Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Burgoo Ride!

The Fourth of July fell on a Wednesday this year. It was a little odd having a holiday right in the middle of the work week, but you don't hear me complaining. A tradition in the Springfield Bike Club is a ride to Franklin, Illinois for that community's annual Burgoo Festival. Since the forecast called for 100 degrees, we decided to go out early and hopefully beat the worst of the heat. At 6:30 a.m. it was 80 degrees, if that gives you any idea what a lovely day lay before us.

What is burgoo, you may ask? Wikipedia defines burgoo as "a spicy stew" usually served with corn bread. There are many regional variations, but the common theme is that there are at least three ingredients --- a vegetable and then various types of meat. The dish served at the Franklin festival is a tame beef/chicken stew (here is the recipe and some info), but I have heard about the use of opossum, raccoon, deer, etc. I do know that the burgoo is cooked in large kettles and stirred for hours by volunteers.

Naturally there were a lot of jokes about picking up roadkill along the way and contributing to the cookoff, none of which I found particularly funny. It was about 25 miles to Franklin. I had prepared for the scorching temperatures by putting a polar bottle of water and another bottle of Ironman Perform in the freezer for about 45 minutes, which kept things nice and cool.

Sadly, because we had set out so early, the actual festival wasn't even open when we arrived in Franklin. My road bike was making some unhappy gear chattering, so The Other SteveS (not to be confused with my SteveS) performed some experimentation on the little barrel ajduster. We rode up and down the street for a while and got the bike shifting better, if not optimal. At least I had more than three gears.

We looked around for a place to refill water bottles and a nice lady directed us to the basement of the nearby Methodist Church, which seemed to be the vortex to the Burgoo Fest. A friendly crew of volunteer ladies and one man not only let us refill our bottles with ice, but sold us some pie. We were the first customers of the day.

Riding back, we started passing the bike club riders who had started later. They were in for a hot ride, I was sure glad we got out early.

Cooling off in the basement of the Methodist Church in
Franklin. Before us are the jugs of burgoo
that will be sold later. L-R Jerome, the Other SteveS,  Mark, me

Getting ready to head out of Franklin. 

The Other SteveS enjoying some apple pie

SteveS tries out the peach pie with some ice cream

I tried gooseberry pie. They tried to warn me that it was tart.
I didn't necessarily find it  to be sour and enjoyed it.
Would definitely order it again. Reminded me of rhubarb pie.

Peach pie, mmmmm

The burgoo, cooling in jugs. It smelled like beef stew. 

Mark holds up a jug of burgoo. We didn't get to
try it but that's ok, when it 's pushing 100 degrees,
hot stew doesn't sound too appealing.

The super nice volunteer crew in the
basement of the Methodist Church dishing up ice and pie for us.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic - Part 2

Check in was from 8 to 9 on Sunday morning. Since arriving early at a triathlon is conducive to getting a better spot in transition, we decided to arrive at 7:30 and beat the crowd. This didn’t really prove particularly useful. We did get a good parking spot but we arrived so early.

My custom-crafted bib identifying me as a newb
After signing in, clinic participants were given a race bib and directed to a crafts table where an assortment of colorful markers and stickers awaited us. We then created our own unique bib that was to be attached to the front handlebars of our bike with colorful sparkly pipe cleaner dealies. . Actually this was a very cool idea, as it helped the coaches with names.  We had to put name, level and city/state. I drew a cartoon on Brenda’s bib of a bike rider crashing into a tree.  Some of the stickers were a little too GIRL POWAHish but I selected a nice “Wow”. It seemed safe and if nothing else, if for some reason my bike would be upside down, which meant I was probably injured, they would know I was a mom and maybe try harder to locate my family.

I will say one thing about this clinic, if you went away hungry it was your own fault. There was a pretty decent continental breakfast that included muffins, coffee, juice and yogurt parfaits.  We had already eaten breakfast but I grabbed a blueberry muffin and stashed it in the car for later. The coffee was waaaaayyyy better than the vending machine coffee at the lodge.

Another very cool feature of this clinic is that you don't actually have to own a mountain bike to participate --- you can get a loaner absolutely free of charge! Laura took advantage of this perk and landed this sweet Giant.

We learned that there would be 11 in our group, as another coach was combining his group with ours. After roll call we rode through the campground to a grassy slope where the clinic would be conducted.
The first order was a bike safety check.  It was a little embarrassing to learn that my brake cables needed adjusting and the headset needed tightening up. Coach Todd advised everyone to have their brakes moved inward a bit so that your index finger was just at the end of the brakes, thus affording more control.  On my bike this translated to about an inch.
We ride in circles oh yes we do!
We then mounted up and rode in a circle around the coaches to have our position on the bike assessed. I had guessed that we would hear a lot of “relax, relax…” but I don’t recall hearing that term used at all. We had to ride in the “Ready” position, which was basically butt off the saddle if you weren’t pedaling, elbows wide and lightly flexed, knees wide, eyes looking about 20 feet ahead. So what I heard most of the day was “elbows OUT, knees OUT!”
Then we dropped into the “Attack” pose, same thing just lower and further back. We rode in circles around the coaches, alternating Ready and Attack and being reminded to keep elbows and knees wide.I got really nervous every time I had to run this gauntlet. It felt a little like being on parade.

After that, the drills were something like: 

Scarecrow” or “Windshield Wiper” drill – Keeping arms nice and wide, practice guiding the bike by straightening one arm. It’s hard to explain but basically while hovering over the bike you were causing it to shift left or right.

 “Fore and Aft” – While hovering on the pedals, shift weight very far to the front. The goal was to actually touch the stem. Then rock waaaaay back, behind the saddle if possible. 

Stopping Drills. Various ways to stop the bike, which is a good and important aspect to mountain biking. The most dramatic was the sudden stop, where we coasted down the slight incline and then had to grab both front and back brake and come to an abrupt stop. The coaches were there to catch you if you started to fall over. 

The picnic table drill. Note that we did not
actually ride OVER the table
Ascending and descending – They put either your front or rear wheel on the bench of a picnic table and held your bike steady while you climbed aboard and then had to stand up and find your balance. 

Front Wheel Lift – “weighting” the front wheel by pressing down and then quickly popping back up. We had to try popping over some small cones. Actually when I say cones, I mean markers, as they were really only about an inch deep.  A couple of gals managed to smash the markers. 

 Rear Wheel Lift – I didn’t think this could be done since they took our clipless pedals away, but Suzanne demonstrated (while wearing flip flops) how to wrap your foot around the pedal and pop the real wheel off the ground.  I enjoyed this drill. It was the one drill I could actually execute pretty well.

The drills consumed the entire morning and then we broke for lunch. There were Subway sandwiches with chips, and oatmeal raisin cookies.  After lunch, there was a raffle (I won a hat, woot!) followed by something called The Naked Lady party where you could pick out gently used gear that clinic participants had donated. I hadn’t donated anything since my used stuff is usually pretty disgusting by the time I’m ready to get rid of it. Laura picked up a sweet Trek jersey that looked brand new.

A group picture was shot. You know how it is getting pics of large groups --- by the time this process was finished, lunch break was pushing two hours and we were ready to get back to riding.  Todd and Suzanne had decided that we should get out on the trails before the other groups to “beat the rush”.

With Todd leading, Suzanne in the middle and a couple of the EMT guys bringing up the rear, our group was funneled onto the Limekiln Trail, which is tagged as a Beginner Level.  The trail is pretty narrow and plunges you immediately into the woods. My definition of a beginner mtb trail does not include steep ravines at the trail’s edge but I guess they do things differently in Indiana. Here is a video of the trail that someone else made in 2009.

The actual trail riding was interesting. When we were just riding circles out in the grass and doing drills, everyone was pretty much all on the same level.  Now our group would split and reform periodically, with some riders falling back and others moving forward. On the 2.5 mile trail, we stopped four times to let everyone catch up and to listen to the coaches impart wisdom on various aspects of navigating singletrack.  Forward progress was quite slow.

Close to the tail end of the LimeKiln Trail, we came around a little bend  and were confronted with a log pile. It wasn’t a particularly difficult obstacle but everyone was tired and hot and dammit, we hadn’t covered log piles. One by one we bumped over the logs and then waited in a grassy field near a log cabin for the rest of the group.

It was a very long time before everyone was safely over the logs. I think a couple just threw in the towel and walked their bike over, rather than try to ride it out.

More drills.  We practiced riding in and out bright orange cones. Next was “ratcheting” where you work the pedals like a ratchet wrench rather than make complete circles. This was tough but fun. I’m still trying to figure out exactly where I would use this skill, as it seemed to be something that an advanced rider might need.

The last drill  was designed to teach very tight turns. The coaches used four cones to create a square shape that was maybe 8’ x 8’ and we had to kind of coast around this box, ratcheting the pedals when we needed more forward movement. I was absolutely horrific at this exercise, nearly toppling over at the slow speed. My bike is a 29er and this probably didn’t help.  Another gal on a Marlin had similar problems. It was like trying to maneuver an aircraft carrier down a creek.

The afternoon was done.  We were asked if we wanted to ride the trail back or take the paved road. A handful of riders were so wiped out that they opted for the road, the rest of us wanted to ride the trails.  This time Coach Suzanne led the charge, followed by Brenda, myself and the Marlin girl. I don’t know if she held back at all but we were flying on that trail and there was no stopping to wait for people.  You could get up enough speed that you didn’t have to pedal much. The inertia would carry you.

Our group at the end of the day. hot, tired but loving mountain biking.
Thanks to Kristen for snapping this pic!
This last little shot down the trail was definitely the highlight of the day.We reconvened at the parking lot, drove back to the cabin, taking another wrong turn in the process, got showered and went back for a cookout.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic - Part 1

As much as I love the idea of zooming through the woods on my mountain bike, the reality is that I don’t have a clue what I am doing. When registration for the 2012 MWMTBC opened up, I decided it was time to get some help.

Reindeer Mary had also signed up for the clinic but then wasn’t able to go. My BT buddy Laura signed up, so I knew there would be at least one person there to hang out with. Going  to the clinic alone would have been a little like dining out alone (at least for me) --- it would accomplish the mission but would  be kind of lonely and make me self conscious. At the last minute, my friend Brenda took Mary’s unused registration. This was perfect since we had done quite a bit of trail riding back in the fall.

The clinic is in Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana, about a five hour drive from home. There are about 3 different ways to get there. The quickest way was probably via Indianapolis and was mostly interstate, but this would have involved rush hour traffic around Indy. We opted to go through Decatur  via 36. Brenda’s TomTom GPS did not approve of this decision and kept trying to send us to Indianapolis. Then it had a change of heart and began to angrily insist that we turn around.
Abe Martin lodge
We eventually reached Brown County State Park, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to get to the Abe Martin Lodge, where I had booked a “rustic cabin”. Not trusting TomTom, I plugged the address into the iphone and it took us on a merry adventure down a private road that wound through thick forest, growing ever narrower before  culminating in a gravel path that plunged down a steep hill. OK, it was a ravine.  Complete with a No Trespassing sign. Clearly we were in the wrong place.  It didn’t seem logical to have a hotel in a place that could only be reached by mule or 4 wheeler.  

The lodge was down the NEXT road. A kindly forest ranger working the gate gave us directions and we found the lodge easily. It’s a pretty cool place.  You can either stay in the lodge, which is basically a hotel, or rent a small cabin. There are also larger cabins that could contain a big group.

The Rustic cabin - deceptively roomy

Interior of Rustic Cabin

First glimpse of the cabin would lead one to believe that it was quite spacious. Then we realized that the cabins are split into four sections and our room was off the back. I think the room measured something like 12’ x 12’. You had to climb up some steps to get there.  The room smelled kind of musty, not really in a bad way. It had that summer camp feel. The bathroom was small but very clean, and we had a small microwave, a coffee maker and a dorm size fridge. We had to do some rearranging of furniture to get the two bikes and luggage in, but it worked out just fine.

Laura's situation

Laura had arrived a bit earlier and had the fortune to share a cabin with a very large, very loud group of people. It was a big family reunion. There seemed to be a lot of that type of thing going on.

We decided to go to packet pickup. Laura climbed into the back of Brenda’s car and we drove over to the Rally Campground.  We took a wrong turn but eventually found our way there.  Laura tried to get out and discovered that she was locked in by the tricky child proof locks. Getting lost in the park and having Laura locked in the back would prove to be a theme for the weekend.

After packet pickup there was a Meet N Greet at 7. We hung out there for about an hour and met some cool ladies, then learned our coach assignments. Brenda and I were in the Beginner Group with Suzanne as a coach. Laura was in the Intro group, which as it turned out was pretty much the same as the Beginner level.

Tired after the long day of driving, we drove back to the lodge, getting lost again. Laura was still locked in the back and had to be set free. We hauled our coolers up to a patio at the main lodge and drank some wine and Summer Shandy. I had brought a bottle of Chardonnay and managed to destroy the lid with a corkscrew before realizing that it had a screw top.

The cabin had a small air conditioning unit and we had set it on Stun before leaving, mostly to get the musty smell out. It worked quite well.  You could have hung sides of beef in that cabin. The white noise from the a/c was soothing and I slept like a rock, except when I heard something scrambling up the exterior of the structure and running around on the roof.  For some reason I blamed the children at the family reunion next door.  Irrational, yes, but I was pretty tired and had been drinking a bit. Figured I was dreaming and slept like a log.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 20 - Gateway Olympic Triathlon

On May 20th, I participated in the Gateway Olympic Triathlon at Lake Carlyle, Illinois. I won’t be so bold as to say I raced it, that term is reserved for people who actually race, but I will call it a successful event.

 In 2011, this race was my first Olympic distance triathlon. I really had no idea know what to expect. I had done a handful of sprint distances and my training had been adequate.  The swim went fine although I got winded a few times and had to do take a few breaks to collect myself. Once out of the water, my heart rate skyrocketed and pretty much stayed stuck in overdrive for the duration of the event. This was aggravated by an asthma attack. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t entirely due to the pollen and exercise but more a factor of the hotel I stayed at. There was someone smoking in the room next to me (is that even legal in Illinois????) and I woke in the night feeling like I was being suffocated.  So breathing  was compromised from the beginning.  Oh, and it was hotter than hell.  I finished but the whole experience just kind of sucked and I was ready to hang it up.
So the goal for 2012 was to  keep the breathing under control, stay calm, and see if allergy/asthma meds could keep the airways open.  I drove down on Saturday with Reindeer Mary’s husband, Troy. This was to be his first Olympic distance triathlon.  We met up with Mike Ransick and tried  out the swim course, which had been changed up a bit. The water felt pretty good in my wetsuit although I saw a couple of people opting to swim without. Of course this set off a spiral of doubt in my mind --- should I just leave the wetsuit in the car? Will I overheat? Do I really need it?  Why didn't I bring a sleeveless?

In the end I opted to wear the wetsuit. The swim was great, I didn’t really need to stop and rest this time and my sighting was good.  Lake Carlyle is a very large lake, not very deep, and the water was murky but more of an emerald green than the silty brown you would normally see in Illinois. The course had been changed to more of a rectangle and you kept the buoys on your left. I did get clobbered pretty hard on the last stretch by a guy who was zig zagging.  I just could not seem to get out of his way. At the beach, I sat down in the shallow water and peeled out of the wetsuit, as I had done at Racine. Something about getting some water in the suit makes it easier to remove. Naturally my suit promptly got caught on the timing chip and this small delay added probably another minute to my swim time. Maybe more. But it was all good, I treated spectators to a comical display of how not to remove a wetsuit and then sheepishly trotted up the hill to transition.
Heart rate spiked a bit going into transition so I walked to my bike and just tried to keep things real. Took a hit of albuterol before setting out and made sure to take sips of water every mile. There are a couple of somewhat challenging hills on this course that seemed more manageable this year.  Over the winter, I spent some quality time on the trainer doing Sufferfest workouts, and I think this interval training paid off in easier hill climbing for me. 

The run was tough. I knew it would be hot and decided from the start that I would Gallowalk the whole thing. And I did.  This strategy paid off with a faster time than 2011. 

All in all I shaved just under 5 minutes off my 2011 time, but more importantly enjoyed the race.   

Post Race Meal – I grabbed a small sub sandwich and ate the meat and cheese, not really hungry enough for all of the bread. By the time our group was packed up, everyone was hungry. We stopped at Kahunas in Greenville for some serious cheeseburgers.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3 Ride

Went out with Steve for a ride this evening. Stopped at the Covered Bridge in Glenarm and got this shot of me with LaPina. Would not have attempted this with my mountain bike.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Enjoying the Moment

The 2012 triathlon season is now underway and my first race, the Sullivan Sprint, is behind me. This winter I spent a lot of time focusing on my swim and this was reflected in a two minute improvement over my 2010 effort. Funny how excited I got over two minutes.

My next race is the Gateway Olympic at Lake Carlyle, Illinois. But enough about racing. Sometimes in our quest to follow some ordained training schedule, it's easy to stop living in the moment and find pleasure in the simple act of exercise. I find that I get so wrapped up in getting the workout in, that I forget what this is all about, which is the pursuit of a hobby that I enjoy.

And so in the spirit of living in the moment, for the month of May I am going to find some small pleasant fact about each and every workout. And just maybe someday in the future, when training is no longer fun, I will come back here and reread these posts as a reminder.

May 1 - This morning I went for a run. There were quarter mile repeats included in this, which are never easy, nor should they be. Then a couple of miles in Zone 2. I jogged into the heart of Chatham down Route 4 and passed between McDonalds and Hardees. Even though it was just barely 5 a.m., the smells of hash browns wafting from the two fast food eateries was pure pleasure.

This evening I took my old Cannondale out for a spin. We have been having some serious thunderstorms and I had doubts about going very far from home, so I kept it close by following some small country roads that wound through the neighboring cornfields.

Central Illinois may lack hills and thick forests, but there's a certain lonely beauty to the vast farm fields. I had to stop and snap a pic.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rock N Roll St. Petersburg - First Race of 2012

OK, so I am behind on blogging. I started this race report back in February. The first race of the year was the inaugural Rock N Roll Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Florida in February. This was my annual Girls’ Trip to Florida. Normally we run the Gasparilla Half Marathon but felt that maybe we would go out on a limb and try something different. The last couple of months have been busy with family stuff, the weather in Illinois has been crap, and I hadn’t seen my running buddy Karen since Thanksgiving, so I was really looking forward to getting away, even if only for three days.

Half the Fun is Getting There

Rather than drive to St. Louis, we opted to try DirectAir out of Capital Airport in Springfield. There’s something appealing about simply parking your car and walking a few hundred yards to the terminal. It beats the hell out of driving 1 ½ hours on the interstate, parking in a desolate lot, hauling luggage to a shuttle, riding the shuttle with a bunch of other travelers to the terminal, spending half an hour going through security and then having to haul everything for what seems to be at least a mile to the gate.

It was bitter cold and a little icy when we got to the airport. Reindeer Mary rode with me and we snagged what was probably the last available parking spot at the airport. Froze our asses hauling our luggage up to the terminal. Stood in line for boarding passes. Stood in line through security. Stood in line for Subway sandwiches. Found our friend Penny, who was going to Florida to do some condo shopping.

The flight was delayed for unknown reasons so we were an hour late boarding. Based on what I have heard about this airline, that was probably some kind of record in efficiency. I had an aisle seat in the row in front of Reindeer Mary and two rows back from Penny. There were babies on the plane. 

Flying into Lakeland, the plane pitched and bucked through a thunderstorm. It was the first time I have ever been on a plane during a thunderstorm and it was not all that much fun. There was some pretty exciting lighting outside and driving rain. Karen was waiting for us in the lobby and we dashed through the downpour to her car. I noticed that it was really not very warm.
How Much to Park Here?
Saturday we drove over to the expo at the Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg. We had to pay $15 to park at the stadium, which was a bunch of crap because it was already an expensive race. Karen had to buy a $10 parking permit for race day as well. And then because the finish was some distance from the start, you also had to purchase a "shuttle pass" for $5 to get back to your car.
Expo was great, we killed a couple of hours there. I bought one of those hand-held water bottle thingeys and let Reindeer Mary and Karen talk me into parting with $65 for a Day-glo yellow Brooks sleeveless running vest. I will say that this was a great investment but didn't even have the Rock N Roll logo on it. I loved the zip-up pockets all over the thing.
Karen drove us all down to Pass-a Grill and we had lunch. It was unbelievably cold and windy at this point, way too cold to walk the beach. The only consolation was that it was colder back home in Illinois. I had a great grouper sandwich and a couple of margaritas. Things were getting off to a great start.
With temps predicted to be in the 30s for the start of the race, the topic of the evening was cobbling together a cold weather outfit from Karen's stash of winter running attire that she had hauled down to Florida. She found some of those little knit gloves and a pair of tights that I could borrow. Karen is 5'2" and I am 5'8", so capri length on Karen just barely covered my knees. Still it was better than nothing.
Reindeer Mary made skillet lasagna, which is basically lasagna made in a skillet on the stovetop. It tasted just like regular lasagna and was quite simple to make.
I slept on the couch in Karen's living room. There is a rather large picture window in this room and during the night I could hear the wind screaming and see the tree branches whipping back and forth. Things were not looking real promising weather wise.
Temps were in the 30s with a wind chill in the high 20s on race morning. We piled into Karen's PT Cruiser and drove over to St. Pete. Found a parking spot at the Tropicana and sat there in the dark watching the palm trees being lashed by the wind. Ugh...With 45 minutes to race start, we made two trips to the porta potties. Standing in line was brutal. It was just so f'ing cold.
The race went off without a hitch. It was early in the season so no way would this be a PR race, but a girl can always hope. I hung with Karen the first three miles but had to hit the porta potty AGAIN around the 5K mark. That added about 5 minutes to my time, so then I had the "oh well, it's just a training run" mentality.
The race course was beautiful and once the sun was up, the temps warmed SLIGHTLY. I found a good sized older gentleman to tuck in behind and kind of drafted off him for miles. With him blocking the cutting wind, I actually started to think I might be able to salvage this race.
Around mile 9 or 10 the course took you out onto the famous St. Petersburg pier. On a better day this would have been very cool but now it was just cold and windy and exposed to the ocean. And it was here that my big draft-buddy started fading. I went around him and at that exact moment he stubbed his foot on a plank and started to fall. There was a young woman on his right side and somehow both she and I caught hold of him and kind of turned him so that he at least fell onto his side and did not face plant.
Shaken, the man got up and we hung around for a few seconds to make sure he was all right. He thanked us profusely.  It was the least I could do after shamelessly using him as a human shield for miles.
My windbreak was gone and I was getting tired. I saw Karen at mile 11 on one of those out and back sections where you can see people who are running the opposite way. She was looking really strong and possibly geared for a PR. I was half frozen.
I jogged it in and finished in a most unimpressive 2:40.  Reindeer Mary and Karen found me and we got mylar blankets and went to go listen to Flo Rida, the feature band. Beer lines were long, tooooooo long, and even with the sun out, it was miserably cold.
We piled back in the PT Cruiser and hit McDonalds on the way back to Karen's. French fries are a great way to get some hot food and salt.
The rest of the weekend was pretty low key. Of course the day we flew back to Illinois, the weather improved and was up in the 70s in Florida.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cat Ear Crud

This is not the face of a contented cat. if you look closely you can see hands restraining BeeBee following a rigorous ear cleansing ritual at Coble Animal Hospital today that unearthed quite a cache of nasty ear goo and the makings of a yeast infection.

I knew there was something not quite right with her, she always ignores me but for the last two weeks it went a little beyond ignoring, it was more like she couldn't hear things. And she had that bewildered lost look of a creature that is disoriented and doesn't quite know what to do or where to go.

So it's ear drops for BeeBee for the next two weeks. Yeah me! Administering medicine of any kind to this cat usually requires creative restraint methods and then I worry she will kill me in my sleep.

On the training side, I am reading the Book "Call the Suit" by Sheila Taormina, an Olympic swimmer who conducts clinics around the world. I'm only into the first two chapters but already am excited by the fresh approach. I learned to swim in 2008 at a class at the Y taught by a good friend. It used Total Immersion as the basis and it got me from someone who couldn't swim 10 yards to a somewhat competent, if slow, freestyle swimmer. I've been at a plateau for about a year, never getting any faster despite trying to tweak my form. This book focuses more on the pull and the catch than on the position of the body, rotation, etc. so it will be a departure from my usual routine of trying to "swim downhill" and rotating from the core, etc.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kicking Diet Soda's Ass and the Possibility of Camping

I didn't make any New Years resolutions, at least nothing that is blogworthy. I did set a few goals about training, losing weight, blah blah blah. One thing I did decide to work on was kicking the Diet Pepsi habit. I love the stuff. It's not like I'm one of those people who drink it in lieu of coffee and late into the night, no, it's been a one-pepsi-a-day habit for years. Literally years.  It harkens back to the days of yore when I was a smoker and just generally lived an unhealthy lifestyle.

I'm not convinced that diet soda is really all that bad for you but on the other hand, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that it's not all that good for you either.

Here's a shot of me on December 31 swilling away at what hopefully will be my last Diet Pepsi. I'm trying to enjoy drinking plain water with a bit of lime. The dull headache that I predicted would hit me by the end of the first day never materialized.

On a more relevant topic, last night I signed up for the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic (here's their website) held in Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana, June 9-10. Unless I can talk another adventurous soul into signing up, I'll probably be hitting this one solo. And that's ok. It looks like a great get-away kind of weekend.

I struggled with what level to assign myself -- Intro, Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced. I'm probably somewhere between Beginner and Intermediate.  The criteria are as follows:

 Beginner Criteria
* You have been mountain biking for at least one (1) year. CHECK
* You have decent general riding skills and good fitness, but lack the ability and confidence to tackle terrain beyond a beginner level.CHECK
* You have a basic understanding of braking, shifting and steering and can handle riding smooth dirt paths with few rocks, roots and technical areas.CHECK
* You may be looking to improve your fitness and can only handle riding for a few hours before tiring.CHECK
Intermediate Criteria

* You have been mountain biking for over two (2) years and have solid intermediate-level skills. ...DEFINITELY NOT SOLID
* You are comfortable with almost all aspects of mountain biking and can handle more technical terrain with rocks, roots and small logs (up to 6"). MMMM, SMALL LOGS ARE OK...
* You have good control of your bike on intermediate to slightly more advanced trail and are comfortable climbing on non-technical singletrack. CHECK
* You are physically fit and can handle riding for several hours at a time. ...UH, ARE THERE BREAKS?
     ~ you must be able to perform a front and rear wheel lift as well as ride logs up to 6" in diameter   REAR WHEEL LIFT??????????? wtf????

Beginner it is. Maybe I'll learn to perform a rear wheel lift.  

Being in a state park, it is suggested and encouraged that clinic participants camp.  In tents. For those who absolutely must have their air conditioning, there are hotel options outside of the park. Let me go on record by stating that I hate tent camping with a passion. Oh sure, it's all fun while you're setting things up --- picking out the spot, fighting to erect the tent, inflating the air mattress.  Then reality sets in. If it's hot, it will be hotter in the tent. Sleeping on an air mattress is hardcore shit. At night it's freezing and if you have to make a bathroom run at 2 a.m., it's generally to a building lit by a large floodlight that has attracted every species of nocturnal insect ever documented. 

In the morning your stuff is all damp. The campfire that smelled so good last night has permeated everything you brought with woodsmoke and it reeks. It is damp and smelly. You are damp and smelly.  And when you are finished camping and tear down the tent, it goes into your car and makes the long drive home, stinking up your car with its damp smelliness.  So now your car stinks and there are probably slugs and other such things that hitched a ride on the tent.  

But there is some sort of fun around the campfire after the riding is done that is probably a big part of the culture of the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic. And I would hate to be the weenie who, at the end of the day, packed up my bike and just left without a bit of socializing.  

So maybe I will have to set my hatred of tent camping aside for this one event.