Friday, September 26, 2008

Gone to Italy...

See y'all at Gloucester!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RIP Rudi

I don't know what we did to deserve him, but having Rudi in our family was one of the greatest things that ever happened to us. We were so lucky that the guy in the sky who provides people with beagles gave us Rudi. He was everything you could ask for in a dog.

To the end, he did his duty-- to sniff out the rabbits and to take care of his humans. It was hard, this cancer thing - I think I cried hardest when I found out that it was inoperable. What a brave little beagle.

It started with our first dog, Fred, who was a beagle from the shelter. Mama said, "no dogs", but we begged and pleaded and promised to walk and feed and train the dog, and then we found out that a family had just left an old, well-trained cocker spaniel in the shelter because they couldn't take him with them when they moved, so we went to go rescue him. We got there, and there was no cocker spaniel, but a little beagle called Arnold sat up and cocked his ears and chose us as his humans. The sign said he attacked other dogs, and stole food from the table, and ran away any chance he'd get... but we didn't care. We call him Fred, and he taught us about beagles. He taught us about sniffercizing. He taught us the concept of a pack. He taught us to not leave doors open, too. And we taught him various dog-things, like "sit". He never mastered "come". Then one day he tried to attack a moving school bus, and the bus won. I remember Christophe running down the driveway dragging Fred on his leash screaming, and I remember watching Fred as mama called the vet, and I knew he was going to die. I was inconsolable, that day.

Then we got Tira. We saw some colleagues of my dad's walking a baby beagle, and I think it was the next day that we went out and picked her up. Shes a playful, mischievous one, liable to run off if you let her, but emotionally very intelligent. Shes my dog. She was quite happy as the queen of the castle on her own, but, Christophe wanted a beagle of his own, and we saw an add for beagles in the paper, and drove out (with Tira) to go look at the puppies. There were two of them left, little handfuls of dog, squirming and pissing and crying and cute as anything. We picked the one that was wiggling more, and brought him back to Tira. She took one look at him and wanted nothing to do with him. Once she realized we were going to keep him, she was not happy about it. Rudi knew nothing about limits--Tira would growl at him and he'd walk up and nip her paws anyway. She'd bark at him and he'd walk into her cage. Eventually, tolerance ensued, and he was so cute we'd let him do anything, it was good he was doing what Tira would do since she is well behaved.

One of my favorite memories is from when Rudi was still a tiny little handful of a dog. Mama and I went hiking in the Adirondacks- we wanted to do Algonquin mountain. Tira was quite the hiker, but Rudi was too small to even get up stairs on his own, so we fashioned a sling out of a pillowcase, for him to ride in. All day, people would see Tira, out front, and exclaim, "oh, what a cute puppy!" but then they'd see Rudi, and he was just so adorable in his sling that they would just go absolutely gaga-googoo over him.

Oh Rudi. He never outgrew his puppy-cuteness, and he really was a champion snuggler. Nothing warms a bed like a beagle in the curve of your knees and another in the curve of your chest. I love coming home, whether it was after a couple months away in college or just at the end of the day, because there was always a welcoming committee, and sometimes Rudi would feel the need to show off, racing in circles around the house and sliding into walls as he'd try to turn on the floor. And of course he would get rudified, flipped on his back in your lap, which at first elicited a couple growls, but then as you scratch his belly he'd go limp and sometimes kick his foot, just utterly relaxed.

"Because it is our job description, that is why we sniff!

Last night, when the parental units called to tell me he was no more, I felt as I had after Fred attacked the schoolbus. But I no longer had to live knowing that Rudi would die soon--his time had come, and he did his job as well as he possibly could have. He created so much joy in our lives, that it is difficult to imagine life if Rudi had never been. But he was--and it was the greatest thing that could ever have happened to our family. Rest in peace, little Rudi, and know that you did a good job with your humans. Tira will take good care of them for you, because we all know how hopeless those humans are without a good dog in their lives. Rest in peace, and know that your short, wonderful life enriched the lives of your humans beyond words. We will never forget you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sucker Brook CX

(Thanks for the picture Zoo!)

I wasn't planning on racing this weekend, because I was going to help Ed build a chimney in VT. I say "help". That mostly means passing him tools on a ladder. Anyway, he canceled that idea, and I'm glad I raced, because now I feel like I've gotten in a race that I didn't finish with an exploding heart or a spasming back, and it just seems like its been a while since I've finished a race and felt good about the effort. Sucker brook is NOT a good course for me--there are many power sections, and no run-up. Every course should have a section where you have to shoulder the bike. But, its a really well-run race despite its lack of run-ups, and there were cupcakes on the line--Anna and I had agreed that the winner buys the loser a cupcake. A big ass cupcake.

Pre-riding the course I decided that I probably did want more than my usual 20psi (I have no idea how much air I normally have in my tires, but its not very much), since the one "downhill" was kind of rocky and was a long way from the pits. I put air in, but then I rode a lap and felt so bounced around that I took it basically all out again, all the while thinking "I'm going to regret this. I'm really going to regret this". In the end, although I bottomed out twice, I was fine.

1:30 rolled around and I lined up. In the back. The whistle blows, and half the field fumbles with their pedals, while both Callie and I shoot up the road after Libby. I don't really get it--are you unable to pedal with your foot not clipped in? I mean, its not like your crank doesn't work. Anyway, by the end of the first lap, the people within my fighting distance were Sue Mclean, followed by Callie, and then me and Michelle Kirshberger and Cathy. People tended to pass me on the gradual downhill in the woods-I wanted a break, dammit! - but then I'd get them back on the little uphill after the turn and put time on in the sand. I hearby declare myself QUEEN OF SANDPITS! Yeah, I'm a pompous bitch, but I'm also good at sandpits.

Well, eventually I had gotten to the point where I realized that a blowup was in my future, and if Callie kept up this pace, I was not catching her. The significance here is that we have never actually raced head-to-head, the last time she was in New England, she was racing A's and I was on my mountain bike scaring the B's. Mostly, I didn't upgrade because I was scared of racing Callie. Anyway, Michelle caught up to me, and I did my darndest to not let her go. It worked, because she caught Callie, and we were close to Sue. Then Callie disappeared behind me, because as we all know, once someone is behind you, they cease to exist as a threat to your race. There is some fuzziness in my memory after that; I know Michelle and I battled for a bit and eventually Meg Bilodeau caught up, and Sue was disappearing ahead of me and I realized I was doing the backwards slide. I couldn't hang with Michelle, but we had three to go, and Meg was super nice cheering me on, so I yo-yoed with her for a lap or two, mostly just making up time in the sand and losing time anywhere you had to actually use this thing called power.

Last lap, and I realized, I had something left in the tank! It was an exciting realization. I caught up to Meg and I planned to dust her (ha. ha.) in the sand, and keep enough of a gap that her amazing legs couldn't catch me on the pavement. I love how race plans always sound so smart at the time! Alas, after the little bridge before the barriers, I washed out in the turn (the tight one between the little ride-ups). I ran up the ride-up, hopped back on, and realized my seat was twisted. Got back off for the barriers, knocked my saddle back to a straight-ish position, hopped on; chain was off and I couldn't pedal it on. Got off again, put the chain on, grrrrr. Into the woods, it felt too slow, where was Cathy? Convinced she would catch me at any minute, I finally made it to the sand and knew I was safe. Meg and Michelle were gone, but at least I hadn't lost places. I wish I hadn't fallen, but that is what happens in cross when you're going all out and taking risks to go as fast as you can... I ended up 8th, the last pay-out, which meant that I had cash to spare to buy a cupcake for Anna. Who flatted on the first lap and had a loooong way to run. *phew!*

Important things happened on Saturday.

Can you spot whats wrong with this saddle? (Hint: I need a new saddle). I have no idea how it happened.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boosting my road rage immunity

We're finally into my favorite time of year (some might think my favorite season would be winter, but really, the only truly good thing about winter is snow--and if the snow could be not-cold, it would be so much better!), and this morning's ride was an arm-warmer-knee-warmer-gloves sort of ride. But it was a nice ride. It made me realize how much I actually like living in Boston (I never thought I'd say that), because once you cross I-95, you really do have nice riding. I started out in Newton, residential, sleepy, quiet roads. Got to Wellsley and it smelled like sewage mixed with diesel exhaust. Weird. The cars started to come out to play, mostly they were playing nice. Looping through Weston, Wayland and Lincoln, the sun is coming up, and takes the edge off the chill; I can feel my fingers again. I pass by beautiful little [wicked expensive] farms, the dew glistening, the mist rising. Do you ever ride past something and think to yourself in a Martha Stewart voice, "that is just SO new england!" ? No, me neither. A couple of those moments, everything looks shiny when its covered in dew and the sun hits it right. And we all know how I love shiny things...

Sets you up for a nice day, a ride like that does. Boosts your immunity to the jerks on the road.

Speaking of jerks on the road, I don't know how many of you know Rose Long--she went to Colby her freshman year, and skied and rode bikes, and then transferred to UVM where she rides bikes and goes really fast. Unfortunately she was recently in a REALLY bad hit-and-run up there, broke her wrist, her jaw, her eye orbital, chipped a vertebrae, and lost 12 teeth, among other injuries. So, if you have $5-10 to spare, go to and donate money, because we would all want people to do the same if the situation were reversed.

Ride safe...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where my heart is...

Dear Rudi,

Please don't die yet. You are a dignified beagle, and you will die a dignified death. But not yet. Please.


your girl

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mountain biking, cupcakes, and cyclocrossing

Last Monday, I decided sort of on a whim to do the Domnarski farm MTB race, the last root 66 race, because IBC decided to have a "team" race, meaning they paid for the entry fee. I got a ride with Thom and co, all carpooling has to start with scenes like this, right?

The course was a 10 mile loop, and pretty hilly. I quickly noticed that my middle chainring hasn't magically un-bent itself since great glen. The bike also didn't magically self-clean itself. Maybe if I'd ridden between that race and now I would have noticed these problems? I figured I'd go with my normal approach to mtb races which is to just ride my bike, and that worked pretty well. I was soon all alone, and just riding my bike, and having quite a bit of fun, actually. There was the minor issue of not being able to use my middle ring, which did not mean I spent more time than usual in my big ring... lots of granny geared riding!

After about half an hour of this fun riding, though, I started to get a little bored and lonely. The fun part was over, and now it was all atv trails with giant mud bogs in the middle. I started ticking off the miles based on a 10 min/mile pace assumption, and eventually I finished. It was a mostly L2 type of ride, but my back was really sore, enough that it was still bothering me in the car on the way home.

I'm not sure if I was racing against anybody or not... they may have just gone home early.

Sunday I headed up to Amesbury with about 200 cupcakes in tow. They let me set up my tent right next to registration, which was great, because everybody came by to get cupcakes, but it also meant I couldn't see any of the races. Hannah Sarnow was my helper-outer, which was key, because it meant that I could pre-ride the course and then race. And then lie on the ground for a while and then toodle around the field and call it a cooldown.

The race? The race started well. By the end of the first lap I was feeling pretty comfortable with my pace, chasing down an NEBC girl and being chased by Perri Mertens and Sue Mclean, somewhere around 7th. Sue and Perri came by on the downhill dirt road section, but Sue did something weird in the corner sending her tape-wards, and Perri just took a bad line, so I zipped by them and had put a nice gap by the end of the little loopety-loop section. I was generally pretty strong up the run-up and through the woods, and then Perri would slowly gain ground on the slow grass. Third lap, she almost caught me on the downhill dirt road again, but she didn't, and I was reeling in Sam from NEBC, and feeling like I had hit a pretty sustainable pace. Feeling good, if you can say that about a cross race. I made it through that lap, still holding the same distance from Sam, and Perri was gone as I started the next one. Whee!

Then I decided to take the far muddy wide corner on the inside, instead of the outside, and slipped, and overcorrected, and tumbled into the mud with a whump. Doh! I had time, though, thats the nice thing about having a gap. Got up and started running with the bike to remount someplace less muddy, and the rear wheel wouldn't turn. Chain was on, derailleur looked fine, wheel was in its dropouts... whats going on? The brakes are stuck on... argh no tools! Just moving the wheel back and forth and pushing on the brakes I loosen them up, but who knows what'll happen when I actually brake...

Perri, Sue, and Kat Carr have passed me in this interlude of head-scratching. I make it to the pavement, where I realize that my shifter feels funny... like its pushed closer to the bars or something. Doh! There is a wad of mud holding the brakes on! Problem more or less solved, I get up the run-up, dig out more mud, another girl passes me, suddenly the wind is out of my sails and the pain of cyclocross has caught up. I'm bouncing over roots instead of riding, zig zagging back and forth, Hannah goes by, cheers me on. I get through the lap, the slow mud before the barriers feels hellish, I see two to go, oh thank god. My back is reminding me how sore it was after yesterday's race, carrying my bike up the runup is causing some serious lower-back cramps. Going over the roots, it starts spasming, I keep slowing down, I think it has something to do with forgetting to pedal. The conversation is something like this.
Brain: Pedal the bike.
Body: Huh?
Brain: Pedal. The. Bike.
Body: Huh?
Body: oh. How?

Meg passes me after the barriers as I'm zigzagging across the course, consumed by a smasming back, unable to give up... One to go, I just need to finish one more lap. I barely make it up the loopety-loops, but its five minutes left, I can do anything for five minutes, right? Finally finish and immediately find some place to lie down. Oh feels so good to have my back supported by the ground. Holy cow does cyclocross hurt, how did I forget?

More importantly, though--the bake sale was a success! I supplied many hungry people with delicious cupcakes in return for their money, and I'd call it one of those win-win situations! If you're interested in making your own cupcakes, the recipes can be found over here. Lemon chiffon cupcakes, car bomb cupcakes, and margarita cupcakes. Will I be at more cross races? Probably at least one. No guarantees, though. As much as I loved selling cupcakes, it took away from one of my favorite parts of cross racing--cheering on my friends and teammates. Plus, it was a lot of time invested, and I didn't sleep nearly enough all last week. This doesn't mean the end of the cupcakes, though! I'll be back =)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Smells like cupcakes...

The wind is changing, it has the feel of fall today, rather than the relentless hot drafts of summer. It is a playful wind, today, leaping about in swirls and eddies, sometimes behind you pushing with gusto, sometimes in your face bringing you the scents of the day, sometimes just looping around aimlessly batting its airy eyelashes, flirting with the leaves it carries. It is a wind that whispers of cooler nights, of warm afternoons and hot apple cider and indian summer. It is the wind I associate with cross country running, with cyclocross, with apple picking and walks through gray landscapes. This is a wind that refreshes my soul and excites my imagination. But it is also a wind with layers to its personality, for under its playful, energetic side, there is a bite, a sting, reminding you that winter is coming, and its moods will change once more. It is a wind of change, and it means that it is time to put the knobby tires back on my cross bike.

Amesbury. Cupcakes. All day. Look for me near the start/finish area, and expect to fight for a holeshot cupcake.

Monday, September 8, 2008


I went home last weekend. Mostly to see Rudi. I don't have much to say, just that Rudi is very effectively breaking my heart. He used to be this strong little beagle just shining and sleek, and now I can feel every rib, his spine sticks out, his collar is too big, and his poor swollen belly sticks out to the sides. A couple times he turned around to lick it. How much does he realize something is wrong? He does his doggie things though, he eats, poops, sniffercizes, and snuggles. I think the best Christmas present in the world would be to have Rudi there with us.

Christophe called us via skype from Cairo on Sunday, not that Rudi knew what was going on but I think it was good for the boy to see his dog. Even through the tubes that connect the internets (thats how it works, right?).

Its called sniffercizing, and occasionally it turns up mice and voles or even baby deer. Tira kills 'em, Rudi eats 'em.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Abusing the crosswalk

I want a cattle prod to zap annoying pedestrians on my commute. I bet it would also be useful for shortening the line at the RMV. Actually, I want an invisible cattle prod... muahahaha!

'Cross is right around the corner. I think my first one will be Amesbury. The added bonus is that I am the cupcake supplier at that race, so stop on by and support my "cause". Hey, if cupcakes can get me around the world, I'll take it! The downside to this cooler weather is that soon, getting dressed to get to work is going to be a real pain. There are days, in the late fall before I completely give up on bicycles, when it takes me longer to peel off all the spandex than to actually shower. That is really the main deterent to riding through the winter. Not that you have any fewer layers on skis, but they just don't have to be as tight... no chainrings to bite you!

Off to Rochester tomorrow to see a little beagle before he stops pooping. I wish he could just poop out that tumor. It would make things a little easier.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Franklin Falls time trial

Thursday morning we had the Franklin Falls time trial. I was hoping for a really good result, for all the normal reasons, but it wasn't to be. Soon after the steep part started, I got the fluttery heart thing, and although I was tempted to push through it, I [wisely] decided that this is not something that you push through, and sat down to wait it out. Very frustrating, I definitely need to get this checked out sooner rather than later.

The fun part was early on, when two bikers who were stopped watched us go by and then one of them cheered "go Alex!" I must have looked at him really confusedly, because then he said "I read your blog!" That pretty much made my day. So whoever you are, thanks for the cheering! It made me feel famous for a minute.

The bake sale was another success. People will sprint so hard for cupcakes... Hopefully there are some cross races with cupcakes in my future. I'm going to try my hand at mini cupcakes!