Tuesday, November 30, 2010

51/365: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I love Christmas. I love the spirit of the season, celebrating with family and friends, giving gifts, decorations, and baking. I have been decorating a Christmas tree since I was a young child and had to stand on a chair to put ornaments at the top of the tree. That's because as a child, we didn't do a lot of Christmas hoopla. For a number of years, my dad and brothers put trees on a 80 foot Cyprus tree, but that was it. (and Mom didn't have to do anything with it.) So I began collecting ornaments in college. For about seven years, I put Hallmark ornaments in layaway so I could be sure to get the ones I wanted and then I'd be in line at the Hallmark store on December 26 to pick through the ones that were half price. I will not admit to you how many ornaments I have . . . I actually can't because I've never counted them. All I know is that my current tree is about 8-9 feet tall and I have a few totes still full of ornaments I don't use.

When I moved into my first apartment, I also set some strict holiday guidelines for myself. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving. That's to give me the maximum time to enjoy it because, on December 26, by sundown, all signs of Christmas will be erased from my house save the evergreen wreath on my front door. Again, this goes back to my childhood because we often were taking down the tree on Valentine's Day. Last Friday my tree went up. The garland and Santa were on and other decorations displayed throughout the house. But I didn't get to the ornaments, much to Bella's chagrin. She asked about them on Sunday but I was spent after the cx race. And Monday after work I was on the trainer and didn't have time to get them out to put on the tree. I was planning getting to it tomorrow.

Tonight I came home to this glorious sight. Klucker and the kids had decorated the tree for me. I can't tell you how huge this is. Klucker will put away my ornament boxes and schlep things up and down the stairs for me, but decorating has always been my realm. (In all fairness it's probably because I'm uber-picky about my ornaments, boxes, storage.) But he took the chance because he knew how much I hated to making Bella wait. And because of that, in my eyes, it's the most beautiful tree I've seen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

50/365: Scary Moment

This morning I was upstairs uploading the data from my run when I heard Daisy barking. Her "tone" was the one she uses when Diesel is in her food bowl. It went on for about 20 seconds before Boo told her to be quiet and leave Diesel alone. Of course, Daisy continued to bark. I yelled down to Boo to ask what was going on and about that time, the barking changed and Diesel's voice emerged. They were fighting. I jumped up and headed down the stairs yelling for Boo and Bella to stay away. I had instant visions of one of them trying to separate the dogs and getting bit in the process. I made it to the kitchen in time to see Klucker dragging Diesel by the collar into the bathroom. I pulled Daisy to the other side of the kitchen.

Boo was concerned because Diesel's food bowl had been spilled. I told him to pick up food and I was "lecturing" Daisy on trying to take Diesel's food. I let her collar go as I noticed a drop of blood on the floor. Just then she shook her head. It was as if I was in a CSI episode--high velocity puppy blood splatter went everywhere. I grabbed a paper towel and found the wound, the bottom of her ear was split. After attempts of pressure, ice, super glue, and cornstarch, Klucker finally got the bleeding to stop. Of course, I wiped down the kitchen three or four times during this progression.
So here is the wounded warrior. If you look closely at her right ear, you'll see the little tear. Doesn't she look pitiful?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Race Report: North County Bubba

Even with the warm temps, I had chilly ears. I love my buff. *Photo cred: Mike Dawson.

We finally had a soft course . . . a bit of mud and not bumpy! The course was primarily flat, a few 180, some PITA zoysia grass, acorns, and gravel. We had warm temps (50ish) but strong wind. We started on pavement, headed into some 180s, boggy grass and the false flat that was zoysia. Next was a quick cut through the trees to the gravel, and then into an off camber 180 before heading to the barriers. After the barriers was tall thick grass, more gravel and a few uphill 180 off camber turns. Next was downhill through leaves that quickly became a mud pit before more 180 off cambers until we hit gravel uphill and turned back to the pavement for the start finish.

We had nine in the A race today. I got a good jump off the start and stayed in the group until the first muddy section. I fell off there and spent most of the race trying to catch Cory. I caught her in lap five, only for her to pass me in the last lap on the uphill gravel section. I would say I was at lactic threshold in the false flat zoysia section every lap. The last two laps I took a gear off and just tried to spin my way through. My dismounts/remounts were average today. I was happy with the way I handled the bike through the marshy/muddy sections; they didn't freak me out as much this year as they did last. I am still hesitant on thick gravel. I probably ease up too much because I'm fearful of fishtailing.

It was ironic that the course had so much gravel today, because of yesterday's ride on the Katy Trail. There were a few thicker parts and I was careful on because I really don't have a desire to pick gravel from my knees.
49/365: The shoes tell the story. Not a ton of mud, but enough for some fun.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

48/365: Let There Be Mud

We finally got rain! It rained most of the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. I took the cx bike out to the Katy Trail for a little gravel grinding this afternoon. My Eddie finally has the look of a real cx bike. The good news for all of this is that tomorrow's race shouldn't be bumpy. I've been so rattled and shaken the last nine weeks, I think I've knocked some teeth loose. I know if there is heavy mud, I'll struggle a bit, but I'll take that in lieu of constant vibration.

So I had a brilliant idea post ride today. My bike was filthy and I didn't want to let it set on and then get coated in more muck tomorrow. Our hose at home is out of commission, so I took the bike, still attached to the car, to the car wash. Yes I checked for clearance before I drove in the bay. I used the spot-free rinse setting the knock the chunks off before heading home. Klucker didn't think I was so brilliant. His thoughts were that the bike was still a little dirty and now there were spots on the roof of the car. Some days I can't win.

Friday, November 26, 2010

47/365: Ahhhhh . . . Jeffrey

Meet my youngest brother, Jeffrey. He is the stereotypical middle child, although our older brother and I don't fit the birth order characteristics very well. Jeffrey is eight years older than me. Growing up I'm sure I was always the PITA little sister, wanting to be involved with everything he was doing but not nearly old enough to be included and not really getting that. When I graduated college, his life was taking some unexpected changes, and we became a lot closer. We now spend a lot of time together. Klucker and I do what we can to get him out and about and social, or just out of the house on any given weekend. He came up this evening for a vodka taste test. Of course, that included being initiated into Boo's Wii Club first. But Jeffrey's a good sport about it all and a great uncle to my wee people.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

46/365: Pounding the Dough

Watching this scene unfold brought back great memories. We had Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws' home. My mother-in-law brought up the dough for the rolls and got Bella a stool. She had a great time pounding it down and later pulling pieces off and putting it in the pan.

My mom was not and is not a cook. She made meals for us when we were kids, but it always seemed like such a chore for her. And consequently, the food tasted like it was a chore for her. I learned to cook and bake from three very special women: Maama, Granny Fauerbach, and Aunt Lou. All three loved to cook and included me in the work in the kitchen. I spent a lot of time on a stool, mixing batters, rolling dough, and drying dishes. I learned lots of tricks and tips that can't be learned by reading cookbooks. More than that, I developed a love of cooking. I hope my kids develop that same fondness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

45/365: I Like It Even Less in the Fall

As much as I like to be outside, I do not like to garden. This is the area at the end of my driveway. My petunias are dead. My hostas are withered. There are remnants of weeds everywhere. I wish I could say that the pitifulness of this spectacle would move me to do something about it, but it won't. I can handle a few tomato plants and a bit of basil, but not flowers. I've never been one who was even big on getting flowers as a gift, so the idea of growing them does nothing for me. I make a go of it in the spring. I pull weeds, plant pansies, make a pretence of finding other plants to put in the ground. Some summers, I even add more flowers once my pansies succumb to the heat. Once I even made it so far as to put mums in the ground. This year I can't even bring myself to pull out the carcasses that remain.

When we lived in the City, I really made an attempt at having a beautiful, flowery patio. I had pots of different shapes and sizes. I hit nurseries and Soulard Market looking for great flower deals. It's good we were only in that house 3.5 years. I couldn't have kept that farce up much longer.

I keep thinking maybe someday I'll change my mind. Then I get on my bike and spend my time far more productively.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

44/365: 'Twas the Night Before a Run

I learned a few secrets about morning workouts a long time ago. The biggest one is to remove all excuses. I have all my gear ready for my workout before I go to bed. My clothes and heart rate monitor sit ready on the counter in my bathroom. My shoes and other items are out in the kitchen. I've found that by having it all out, there is little to prevent me from doing what I need to do. I can't claim that my shorts weren't clean or that I couldn't find a hat. If I think the weather is iffy, I will go so far as to put out two sets of clothes, one for outdoor and one for indoor. Plus, if for some reason I don't go, my gear then mocks my laziness, my lack of mental or physical toughness.

Monday, November 22, 2010

43/365: I Love a Rainy Night

Don't you read the title and hear the Eddie Rabbit song immediately pop into your head? I can't remember the last time we've had a real rain. This season's cross races have been so unbelievably bumpy and rough on the body because the ground is like cement. We are finally getting rain. I'm not sure if it will be enough to make a difference, but I'll take whatever relief I can get.

I'm a little disappointed with my photos today. I wanted a great shot of the rain on the windows, but couldn't get it. I took four and this was the best one. I'm not sure if it's the flash, screen, or my lack of photography skills . . . or all three.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Race Report: Mt Pleasant Winery Bubba

I am beginning to think I've been cursed by Murphy's Law during cx season. Today's race was a tough, tough course. It was incredibly hilly, thick grass and lots of switchbacks. I knew it would be tough. Nine women in the A race, about 15 in the B race. We took off on lap one and I rode what I could. The switchback turns were all at the top of small climbs and the thick grass made it difficult to maneuver some of the turns to go downhill the opposite way. I was able to pedal through a few that I didn't make during my warm up lap.
The grimace on my face from my scraped knee and flat tire. Photo cred: Dennis F.

The second lap I was able to ride a hill that I had to take fully as a run up last year. I was feeling good, saw 5 to go on the lap cards and headed into lap three. The course started on pavement and had a 180 sweeping turn. I took it too aggressively and laid my bike over. Amazingly I stayed clipped in as I slid through the parking lot. I unclipped jumped up and made sure everything was still attached to my body (and that I hadn't put a hole in my skin suit!) and started again. I hit the first long downhill and tried to turn and my rear wheel slipped. I dabbed and went on the second and my rear wheel slipped. I dismounted and felt my tire and it was nearly flat. I ran the next three switchbacks and remounted to see how far I could make it. Every turn I was fishtailing, and of course I had passed the pit already. I ran the bike the rest of the course, through the start finish and back to the pit. I got to the pit and had no wheels there. Sam assumed that I would DNF because the course was tough if I flatted so he left my wheels in the truck. I take full responsibility for not checking. I told him to give me the rear wheel off of his bike. Carrie put it on and I took off. I grabbed my brakes for the downhill and had none...it wasn't reconnected and I didn't check before leaving the pit. I messed with it for a couple of minutes before I was able to get it rehooked and take off again. By this time I had been either lapped or passed by everyone. I refused to quit a race though. I rode the lap and did what I could with Sam's wheel--my bike didn't like his cassette and it slipped a bit.
Sonny lapped me for a second time as I finished the lap so when I went back through I got one to go. There were a few B racers in my sight, so I made the move to catch and pass them and was able to do it.
It was amazing how many cheers I got as I ran with the bike. This season has taught me a lot about bike racing and a lot about who I am and the mental and physical determination I have. I may not be the strongest, fastest racer out there, but I have a stick-with-itness that would rival anyone.
The smile on my face as I sprinted towards the line . . . and yes, you still should sprint even if you are DFL. Photo cred: Dennis F.

42/365: Pinning On

I've lost count of how many times I've been a number to a jersey or skinsuit, maybe 40-50 over the last two years. I have a system for how I pin a number. I always use seven pins. I line the bottom of the number up with the bottom of the graphic on my side panel. The closest edge goes either on the seam or edge of the graphic. And I never use the holes in the number. I pin flat through fabric and the number. It flaps too much if you use the holes. It's not that I'm superstitious, it's just that this is the way that I've found to work best. And the way this cx season has gone, I find I have to be doing something well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

41/365: A Special Gift

The chair Unc made for Boo's second Christmas.

I got a phone call earlier this month from one of my cousins. I briefly thought about sending it to voice mail because it was during the work day and I was busy with other things and really didn't have time to chat. It's unusual that she calls, so I picked up. She called to tell me her dad had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. I felt hot. I had a lump in my throat. This is my daddy's big brother. This is the man confused my kids (and my cousins') because he and my daddy looked so much alike. This is the man who can make me smile with his smile and make me cry with his hugs. It couldn't be. They hadn't gotten a full prognosis, but she would call me with it as soon as they knew . . . and don't tell Maama.

They scheduled his surgery for November 16. He wouldn't be deer hunting with my brothers this year, something he has taken to doing since my dad died. I waited all last Tuesday for word that the surgery went well and the cancer was gone. When my cousin called around 3 I answered the phone by saying "tell me the good news." The good news was that the surgery was over and they'd gotten all of the tumor from his bladder. They'd also had to take part of the prostate because it had spread. They would know more in three to five days when labs came back, but he was in recovery and coming home Wednesday.

Then came the call yesterday afternoon. The cancer wasn't bladder cancer, it was prostate cancer. And on a scale of one to ten, my uncle's cancer is a nine. The doctors did a bone scan to see if it had spread elsewhere. We'll know the results of that test on Wednesday this week. Unc's going to have to have surgery again. And he's telling Maama. I cried, she cried. She asked me how I lived without my daddy. You see, these two brothers were two peas in a pod. I had the best dad in the world and so does she. They both placed their daughters on pedestals and taught us how to be strong women because we knew they would always be holding us up, giving us what we needed to be successful. And now these two brothers have both been stricken by cancer.

"It's not fair!" she cried to me. I could do nothing but agree. "I don't know how to live without him." The memories and pain came rushing back to me because I still am not sure how I live without my dad. One breath, one moment, one day at a time was all I could say to her. I told her that you use the strength he's given you and you live the life that he made you capable of living and that by doing that, you're never without him.

The other piece to this story is telling Maama. Maama is my grandma, our matriarch, my hero. She is an amazing 93 woman who raised three great children, seven grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. She lost the love of her life to Alzheimer's nine years ago. She lost her youngest son to cancer four years ago. She takes care of her youngest sister who's health is failing. She still lives on her own and thanks God for the gifts he's given her in spite of her hardships. Job had nothing on my Maama. This news however, may prove to be overwhelming. I am an optimist, but also a realist. I know how vicious cancer is and I've seen the savageness of chemotherapy. I know the toll it took on Maama seeing my dad fight, struggle and suffer. I can't imagine watching your child die and being able to do nothing. And now to see her oldest son wage a similar war. It's more than one person should have to take.

For now we pray, we hope and we cherish our moments together.

Race Report: PICX #6, The One Not On My Schedule

So I decided to race today even though it wasn't on my schedule. It was the last of the Pride Series and I'm easily swayed when it comes to racing my bike. The course was very hilly and bumpy, had a lot of off camber sections. I was fast off the start until I hit the first off camber 180, everyone broke hard, including me, going into it. I just didn't accelerate out of it as fast. I was doing well, making up ground, until the barriers on lap 2. That's when I hit my speed/cadence sensor as I was going across the barriers, turning it into my rear wheel. (similar to what happened at the Creve Coeur night race) I stopped to adjust it and lost all sort of ground. I spent the rest of the race playing catch up, never quite getting there. Highlights/low lights of the race:
This gives a good overview of the course and the barriers from hell. *Photo cred: Mike D.
  • I was never very confident on the first 180 off camber. It was a tight turn and I had visions of my back wheel slipping and me ending up taking a swim in the lake. (I have a small phobia of lakes, turns, and cx racing...not sure why).
  • Remounts after the barriers were HORRIBLE. The barriers were uphill and off camber. I couldn't get the timing down at all.
  • I was strong on the hills and on the 180 off camber around a tree after the barriers. I was able to get a great line on that turn every lap.
  • There were four landscaping ties in a turn later in the course. I rode them once successfully during warm up and fell the second time I tried to ride them so I decided to run them during the race. I was able to hold my position or gain ground by doing this because most had to slow down so much going over them.
For me the most important part of the race today was, in spite of being last in the A race, I had fun again. My three previous races had left me shaking my head and wondering why I was investing time, energy, bruises and money in this part of the discipline. The course today and my time on it got me back in the cx spirit.

The second 180, right after the one by the lake. I could smile because the water wasn't near. *Photo cred: Mike D.

Friday, November 19, 2010

40/365: The Pick Up Kid

"Mom, can you make me a pick up kid?"

"Mommy, can you take me to school today?"

Boo knows how to work the mommy-guilt angle so well. I don't know if I would ever want to be a stay-at-home mom. I think I'd probably drive all of us crazy and get myself into so many projects and situations that we'd have a mess. Still, I wish I could drop him off at school every day or pick him up in the afternoon. Today I made him a pick up kid. I left work early enough to be able to get him. It struck me as he walked out holding his teacher's hand, how much he is growing up. He looks like a big boy now. The baby-look has left his face. I think he is really struggling with where he is right now as a kid. He's no longer a baby or toddler and can't get away with some of the stunts that Bella tries to pull. But at the same time, he's not a "big kid" yet either. He still wants me to hold him and snuggle him and calls me mommy. However he also wants his independence and to do things by himself and get freedom allowed to older kids. Add in a dose of being smart and quick to learn and it causes him problems. I try to indulge him when he wants to be loved on because I know in the very near future he'll be too cool for all that. And at the same time I try to hold him accountable for his behavior because at some point others will as well.

39/365: A Vice Revealed

We all have vices and this is one of mine. I've tried to let go of it over times, but have been unsuccessful. I am not a heavy drinker. I won't drink on nights before I have a morning run because it makes my run unenjoyable. I don't drink on nights before an early morning ride or race for that same reason. And typically, if I'm going to have any type of sugar, I don't drink because I don't want to have a calorie overload. But typically once a week the timing works out and I can have a glass of red wine. Now I love my beer as well, but I don't like sissy beer, and that leads back to that calorie overload thing. But red wine, full bodied and complex, sipped slowly after the kids are in bed, is a wonderful thing. If you visit my basement, my affinity is evident. There is more wine than I can drink in a year. I used to drink it more frequently until running and racing to precedent in my life. Now it's reserved as an occasional treat, a delicacy so to speak, made even better now because it can be paired with a welcoming fire.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

38/365: Night Ride Anyone?

I'm refusing to give in to the time change and relinquish myself to the trainer. I've ridden more after dark these last three weeks than I have the entire time I've ridden a bicycle. It still thrills and frightens me a bit when I realize that the sun has completely set and I'm on a road only lit by the passing cars. I've become a lot more aware of what lighting is on the roads and where it's good. Tonight's route was familiar, but completely new all at the same time. It incorporated roads I've ridden countless times, but this was the first time I've tackled them at night. I had company, which made it a lot less threatening, but still gave me the exhilarating rush that I was doing something I really wasn't supposed to do. I know that the road and weather conditions will eventually sentence me to the basement, but for now I'm enjoying my transgression of the time change.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

37/365: This is Where the Magic Happens

A girl and her stylist have a special relationship. The things that happen while you're in that chair are cloaked in secrecy and only shared with closest of confidants. For a girl with short hair, finding the right stylist is incredibly cumbersome. In the last 10 years, I've moved through about nine, not counting my current wizard.

I try to be loyal, but there are certain things I can't excuse. Habitual lateness is a biggie. I can understand once or twice, but it shouldn't be monthly. Poor color is another one...think middle school principal with hot pink or orange hair, it wasn't pretty. And then there are the stylists who refuse to grow with the times. I do not want mall bangs or poofy hair.

My current relationship is going on about seven months and seems to be striving. He's met all my criteria and pays incredible attention to detail. The added bonus is he likes bikes so we always have something to talk about while he works. I'm hoping this grows into something very long term because I don't relish the thought of going on the hunt again.

36/365: Finding a New Perspective

I'm not sure what I expected when I started on this project. I know committing to anything long term can be a challenge. I believe the research says that you have to do something 21 days in a row to make it a routine in your life. I'm 36 days into my 365 project and still find myself rushing around some evenings to find photos. I have my camera with me all the time now. It's in my purse. I put it in my jersey pocket when I ride. But still some evenings it is 8PM before I start trying to snap photos. I think I assumed I would have lots of great opportunities to take pictures of the kids. I used to scrapbook before my time became eaten up by training, so maybe I thought this would give me a good reason to record all their cute moments. The evenings get away from me though.

This evening I snuck in a quick spin from Forest Park before my Team Rev meeting. I realized as I was sliding my camera into my jacket pocket, I hadn't taken any photos. I started looking around the parking lot to see what caught my eye. This is the lightpost that was in front of my car. I switched the camera to black and white to see the effect. I'm actually pretty pleased with the results. It got me thinking about perspective in general. What do I miss because I refuse to look through a different lens or from a different angle? The last week or so I've been pretty down, not at all my normal glass-is-overflowing self. I've felt like Eeyore.

Eeyore, the old grey Donkey, stood by the side of the stream, and looked at himself in the water. "Pathetic," he said. "That's what it is. Pathetic." He turned and walked slowly down the stream for twenty yards, splashed across it, and walked slowly back on the other side. Then he looked at himself in the water again. "As I thought," he said. "No better from this side. But nobody minds. Nobody cares. Pathetic, that's what it is."

I've been pathetic. I've let myself get caught up in seeing what is wrong instead of solutions and what is right. The old addages about making your own happiness are so, so trite, but also very true. I have been letting things that do not matter interfere with my outlook. My happiness and satisfaction are my responsibility. If work is getting me down, I can either find a way to make it better or find a different place to work. If finishing last at cx races is bothering me, I can remind myself that this is preparing me for crits, work at winning or quit racing. Nothing but my own poor disposition is filling my crabby bucket. So I say enough! I put on my happy girl panties this morning and set off to have a better day. So far, so good . . . the new perspective is a good one. It will take work to make it into a habit again, but it's a worthy task.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

35/365: Sometimes Mommy is a Pushover

Mommy guilt is a powerful tool. If our country's leaders could harness the power or learn how to manipulate mommy guilt, they could eliminate the deficit and guarantee world peace.

Normally my kids take showers every other night, and always on Sunday evening. They took baths as babies and toddlers until Boo started noticing anatomy. We then switched them to showers because it was the quicker option to get them both clean and out of the tub. Ah, but they haven't forgotten the bath filled with warm sudsy water, toys and everything else. I tried to pull Bella in the shower with me after my race but she wasn't having it. She said she wanted a bath instead, and just like that, I got out the bubbles and started running the water. She didn't beg or cry or whine, just asked. With the amount of training I do, and other commitments I have, I'm sometimes away from home more than I'd like. I'm assuming that's why I gave in so readily. I filled the tub and plopped her in. She took her bath while I was in the shower. Klucker had to drag her out when the water got cold. Boo was up next and decided to make himself into Santa with all the bubbles. Despite my attempts to keep them separate at bath or shower time, every time I turned around they were both in the bathroom together. We're still working on that privacy concept.

Race Report: SoCo Bubba

Today went a little better for me than yesterday...maybe the sun is what I need.

We had a much smaller field today, probably 18 women for both races; 10 for the A race. The course was technical today, but in a different way. It started off uphill on gravel (the small chip & seal kind)--I did much better with this week's uphill start than last. We then moved to a field with thick grass and leaves. We went down and back four times before hitting pavement/gravel again. That led to a sweeping off camber 180, more pavement downhill, another off camber 180, this one uphill and a large uphill. The hill was rideable, for me, for a lap or two. The grass was thick and it was hard to control the bike. I rode it during warm up, but couldn't turn the bike for the 180 at the top so I decided to take it as a run up. We immediately went downhill in the same thick grass and had to tackle the mole hole hell. They were plentiful and invisible. Another sweeping turn by the lake. (how I didn't end up taking a swim is a miracle in and of itself) We then went over the road again to the back section which had a long straight, a few turns in the woods, an off camber uphill 180 and back to the straight away. We jumped back up on gravel and headed to the two downed logs. The first was rideable for many. I tried it and made it once during my warm up but my confidence was lacking during the race, so I jumped that one that the next one that followed. From there it was uphill on the gravel road, a 180 to short patch of thick grass before a 180 and the barriers. After the barriers it was uphill on gravel to the start/finish.

Most of my race was good for me. I was timid in a few spots on the course, the first off camber down hill, near the lake and the wood area on the back. While I didn't ride over the tree limbs, I had good form dismounting and running them. The grass near the barriers was tough to navigate. I didn't get a good dismount at all through there. Each time it was all I good do to keep the bike upright. I rode the big hill on the last lap but did have to dismount at the top.

Cory was my saving grace for the race today. She rode my wheel the entire race, talking me through some of the spots where I was hesitant, and declining to pass me in the multiple spots where she could. She and I both jumped into the A races this season to give ourselves a challenge and to allow our beginning racers the opportunity to race against other beginners. It's been very humbling, going from a successful road season to last or second to last each race. I keep telling myself that I'm doing cx simply for off season fitness, but that doesn't fit well with my competitive nature.
*Photo cred: Mike D.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

34/365: The Dinnertime Struggle

Both of my kids have fall birthdays, so I've taken both of them to the pediatrician for their yearly check ups with the last two months. We go through all the standard developmental questions and always come to "Is he/she a good eater?" I never know how to answer that question. This year for both of them I replied, "When he/she wants to be." I'm about as accurate as a meteorologist when trying to predict how my kids will eat. Tonight we had a dinner that I thought both of them would devour. Boo did, and asked for more. Bella on the other hand, picked and picked at her food. Her daddy fed her, I fed her. I try not to force the kids to eat, but I knew she had only had a container of yogurt and a pbj all day. And what really kills me is tomorrow I could put something out that I would swear she won't eat and she'll devour it. The wonders of parenting never cease.

Race Report: Bubba at the Seminary

Today was more like true cross weather. Mid-40's, overcast and windy at race time. The course was about 1.5 miles, another mtb-like course. I got a good start and held with the leaders through the barriers and up the first set of stairs. I began to lose ground when we got to the woods. The wooded section was very technical in that it had a lot of turns, roots, and heavy ground cover.
Looks a little like I'm marching over them instead of running them. *Photo cred: John Pfeiffer.
By the end of the first lap, I was in last in the women's A race and ended up finishing there. I was timid through the woods and would make up ground on the long downhill and climb and on the front section where there were two straight aways. I rode the two small tree limbs that were obstacles each time without a problem...that was a plus for me. I also was able to handle the quick, steep uphill with a 180 and an immediate down. My dismounts and jumps were great with the exception of the last lap, I struggled unclipping my left foot before each of the sets of stairs. My remounts all had foward motion, but I'm still adding the little hop with my left foot. Bethany Himmel was there to push me the entire race. I knew she was right behind me and if I let up at all, I'd be chasing her down. I always appreciate the motivation that comes from competition.

Friday, November 12, 2010

33/365: I Could Get Used to This

I took a vacation day today. Even though I had an off day on my workout schedule, I decided to take advantage of our unseasonably warm temps and some daylight time and do a little cx practice. There's a small field at the end of our street where I can work on dismounts and remounting. Then, if I cut through the church parking lot, I can cross the highway and hit the old railroad tracks. The tracks were removed years ago, but the path is still there. If I jog across town a few more blocks, I can pick up a gravel path where the tracks were, followed by some grown over chunky gravel and finally this paved path. I can also head further out and hit some dirt farm roads to extend my ride if I'm alert for dogs. I'm glad I took advantage of the weather and time to ride. The cold will be here tomorrow and the days are already so short. I know a few folks who have flexible schedules, or don't work,
and I'm often jealous of their chances to ride. I could definitely get used to taking the opportunity like I did today.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

32/365: Boys Still Read Directions at Age 6

Boo is out of school today for Veteran's Day. We spent the morning playing with a toy he got for his birthday, the Lego City Camper. He's a very independent child and wanted to put it all together himself. He does pretty well with photo instructions. I helped him out by sorting all the Legos into color groups, but he was on his own after that. I love the way that he spread out on the living room floor instead of using the kitchen table or something else...very much something I would have done as a child.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

30/365: Dinner's On!

Tonight's dinner, red beans and rice, is one of my favorite meals. I grew up in a home where meals were prepared fast, not a lot of thought or care in the preparation, just get it on the table hot. Some of that was because my mom didn't plan our meals in advance and some was because she does not like to cook, either way it showed in what we got. I learned how to cook from three phenomenal women, Granny F, Maama, and Aunt Lou. All three were what I would label country cooks, basic meat and potato meals that always ended with a something sweet.

I was in my mid 20s before I started really experimenting with eating and cooking. Up until that point, I would never try something new in a restaurant and would only to go to chains if I was travelling. I discovered that I loved Cajun cuisine around that time. It became a mission of mine to learn how to cook the staples-- etouffee, jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans & rice. In the late 90s I spent a lot of time in NOLA and learned as much as I could by visiting diners and talking to local cooks. I read voraciously and experimented. I went back to New Orleans several years ago and was anxious to see how I had progressed. My verdict is that I'm getting there. I can make a rue without burning it and I no longer use a recipe for most of my Cajun dishes. I go by memory and taste. No only if I could get crawfish more readily . . .

Monday, November 8, 2010

29/365: Welcome to the Road to Nowhere

And so it begins, "off season" training--even though it's not really the off season since I'm racing cyclox. Maybe I should call it darkness training, trainer hell, or simply use Kate's phrase, riding the road to nowhere (RTN). Whatever I call it, it's the same drudgery. Spinning in the basement, on the trainer, is enough to make one lose her mind. I was surprised to hear how many people still ride outside at this time of year. Several cyclists I know have some flex in their day, so they move their training rides to lunch time. I haven't gotten brave enough to try that yet because I 'm afraid of the comments I'd get at work. I was also surprise at how many people ride at night. If I ride from home, that's not really a viable option because on most of my routes, the streetlights are few and far between. Riding in the county or city provide better options, but I'm still learning what routes are safe at certain times of the evening. I'm going to venture on a solo night ride on Wednesday. I have to admit I have some trepidation about it, but hope it will go well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

28/365: Homework Time

I'm on a Boo kick this weekend, probably because he will be six tomorrow. He is also student of the week this coming week at school. As part of being student of the week, he has to color and complete a poster "all about him." He and I worked on it Friday afternoon, doing most of the coloring. We also did one of the sections together this morning. I made myself busy this evening so that he and Daddy could spend some time working on it together as well. I want Boo to see both of us as resources for homework and school. By the way, his three cool facts about himself are: (1) He likes Johnny Cash (2) He met Mark Cavendish and (3) He can count to 100.

Race Report: County Bubba

The downed log obstacle. *Photo cred: E'ville Mike D.

The venue for today's race was Queeny Park and it was a mountain biker's paradise. 75% of the course was hard packed single track on a horse trail. The course was about 1.75 miles. It started out uphill on pavement before we headed onto the trail. We came out of the woods to the barriers, three on an uphill grassy section. After the barriers we wound through grass to a downed tree before heading back in the woods. There was a long straight that ended with a 90 degree turn to short steep uphill that went into a 180 turn and back down. It went back down the straight before a couple of short drops and turns and more single track before hitting a long, winding, paved climb.

Our field was smaller today because of other events going on in town. I started in the second row and wasn't as smooth off the start as I would have liked. I don't like uphill starts for any cycling discipline. I was on the back of the leading pack until just before the barriers. They got a small gap on me there. We hit the single track and the small hill and the two girls in front of me stopped mid hill. I quickly unclipped before I fell. I stayed on their wheel until the climb and passed them there. I headed back through the course. I got back to the hill and took the wrong line and unclipped again. I yelled to Cory who was right behind me I was unclipping. She promised she wouldn't run over me! I stayed in front of her and was able to gap her on the climb. Third lap I easily made the hill and let out a happy holler. Fourth lap, I took the wrong line again and ended up scraping a tree...leaving a nice scratch and bruise. Mike D was standing there and laughed "with me."
My fifth lap attempt was a success! *Photo cred: E'ville Mike D
Fifth lap was great again, but I saw Carrie Cash closing in on me. I knew it was a matter of time until I got lapped. Carrie came up on me right after the little hill. She let me know she was there and kept telling me to push harder. I rode really aggressively through the last single track section and hit the pavement and had a flat. I ran/walked my bike up the climb to the pit. Steven grabbed my bike and got a wheel on for me. I finished the climb and headed into the final lap. I ended up getting lapped by Chris and Britta in the final lap. I finished 8/9 in the A race.
Good points...
I gave myself time on remounts today. Both the barriers and tree were in tough remount spots. I took my time and ran with the bike and didn't just hop on because I was over the obstacle. Most of my remounts had hops, but I had two good ones.
I knew I would struggle with the little hill, so I had Carrie ride the course with me and show me the line to take. I was able to do well on it with the exception of two laps.
Areas for growth...
I need to work on single track riding. I let the course freak me out. It wasn't a hard course at all. I loved the hill and was smiling where most were grimacing.
I struggled with the uphill pack start. I was more timid than I should have been.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

27/365: Important Moments

I took a ton of photos today, but I chose this one because it sneaks a peak at a special moment between a boy and his grandpa. If there was ever a boy who loved his Papa, it's Boo. Papa walks on water in his mind and is all knowing. This conversation was about Boo's recently behavior struggles in school. He's a good boy, but he takes after his mommy with being on the go constantly. His need to move and talk comes out during unstructured time at school and gets him lots of warnings, and a trip to the assistant principal when he did it on the school bus. Papa was sweetly explaining that Boo needs to stay in his seat and listen to the driver so everyone can be safe. And of course, since Papa said it, it's the gospel.

The other reason I chose this photo is because Boo was also the light of my daddy's life. There was hardly a day go by that my dad didn't come over to see him. I would watch my dad, who struggled with severe arthritis in his hip, get on the floor and rough house with my toddler. The last words I heard my dad speak were to Boo as he climbed on his bed. My dad patted him and said "my boy." I've had bitter moments where I've felt my kids were cheated because they didn't have the opportunity to really know how great of a grandpa my dad was. But then I quickly am thankful for my father-in-law because he is the only person in the world who could rival my dad for "world's best grandpa" title.

Friday, November 5, 2010

26/365: Sign of the Times

With the temperatures sinking into the upper 20s tonight, it was time for the first fire of the season. I love nothing more than having a fire in the fireplace; it's one of the few saving graces of the winter for me. I know tomorrow's run will be chilly, but I'm enjoying the ambiance tonight.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

25/365: A Different Way of Life

Today I spent the vast majority of my day "out of the office." We had elementary professional development. Finally, after 16 months in this job, I felt comfortable enough to do what I really should be doing on these days, visiting the sessions. In between schools, I stopped for coffee and to grab some wifi to check my email. It astounds me how many people are just hanging out on a Thursday afternoon. I could identify a group of regulars who I would assume spent a good deal of time kibitzing over coffee. I wonder what these people "do." A couple were clearly retirees, but others looked to be in their mid-40s or early 50s. Do they work nights? Are they out of work? Do they work from home and can flex time? I get so caught up in the normal Monday-Friday, 8-5 scene, I forgot that other lives exist. I wonder if I would like more flexibility, or a schedule that is different. I've always had a very structured job, even the freedom I have now where I can go out to lunch on occasion is a new phenomenon to me. It's good to have the reminder that my normal isn't so for everyone else.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

24/365: How Did This Happen?

I would have never considered myself a morning person. I like to sleep. I used to like to stay up late into the night, but now I find that by 8:30, I need to be brushing my teeth. The nights that I see the opening of the 10PM news are few and far between. The reason why is that I get up long before dawn to workout. This is what my heart rate monitor typically reads as I slip into the my running shoes in the morning. I started getting into the early habit so that my workouts didn't get in the way of family time in the evening. If I ran before work, I could be home in the evening...then I took up bike racing and that changed. Now it's become the way I live. Even on the weekends I typically start my runs around 5AM. It's wonderful to be pouring a cup of coffee before the rest of the house is out of bed. Sometimes I miss going out or staying up to the wee hours, but usually I just love the energy I have as I start my day.

Letter to Governor Quinn

Governor Quinn,
I felt today, on the heels of last night’s still undecided election, was an appropriate time to contact you. The citizens of the great state of Illinois must patiently wait for all votes to be counted before knowing who our governor will be. If you are victorious, I hope that you take time to pause and reflect upon the reasons that nearly half of the voters in this election did not support you.

This past May, you threatened to cut funding to schools because of a budget deficit, and many public schools are still awaiting payment. Yet in July, you announced raises that average 11.4% for certain state employees. While you later reversed the decision, you sent a strong, poorly received message to your constituents. That coupled, with the fact that the salary for the office of governor has risen a total of 14% over the three years, creates a negative image of your administration.

In my family, to compensate for the lagging economy, we’ve had to make sacrifices. Neither my husband nor I received a pay increase this year, and my take home pay was actually reduced due to a mandatory increase to my retirement plan. Our family has cut our spending to compensate. We were not able to take a vacation, do not go out for dinner, and now buy generic products. I am not saying this for sympathy because many of our family and friends have far more grave circumstances. I am saying this to demonstrate that we “tightened our belts” and I feel that the state government must do the same. The answer cannot be raising taxes for people who are already cutting expenses to make ends meet. The answer must be that the state spend less.

I realize you took office under less than desirable circumstances. Our state, thanks to past governors, has become a synonym for corruption. And I fear, under your administration, we will become bankrupt, both as a state and as individuals. If you are successful in this election, I urge to take a hard look at spending in the state. Any cuts, even small ones, could help our bottom line.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

23/365: Looks are Deceiving

Doesn't he look so sweet and innocent? Most of the time he is. Tonight, however, was a different story. I really can't pinpoint what happened or why. I got home from work, was folding laundry and talking to him about his day and his homework project. I told him we would work on it after dinner. He got a little rambunctious so I sent he and Bella to the kitchen table while I matched the last few pairs of socks. The screams and whines began. Klucker then yelled at them. Boo called Klucker a bully and threw the gate in front of the stairs. I had him come in with me and held him tight while I talked to him. I sat him against the wall for a few minutes and then had him put away laundry. He was calm. Order seemed to be restored. I should have known better.

We sat down to dinner, chili, and he began his daudling. If it were up to the kids, dinner would be a two hour experience. I've stopped badgering the kids about eating and now just set a timer. Five bites into the chili, Boo was full. He just wanted some butter crackers. He ate more chili so he could get crackers. After the crackers he was full again. I don't force the kids to eat, but if they refuse, the choice is bed. So after reminding him of his choices about five times, he decided he'd go to bed. (Now this wasn't without drama because he wanted to stay up to work on his homework). He walked away saying that he didn't like his family. I reminded him that using mean language got him in trouble earlier and he stopped.

If only he'd gone to bed. Instead, he brought his bath towel down and threw it on the kitchen floor. After he picked it up and put it in the bathroom, up he went to brush his teeth. When I got upstairs, the sink looked like it'd been painted with Crest. I made him clean it up. "I want my food." Now he wanted to eat his supper. As much as it broke my heart, I wouldn't give in to that. We're clear with the kids that when they leave the table they're finished. "I hate you. I hate my family." Another tight hold and long conversation about mean words and following rules, followed by a flood of tears. I gave him ten minutes to quiet down and offered to read a story. "I want my food." I closed the door and walked away. I waited another 10 minutes. I laid down beside him and tried to rub his back. He turned away from me and covered his head. I told him I loved him even when I didn't like his behavior. He told me he didn't love me and that he didn't want any hugs or kisses. I walked out and closed the door.

I know he'll be a different child in the morning, but his anger breaks my heart. I know it comes from growing pains and trying his limits. He's growing up and seeing how far he can push. I know his words come out of frustration. But knowing and feeling are two different things. His words and tears and irritation break my heart.


I was IM'ing with a friend today and she made the comment "We're obsessed and sound like broken records!". I realized she's so right with this comment. "My name is Suzanne and I am addicted to my bicycle. It's been seven hours since I last rode my bike."

I'm not really sure how it happened. I started riding in July, 2001. It was innocent enough, a metric century in Texas for the holiday. I came home and bought a road bike. I began doing "Bicycle Fun Club" rides. I got clipless pedals. I upgraded my frame. At that point, I was probably averaging about 60 to 80 miles a week. I rode the MS150 in 2001 and 2002. I volunteered at a rest stop in 2003. I bought a trainer, but I remember wondering why people needed a sweat catcher or put a towel on the floor. It was never that intensive for me. And I even stopped for a while. I don't think it became an obsession until I started again. That was 2007. December 2008 brought my first race, a time trial, and a new frame. After that it was all over but the 12 step program.

I could downplay this and say that it's just a hobby. After all, there are some real enthusiasts out there that drive to car shows every weekend or have model railroads in their basement. But I would probably refer to them as fanatics, so . . .

I don't know if I should be worried. I think I'd more appropriately refer to my cycling obsession as a lifestyle. It's a healthy lifestyle. I exercise regularly and eat well so that I can perform better. I will admit that cyclocross and crits are a bit hazardous, but I'd argue the benefit outweighs the risk. However I do worry what others think of my passion. I usually have a bike on the rook of my car two to three days a week at work. We have no room in our garage because of the bikes, stand, tool box, wheels, Burley, and various other related items. My weekends are planned around a races that I have little to no chance of winning now that I've catted up.

I could stop, I think. I know I'll have to stop racing at some point, but I've already convinced myself that it will be on to triathlons. I think the endorphins my body produces from all this are way more addictive than any street drug I could take. I might ween myself off the bike, although I think I'd find something to replace it. Maybe it's physiological and I'm predisposed to having an addiction...think OCD. Maybe it's safer if I just keep riding and don't expose myself to something more elicit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

22/365: The Remnants

This is all that's left at home of the Halloween candy I bought. There are so many Kit Kats because Klucker picked them out of the candy bag and held them back until the end. I've gotten better and buying the appropriate amount of candy over the last few years. When we lived in the city, I bought a bunch because you'd have to give candy to the kids, their mamas and everyone else. And they'd come back multiple times. Small town trick or treating is much more civilized and polite. While the vast majority of my ghoulish visitors didn't say "Trick or Treat," they did say "Thank You."

I do have one bag of candy in my desk at the office. It was unopened so I should have returned it because my usually strong will power was weakened today by the Reese's. Damn peanut butter covered chocolate. It does demonstrate why I do not keep such sugar filled debauchery in stock...or at least not the kind I like.