Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

May you have a wonderful, peaceful holiday season! Love, Marcy and John

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

As my brother Kip says, "Best movie trailer ever":

GTA race report - complete!

It's finally done! Time to move on to planning the next big adventure...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Texas DARE - Dave Bogle's race report

My teammate Dave wrote a detailed race report (and I added a couple comments) about our race last Saturday:

Fun times!

Texas DARE race

Last weekend Team Vignette went to Sam Houston National Forest to compete at the 12-hour Texas DARE (Dave Boyd Adventure Race). John, Kip, Dave, and I don't often get the chance to race as a foursome, so we enjoyed spending some quality time together. We were also very honored to be racing in the memory of Dave Boyd.

There was a sprint race held at the same time, and the first leg was a marked trail run for teams on both courses. It was a nice run through the woods, on dirt roads and trail.

The second leg involved running to the boats, paddling to an island, then paddling and running back. The catch was that the boats were over 7 miles away on paved roads. The running part was OK, but the pavement part was hard on our feet. Especially for Kip and Dave, who ran the Sunmart 50-miler last week!

We paddled along an inlet toward large Lake Livingston, while I fretted because it was a really windy morning. Sure enough, the lake was full of confused waves and we bobbed up and down. I did not enjoy this very much.

Team MOAT, the only team ahead of us at that point, was enjoying it even less because their boat flipped and all four teammates ended up in the cold water. We paddled toward them to see if we could help, while Rick Sanders (the race director) approached in a john boat. Our two canoes ended up pulling Patti and Jonathan to shore while Rick towed their boat and brought Shaun and Nathan in.

Rick called a halt to the lake section, which is good because we had already decided we were skipping the rest of it! I was so happy we didn't go for a swim ourselves.

We helped MOAT try to get warm (including firing up a grill on the porch of an empty house), got our boats back in the water, paddled back up the inlet, and started back on foot to the TA. We passed a few teams who had been turned around, and many of them seemed worried about us and MOAT. We reassured them that everyone was fine, MOAT was just wet and cold.

MOAT decided to continue racing, following us back on foot instead of taking a ride that was offered. Way to hang in there!

The next section was navigation in the woods on bikes. The first checkpoint was easy. We had an issue finding the road toward the next CP, ending up walking knee-deep through swamp mud, twice. We were a bit chagrined riding through TA again, looking for a trail and smelling like swamp. We found the road on our second try, and from there our nav got better.

The pipeline/old roads were interesting to ride on. There were a bunch of blown-down trees over the trail, so I got to practice riding over the smaller ones and carrying my bike over the bigger ones. Thank goodness for a lighter bike!

Riding up a pipeline trail, Dave came to a stop where it appeared the trail ended at a creek. John and Dave thought they could see it start up on the other side, so we waded through knee-to-thigh-deep water. At least it wasn't swamp mud, and they were right about the trail on the other side. Nice work.

We passed a couple teams on this leg, coming back into TA with one team out ahead of us. The next bike leg followed the sprint course around the bike trails for 8+ miles. MOAT sped by us on the trail, which was not surprising. They had actually dealt with a broken chain, fixed it, and still caught us on bikes, they are that fast.

I was just glad to be finished biking before dark. I was also glad we didn't have to do the Sevylor pond paddle like the sprint teams! One more leg - trekking/nav for about 6 miles.

We started out with MOAT at the first point, and Kenny Farrow's team was right on our heels. On the way to the next CP it got dark, we followed a creek and then a ditch for a ways through the underbrush, then we saw a team coming toward us. It turned out to be a HART team - they had been in the lead but were moving slower because one of their teammates was not doing too well. John located the CP flag behind a tree not far from there. We lost track of MOAT somewhere about this time.

We followed HART up the creek to the last bushwhack point, then took off running up the pipeline trail. The final two CPs were mostly on dirt roads/trails, and we were ready to run to try to take the lead and hang onto it. Coming back on an out-and-back we saw HART coming toward us with MOAT not far behind, so we were motivated to keep running. I decided the most direct bushwhack route would not be a good idea (confirmed by HART and MOAT who both tried it), and instead we took the Lone Star trail around a longer but faster path to the lake.

One last CP, a bit more jogging, then we were done! Then it started raining off and on, which must have been tough for teams still out on the course. We got our TA taken down in between showers (both types) and a nice awards ceremony where Dave Boyd's father handed out awards to the top 3 teams. Then we headed home for a nice Sunday of rest.

Congratulations to everyone who stuck it out and finished this tough race!

Top 3 results (apologies, I don't have the complete list of teams/finish times yet):
1 - Vignette
2 - HART
3 - MOAT

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GTA race report - the early days

Well, I'm closing in on completing this puppy. As usual, writing/publishing the report takes longer than the race itself - in this case, about 6 times as long. I should start collecting stats to get an average "report time to race time" ratio for the various races we do :)

For those who wish to get a jump-start on this very-thrilling (not really) reading, or who are desperate for something to assist with their insomnia (can you tell I've been listening to a lot of Car Talk lately?), check out:

My main GTA report page

Like last time, the photos are the real value.

The "Next Day" link at the bottom of each day will work except where the following day's page has not yet been posted.

For anyone wanting to wait and read it all at once (??), I'll post a "report complete!" note on the blog when it's ready for you.

Happy scrolling!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Notes from the farm

We spent a very nice Thanksgiving at the Beard family farm in East Texas. I got to drive the tractor, which always makes for an interesting time. John is SO patient as I try to re-learn what I didn't learn last year...

My brother Kip helped me take hay bales out to the field for the cows:

Kip was accosted by an ambitious hairstylist, but was a great sport about it all:

And the food was great! Time to buy some salad ingredients...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dirt Derby

My turn for some "Dirty" racing. I went out for the first time to the Tuesday night "Dirt Derby", a timed race consisting of laps around a super-fun, super-fast 2 km course. Lots of tight turns, short climbs, thrilling drops, and if you get off the beaten path, loose dirt. I entered the 20-minute women's-only/beginners race - there were three of us in this category.

It was an inauspicious start. I arrived early to get an easy lap in and figure out the course. I rode toward the field, made a right turn on some extra-soft dirt and ended up on the ground with Superfly on top of me. This resulted in a dirty knee, dangling shifter cable, askew seat, and some giggling from me and I'm sure anyone that had noticed.

That was my only fall, although I got close a couple times during the actual race. I still have a lot to learn about this surface.

The women's race started a couple minutes after the group of beginner guys. One lady took off like a bat-outta-hell, but I caught and passed her in the first lap. The other woman stayed on my tail and pushed me the entire race. After the first lap I wondered how I would manage breathing this hard for the whole 20 minutes - it was surprisingly difficult to keep air in my lungs and still push up all the little hills.

So I concentrated on recovering just a tiny bit during every little drop and also in the tight turns. The turns were really interesting - some were better taken on the inside, others had an outer line that was easier and faster. One turn in the middle still perplexes me, hopefully I'll figure it out eventually.

During my first lap I caught up to this little kid named Noah. We were on a narrow beaten-down track in the middle of a wide road full of extremely deep, soft dirt. The kid was doing his best but he's really slow. I decided to try to pass - huge mistake. I slid every which way, somehow managing to stay upright (or at least not more than 45 degrees from upright). Finally I got off the bike and ran, jumped back on, and got by. Sorry Noah!

I had no idea how long a lap was taking me, or how many laps I'd end up doing. All I knew was that I was getting just barely enough oxygen to sustain this aggressive (for me!) riding and to stay in front of the woman in blue whose name I believe is Katy. At the end of lap two I begged under my breath for them to ring the bell so I'd have only one lap left. No such luck!

During the third lap I heard them start ringing the "final lap" bell for other riders. I had to start focusing on not getting sloppy on the turns, as my legs were starting to feel tired. What?? Legs, you can't possibly be tired after less than 15 minutes!

I approached the top of the hill for the end of lap 3 where they rang the bell for us. "Keep going?" I asked - oh yes, you have one lap left. Oh my heck.

Somehow, knowing exactly how far to the finish really helped me relax. I found myself clicking the back ring into one gear harder and leaving it there for the whole last lap (although I geared down in the front ring for a couple of the bigger hills). My breathing stabilized somewhat and I felt more in control. Katy was still right on my butt.

Coming along the stretch where I had ungracefully passed Noah, I found another slow rider. Usually one to learn from my errors, I followed his wheel and reflected on how nice it was to be able to breathe again for a few seconds. Once around the corner and onto the wide open hill, I zoomed by and resumed my quest for the finish line.

Somehow my legs and my lead held up, and I finished first female. Too funny! Katy and I congratulated each other, then I did a bit of cool-down before heading home, chuckling about the strangeness of it all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dirty Du

It has been a quiet blog lately. My excuse (besides the fact that life becomes a bit more mundane when you aren't traveling) is that I've sequestered myself in order to finish my GTA report. It's half done! And really long...

But enough about me. Yesterday I grabbed my camera for an opportunity to practice "action shots" while my husband and some friends competed in the Dirty Duathlon at Rocky Hill Ranch. It was a 3-mile trail run, 12-mile bike, 3-mile run. Everyone did great!

I learned that my little camera isn't really suited to action shots. Sometimes it focused on the subject, sometimes on the background. And the delay between pressing the button and getting the shot is hard to work with. But it was fun to play around while imagining getting a better camera someday. Besides, it was really easy to run through the woods with.

John running with his helmet on, a style only he could pull off:

Yay John!

At the start of the bike course:

Our adventure racing friend Tina:

Jason did a relay with his step-dad Mike. It was Mike's first trail run! He did awesome. Jason also kicked some butt as he passed a bunch of people on the bike:

Later on the bike course:

"How much further???"

New headwear for John:

Mike on his second run:


Lots of finger-pointing going around...

...including at John's bloody knee (he fell off the bike trying to get his foot out of the cage):

Jason with his Mom:

Mark and 1-year old daughter:

Three warriors:

The BEST age group award ever - lightweight and burnable:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Video from the GTA

John captured various bits of footage using the GoPro camera during the GTA in August. The following is a set of clips, complete with background laughter and completely lacking in professional editing or music:

GUR Vegas race report

Slightly more timely than my upcoming GTA race report:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beyond Vegas

After the Las Vegas GUR race, several of us hung around for a couple extra days. This gave us a chance to explore places outside the city.

First stop, Red Rock Canyon. We have to go back and do some long runs and mountain biking in that area next time! Very beautiful.

Hiking up Ice Box Canyon:

Next stop - Trader Joes!

But how will we get all this on the plane??

Monday we drove out to Boulder City to take a tour of the Hoover Dam. A marvel of engineering! We enjoyed exploring the dam, and I enjoyed taking this photo:

The generator room:

The view from INSIDE the dam (well worth the extra money for the full tour):

Even better was the time spent fooling around in the tunnel - someone else in my group has more awesome photos I'm sure (send them to me!):

View from the top of the dam:

Ronda pregnant with a hard hat:

The new bridge (under construction) plus the leaning towers:

Getting hopped up on chocolate before our flight home!

It was a super-fun trip with super-fun friends!

Great Urban Race - National Championships

Well, the time had finally come to race for 10 grand - after many weeks of prepping and fretting, it was down to this...

I'm working on a more detailed race report to follow soon, but here's the summary:

In the super-fast morning race, our Austin Mob qualified 5 out of 6 of our teams in the Elite Eight finals race! That was a huge accomplishment, and it set the stage for a fun afternoon.

The finals race started with a blindfolded bus ride (we were blindfolded, not the bus) out to the middle of nowhere (Bum-F***-Egypt, according to John). Everyone started with a jigsaw puzzle, then ran miles and miles and miles to get back to the Strip. The first half ended with an AWESOME roller coaster ride at New York, New York, then we did a set of logic problems in a conference room. The final set of clues went extremely fast, all our teams were zig-zagging back and forth in one small area, our ground support seemed to be everywhere at once, then it was every team for itself trying to get back to the Rio as fast as possible.

Kip and Dave (Team Vignette-KD) got back first, but missed one required photo. John and I were next to finish, and we had all the right pics and stuff, so we won! WOW! What a weekend! I have to say, our "mob" of Texas racers and nationwide support crew is an urban racing force. Occasionally we do slip up, but (mostly) not this time. We were on top of our game, and it was good timing, because we took home a big prize. And had a bunch of fun in the process!

More photos to come in the race report, but because I can't help bragging about our scouting, here are a few CP pics:

Plus my favorite shot from the whole day: 20 or more people with us in front of the MGM Grand lion (You'll have to trust me on the lion part - apparently it was good enough for Joe the race director!):

Vegas, baby!

Last week we went to Las Vegas to compete in the Great Urban Race national championships, with a chance to win $10,000. We take these things pretty seriously (if it weren't for the prize $, you could almost say "way too seriously"), so we spent several days roaming around town pre-race.

Here are some of my favorite scouting shots: