Friday, December 30, 2011

Testing out the Cross Steed--Bianchi Bliss

One word....Holy Cow. Okay that's two words, but neither Holy nor Cow alone really does this bike justice. So there you go. I took it out to ride the dirt trail which surrounds a local lake we have which contains mostly smooth packed dirt, a lot of newly spread gravel from the latest renovations being done and maybe one root and two rocks. The perfect testing ground for my new cross bike.

A Bianchi in the sun
As soon as I got on it, I couldn't believe how fast, agile and stable this bike is. I was concerned that I would be wobbly on the skinny wheels and drop bars over gravel. I even tried pushing it in the corners to see if those skinny 32mm tires would wash out, but they didn't. The bike hugged the turns like it was on rails and the carbon fork absorbed all of what probably should have felt jarring.  The Ultegra shifting was smooth as butter and the geometry fit me like a glove. While I didn't see much in the way of average speed savings on the lap from riding  my mountain bike on that course, the amount of effort I had to put in was much less to achieve the same mph. I am loving this Bianchi bike and can't wait to take it out again.

I am even considering racing it in the last race of the local Cross series we have in about 3 weeks.  I have never raced a cross race, nor even spectated  at one live actually but, I imagine it will be really fun on this bike. Sure, I know I might make a fool of myself trying to hop over those barriers with the grace of a bull in a china shop.  My hope would be that  no one will notice my bumbling since they'll be so blinded by the beauty of the Italian workmanship that is Bianchi, that they won't even notice the rider falling all over herself trying to fake composure. But, if not, hey, there are like a million videos on youtube, what is the likelihood that someone would post it?

On second thought, maybe I should just go spectate the others and leave my bike in the car.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Fragility of Life

My intention was to keep this blog strictly related to cycling only, but on Christmas Eve, we got a phone call from a friend that changed his life forever. One of our good friends from "home" called to tell us that his Mom was killed the night before in a car crash. Just like that. Broadsided by a mustang while she was making a left turn. No time to say good bye, no time to get affairs in order. And while losing a parent is unbearable at anytime, having no time to prepare or accept the idea of it beforehand has got to be the worst. When my husband told me the news, I broke down because she was one of those Moms who just everybody loves like their own. The quintessential Italian woman who makes everyone feel like you are one of her own children from the moment she meets you. She was loved by everyone who met her and she will be sorely missed.

In the past two years, I have lost my own mother and not a day goes by that I don't ache for her loss. We were very close. With my own Mom though, I had time to prepare. She was sick for some time so when she passed, we were there with her and it was not a surprise. Still terribly heart breaking, but not unexpected with the way it happened nor the timing.  She was an extremely strong woman who battled and beat so much, but at some point a body just can't take anymore and has to quit.

At this time of year, the feeling of missing her is indescribable.  Her loss is even more palatable during the holidays even though I know I was lucky to have had as much time with her as I did. Each time I do something significant or something cool, or even something silly that I normally would share with her, I am jolted with that reminder that I can't tell her about it. Not anymore. I can't pick up the phone to chat about my day. I can't ask her advice or opinion on issues which often times were opposite of mine, but occasionally were exactly the same. In fact, when my husband tells me my ideas are wrong or logically flawed, I remind him that my Mom always said that's how it was, so it must be true. Then he'll shake his head with that "knowing" look. I am not sure what that knowing look means, but he'll usually mutter something like "that explains it....". I think that's code for "you were right the whole time dear, my bad"....At least, I think that's what it means.

I still use the strength that she instilled in me to get through a lot of stuff that I could easily feel overwhelmed by and for that I am thankful. I know that for every tough situation I get into or even any difficult race I do, she will be there with me in spirit helping me go on when I want to quit too early. She'll be making the experience that much better because I know that she wouldn't expect anything less from me. And I know she will be with me when I do that race in Georgia because while there will be many times when I am sure I will want to quit and throw my bike off the mountain,  my Momma didn't raise no wussy. Well, maybe a little bit wussy, but she didn't raise no quitter.
So Mom, Merry Christmas to you. And take a look at the pic of the new bike I just got in the post below. It's cool isn't it? Yeah, I knew you'd like it....after all, it's blue. :-)

The Home Stretch

I am approaching the last two weeks of not being able to trail ride and I am chomping at the bit. The doc made me go the full 12 weeks for healing, but says that he anticipates no problems and this is best for what I plan to do going forward. Lots and lots of pedaling.

Santa's Xmas Surprise
Yesterday was Christmas and Santa (a/k/a) my wonderful hubby brought me a new Cyclocross bike and I am super psyched to try it out. However, I also received something for Christmas that I could have really done without, and that's a bad head cold. So now instead of doing a test run on the new bike, I am sniffling and coughing and just waiting for January 5th to roll around when the doc gives me the OK to trail ride again.

And, oooh, am I excited about that. Not being able to ride trails is a great motivator to make you appreciate the trails you have "in your back yard" again. So while others might be tiring of riding the same old, same old, for me, they will all be new once again when I return. That's another positive thing I can look forward to. That "new trail smell".

I have a lot of goals for 2012 on my to do list, so I hope to be putting a lot of miles on my new bike as well. My ultimate goal is to do the Fool's Gold in GA in September. I have wanted to do this race since I heard about it roughly 3 years ago. It will be more climbing in any single ride than I have ever done in my life but the atmosphere is supposed to be wonderful and the race is really well supported from what I've read in  past reviews. There will also be after race music and great food and beautiful scenery. Races with food and music at the end are my kind of thing. Probably one of the main reasons why I choose to participate in most of them. However, I have no illusions that it will not be extremely hard, but I know I can do it. It could take me anywhere from 6-8 hours to do the 50 miles with all the elevation. Oh the elevation.  But, did I mention there will be food and a party atmosphere at the end? Yes, I believe I did. I should mention it again. Not so much for your sake, but for mine.

This will also be the first time I actually do any significant traveling to participate in an event like this so much of this experience will be new for me. I signed up on the day registration opened for fear that I would get shut out since this year this is the final race in the Ultra Endurance series. That means lots of competitive people will be there. People that I will probably see at the starting line only. And maybe on the podium. Assuming they don't pack up and leave before I finish my own race and I miss them getting their awards. Sell out did not happen as I expected and now I kind of feel silly that I entered so early. But, it's done and now I have a commitment. The truth is though that my racing adventures will always simply be for me. I will never be the competitive type like a "real" racer. I know this because 1) I never get nervous or stressed out before races 2) I don't really care about the competition or how I place amongst strangers I don't know. This is why I prefer endurance racing to any other. These types of races are a competition against oneself. Others just happen to be there. So from what I've heard and read, those are two traits that many "real" racers have that make them very successful. Nerves and giving a crap. I think I will pass on that. I just like to push myself for the sake of it. The longer the time on the bike, the better I say. And if you feed me at the end, I am golden.

Ironically, another race I've signed up for 2012 did sell out in just 10 measly hours which is something I never expected. I made it into that one, but didn't want to take the chance of  that happening here since I have my heart set on this GA event. So Georgia, here I come.

Beginning in January, my plan is to ride, ride, ride as much as I can. But, for now, I get to stare at my new gift in the living room, and imagine how cool it will be when I finally get to take it for a spin. *Sigh*.