Monday, November 21, 2011

Desperately Searching for Mo...

He's gone. I've been looking everywhere. I'm about to put an ad in the lost and found section of The Advocate. I've seen glimpses of Mo, but as soon as I reach out to catch him he flies away, brushing the tips of my fingers just long enough to remind me how good it is to have him with me. It is making me really sad that I can't get him back and I don't know what to do about it. I have about one month before he absolutely has to be contained and in my possession or I fear that I may never see him again.

I've been searching all over. I've ridden through the woods with my mountain bike, I've run to the top of a "mountain", I've swum in a familiar river thinking he may have returned there to roost. I've tried to borrow other people's Mo but it's just not the same as having my own.

I've been reading the internet for tips on getting him back. It's not helping. Instead, I find I throw myself into bowls of ice cream,  frozen mugs of Michelob Ultra, and bags of salt n vinegar chips to cope with his absence. I talk to a counselor, I take anti-depressants, I pray, but yet he won't come back.

I've made big plans for 2012 and I won't be able to achieve them without his help. I really really want him along this coming year.

Please, can someone help me to find my Mo? There will be a huge reward to the one who does.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Adventures of Larry, Mo, And Curly

Susan "Larry" Hayden, COOg (Curly) Pearson, and Koko "Mo" Menson
This weekend was spent with some new traveling companions: "Larry" Hayden and "Mo" Menson. With my newly acquired nickname "Curly", we combined to form the Three Stooges, a kick ass mountain biking, trail running, food inhaling, and car key losing entity. Whether we thought of ourselves as the Three Amigos or the Three Stooges, one thing was for sure - we got along great and we chalked up another adventure for the books.

The plan was simple enough for the weekend: participate in a 6 hour "Just For Fun" mountain biking relay at Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama on Saturday and then on Sunday morning either do a 10K trail run (Larry and Mo's choice) or a Duathlon (me). But as usually happens with simple plans, they become complicated when Murphy and his Laws intervene.

All seemed well as we entered the Mothership around 2:30 Friday afternoon. The gear and bikes were loaded according to value (Larry's of course being tucked away gingerly on the inside) and orientation to the Mothership was provided free of charge. The strange grinding noises were explained away as the engine was started up and the antenna tried desperately to extend. The possessed radio was channeled so the sporadic full volume blast of music wouldn't frighten me away. Rules of the road were established and the dire consequences were given to the riders if the driver of The Mothership was pressured to partake in the ingestion of any lactose based foods. This was followed by emergency instructions on how to lower the (sometimes) automatic windows.

Eager to set out, we rushed out of Larry's driveway to sit on College Drive for 45 minutes before finally making it to the interstate. The trip up was relatively uneventful ~ gas (not lactose induced), frequent potty stops, Arby's, conversation, and six hours later... hotel check in. Larry drove and, as I frequently noticed, spent quite a bit of time testing out the rough treads on the edges of the pavement. I thought that it must be her attempt to get me acclimated to the uneven and annoying terrain we would be experiencing over the next few days.

Since Mo had graciously provided us the room, I decided she deserved a bed to herself so I bunked in with Larry. It was an early to bed, early to rise plan. Unfortunately my roommates chose to rise much earlier than I did. I eventually joined them downstairs at the hotel buffet and gorged on eggs, sausage, muffins, and I even hid a few bagels for a snack later during the day.

Holly, Debbie, Dave's daughter, Koko-Mo
The race was being held in a beautiful state park and from what I could gather was well attended. Mountain bikers are earthy and there were some pretty scruffy guys and few women there. Our event was a 6 hour relay and we discussed the order in which we would ride. Mo wanted to follow me (basing her decision to ride on whether I returned from my 8.5 mile loop in one or in many pieces). In turn, I decided to use the same strategy and requested that Larry lead the expedition as she was a seasoned mountain biker.

THANK GOD we chose that order. Larry took off with the mass of riders (which I thought was pretty impressive until she told me that Leadville had like 1500 cyclists starting at once, not just 50).

We relaxed with Debbie E. and a few others until the expected time of Larry's return. Jeff came in first and said the course was tough at first and that there would be a little hiking with our bikes required to make it up some of the hills. J-Boy came in next and said it was the worst trail he had ever ridden, even worse than Columbine. I readied myself for Larry to come around the bend. When she arrived, I grabbed my bike and waited for the exchange of the timing chip. Instead I got a head shake "no" and a "I'm not letting you guys go on that course." Apparently, what had been billed as a trail appropriate for all abilities was really an expert level course full of steep cliffs, rocks, loose dirt, and extreme climbs and drops. Although Larry was feeling guilty about shutting us down, I was grateful for her making a decision that might just save my life and body. This is the race trail, including Blood Rock:

In exchange for the loss of our six hour ride, we elected to ride some of the other trails in the park. We chose the Lake Trail with the Rattlesnake extension loop. It wasn't long before I earned another new nickname. I am now the "Queen of Over-Compensation". So I rode a little tense. Rigid even. Big deal. My little corrective movements while riding got a tad exaggerated as I tried to stay upright on my bike on the trail. In my defense, there were trees and roots and jagged rocks everywhere! And hills! Who knew that what we have in Louisiana are really not hills?

It didn't take five or ten minutes before I had my first hard fall. I'm going to blame it on my new clipless pedals. Now the second and third falls had something to do with my desire to take a well-needed rest in a bed of thick fall leaves.  Shortly there after, I felt that when my cleat got stuck in my right pedal it was a good opportunity to rest on my side again for a little while.

Queen of Over-Correction and Mo
At this point it was apparent I was amusing my riding partners, as Larry insisted she wanted to carry my iPhone so she could catch me on video the next time I fell. Koko-Mo somehow was managing to stay upright and was surprisingly fast on the hills.

Once I got my foot unstuck from my pedal, I rode clipless on one side for a while. When I thought I heard the jingle of my cleat flying off  and hitting a rock, Larry graciously helped me look in the leaves for it. We gave up after about 5 minutes of searching. I found it later stuck in my pedal. Patient as always, Larry turned into McGyver and fixed me up while Mo checked out the scenery.

The course was a blast but challenged my skills and my lack of fitness. There were fast downhills, big logs that had to be jumped at full speed, and sharp rocky turns. Larry was a great teacher and I learned to ride "smooth like butter", to read the trail, and to shift ALL of my gears. She forced me to slow down as I tend to be a wee bit fearless...dangerously so.

Repair Larry
Sorry Mo we're hurrying...
At one point the trail presented a wooden bridge that once on it, giving the choice of a beginner level "out" or a more technical challenge of an even narrower bridge. By the time I came upon it my teammates had left me in their dust and failed to tell me to go to the left on the easier route. Flying out of control at full speed I Hail Mary-ed it through the obstacle. Success!! I laughed so hard when I got over the bridge I almost fell off my bike again.

My final full speed out of control descent landed me in the middle of a paved park road luckily absent of oncoming traffic. I was whipped but exhilarated. We returned to the start of the race in time to meet up with our remaining Baton Rouge friends who were still riding the Course From Hell. Debbie had gotten her fill of expert riding and was up for a laugh and agreed to ride with us. My second loop was better but I still ended up on my ass a few times. This time even Mo bit it and took a boulder straight on her kneecap (but in her defense it was her only fall of the day). This is some of the trail we rode:

After a full day of riding (12 miles for Mo and I, and like 20 for Larry) our appetites were ravenous and we wanted protein. What kind of restaurant says "MEAT. HERE." more than one with a pig over it's door?

We ate. And ate. Baskets of cheese muffins. Ribs, pulled pork, chicken, potato salad, green salad, beer and Firefly. And then we went and bought more food at CVS. And then we stopped for cupcakes. It was a Food Festivus.

And then it happened. I became the CHOSEN ONE. The DD. The Captain of the Mothership. She purred when I started her. She responded to my touch. It was like we were meant to be together. We had an understanding. There would be no forgetting her keys on my end. No running her over those rutty grooves on the side of the highway. No ill words about her short-comings. No handicapped parking spots for her.

Day Two:

I have softball sized lumps and bruises on my right buttock down to my knee. Mo has ice packs on half her body. And Larry... well she has a smug "look at these amateurs" grin on her face.

Today is going to be the real test. The "Can we HTFU" test. Mo wants to PR a 10k she has been looking forward to all year. I want to survive my first real off road duathlon. Larry? Well, she wants to win the whole thing.

The trail runners head out 30 minutes before I start my race. Mo looks strong, but it's early and she is still on the paved roads. Her knee and ankle hurt and she has a long way to go. I cheer her on. Larry was at the front of the pack and I never saw her pass by.

I set up transition and wait. When we start the 3.3 mile trail run I am ready. As usual I shoot out a bit too fast for my pace but there is comfort in staying with the group. When we leave the park road the trail starts off as rugged single track and it gradually begins to incline. It takes all my focus to not trip over roots and rocks as the leaves cover the obstacles. And then it begins. The steady stream of the longer distance trail runners coming up from behind merging into the shorter distance runners pace line, requiring me to stop, pull over, or speed up to get out of their way. Then the ridiculous climbs begin. The ones that are not runnable except for the most fit runners. The rest of us trudged up them, grabbing branches, resting on trees, and sucking wind. The downhills were break neck. It was way harder than I expected. I completely re-thought my desire, motivation, and plan to do the Half-Marathon Trail race in December. I'd like to be able to walk in January.

Finally the run came to an end and I made it back to transition where Larry was already waiting to cheer me on as I transitioned to my bike. I was so glad that the run was over for an instant I forgot how challenging the 11.7 miles of bike trails were going to be. The race course for the bike was practically the same course we rode twice the day before and this was a huge mental relief. At least I knew most of what to expect. It was hard to find my bike legs and I felt clumsy and awkward as I started to ride, but I held my focus and tried to remember what Larry had taught me about being smooth like butter. I spent a lot of time pulling over to let the good riders pass for fear they would run me off the trail never to be seen or heard from again. Luckily today I was able to pull over, not fall over. I was exhausted and my legs were shot from both Saturday's ride and the hard trail run. I thought I might just call it off after the first loop and not risk injury due to fear my fatigue and lack of bike skills was a recipe for disaster.

Eventually I made it back and dismounted to go over the mat in transition and then found myself back on my bike for the final loop. I decided to keep at it as it was about learning and improving my skills and completing the race not worrying about setting course records. I did make one really Epic Fail. I forgot completely about taking in nutrition on the bike. Oh, I packed it, I just forgot to take any in. I was white knuckling the handlebars so tightly I never thought to put anything of nutritious value in my mouth. I barely could get the tube from my Camelback in while I rode much less food. I paid for that about an hour after the race when I hit the "wall" hard. Big lesson learned.

I felt the last loop was much more successful than my first and am pretty sure I had a good negative split (my results weren't posted before we left). Since I was one of three riders I saw still out on the course I never had to pull over for that last loop. I enjoyed the ride, passed three riders (two of whom were men), worked on my technique, and allowed myself to absorb the experience. And then I returned to find that Larry had, in usual fashion, locked her keys in the Mothership.

It was truly a fun weekend. I learned a lot about Larry and Mo. I learned a lot about trail running and mountain biking. I met some great people and shared some challenging endeavors. In closing I want to make a few shout-outs:

"Larry" ~ thanks for the transport, team building, mentorship, and laughs. You my friend are a bit absent minded but have a heart of gold. Your wit makes me crack up. I will be your travel companion any time! And it's nice to know someone else can put down some food like me! And congrats on your 2nd Place Overall win on the 10K trail run! Impressive!! (and for the record she was only 16 seconds behind 1st place!)

"Koko-Mo" ~ your hard work this year is paying off both in your physical and mental strength. I'm so proud you toughed it out and pushed through your injuries to run hard. You have a brilliant business mind and I learned a lot just listening to you. Thanks for the room!

The Gang ~ thanks guys for taking me in as one of your own! Had a blast learning from you all. Holly you rock, thats all I can say. I'm so impressed with your skills. Jeff, don't ever tell me you run slow and then leave me in the dust. Rude. J-Boy, thanks for the pedals I am a master now! And I forgive you for tossing my favorite FitBird shirt out onto the road to be run over by cars. And for making us turn around to bring you a battery when we were almost home... Debbie, you crack me up and I would LOVE to ride with you anytime. Thank you for not laughing at me too hard.

I'm motivated to get better at mountain biking. I'm realistic in my need to make more obtainable goals for my trail running. I'm going to focus on speed and getting my shorter distances under control before I take on the Half-Marathon Trail run. Next off-road goal will be the Moonlight 6K.

Here we come to save the day...!!