Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Catching Up Part II: Sugar Mt. Race Report (July 28-29)

Arriving at Sugar Mountain in the wee hours of Saturday morning Mike Joos and I were warmly welcomed by my good southern friends from The Hub(Maria, Jeff, Jim, Nick and Jittery Joe's very own Cesar Grajales). Together, the seven of us all crammed into our small little one bedroom condo and slept happily late into the day. I drifted in and out of consciousness as the sounds of the race announcer wafted in through the open window. Because the women's expert was not until Sunday, I had the entire day to pre-ride the course and relax.

It turns out that my memory of this course was quite accurate. It begins with an extraordinarily steep climb up the ski slope, which eventually turns onto a gravel road, and then onto pavement, and then back onto gravel, and then pavement, and then gravel, and then pavement....all the way to the summit. Yup, just one big ass boring climb.

Once at the top you are treated with a descent down the ski slope that happens to dip into small pockets of wooded single track sprinkled with big, round rocks and diagonal roots all covered with a nice film of slick mud. I enjoy a good descent as much as the next thrill seeker, but this one has always left me feeling a bit uneasy. It's not one of those slick descents on which you can trust in God's infinite love and let it rip. No, this is the kind of descent that calls into action one's inherent sense of self preservation, and mine was out in full force.

Race day came and the condo was alive with the bustle of deflating air mattresses, burning toast, brewing Jittery Joe's (insert commercial plug) coffee* and a scramble to bring some kind of order to our mess. Maria and I warmed up together and eventually found our way to the starting line. Mike(who had suffered a broken wheel during his race the previous day) was at the start/finish snapping photos and providing support. All nine women that made up the women's senior expert field lined up at the start/finish and made nervous, superficial conversation until we were finally ready to go.

I must say, I had a pretty good start. I plodded up the ski slope in 3rd place for the majority of the "steep ass" * section. Once the climb turned onto the gravel road I began to slip to 4th and then 5th and eventually to 6th place. On the first lap I was able to struggle back to 5th place as my descending skills were in good form. Beginning the 2nd lap (which also happened to be the final lap) I was struggling to stay ahead of the BMC girl. Unfortunately, I was not able to keep my position and eventually fell back to 6th on the final lap. I thought I would be able to bomb the descent and take her by surprise at the bottom, but these aspirations were not to come to fruition. I think I may have lost some valuable time trying to ride the tricky sections rather than just running.

All in all, it was a good race. The trails dried up more than I expected. I felt like I descended fairly well and was pleasantly surprised with my climbing on the first lap....now I just need to master the final lap and I'll be ready for the podium! My dear friend Maria was in position to finish in 7th; however, Deana Weber of College Station, TX cut her off on the final corner and finished just seconds ahead. Maria, next time you gotta be a little more scrappy!



* Jitter Joe's Coffee: http://blog.thebeanteam.com/

* steep ass = grades over 20%

Pro female XC winner = Georgia Gould
Pro male XC winner = Jeremiah Bishop

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Raw Deal

This past weekend I found myself up in Perry County, PA where I stayed at JuJo Acres Farm with Judy and Jonas Stoltzfus. It was here that I joined my good friend David, his friend Meghan along with the Stoltzfus family in the organization of a Raw Milk Rally.

The rally was organized in response to a raid on the Nolt family farm (a Mennonite family from Newville, PA) where government officials removed over $25,000 worth of equipment and dairy products. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania it is unlawful to sell raw milk (even to your neighbor) without a permit (I’m pretty sure I got that right). The permitting process is not only cumbersome, but also does not allow the production of other raw dairy products such as yogurt and soft cheeses. In addition, governmental officials made false allegations that dairy products coming from the Nolt farm had been the cause of illness for some of his customers. These allegations were later retracted and no proof of such illness has been presented. The rally came at the perfect time, as there was also a warrant out for the arrest of the father, Mark Nolt, for the production and sale of raw dairy products. In talking with his son, they believe that the rally received enough media attention to delay further government intervention for the time being.

The event attracted just over a hundred people from nearby towns as well as more distant locations such as Bethesda, Maryland. I met a few women from Bethesda who make a routine voyage out to the Nolt farm where they stock up on raw dairy products for their family. In addition to loyal customers and fellow farmers, there were also several people from organizations such as Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Weston A. Price Foundation (a non-profit that promotes the preservation of wise traditions in food, farming and healing arts). The rally served as a platform for people to express their frustration over the unjust treatment of the Nolt family as well as their concerns involving over-reaching government interventions that compromise the integrity of the family farm.

It is unfortunate that we live in a society where ill informed consumers trust blindly in the authority of the government. Much of agricultural policy is intrinsically designed to undermine the progress of the small family farm and instead pad the pockets of large agricultural corporations such as Cargill, Monsanto, and Dean Foods. It is my hope that rallies such as this one may create a much needed dialogue between consumers and farmers wherein both parties may create an honest and healthy platform for agricultural commerce. This, I believe, is the only hope for the future of the family farm and the production of healthy foods.

- Many thanks to Jonas and Judy Stoltzfus, who so graciously welcomed me into their home over the weekend.













There’s a great argument going on today about whether or not the family farm is going to survive or should survive. This argument is extremely important, but it seems to me that all the talk about productivity and markets and feeding the hungry is secondary. The primary concern has to be with the cultural relation between people and land.
-Wendell Berry


Links:

Cumber Link
Real Milk
Weston A Price Foundation
H Street Community Market
Capital Community News
Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Catching Up: Mt. Snow Race Report July 21-22

In the week leading up to Mt. Snow I spent much of my time in the hospital with my friend, Chris, who broke his femur when struck by a car pulling a u-turn, at night, with his lights out, in the middle of Connecticut Ave. Feeling a bit fatigued and sleep deprived, I set off for Mt. Snow on Thurs afternoon, but not before dropping off Chris’s panic stricken feline friends at his parents’ place. To be stuck in DC traffic in a truck with no AC and two moaning cats is a real lesson in patience and loving kindness…. oh, and did I mention that South Capital is completely shut down?

Ok, so fast forward to Saturday morning…..the trails were still a mess from all the rain that occurred the week before. Before I go on, let me just say that I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE MT.SNOW COURSE, because it levels the playing field between the climbers and the technical riders. Unfortunately, due to the trail conditions, much of the tricky technical sections were completely unridable. In the three years that I have raced on this course, never have I ever walked so much. However, I will say that I was proud of my descending skills. It was a muddy, slippery, rocky mess and I loved every last minute of it. In retrospect, I think I could have pushed myself a bit harder on the climb on the second lap, but at that point I was feeling a bit frustrated as my season’s goal was to be on the podium for my age group. Alas, this was not to be. Instead I rolled in at 7th place out of 9 total riders. Although, I will say that the time gaps were pretty close. Please note that there were a total of NINE riders in the Expert 25-29 age group. Should you look at the results, there are currently only 8 riders listed; however, one rider was mistakenly placed in the wrong age category. This is a key issue as it is VERY IMPORTANT to me that I was not “next to last”, but instead “next to, next to last”….so please don’t confuse that.

Moving onto the shortrack…..Saturday night I saw little sleep as a wave of nausea fell upon me like a wet blanket. By morning, the nausea had turned to rumbling GI issues. As it turns out, the hose I drank from the day before was pulling directly from a collection pond. Apparently there were a number of signs warning folks not to ingest the water from the hoses…unfortunately; I did not make notice of these signs. So, the short track didn’t go so well. Live and learn I guess. I spent much of my drive home from Vermont in rest stop bathrooms along the way. It was a long drive, but I made it and I am now over my little parasite just in time to pack up and head to Sugar Mountain this weekend! Woohoo! Maybe this race will go a little better. Either way, I’ll come with my own water.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Home for the Weekend - a story in three parts

Part I: A Study of Roadside Bathrooms
Finding the perfect bathroom/gas stop on a road trip takes a higher level of competency than most people realize. This is an important skill to have as a successful road trip heavily depends on the quality of rest stops. The selection process begins with the parade of signs along the highway. An exit with only one gas station posted is probably not your best bet. These gas stations do not have any competition at their exit and therefore have no incentive to keep up their inventory or their toilet paper supply. At the same time, an exit with several gas stations posted in the center of a large town such as Harrisonburg is also probably not a good choice as these gas stations are usually smaller, do not cater to the needs of the long road tripper, and are usually fairly congested. The best rest stop exits are those that are positioned on the outskirts of large towns such as Johnson City, TN with several gas stations posted. You can especially be assured of a good exit if the restaurant stops include a Cracker Barrel. Gas stations at these exists know they need to be prepared for the high maintenance road tripper.

Last weekend I made the 8 hour pilgrimage down to North Carolina to visit my family and get a little riding in on the side (western NC is the best place in the WORLD for road riding and mtb). Along the way I made a photo-documentary of all the rest stops I visited in effort to provide a resource to future road trippers who may follow my path down 81 South…and then back up 81 North (or as Lorena likes to say “The 81 South”.) This is especially important when traveling to races, as a good bathroom stop can make all the difference when sprinting for the finish line. Below you will find a collection of photos from this trip along with location information and some useful notes.


Rest Stop #1
Location: 81 South
Exit: 247B (I think)
Gas Station: Pilot
Notes: Fairly clean, nice flower arrangement as well as a good inventory of perishables and hardware













Rest Stop #2
Location: 81 South
Exit: 19
Gas Station: CITGO
Notes: Very clean, good inventory, curious bathroom setup….really though, what is going on here?














Rest Stop #3
Location: 81 North
Exit: 19
Gas Station: Shell
Notes: Not amazing, not horrible. I think I’ll stick with the Double Dutch bathroom at CITGO next time.

















Rest Stop #4
Location: 81 North
Exit: 257 (or maybe it was 251)
Gas Station: Sheetz (the best gas station ever)
Notes: Very clean, lots of bright colors, excellent inventory, good people watching














Part II: My Highway Jesus

There’s really not much to be said here. Any good road trip south of the Mason-Dixon Line is going to involve some kind of roadside Christian eye-candy. I hope to flesh out this collection of photos a little more in the coming months.

Would Jesus have done this? Is this His tag?


Don't look back!




Saint Michael: Patron Saint of Gluttonous Fuel Consumption


Part III: The Most Beautiful Ride Ever
Over the years I have done this ride countless times, in good weather and bad, and each time I fall a little more in love. This is the kind of ride that reminds me why I love my bike…this is especially important at the end of another racing season. Not only does this ride provide some of the most beautiful scenery the southern Appalachians have to offer, but it also carries a lot of sentimental value for me. As a toddler I walked along the banks of the French Broad hand in hand with my grandfather, as a child I played in the waters at the base of Looking Glass Falls, as an adolescent I camped under the stars in the backcountry, and as a young adult I have come to love road and mountain biking on the endless roads and trails that leave you begging for more. Oh, and then there was that period of brief homelessness when I lived out of my Toyota Tacoma in the North Mills River Campground.

Ok, enough with the dramatics, I’ll just give you the ride report. I believe the ride is a total of 55 miles with….a good amount of climbing. I’m not sure how many total feet of climbing there is, but I believe it starts at around 1,500 feet and climbs well over 5,000 feet. So, I parked in the BI-LO parking lot and rode into the main entrance of the Pisgah National Forest on state road 276. In the summer the entrance of the Pisgahs is adorned with a necklace of brightly colored inner tubes as tubing down the Davidson River is a favorite pastime for many in the area, young and not so young, skinny and not so skinny, rich and not so rich. One might say that tubing in the Appalachians is the great equalizer. At this point in the ride the road is fairly flat….but ever so slightly up hill.

After about 30 or 45 minutes of riding (I think) I came to Looking Glass Falls, an impressive waterfall that is easily seen from the road. I only wish it were a little more secluded. With the road so close, it seems to cheapen its beauty. Soon after Looking Glass Falls I came across Sliding Rock, and stopped to watch as countless people line up for their turn to slide down this massive piece of granite (I think it’s granite) into the chilling waters below. Back on my bike, I can feel the beginning of the rollers that eventually lead into the climb. Before the climb really begins I pass the Cradle of Forestry, which is more or less the birthplace of the US Forest Service. I could go on for pages about the significance of this forest museum, but I will try to stay focused.








Once passed the Cradle of Forestry, the traffic starts to thin down and the road begins to go up. All in all I believe the climb up to the Blue Ridge lasts about 35 minutes. It’s a fairly gradual climb with a wealth of tight switch backs. I must say, the climb goes by much faster in the summer when you’re not wearing a gazillion layers. Once on the Blue Ridge the climbing is not quite over. I hung a left and headed in a western direction. Passing Cold Mountain on my right and Looking Glass Rock on my left I was rewarded with a panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the winter the rock cliffs are covered endless rows of icicles, but that day the heat of the summer beat down and I hoped that I wouldn’t run out of water. The road continues to climb for another 10 or 15 miles and eventually reaches its highest point somewhere around Yellowstone Falls (near the Shining Rock wilderness).

And so the descent begins!!! Woohoo! This is the icing on the cake. This is the closest I will ever come to the feeling of flight….unless of course I were to fly off the mountain at the apex of a turn. The descent is briefly interrupted by Devil’s Courthouse Tunnel….take caution here ‘cause it looks short, but it is black as night in the middle and it sucks to be in there with traffic. Soon after passing through the tunnel, I turned onto 215 heading toward Rosman, and this is where the true descent begins.

The descent down 215 gradual brings you back into civilization…or at least rural Appalachia. At the base of the descent there is a store stop which is a good place to restock on food and fluids before the final stretch of the ride (note: they only accept cash). I rode 215 until it hits 64 and hung a left towards Brevard. This is the less enjoyable part of the ride as 64 is a fairly busy road, although it does have a nice wide shoulder….and some interesting relics of southern Christianity. Again, this road really isn’t so enjoyable.
Back at the car, I cleaned up a bit, got a nice big cup of lemonade and headed towards Davidson River where I went for a refreshing swim. Wow, what a beautiful day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Marriage Proposal...of sorts

Is that biological clock ticking? Are you afraid of growing old alone with only your cats to keep you from losing your mind? Ready to settle down and pursue the American Dream? If so, this may be for you.... http://letsgethitched.gobike1.com/
My friend Kei is in search of a wife. In the above link you will find both his proposal as well as a detailed outline of the wedding schedule. Incidentally, I happen to have a wedding dress that I never ended up wearing (tragic story really). I would be happy to donate this dress to the cause of uniting Kei with his life mate. If you're out there, please respond ASAP!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

International Gwadzilla Appreciation Day!!!

The day almost slipped by before I realized it is International Gwadzilla Appreciation Day! If you are not already well acquainted with the Mecca that is Gwadzilla’s blog, please give him a visit at:

http://www.gwadzilla.blogspot.com/.

Among other things, Gwadzilla’s blog provides a photo documentary of some of D.C.’s most dedicated cyclists from every walk of life:



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Road Cone In Our Lives


While watching the men’s Cat 4 Criterium at the Tour de Christiana I was reminded of the dangers of road cones when a few guys went down as a result of a road cone collision. In this case, the road cone had been placed over a storm grate in order to alert riders of the possible danger. Because the grates were running horizontally, it is my opinion that the road cone posed a greater danger than the actual grate itself. I too once fell victim to an unruly road cone and was reminded of some deep thoughts I shared with the Penn State list serve back in April of 2004:

The irony of road cones is that they can sometimes be more of a hazard than the actually hazard they are trying to avoid. I found this to be the case during my collision with a rather large road cone during the ECCC Regional Championship criterium yesterday in Dover, NH with only five laps to go. With the encouragement of a friendly UNH corner marshal, I recomposed myself and my bike and found my way back to the pack. A valiant effort indeed!


On the surface, this may seem like a simple question of proper road cone usage during criteriums. However, I found myself reflecting on the significance of this road cone in my life. What precautions am I taking in my life that are actually more perilous than beneficial? Could I possibly be impeding my capacity for self actualization due to the prolific use of metaphorical road cones?

So, I will ask you the same question. When does precaution become an impediment to your attainment of goals and aspirations? What is the road cone in your life? I firmly believe that a life lesson can be found in every race. My goal is to keep racing until I figure out the meaning of life. I will be sure to inform you all of my findings via list-serve.

Grand Opening!!!


It’s the grand opening of my new blog! I never really considered myself to be a blogger. In some ways it seems to be a bit of a narcissistic endeavor. Really, why do I feel the need to make this public? I’m not sure that I have an answer at the moment. Should I have a mission statement? What is the true point in having a blog? Why do I feel the need to leave my footprint in the sands of electronic time? Maybe my great, great grandchildren will read this blog after I am dead and gone and think “Wow, Great Grandma Anna was a real nut case”. Or maybe I can use this blog as a means of passing on the wealth of knowledge I manage to acquire over the course of my life, forever preserving it for future generations. When I am old and grey, on my last day of life, I will log off for my last time and a nation of bloggers will weep.

I suppose I will first need to decide on a platform….hmmm….should this blog be dedicated to issues surrounding rural community empowerment? Perhaps I will attract a community of academics in international development and together we can find a holistic, integrated solution to end poverty and environmental degradation throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Or, this site could be completely dedicated to all things bike related, particularly concerning women in the cycling world. Through this blog I will sound a trumpet that will summon women throughout the world to pick up a bike and ride. As a result, women’s bike racing will grow like kudzu across the land, the level of competition will reach heights never imagined, and a woman will one day win the Tour de France. Or, this site could simply be a place for me to recount the mundane details of my day….a place to unload some of the more bazaar moments in my life. I must say, I have a knack for creating bazaar situations that are usually quite humorous…at least in retrospect. Well, we’ll see where this goes. The main thing is to not let this blog pose any threat for future employment opportunities. Oh, and to always use proper grammar.