Kern Carnage

June 7, 2010

I went to Bakersfield to race the Kern County Stage Race with Andi Mackie, whom I first met in 2002 when we both were experiencing it for the first time. I think this year was the 7th Kern for us.

Stage 1- Bena Time Trial

Friday morning started off with a 10 mi TT. The temps were in the 80’s on Friday, 2009 was 95+. After check in, number pinning, getting trainers set up, watches set to the “official” clock (which actually, was non-existent), warm-ups started.

I discovered my bike wanted to stay in my big chain ring, never found out why for sure. Ah, not a big deal for a TT but this one has a bit of a climb on the return. My ever-positive teammate Liz tells me “You know, Monica I’ve never gone into my small chain ring on that climb.” Ooo-kay…I can do this.

The Pinkie (Kalyra Women’s Team) rider who started behind me is a bit of a TT specialist so my goal was to keep her off my tail. At the bottom of the climb, she was a bit closer than I’d hoped so I did all I could to get over that thing without losing too much time. I wished I’d had that small chain ring several times but I got over the hump and when I crossed the line with my mouth dry and lips stuck to my gums, I knew I’d given it a good effort.

Later, Liz tells me ” I gotta tell ya, Monica, I thought of you as I shifted down to my small chain ring on that climb.” Cammy took the TT by more than 40 seconds. I sat in 4th but only 10 seconds out of 2nd. For the record, Liz won 35+ and I think would’ve been 3rd in Cat 1/2 Women…not bad for a fellow AARP card holder!

Stage 2- Woody Basin Circuit Race – Saturday morning

Saturday we started with Cammy in 1st, me in 4th, and Andi and Linda not too far behind us. This race consists of 5 rolling laps with a time bonus on each lap and at the finish, which is at the top of a 200m roller with a decent pitch. Our goal as a team was to get the win for me and to gain as many of the bonuses as we could so as to keep 2nd and 3rd place from soaking them up.

We tried various combinations of lead-outs and sprint starting points on each lap, trying to win the time bonuses and thwart our opponents. Each time we got some time bonuses, and got smarter, until we nailed the ultimate combo on the final lap. I had been waiting too long to sprint, so I decided for the final uphill drag that I would go earlier…and it worked. I had a lot of help, of course…thanks to the Bellas for the awesome leadouts.

Stage 3- Havilah Hill Climb – Saturday afternoon

GC had Cammy in 1st, I was tied for 2nd, 10 sec back and 3rd place 16 seconds back. Andi was sitting in 6th and Linda 10th (I think). The Havilah Hill Climb consists of a couple mile run up over several rollers to loosen the legs, then you turn off the road, cross over a cattle guard (my favorite!) and immediately start climbing. Bob moved the start area this year for better parking, level ground and more space, but this added 2 miles to the lead in to the climb. According to Bob’s data, the main climb is 2900 ft in 7 mi with an average grade of 8-10% with some 12% pitches.

It was business as usual to the base of the climb, then Kim Wik, who I was tied with, and I set the pace. We quickly became a group of four – Cammy, Jill Gass, (Kalyra – Pinkies), Kim and me. Within the next few corners Kim & I were alone. I was setting a decent pace but she was matching me stroke for stroke. After a bit I looked over at her and saw that she looked hot and taxed, so I decided to up my cadence a bit to see if she could hang, but she was right there. Dang it, I started thinking, I gotta make sure I don’t blow this, because if this thing turns into a sprint at the end I need to have something left.

About a third of the way up the climb I got into a bigger gear and put on another seated acceleration. I gained a little gap so I got out of my saddle to try to increase this. Around the next corner there was a nasty pitch again so I sat back down and settled into a spin. The terrain was steep here, with a number of turns which kept me out of sight. It’s always mentally draining when you can’t see the person you’re chasing. At a clearing I looked back to see where Kim was, and felt confident I had a comfortable lead. Not knowing her fitness I tried to maintain a high pace but stay within myself so I didn’t blow. When I saw the 1 mile marker I knew I had it.

The hill climb is on a narrow, twisty one-lane road, and I’m not even sure cars actually travel up it anymore. Everyone waits on top for all the riders to come up before we start the descent. Personally, I hate descending it…there’s lots of debris on the road, gravel, dirt, rocks, it’s steep, and on top of that you’re cold, hungry and tired of being on your bike. This year I descended with Suenago and Julie Nevitt, of SJBC. Sue and I were stoked with the speed and confidence we went down that baby this year. Maybe we were just hungry enough to let ourselves go – who knows!

Saturday at Kern is an incredibly long day. You leave the hotel about 6:30, and drive a good hour out of town for the start of Stage 2. You warm up, suffer, hang out, then drive another half hour for Stage 3. More hanging out, tons of suffering, then the drive all the way back. We hit that little Mexican place in Bodfish for some well deserved burritos, tacos and beers. Relaxed and with full bellies, we headed back to town, arriving at our hotel at 7:30 ready for showers and rest.

Stage 4- Iron Mountain Road Race – Sunday

After three stages, I was leading on GC, Kim Wik 2nd @ 1:28, Jill Gass 3rd @ 2:16, Cammy 4th, Andi 6th, Linda 9th or 10th. The team plan was to keep the GC, win the stage, and move Andi and Linda up.

Everyone is tired at the start of this stage, and it’s hilly fifty mile road race. The start and finish were in different places this year, with the finish was at the top of a 1.5km fairly steep climb. Everyone secretly hopes the stage starts out slowly and doesn’t get too heated until lap 2. Ha!

Kim came out right away to make something happen, and she got on the front and drove the pace enough that people got shuffled off. Soon we came around a big sweeping left hand turn and there was a car in the middle of the road with the door open. Yikes! We all hit our breaks and discovered it was the support vehicle for the Cat 4 women, and two of them were on the ground. Ugh, hate seeing that.

On the back side of the course there is a long working descent filled with some rolling climbs. As we were headed down the descent Linda caught back on…YAY! She put out a pretty big effort to fight to get back on, so I went to the front and asked if we could ease the pace, just a touch, to let her recover. Ha! But it was worth a try, at least.

The second lap things began to heat up further, with Kim still driving the pace. I stayed in the back, protected – I had no reason to work. My legs felt good and I was enjoying the position I was in – five girls and three of them Bellas, Cammy, Andi and me. The pace was picking up a bit on each of the climbs, and finally Andi told me she didn’t think she’d be able to hang on much longer. We had a good gap from any other riders and we were nearing the end, so Andi’s 5th place seemed secure.

There’s climb followed by a fun twisting descent, a run out and then the 1.5-2km climb to the finish. As we neared the crest of the climb I picked up the pace and went for it, figuring what the hell, I had good legs and if I could get away I’d have a lead going into the climb…and if they caught me they’d have blown a match and the race starts over. With a 1:28 cushion I felt comfortable that unless a mishap occurred I wasn’t going to lose that much time before the line…plus I could lead down the descent.

I got a gap, with Kim and Jill in full chase. They caught me before we started the climb to the finish. As we all shifted down I kept the pace high, and just past the 1km sign I went for it again, jumping out of the saddle pushing the pace. I kept looking back wondering if they were going to catch me. Finally at the 200m sign I knew it was mine. Behind me Kim lead Jill up the climb only to get jumped by Jill at the line. Final GC was me, Kim 2nd @2:04 and Jill 3rd. Cammy was 4th, Andi 5th and Linda 9th

We headed back to the parking area, changed clothes, ate and hung out for the awards ceremony. For those of you that haven’t experienced Kern County, Bob Leibold makes all the awards, and they all tell a story. We have photos I can share. The Bellas took Masters 35+ with Liz 1st and Sue 2nd. We also took 45+. We had quite the collection of hardware.

My wins couldn’t have happened without the sacrifice and hard work of others, from Linda making me coffee every morning, to the lead outs she and Andi provided…it’s all about the group connection. If you haven’t experienced this race, I highly recommend it. It’s rewarding, challenging, fun and ever so satisfying. Think about it, where else at our ages can we race a stage race like the pros? Playing out strategy, taking on roles and thinking about the final GC, not just the event of the moment? It’s a special time indeed…and that’s not to mention all the goofy, silly girl stuff.

—Monica Nielson
Brentwood, California

Racing the Pink Hurricane

June 7, 2010

Turn off the Giro! The Heck with the TOC…

This is what you REALLY want to hear about.

The Flair-a- licious bellas headed to the balmy breezes of Bakersfield (not the usual heat measured in Kelvin degrees). Numerous emails flew back and forth deciding who should race in which Master’s category. We ended up with Sue Lo and I in the 35+ and Monica, Cammy, Andi Mackie, and Linda Locke in 45+.

As soon as we registered the entire Pinky team registered. I think they waited to see what we were racing before they signed up. Feh. They posted on their Pinky website the Pink Hurricane was coming to town. (soon to be downgraded to a tropical depression).

Bena ITT
What can I say about the TT? Well, it wasn’t hot or terribly windy, though it seemed to be headwind all the way. I started out the 35+, with a big gap between me and the 4’s so no help there. I was testing out my new speed suit so hoping for some added fastness. In my category was the pinky girl who smoked me at Madera so I had to really pull off a good TT.

Mike Hard, the official told me at the line I did the race more times than he officiated so I could read the rules myself. Which I did.
Rode hard, kept concentration, turned around the cone, rode back, crossed the line. and, well, yeah, I won by 35 seconds.

Monica was having trouble with her front derailleur and couldn’t go from small to big, and there is a pretty giant size hill, which you can stand and stomp or go small chainring and stay aero. I told her, no biggie in the biggie, but as I was riding up in my small chainring, I was thinking she would likely kill me for the advice.

Cammy had a great ride in her group for the win.

Stage 2 walker basin circuit race.

If you don’t like sprinting this stage sucks. Bonus points every lap, and with my group of 5 and going head to head against a sprinter, I had to do some semblance of a sprint each lap, but remembering I had a big old climb waiting for me that afternoon. Our meager peleton was 2 pinkies (Avalon former national team trackie from the 80’s and Janet G nice girl gone pink) and Julie from SJBC, another top trackie.

So each lap Avalon won each sprint, and of course the finish. Of note she was yammering to Janet, go harder, lead me out blablabla, and I’m thinking she could outsprint all of us even if we had a motorcycle leading us out! Let Janet save her legs for the hillclimb.

Havila Hillclimb

We hung out for a while then moved HQ to Havila for the hillclimb. Plan was Sue and I would ride together and get rid of everyone else. Popped Avalon on the 4 mile gradual rolling climb to the toe of the climb, rounded the corner and soon it was just Sue and I. I overcooked myself and was struggling, and offered Sue to go on, and leave me to the buzzards. She paced me and eventually I recovered and rode a good tempo. We rode together, and the glory was hers at the top.

I’m still hallucinating at the top and see Sue riding around, but what happened to her hair? Did she tuck it up under her helmet…No, its Monica!!! Holy crap she was just behind us, and kicked ass in her race.

Oh, yeah, she can tell you about her circuit race but she won that too.

The hill climb moved me back into first, Sue second. We gained 2:30 over the next climb finisher (Janet).

Woody RR

After getting back about 8:30 I was cleaning up my bike, and noted a nick and an aneurism in my rear race tire. crap. Had to ride my training wheel, which isn’t too heavy, but I love the lightness of the race wheels. Oh well, I had about 4 minutes to blow to keep my lead over Janet. The road course is full of bullheads making for a flatfest.

Anyway, short warmup, bunch of rollers till the big downhill. Which I think is a blast, and love to fly down it…in my moment of funnness, there is a cat 4 girl on the ground, support vehicle in the road, so we needed to go over the center line around a blind corner. Sue went to the right around the vehicle, through the dirt, and at that point I decided it wasn’t as much fun as I thought. All riders up and rolling, though marginally terrified. Avalon caught back on at the feed zone, rode with us on the descent, but was gone after the long climb.

Merrily we rode along, this time no descending insanity, chatted on the hillclimb, tempo’d along the way, Sue told me to go for the win, at 1 K I punched it, Janet couldn’t respond, Julie had fallen off on the main climb, Sue was pretty close behind, saw the finish tape pass under my wheel.

And just as I was stuffing my lungs back in my thorax, who comes by…Monica! By a country mile she grabbed first. Holy sh*t!

It was a bella trophy and GC sweep!

Will let them fill in their tales of glory! All I know is they rode smart and savvy.

We had a lovely and successful gang. No bitchin’, nothing but support and respect and bellavelolove among our teammies (I have been on some nasty ass teams and can tell you the bellas rock).

Side note….next year Masters Nationals will be in Bend. Masters squad will be on fire! I’m working on coordinating the masters team, so let me know if you want to have some fun!

—Liz Benishin
Northern Cali

Monica Wins Kern in Team Effort

June 17, 2009

Kern County Stage Race
Women 35+

By Monica Neilson

Velo Bella Kern

Bellas! Andrea Atkins, Stella Carey, Sabine Dukes,
Linda Locke, Sue Lovecchio, Laura Sanchez, and Me, Monica

I went into the weekend with no expectations except to race my heart out for whatever Bella among us, was in the best position to win. I’ve watched the 35+ group of Bellas race with strategy and team tactics at Kern before. I was excited to play with them. And once again, they raced liked seasoned pros!

Stage One – Bena TT

Check in time was 11:30-12:30 with starting times posted at 12:45. We figured we’d be going off around 1:30 but discovered actual starting times like 2:32 & 2:36 & 2:48 – so this began the first round of killing time, sitting under the pop-ups, avoiding the sun, resting your legs on ice chests, drinking as much fluid as possible – all of which was repeated over and over and over again before the weekend was finished.

I’ve always done TT’s by heart rate but when I took off and hit the start button I wasn’t in the right view. I spent the first 500m or so messing around with it to no success. Finally, I told myself %^$# it, just put your head down and go! Your legs will tell you whether you can do more or not.” I managed to pull out a half-way decent time and came out of it in 2nd place, only 23 seconds back. Sue and Stella weren’t too far behind me.

Stage Two – Woody Basin Road Race

This race offers time bonuses each lap plus time bonuses for the finish. Our goal, as a team, was to get the stage win, keep first place from getting any bonuses and get as many bonuses as we could to move Sue up in GC. My job was to do nothing, sit in, if I could steal some bonuses without any big efforts go for it, but other than that do nothing. Sweet! I like this.

First lap was text book perfect, Linda and Andrea went off the front about 2.5 miles before the line to steal the bonus times. This same plan didn’t work so well as the others caught on to our tactics so we had to adjust. We made steady attacks to try and gobble up points, but our attacks were a little harder than needed and wore some people out. Stella, Linda, Laura, Sabine, everyone took turns playing (working).

Late in the race Sue popped a spoke. She told me to go to the front, slow things down so she could get a wheel change from the car. It was classic! I went up front and just started chatting with Janet, (girl who was in 1st in GC) As we talked I pedaled just a little bit softer, slowing the pace down as did Janet without even realizing it. Funny thing was, neither Janet nor her teammates ever looked back to see what was happening. Sue, Laura, Linda, Sabine were all back in no time!

As we approached the finish Sue and I whispered about who’s wheel to be on and where to be in the corner. As always the finish was a little dicey but I managed to get over the line in 2nd place. Best part was Janet didn’t get any time bonuses but her teammate Sonia scored several including the win.

Stage Three – Havilah Hill Climb

This stage should really be called Hellish Hill Climb as I swear its hotter than hell and the climb is a bitch! Throw in a little headwind and WHOA…we got us a real gem.

We started out with Sonia and Janet tied for first in GC, me sitting 2 seconds back, Sue about 35 seconds behind that. Our game plan was for Sue and I to stay protected on the 2-3 mile lead into “the climb” then try to get away. If we can do anything to help each other great, if not remember it’s a drag race to the top. As soon as we started Bev Chaney the only non- Bella or non-pinkie in the field took off. No one responded. Bev is an accomplished mtn biker, not a real experienced road racer, and new to this event. The feeling among the team was that she wasn’t a threat for the long sustained effort this climb took.

As we turned into the climb the field quickly went down to Sue, Janet, and I. We passed Bev before long, she was mixed in with some of the Cat 4’s who started 2 min ahead of us. Sue and I were watching Janet to assess her status and we both felt like she was hurting. I felt great. I moved in front, tried to keep Sue protected.

Sue came up along side, gave me a look saying “ if you can go, go” I added a little more pressure to the pedals and soon found myself with a gap. When I saw Michael, Tyler, and Erika at about the halfway point I really began to think I could pull this thing out. I took all the water I could get, thrown on my back, over my head, I think Erika even just sprayed me all over – it was really refreshing. I ended up nailing this climb, giving myself close to a 3 min advantage on the field. Sue had a fantastic ride, coming in 2nd and putting about 30 seconds into Janet.

Stage Four – Iron Mtn Road Race

There’s a saying I’ve heard about Bakersfield – it’s not hell but you can see it from there. Well, Sunday we might’ve agreed with that. It was hot, really hot! Some say 108, with temps on the road of 114.

Going into the stage, I had 1st in GC with a 2:50 lead, Janet in 2nd, Sue in 3rd about 45 seconds behind Sue, and Sonia, Janet’s teammate about 1 minute behind Sue. Our goal for the stage, protect Sue’s and my GC standing, get the stage win and move Sue up if possible.

The first lap was very uneventful, almost boring. I sat on the back, just riding it out. I’ve never had this experience before. It was sweet, I was diggin’ it. I was also thinking, man when is something exciting going to happen, then boom – . Laura pops a spoke…uh, oh. No follow vehicle.

Boom #2

I flat.

Laura, Sabine, and Linda do a quick check of who has Campy, who has Shimano and Linda gives me her wheel. Laura and Linda were so calm as we changed my wheel. They reminded me not to panic, you’ve got plenty of time. I told myself, “ just a controlled, concentrated effort, don’t blow your wad getting back, you have teammates up there, they’ll be controlling the pace. Stay within yourself.” Sabine was 1km or so up the road to ensure I was up and moving. I asked if she wanted me to keep her with me. She said, “No Monica just GO!”

I made contact with the group just at the base of the main climb and just like seasoned pros, Stella and Andrea were sitting on the front keeping the pinkies in line. Evidently, they did try to take advantage of my mishap but the girls shut them down. Sue kept giving me hand signals to remind me to take deep breaths, relax, and settle in. The pinkies let Stella set the pace up the climb which shocked me, as they had the perfect opportunity to make a move but nothing happened.

As we neared the long descent off Pine Mountain the pinkies started making their move to the front. I knew there was no way those girls could out ride Stella on a descent. I decided to take it easy down the hill as I had this borrowed wheel which was a sew up and I’ve never ridden one. Plus, I started thinking things like “ did we lock the skewer well? Is the wheel in there straight?” Andrea and Sue both checked to make sure I was ok.

At the bottom of the descent one of the pinkies took the lead and began setting the pace. You’d think they’d start trading pulls and showing signs of racing this thing to the finish but this didn’t happen. I told Sue I think they’d settled, they weren’t looking at anything but the stage results. There simply wasn’t enough time in the race left to make up 3 min.

This is when Sue started telling me she was cramping and not feeling so great. She asked me to keep a watch on the pace, don’t let it get too high so she doesn’t get dropped. Stella was covering the front with the three pinkies. As we made our way through the working descent before the final climb to the finish I moved up with Stella, filled her in on Sue and slowed things down. I kept looking around fully expecting the pinkies to jump but nope, nothing. Sue was sitting on my wheel reminding me to ease off when necessary, but showing no signs of distress.

We started going up with maybe 2km to the finish, Stella said “ you know if you can go, go. You’re the strongest one here, they’re not gonna do anything so go if you can go.”

When we got to the ridge where I could see the finish I put more pressure on my pedals, stayed seated and rode off. Sonia and Janet jumped and caught me. I sat up. I didn’t want them sitting on my wheel so we had a little cat fight.

Then Janet took the lead. I sat on her wheel, and we dropped Sonia. Janet was out of the saddle pulling me up with her. About 50m from the line I tried to get her, but didn’t have it. 2nd for me. Sonia, 3rd, with Sue and Stella rolling in right after. We hung onto our 1st and 3rd in GC for Sue and I.

Thank You Bellas!

Sorry for making this so long, but I wanted to share the team work that went into this win. All I did was ride a decent time trial and nail that hill climb it was what everyone else did that made the win happen. I’ve been trying to work today, you know like my real work, but I find myself overwhelmed by the weekend, the sacrifices made, the encouragement shared, the raw will and determination everyone had, it’s got me all verklempt. Thanks ladies, you’re all my heros, can’t wait ‘til next time!

Saying thank you doesn’t do justice for what Michael, Tyler, Erika and Rick did for us this weekend. You guys make us all feel like queens even tho, only Stella wears the tiara.

Great job everybody!

A Million Degrees Kelvin: Liz Wins Kern

June 17, 2009

By Liz Benishin

Middle-of-Nowhere in Kern County
Temperatures measured in Kelvin Scale
Category: Masters Women 45+
Placings: 1st TT, 1st hillclimb, 6th circuit race, 4th RR
1st in General Classification by over 5 minutes

liz benishin

Stage 1 TT, warmed up well, which we had plenty of time for since our start time was about 2 hours later than we had anticipated. So lots of gabbing in the Bella tent and ordering the guys to pump tires, oil chains, check shifting etc. I was first off in my group, with a huge gap, so no rabbits to chase. I have to thank Karl at SVCC for doing a bit of an aero cleanup on my bike. Hammered my brains out, and did the 10 miles in 26:04. My perennial TT rival Dawn came over to me later and told me that I had smoked her by 50 seconds, which over this distance is huge.

Later that evening, Monica gets a call in her hotel room..
Hotel clerk: Is Liz there?
Monica: No, but we have a Liz in our group
Hotel Clerk: We have a package for her. It is a calvin klein box with insulin and syringes. (Did they open it??)
Mon: Uh, I don’t think that is hers
Hotel Clerk: There is a phone number (which wasn’t mine)
Mon: I don’t think that is hers.

Monica to Liz…the UCI is going to be knocking on your door. Ha!

Next day was a logistic nightmare, we headed out to Walker Basin for a circuit race, which my goal was to make back time, and help teammate Andi Mackie get some sprint bonuses, but not work too hard. Andi got 2nd and some time bonuses.

Then we sat around in the tent for a few hours, ate, told stories of bike gore and glory, then packed up to the next venue, a diablo-esque hillclimb. This stage really determines the race. I warmed up on the road for about 10 minutes, tried to stay out of the sun, and off we went. The first 3 miles were gentle climbing with a tailwind, so it was hot, then we made the turn to the hill proper.

I was near the front, and just paced off a couple skinny girls that I assumed were climbers, I just watched my heart rate and rode steady. I went around the skinny girls and eventually it got real quiet, and I realized I was alone. This was pretty early on, so I figured I better watch myself to not blow. I looked back and I saw some bright yellow, which I thought was the Southbay wheelmen girl, and I debated if I wanted to ride with her, or just keep on keepin on..finally I realized it was her husband (you know you have been out in the sun too long when you mistake a big guy for a teeny climber chick).

Passed mile markers, 2 feed zones including Michael (Hernandez) who yelled out “Don’t Bury Yourself” which I thought he was telling me to slow down. I was passing a lot of riders from other categories who were cheering me on. Finally after what seemed like the longest 1k I rolled over the finish line and ate watermelon. I was a full 4 minutes faster than the 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

I had 2+ minutes over these girls on the TT so as long as I didn’t crash (physically, physiologically or emotionally) in the RR I was all set for glory. Got back to the hotel about 8 PM. It was a long day.

4th and final stage, my plan was no flats, no crashes, and to help Andi. I had no reason to hammer, though the other girls kept waiting for me to attack, which I had no reason to do. Pretty much the group stayed together. Andi flatted right after the feed zone, but easily caught back on (luckily one of the team cars was at the feed with spare wheels, we had no follow vehicle). She caught on with no problem.

We did drop a few people on the climb but essentially stayed together, the last time through the feed Michael (I think that was him..) was holding up bottles and a wheel if Andi wanted her wheel back. In my overheated, fried state I found this funny. Final 1k climb we all pretty much stayed together till about 100m to go 2 people took off, I had Andi on my wheel, and she was 3rd, I was 4th.

Awards as always were fun. I especially love the t shirts, with Linda Locke and Andrea Atkins’ picture from last year.

Special and HUGE thanks to Mike, Rick, Tyler and Erika for taking care of all our needs, allowing us to boss you around, tending to logistics, and other miscellaneous duties too numerous to count!

A Little Delirious: Marian Does Kern

June 16, 2009

By Marian Jamison
Reno, Nevada

marianjSo, I wrote up a long verbose race report for my coach, and I’d considered just copying and pasting it here, but who wants to read about my truly weak performance this weekend? Instead I prefer to publish the lighter moments at Kern, the thoughts that had me chuckling even as I struggled against getting dropped in 114 degree heat outside of nobody’s favorite city, Bakersfield.

• To begin with, I rocked the TT. Let’s just leave it at that.

• As I bonked, cracked, cramped, and limped my way up the hill climb I thought, “oh, so this is what dying feels like.”

As I was dying in the RR the next day I kept laughing to myself about how this is what dying feels like, I think I might have been a little delirious.

• A certain princess suggested that the reason I’ve failed to secure my cat 2 upgrade is because of my inability to avoid getting rookie marks if I so much as look at a bike.

• Thanks to Monica I will now ask myself “Marian, are you getting shot at?” whenever I have a bad race, and feel a little better about myself.

• Heather Pryor, the girl who totally kicked my ass all weekend, is afraid of mountain biking, so I teased her a lot during the road race until she dropped me. It was very fun. I had people tell me, “I’m following your line on the decents!” because I kept telling them how much I’d rather be up in Tahoe riding knobbie tires instead.

• SueNami spit chewed up watermelon on me as I lay in the dirt at the top of the hill climb. That made me laugh, I don’t think anyone’s ever spit chewed up watermelon on me before. It was awesome.

• It’s totally worth 14 hours in a hot car to hang out with my teammates for a weekend.

• A girl I’ve been racing against a lot this spring told me on the start line of the road race, “We were talking about how there are two types of bike racers: the kind that sit in and wait for the finish and worry a lot about their results, and the kind who, results be damned, get up there and make stuff happen. You’re the second type.” So I’m kind of paraphrasing there, but you get the point. I’m stoked to be the second type, and some day I’ll have the fitness to back up the crazy things I do.

• Hernando and Sabine insisted on buying me dinner both nights, I think it’s because I told them that I slept in my car at collegiate nationals. A move that Michael classified as “totally unacceptable.” Come on! What?

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. I’m still exhausted, sunburned, and desperately in need of doing a load of laundry. I’ve somehow volunteered to organize the Tour de Nez century ride, that will take place on the day I’m racing Nevada City. Huh? How’re you going to work that one, Mare? Sigh . . . time will tell.