Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Star Crossed

Star Crossed always marks the start of the season for me. I love this race with its big crowds, beer garden and twisty course but unfortunately it usually ends up being the race where I work out the early season kinks. Even though it was the first race of the new "NACT" series (not the catchiest name boys....) I didn't have too many expectations. Norm finished putting together one of my two new Queen Ann's at about 11pm the night before so I almost expected something to go wrong. But it was a suprisingly smooth weekend of early season racing.

It poured the entire drive down to Seattle. Hmmm. Star crossed in the mud, I had never even thought about it. But when we rolled in there were puddles everywhere and the course was getting nicely chewed up by the early races. Interesting. Kona had sent down Demo Dave and Smiley to help us out. After calling cyclocross the "red headed bastard child of cycling" and admitting they had never been to a cyclocross race before, Norm whispered to me "don't worry I will be in the pits for you." Now, Dave is a great mechanic and a bright enough cookie so I wasn't too worried about him figuring it out until he helped me pit for Norm. Norm was having brake issues and needed my bike as a spare. I showed Dave what to do and he executed the bike catch smoothly...but....then he started casually walking away with the bike. "Uh Dave?" We need to get that bike fixed here and now because Norm is going to back for it in about 4 minutes. " He quickly returned and "we" tried to get it fixed. But when you mix someone who has never seen Spooky brakes before (Dave) with someone who is not very mechanically inclined (me) you sure as hell don't get the bike working in 4mins. Damn boutiquey bike parts. Poor Norm had to do a few drive by's only to keep moving on through on my "midget bike" as he called it. The mini screws were a bit stripped and the cable frayed so by the time Dave got it rideable Norm was almost done his race and finished it up on the midget Queen Ann. Maybe it would be best if Norm stayed in the pits with Dave during my race...

Unfortunately I missed my opportunity to pre-ride the course so I ended up on the start line blind. I had a good start but scaled back a bit to let someone else lead the way. Kristi Berg (Redline) had some great lines so I followed her but then she started to fall back so I moved up to wee Amy Dombrowski (Velo Bella) who is a roadie and I am guessing from her lines, not a mudder. Sue Butler (Monavie Cannondale) was riding smoothly up front and pulling away so I bridged up and let her show me the way. With no pre-ride I screwed up my gearing on a small climb and almost lost her, and probably got cussed out from those behind me. But I tagged back on and we worked together to get a good gap. I tried to drop her mid race but she was strong and had the fire so could not be scraped off my wheel. I changed my strategy and tried to rest up for the last lap but waited too long to make a move and came in for second. No mechanicals, no kinks, just have to get the brain back into a tactical mode for cross season. 

We were passing by the tent when the boys were getting ready for their race. Dave all chipper-like asked if there was anything special he needed to know for the pits. All we heard was a "yeah, just don't f*ck up." Norm gutted himself laughing. Poor Dave. Better hope for a clean race. There is no fury like the wrath of Ryan Trebon. But this time it was directed at the lapped rider that took him out, not Dave.

The next day the Rad Racing GP was more of the same, except this time I was better prepared. Sue and I got away and worked together to grow the gap on Amy Dombroski whose roadie legs were much quicker on the fast open terrain. I tried to drop Sue once but she was too strong so I waited patiently for the last lap. I punched it just before the 80m Dale Knapp run up and dropped her but punched it again at the top of the run up just to be sure. I kept the gap to the end to steal the NACT leaders jersey from her. Not bad for  early season racing. 

We missed the mandatory team Kona blackberry picking to race back to Canada and caught the 8:15 ferry home. Nice capper to a good weekend. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Me, eating SHIT over the barriers at the first cross race of the season. Its a little fuzzy but if you look closely you can see that my hands are still on the bars as I am pinned beneath my bike. Yep. Thats me. A professional cyclocross racer. No. I was not trying to bunny hop the barriers like Jeff Beeston did (smoothly). I just clipped my foot on the barrier, and as Sue Haywood likes to say "the hand of God came down and smacked me." Hard. Boom. I was down. The worst part is that I taught the Learn to Cyclocross Clinic about 3 hours earlier for all the beginners. Barriers were my specialty. Let's hope that is out of my system....
Thanks to Dave Shishkoff for the photo. I think its fuzzy because he was laughing so hard.

Canadian National Off Road Triathlon Championships.
Me, Melanie McQuaid and Danelle Kabush.
photo from racergirl.com

Norm has a theory. He says that ever year you should do some event that you are totally uncomfortable with and you are completely untrained for so you can remember what it feels like to race like a rookie from the back of the pack. Its actually a pretty good theory. It hurts like hell and its hard on the ego but it helps you develop some serious mental strength. This year my ego crushing event was the XTC off road "National Championships" at Buntzen lake near Vancouver. You might wonder how it could be ego crushing when I placed third, but lets get it out in the open right away - there were only three girls racing in the elite category.

If you know me at all, you know the Simms' are sinkers not swimmers. I am a cyclist and a runner but I am not a fan of the swimming and I don't swim well. That's not exactly true. I can breast stroke forever, but I flail at the freestyle. Norm was racing the triathlon so I was going to be there anyway but I was planning on doing the duathlon. Unfortunately no girls signed up so I decided to go for the triathlon. Hell, why not? My sister did an Ironman last year, the Simms' can't be that bad.

The morning of the race I got those pre race nerves that I haven't experienced for awhile. Just get through the swim. I hate cold water so I decided to go for the shock method and skip the warmup swim to stay dry onland. I started near the back of the swim pack to avoid the chaos. I didn't want to drown. The gun went off and within 100m I rememberd why I hadn't done a wetsuit swim for 4 years. The wet suit I borrowed doesn't fit me, so it felt like I had 10lb weights on my arm. Oh yeah and I hate swimming. So I switched to breaststroke. It was supposed to be temporary but I felt so comfortable I ended up breast stroking pretty much the entire 1.5km swim. I could swim in a straight line, I could breath and I could see the whole race. I felt like a bit of a fool but I wasn't here to impress. 2 laps of the swim course and I wasn't last! Goal#1 achieved. Sweet.

A slow transition (I guess most triathletes don't dry their feet, put on sox, change their shirts and tie up laces these days). and onto the bike. But my body was in a bit of shock when I jumped onto my Kula 29er and tried to chase down all those swimmers. It took my legs awhile to come around. A slightly faster transition and I was off running. I actually had a pretty good trail run except I was wearing a long sleeve jersey and was overheating like a non-Finn in a sauna. The run was a double loop so I got the opportunity to see just how far ahead 3X Xterra World Champion Melanie McQuaid (Nature's Path) was and Danelle Kabush (Luna) who was second at the Xterra World Championships in 2006. Ouch. I finished third of three girls. To rub it in even more, Melanie outsplit my shell shocked legs on the bike and Danelle had to nurse her baby on the start line. That stings. But I like to think of it as a podium at the Canadian National Off Road Triathlon Champiosnhips. It sounds much more impressive.

The next day I was absolutely wiped. Muscles in my body that I didn't know existed hurt like hell. More than a week later my groin is still tight from the out of the blue 1.5km breast stroke. So maybe it wasn't the best physical training I could have done for the start of the cyclocross season but it sure as hell makes me apprecioate the sport I chose. Stupid triathlon. But when the results came out I poured over all my times and compared them trying to figure out where I could shave time. There might be a little tri-nerd in me somewhere.

Im HUGE in Finland.

Almost a year ago, I inserted some Google analytics code into my blog site. It tracks who is visiting your blog and gives you a bunch of stats. I forgot about it until a month ago. I think part of me thought it would just pump out a few words:

"get a life, only your MOM reads your blog."

But I finally looked at the stats and it was actually pretty cool. How many people visit your site, when they visit it, where those people are from, who is a potential stalker etc etc etc. The most surprising stat was that FINLAND had the third highest number of people reading my blog after Canada and the US. Interesting. I figured it would be Belgium because I have raced there a lot, or Luxembourg because they adopted me at World Champs last year. But no. It was Finland. I have never been to Finland but apparently Im huge in Finland. If they ever have a big cross race in Finland I will have to go.

Better yet, I should go to Finland for the Sauna World Championships.

"Sauna aficionados Finland withstood the heat longest to win the 2008 Sauna World Championships in Heinola, Finland, defending their current reign as sauna champs. To do so, the Finns had to outlast tough competitors from Belgium and Belarus.

The competition saunas are much hotter than traditional Finnish saunas. “This is the wrong way to go to sauna, this is not about relaxing, this is competition,” Ossi Arvela, the head of the competition, told AFP. But that doesn’t stop dozens of sweaters from around the world coming to Finland each summer to test their personal heat endurance.

This year’s men’s champion, Finnish Bjarne Hermansson, stayed in the 110 degrees Celsius sauna for 18 minutes and 15 seconds. His skin dripping and beetroot red, Hermansson said “it feels wonderful, it is a dream come true.” The Finn has been training in hot saunas for 30 years, and has entered this competition every year since its inception in 1999.

This year’s female champion was Leila Kulin, who withstood the heat for five minutes and 21 seconds. In a nail-biting finish, Belarussian Natalya Tryfanava lost out by only one second. “The secret to my success was Finnish persistence,” Kulin told reporters just moments after she emerged from the sauna as the 2008 champion.

The sauna world championships have been held in Heinola since 1999. There were 164 combatants representing 23 countries in this year’s event. The Finns certainly have an advantage, however. Their country of 5.3 million boasts some 3 million saunas, and every Saturday virtually the entire nation heads to the nearest sauna to unwind."

My first magazine "cover" (OK it was the BACK cover but its still a cover)

When I first met Norm, he told me that one of his goals in life was to be on the cover of a magazine. I thought that sounded like a pretty cool goal so I stole it and made it my goal too. I am currently winning. The Kona Major Jake ad starring ME, made the back cover of Bike magazine this month. Not too shabby for a stolen goal.

If you feel bad for Norm - don't. He stole my goal to compete in as many different world championships as possible and is currently beating me at my own goal. Norm has raced World Champsionships for Xterra, Ironman, Cyclocross, ITU Triathlon and Muddy Buddy (a team of 2 does a marathon with crazy obstacles and one bike between them). I have Mountain Bike, Muddy Buddy and Cyclocross World Champiosnhips under my belt but I kind of got addicted to cyclocross and stalled out and now I am running out of time. So I have been searching for obscure World Championship events to surpass Norm: Rock Paper Scissor World Championships, Extreme Ironing World Championships, Texting World Championships and the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships. Maybe one of those will get me a FRONT cover....

Extreme Ironing World Championships.

Rock Paper Scissor World Championships. RPS for those in the know.