Friday, December 14, 2012

Crash Course in Pro Cycling

It's almost Christmas and this year, the holidays are different--my friends and family won't be getting homemade paper mache ornaments or origami crane mobiles because I can afford to buy real gifts that they might actually like. Well, I should say I could have afforded to buy them real gifts--but I spent all my money on couture throw pillows for my couch. So, scratch that--homemade gifts for all! Commercialism is so evil anyway. *scoff*

Anyway, you may be thinking, "Did you win the lottery? I thought you were a pro cyclist, making hundreds of thousands of dollars every ten years." And yes, technically, I am a pro cyclist until December 31, 2012, but I decided to not resign for 2013 so now in the off season, I went back to work (which is as a contractor, designing really cool shit for companies needing eLearning--so if you are also employed and have any training needs, I can have my people, my company, call your people). But I digress, as usual, because I'm the queen of SUBTLE product placement.  

So, I know you must have so many questions right now, and there will be a Q&A session after I provide my tips on how to crash and burn in your cycling career-- no, it's my crash course on being a pro cycling.

Ok. Let's start with the Q&A instead. I will be writing both the questions and the answers because I'm not above self-publication...or interviews with myself, conducted by myself.

Q&A with Jennifer Wheeler
1. Being a pro cyclist is the dream. What's it going to be like living the nightmare?
I'm sure I'll have other dreams and then live them. Hopefully, those will involve my new LL Bean boyfriend.

2. No offense, but you kind of sucked the last few months you were cycling. Do you really think anyone will care that you're leaving?
C'mon, results are so passe when it comes to popularity--they just get you in the game. It's like once you get a date with the prom queen, you're just in. You don't have to maintain that relationship. (I kid! I kid! Relax! I'll address the declining performance in the crash course below.)
Who needs results with a face like this?

3. I heard if your team owner, Linda Jackson, beats you in a Gran Fondo, you're automatically off the team. Is this what really happened?
This rumor is true and she is the most fit "recreational rider" I've ever met... but for the record she never beat me in a Gran Fondo...because I never entered one with her. They're dangerous races, only for the brave, and I'd go basically for the snacks.

4. Is it true that you're getting yoked and trying to become a CrossFit Games competitor?
I am not "trying" to get yoked but yes, I have taken the braces off my arms (I was always trying to keep them in a state of atrophy while cycling to get "smaller") and as a result, immediately put on 10 pounds...of pure ASSAULT muscle...and fat... I now go to GNC and ask, "What supplements do you have that are illegal?" because I don't have to worry anymore if I accidentally ate too many poppyseeds or if I took Sudafed or something else highly sophisticated to enhance my performance. But really, the guys at Xplore Crossfit know my crash and burn mentality and try to tame my "Put me in coach!" attitude--oh yeah and the fact that I can't do a pull-up, double under, or any of the other required moves tames my willingness to compete.
My CrossFit Dreams...


5. What will you miss the most?
Probably my career status on Facebook. It looks cool to say "Professional Cyclist" ...way more so than "Instructional Designer."



Crash Course in Professional Cycling
Ok. The above was mostly lies, except for the LL Bean Boyfriend part. To summarize, here are a few tips for you if you want to crash and burn in cycling or be a winter hero and a summer zero, or any combination of the above.

1. Discover cycling, become obsessed, and make it the only focus of your life--and get one of those "Cycling is Life. The rest is just details." t-shirts.
After I won my first local race, I lost focus of everything important in my life besides cycling. My love life consisted of going on 4-5 hour night rides in the rain with my boyfriend at the time or yelling at my other boyfriend because a route's terrain was not conducive for my prescribed wattage for my intervals. Note, these are both "ex" boyfriends. I also got lectures at work for losing focus. I gave up everything to "pursue the dream," sold my belongings, and fit everything into my tiny GTI so that I could move place to place, depending on the weather. This may seem like a good idea in theory, but ultimately, I felt pretty lonely and got tired of living out of a suitcase. It's about balance. If not, your self worth is all tied up in your performance, and sometimes your physical performance consists of variables you can't control. Balance helps you feel like your existence may still be important even if you have a bad result--but let's be honest, it probably isn't.

2. Sell everything and become a gypsy.
This theory might be good if you're ignorant to the pleasures a clean house and having your own belongings and space can bring. But if you at one time had your own apartment, bed, and belongings, living on couches or in dirty bike rooms because it's all you can afford with your new salary, really loses its novelty after a month or so of training. It was great to feel independent and know that I could just pack up and go at anytime, but I had my best results when I had a home and a support system, somewhere and someone to come home after weeks on the road. I didn't realize at the time (or times...multiple times) that much of my happiness was due to my relationship, friends, and surroundings and quickly sabotaged this as it didn't fit into the scheme of cycling and my constant pursuit of excitement and adrenaline. I'm not eating Bon-Bons here--just acknowledging some harsh realities for myself.

I'm not saying that you need to be in a relationship or live with someone to be happy--I'm just saying that's important that you ground yourself somewhere so you can escape the cycling chatter and recover well. I would look forward to hotel rooms because of the nice beds--that's odd. If I were to do it all over again, I would take some time to save up money and find a good apartment to go to as my homebase...or move in with my mom...at 32...hmm... no, probably not.

But I will say the best part of being a gypsy was meeting awesome people all the time and developing really good friends...
Tucson Bestie sporting the Gnar!

 
Living with my teammate, Jo

3. HTFU and enter the hardest, most technical races you possibly can and hope your skills catch up.
I medaled at track nationals in 2009 after racing 2 months (BRAG ALERT!). I remember feeling like I was going to shit myself the first time warming up on that track. Two years later I'm in Europe, racing Flanders and World Cups in the rain on tiny roads with a peleton of 100+  of the best women cyclists.  (I should add, "not safely.: Ironically, I did better when I didn't have any room to move or make choices.)

Throughout my short career, I've learned a lot about skills--not scuba diving corners, how to avoid clipping pedals, how to ride handsfree, corner in the rain, etc. But I had to get up to speed really quickly, and I'd still rate myself as a "C-level" handler. Although I think it was good that I was aggressive, perhaps a more gentle immersion into the sport could have prevented some of my recklessness. Luckily, most of my crashes involved only myself (kind of like tripping over your own feet while walking and looking back to blame it on the invisible crack in the sidewalk).

Even so, I always asked for tips, and was open to suggestions. Don't be a douche. Know your skill level and don't be defensive if someone offers you advice. Another good tip is to not ride too close to really famous people. When I would see Marianne Vos make her way through the peleton, I gave her 4 feet--I did not want to be that person who took down the World Champion (now Olympic Gold medalist).

How I spent much of my career--in the hospital!


4. Train super hard starting in October. You won't burn out because you're different than everyone else.
Hmm...I thought because I got good so quickly that I must be some sort of X-man. I still think I have some super powers, but not on the bike.
I set my best power numbers in November and January. I fucking won team camp at the beginning of February. (Yeah! Yeah! Raise the roof!) Ok, I was second--but that's like first alternate to first, so there's a first place in there. I smashed Europe (well, at least for my first time out there) and then when I came home in April, I was shit. I had to take a lot of time off and that really screwed my team over. Luckily, we had a huge amount of talent, but not being able to pedal my bike destroyed me mentally. I would line up for a race and not know what my body would do that day. Can I attack and recover? What pace should I go? My performance was not consistent and I couldn't trust myself. That's a hard place to be in.

What's worst is that I worked so hard and probably set too high of expectations for myself for 2012 (Go hard or go home--no fear). I think for an experienced high-end athlete, my training plan wasn't super ridiculous--I've seen a lot of women do way more--but I just wasn't recovering properly--mentally or physically. And because I was so new to the sport, my body wasn't mentally or physically used to the volume of racing and training that I was doing. This is hard to track though, as my numbers were ok. I think this type of "knowing what works for your body" comes with more experience. Beginner over achievers tend to just think they need to harden up and push through any signs of fatigue. My advice would be to be undertrained rather than overtrained.

5. Write blogs all day instead of work.
Yeah, with that. I need to wrap this up, B. Hopefully, I provided some insight or helpful advice to beginners (because really when it comes down to it, I was just a beginner in a pro cyclist costume). And I can stop getting Facebook messages (messages means 1 to 2 here--I'm not that cool) that say WTF?!!!  I'll still be blogging here and there about slow-cooker recipes, throw pillows, knitting projects, babies, and whatever else 30-something, domestic women write about. It's fun playing grown up.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for their support and publicity, and, of course, to Team TIBCO for giving me the opportunity. It's been real and who knows maybe when I'm older and richer...

But now it's time for more gratuitous self-promotion...perhaps the last time for a while (like 1-2 months).
I cancelled my annual membership to Who's Who after appearing in this ad in Bicycling magazine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where's Wheeler? Concussed

It's been awhile since I've posted (This seems to be how all my blog posts start these days.) Anyway, I've just been waiting for something EXCITING to happen so I can update the world--like OMG! I've been chosen to be on What Not to Wear on TLC. To be truthful, I've subtly been putting out hints for several years now, sending photos of myself to friends, while exclaiming "Isn't this a FABULOUS outfit?" or "Don't these shorts look great?"
Example of Subtle Hint

Meanwhile, every time I went out in public, I would scope out my surroundings, trying to spy the hidden camera crew who at any moment would pop out and say, "Heeeeey. Your "friends" called and told us you look like shit! We're going to tell you everything that's wrong with you, but give you $5,000 so you feel better about covering up your flaws." And since I'm all about self-improvement, that sounded like a DREAM!
High-waisted Exercise Fashions

July 4th Fashions

Unfortunately not me, but desperately wishing it were

After way too many rehearsed responses (e.g., Starbucks Barista: "How's your day going?" Me: "Ok. But it could be better..." Starbucks Barista: "Yeah. I hear that." Me: "Like I said IT COULD BE BETTER..."), I decided to take matters into my own hands and cheat the system, entering myself, although the website says "Self-entries will not be accepted." But unfortunately, since I am a bit of rule follower, I never got past the first third of the application. I know, those who know my past as the Great Apple Thief of the West*, may beg to differ on the whole rule following, but in general, I'd say I like following rules.

In fact, I like rules so much that I make them for myself all the time (and break them, but then revise the rule). Here are some examples of rules of the past. No eating past 8:00 p.m. No showering until you exercise. No enjoying life. No blog posting until you have something exciting to write about. No racing my bike the rest of this year...Oh wait, I didn't make that rule, my doctor did. Yeah, I got four concussions from January 2012-June 2012, so my doctor advised that I take a couple of months to recover my head.

That's another reason I didn't blog for awhile. Honestly, I was so emotional and depressed and all over the map that I didn't want to commit to any of my words. You might have gotten posts about how sad I feel when I reach the bottom of a bowl of ice cream (I still feel extremely sad, but not enough to blog more than those few words about it.) or maybe how there's so much more to life than bike racing and looking good (Yeah right, we know that's NOT TRUE!), or maybe how in tough moments, the only way to get through is to really take an honest look at yourself, your season, your prep and figure out what you have control over and how you might do things differently to set yourself up for success. (I came up with about 4-5 things that I really botched this season--maybe I'll share soon.) Because honestly, I don't believe in 3-4 months of shit luck, but I do believe in changing the probability of success in your future. And yeah, I equate success with happiness so for me part of that is figuring out what will actually make me happy--which starts at figuring out the real reason I even race--which is mostly for the "Pro" label on Strava. What? Yeah, it's easy to judge when you don't have one. Oh, cmon. I'm joking. See now I've said too much. I have a concussion. None of these words have merit....droooooooooooooool.....drool....slurrrrp...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

*Great Apple Thief of the West--circa 2011, Enter grocery store, find cheapest apple code (usually red delicious or braeburns), get a bag of honeycrisp apples, walk around store reciting code (4-1-2-4, 4-1-2,4), use self checkout, enter memorized code, save $2-$3, leave with a guilty conscience and empathy for Winona Ryder. Note: This confession got me a reduced sentence.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Correction--it's Barbra, not Barbara.

Seriously? C'mon, Babs. I thought I was doing well not spelling your last name "Streistand." And now you go and take the "a" out of Barbara. But yeah, here's an editor's note that in the previous post, I misspelled Barbra Streisand's name. Never again.

Here's to you Barbra...Hippie. Oh and it's Jennifer, not Jenifer like you may have previously thought.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Premier Access

After finishing my Spring cycling tour in Europa (That's what we seasoned Europeans call it), I returned to the States (That's what I thought only Europeans called the US, but apparently everyone actually does. I was just stuck saying Amuricah so I didn't notice). Upon my arrival, I now had a pair of $180 G-Star Jeans which no longer look trendy and glamorous on me as they did in Dutch mirrors but instead make me look dumpy and manly in American mirrors, some Dutch novelties such as Wine Gums and Stroopwafels for friends, and most importantly, 25,000 United miles, which bumped me to Premier Status!

I'm in the Denver airport for my connection flight to the Joe Martin stage race in Fayetteville, AR, (I guess AK is Alaska, not Arkansas--HA! Luckily, my readers are smarter than I am) and I was so overwhelmed with my experience as a Premier passenger that I had to blog. Let me just say this is the life! Even though I am on the cusp of "Member" and Premier SILVER Member, apparently United thinks Silver is the new platinum because I have gotten rock star treatment. I was relieved to know that United works differently than financial institutions. Let me explain. Before cycling, I wrote elearning courses and once we wrote a course for bank tellers. I learned that before helping you, tellers scan your accounts to determine what level of service to give you. Given that I have at least $100-$150 in my account at all times, you would think that I would be a Premier customer at the bank, right? WRONG! I was known as a negative asset (I use past tense here because I think now I'm more like $50-$75. I used all my money on those dumb jeans that promised me fame, fortune, and a handsome lover.)

Anyway, last night I went online to choose my seats, and you wouldn't believe all the options available. When I was just a MEMBER, I scoffed at all the seats with extra legroom available for purchase, disgruntled and asking if they were going to just leave them empty and squish everyone by the bathroom because we didn't want to pay $44? Now, I happily click on the seats online for FREE. I relished in this moment, clicking 6A and then thinking no, maybe I want an aisle and trying that seat out on the seating chart. I ultimately decided on 6A and clicked next for my next flight from Denver to Tulsa where complimentary FIRST CLASS was available. Yes, ma'am. I am in seat 1D, boarding group 1...for FREE! I'm just going to sashay into the plane in my TIBCO sweats and backpack and say "Oh, excuse me, Steve Forbes, I think I'm in 1D....Yeah, I want the window...sorry." I'm sure they'll look at me in my black polyester blend hoodie and Camelbak hanging out of my mouth and think, "Oh, she must be new money...scoff." But I'm ok with that because I'm Premier, bitches!

Speaking of classy, when I cut everyone by using the Premier Access line at the Tucson airport, I noticed there was some decorations on the counter top--a few framed photos, some flowers, etc. I looked at the counter top for the "Members"--but not too long, I didn't want to make eye contact--and it was empty. So, I thought that Premier members must just get a little flair to make check-in feel more like home. When I got closer to the counter, I saw that it was a Barbara Streisand shrine and the photo was a photo of the ticket agent with a photo of Barbara Streisand. For a moment, I thought Barbara had died and got a little sad, but then I noticed that the ticket agent was wearing a Barbara Streisand tie and a button-down shirt that had Streisand Convention 1994 embroidered on the pocket. I realized that this guy was just CRAZY ABOUT BABS!

If this is what his work counter--no, I mean the general public United ticket counter--looked like, I couldn't image what his home looked like. Did his doorbell play the theme song from Funny Girl or Yentl? I thought about making awkward conversation and saying something like, "Oh, I loved Prince of Tides. Did you?" but he was frazzled and running around, so I didn't want to bother. A few minutes before, he had said, "Is everyone in this line a Premier member?" I know he wasn't talking to me even though he looked at me. My curls this morning must have reminded him of Babs. I'm sure when I get to Premier Gold--yes, Silver isn't good enough for me anymore--he'll know me by name. I sure they all get a list of Gold members and their bios to learn so they can ask provoking questions that enable gold members to talk about themselves and their success for hours. I'm going to start learning my lines!

Babs as a Jewish Boy--I didn't get past the first 10 minutes.

Babs in a risque movie that my mother let me watch in elementary school.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Energie-What?

I'll start this blog just like the race announcer started every race at the presentations of the Energiewacht Series. "And now we have...(sing) TIBCO to the top! TIBCO to the top!" Also imagine him dancing on his tip toes and moving his index finger up and down to his original medley. "Nummer 53, 'Hennifer Wheeler'..." or Wheleer as it was spelled on some results.
TIBCO to the Top! TIBCO to the Top!
After a disappointing flat tire 30k into Flanders right before the first set of cobbles, which made it impossible for me to catch up, I was excited to start the Energiewacht tour. The race was six races in 5 days with two time trials and four races. Funny thing is that I had looked forward to the time trials all winter and neither went well for me, but each road race, I got progressively better and ended the tour with a 7th place. My teammate and I got into a break about 2k into the race, so we rode with 8 other riders for 137k for 3:30 hours. That's a long time. I remember about 40k in feeling like I really needed to go pee and imagining all the possible scenarios of me somehow relieving myself. I thought about how much pee a chamois could hold and then imagined the unbearable chafing that would occur. I imagined pulling over and just getting off my bike, calling it quits, explaining I had to pee. I imagined that wouldn't go over well with my team or director. So then the rest of the race I spent sucking in and repositioning myself to try to comfort my bladder. I really wished I had a penis so I could go to the back of the break and pee--it was that bad. That was the only time in my life I wished I had a penis so I wanted to note it in this blog.

Anyway, once we were on the final lap of 34k and our gap had suddenly gone from 4:00 minutes to 1:25 minutes, the thoughts of having to go to the bathroom quickly passed and it was motor time. As the finish approached, I knew I was supposed to attack with 5k to go, so I did and I didn't get anywhere, so I sat up and drifted back and attacked again at 3.5k to go. This time I got a huge gap, about 200m and just hammered as hard as I could at that point. Nicole Cooke, former world champion, soloed up to me and passed me just outside of 2k, the rest of the break quickly on her tail. Then I caught them and attacked again, getting another big gap. I thought for sure this time I had it but was so in pain and shock that I couldn't think of anything but riding as hard as I could. Around 700m, Nicole Cooke comes flying by me on the left (I should have been on the left.) and I stood up to chase her but quickly sat back down, as I wasn't going anywhere. My mind was like GO GO GO GO! but my legs were saying No. (Isn't that an R.Kelly song? Oh wait, that's my mind is telling me no, but my body...yeah, my body is telling me yes! I wish, that were the case for me in this situation.) Then the rest of the group that was left comes flying by me at 200m. Nicole had stayed away and captured the win--she is amazingly strong. I rolled in 7th and my teammate sprinted for 4th. We couldn't help but feel utterly disappointed that after 3:30 hours, we rolled away with no win, no podium. So, of course, we hugged it out! Girl power! No, we talked about it for a little bit, but decided the what if scenarios would just make us crazy and waited to get wise words from our director, who had some for us. She is really amazing. I leave her nameless because she doesn't like to be on blogs, especially not mine--not after I rode on the Dutch freeway illegally in a TIBCO jersey! Eye-yi-yi!

It's funny how on the first road race I was dropped, the second road race, I unsuccessfully attempted to lead out my teammate in the final sprint (but I was there), the third race I missed the break of 11 that went about 3k into the race, and then lead my teammate out for the field sprint. And finally in the last stage, I go for the win but feel more disappointed in myself then any of the other stages. I think when you actually get a taste...or I should say a distant sniff...of what winning a stage at a huge European race would feel like, you forget about all your other baby step achievements. But I guess that's what makes people good is to always keep looking forward.

Confession! I was so discouraged after Flanders that I started listening to "motivational" videos recommended by a friend. Yep, imagine me and Tony Robbins just cruising around Holland (I almost typed Tony Little there." No, I'm joking. It wasn't Tony Robbins. Sometimes, though, when you're real down on yourself you need more than a good pump-up song to get you going. You need to take it up a notch and dig into the Rocky and Arnold files.

Here is my one of my favorite videos that I downloaded and listened to about 10 times during Energiewacht.



My favorite line is about how winners aren't the ones who can hit the hardest but are the ones willing to take the hits and get up, and not point the finger and say you're not where you want to be because of anyone or anything--cowards do that.

I think that line captures mantra I really try to follow after every failure--Note: I may allow myself 1 to 1.5 days of wallowing in Speculous and Stropewaffles. If I crash, it's because I didn't have an out or I put myself in the wrong place or I couldn't hold my bike up. If I don't win, it's because I couldn't sustain my effort or I played the wrong card or I let myself get pushed around. These are all things I can control and change. If I blame others for my failures in races, then I'll go crazy trying to change things I can't fix. Honestly, I think that's the only way to have a pattern of success in life--well, for me.

To close the blog, I will include some of my favorite photos thus far!
Jennifer Wheleer #53

Lauren Hall and I snagging the front row for Energiewacht Stage 5

Custom laundry bag and Flanders Race Bible

Team presentation--before every race

Flanders--Look at that scenery

More Owls--Hooty Hoo!

I am Specialized Dutch style!

Jezus Leeft the Building!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pluk de Dag!--Ned Flanders Style

Kinetic just released this great video of Team TIBCO, talking about us off the bike and our goals for the season. Honestly, it's the most genuine, uncanned (is that a word?) video I've seen in cycling in my three LONG years on the bike. Isn't it great to have sponsors who are so cool and into your team's success? It makes it really easy to be a fan and promote them. So, thanks, Kinetic.
I have a few segments in the video. I had just crashed (imagine that?) and have a huge lesion on my forehead, and if you look closely on my hand, there's a spot there, too. Basically, Pam from Kinetic took me out the hospital (my bedroom) to get my take on the team, but hey! At least you know, I didn't have time to prep and what I'm saying is from the heart. Awwww... (And she threw in a Michael Jackson "Thriller" saddle cover, so I really had no choice :))

Check it out and give Kinetic and Team TIBCO some likes on Facebook for the hard work they put in here.


On a side note, I sometimes wonder why I get press, in the sense that I haven't done anything spectacular on the bike. I mean, in essence, I'm like the drummer from Def Leppard who is popular because he has one arm, not necessarily because he is an exceptional drummer. But whatever, I'll take what I can get. No complaints here.

Oh by the way, did I mention that I'm riding Flanders tomorrow? Every time I get on the bike here during this trip, I just am awe-stricken that I'm in Holland or Belgium or wherever I'll be in the next couple of weeks and am about to have the opportunity to ride the Super Bowl or World Series of bike racing--to use an American analogy. And to tie in more American culture, is it wrong for me to think of Ned Flanders when I hear someone mention Flanders?

Anyway, sure, I'm nervous and having just recovered from a pulled calf muscle and sitting out of Redlands doesn't boost my confidence, but honestly, all I can do is give my best effort and my teammates and director (and myself) know that my best effort is 110%. I ride hard and I will turn myself inside out to help my teammates the best I can, and that's all I can do. So, I lie. I'm not really that nervous because I'm confident in my strategy and my ability.

But if I can be honest here...because I'm usually just full of jokes and lies...ever since I hurt my calf and had to sit out of a race, my attitude and motivation has changed for the better. Before the "incident," I was a little tired and not in the best of moods after getting back from my first Europe trip.

I left Tucson at the end of February to get Lasik from Asheville Eye Associates in North Carolina--my doctor is a cyclist so I put my full trust in him. (I now have 20/15 vision, which means I can actually see THROUGH people. It's awesome.) and then I left for Europe March 2 and I won't be home until April 19. That's not a long trip compared to some people (like the women on the US National team) but for me, it's the longest I've had. It's exciting, but also fatiguing. And the worst part is that I get tired of only having 4 underwear options. GAWD!

Anyway, there were definitely moments where I had trouble pumping myself up before a sufferfest and questioning if this is what I want to do for the next several years (and maybe some girl tears and some teammate hugs--yeah, I'm sometimes a real sissy), but as soon as I had to ride in the team car behind my team in the leader's jersey, I missed it so badly. I kept myself positive through Redlands--I was so happy for our team--but inside I wanted to be on the road with my team so badly, helping in any way I could. When you take something away, even if it's only for a few days-=-or an hour in the team car, it makes you realize and appreciate the great opportunities you have, the opportunities you have made for yourself which you shouldn't just shit away because you're in a bad mood for a day, or a week, or a month, etc.

In other words, during the past week, I've gotten my head out of my ass and am embracing this once in a lifetime chance to race in Europe, and compete in Flanders and Fleche Wallone (which I hear is a big race, too! Big like say um...the NBA Championships!) I'm so excited about tomorrow. It's going to be the hardest race of my life, but also the most beautiful, unreal, and craziest race ever. I hear the Belgian fans aren't super drunk until the men's race, but I'm sure they'll still be obnoxious--just my style.

Anyway, here's to seizing the day now and way back in my first race, the Ballard Crit in summer of 2009. Who knew that racing Sequim or Mason Lake in Washington would lead me to Belgium just two years later. Thank you, Team TIBCO, friends, coaches, etc., and thanks to my readers for tolerating this sentimental post. I promise less Queen "We are the Champions!" and more Ramstein "Du Hast Mich" next time.

Pluk de Dag!!!

Oh and to continue the Corn Nuts theme, here's Kevin Bacon, doing what he does best to get pumped. Expect a performance like this in my hotel tomorrow morning--uh minus the whiskey and cigarettes, basically just the dancing and steering wheel pounding and maybe the white tank if I can find one... But first where's my cassette player?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wiener Melange

I’m back in Holland. I made the cut after the last World Cup trip, as I improved with each race. Pat on the back.

After an eventful San Dimas and Redlands, (Redlands—We won the overall, had the yellow from day and kept it. I unfortunately pulled my calf muscle before the second stage and had to cheer from the sidelines.) our team headed back to Europe to ride Flanders, Gelderland, and a handful of other races, some which include a team time trial and individual time trial, which will be fun. But travelling at the airport with 11 bikes on an international flight, not so fun, but thank god I’m on a team who supports me because I can’t imagine footing the bill for all this myself.

Anyway, back to Holland. We are in Ter Aar right now and it’s really laid back here. We are staying at a Bed and Breakfast in the countryside. The d├ęcor consists of 1940’s artwork mixed with a dusty U2 clock and Marlboro Man poster—probably to help us feel more at home as Americans. Oh and all of these wooden owl creatures…everywhere. I keep seeing a new one every day. It’s sort of like Where’s Waldo. They remind me of the Log Lady on Twin Peaks or something. Maybe the owl sales didn’t quite take off like the carved bear statues did in America.
One of the many owls

And the kitchen is stocked with bread, apple bread, glazed rolls, regular rolls and greasy meats and cheese. They like Ham and Cheese here for breakfast. Pancakes for lunch or dinner, I suppose. They also have Wiener Melange coffee—the best part of waking up is a wiener in your cup.  (Shall we dance to that, my dear, as the package suggests? Innuendo not intentional.) Oh and Choca, which are chocolate, sugary flecks that go on bread, usually white bread.
Best Part of Waking Up...

Despite all the processed foods for breakfast, the rest of Holland is pretty simple here and quite laid back. I’ve seen every type of animal so far: horses, cows, hogs (big black ones with pink bellies—I thought they were oversize boars at first. Do what you want with that innuendo but it wasn’t intentional.), goats, dogs, cats, sheep, and little baby lambs—everywhere. They’re so cute. I almost want to pull a Clarice Starling and snatch one at night. And there’s no fences. The people just have trenches filled with water around their farms. And amputee trees (I guess they cut off all the branches of the trees in the winter so they bloom again in the Spring, but in the meantime they look like Fight the Power fists, lining the roads.)
Amputee Trees
Back to the farms, I swear these moats have to have the Loch Nest Monster or imported crocodiles in them because I don’t know how these animals aren’t escaping. Maybe they’re just like meh, I like it here.  There are no stop signs (I saw one in 50k and I saw one traffic light. Just roundabouts, speed bumps (that say Let op!), and yield signs. People make room for each other on the alley size two way roads and there are so many bike paths where all these people from age 3-80 ride these big crusier bikes.

But, of course, I have to disrupt the flow, right? So, I decided to ride by myself today because I wasn’t sure how the calf would be feeling (It was good. My first 2 hour ride at a normal pace since Thursday.) I got tired of riding on the bike paths and then I finally found this road that had a white line in the middle of it and a tiny shoulder. But it worked for me. So, I’m riding along and a few cars honk. I think oh, maybe I swerved or maybe they just like cyclists. I do look pretty pro. Then I see a guy in a big truck from the other lane make a hand gesture at me. I think he is flipping me off, but on second thought maybe he is giving me like a thumbs up or a hang loose gesture. Whatever. Then this big concrete-type looking truck pulls into a pullout/shoulder type area and gets out of the truck and starts walking toward me as I ride closer. I thought, uh oh. The guy is pretty good looking—as most of the Dutch are (It’s the blue jeans. They have good taste in jeans. Seriously, and loads of white t-shirts.)
Anyway, this is how our conversation went:

Guy: Blah blah blah
Me: What?
Guy: (mockingly) What.
Me: I don’t understand.
Guy: You can’t "ritt" here.
Me: Ride? Like my bicycle.
Guy: Yes, you can’t ride here. People go up to 80 on this road. If you make it to the end, you’ll be dead.
Me: (Imagining my corpse being pushed along the and then over the end of the road, like Where the Sidewalk Ends.) I didn’t know. Well, where should I ride?
Guy: Go that way. Right times two. You’ll see. (Walks away)
Me: Thank you. You saved my life, I guess.
Guy: (smiles) Yes, be happy about it!!!

Then I figure out that the bike/scooter/tractor sign in red circles means “No”. There were no lines through it or anything. But universally Red means no, I guess, which is kind of weird because the speed limit signs are red circles and say 60 in the middle. And the “yes” signs are just blue. So in my defense, really? I was supposed to know this. And like I said before, the highways don’t look like highways. They look like country roads, which a pleasant white line in the middle. And I found it quite endearing that someone would stop their truck, get out and warn me to get off the road. I think in America, they might just hit you or throw a coke bottle at you. Or maybe it was so bizarre that the guy must have thought I had escaped from a mental institution…or that I was American and didn’t know any better.
This means no bikes. Seems sorta obvious on a second glance...hmmm

Even so, my re-route was much more pleasant and even more pleasant because my calf didn’t hurt and I found some brick paths and cobbles to ride on. So I made it to about 20km outside of Utrecht, which is where one of our Dutch friends on our first trip’s flight over lives. I was thinking about riding there to say Hallo! but didn’t think my calf would want the extra 40km and it’s not like I could find him anyway—it’s like trying to find Jennifer in Tucson. On the way home, I’d see signs next to the roundabouts that sayd Ter Aar 6km, and Amsterdam 31km. I thought about how fun that would be to just cruise on into Amsterdam, but then thought maybe that wasn’t a good idea either. Besides, it was already 4:30 p.m. because well, my whole house slept 15 hours last night and we got up at 1:00 p.m. Unbelievable. Oh look it’s 10:06 p.m. I guess I’ve been up for 9 hours. Might be time to go to bed…