Monday, February 27, 2012

1st Century of the Year

First off, I should have posted after last weekend's tournament. I wanted to write kind of an ode to my one senior and his junior partner who came just a couple of ballots short of qualifying to nationals, but I was scared I would show my age and lack of memory by forgetting some of the better stories I have about this kid. I am proud of them and the rest of the team.

Now, this past weekend was jam-packed with athletic pursuits.

Looking at the weather for the weekend, I had opted for a run Saturday and hopefully for better weather and a ride on Sunday. When I started running back in January, I struggled running for even 20 minutes. The cardio endurance was gone so completely that I could feel a sense of loss. Like most accomplishments in my life, I decided to start working on my running by creating a goal, a goal to run 8 miles by the end of February. Having a Saturday off in February is a rarity for any speech & debate coach in Ohio so I had lots of plans for the day and got out there and on the trail around 7:30. Now, it wasn't the fastest 8 miles I have ever run, but they were run at a much faster pace than I ran my 6.25 the week before. It was quite windy and definitely cold, but once I started, I was fine. When I looked at my watch about 3 miles into the run, I realized that I was running much faster than I had anticipated. I was worried it would prevent me from accomplishing my goal so I slowed down, but when I finished the 8 miles, I felt pretty good and hadn't slowed down all that much. In fact, the last mile that felt so hard was one of my faster miles. Now, I did wear knee high compression socks all day, but I was really surprised by how I didn't really feel any stiffness in my legs from the run.

Now, I also did some very "girlie" things after feeling very non-female when I got called out for not knowing that LBD stands for Little Black Dress. I got my hair done (first time since September), went shoe shopping, and even made a couple of purchases at Ulta (a cosemetics store).

Sunday, though, was a perfect day for cycling... well, as perfect as a Saturday in February in Ohio can be for cycling. When I was all ready to go, I took at look at the people who showed up, and the first thing I thought was, oh geez, seriously, all the heavy hitters??? There are four guys who ride with us regularly who I consider to be beasts for the pace they can push and continue to push for the entire 100 miles of a century ride, and they were all there! Jeff and Tom are just strong, especially on flat rides. SO doesn't even realize his superman riding skills (even TC said SO doesn't count because he's not human), and I think TC considers 100 miles a SHORT ride. Oh man, if these guys decide to push pace, there will be a lot of us dying in the wind.

The group opted to head south from Berea through Lodi then down to Wooster. There are some gentle rollers on this route, but for the most part, it's pretty flat. Part of me thought to myself, I will just ride to Lodi then head back, but riding short while others keep going is just really hard for me to do. I haven't ridden further than 40 miles this year, why force the issue and ride all day? But, here's the thing. Since the surgery, I have found everything unexpectedly difficult: swimming, running, cardio in general. SO said he thought I could handle the ride, and I tired of not being able to do what I want to do, so I did what I wanted to do: ride long.

I made it to Lodi in prestine fashion. I think the guys were making a conscious effort not to destroy each other in the headwind so I spent the bulk of my time sitting behind the lovely wheels of Jeff, TC and SO. On occasion, I would find myself to the left of SO's wheel, and I would think, "well, this wind just stinks, back to behind my lovely windshield that these three guys have created." Now, I don't think I stayed there the entire way, but there was no pull in me through that crap.

After Lodi, we had another 20 miles to Wooster. We rode on a road called Overton (and we refer to it as Overton valley), and after about 10-14 miles, I got dropped by the group. I wasn't the only one, but I got pretty nervous as the road kind of zigzags from one side of the valley to the other, and I was scared I would zig when I was suppose to zag. Playing safe, I waved down a car to make sure she had passed a group of cyclists, and she did, but as I turned, I saw TC behind me? What??? Well, apparently, he hadn't been riding long throughout the winter and hadn't really planned on riding the whole ride, and he was hurting a bit (he was also riding a fixie and getting dropped a bit on the short incline bursts), but he was a welcomed site as he helped tow me through that headwind to Wooster. As we got closer and closer to Wooster, we worried about making a wrong turn, but then a figure appeared, and sure enough SO came back to gather the stragglers. In total, five of us fell off the pace, three behind TC and me, but that wind was nasty, and once you were off the line, you were dropped pretty quickly.

As we ate our gas station lunch, we prayed that the wind wouldn't shift! As we got out, it had turned slightly, but not substantially enough to get rid of the tailwind we had earned for the way back.

For the most part, the group stayed together for the 20 miles back to Lodi, but we were starting to break up as we approached Lodi. Truth be told, Jeff jumped off the front and road there through the Overton valley. As we left Lodi, we had established an A and B group for the rest of the ride back to Berea. It was a little weird, one of the guys who got dropped on the way down, was riding with the A's on the way back. SO made a comment last week that seemed pretty appropriate, the wind can only break you down if you let it.

I was definitely in the B group and was scared I was going to be the dropped member of B. One of the guys and I kind of looked at each other as "drop buddies," but we managed to hang on through the rollers until we got to a pretty flat Station Rd with about 15 miles to go. On Station, one of the guys got a flat, and as he and a couple of others got it fixed, I started getting colder, and I started getting this really strong "I want to be finished now" feeling. So, when we got back on the bikes, I took over the front and stayed there for about 40 minutes. Now, pulling in a tailwind isn't exactly the exhausting task pulling into a headwind is, but I kept the pace up and kept everyone on board. When I dropped to the back of the line, TC said to me, "pretty good pull...for a girl!"

As we approached the finish, Eric, TC and I pushed off the front as we just wanted to be done. A couple of guys were really hurting those last 30 miles from Lodi to Berea, and I don't think having the only female in the group beating them up for the last 15 helped their egos much either.

Eric (the organizer) later told me that one of the guys commented to him about how fast I got towards the end of the ride. SO often yells at me for something similar, I play it safe for the bulk of a ride and then when the end is in sight, I drop the hammer like there is no turning back (because there isn't) and make everyone else suffer. It's probably good that 95% of the people who let me ride with them are so much stronger that my hammer is their slightly exerted, but I along with 10 friends, got in a century in Ohio in February!

I should say that Eric really went out of his way to make sure that the B group didn't get lost and didn't waste away riding inefficiently in the wind. I also found out that my computer was mis-calibrated for this ride, being about 3 miles off from everyone else's total.

All in all, I feel lucky to be included in this group and being able to get in so many miles and feel relatively safe that I am not going to get lost in the middle of nowhere.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Norton - A Cute Little Tournament

For the first time all season, I judged Public Forum for an entire tournament (and not just a random round). It was a really small tournament, with only 8 or 9 schools attending. Just because it was small, doesn't mean that competition was nonexistent nor did it mean that kids didn't come up with some rather... unique arguments. Since it was a VERY local tournament, nearly every judge in the judges lounge was a rather familiar and friendly face so we all had a ball discussing the various things we "learned" from the crafty students.

The Resolution: "Birthright citizenship should be abolished in the United States."

While I didn't hear anything nearly as funny as some others, I did hear "No senator wrote the 14th Amendment. The amendments were written by the founding fathers!" I guess we need to pray for reincarnation (which in itself is a paradox, I think) if we ever need an amendment passed again!

One judge (and probably a couple of more) heard the following argument in negation of the resolution:

"Immigrants have lots of sex and therefore lots of babies. Having lots of sex is good because it creates greater genetic diversity." I can't be sure whether or not there was empirical evidence supporting this claim...

And finally...

"Statistics cannot be used to describe the state of the economy." Which horribly confused the judge after hearing that particular team's arguments referencing GDP!

Doesn't judging debate sound like fun?? If you are interested, let me know as there are hours upon hours... upon hours of judging fun available this weekend at our national qualifying tournament! Interested in spending your entire Saturday in a Massillon high school, just let me know!

It was a very successful tournament for us as my sophomore placed 5th in LD and my only PF team placed 2nd. Other kids on the team received some much needed experience and seemed to have a good time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Outdoor Ride of 2012

In the spring, I ride with a subset of people from the Lake Erie Wheelers. Starting as early as February, our fearless leader Eric organizes century rides (for noncyslists: 100+ miles rides) every Saturday that range from flat to rolling to somewhat hilly as preparation for his two favorite events: Calvin's 12 Hour Challenge and the National 24 Hour Challenge. Eric's rides typically start in February while I am still coaching so I was pumped that I had the first weekend in February free of tournaments that I could actually ride! To say I was excited is an understatement.

As a debate parent predicted to me, the weather was not as forecasted and was definitely not ideal, as I woke up, I went through all of my organization, put on my 4 shirts, my riding jacket, my two pairs of socks, made sure I had my gloves, my shoe booties, my two bandanas for my head and headed out the door to discover an inch of snow. What?!?!? I felt sick to my stomach, how could this have happened? I sent Eric a text and asked if it was snowing there, and he said that there was no snow there and that the ride was still a go. Okay, I thought, and I decided that I might as well go up and ride. I have ridden in some bad conditions, how bad could it be? Never a good thought, just never!

I pulled up to Eric's house, and as I got out of my car, a driver pulled up next to me to say, "Your rear right tire is low." Sure enough, as I looked at it, the tire was low and steaming. Someone later explained to me that the reduced air pressure increases the friction when it is making contact with the road, causing the steam. I called my mom, and she suggested to call my roadside, which I did and scheduled an appointment for them to come at 2:30 (when I thought would be finished riding).

As I rushed to get out the door at home, I forgot one of the "must haves" for me for cycling... my helmet. During the season, I never take my helmet out of the car. It and my air pump get used every ride, then go back in the car and do not leave. But, in my rush to get moving, I forgot to grab the helmet out of my bike room. While I know others who ride without one, you will never see me riding sans helmet unless I am on the trainer or the rollers. Fortunately, Eric had an old one that he let me borrow. It wasn't the greatest helmet, but it looked like it could handle the job.

Now, while there was no snow in Berea, but that didn't mean it wasn't cold and wet. As we started to ride, I got warmed up as I normally do, but was struggling to see out of my foggy glasses. I could see well enough so I didn't let it get to me, but I was starting to wonder if the foggy glasses were causing the problem or something else as I could barely read my computer. Seriously, enough hasn't gone wrong that my bike computer now has to stop working? Sure enough, 25 minutes into the ride, my computer died. "Oh well," I though, I will just keep up with the other 13 crazy people riding and figured I would be fine. As we continued to ride, my semi-exposed lower back started to feel very exposed, starting the misery of cold rainy 35 degree weather.

I should also mention that Eric is the guy who basically introduced me to SO. Man, on every ride, he gives me grief. Oh, Marie is smiling, guess who must be here! Sure enough, half way to Grafton, Eric rides up to me and said, "I am surprised to see you riding up here since SO is back there." Of course both he and SO started laughing.

As we rode, I think we all underestimated how wet the roads would be, causing everyone's feet to get soaked by the spray from the tires. Now, I was wearing booties over my shoes plus 2 pairs of socks, but it didn't seem to matter. My toes were starting to feel numb. After about an hour, we made it to our first stop in Grafton. As I got off the bike, I knew there was no way I was riding any further away from Berea, confirmed by the stiff frozen sensation I got from my tights as I went to the bathroom.

Sometimes, when you are that cold and wet that your clothes start to freeze, the worst thing you can do is let those clothes thaw and get wet again so as make you even colder when you go back outside. I learned that the hard way a few years ago when I was running in about 4 degree weather...that warm bathroom felt nice, but I thought I was going to get hypothermia about 5 minutes later. So, about half the group (me but not SO included) opted to ride back to Berea. Now, I was suppose to ride until 2, or at least that was what I had told the roadside, so I quickly called and was able to have them come at 11:30.

SO had stopped at a Rite-Aid to buy socks and to get some plastic bags for his feet, so I rushed off ahead of a few people to tell him my new plan and that I would see him later as he was going to keep riding.

As we started off, we were all pretty cold, you could see people shaking their feet and their hands in attempts to get blood circulating through the cold extremities. As we left, someone said to me, if we are going to ride short (35 miles), we might as well ride hard so hard we rode. We got into a pace line with short fast pulls, about a minute tops, and kept the pace up as we sprinted for the warmth of cars and showers and blankets. With a couple of miles left, I started to notice my feet, particularly my right foot was numb. We got stopped by a light, and as I tried to clip my right foot back into the pedal, and I couldn't do it... my foot was just too numb to control so I rode for a few seconds and tried again, no luck. After a couple of minutes, I was finally able to clip in, but it was a struggle. Then, with about a mile left to go, my phone rang and rang and rang. I was worried it was the roadside people telling me they were at my car about to leave so I pulled over. Thinking I was fine, I let the group keep going. I got the message that they are on their way and get back on my bike. The problem is that I never pay attention to the exact route back to the starting place. I could have pulled it up on my map, but I was too cold to think straight so I ended up wandering around Berea for a couple of miles until I spot a familiar church. Note to self: stop chatting at the beginning of rides and start paying attention to road names!

I finally got back and there was the roadside guy. He got right to work, which was fine, except I couldn't exactly hope into the back of my truck and change out of the wet clothes while he had the car jacked up. Plus, I had forgotten the code to SO's car to use it, so I ended up standing in soaking wet clothes for about half an hour waiting for the guy to change my tire. To say I was cold was confirmed by the uncontrollable shivering that I started doing. I called my mom to see if she could give me some names of some tire places, and she did, but she could only find one in Berea. I finally get squared away with the roadside guy, turn my heat up to full blast and make my way to the nearest tire place...which was closed because it was after 12PM on a Saturday. Not being familiar with Berea that well, I started to get nervous and googled Conrads (which my mother mentioned was in Parma). I found a Conrad's about 4 miles away in Brook Park and slowly made my way there.

They were open and said it would take an hour so I went into their bathroom and changed out of my cold wet clothes and sat there and finally stopped shivering after about 45 minutes.

So, yes, I did get to ride, and I did have fun. I adore riding with this group of people (whether SO is there or not), but it wasn't nearly as much fun as I had hoped. To summarize all of the things that happened:

2. Flat tire - on car
3. Forgot helmet
4. Computer died
5. Near hypothermia

ALL in the name of cycling!