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: