Saturday, July 18, 2015

And some other stuff happened...

The whirlwind that is my life often leaves me spinning, with little time to take a glance back over my shoulder to remember where I've been.

It wasn't until I took a badly needed (and too-many-times-rescheduled) coffee break with an old friend that I realized I forgot to chronicle a way cool event of the recent past. (Ed, my coffee date, knows me from my Rescue Village days*, is not a FB guy, and likes to follow my antics via this blog**).

The event of note was the Duathlon National Championship race in St. Paul, MN, in early June. No race report here, but some fun things to remember as well as some highlights:

  • I competed in this event at Angie Ridgel's urging. We both did this race (as did Martha Brennan, another SnakeBite Racing team member), and we both loved it (and did well). I wouldn't have done this without her, and I can't imagine a more compatible racer/friend to share this experience with. 
  • We flew into town and stayed with Jill and Tim Marks, who live north of Minneapolis. This is always a treat. I wish these two lived closer. But clearly for us, distance doesn't seem to matter all that much. 
  • The amazing Jill not only hosted us, she volunteered her time for the event (i.e. ALL DAY, even longer for her than for any of us racing). Having Jill cheering on the sidelines as I came into the transition area was out of this world. Jill. Is. Awesome.
  • Competing against nationally-ranked athletes was an eye-opener. Waiting at the start line, the announcer rattled off names and titles of the gals in my division. I thought for sure I was in the wrong group. 
  • I have a lot to learn.
  • Angie, Martha, and I all qualified for World Duathlon Championships next year, in Aviles, Spain. Yes, we're going. 
  • Prior to leaving for St. Paul, an acquaintance overheard that I would be competing in Duathlon Nationals that weekend. She gave me an odd look and said "Do you shoot guns?" I often need interactions like this to put this stuff into perspective.

*My 'fat' days, before I shifted my focus to things more strenuous. Or, as Ed puts it, 'back before you traded your tits for legs'. Ha! Georganne, I thought of you immediately! ;)

**And sometimes the motivation I need to post something, anything. 

Coming into T2
Angie (357) and Martha (356) at the start line

Finish line fun!
Hamming it up at the Finish
Post race posing: Lucky #13 hanging out with 'the Magnum'!

Jill, Angie, me, and a trio of gardener martinis. We live to celebrate!

Podium shot for my age group. I'm #3!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Next Wave

Could this be the next 508 Dream Team?

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I just didn't think it would be THIS soon.

After what seems like years of turning down Tim Marks' (Pileated Woodpecker) suggestion that I race the 508 with him as part of a relay team, I have finally succumbed. Tim and I will be racing as a 2X team in the 2015 Silver State 508 (totem TBD, stay tuned).

My head is spinning, but that's OK. I know better than to try to overthink decisions like this, especially after my mind is made up. After all, I'm now committed - in every sense of the word. The timeframe has suddenly become very, very abbreviated.

My life is truly dictated by endless harmonic convergences, maybe because I'm willing to open myself up to opportunities. And when they come around, I grab hold.

A few years ago, I learned to surf off the warm waters of Maui. I was fascinated by surfing and the surfing mentality (after reading 'West of Jesus', a book that has altered the path of my life). Surfing was everything I expected it to be: challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, salty, and wet. What I didn't expect was how it proved to be so allegoric. There were lessons I learned from surfing that have endless value on dry land.

First, surfing requires a lot of waiting, and watching. The four of us in my little group would paddle out to where we could see the waves begin to break. For the most part, we sat around on our boards, talking and laughing. We watched the horizon, looking for the telltale white foam that meant the ocean was coming up to meet us.

Second, surfing requires you to be ready. We would take turns, one after the other. When it was my turn, the others would back off and let me do my thing.  At that point, it was just me, and my board, and that wave.

I would wait for the wave to get closer so I could set myself up to catch it.  I would paddle out to meet it, turn my board toward shore and, if I timed it right and paddled hard enough, I would be where I needed to be just as the ocean began to lift the back of the board. Then it was all about letting the momentum of the swell propel the board so I could find my balance and stand up. When all the pieces fell into place, I would ride that wave gracefully toward the shore.

Or not. Sometimes I would fall into the ocean. Sometimes I wouldn't get enough momentum to stand up. Sometimes I was in the water before I knew what happened.

But the point is this: When it's your wave, you ride it.

So, yeah, I'm in for the 508 this year. I've watched, and waited, for the moment to present itself, and now it has. This wave is mine, and it's big and it's scary but it's mine and I'll ride it. Tim and I, we're gonna own this thing.
THIS is the Dream Team - because without Jill, none of this would be possible

Other posts that feature Tim (WAY too many, but here they are):

(Yes, this is bordering on ridiculous...)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Synchronized Suffering"

That was Phil Liggett's description of the Team Time Trial, during the Tour de France some years back. I kind of like the idea of sharing the pain with a teammate. After all, what are teammates for?

The Eastern Ohio Time Trial series has become a favorite. Every third Sunday from May through September, those of us who crave the Race of Truth show up to teeny Deerfield, OH, for a blissfully short morning of racing.

The cool thing about this series, aside from it being probably the most low-key race in NE Ohio, is that you can race practially any category you want to: standard class for those without aero equipment, single speed for the truly hardcore, tandem, even stoker/kid. If you wanted to, you could probably enter in a Fat Bike class (and I know somebody just crazy enough to try this).

I like the Individual (ITT) and Team (TTT) races. I've raced the TTT in prior seasons with another teammate, and that was a great experience. This year, I figured I would try to introduce more teammates to the joy of time trailing. I challenged my teammates: I would race the TTT every month, but with a different person every time. Any takers?

For the race in May, my first taker just happened to be the super-human speed machine, George Liolios. Although I'm sure our race was the slowest one he's ever done, it was a memorable race for me (George is one of my cycling heroes). We decided on a team strategy and stuck to it through the entire course, and I have to admit that the last charge to the finish nearly killed me.

Tomorrow, I get to race with Uber-Track Maven Beth Rowell (AKA "Miss June"). I can't wait!

"Miss June", Beth 
And the rest of the Team Line-Up:

"Miss July", Angie

"Miss August", Tiffany
"Miss September", Deb 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Velodreaming: Track Cycling Weekend at the Cleveland Velodrome

Beth (Newell) Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb 2015
The Cleveland Velodrome held a Women's Track Cycling Clinic last weekend. The two-day event was hosted Beth (Newell) Hernandez,  U.S. National Track Team star heading toward the 2016 Olympics, and her husband/coach, Michael Hernandez.

17 attendees, representing local teams as well as out-of-town/state cyclists, participated in track training drills, speedy pace lines, and practice races. There were also plenty of off-the-bike activities: yoga for cyclists, nutrition discussions, Q&A with Beth and Michael about how to incorporate track cycling into training plans.

For me, this was the perfect way to jumpstart my enthusiasm for velodrome cycling. Lots of my cycling friends haven't tried it yet. Some have tried it and found that it was not for them. My take-away from this weekend is that track cycling can be one of the most efficient ways to build speed and power on the bike - for road racing, TTs, crits - even if I may never race on the track. But maybe I will.

I'm hoping to get more of my cycling friends and teammates to come out to the Cleveland Velodrome this year. See what it's all about, maybe give it another chance. I've learned some things from Michael about how to reduce the risk - and the fear - around track cycling. I've even set up a few dates for WOMEN ONLY to come to the track for some testosterone-free training and no-pressure riding*.

Because how cool would it be to see this many women at the track on a regular basis? Pretty freakin' cool...

*June 10July 15, Aug 19, and Sept 9. Check the Velodrome website for details and to sign up (it's free!)
This was about as close as I got to hanging with Beth at the track

All of us lined up along the turns

Hanging around the infield, waiting to ride

Michael Hernandez - photo copyright Laura Webb, 2015

4-person paceline drills

All attendees lining up along Turns 1 & 2. That's a 50 degree banked turn!

Kristen, Kelly, Beth, and me
Let's do this again!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How a little spark can turn into a roaring fire

Photo copyright Jason Baker, 2015

I remember the first time I heard about the Nordonia Duathlon, in 2006.

Leslie, a co-worker at the time (and a triathlete) asked me if I was interested in signing up. I had never heard of this race, even though it was practically in my backyard. The bike course followed roads I used all the time. But her invitation caught me off guard, and I couldn't have been more mortified. Hell no, I thought - run 2.5 miles, ride 10 miles, and then run another 2.5 miles? I can't do that. At the time, I was a barely-competitive cyclist, a sometimes runner, and, frankly, a big chicken.

Instead, I stood at the corner of my street, which was along that year's course, to cheer on those who weren't so inhibited. I shouted encouragement at Leslie chugging up that hill on her flashy new road bike. There were a handful of pro-looking competitors draped over their TT bars, sleek bodies flying past me. But there were also a lot of other competitors who looked like they pulled their creaky old mountain bikes out of the garage and dusted off the cobwebs just that morning. How were they able to overcome their inhibitions and just do this thing? That's when I started questioning my self-doubt. That's when I knew I would do the race the following year.

And race I did, for the first time, in 2007. And I did the race again the following year, and every year ever since (except for last year when I had a conflict with my Race Across America commitment).

I started to really like the challenge of duathlon. I worked at increasing my running speed. Through my training in time trialing on the bike, I increased my cycling power and speed. And then I worked to put them both together to find the perfect balance of how hard I could run without killing my legs for the bike, and how hard I could ride without killing my legs to be able to run again. And I even started working on my transitions, although I will admit that my transitions leave something to be desired (even though my more accomplished multisport friends have offered to help me with these).

And now it's 2015:

Yesterday's race was my best time yet, and I was pleased to be the first female over the finish line (and with a couple of my best friends - both highly motivated this year, too - not far behind me).

In early June, I will be competing in the Duathlon National Championships in St. Paul, MN. Angie will be there with me, and we will be competing for the opportunity to race at the Duathlon World Championships later this year.

Almost a decade ago, I was that person watching from the sidelines, too afraid to try. Something about the Nordonia race made duathlon accessible to someone like me, someone who had never considered this sport and didn't think herself capable of doing it.

The Nordonia Duathlon got me wondering 'what if?'. And that was all I needed to start this amazing journey.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My commitment to serve wild places...

One of my favorite things to do when I visit a National Park is to become a Junior Ranger. It's a lot of fun, really, and anybody can do it (it's not just for kids). You have to meet certain requirements, mostly having to do with learning the natural history of the park, the plants and animals that are found there, and the environmental factors that define the area, such as water availability or wind erosion.

Once you meet the criteria, a real Ranger swears you in and hands you your Jr. Ranger patch, which you can then wear with pride forever. The swearing-in includes your commitment to protect all National Parks.

So, as part of my commitment to the National Parks and all places wild, I'm using this post to ask my like-minded friends to put a stop to some recent political nonsense.

Senate Amendment 838, introduced by Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to "allow states to take over, transfer and sell public, federal lands, including National Forests, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas", passed the Senate vote 51-49, with all Democrats voting against and all but 3 Republicans voting FOR the measure.

You can read the details of this mostly symbolic (message: Republican senators are more interested in profiting from public lands than they are in preserving them) measure here:

And you can see how your Senator voted by clicking here:

I won't presume that you agree with me about the land preservation thing, but I hope you do. And if you do, I ask that you make a simple call to your state Senators to express your opinion on how they voted.

Thanks for letting me rant. Thanks, especially, for getting involved - especially if you agree that this measure is ridiculously short-sighted and wrong for this country.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

An unattained goal = more motivation to try again

Knowing what the wind is like out in the California desert, I reluctantly checked a weather report to see what was in store. Tomorrow's wind forecast: a steady 10 - 20 mph, with gusting 30+. Dammit.

Tomorrow was our planned ride to Rhyolite, certainly the longest ride of our week, and the most challenging. Even on a windless day.

I had recruited Angie, Tad, and Tim to come along. The rest of the group would climb to Hell's Gate and then turn around. The 4 of us would continue on through Daylight Pass, another 2000 ft above Hell's Gate, and then dip down into Nevada and to the strange and wonderful little ghost town of Rhyolite before returning up and over the pass for a 75-mile round-trip. 

As with all rides in Death Valley, the underlying and unspoken disclaimer is always 'Subject to Change'. Conditions here change in a hurry, and on an unsupported ride bad decisions can turn into really bad days. 

We left from Furnace Creek super early so as to get to Rhyolite by mid-morning. The rolling Highway 190 gave way to the Beatty Cutoff, and that's where the fun began. This is a delicious 8%, 10-mile climb -  on a good day. On a day with a steady headwind, though, when the pace barely reaches 7 mph and you've used up all your gears, it starts to feel less like a challenge and more like a death march.

Angie and I didn't talk much up the Beatty Cutoff. But at some point, I asked her if we could consider maybe just going to Daylight Pass, and then seeing how we felt at that point. 

(The truth is, I was ready to make Hell's Gate my turnaround point, but I knew Angie was looking forward to Rhyolite, and if she wanted to continue than I would  suck it up).

When we finally got to Hell's Gate, the wind was fierce. Tad was close behind, and Tim somewhere behind him. Tim will admit that he's not the fastest climber. On the other hand, Tim is the most persistent rider I know, and as a 5-time 508 finisher, he is no stranger to adverse conditions. We would wait for him to arrive at Hell's Gate before continuing on.

I think at this point, Angie was done with climbing, too. And neither of us was all too thrilled with having to make the descent into the valley with that vicious cross wind. But neither of us was willing to call it quits. And Tad was OK with any decision we made.

And then Tim summited and made the decision for all of us, stating that he felt that continuing on under these conditions wouldn't be well advised. Or something to that effect.

Which just means one thing: we will be back next year, and we will ride to Rhyolite. We will pick our day, and watch the wind reports, and carry enough fuel and hydration. Our legs will be screaming for the opportunity to do this climb again - and then to keep going. We will ride to Rhyolite. And then we'll take some great pictures, fly back down into the Valley, have a cold beer (or two) at Furnace Creek, and we'll bask in our own pride of accomplishment.

Why am I so confident that this will happen? Because when you can visualize a goal so clearly you can taste the beer at the end, it's in the bag.

See you next spring, Death Valley.