Bikes, Races, Gran Fondos and Risk

You guys, I don’t know.

I race, and started racing when I was 53, although I’ve ridden bikes all my life. Given my age and profession, you can surmise that I’m not risk -averse but calculate what risks I’m willing to take.

I read that a rider on Levi’s Gran Fondo died in a solo crash. I don’t know any details other than what I just stated. I do know that putting thousands of cyclists on narrow, twisting roads, many of whom have not ridden said roads, in a timed event is a recipe for disaster. I’m willing to guess that most of them don’t race. How are they then to navigate those narrow, twisty, steep climbs and descents of Sonoma county, at speed? It isn’t just that the Gran Fondo is a race of sorts — think of the Strava scores they want.

That all adds up to increased risk of injury. That more people aren’t hurt or killed amazes me.

In 2006 I rode the Solvang Century for the first time as my first century. It was great fun! We lived 12 yrs. in Lompoc, so I knew the roads well, just not by bike. In 2007 I rode it with my husband on our first tandem, in 2008 on our second tandem. In 2009 I rode it with a friend on my road bike, and just before lunch experienced a small, fast group who blasted past us without any word of warning, with about 30 others in their draft. No one said anything. I was annoyed; anyone overtaking another rider should say something. The shoulder narrowed and suddenly the road was full of carnage. I was surrounded by riders, got in my drops and hit a pile of bikes at <20 mph. I ended up with a black eye and a broken wrist (which was diagnosed post-ride at the Santa Ynez ER). I ended up having a titanium screw put in my scaphoid bone and spent 6 angry, frustrated weeks on the trainer.  And so ended my organized century rides.

Last year we rode Foxy’s Fall Century, which starts & ends in Davis, and includes many roads we regularly ride. We did the metric version on the tandem — we’re always in front, the safest place to be — and it was great fun. So that’s the amount of risk I’m willing to calculate. The vibe is good, no one is racing, and we’re all mostly on the road to enjoy the ride. We had so much fun we’re doing it again this year.

But a Gran Fondo? Even with Jens Voight? Probably not. The risk isn’t worth it. I want to race next year.

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I’m Back, Baby!

In 2006/07 we started connecting with friends for rides. We did a few tandem rides with a couple in San Mateo, and they included coffee, wine, food, Tour de France stage watching, and an invitation to race the 2007 Esparto Time Trial.

I consulted the 50+ sub-forum for advice, and several experienced racers gave me great advice. My LBS loaned me a carbon fiber Fuji road bike and that’s all I had to compete in the Women’s Categ0ry 4 — nothing aerodynamic at all. I didn’t know how to warm up (no trainer, no experience). I just knew how to bury myself, and that’s what I did. I don’t remember my time but I know I was faster than my friend who invited me, and had many aerodynamic advantages over me.

In subsequent years she handily won that race, as well as districts, nationals, and many track championships. So when I placed 2nd to her in 2011 & 2012 I was honored.

This year the race was cancelled, due to too many competing races. In late August the promoter rescheduled it to the last Sunday in September, far past my season. Since I had progressed and become stronger on group rides, after not racing for 2 years, I decided to train and race Esparto, since I’m a historically a late-season-bloomer.

The Putah Creek Smack Down for 2015 was cancelled. No chance to practice there. Chris and I went up one Tuesday and I TT’d the 10K in 16:48, very close to my best time at Esparto.

And then I rode some group rides wherein I didn’t contest the sprint but used my TT skillz to catch up and hang on, well out the draft. I did some hill sprints (ouch) and some intervals.

My bestie Sara lent me her skin suit and it was a wonky fit; I felt as though I was in a sausage casing. I joined a team, PenVelo Racing, renewed my license since USCA gave me a deal to renew now – 12/31/16. I forgot to register for the race (damn my menopause brain).

Knowing I had to be at the start extra-early I passed on the local Oktoberfest cuisine (but not the beer; racers need carbs), enjoyed the “um-pah-pah” band and the little kids busting moves the afternoon before. I had 1 glass of wine to take the edge off my nerves after I packed my bag of  race necessities and post-race wear.

Despite a good 9 hr. sleep I was reluctant to leave the bed. Chris made coffee and breakfast (steel cut oats cooked in orange juice from our oranges and raisins) and I was too nervous to finish it.

Thirty minutes’ drive to the start; I registered and pinned the number on a fellow racer (he was so lean I feared pinning his skin but it worked fine), and Chris pinned my number, set up the trainer, walked the dogs. I loved that the racers’ numbers coincided with their start times. Genius.

I usually race Women’s CAT 4. Today I opted for Master Women 35+.

The roads were bumpy and poorly maintained, my front wheel found every pothole and longitudinal crack , much to my chagrin, and my lack of riding the TT bike did me in.

I also haven’t practiced TT’ing, so  that was another factor — and my head got in the way of my legs.

I finished well enough for 3rd place, T-shirt and $6!  If I’d ridden CAT4 I would’ve been 1st. It’s one of my slowest times, yet I’ll take the podium and guarantee that next year will be different. I’m reservedly (because it will be painful) looking forward to the next time.


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Disclosure and cleansing

My parents were high school sweethearts, and after my dad did a tour in Germany during the Korean War and returned to his hometown, he and my mother married. They eloped, as his parents had eloped, in Elkton, MD, on New Year’s Eve 1953.

I applaud them that — if I’d married my HSS I’d’ve been divorced shortly after. There is so much mental, social and emotional growth during the “college years” that there was no way I could’ve maintained a relationship.

The one I established in my senior year was a way to separate from my emotionally abusive, alcoholic family, and although it didn’t work out (duh) I learned more about myself and my willingness to tolerate behavior that didn’t serve me or help me further myself in the world that I wouldn’t change it. I often thought, in my early exploratory twenties, that I wish my upbringing was different, I realized that my past was my past, and I could either reject it, or accept it and process what it was.

If my parents were alive today we (husband, two children) would have minimal contact due to the manipulative nature of both my parents. When my dad found out he had cancer he cleaned up — he quit drinking and smoking and adopted a locavore lifestyle when it wasn’t a thing. He got 5 yrs. before cancer kicked his ass, dammit.

He quit drinking but his manipulative behavior did not. I remember that he was driving me to the Philadelphia airport and I called him on his crap. We’d just buried my maternal grandmother, with whom I was closer than I was with my own mother. I missed our daughter’s 2nd birthday and was especially resentful and raw. I called my dad out…he was driving and owned his B.S. I may have never have loved him so much as I did then. And I felt as though we’d finally worked through stuff my mother and I did not. She died before we could come to terms. I feel bad about that, but it doesn’t affect my daily life.

Our daughter moved back in with us after her then BF refused to help her when she lost her job in San Francisco. We dealt with a lot of stuff we hadn’t planned, as well as really great relational moments with her, for 4 years. Because we got to work through our issues we’re as close as storm windows.  I’m so grateful for those years, and what they wrought, and how we’ve ev0lvled. I have the relationship I wanted with my mother, and I have with my daughter. If I died tonight I’d be very happy.

If I didn’t die and show up for Sunday’s time trial I’d be even happier.

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LOGS Ride (Ladies Only, Guys Scram)

Brigitte posted a Facebook group for a Ladies’ ride, and I was all over it. I ride alone, or with Chris, or in a big mixed group that’s male-dominated. Finally a ride where we don’t have to handle testosterone!

I nearly missed it: stayed up too late (again!) and slept in a tad long. Chris decided to make oatmeal with orange juice (from our oranges), raisins and oatmeal. Great fuel…and I drove the 4 miles to the ride. That’s not my style but given my tight time-frame, that’s what happened.

I was the last of 4 to show up and while apologizing and berating myself my 3 friends were giving me grace. I accepted it. I was open to it and it was great. I loved starting a ride and feeling on top of the world.

We started off at a reasonable pace, because I was in front, the oldest, and the least willing to suffer early.  No one objected. Since A, B, and N ride primarily with male racers they really work hard to keep up, so my Old Lady Pace was a blessing. Actually, the moving average for me, over the entire 35. 1 miles was 17.2 mph, so we weren’t slacking, nor were we hammering.

We rode 2 abreast where we could and had great conversation, laughs, catching up with one another, and occasionally a chance to bridge up when we were single file and “someone” (ahem) fell behind a bit. We ate and spent too long at Steady Eddy’s playing with technology and taking/sharing selfies. And it worked! w00t!

I lead the ride back to the start, since I knew all the road names and we ended up with 31+ miles in 1:50. B & A got more because they rode to the ride (my intention) but not by much. What fun was that! I predict more Goils Only ridex in my future.  I should be so lucky. This was great fun!

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We took the week away from work to get over that jet-lag thing and to begin processing “this is life without Aunt Bobby” as my SIL was known to her nieces, nephews, and grands. We took the time to read, cook, walk dogs, ride bikes, add amendments to our vegetable beds, plant more Veronica among the flags on the front walk pathway, and re-set the solar path lights.

In the next couple of weeks we’ll sow seeds and plant starts for our winter vegetable and flower gardens. I’m excited to change the local cat toilet into something that will be both aesthetically pleasing and will also provide food.

So we slept in this morning (again!!!), missed our shot for a quick  bike ride, walked the dogs, and went downtown to fulfill our commitment to volunteer as course marshalls for the Vacaville Gran Prix.

After a hiatus it was restarted in 2006, and as members of the Monticello Cycling Club, we volunteered. We’ve volunteered every year until 2014, when we were in TX burying C’s dad (and subsequently celebrating his amazing life). Every year is different — different corners, different volunteer coordinators, different timing (when there’s a crash and a rider needs to be taken to hospital by ambulance, that backs up the subsequent races). One year we didn’t get our free lunch — by the time we got to Pure Grain they’d run out of sandwiches, and 2 years we didn’t get T-shirts. As a volunteer I count on free food and clothing as inducements to wave a flag and yell at stupid people who don’t understand bike racing.

This year we packed snacks, extra water, and sunscreen, which I forgot to put on my feet, resulting in a tacky tan. Oh, well…at least my feet are tan (thanks to many hours spent on our front yard make-over; otherwise they’d be white) and that’s the way it goes.

I forgot my cowbell so I yelled and cheered a lot. As the afternoon wore on the races were faster, so I yelled, “Riders up!” about every 2’45” as the men’s Pro/1/2 race came by. We were at a very active car & pedestrian crossing so there were few dull moments. I’ll guess that 99% of the non-bike people with whom we dealt were very cool about it all. All the cycling people were — I loved how some of the P/1/2’s rode back to thank us for volunteering. That felt good.

The volunteer coordinators and race people, who’ve we’ve known for nearly a decade, were especially appreciative, and we were happy to contribute to a local event that benefits cycling, racing, Vacaville (who raced and ate here before they drove home), and gives us the opportunity to pay back the sport that provides us so much.

Now I start my training for Esparto TT — after 2 years off,  I’m ready for a 30KM pain cave.

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A Roller Coaster Ride Featuring No Theme Park

A Roller Coaster Ride Featuring No Theme Park.

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A Roller Coaster Ride Featuring No Theme Park

Last August we flew to Austin, TX, to meet our daughter (and later, our son), and drove to Corpus Christi because Chris’s dad passed. The occasion was sad and ironically happy at the same time. As much as we all mourned his passing, we reveled in the stories that this character provided, and he was an independent, opinionated sonofabitch (no reflection on his mother, who I never met).

The wake we had afterward was unprecedented. He wanted no mourning of his passing, so the ensuing libations and story sharing was exactly as he would have wanted. We enjoyed the stories, the reconnecting with family whom we see far too infrequently, and being able to comfort his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our adult kids made new, mature connections with cousins they hadn’t seen in a couple decades.

This past week — last Monday, in the early hours on the Left Coast — we received word that C’s middle sister, the caretaker, the SIL who taught me how to be a SIL and had so many humorous insights into family relationships and cats, passed. When T, my youngest sister, was here in May, C got the call that his sister had stage 4 pancreatic cancer with tumors on her liver (and who knows where else; that’s where they stopped looking). She retired in May; she and her husband had plans to travel and do all the things they couldn’t do with the 2 weeks of vacation that their jobs afforded previously.  Four days before she died she celebrated (and I use the term loosely; she was failing and knew it; how does one celebrate that) her 63rd birthday.

And then she died.

Her children were in denial (one was 150+ miles away, the other <5 miles but was too self-absorbed to be involved) and that showed in how they handled the funeral mass and subsequent activities.  To their credit, their mother would let no one come see her, including her own mother, her siblings and her son & daughter.

Sidebar: By her exclusion of her family from visiting her and holding her hands, hugging, crying, praying over her, etc., she effectively prevented these people, her family, her kin, the people who knew her the best, the opportunity for closure and to say goodbye. She probably didn’t consider how difficult that’s going to be for them going forward. What we saw and heard at the funeral, the internment ceremony, and at the celebration of life, as well as at the family gathering later Friday evening, is that her children and grandchildren and siblings are left with many questions, frustrations, and sadness at not being able to make peace before she passed. I know C, M and I are.

I hope they all seek grief counseling so they can be freed of whatever guilt they feel, and learn to incorporate D’s death into their lives.

My oldest SIL and hubby are worried: They and their mother are the only family members left. And my MIL isn’t 100% aware of what’s going on; she was very fluid in her past memories and her recent memories. I, for one, am glad she’s in as assisted living facility. She gets her meds, her activities, her privacy, her outings, and she doesn’t have to remember details that she can’t. I guess that’s a function of age. I wish her grandchildren and families would visit her more, and I can harangue them, but ultimately I can’t force or guilt them into any action, dagnabbit. I wish I could. My MIL needs to be with her family and extended family and the activities in which their involved. That stimulation will keep her alive and relevant. The nearest child, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will ultimately fail her.

And that’s why I’d consider moving to Corpus Christi, to take my MIL away from her facility a few times a week, so she can adapt to new situations and not be trapped in that place. And yet she doesn’t feel trapped, so who am I to impose my perception of her living arrangments?

All this makes me glad my and C’s wishes are spelled out in excruciating detail  in our trust. I might be a control freak (okay, yes, I am) but it’s worth while if you have specific wants after you can’t make decisions.

And I miss my SIL, my FIL, and am grateful for my SIL M, and my  MilL. I hope they realize, blog, Facebook or real-life exchange, what they mean to me.

I’m sad for my husband, his mother, oldest sister and middle sister’s husband: I hope they find peace.

I miss her already. RIP, Deborah Lynn Mary Margaret Doyle. I hope you know how many lives you impacted and how you are missed.

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