Friday, August 14, 2009

Ore to Shore Trip Report, Pt.4

Now I'm really rolling! Final part, here we go!

On Sunday we got up, shook out the tent and started packing up. The night before it had POURED. It was an honest to goodness downpour, bordering on monsoon. Being the sloppy campers we are, some things got wet, but it was nothing that wouldn't dry. Things like camp chairs, a towel, some jerseys, etc.

We met Lyle and Kelly to pick up breakfast and then hit up Presque Isle for a picnic.

After putting away our bagels, we wandered around for a while. No albino deer spotted, unfortunately, but we got a lot in. We walked out toward the lighthouse, but were eventually deterred by the number of bugs.

After that, we drove a little further out and walked around on the huge rocks by the shore.

Don't let the overcast skies fool you- it was hot and muggy out! Word on the streets was that this was the hottest it had gotten all year. I eyed the swimmers we passed by enviously and decided that if someone would join me, I'd be going in. One little sentence was all it took, and go in we did!
Here's Cale, jumping in.

And here's me, taking the plunge.

In the second photo, you can see the cliff wasn't quite as tall as it looks in the first :( Do you still think I'm brave?

My goodness was the water cold. Basically everyone who jumped in came up yelling. I knew it was going to be cold but, well, it was really cold. There wasn't much getting acclimated to it.

A while later, the sun came out and we dried out on a small 'private' beach. Alas, all too soon it was time to get back in the car and head for home. Marquette, we'll miss you.

Ore to Shore Trip Report, Race!

Ok, if anyone hasn't nodded off through the other two parts, here's the third part. The actual race!

For those relatives and parents, I'll explain what Ore to Shore is. The 48 mile Ore to Shore in the U.P. is one of the largest mountain bike races in the Midwest, and is part of a 'Triple Crown' of similar mountain bike races. It drew around 5 or 600 people this year. I entered the women's single speed division.

The morning of, I got kinda nervous as I always do. We went to a friends' house for breakfast. He and his wife cooked us up quite a spread! Nervous or no, the food was too good to pass up.

That was one of my goals for the race: eat and drink throughout. During the SS state champs, I drank about 3/4 of a bottle of water/drink mix and one and a half goo packs. That was a 25 mile race that took around 2:40 (I think), and it really wasn't enough. To ruin the big surprise (will you even read the rest of the post now?!) I did pretty well and got enough to eat and drink. There were lots of places where it was smooth rolling and easy to get something out.

Anyway, I didn't really know what to expect, excepting the preride. Of course I wanted to win, but I didn't know who I was up against, either. I was viewing the whole thing as an experiment, and whatever I got, I got. Once I saw the lineup for the mass start, though, I regretted not trying to get a preferred start. Actually, for most of the race I regretted that.

We started, and I was spinning away on the SS. Quite a few people passed me (along with a couple of other friends on SSs) and things only evened out when we got onto the dirt. Next year, I don't know if I'd do the course with gears or not. It wasn't advantageous to ride it on a SS. Well, some might argue it never is, but this really wasn't suited for it. Lots of flats to spin out on, and a thick stream of people inching up the hills in granny gears, blocking your progress. That was really frustrating, and I'm not happy to admit that I let a few swears loose. Not at people, just... at the situation. At least I never pushed anyone over on my way past 'em!

Anyway, there were not nearly enough hills for me (well, in the beginning), and those that were were too congested for my liking. This isn't to say I didn't have a good time, though. Frustrating as the back and forth was, it was fun joking with some of the guys; they'd pass me on the flats and I'd pass them on the hills. "You again!" we'd yell. There was one group of guys that I must have exchanged the lead with five times.

At one low point in the race when I was feeling the miles, the trail was snaking through the woods and out in the middle of nowhere there were a few people hanging out in lawn chairs, drinking some beer and smoking cigarettes. I'm not a smoker, never have been and have never found the smell of cigarettes attractive. But at that moment, when I caught a whiff of smoke, I thought I would like nothing better than to pull over and have a smoke with these folks. I guess part of it is that, like it or no, the smell of smoke reminds one of hanging out at bars or walking by people on a break. Generally chill and sedentary times! So it smelled good to me!

Overall played it conservatively and wound up with extra energy the last ten miles, when I figured I could go a little harder and blow up, and it wouldn't hurt my standing too badly. I passed two or three women with gears in the very last mile or so, and came in fairly happy with how I had done but not knowing where I had placed. I've fallen a little in fitness, I think, as Cale and I have missed a LOT of WEMS races this year.

A while later I went to check the results board and groaned when I saw I was the first but only Women's SS listed. I like a win, but it's nice to actually win, you know, against others? You might as well get a participation ribbon and a pat on the head. Happily, there turned out to be two other women in the category, whose times were posted later. It would have been better to race in a bigger field, but you run into that in women's SS events.

Here's a picture of the misfits we hung out with all weekend, minus Kelly, who was taking the photo.

I got a photo with the Gold Diggers, too! They were there to promote GT's Golden Bike series. It's too bad there weren't scantily clad hunky dudes wandering around. How about next year, race organizers?

I went out in search of the girls for that photo with Kelly in tow to take it. We took the photo and I asked Kelly if she wanted one. She said, "Nnooo, that'd be weird... I didn't even race." to which I replied, "Well, it's already pretty weird, but OK." (Heheh, I like to tell that story. It's kind of amusing and it lets everyone know that hey, I know it was just a 'lil weird.) We got a photo of Kelly in the end, though, with a 2D Gold Digger.

Hours later, we went to the awards ceremony and then to the after party.

A note about the race and how it's organized: WOW. I don't think it could have gone smoother. The aid stations were wonderful as well. Kiwanis and Lions clubs, among others, donate their time and hand out portions of bananas, donut holes and water. I think I almost took an older gentleman's hand off when snatching up some donut holes! It was wonderful to have people out there cheering and supporting.

Ore to Shore Trip Report, Pt.2

*I've been swamped at work, but we'll see if I can get up to date on Ore to Shore stuff*

On Friday, we arrived in Ishpeming and tried to get a hold of Lyle and Kelly to see where they were camped. While we waited for a response, we hung out and saw some of the sights. We stopped at a stand and got some really tasty blueberries and peaches. So good!

After a while, we got a call back, drove back to Marquette and ordered up some Thai food. While waiting for the food, we drove to a nearby beach and hung out for a while. Cale, Lyle, Kelly and I jumped around on the rocks and then settled down with a few drinks. Unfortunately, I wasn't invited to sit on the rock with them, as I wasn't wearing a black shirt.

After eating, we swung by the campsite, got kitted up and went out to explore the last few miles of the course.

We crossed over some railroad tracks, which were garnished on either side by iron ore pellets.

*BTW, those are the new Answer gloves! My pair are a medium, which is maybe a size too large for me, but oh well. Product that you have before it's available to the public MUST be flaunted! I wore them for the race and I don't have any comments because I forgot I was wearing them. Which, for me, is a good glove.

To cap off the day, we went out to eat with Lyle, Kelly, Ryan and John. Highlight? The carafe of cherry soda the waitress brought Ryan when she saw how fast he was draining his soda. Luckily, his diabetic coma didn't last too long.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ore to Shore Trip Report, Pt.1

Days 1 and 2: In which the truck breaks down and we endeavor to fix it and get back on the road.

Oh, goodness. What didn't happen this past week and weekend? I worked some longer hours to make sure I could sneak out Thursday afternoon to start the drive up to Marquette. I met Cale at home shortly after lunch, packed my clothes and we were off! The drive up and out of WI was pretty uneventful. Everything was stowed nicely away in the back of the truck and Cale and I were listening to a good Audiobook, or 'book on tape'. With about an hour and a half in the drive left to go, I turned the keys over to Cale to drive. So good was the book, we missed a turn and wound up about three miles off-course. Cale pulled over next to a fruit/veggie stand, threw the truck in reverse and, although we could feel and hear the engine working, nothing happened...

Well, something had happened alright. After putting it in drive and reverse again trying to get it to move, we stepped outside to have a look. This is the sight that greeted us:

Needless to say, I took it rather badly. The truck had just gotten out of the shop (for the tune of almost $1000*) and I thought that it was bitterly unfair that it should just up and break down after I had so thoughtfully had it repaired. Those repairs I viewed as necessary and not all that bad, considering the truck itself was pretty cheap. This I saw as betrayal!

There are a lot of 'luckily's to mention, though. What happened is that the ti rod broke, and the passenger side wheel would no longer obey the steering wheel. Had we been going at speed, this could have been very bad. Luckily, it happened in a parking lot, turning around. Also, the stand we broke down in front of happened to be run by a man who knew everyone in town (which was close by- lucky again) and who located a tow truck driver who agreed to pick us up after finishing dinner at Perkins. The tow wound up being about $6 for mileage (2 miles to pick up, 2 to haul back to the shop) and a hook up fee of around $65*. Ok, not too bad. My spirits picked up a little.

And how often do you get to see three modes of transportation stacked on top of each other?

Another wonderful thing is that this happened Thursday evening, and we had to be by Marquette (an hour away) by Saturday for the race. It also meant that parts could be purchased and the truck could be fixed on Friday. (If it couldn't, our backup plan was to be picked up by some friends either going to or already at the race.) So we had it towed and then took our bikes off the back to terrorize the town of Rapid River. We got a nice little hotel room right across the road from the shop and then went in search of dinner. We wound up at a bar on trivia night, which was fun, even if we were no good.

Here's a place with all sorts of metal sculptures we spotted in town:

Dinner at the Swallow Inn:

And then home to the motel, which had soap for all of my body-hair washing needs:

The next morning we went to check on the truck. We were told it would be done in a few hours, so we went biking on some back roads and even found some old logging roads we took through the woods. I saw a deer wading across a stream, and we biked past a grandmother and granddaughter out for a ride, too. And the weather and scenery were lovely!

We meandered back, bought a paper and had breakfast at the local diner, and then went back to pick up the truck, which was ready and waiting. By this time, waiting around for the truck to be done felt more like vacation. It was cool exploring the town, we weren't in a terrible hurry and one way or another, we would make it to the race. Add to that nice mechanics and a small repair bill (about $150*) and it didn't actually seem like such a bad way to start out a weekend.

*I feel like listing out what you pay for things is tacky, but for this story, necessary. How else could I illustrate the depth of the truck's betrayal and then the ultimately lightweight repair bill?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kierin Night

This past Tuesday the stars aligned and there was a Kierin and a Madison at the track. It drew quite a crowd. Most of the other teams were taking team photos, so we decided to get in on that. Unfortunately, we were found out and scolded out of the frame(s), so we took our own. How tough! If you can't tell, I'm the second from the left in the top row... just saying! I got mistaken for one of my male teammates from behind earlier that night. Not sure how to feel about that.

Here it's a little easier to tell, as I'm the one wearing the bikini top stuffed with $80 in 20s. Aren't I outrageous? But really, someone hands you that much cash in prize money and the high road's closed for construction; what can you do?

The only race I did that night was the Kierin. Below is a photo of a Kierin starting- everyone rushes to get behind the motor as is goes by slowly (and then it ramps up the speed when people catch the draft behind it). We've got an excellent driver at Kenosha!

I got 'stuck' with first wheel behind the motorpacer. No one was going for it, so I took it rather than get stuck in the back. I believe Beth, the girl who's my competition, grabbed my wheel and was sitting second back. Now, 1st wheel isn't a great position, because you have no choice but to lead out the final lap unless you want to give up the ground you have. The motor didn't ramp up the speed too much, either, because he didn't want to drop any girls off the back. So neither Beth nor I got tired, and I was stuck with pulling her around the last lap.

I played it as well as I could come up with. I accelerated slightly in turns one and two, and along the back stretch I took it pretty easy. I chose a pace that would be slow enough for me to keep my strength, but fast enough that anyone would think twice about coming around me (because it was a little early, and I would fight for the lead). I was also hoping someone would try to come around from a few back, and box Beth in.

I kicked it in in turns three and four, holding Beth off until right after turn four. Then she edged out in front of me, and I just got tense and wasn't feeling it. Ugh. I hate being used. Just after finishing, I was pretty happy that I'd gotten second and a pretty good purse. Then, of course, I started beating myself up about my decisions and playing the 'should have' game. Bitterness, thy name is Katy. I won't go through all of the things I could have done, because it would take all night and doesn't do any good.

I think I'll race with the men from now on. The women's races always play out the same way. It's me vs. Beth, she uses my wheel (or so it seems) and then tries to get around me- sometimes she can, sometimes she can't. No one wants to do any work (and yeah, I don't either if no one else will). I'm getting tired of it, and my nerves can't handle it. It seems to me like everyone is watching to see which one of us will win, to determine the fastest. Is that the case? Uh, probably not. But that's what I'm watching to see. I don't think of it as having a bad night when I lose, I think of myself as slower, not as smart with strategy. When I win, I think about the next time I'll fail.

Yeah, I'm going to race with the men from now on.