Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Broken Wrist Update

Yesterday my life got momentarily awful, like an impending storm the morning before a super-technical criterium, then all of the sudden brightened like a sky that miraculously clears up just before said criterium's start time. You see, my father is part of this thing called a family business. It has to do with agriculture and real estate in California. So, as a result of the family business-ness I fall under the umbrella of my family's California agriculture-workers' insurance plan. As there aren't many lemon farmers outside of California in this here wonderful nation, the insurance coverage gets more and more spotty the further away you get from the Pacific Ocean. Finding a doctor that will take my insurance in New York is about as fun as racing Grant's Tomb last year (it isn't). So the first two hours of my day yesterday were spent making call after call, looking for someone who 1) would admit to accepting my insurance, 2) was actually working on the week of Thanksgiving, and 3) could see me on Monday or Tuesday.

After two hours of dealing with disgruntled employees of various health services providers, I finally found a doctor who would see me - and better yet one that was right across the street. So I went. And I waited. And I waited. And I bemoaned the annoying mega-wrap splint that was put on my arm in the emergency room and had subsequently cut off almost all of the circulation to my right hand (but was just shy of being severe enough to risk taking off the splint). Finally, after a million phone calls to my dad needing his social to get them to accept my insurance, and a walk to the ATM because they don't accept credit card copays, I finally got in to see someone. Who promtly sent me down 6 floors to radiology for x-rays. A half hour later I was back in the waiting room. The amazing P.A. somehow took pity on me and beckoned me into a room as soon as I walked in the door. She took of the splint, poked my hand until I winced, and sent me right back downstairs. They needed more x-rays of different angles. 

By this time it was about noon. The people in radiology were doing what I am usually doing at noon: eating lunch. But instead of telling people, they just ate and let us wait. I spent the better part of the hour playing with my unsplinted hand and trying to remember how to move it. Two days without moving your thumb is apparently enough to forget how it works. Finally, oh finally, I got in for another x-ray after the same nice P.A. called down to radiology worried that I had yet to reemerge. 

I went back upstairs. I was directed to the doctor's office. Not his waiting room, not an exam room, but his actual office, where I was pleased to find my x-rays sitting on a screen. He came in. He looked at them. He poked my hand. The PA came in and they discussed. He muttered about how terrible the x-ray tech was at her job. Finally, he told me that I needed more radiology: this time an MRI. He showed me a skeleton hand and pointed out the small bone between the thumb and the wrist that protrudes slightly. This, he said, is what he thinks is broken. But he needs an MRI to be sure. He had the P.A. get me a brace. A wrist brace! It was small and dainty and when they slipped it on I could actually maneuver all five digits. All of the sudden I had twice the mobility that I had with the splint and thought I might actually be able to type (hello, interwebs!). I felt like Wormtail when Voldemort gives him the magic hand, except for the whole evil thing.

Come back and see me next week after the MRI, the doctor said. I literally skipped out of his office. Well, walked with a lighter step, and headed straight for the Wafels and Dinges truck parked on 114th and Broadway. But that's a different story.

My Chamois Butt'r and I will still probably be grinding away on the trainer for three weeks or so. What a stupid, stupid, stupid rock that my hand landed on. Whatever. Have I mentioned I still got a medal?

AND POINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNTS. Sometimes I love being a girl.

The moral of this story is that when you race your bike you shouldn't fall, because sometimes a 40 minute race turns into 10 hours of ER and doctors' waiting rooms. Ooops.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why I love 'cross

You can break your hand on lap one and just run with your bike until someone finishes. Then you get points, and in this case, a medal.

Let this be a lesson to all: DFL>DNF.

More updates when I figure out how to type with this thing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer Update

The hiatus is over and summer racing is in full swing! On the agenda in the next couple of weeks is the Harlem crit (June 20) and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic stage race (July 2-5). Be on the lookout for race reports and other colorful updates, coming soon!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Columbia Cycling presents...Easterns Bingo!

Epic fail! I'm sure other people had something a bit different, but even though I cheated and gave myself credit for things I should maybe only get half credit for (I definitely saw a guy in cutoffs, but was he from UVM? I have no idea; also, it didn't rain until we hit Connecticut on the way home), I still missed out on bingo! If only someone had drawn blood... But this does give a good idea of what you may have missed at Easterns. If anyone else from the team has anything to add, let me know, we may get to bingo yet.

*Please note that inappropriateness has been blacked out to protect names and reputations - mostly mine.

- Shane

Monday, March 22, 2010

The slinky race

I realized today that I don't really have a pain face. I had never thought about it until I mentioned that today was the hardest race I've ever done. And someone said, "Really? It didn't look like you were hurting that bad." It upset me for a minute. I thought about it. And I realized that I've been trained since I was three years old to perform stoically: to seem serene even though you are breathing heavy and close to vomiting. Roller skating is a pretty-type sport. A lot closer to dancing than to bike racing. You put on a face, you perform, you leave your emotions (and your grimaces) in the pit with your coach.

On top of this, I'm not a vomiter. I didn't (I'm told) vomit as a baby. In my memory, I can only think of two times it's happened: after a bad chimichanga at the Rio hotel/casino in Vegas, and after an accidental overdose of acetaminophen after having my wisdom teeth out. If I was a vomiter, today would have been a vomiting day. Instead I've been stuck with this low grade stomachache that persisted for roughly 6 hours after the end of my race.  

But that being said, I don't think I've ever been more happy with a bike race result. Of the 40 minutes we were racing today, I was dangling off the back, yo-yoing between on and off, for roughly 35. But not only did I finish with the pack, I was genuine, coming-across-the-line-somewhere-towards-the-middle-of-the-group pack fodder. Considering I got dropped during both Rutgers races, sat in a van fixing people's problems during Grant's Tomb, skipped Stevens, DFL'ed* during the circuit race yesterday, and spent the grand majority of today's crit thinking I was mere seconds from from popping off and being pulled, I'm ecstatic. 

Today was really a show of who has been doing their top-end and jump intervals. And who has handling skills. There seemed to me to be three groups in the pack: the first third was simply plain stronger than everyone else, or had a good mix of strength, pop, and handling skills; the second third had the pop to jump after each turn and catch back on the pack; the last group had fantastic skills, but not so much pop. There were a few of us who were having trouble getting back to the pack on each turn, but going through the turns without hitting the breaks caught us back up every half lap or so. Then, invariably, we would come to turns 2-4, and the middle group would hit the breaks (hard), sending us back 30 feet and we would once again have to pop and sprint in order to hang on. Back and forth, like a yo-yo. Or a slinky.

I remember looking up at the lap cards when 12 to go was showing and thinking that I might last another lap. Maybe two. But somehow, I worked through it. I finally caught a break when there was a crash just before turn 6. I had to skid to avoid it, and thought I had been gapped permanently, but ended up getting a lucky break and the pack decided to take a half-lap rest. Since I had momentum coming up to them, and knew there were only two or so laps to go, I just kept going, and tucked in right towards the front of the pack. I am not sure those girls have ever seen me before. My intention was to help my teammate up there if I could, but it took roughly 10 seconds for me to realize that it probably wasn't going to happen. I just hung on to strong wheels for dear life and glided in for a well-deserved 18th.

*DFL = Dead Fucking Last, a position I cherish in hilly races, considering DFL > DNF (did not finish)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why I love Triple Ts

About halfway through last season, I realized that TTTs are my reason for living. Well, TTTs are at least my reason for bike racing. In anticipation of the first TTT of the season, I decided to share with the ECCC blogosphere why I love them so much.

1. TTTs operate within a controlled environment. Ok, I know the environment isn’t totally controlled. Last year at Philly we got rained on, Shane got a flat, and then a flock of geese slowed our TTT to a clipping-out halt. When I say, “controlled,” I mean that in general, there are no surprises. I know what to expect from each of my teammates in terms of speed and length of pull, how their elbows look when they wave me forward to take my pull, what their complimenting voices will sound like when I peel off the front (“good pull, Liz!” or the ever-famous “you got it, girl!”), who will take us down hill fastest, and who can lead us uphill the fastest. With all the uncertainty in bike racing, especially when one is still fairly new to the sport and is still going through the “ZOMGWTF” stage, TTTs provide the most controlled environment a bike racer can ask for.

2. Nobility. Glory. As the weakest rider in the Columbia WB quad last year, I grew to appreciate what it is to be a noble teammate and go down in glory. There something totally awesome about wasting yourself for your teammates only to have them leave you behind on the course. Last season, this moment usually came about 3/4s into the TTT. Inevitably one teammate would propose that we “pick it up a bit.” At that point, I would take my final pull, peel off, and say, “go on without me.” It’s pretty glorious to drain your tank for your teammates.

3. Team work. This one sort of goes without saying since the word “team” is in the title, “team time trial.” But, I love the teamwork involved in a TTT. As someone who is no stranger to a reverse breakaway, it’s not often that I get to work with my teammates in a mass start race. Hopefully this season I’ll be able to break out some bad-ass team moves. Until then, the best time I get to work with my teammates is in a TTT. It may sound cheesy, but being part of a team is probably half the reason I’m into cycling (the other half is because I like to measure the circumference of my calves as my legs get stronger).

4. It’s fun to win. Last year, the Columbia WB squad took fourth place at Philly, fourth place at Army, and first place at X-Pot. Taking fourth place was pretty cool, but taking first place was really cool. Seeing the four of us lined up in the Velocity Results photo was too fun. I think that little photo is motivation enough for us to kick some ass this year. So watch out WBs, the Columbia Killer Bs are back! And we’ve got a pretty fierce group of women this year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wheelin' Around

After running around frantically for two days getting permits from 548386930458943 city agencies, plus the torrential downpour this weekend, coupled with a 5 day visit from mumsie dearest (I don't actually call her that if you were wondering), I haven't been on my bike much since the middle of last week. I don't think 15 minutes on the rollers on Monday counts. So today I really needed a hard workout. Short, fast, the kind that are perfect to do in Central Park in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday.

Except not. I forgot a little detail: today is the most drunken day of the year in NYC. And I happened to plan my ride right in the middle of the green zone, as the parade was making it's way along 5th Ave. While I didn't see any dishy men in skirts, I did see plenty of drunk, fat tourists walking in the middle of my lane. Not the normal type of walking in my lane where they are just oblivious to all other types of traffic, but blatant, I am drunk and I just want you to fall off of your bike-type of walking in my lane.

So, instead of waiting for my head to explode, I called it quits on the park loops and did Harlem Hill repeats for 45 minutes. Ouch.

You would think that I would have learned my lesson. Almost. But not exactly. My next task of the day was to go pick up something at Rob's down on 23rd St. The worst thing about going to Rob's is the walk. The easiest subway is the R-W. Which stops at 23rd and 5th. One then has to walk all the way past 2nd. It doesn't seem like it would be that long. But it's half the island, and takes about 15 minutes. So today, I decided to bring my skates. While riding in the park (where I get all of my brilliant ideas), I decided that it was beautiful outside and I should take my skates for a spin, since there was no way I was getting my bike down to 23rd St with all of the parade traffic. And what better way to break them out than to get from 5th to 2nd aves? Right? Wrong.

To be fair, I did get there in roughly half of the time it would have taken me to walk. But I forgot a few things about my trusty Carerras in the year or so that I have let them languish under my bed. One, they don't have any toe stops. Second, they still have figure skating wheels on them. Which are super hard and made for doing things like this (me) or this (not me) on an indoor, sealed hardwood floor, but not made for skating over pavement. Not to mention, they are $150 skates. Meaning they don't fit that well and the cushions on the plates are crap.

This story is getting a bit long, but let's just say that 15 years of roller skating is the only way that I made it through the throngs of drunkards and uneven cement on 5 blocks of 23rd Street alive. Nothing is easy in New York. That being said, now I know that all I need is some outside wheels and decent toe stops to make the crosstown bus a thing of the past.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I thought I was the man, and then I moved up a category

In the first bike race of my life I got third place. And it wasn’t even that hard for me. I mean, I only got third because I forgot to sprint in the big ring. So I thought I was the man. But that, as Jet Li might say, was a mistake. Because I was about to get served. After “conquering” the D category—I’m sure the Romans defined conquering differently than doing well in one event—, I decided to cat up to C, where, I thought, I’d find some riders my own size to pick on. That’s funny because after two C races, I don’t feel like the man anymore. Actually, I feel more like a small boy. A small, quadriceps-deficient boy.

In both C races, I hung on—barely—to finish in the bottom half of the pack. I really shouldn’t have thought it would go any differently. It’s not like there’s some other, better league for collegiate cyclists in the Northeast, and the ECCC is where the scrubs compete: if you race bikes at the collegiate level, you compete in the ECCC. So naturally, the competition should be good, and it is. Which is great. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It should be hard to just hang on. That way, you're forced to race a smart race, because it is going to come down to who has five percent left for the sprint, and who doesn’t. This is something I’m learning, the hard way—I did not have close to five percent left for the sprint. Is it possible to have a negative percent left…?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Our new motto

Columbia Cycling: we put on races in hurricanes.

Despite the awful weather, we had a steady turnout of riders throughout the day. I and all the others that were sitting in the registration van watching (decidedly NOT racing) were very impressed. Being from California, I feel that there is but one phrase to describe today's events: gnarly dude.

It's time for me to get warm.

- Shane

Monday, March 8, 2010

Racing season went off with a bang this weekend as we all (some) headed down to the dirty Jerz for a weekend of Rutgers racing. I didn't go into the weekend with very high expectations. You see, I spent the better part of the last six months here:

Despite the fact that this one little race called the Tour de France ends roughly 2 km from this very spot annually, Paris is not very conducive to riding a bike. Especially when you live with a host family that isn't excited about your dirty bike being brought into their house. So I went to Paris sans velo. I felt naked.

To make matters worse, they have these crappy little bikes called Velib's, which are stationed all around the city and cost less than 1Euro per day to use.

Which is great if you are a high-heeled Parisian woman who just needs to ride a mile or so to get to your high brow job at the post office (everyone in Paris works at the post office). It's not great if you are a newb to the city who knows what it feels like to ride a Trek Madone. Even if I could bear to get on a $50 plastic bike-like object, it wouldn't actually do me any good transportation-wise. When cities are built over the course of several thousand years, they tend to look like this:

When you don't know the language, nor the traffic patterns, nor the direction you are going, it's best to stay on the sidewalk. So while the ECCC was busily combining my racing category with some really hardcore women who were undoubtedly training twice as hard as I would if I were home, I was spending 4 months walking around the city dreaming about poor Roxanne all cooped up in some random apartment in Inwood (thanks to these guys).

The point is that I showed up to Rutgers this weekend on two months of training (ish) after four months of nothing but macarons and then was thrown to the dogs (bitches; and by that I mean the A women in the most respectful way "bitches" can be construed). I felt like it was my very first race all over again. In the sense that I had no idea what was going to happen and in the sense that staying in the pack was a vom affair. Sure enough, I got dropped. Hard. I spent the better part of the weekend chasing the main pack. On Staurday there wasn't a chance. On Sunday, however, four of us were just dangling past the edge of the field. I might have had the energy to bridge the gap had I not spent a good deal of it shouting at our disorganized group to get in a straight line and PULL. Dear B women: please learn how to ride in a paceline before Grant's Tomb. I don't want to waste my breath.

It's one thing to wheelsuck or block when you are in the pack or in a break. Those are tactical concerns. It doesn't mean I'm not going to yell at you, but at the end of the day I at least understand it from a logical perspective. But when there are four women dropped off the edge of the pack, there are less than 10 miles to go, and you are just hanging out on the side of the other three, what's going on in your mind? "Hmm...let me just hang out here in the wind, doing as much work as the person on the front pulling but not actually helping the group get where they want to go." I feel like this girl got told that she should block for her teammate during the race (who ended up winning I think), but no one bothered to tell her that once she was dropped that rule was void.

As much as the racing this weekend really sucked on the scoreboards, there's really nothing like the first race of the season to get you pumped up. It's interval time. It's time to get my legs moving and train the Parisian laziness out of my muscles. 

And, I can bittersweetly report that after a 6 month effort to reduce skin discoloration on odd parts, the kit tan is back after one 60 minute circuit race in short sleeves. I think I have the unique blend of Native American and Italian blood in my veins to thank for that physiological phenomenon.

Next week: Grant's Tomb. It looms large, like the heaping mass of stone that it is. 

Outfit of the week

Mikey, representing the Jerz with the white track pants...

Or Nate representing babies everywhere with the reindeer costume??

Cast your vote in the comments, the winner will announced sometime this week!

My First Race

This past weekend, at Rutgers, I raced a bike for the first time. For me personally, there was a lot riding--yes of course the pun is intended--on these couple of races. And it was more than being able to tell people that I didn't shave my legs for nothing. Over the past couple of months, I've invested a lot of time and energy in this thing. It probably wasn't much compared to what more serious cyclists do, but for me, it was a lot. And besides the actual training, I had made bike racing one of my main things. I told my friends about the training, and how much I cared about it; I told myself I cared a lot about it; I gave up other activities to make time. And what's more important than your time?

So I was naturally anxious about the answers this weekend would provide to some of the questions I'd had for months: would I enjoy racing as much as I predicted I would? would I do well enough to justify all my training? and what the hell is a crit, anyway?

Well, I got my answers all right. To sum up, racing bikes is just about the funnest thing I've ever done. Ever. Sure, it helped that I did well, but the main thing was the feeling of being in the pack, going over twenty miles per hour, my senses heightened and my focus laser-sharp. Everything happens so quickly. At one point during the crit, there was a crash right in front of me. It took everything I had to avoid it and stay on my bike. But after narrowly escaping the crash by going off-road into the dirt for a few seconds, and sprinting to catch back up with the field, I found myself smiling. Because that's what it's all about--the high stakes; the danger at every corner; and the rush of getting out alive. All I can say is, I can't wait for the next race.

It's coming!

With one weekend down and seven to go, it's time for Drafting Off a Taxi to come back in full force. Look for updates this evening or tomorrow morning, and of course, the winner of this weekend's Best Outfit...

- Shane

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Never Gonna Give Up Blogging

If you haven't noticed yet, the Columbia team is really unique. There are many different definitions of unique. This is unique. So is this. And this. Oops. I forgot that riding a fixie in skinny jeans no longer qualifies as unique. But THIS sure does. Anyway, my point is that we've got the grit of New Yorkers, even though some of us may have grown up on a farm and still have the urge to join in the "Slowing! Turning! Drinking!" frenzy when in a WoB crit. We are still more likely than most to take you out for not holding your line. Unique. Define it as you will.

We recently chose a team theme song, which is really great. You should check it out. Notice that it is linked rather than embedded. It appears that some people (namely, Rick Astley) have a stick up somewhere about this little thing called copyright. Whatever. Now, you might be thinking, what has this got to do with Columbia cycling? A lot is the correct answer. We go to college. College means taking a second look at things, going deeper than the surface level (unless you are an engineer, in which case, you do the math). So let's look into how this song could possibly be the perfect musical representation of Columbia cycling.

Let's first look at the first few lines of the song: "We're no strangers to love...you know the rules, and S-Oh do Iiiiiiiiiiii." We'll then skip to "I just want to tell you how I'm f-EEL-ing..."
1. If you know anything about our team you know that we are plagued by inter-team-relations. We are no strangers to love. Platonic or otherwise.
2. We are specially trained to talk about our feelings. We're from New York. Even dogs have therapists.

Now let's move on to the chorus: "Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run A-round and DE-ssert [sic] you...ect., etc."
This obviously refers to our killer team time trialing abilities. It's all about teamwork and trusting one another. Also, note the diction, "never gonna run." That's right, because we don't run. We ride.

If you watch the video, you will notice some key symbols which also make this so clearly meant to be our theme song. Notably, the fashion-forward late '80's apparel, which obviously points to what a killer style we have as a team.

There is also a tumbling bartender. For this last one, I'll let others make the inferences that they will. I can't give you all the answers.

Now, while I've got your attention, let's take a second look at this photo. Columbia (we're unique, remember?) decided to go on a training trip to Pennsylvania the last weekend in January. Remember that weekend? You were inside on the rollers probably, because it was roughly 15 degrees outside (in NY, NJ, and PA). This riding in 15 degree weather prompted some really fantastic fashion choices by the entire team.

This prompted me to declare 2010 the year of the"outfit of the season" competition. Each week, I will be taking photos of some of the best outfits every weekend (probably mostly Columbia, but watch out, ECCC). Others will be encouraged to submit their entries I will then declare a fashion-forward winner of the weekend. In May, there may be a winner for the season. They may win a prize. It may be this.

Stay classy, San Diego.