Send As SMS

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

oh, the places you'll go!

Oh the places you’ll go!

I read that Dr Seuss book like most people do, back when I was graduating from college.

This past weekend I ran past that book’s loopy cartoon cover at an airport en route from a race on Saturday in Durango, Co to another race on Sunday in San Luis Obispo, CA,

And I thought, Oh, the places I’ll go, the things I’ll do, and do without, to ride a mountain bike.

Mark, who says he is the luckiest guy in the world though I do not believe him at times, picked me up at San Francisco International around midnight. I slept in the back of our '89 VW camper bus while he rattled for hours through the night, pinging the tachometer on the first few prime numbers past seventy mph. Home is a former two car garage in Los Osos, a quiet beach town, a few miles from Sunday’s Jeep King of the Mountain Race. Mark woke me up and got me back into bed just as the twinkle of the night’s stars began to dim over Bishop’s Peak.

The alarm began to beep at nine AM. I was back in the bus by ten, and at the venue at Madonna Mountain by quarter past.

We scrambled down some runny eggs in the rococo dining room of the Madonna Inn and I was pushing my short travel bike up the hill by 11:00.

The qualifiers were the day before, and since I had missed them, I was seeded to go up in the first round against fastest qualifier Jill Kintner, the eventual winner. There was only one hour for practice. I flatted so didn’t even get in as many runs as I hoped.

The legs and arms of TV film crews dangled from their perches, the crowd of 2,500 spectators munched on tri tip sandwiches, and the racers milled around at the top of the course while the announcer pitter-pattered during the few minutes before the start of the race. I don’t even remember now lining up for the start.

Everything was just a blur. I was tired and sleepy, but my legs didn’t feel as bad as I expected. Even though I had raced for four hours less than twenty fours earlier, my legs weren’t too sore. It must have been because that race was at such a high elevation, that I never was able to metabolize oxygen well enough to flood my legs with acidic excess. A lot like drinking 3.2 beer all night at a Brigham Young frat party. It’s a hangover, yeah, but it could have been much worse.

marla streb
"Jill Kintner and I on our first run..."
Photo By Jon Berezay

Jill Kintner was sitting astride her bike just a few feet away. She is incredible at these events. On a downhill course I can corner with the best of them, but on these BMXy, bermy types of courses a rider like Jill can school me.

Before we rolled to the start gate, I had a few seconds to concentrate, “This is a mountain-cross race, a mountain-cross race, 20 seconds, just 20 seconds. Good gate. Get a good gate.”

And 20 seconds later, I was at the bottom of the hill, with another flat tire. I must have clipped a landing.

That’s how mountain cross races go. Just like that.

But at least there are two runs, so Mark and a nice guy from Art’s Cyclery popped in a new tube, while I tried to re-group.

marla streb
"Relaxing after a brutal weekend..."

On the second run I pulled a great start. At least a great start for me. Going into the first few turns I was even ahead a tiny bit. First there was a big berm turn, and then a jump over a container car. Through the berm turn I railed the good DH line, which was mid-line and fast. That’s what you try to figure out about turns; you think, oh the places I’ll go. Low or high? Inside or out? In the rut or out? But mountain-crossing is not DH’ing. Jill came into the turn low, then high, and shut the door on me. I had no place to go. The race was over even before the big container car jump, and I thought about Jill, “Oh, the places she’ll go; this sport is hers.”

But it was a fun event.

Afterwards there was a big party, but I was so wiped out that we just stopped by the beach and so I could cool off enough to fall asleep in mid afternoon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Nothing to Prove

The mountain bike relay leg of the Red Bull Divide and Conquer in Colorado was four hours (for me) of climbing, up and flat a tiny bit and then up, up, up and then flat for few feet and then up, up, up, again for 7,500 feet of climbing. The first four miles gained 3,000 feet of blazing mid day sun elevation.

And to reward our efforts, the last five minutes of the day’s ride was last year’s NORBA National Downhill course.

My plan was to make up all the time on this DH section that I had lost on the climb.

Then I’d show’em. I’d show them all!

I knew it wasn’t a great plan. Not a realistic plan. Not even a remotely possible chance of success. But, it was the only plan that I could come up with as I pushed my bike up the mountain.

marla streb
"Me with my hero, Ned Overend..."

A few days earlier the guys producing the race coverage took mountain biking legend Ned Overend and I out to the course to shoot some footage. The film guys and the course designer thought that the mountain bikers would launch, free ride style, off the downhill course’s drop offs. They thought that after climbing for hours the racers would blast through the rock gardens like Nathan Rennie. They thought it would be impressive on TV to see the riders roosting through the rhythm section. All on our whippy little 23 pound XC bikes.

So, the film guys had dragged Ned and I to the top of the DH course so that they could ‘frame’ the action shots that they expected to shoot during the race.

I pointed out to the film guys the DH lines and told them the fastest way down the trail. Afterall, I had ridden these lines fifty times. When they asked me to ride it for them, I had to tell them I couldn’t. That my bike would explode when it blew through all three inches of its XC suspension at the bottom end of the first drop off.

marla streb
Checking out the DH lines...

But there were some “girlie” lines that snaked around the big drop offs. There were a couple of ‘cheater’ lines that skirted the nasty boulder sections. I rode those lines once or twice and suggested that the course designer re-ribbon the course so that no one would die.

It was pretty cool telling the film guys and the course designer what to do. But it was really incredible to be showing Ned “the lung” Overend, one of America’s greatest mountain bikers of all time, the good lines.

He was gracious. He could have been like a lot of other guys and refused to admit that a girl might know a thing or two about riding down a mountain. But that’s why he is Ned, and such a cool guy. He was right behind me.

But as I was bouncing through the last rock garden I could hear the screech of Ned’s brakes. At the bottom of the rock garden I stopped and looked back up the trail, “Come on Ned,” I yelled. “Just stay to the left until you get to the baby heads and then let your speed carry you through!”

“You know, Marla, “ he yelled back down the trail, “I’ve got nothing to prove.”

And of course he was right. On race day he kicked my butt by over an hour. He is after all, Ned.

Red Bull Divide and Conquer Results:

1st- Specialized / Riversports- Ned Overend, Jesse Rickert, Dave Melon, Andy Corra

2nd- Adventure Sports Magazine- Pete Swenson, Dave Mackey, Josh Briggs, Mike Freeburn

3rd- The Bull Riders- Berrnie Boettcher, Noel Wade, Charles Jenkins, Ben Stookesberry

I also raced the JEEP King of the Mountain the next day in California. I’ll have a story for that next week. But here are the results:

Jeep KOM - ROUND 1

1. Brian Lopes - Trabuco Canyon, Calif.
2. Michael Prokop - Czech Republic
3. Wade Bootes - Australia
4. Mike King - San Diego, Calif.
5. Nathan Rennie - Australia
6. Chris Powell - La Jolla, Calif.
7. Travis Collins - San Luis Obispo, Calif.
8. Brian Schmith - Lancaster, Calif.

1. Jill Kintner - San Jose, Calif.
2. Tara Llanes - Corona, Calif.
3. Vanessa Quin - New Zealand
4. Katrina Miller - Australia
5. Melissa Buhl - Chandler, Ariz.
6. Anneke Beerten - The Netherlands
7. Fionn Griffiths - England
8. Marla Streb - Los Osos, Calif.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Old Lesson Learned the Hard Way

Learning old lessons is a lot harder than learning new ones.

This past Saturday I raced a local XC event at the Santa Barbara Bike Festival. The best training is racing, and since I’m signed up for the Red Bull Divide and Conquer next weekend in Durango, CO, I figured a strong three hour effort would be a good tune-up.

marla streb
Old lessons learned the hard way...

The RBD&C is the one of hardest single days on a mountain bike imaginable. It’s about 10,000 feet of thin-air climbing from the Animas River to Purgatory. All uphill. Last year I vowed I would never do it again. But, our relay team this year has such a cool name, Team- Rocky Mountain Oysters, that I decided to prove I had some. Or at least the girl version.

So, this Santa Barbara race was for training. A beautiful training ride, because after all, Santa Barbara is what heaven would be like if heaven had ‘feng shui’ botanical gardens and some enforceable zoning codes.

A few women pros turned out for the race. I was riding at my own pace regardless of the competition…sticking to my training plan…staying in the zone…just shuffling along with my i-pod. I must have tranced a little too deep into my spherical cadence and metronomic heart rate, because as I was sliding out on an off-camber that I assumed was ‘on’ camber, I forgot to dab.

marla streb
The Santa Barbara Women's clinic...

Road rash is bad. Everybody knows that. But trail trash can be worse. Even in beautiful Santa Barbara.

And everybody knows that you are supposed to unclick and put your foot down to catch your fall rather than slide through several layers of dermis.

So, the next day, Sunday, while I was conducting a mountain biking skills clinic for twenty roadies, I employed some audio-visuals. I pointed to the pizza slice sized blob of oozing epithelial jelly where my healthy kneecap had been previously and they said, “Ouch!”

“Girls, don’t let this happen to you.”

Saturday’s training effort, which was supposed to be good for my legs, obviously wasn’t. But, I really believe in recycling, so my scabrous squamous became the central theme of my skills clinic, “How to mountain bike safely.” Since, these roadie girls were fresh to the dirt, I hoped they wouldn’t also open some fresh wounds.

Maybe during the RBD&C my throbbing knee will distract me from the real pain that I’ll be in. The Jeep King of the Mountain race is on Sunday…the next day. All the way back here in California. I’ll be racing in that, too.

Hopefully I’ll be too exhausted to learn any more old lessons.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

sailing...but still talking about riding


What do mountain bikers do when they are not mountain biking? The immediate answers that come to mind are: sleeping, eating, sipping a latte or a Red Bull, maybe scarfing down mounds of spaghetti or simply working the day job.

But these things still have one common element. That is, even when not riding, riders talk about riding. It turns out when you are trying to forget about mountain biking for just one afternoon, you find yourself planning a ride!

This past Sunday, in Baltimore, it was 85 degrees, muggy and sweaty under a cloudless sky and only along the waterfront was there a whisper of a cooling breeze. It was a great day not to ride, because I had ridden every day of the prior week.

I felt it coming on, like a tingle in the back of my throat; I was just about to get sick of riding.

So, we decided to go sailing. Our sailboat, “Indifference”, is about fifty feet long and she’s always in need of paint and varnish but we squeezed aboard the decks buckets of ice cold beer, spring water and ginger ale. Watermelons. Chips and salsa. Wine and cheese. Couple pounds of steamed shrimp. And about 25 day sailors, most of whom happened to be mountain bikers.

marla streb
From the Mast of Indifference

Out on the bay the temperature breezed down to a very pleasant 75 degrees.

The city front in contrast, shimmering in wavy heat, passed us by in slow motion.

Bob Marley was there for a while, as was Jonny Lee Hooker, and Santana, too.

Dozens of other white sails lazily zig zagged around us.

Power boats from bow to stern, top heavy with bikinis and body builders rumbled along in a parade.

We sailed from the Inner Harbor out to the Key Bridge and back swinging by Fort McHenry, Fells Point and five hours later back to our slip in Canton at the old Tindeco Wharf, which was once one of America’s largest manufactures of tin cans for tobacco and breath mints, the historic brick building converted now to million dollar condominiums, health club and doctor’s offices, and a palm tree-lined Tiki Bar.

And I spent the whole sail talking with Donald, the owner of the local bike shop, Fleet Street Cycles; and with Dave Duval, Regional Trek Team XC and bike messenging honch; with Bridey, a downhiller I first met in Hawaii back in ’99 and who has been living here in Charm City for the last few years; with my two brothers Dave and Chris; with Steve from D.C., with Jeremy who used to live in Marin; with one banged up motocrosser and with everybody else on board talking… about riding.

marla streb
Lots of Riders

Favorite rides. Brutal rides. Rides we always wanted to do. Bike set ups. N.O.R.B.A. Doping. Bonking… And a ride for tomorrow.

That tickle in the back of my throat has gotten worse. I don’t know if I am any better for the sail. We were all supposed to be taking the day off from training, and we spent the entire time chattering about trails. I’m going to bet that today’s ride is spent gushing about the sail.