Thursday, March 13, 2014

Madera Stage Race And An Unforgettable Massage

I can’t be too upset with the first stage race of the year. I did the time trial on borrowed aero bars and my road bike but it wasn't my focus. I really wanted to win the crit and the road race. I had the fitness and the sprint going in, so it was just deploying a plan. Unfortunately not all race plans pan out, I took the 3rd spot in the crit sandwiched between the pros. Mistakes were made; I chose the wrong wheels and positioned poorly. Positioning is key in every aspect of road cycling along with confidence (kind of lacking in that department, but working on it.) I would say I was going for redemption in the road race but that would be an understatement. I was a one-women-wrecking-crew. I worked my but off, followed almost every move and attempted to bridge and pull back the threatening break. However there was a point in the race where worry had snuck in. The potential race-winning-break was getting quite a bit of daylight and the gap had reached well over a minute with 2 of the big teams represented (Tibco had 4 women in the race, Pinacle had 6-8.) I started to do some work on the front and tried to rally some of the other non-represented teams to work as well. No dice. No one wanted to work, there was a point in the race where a rider had told me “Let the pro leading in the GC bring it back.” At that point I knew that most of the riders were happy to watch the race unfold rather than play a roll. The leader wasn’t superwomen and if she did manage to pull the break back solo, the 2 stronger teams were lying in wait, ready to counter. I continued to work at a steady pace but not completely tapping myself. Riders appeared to be getting antsy, as soon as I slowed, attacks started to mount. I was able to follow the steady stream of attacks and counter-attacks that were bringing the overall speed way up. Before I knew it, the break’s lead was down to 30 seconds on the final loop. I had followed yet another attack and was suddenly passing the leaders of the break and splitting the field. The race turned out to be a bit of a spicy one with fire works going off into the last possible moments. The finish was up a roller of a hill and I knew it was my kind of sprint. I sprinted a little early for my taste but held my lead. I won by a large gap in “sprinting” terms. It felt good but even at the end I wasn’t confident, I kept scanning my mind for an error, like maybe a I had missed someone attack. I wasn’t confident in my win despite how obvious it was. I didn’t have the confidence to put my hands in the air! Like I said I’m working on it. Next time I’ll be throwing those mits up! You can check out the photos leading into the finish. I may not look super enthused in the photos but believe me I am! My first win of the year and hopefully not my last.

Final Sprint Photos!

Now as fun as it is writing a race report, what happened before the race is more of an interesting read. My massage. A couple days before the race, I looked up Sebastopol massage therapists. I did some research and found what seemed to be a respectable person with a lot of experience in the yellowpages and included was a link to his blog which also seemed fairly legitimate. Little did I know.
As I pulled up to the address listed, it appeared to be a run down duplex on a lot that has never seen a lawn mower or gardening tool since it was constructed. I was weary as I walked down the little path to an unmarked door with no inkling of business orientation to be seen. I discarded the horror films and murder shows that were far too prominent in my mind and knocked on the door. I mean really, everyone knew where I was, the massage person’s info was all over my computer, he would have to be a real tool to chop me up into little bits. The man greeted me with his curly receding mullet, aviator style reading glasses and diamond stud earring. Again I was weary but I entered the old never-renovated home, with 50+year old rugs and furniture and took a seat. We sat and chatted for about 15 minutes and at that point I could tell he was eccentric but harmless. I couldn’t tell how old he was but I had guessed a lot younger than he would soon make me aware.
As he pulled back the brown, previously orange, corduroy curtain he revealed his massage table and set-up. In my mind I wiped the sweat from my forehead, thinking, at least there was a legit table. The room on the surface was relatively clean but it was clear that the place had never been deep cleaned. There were cobb webs caked into the heat register and in ever corner. It was an OCD persons nightmare.
As I laid down, I looked to my left and was pleased to see he had gone out of his way to post a sheet of paper displaying the natural oils he used. No chemicals, no doubt.
We got on in conversation and I pushed to hear his life story. I felt more at ease with a steady flow of conversation. He explained how he got into massage in 1963 working in a commune in Santa Cruz. I would describe it as an art retreat. He studied art and music in Uni and his niche on the commune was in clay art and apparently at the end of the day he dabbled in massage and found he had a talent for it. Crazy friggen hippies!
He then goes on to tell me another life story. He used to ride a bike but those days ended after he was hit by a car. Now this story left me jaw-dropped. Like many accidents involving vehicles and bikes, the driver was making a left turn and didn’t see him. He described the whole thing in slow motion; he saw the wreck coming, in preparation he breaked, putting the majority of the weight on his front wheel. The car hit him from behind, spun him around one and a half times and he managed to stay up-right.  His rear wheel was destroyed but he was pretty much unscathed except for maybe his nerves. In the end being the trusting person he was, gave the driver his card and information. Of course, the driver never contacted him, but the story gets better. One night he goes to a party, in amongst the crowd he spots the driver who hit him on a couple months prior. From across the room he yells “You! You’re the one who hit me on my bike!” this statement silences the room. The driver starts apologizing saying he lost his card, yada yada yada. At that point everyone knew the driver was a dink and he ended up fixing the bike he had broken. My massage guy was so proud.  Now that’s a tale of karma if I’ve ever heard one. He went on to tell me about an organic farm he started up 30 years ago, a psychic group he joined and spoiled, a wife he had divorced 50 years ago, but ended up moving in right next door, his garden of goodies that some BC’ers would be proud of and his interests in singing and watching opera and dance. He was enjoying his life without too many superficial needs, living happily and simply. He was a true believer in quality rather than quantity.
While he was going on about his life and his accomplishments, I noticed that his hands were a bit shaky. Kind of like an old person. I couldn’t help but ask how old he was and found out that he would be 80 this year! WTF mate? Holy moly, he was an old guy! He fooled me. At that point I had to stop giving him a hard time in my head. What 80 year old wants to clean anyway?
It’s kind of crazy the people you’ll meet along the way. I could have turned back but I’m glad I didn’t. He was a crazy character with 80 years worth memories and stories and I was able to hear just a small percentage of his wild history.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"From the way I see things, she was basically telling me not to race my bike."

From the way I see things, she was basically telling me not to race my bike. I’ll explain.
This past weekend was the Snelling road race. The race was aggressive from the start with numerous attacks and small gaps. It being my first road race of the year I was eager to race and make it hard on myself and I did just that. I found myself in every threatening move and eventually made it into the winning break of 8 riders. We all worked to initiate the break and at that point I knew I had to back off. I was cramping and if you’ve never experienced such a thing, just imagine being kicked really hard in the leg. The difference with cramping is that the feeling could last for minutes and could easily be repeated. I was trying to avoid ones that last for minutes because if that happens, there is a no-pedal-policy and your body strictly enforces it.
Anyway, I knew I was going to have to do less work in the break, recover and stave off the cramps, if I was going to be in the mix at the end. I played it smart and skipped the odd pull. I also knew that the one pro on Colavita was a World class Time Trialist aka: Super-fast-solo-effort kind of rider, and was half expecting her to try and break away, but she didn’t. Instead she focused her energy on yelling at me to pull through and work. She barked out orders like “If you want to be here, you better work!”  Let me remind you, the break was already long gone, never to be caught by the field. At that point the race was between us, the leading 8 riders. I never said much but I did tell the pro this “You can bully me to work all you want but I’m doing what I can. I’m cramping and that’s that.” Approaching the last 15ks of the race, she then went on to tell me, “You’re not allowed to sprint!” bahhh haaaa! I was actually in so much shock, I had no response. In my mind, she was telling me not to race and that she really didn’t want to race her bike either. Instead of her attacking or trying to get away, she insisted on convincing me not to race my bike and to pull out now.  
The worst part about the whole thing is that she is a “pro” as in a “professional.” She leads by example. Other riders in the break truly believed that they should do as they’re told, work until they have nothing left and never even attempt to win. WIN! It’s a race for goodness sake!

In the end, the pro went early and I hesitated. I hesitated because I could feel my legs wanting to go into a full blown seize. I followed a couple others and surprised myself, I blew by them, caught 2nd and before I knew it I was closing in on the first rider. It was so close I had to throw my bike. She got me by a hand.

As nice as a podium spot between 2 pros is, I wanted to win so badly. It was hard to keep my composure but I feel that it has just added fuel to my fire.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

3 blind mice…3 blind mice…living with a rat?

Now, like most of you know from my previous blog, we bought a little green farmhouse. Along with the house we bought a mouse problem and were soon to find out, a rat problem was well.

Before I get started I want to share an experience the Routleys are all fond of. A few years ago when we lived in Squamish, we baby-sat a friend’s pet rat, Perseus. He was a great little pet, we left his cage open and he would come and go as he pleased. He was litter trained and had great manners. He would even come out and sit on our laps, just like a cat. Smart little fellow. This experience started our affinity to rats.
As you read on, you may think us heartless but a wild rat is a completely different beast.

 It began the very eve of our return from Mexico. Will gracefully carried me over the threshold (I imagined this bit) to our old, partially renovated house. As we looked around, all seemed well, the holes by the stove and dishwasher were still there, the soft spot in the corner of our bedroom, still there. All was how we left it, except for the suspicious box of granola bars in the entry…Within that very box we discovered 2 empty granola bar packs and a half empty pack, including chewed holes as entry points. The little devil (we were thinking a mouse) had chewed an area of the package and crawled in, to eat the rest. Clever little guy, gotta stay warm while you eat dinner… lunch … breakfast …secondsies and so on.
We found this kind of humorous but even more so was the little area Mr. Mouse had settled. The granola bars were on top of our booties and outdoor riding gear and within there hid Mr. Mouse, nestled under a booty. It was a cozy little joint if I do say so myself. He even gathered some lint from the washing room to make himself more comfortable. It was hilarious! The plush booties weren’t enough for this little guy?! Comfort must be a top priority for mice. 
We had read that mice nest as close to their food source as possible. I think Mr. Mouse lucked out on that location.
Now mice, as destructive as they can be, are by no means scary. To some I suppose but not me. I grew up with mice. We would find a trophy mouse head from one of our cats or there would be a mouse crawling up our living room curtains to escape that cruel outcome. Wait, come to think of it, my mom was afraid of mice. Just like in the movies, she would be the one on the chair in the corner screaming something along the lines of “a mouse! (insert incoherent jibber/screeching) over there!” It’s hard to believe that a women who grew up watching pythons eat her chickens, could be so afraid of mice. I guess mice can be terrifying?  I should get to the point. What I’m trying to say is that mice are nothing, when you’re comparing them to rats. Now before I go into details about our rat issue, we had been doing some research. The differences between rats and mice; where the live, how to catch them etc. And we discovered they are quite different. Mice are rather curious (they check out new things, like traps) and rats are very cautious (they avoid new things aka. trap dodgers.) Rats and mice will not occupy the same area and the scent of a rat will repel mice and actually stop their reproductive nature, apparently. Reading through these facts we were somewhat relieved but couldn’t shake the thought that we might have both mice and rats under one roof.
After a couple of nights, sleeping in the house, we started to hear grinding and biting noises in our closet. The sounds were NOT faint little scratches. I couldn’t sleep. It was like something was building a bloody village in our closet! 
We set up mousetraps all over the house, hoping it was in fact a mouse. We caught 2 mice prior so it was a distinct possibility, but after the “mouse” had flipped 7 traps, we were at a loss. As we researched more, we realized that this was a smart and “cautious” rodent. We were worried. A rat infestation! Just imagine. The house was hardly big enough for us!
We prepared for the worst and bought rattraps. And have you ever seen one of those things? They’re humongous. Just setting them up is dangerous, they could easily break multiple bones in your hand.
Despite our efforts, the rattraps never actually trapped a rat. Now, I wasn’t home to experience the next set of events but I have first hand knowledge.
Will and his parents were busy renovating and the like, when they heard a trap go off in our stairwell. Will slowly opened the door to the stairs and there it was, the big-noisy-ass-rat, starring up at him! He assumed Mr. Rat must have flipped a mousetrap and was stunned because it just kept starring, in what must have been shock. Will went with his gut instinct and bent down to pick-up the 2x4 chunk of wood on the floor. Not truly thinking he could hit the rat, WHAMO! He nailed it! The rat sort of ran/fell down the stairs to his feet and he wacked it again.
One dead rat.
At least it was quick and relatively pain free. Will assured me Mr. Rat was dead on the first whack but that it was a reaction to hit him again. Will’s mom watched the entire show and was more than slightly traumatized. I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it.
But, I’m also glad I no longer have to worry about a giant rat crawling out from under my closet door and biting my nose off. Have you read stories about rats in the trenches during WW1?

Monday, February 10, 2014

"One day there were three tomatoes walking down the street, a mama tomato, a daddy tomato and a baby tomato. Baby tomato is walking too slowly, so the daddy tomato goes back, steps on him and says 'ketchup!' "

Time to Catch Up.

I’m not “living the dream,” I’m “living my dream.” And even then, I never could have dreamt up this life. 

I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent before I dive into the macro details of the past year. I’ll stray for a while but I’ll get back on track, just bare with me. Now I can't go on about how I’m living “the” dream because how can I say that really? It seems to be the saying of choice amongst elite cyclists. It suggests that it’s the ideal dream and everyone’s dream, which is not always the case. Initially when I first started hearing “living the dream,” before it became #livingthedream, it wasn’t mentioned in such a literal context. My friends would make the comment as an off-the-cuff quip. Let me indulge you… 
Me: Sitting back watching the commotion while trying to put in my 8th hour of study time for my anatomy midterms.
Roomate Ricky: What’cha doin Will?
Husband Will: Hunched in the rain, covered in mud with a water hose, “Washing bikes! What are you doing Ricky?”
Roomate Ricky:  Slumming it in old sweats, a thick insulated plaid shirt and chunky rubber boots, “Just going out to clean up some chicken poop.”
All together now:  “Living the dream.”

The whole scenario screams, “This is the life we chose!” 
It’s not all glamour but it’s life and it is my life. And it may not be for everyone. This bike racing dream includes: traveling all the time, never living in one place for too long, never really feeling settled, pushing one’s body to the limit, rain or shine, and by times, racing in innerving, adrenal tapping circumstances, for prolonged periods.  I’m not complaining but like I said before, it’s not for everyone.

Okay, back on track! Starting in January 2013, I flew to Europe for a 7-month trip. It started with a couple days in Belgium, and then a quick Ryan Air flight to Girona, Spain for a 5-week training stint then back to Belgium. However this little training stint gave me a not so little injury. I was injured for over 2 months and it was definitely challenging. Not being able to train or race made me feel trapped. Trapped in an area where I knew no one and couldn't do what I came there to do. So in the midst of my self wallowing I had to build the motivation to enjoy this forced time off. Luckily, I knew that my in-laws were flying over to visit us and that meant I needed to pick the cat up off my lap and stop eating so much speculose and chocolate!
They arrived to our tiny town of Beselare, Belgium, where we were stationed. We were renting a farm house in an area rich in war history and they loved it. I on the other hand was blown out on the tiny town and needed a distraction.
So we started planning trips. First, we took the train to Paris on the hunt for the best macaroons. We toured around snowy and rainy Belgium, checking out numerous war memorials and testing the delightful Belgian brews. We toured around Italy to watch Will ride bikes fast, and to discover the long-ago discovered floating city known as Venice. Although I enjoyed being distracted, I had to keep telling myself that in the grand scheme of things, a couple months was nothing and to live in the moment.
Eventually I was able to ride again. With a late start to my season, I got back on the program. I trained and raced though April and May in time to return home for nationals and the rest of my season with my Vancouver based team, Trek Red Truck. It turned out to be a good season despite the earlier setbacks. Later that summer I was a selected to do a National team project funded by sport Canada in Belgium and in Nice France. It was a great experience and has motivated me to get selected for more projects this year and keep pushing myself. That’s why I keep doing it! Because I keep seeing steady improvements! Cycling is a tough sport, both physically and mentally. It can be difficult to overcome injuries and lulls in racing, but if you can, you’re bound to come out with more success. That’s at least how I’m looking at it.

Aside from biking, I’ve been checking things off the bucket list of life. This past fall I was organizing our wedding in Mexico and in the middle of all that, we were casually checking out the housing market with no real intention to buy. But, isn’t that how it always works? In October we signed the papers to buy a small 2 acre farm in Abbotsford. REAL GROWN UP STUFF! This was no easy task. We didn’t just buy a nice little newly renovated home. No sir not me. It was a 70 year old, sea-foam green abode, and of course it looked and sounded like it was in much better condition than reality would hold true. We luckily had our worker bees (aka: Will’s parents) who have done many renos on homes in the past, and have a wealth of experience in all-things-to-do-with old run-down places. I won’t go into too much detail but with a full interior renovation as well as a roof to fix, all of our time was being focused on this little marshmallow colored house. This is when I would insert the phrase “living the dream.”

In the middle of these fall/winter renovations we got married! And it was amazing! I picked up my self-designed wedding dress on our way to the airport, trying to keep the stress as low as possible (where is the sarcasm font?) We rented a 15 bedroom, seaside villa, placed in a recluse area, where we hosted the wedding ceremony and reception as well as stayed for 5 nights. It surpassed our expectations in every way, from the staff to the magnificent ocean views. It was such a diverse group of guests but everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. On the wedding night a group of the guys decided to go skinny dipping in the center-stages pool and instead of parents and grandparents averting their eyes, Will's nanny (british for nanny) was thoroughly enjoying the view! That just gives you a little sense as to what the entire trip was like. It was so much fun but if I were to make one recommendation, it would be to spread out the 2 life events (house purchase and wedding) over a year rather than a month if possible.

It’s hard to place a year of happenings on 2 pages but there you go. That’s it for the re-cap.

Mexican Wedding
Beautiful Girona, Spain


Italian follow car for  Coppi Bartali. 

This is Sweet Cat Lobelia

National Team Cappuccinos in Belgium 
Our typical table setting in Girona

Famous Belgian Frittes
Too much famous Belgian chocolate

Friday, September 13, 2013

Not your typical race report...

So I haven’t written a good blog in a while but good things come to those who wait, am I right?
So this trip was on of those trips that people hate to hear about. I know this because, when you and the group you went with start to indulge in some good memories, it ends up being one giant inside joke. It’s not necessarily meant to be kept “inside,” but when you say one word and everyone is in stitches, well, you know how it is.
This trip was full of laughter and fun and plenty of material for inside jokes. Now you say, well if course it was! But, it’s not very often that you bring together 4-5 women who don’t really know each other, with headstrong, competitive, type-A personalities and have zero personality clashes and drama! I had so much fun with every single girl on the trip.
Sarah Coney was my roommate for 3.5 weeks. We were in rooms where the beds were so close you can go to sleep holding hands! I think we must be kindred spirits, I’m not even sure what that means, but if I were to define it, it would go something like “A person that you don’t want to strangle when they have been in your personal bubble for more than a week.”  I think the Webster’s dictionary should add it in.
There were so many little things that made this trip great.  We stayed in a place called Tielt-Winge AKA: Tingy Wingy. A small town in Belgium with a grocery store and a bakery. Now put 8 cyclists there and what do you get? A grocery store that  just doubled their daily sales rate.  In between races we trained together, shopped together, ate together and whatever else you do during the day, together.  That being said, shopping and eating took up a large part of the day.  The life of a cyclist only made better with good friends.
Now for the blog at hand, the euro trip.  We started it off with the Lotto Belisol Tour. We arrived for the team presentation being the only team in full on kit. We had to laugh, a nube mistake. We than made our way to the dorm style/prison style living with plastic bedcovers and toigt little bunk beds. Always good the be reassured that no one will know if you have a bit of an accident in the night.
I’m not going dive into the race report too much, but it was pretty funny doing the triple-T. When the DS has to confirm whether the long-car-honk means stop or go, that pretty much sums up how it went. We had our fair share of mistakes but we looked fast and felt fast so we had checked off 2/3. We went into the race nerves a bounding and got through with a couple flats, minor crashes, and just a couple explosions up the “muur van geraardsbergen,,” to give you an idea, I kept thinking “Where is my climbing harness and chalk?” A 20% grade up rough cobbles feels like 30%. Enough said. 
Now for beautiful southern France. Leading up to the French games we enjoyed beautiful sunshine and humid air. We went to bed stretched out, star-fish style, sweating through our bed sheets. We all thought, great, acclimation, good prep for the hot race to be. I’m just putting it out there but it was probably the worst day on record in Nice for that time of year!  It just poured. I’ve never been so wet during a race or even a ride for that matter.  We were riding through rivers and so were the motor bikes beside us, just perpetuating the wetness. A whole lot of wetness going down. Li-ter-all-y ! Half the women’s field crashed! It was a little slippery to say the least but despite the rain and the chaos, it was in a beautiful setting. So that was racing in Nice, with an abundance of “expect the unexpected.” It’s a good life moto to have. To round out our trip we decided to forget the horrors of the day and go out on the town. A send off if you will, we went out eating and dancing with some locals and arrived back at the Games residence in time for an hour nap followed by the long flight home. It was a memorable trip and hopefully not the last. 
Lotto Belisol Team Presentation "nube mistake".... but we looked goooooood.

Our slogan for the month the kit is "better from behind"

Last night in Nice!

8 Cyclist in Tingy-Wingy

Best group of girls I could ask for

Team Time Trial---Triple-T