Sunday, December 11, 2011

Time flies when you're not in school

This was my first off-season that didn't involve catching up with school.  It was weird.

To pass the time, I've been involving myself with other things:

I posted a while back about our garden.  We had a pretty good harvest this year, and went out to pull everything in that we could before the first frost hit us.  I realize that not all of these pictures are necessary, I'm just trying to make Stephanie jealous because she has yet to mail me any of the sweets she bakes, or even blog about that time I met her and Devin in Longmont for an afternoon of entertainment.

our mountain of swiss chard
eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli
potatoes, jalapenos, anaheim chiles
zucchini log, normal zucchini, etc.
more punkins.  Did you know they're green before they're orange?  I learned that this year...
I'd include a pic of our fantastic corn, but we never got any because of the blasted squirrels.  Don't get me started on squirrels.  Gizmo hates 'em, too. Speaking of, today Gizmo got one treed up a telephone pole.  He kept the squirrel up there while I heaved snowballs at it for 15 minutes.  Despite hitting it twice, the furry monster wouldn't come down!

We didn't carve the pumpkins up, so now we've just got a ton of pumpkin puree to cook with.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes, and I made pumpkin scones.

Nevermind that they look like globs of orangish mud, they taste great.  I gave up on trying to make them pretty when I realized that the dough is clingier than Flick's tongue to a frozen flagpole (uh-oh, A Christmas Story analogy).

Ian made some pot-pie filling out of thanksgiving turkey leftovers, and this was my creation.
1.7 lbs of homemade bliss.  Suck it, Swanson.
To finish off what will be the last season of the Rio Grande Elite team, we got everyone together a week before Halloween for 9 holes at the local golf course.  Knowing that we'd be terrible, we all wanted to at least look the part.  So we all grew mustaches and hit the thrift stores.  When all you have is free time, it's easy to get carried away....  I even went to buy some used clubs, and where better to put them than a $5 genuine replica snakeskin golf bag with a pocketful of empties?

It's a good thing I can ride a bike fast, because I have no future in golf.  My score for 9 holes would have been decent for 18.  But I did look schnazzy in my used clothing and artificially-enhanced mustache.

Our mini-group of poseurs included Scott and Chris.  Isn't that a sweet golf bag?

Team Rio Grande 2011, in public, before Halloween.
I was able to go home for Thanksgiving, thanks to Ian and Gizmo.  All I had to do was keep Gizmo for the week with me at my parents' place.  As a bonus, the weather was supposed to be awesome--mid 60's and sunny.  Good thing, too, my legs are starting to look pretty pasty.

I was going to include a pic of my tanlines here, but then you'd see my legs and get jealous, and I don't want to seem like I'm bragging..

But wouldn't you know it, the weather psyched us out--Fort Collins suddenly became 60's and sunny for the length of our trip.  My first ride in McKinney was 47 degrees for 3.5 hours in fog with 200m visibility.  I got gypped. The remaining rides were also overcast and much for my tan-line tune-up.

I did, however, get to see my family.  My, what a difference a year makes.  A year ago, my dad was losing weight very quickly because the radiation to shrink his lung tumor had affected his ability to eat.  He had to take a pill 45 minutes before eating, to give him 30 minutes of slightly less painful time to eat.  This year he had no trouble stuffing his face like the rest of us.  Then we all sat around to watch the heartbraking loss of the Aggies to that team in Austin.

The day after that fateful game, Shane came back to McKinney and we got to work building up my new old mountain bike.  Anyone that knows Lee will recognize the frame....  Since my fancy schmancy Epic Marathon is busted, we transferred all the components over (but not without a healthy dose of Aggie engineering to make some stuff work right...).

To top it off, the only thing wrong with my position on the bike is that the reach is an inch or so too short--but that I can live with.

A while back, the mailman delivered this bike to me so that I can train on it through the winter and work towards my goal of being a time trial monster next season:

Between the TT, cross, and mtn bike additions to the stable, I've got bikes coming out the wazoo.  I'll be selling a couple this winter, because Shane certainly doesn't need a backup backup road bike or a ghetto backup TT bike....

Speaking of additions to stables, I got to name a horse.  It's not my horse, though.

Perhaps I should back up a bit.

Way back in 5th grade-ish, my family went to Disney World and on a Disney cruise.  There were moments where we had a lot of fun, but on the whole Shane and I were not overwhelmed by the magical place.  If you really want to get a rise from your parents, look up at them in the shadow of the Epcot Center and say two simple words: "I'm bored."

So then where could we possibly go for vacation? On the recommendation of our pastor at the time, we went to Wind River Ranch.  It's a Christian Family Ranch nestled at 9000 feet between Long's Peak and the Twin Sisters near Estes Park.  Every family gets their own cabin.  There's no internet, and no cell service. The only certain activities that are on the schedule are mealtimes and a nightly "fireside" sermon, as well as other events like the Hootenanny, square dancing, or grill-outs. Aside from that, every day was yours to do as you wish--whether that be trail riding on horses, rock climbing, hiking, etc.

The summer of the visors; my favorite shirt ever (which I'd still be wearing if my mom hadn't  retired it); our view from our cabin
Unlike the Disney kids club or whatever they called it, which sucked royally, the teen/pre-teen groups at WRR were fun, with fun people.  This was around the same time that Shane and I fought a lot at home, but at WRR we were first discovering just how awesome we were as a pair.  Over the multiple years that we went, I think Shane and I must have played 120--no, 173 rounds of disc golf (Shane, please tell me you got that reference).

Aside from all the fun we had, WRR is a truly amazing place.  It's hard not to be overwhelmed having Bible study around a campfire on a clear night looking across at Long's Peak.  If, for some reason, my cycling career is abruptly ended for whatever reason, I'm moving there and becoming a counselor/wrangler/cook/whatever.  Seriously.  I stopped by a couple of times on rides this summer, and both times was flooded with memories.

Well, WRR needed some new horses recently, and as much as WRR has given to our family, my parents wanted to help make that happen.  As a thank-you, we were given the naming rights of the horses.  One was named Haga, in honor of my dad's faithful battle against cancer.  My mom named one Angel in memory of our sweet dog.  Shane chose Honey[duke], and I named the last Tonto.  I got a pic of Tonto in an email last week, and my first thought (at 8am, still laying in bed) was, "Tonto is so cool!"

If I had my way, next August will play out like this:  My team rightfully gets into the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (let's be real, it's the Tour of Colorado), and I'm selected to race it.  I crush the final stage time trial in Denver on my birthday.  My parents and Shane are there to witness it.  During the recovery week that follows, they all stay in town and we go ride the horses at WRR.  Deal?  I thought so.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I tried 'cross. I wasn't very good.

After wrapping up the season in style at the Univest Grand Prix way back in mid-september, I flew back to Fort Collins and kicked off my first off-season as a non-student.  I went eleven days without touching a bike.  While most of my time was spent sleeping or eating, I did at least attempt to keep from getting fat.

With the fantastic weather, I took Gizmo hiking a couple of times.  By the end of the 3-hour hikes (which actually included a fair bit of trail running) I wanted to collapse and just lay there in the dirt contemplating my decision to be a pro in a low-impact sport.  My hips, knees, and ankles hated me and would hurt for days. I hurt as much from a hike as I did the day after US Pro Crit.... Gizmo seemed unaware of the agony I was in, as he ran even faster downhill.

I've also been running a bit.  Yeah, I'm even less excited about that than it seems.  Although, it turns out running is much more enjoyable less miserable when you have a running companion that is well heeled and running shoes that fit properly.  Who knew?  I can now run 3 miles without my joints complaining, so I guess that's good.

When it came time to start riding bikes again--just so I wouldn't forget how--I was in a pickle.  I certainly didn't want to ride on the road, because I'd just burn out.  My mountain-bike was broken and in Texas. The Colorado cyclocross season was in full swing, and here it's even bigger than road racing.  Only, I didn't have a bike for it.  Ah, sponsors.... Orbea and KBS-OH hooked me up with a bike that's better than I am.

For the uninformed, cyclocross is a special sport.  Basically, it's a road bike that's been modified for tire clearance and has a pair of knobby tires.  Then you race around in a field with various obstacles that force you to get off and run or to have some good bike skillz.  And as a bonus, half of the races are muddy slop-fests.

At least I'd be easing into this new sport, though, right?  Well, not really.  My first race would be the US Gran Prix in Fort Collins, an event that brings the top 'cross racers from the around the country and some international racers as well.  And because my road license says 'PRO', I get to race with the big boys.  So I needed some practice.  I built a set of barriers to work on my dismount and remount skills and it didn't go so hot.  Here are my tips if you ever find yourself in such a position (learned by yours truly in 15 minutes):

1)  Drive to the park where you will be practicing.  Although your homemade barriers may not seem that heavy now, they will be a mile down the road.
2) Don't rush the dismount when you are trying to pick up the pace through the barriers, or you might drive the pedal into the back of your right calf while running, giving you a nice bruise and launching the bike into the air out of your control.  Which brings me to 3).
3) Don't practice anywhere near the sidewalk, because when 2) happens, it might land on the sidewalk and bend your 5 minute old derailleur hanger.  Luckily it was minor and easily bent back later.
4) Finish the tubeless conversion on BOTH wheels first, because regardless how soft and fluffy the grass looks, there are evil thorns and you will flat the one without sealant.  Which brings me to 5).
5)  If you insist on practicing without sealant and did not do 1), make sure to have your cell with you to call your roommate so you don't have to walk a bike and 2 barriers all the way home in your cycling shoes when 4) happens.

Consider yourself learned.

Disclaimer:  To the photographers whose photos I've stolen, I apologize.  I don't have money to buy photos, so please accept my advertising on your behalf.  If this is not satisfactory, let me know and I'll remove them.

The races went about as expected.... I completed half the race before getting pulled in the nearly-freezing drizzly mud pit with the wrong tires.  I had fun, though, and even made a dollar!  And I only crashed twice!  The second one was an awesome crash, I hooked a fencepost and slid sideways for 30 feet down the hill in the mud.

Pausing to stuff my hard-earned dollar down my jersey
The aftermath

My skills slowly got better as I remembered my BMX and MTB heritage, but my legs had left me long ago for the season and I was intent on not training.  The good news is that Ian was in the same boat and we started every race together at the back, so every race became a battle between the two of us.  I ended up winning the series 3-2, so I'll proudly hang my hat on that one.

To sharpen my skills, I did a practice race here in Fort Collins.  The gracious host thought we could make use of his land, so a short series was held in his big back yard.  Shane, we're doing this someday when we have enough land between our neighboring houses to do it.  But ours will also include dirt jumps and such.

And here's video of us racing on it (I'm wearing Ian's helmet cam):

And here's a 20 minute video from another race. Again, I'm wearing the helmet cam, and Ian crashed in front of me twice.  Lotta fun!

And here's more random pics of me being a mediocre P/1/2 'cross racer:

incognito at an ACA race...muahahaha

those stairs sucked something aweful!

Who knows, maybe next year I'll actually have some fitness left over when 'cross season rolls around?