At precisely the same moment, teammate Jade followed an attack and got in the break as per our plan. One out the back, one out the front. It seems that whenever I am suffering like a dog trying to stay in, a teammate is cranking up the pace the front making my efforts that much more futile. Pretty funny if you think about it actually.
Awesome host house art!

Here is where I finally got mad. I haven't raced mad in years but I was pissed! I was embarrassed because I knew I could be in the race, I had committed to specific jobs and now I would spend over 20 minutes of a 40 minute crit CHASING!!! Michael was at the base of the climb and just kept telling me to relax and sit but the chase group was HORRIBLE. Girls attacking the chase, braking hard in the turns. You know it is super bad if I am telling girls to get off the brakes! There was one descending right had 90 degree turn where everyone was crashing. A girl in the chase group was riding straight out of the apex! I yelled at her to turn and she said "I'm so scared, this is so scary!" Really?! Then get to the back!!!

I saw the field slow and widen through the start finish and knew this was the chance to make junction. I jumped, found the group and pedalled to the front to find Clara, where I was supposed to be the whole race.

We got 2nd on the day. Clara tied with Kristen Armstrong of Peanut Butter 13 seconds back from first place. Sunday's road race was going to be a throw-down.

Before going to Gila, one of my many advisers told me "Your going to have develop an extremely tough upper lip and hold your head high." And that's just what I had to do. No time to doubt, no time to question my spot or what I was doing there. I knew that if I could chase back on and go straight to the front it isn't a fitness issue. It just always seems to be something...In this environment, I have the great opportunity to learn. Clara sat me down and said "Joy you are better than this! What can we fix." Awesome. Teach me, let me learn! Having her and Michael willing to spend a few minutes to help me eventually reach my potential was so great.

It's been said that Clara is worth three riders on the team with strength, knowledge, skill and know-how. Then it was said that I was worth three riders for the team in flats, crashes, mechanicals, and straight up bad luck. We gotta balance each other out. And I am totally stoked on my position. :)
I'm a busy bee and although our staff had an awesome director and mechanic, we were lacking a swanny. And a dishwasher. Bottle prep is actually slightly theraputic. Lots on my mind so might as well be productive! And we were going to need dozens of bottles for the last stage!!

Thursday, June 9

Brian is heading to Tulsa Tough!

Brian and his team, CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team have touched down in Tulsa, OK for a weekend of fast and furious racing at Tulsa Tough! You can watch live feed on Velonews, but I'm a little sketched out to watch. I would rather just wait and and hear how it went after the fact, I just can't handle the stress! It's so awesome that Brian and the boys get to race out of SoCal!

I gotta tell ya, the 2011 season so far has been amazing. It's
not the trip to Gila or Mount Hood. It's not competing in the Redlands Classic or losing 2 pounds. It has been watching Brian have a blast with his team! The six of these guys are like fraternity brothers and they race till the end for each other every single race! Seeing Brian have the opportunity to mentored and developed by a team and manager is awesome. he can also put all his mad skills to great use. He is a tactician, analyst and pit bull on every course! I see him as the glue that keeps his team together and it is just awesome to watch!

A-Train (Anthony) and Brian post A-Train victory, he and Brian were in the break together, with BMc throwing down the lead out!
Brian celebrates as Anthony crosses the line!
And Brian gets his first win of the year! The team went 1-5 and 7th on that day!

Each of the athletes on CashCall have already grown by leaps and bounds this year and their cohesion is palpable. The rest of the season is sure to not disappoint! So maybe I will tune into Velonews tomorrow night and watch some of the live action!!

Tuesday, June 7

The beautiful Pacific North West!

Mt. Hood Cycling Classic 2011

I lived in Oregon when I was small, in a tiny town called Boring, outside of Gresham. Obviously a town like this would not suit me so I left when I was 4. When I did the NORBA MTB circuit, my travels took me to Aspen, Vermont, Arizone, Brian Head UT, upstate New York and the Carolinas, but never had I ventured into the mossy Pacific Northwest. I was pumped!

I was honored again to be a member of the Pactimo Cycling Team, a Sand Lot Gang of composite riders solicited to ride for 2012 Olympic hopeful and veteran Clara Hughes. Getting this invite would parallel receiving an email from Mia Hamm to shoot some soccer goals together or Jennifer Azzi asking me to come play some 3-on-3 basketball at a Hoop-It-Up tournament with her. For you males who forgot women get paid to play, its like wearing the same jersey as Alexis Lalas or Larry Bird, and not just because you won the radio call-in contest. LEGIT. I went into the weekend with eyes and ears wide open for all learning opportunities to continue developing all my skills on and off the bike.

In Hood River I met my new teammates, Oregon local hot-rod Jade Wilcoxson and Hillary Billington, another Oregon favorite. More on these gals later! I soon received the name "SoCal" due to my tan and the rampant tan-envy from the Oregonian peloton, and my standard shorts and t-shirt with flip-flops. Between the 4 riders, director and mechanic, we had our squad set for battle against the heavy-hitters Peanut Butter 2012 and the rest of the small, yet feisty peloton.

I have done hundreds of miles in prep, had chaos on the work front, and lots going down leading into this week of racing. My battle wounds are nearly healed yet my mangled shifters remind me with every shift and brake how crazy this season has been. I was as ready as I could be.

The event began with a 3.1 mile Prologue with about half as much climbing as the one at Redlands and I soon realized as I patrolled the parking lot that I was one of the very few on a road bike. My clip-on TT bars against thousands of dollars worth of the highest technological advances on the market. Thank goodness I’m a worker bee, not a GC rider!

Jade and I spun through town and over the country side to do some course recon and I was in heaven after 5 minutes. A massive river tumbled into the Columbia, dwarfed by towering Mount Hood, crystal clear sky and dense, eerie forests. We rode by orchards for every pear imaginable, Bosc, Bartlett, Angue...and up into the foot hills. The Prologue would be harsh! I was 5th from last, dry heaving at the finish and cross eyed as I stared out on the amazing view from Panorama Point. Ugh, this weekend is going to HURT! Clara was 2nd by a hair with Jade riding to an impressive 6th and Hilary safe in the middle!

Day two, Stage 1: 58 mile road race. This distance is cool, I can hang no worries! The route was amazing, careening along the Columbia, billowing clouds and temperatures in the high 70’s. I was feeling comfortable and confident, riding well in the group. Now Brian recently pulled the SRAM Rival components off the cross bike so that I would be compatible with everything Michael has at the races (which I promptly crashed at Ontario). Well I don’t like the way it shifts and I miss my Campy. I miss shifted, tried to shift again as the peloton turned a hard left UP. Stuck. In the big ring. I had been way up the group instead of my usual last 10 riders! My heard sunk. I jumped off, got the chain into the small ring but by the time I was back going, the 50 rider peloton was gone and I was behind the caravan. SOLO. Seriously, my fitness was golden, my position was great, my mind was clear but a pilot error got me dropped. I was really upset because up till now, I only get dropped due to fitness, now that my fitness was up, I made a technical mistake.

Let the chasing and suffering begin. I am pretty sure my chase was the same length as my prologue, 8:48 and my average wattage was way higher than the day before. Sure helps to have a MASSIVE carrot of the entire peloton to get you in gear. There were only 3 team cars in the caravan bringing the total of cars to 7. The medical car kept brake-checking me, guess she wanted business, and I was having a horrible time getting around COMM 1. They were also WAY off of the peloton, which isn’t normal. Usually (since I am experienced at this) I can sling-shot off the last car into the group. Now I had to gun it. The Peanut Butter car was rad though. Kristen Armstrong’s husband was riding shot-gun and as I yo-yo’d through the caravan again he said “This is it, make it or break, they are about to crest the hill” so I pinned it and got back on. So frustrating. But sure as heck not going to stop. When I get “good” it’s going to be awesome because I will have a mind of steel from getting kicked in the head so many times!

As soon as I was with the group and recovered slightly, the course leveled out a bit and feeding could take place. So I collected empties from my teammates and went back to the car to fill up. 2 bottles on the bike, 2 in the back of my jersey and 2 in the front, then hammer back into the group before a descent. Find the girls and do the hand off to Clara. But the other gals didn’t want a bottle since we were heading to a climb, although as the Snack Cart, this made me nervous looking at their single bottles knowing I would not be back to help them. I off loaded the extra bottles to a solo Tibco rider and off to prep for the climb. Where I promptly got dropped. I tried not to get frustrated, knowing that had I not used so many matches to get back on previously, I would for sure be in the second group. But no time to pine over what might have been, time to dig in and get over the top.

I am starting to loath chasing. Things bother me like cars in the road, or the girl who for literally 50 minutes pedalled 8 watts higher than me and stayed 75-100 meters ahead of me. Just SIT UP! We are alone. The time trial is tomorrow! Two is better than one. We teach that our women’s clinic to the rec group! I kept checking behind me and finally saw two gals coming so I sat up and rode in with them, nice steady pace practicing for that day that I am in the break away for 30k, not out the back. :)

Our girls did awesome with Jade securing 6th again and Clara 2nd in the bunch sprint plus taking the QOM (Queen of the Mountains) jersey. Still not in yellow, sitting in 3rd GC behind World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong in 2nd and her teammate of Peanut Butter in first/yellow with a solo breakaway on the day, Alison Starnes.

Day 3 was awesome. We had two events which is a new format for me. I felt like I was riding all day. And I for sure took 3 showers. They were pretty quick though.

The morning brought an 11 mile Time Trial over in Trout Lake, Washington. At the base of Mount Adams, another picturesque snow covered volcano. I really liked this course! We drove 40 minutes to get there and my face was glued to truck window remembering driving through Yellowstone, The Tetons and the Rockies as a kid looking for elk, moose, and big foot.

I am still “practicing racing” so the goals here are a proper warm-up on my sweet non-TT bike; having the last half of my TT with higher power output than the first, and trying to hold the straightest line possible and not look at too much of the livestock. I sure hope I at least won the “I’m on a road bike category” as I placed 6th from last. Better than the prologue, by 1. We were started 30 seconds apart and I could hear my chasers coming with their Darth Vader disk wheels, bearing down my neck like the Grim Reaper. Focus, just let them go, ride your ride. I finished riding hard at max power and cooked. Progress.

We were able to see the last 3 riders finish, Kristen, Clara, Alison. You could hear Kristen coming a K away, her team car behind her bellowing instructions “out of the saddle, dig harder” and the likes. She crossed the line with a heave and we saw Clara crest the 1K sign. Silence. Steady like a torpedo and smooth as if she was back speed skating on the ice. She won, by 6 seconds. Before we knew the results, she said she felt awesome about her ride and that if she won or got second, it wouldn’t change how she felt. She had done her best. Awesome.

Time to travel back to the house, eat, shower, sleep, prep for the crit!

Thursday, June 2

Where was I? Oh yes...

Since the Mt. Hood Classic prologue begins at 5:30pm today, I thought I should get on it make it happen to finish up some Gila entertainment before I get too deep into Hood. But just to say, I can feel another great adventure has already begun. Hood River Oregon is an amazing town!

So leading into the last stage of Gila, I had a few jobs. Get bottles. Be with the main group in the valley for support and just for the team to have more of a presence. And to collect arm warmers and vests from Flavia and Clara. I know, super important stuff here.

We knew that most likely I would get detached at the sprint then it was up to me to get back to the group. We began with a 2 mile neutral roll through town which was awesome! Clara, Flavia and I sat right behind the moto with Colavita and Tibco breathing down our necks for the race to actually start. Like clockwork, as the attacks went and the sprint line came, off the back I was. But this time with a bigger group!! Win. But somehow it ended up just two of us rotating together to get back to the peloton. I was running a 12-27 and on all the descents I was maxing out at 130 RPMs trying to find some gears!

This time it only took 35-40 minutes to get back to the caravan and the group. I rode to Michael and the team car, laughing, grabbed 4 bottles and he said "Hey, good to see you, I knew you would be back." Back in the peloton there was a break up the road and Clara wanted the group to be moving faster. "Joy, can you go to the front and set tempo?" Sure thing! Then Tibco got ansy and started attacking. "Joy joy GO" I heard Flavia yell from behind. D'oh! Now it was time to cover attacks!

As we neared the feed zone, there was a crash and saw out of the corner of my eye a little ball of green tumble. Flavia was down! She was tied at the moment for the Climbers Jersey with Mara Abbott, so I stopped with her, helped her get back on her bike then paced her back to the caravan and the peloton. At precisely 2:07 race time, when we made contact, I grendaded so bad, i'm sure you could have heard it! Funny because the night before I knew I had 2 hours of solid hard work left in me. And no doubt, after these efforts I was done! I spent the next hours riding solo through some of the most beautiful landscape I have seen in years. I kept telling myself to ride just a bit harder, to keep building my fitness. To practice taking arm warmers on and off in a fatigued state, to eat and drink a lot. I crossed the line 30 minutes behind the winner (Local friend Katie Donovan!) with a grin from ear to ear! Clara had won the over general classification in her first even back since 2003! And I was 2nd to last GC. On paper it doesn't look that good, but my number one goal for Gila was to finish. And I did.

The thing that really cracked me was driving 10 hours straight home, getting 4 hours of sleep and heading to work. Ouch. But it was all worth it!

Now to build my bike and get ready for a prologue!