Confessions. RAAM. Marshall.

Yeah, so last Thursday evening I swung a leg over my Trek Fuel mountain bike and rode with Marshall Reeves. THE Marshall Reeves.

In my world, this is akin to jamming with the late Jimi Hendrix, chef-ing with Jamie Oliver or hitting dawn patrol with Kelly Slater.  In other words, a big deal.

Now that I’ve made this public, I’m destined to grow flush in front my bike shop co-workers as well as the man himself.  Ridiculing is the third most popular activity in the bike shop, right after consuming coffee, and dealing with bikes.

I probably failed to mention that I work part time at Infinity Bike Shop. It is the perfect job after earning my masters degree in biology as well as a legitimate excuse for continuing my really long hiatus from teaching.  The reason why I even mention this change in career is because THE Marshall Reeves, a part owner of Infinity, is one of the reasons why I took the job in the first place – outside of the fact that I love bikes, those that ride bikes, and the unconventional few that ride them really, really far – like Marshall.

I was a heavy Facebook user in 2011 which is how I learned that Marshall Reeves, a fellow triathlete and local mountain biker whom I barely knew, was a competitor in the Race Across America (RAAM).

He and his support crew of four were racing from Oceanside Pier, California to Annapolis, Maryland, non-stop, 3,000 miles SOLO and within 12 days. And that kind of endurance race sends my Bad-Ass meter into the red.

Marshall Reeves - RAAM 2011

Marshall Reeves – RAAM 2011

I diligently followed Marshall’s progress and several other solo RAAM racers via Facebook.  As the racers and their crew pushed eastward for almost two weeks,  I found myself periodically noting that forty-some solo cyclists were racing at that very moment and in pain – while I ate my 50th snack of the day, made dinner or went to bed.  They were in the saddle ALL DAY & ALL NIGHT LONG. No jealousy here – just immense admiration.

When RAAM concluded, I read Amy Synder’s Hell on Two Wheels, which detailed the “worlds toughest endurance bike race,” otherwise known as RAAM. (So that there is no mistaking my undying love to this genera of literature and a lifestyle fixed with life-threatening competitions or self-inflicted journeys of epic proportions, I own the tome of hellish races, The World’s Toughest Endurance Challenges, which naturally includes RAAM.)

So, who is this Marshall character that somewhat influenced my decision to work at a bike shop?

  • He is pretty close to being a mere mortal:  58 years old, married, has 2 adult kids, ex-military, a captain for a major commercial airline
  • Completed 12 Ironman triathlons (including Kona) and over 100 shorter ones
  • Competed in 4 World 24-Hour Mountain bike races, winning the world age group title twice
  • Three-time finisher of the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race
  • Winner, with Rob Kish, in the two-person division of the Le Tour Ultime (European version of RAAM) in 2006
  • Two time RAAM qualifier
  • Humble, self-depreciating yet quietly confident, humorous, easy-going, and a minimalist

Now that I’ve embarrassed myself and probably Marshall as well, I invite you to follow the blog that Nanette Gordon-Cramton, a RAAM crew member, and I have created and will maintain as Marshall races across the United States, June 10 – 22.  I assure you that it will be far more entertaining than those Kardashian sisters and maybe even the World Cup.

http://marshallreevesraamsolo.wordpress.com/

RAAM_logocolor(1)

Free advice: Don’t let your domain name expire.  I missed you all during my long intermission!

 

 

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Love, Fear, and Loathing for the Florida State Paddleboard Championship

There are really two events that make up the Florida State Paddleboard Championships:  The race itself AND the week preceding the event.

The seven mile ocean race, open to all types of paddle craft, is held annually at Cocoa Beach and, more recently, in conjunction with the Cocoa Beach Easter Surfing Festival.

The week leading up to the event is not filled with festive gatherings, expos or paddle clinics.  Instead the action is found in front of the computer – analyzing a handful of wind and wave forecasting websites. I am not the only one who frequently visits their go-to bookmarked weather sites.  I know that there are others who feel compelled to mentally prepare (freak out) for what usually promises to be a fairly intense test of heavy wind and big wave paddling.  This year’s race (now a day away) is no exception.  The wind and wave forecast has been consistently un-consistent on a daily/hourly/website basis.  Strong north winds are forecasted one day (dismay!), strong west winds the next (confusion!), a day of light winds out of the east (hope!).  Waves big. Waves sort of big.  Latest prediction:  a moderate south southwest wind (10-20 kt range) with 2-4 foot seas.  Not ideal.

I’ve been competing (surviving) in this event since 2011.  There is a definite pattern to my physical and mental inclinations that take place a week prior to the race:

7 days out: Friend shares a discouraging race forecast.  I dismiss the forecast.  Too early for accuracy.  Keep race buried in recesses of head.

6 days:  Tempted to check forecast, but hold out.  Head in hole.

5 days to go:  Check forecast twice.  Mildly discouraged by what looks to be a rough race, but hopeful that the forecast will change.

4 days left:  Check several websites several times a day.  Looks far too rough to compete on ocean and have fantasies of racing 11 miles on the Banana River instead.

3 days:  Check multiple websites as many times a day as possible.  Self evaluate and realize severe lack of ocean training.  Day’s solution:  Purchase full fingered gloves and a really expensive pre-hydration drink mix.

2 days out:  Continue checking weather forecasts.  A lot. Go for a long-ish paddle on the river and begin comparing anticipated conditions with The Benchmark Race of 2011**.  Critically assess health and discover minor aches and  a green junk-filled cough.  Humbly except that it is okay to lower expectations.  Making it to the starting line on time and intact is the new standard. (Intact basics: bathing suit on, paddle in hand & no holes in board).  Begin bargaining tactics with the promise  to train more earnestly for the next race.

1 more day:   Acceptance mixed with nervous energy.  Diminished weather website visitation.  Focus placed on eating and drinking well, and watching videos of Larry Cain

Day of Race:   Throw on an extra coat of humor and my best fitting bathing suit.  Go time.

Tomorrow’s race conditions appear to be comparable to **The Benchmark Race of 2011, otherwise known as the  2011 Florida State Paddleboard Championship (FSPBC).

 Messy conditions at the FL State Paddleboard Championship of 2011.Messy conditions at the FL State Paddleboard Championship of 2011.

 FL State Paddleboard Championship 2011. Photo by Cindy CookFlorida State Paddleboard Championship 2011. Photo by Cindy Cook

The FSPBC was my first time racing on the ocean and my present definition of race hell.  The race now serves as a benchmark for all subsequent races.  It’s pretty hard to top inexperience with a borrowed carbon fiber board, a late start due to incompetence, an empty hydration pack, sewing machine legs due to exhaustion and primal fear, an unexpected longer course (7 miles became 9.2 miles due to an adrift buoy), big waves, and strong winds.  I figure if I can survive that sh#t, I can handle most anything (except for the SUP Super Bowl of 2013 in which I never made it past the head high break water, had a wardrobe malfunction, and lost a paddle).   I have a feeling that a new Benchmark race might be in the making tomorrow.  I  just hope to make it to the start line, survive, and add another ocean chaos story to my collection.

Here’s to not drifting to Spain!

*I only checked three different websites on 3 different occasions while writing this post.  No beer was consumed while writing – disciplined training, yo!

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Ego of Fun and Destruction

When did you stop listening to your alter ego?

You know, the one that cajoled you into taking the fall line down a near vertical black diamond, skipping a class in high school, or taking off into a double head high set.  It’s the same ego that accepts that extra shot of tequila that you know damn well you’ll regret.  All of these moments have the potential to polish or dent our character, impact future actions as well as alter one’s identity.

Some of us mature and dismiss these pride-testing moments with relative ease.  And then there are those of us who listen carefully for the smallest suggestive whisper and immediately fall into action.  I fall into the latter group, minus the “immediately fall into action.”  I prefer to deliberate for a bit, consider the risks, and visualize the potential consequences.  This makes the decision to move forward all the more real and ludicrous.  But, that’s the part I kind of like, knowingly testing my edges – the edges of my ability, my age, and, I suppose, audacity.  I am certain that my rashness will fade away with advancing age and I’ll become another cautious mature person.  I don’t look forward to this life-stage so I keep testing my listening and response reflex.  Surely if I ignore the Just Do It voice, I am hastening my passage toward a conventional, old, and sedate lifestyle – all of which hang on my top 5 greatest fears.  This is the mentality that fuels a lot of my behavior, the root cause of most injuries, and the source of personal triumphs and pride.

I had a busy visit with my ego two weekends ago at the Santos Fat Tire Fest.  Mountain biking among hundreds of others is a great exercise in listening or prudently ignoring one’s ego.  If I had to rate myself, I’d give my listening and response reflex an A-.  I listened, I left my comfort zone (in a fairly safe manner), I had fun, but not without injury.  Here’s my evaluation of the weekend with regards to my willingness to listen and appropriately respond to the situation.  Basic grading criteria: 10 points possible for each incident illustrated below.

1).  I didn’t do this.  I am fully aware of my abilities and responsibility as a mother, wife, and athlete. And I don’t drink Red Bull. +10/10 points

Cliff jumping at Santos.

Cliff jumping at the Santos Vortex. Note the wooden plank-like structure from which one hucks him/herself off of.

2.  I did not harm others while cycling, nor did the famed trials rider Lance Trappe.  Since I did not crush anyone’s tender parts, nor attempt such foolishness = +10/10

Trials rider, Lance Trappe, at the Santos Fat Tire Festival.

Trials rider Lance Trappe man-hopping at the Santos Fat Tire Festival.

3.  I got wacky and wonky on the pump track on the first day of the 3 day event.  While riding here is not a serious commitment (+5/5), doing so with a loaded ego in front of acquaintances is (+5/5).  Price of listening and responding: Injury to shoulder, hips, and ribs; pain, and wounded pride.

One of several pump tracks at the Santos Vortex area.

One of several pump tracks at the Santos Vortex area. That’s my husband getting rad. One of those trees is responsible for pain felt when inhaling – all. day. long.  

4.  Woke up on Day 2 of Fat Tire Fest in pain and could not raise my arm above shoulder height.  Thankfully, my handle bars are BELOW shoulder height.  Still demoed bikes, rode the trails, and did #5 & 6 detailed below.  I don’t know if I deserve 0/10 or +10/10.  What do you think?

5.  I initially stated that I would not do the new wooden corkscrew even though I really wanted to do it (-5 points). My husband did it and I saw that rails were added, so I instantly changed my mind (+5 points, yes – totally subjective here).  I did the corkscrew designed by Ray of Ray’s Indoor MTB park in Cleveland, Ohio, but not fast enough to complete the subsequent rocky climb (+2/5 points). It was fun, but not as thrilling as the next experience.

The newly constructed corkscrew feature.

The newly constructed corkscrew feature.

6.  I did this drop with minimal deliberation and despite injury.  A fellow mountain biker, who happened to be interested in my success, provided this piece of crucial information: You will instinctively want to use your breaks.  DO NOT USE YOUR BRAKES.  I trusted and went. Since other men passed this up, I give myself +10/10.  Triumphant moment. Huge rush.

Crazy wooden feature where my kids learned a new bad word.

First half of Crazy Wooden Feature.

Instruction & assessment

Very Vertical.  Instruction & assessment. (Note: I was not racing – number plates were issued to all Fat Tire Fest participants).

80 degree initial drop.85-ish degree initial drop. No brakes.

Later half of the Crazy Wooden Feature

Later half of the Crazy Wooden Feature & my son.

I was hoping by the time I’ve reached the conclusion of this post, I would know whether it is a good idea to continue my practice of listening to my 20 year old ego (in a 40 year old trunk) as a practical means to remain young in spirit and action or do I scrap this foolish practice for the sake of self preservation?   I still don’t know.  My ribs still hurt. I’m on forced rest.  I am restless.  The effect: kind of makes me want to do more “stupid things” (like compete in an ocean SUP race while injured).

Does everyone just naturally accept that as you get older you’re suppose to do less “stupid things?”  Is this urge suppose to naturally go away?  What do others do to replace the fun and thrill of youthful stunts as one grows old?  I don’t think golfing will work for me.

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Swimwear is weird

Mandy  Otis of Words by the Glass beat me to the punch with her spot-on commentary of Victoria Secret’s 2014 swim suit edition.  I started a similar post a month ago, but instead of my original post going viral (which I know is a massive stretch) as her post has, I’ve been ruminating upon the direction and objective of my blog. Considerations such as:  Should my blog provide helpful/useful content, how about satire, content that might offend, perhaps inspire? Should I share personal experiences or just write about random stuff that entertains me and a few foreign folks (love you, Pakistan!)? I’ve since decided to maintain no direction and will I continue to hit all of the above objectives and probably do so all within one post.  Moving on.

So here’s what sets apart Mandy Otis’ post and mine: Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret (VS) hasn’t sent me a catalog in over a year.  I took note of this last Halloween as I reminisced about a pre-momhood costume that involved bedazzling the bejeezus out of a Walmart black bikini and slapping a homemade VS price tag on my hip for the bespoke $1,000,000 bra and panty set.  It was brilliant, nonetheless, my costume and I took second place at the local bar to a costumed Tiger Woods.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Yeah, I have plenty of ammo to support my self-depreciating tendencies.

But, I digress.  I couldn’t help but consider why I was eliminated from the VS mass distribution list. Is it my age? Surely a 40 year old is within their target demographics.  Who else can afford their Pink goods?  Is it because I haven’t spent over $100 on seductive lingerie in the last year or bought a drawer full of Bombshell Add 2-Cups Push Up bras in every color – all $700 worth?  Victoria’s Secret, if you’re reading, I still invest in your panties (I hate that word) and I’ve bought 2 of your bikinis. Darn it, I’m good enough for your catalog!  But, you know, I don’t want your catalog anymore. I have a daughter; she will never create VS inspired costumes, wear PINK emblazoned sweatpants nor be seen making sand castles in a thong-y bikini.

Let me tell you something else, Victoria’s Secret.  You have major competition in the bathing suit department.  Revolve.com makes your risque bikinis look like grandma’s floral one-piece suit with the vanity skirt.  Here’s what Revolve has and what I will not be wearing this year due to my high standards:

The Outlaw:  I give Minimale Animale credit for aptly naming this, dare we say, swimsuit.  There is no doubt this one-piece is outlawed in Ohio and Utah.  The suit described as a “mesh body with star patches,” is NOT for women with overachieving areolas, but then again, modesty is probably not a factor when wearing this lingerie-inspired suit. (Interestingly, WordPress does not recognize “areolas” which is found on 99.9% of all mammals. Way to be science literate, WP.)

The Outlaw by Minimale Animale

The Outlaw by Minimale Animale

Next! The Rise and Fall Triangle bikini:

Rise And Fall Triangle bikini by Suboo

Rise And Fall Triangle bikini by Suboo

This suit was obviously designed to gather a rise in male curiosity and trussed to prevent one’s girls from falling out of line.  Potential buyers, this suit is only available in very small and small. Medium and large women have been spared the geometric array of tan lines and bulge-inducing strappy, strap-strap segments.  However, suit designer One Teaspoon (see below) comes through for the medium and large women who seek the More Straps, Less Fabric approach to swimwear.  And, why is this suit called the Superman? 

Superman Top by One Teaspoon

Superman Top by One Teaspoon

Many women seek refuge in the one-piece swimsuit for its reliable coverage and conservative appearance.  Bathing suit designer Minimale Animale explores the outer limits of this once safe-bet swimsuit.

The Pony Suit by Minimale Animale

The Pony Suit by Minimale Animale

I’m pretty sure this suit was named the”Pony Suit” by the poor girl who had to model this crotch tugging tank.  That suit has got to ride up like no other.  Added note:  suit’s back side has the same reach-for-the-heavens cut as the front.

Here’s another nouveau concept of the tank suit: The Country Roads suit.

Country Roads Suit by Minimale Animale

Country Roads Suit by Minimale Animale

Don’t let the name fool you.  Country Roads isn’t your down on the farm, let’s sit in a rocking chair and leisurely watch the corn grow type of bathing suit.  This one-piece has the same cut as the Pony both of which highlight one’s grooming skills (or lack of).  This overall-inspired suit also boasts a handy front pocket – perfect for storing extra courage (real or flask-driven) or keys to the John Deere.

Gunpowder and Lace suit by Beach Bunny

Gunpowder and Lace suit by Beach Bunny

Add gilded lace to the more straps is better trend and you have the Gunpowder and Lace suit.  Gunpowder for the shot gun – should I ever be forced to wear this at a public bathing site.

Postango bottoms by Lee + Lani

Postango bottoms by Lee + Lani

Sumo style. No.

Maui Strapless Shark Attack in Black by Marysia Swim

Maui Strapless Shark Attack in Black by Marysia Swim

A $312 shark encounter or the original “I was ravaged by a shark and survived, but now I’m bored look.” No.  But it is rather creative – definitely a conversation piece around the kiddie pool. Some might appreciate the control top aspect of the bottom half, too.

Punda One Piece by 6 Shore Road

Punda One Piece by 6 Shore Road

Partial to sauntering in a blend of JLo‘s famous green Versace dress and Borat’s mankini on the shores of Nantucket? You can have it all with the Punda!

So here’s my message:  These bathing suits exist.  Some find them disturbing and offensive.  I find them entertaining and innovative – as in, how many ways can one stretch a 6 inch square piece of fabric and still cover the legally required parts?  It’s fashion. It’s being bold.  It’s not me, but that doesn’t make it wrong (as long as you wear the suit at the appropriate venue).  Besides, a greater part of a women’s pool-side life is unfortunately destined to succumb to this fate:

The Old Lady suit

The Old Lady suit

Appreciate innovation and diversity, but know that she is probably paying dearly – similar to wearing a pair of ill fitting 6″ stiletto heels.

* Note: all photos except for the Old Lady suit are courtesy of http://www.revolveclothing.com.

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How to Re-purpose your Wetsuit and Beer Can (separately)

This post isn’t about being green and saving the Earth. This is definitely about being thrifty and resourceful. It’s about creativity and a little fun.  It’s all about RE-PURPOSING seemingly useless stuff!

THE WETSUIT:

The wetsuit is a hefty investment in both cash and material. I couldn’t bare to see my husband’s full wetsuit in the trash, so I saved it. It collected dust next to my dresser for about 8 months before I found it’s new purpose(s) in life.

BEFORE:

wetsuit - before

WETSUIT – BEFORE

AFTER

WETSUIT - AFTER: Neoprene weights

WETSUIT – AFTER: Neoprene weights

The knee and thigh region of the wetsuit were cut, machine sewn, and filled with real beach sand.  I use these imitation SandBells like I would a kettle weight or medicine ball, if I owned them.  Surprisingly, they do not smell like a stinky wetsuit or fishy sand – even after 3 months.

DSC02369

WETSUIT – AFTER: Wetsuit zipper leash bracelet

I tried my hand at jewelry making by fashioning the Quiksilver wetsuit zipper leash into a bracelet. It’s a great idea and all, but I haven’t felt cool enough to wear it in public. Go ahead, Pin in it to your fashion or craft board.

WETSUIT - AFTER: Neoprene legwarmers

WETSUIT – AFTER: Neoprene legwarmers

THESE neoprene leg/ankle warmers are where it’s at if you wish to keep your lower parts warm while standup paddling. Unlike my Quiksilver bracelet, I have worn these numerous times in public – while training & racing.  Wetsuit sleeves are a great substitute if you do not own cold water booties or fear losing “board-feel” when fully shod. Keeping the ankle region warm seems to help keep the tootsies fairly cozy in cooler conditions**.

**Cooler conditions, in this case, pertains to Florida winters. These have been tested in 40° days with water temperatures in the low 60s.

The wetsuit chest and crotch region continue to collect dust next to my dresser. I’ve considered making it a mat for our Airstream, but am still searching for a more unique use. Got any ideas?

THE BEER CAN:

I would expect all of my readers to recycle their beer cans and bottles. That’s what hip, responsible people do. Thrifty folk, like me, re-use them. Mechanical masterminds like MacGyver and my husband, re-use beer cans as shims. (Q: Shim? What’s a shim? A:  a thin piece of material that serves as a wedge to help secure an object.)

My paddle board fin (Chuck Patterson 9″ Thresher) had a discernible amount of play (wiggle) when fastened in my Rogue’s fin box.  A wiggly fin is not fast hence the need for a quick fix before the race.  Here’s the fix in  3 simple steps:

Step 1: Trim can using tin snips

Step 1: Trim can using tin snips

Step 2: Fold narrow piece of can over edges of fin and insert into fin box.

Step 2: Fold narrow piece of can over edges of fin and insert into fin box.

Step 3: Fully insert fin and trim excess metal.

Step 3: Fully insert fin and trim excess metal.

The PBR can shim solution has been in service for almost a month and has worked like a champ – light weight, effective, durable, made in the USA, and cheap.

Still excited about DIY re-purposing? See my previous post on how to re-purpose a beer coozie for greater snowboarding comfort.

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