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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Another Way To The Podium

I can never get enough podium appearances, no matter how small the event or how few people are watching. I don't care if it's from beating some 11 year olds in the Shimano kids’ race or dominating the worst-dressed contest. I’ll bust a gut to get up on that podium and beam the gushingest smile I can conjure.

I even agree to give public speeches despite being terrified of public speaking. As long as they let me stand on some kind of little podium.

A couple weeks ago my team director Paul McKenzie called and asked me if I wanted to present the Clif Bar green sprinter’s jersey at the Tour of California. This was the highest profile road stage race ever to go through California, and boasted an international field.

“…and the stage finishes in your town, San Luis Obispo.” Paul explained. “The podium is going to be right near the…”

“Well, YEAH!”, I blurted out before he could finish his sentence. “I mean, yes, I’d be honored to present the ‘Green” Clif Bar jersey. As long as I can kiss the rider of course. I’ve never kissed a roadie before.”

On race day, the streets of San Luis Obispo were packed. I ran into a bunch of friends, but was a little distracted from checking to make sure my outfit was suitable and glancing over at the crowds surrounding the podium. Aren’t they supposed to give me some kind of lessons on this jersey presentation?

There I was, 7 months pregnant and standing on the top of the podium at a world class bike race. The crowd was roaring, photographers flashing, and ESPN recording. I felt a wave of emotion swell up from my already swollen belly, and I felt my arms rise up in unabashed triumph.

This could be a dream I thought.

But it’s not! It’s real!!

Then, I slapped my arms down where they belonged. I wasn’t the winner.

But, at least now I had some small clue how it must have felt for Haedo, the stage winner, and Floyd Landis, the overall Tour of California winner. And all my other roadie heroes...

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Marla on the podium with Haedo. Photo by Paul McKenzie

And I also got to finally kiss one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Secret Trail right in your Back Yard

It is a lot like yogurt at first. You did not really want to try it because it seemed gross and it smelled funny. But then you did try it.

And you liked it.

I had always blown off this inauspicious trailhead on the way to my daily rides. I’d pass right by it without breaking cadence, dismissing it as a 12 foot long fluke of cleared brush, petering out to a certain and cruel dead end.

This particular trailhead held none of the signs of a promising mountain bike experience:

No circling tire tracks or fresh foot prints at its entrance. No prominent wooden signs describing its dangerous drop-offs or carnivorous, poison plants. No “No Bikes Allowed” signs.

And it definitely didn’t have a name or rep. The best trails always earn edgy names like “MediVac” or “Bloody Nose” to indicate their attitudes to the users. If I haven’t heard stories about how someone bonked and had to crawl home from it’s terminus, then it’s probably too short. If the word “rollercoaster” hasn’t been used to describe it’s “flow”, then it’s probably a yawn fest.

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Marla's Secrect Trail

But the other day, I whimsically decided to take an abrupt left hand turn into this little trailhead. I even surprised myself with my lack of hesitation, though I hoped there wouldn’t be an invisible, neck-high barbed wire fence to punish me for my spontaneity.

But the trail kept reaching on, and so did my satisfaction with it. As it climbed, I climbed it. More a deer run than a double diamond trail it wound through the groves of eucalyptis. I popped out along a wind swept ridge line whose features I had only glimpsed heretofore as a distant silhouette.

From this perspective I could see the famous Morro rock which anchored the bay…and the sailboats swinging with the tide. The far horizon was the expanse of dark pacific ocean set against the light blue sky. Turning the other way the green rolling hills of the farms and wineries covered like a rumpled blanket the subdivisions and arteries of my town. My iPod only as faithful as much as its battery was capable deserted me, but I didn’t mind being alone.

I pioneered along my new discovery.

After a while the trail just sort of dusted out into the high grass and scrub. It looked as likely to fork off to the left into the taller bush, as it appeared to amble up the eroded arroyo. Maybe the trail wrapped around those rocks and dropped down along the fall line. It could have gone on it seemed, perhaps in a more discernable direction, to a rider who was searching for an end.

But I was happy, simply having found it’s beginning, to turn around.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Compromising Workouts

My boyfriend, legally now my husband, Mark and I can’t run together. We can't ride together either. We’ve tried to for years. But the thing is, we both like to run and we both like to ride. Just not together.

He’s got this weird thing where he can’t run on deep sand or up steep hills. Says he makes ‘postpiles’ like a horse. And on the bike he’s not that keen on the dirt. He claims it’s too ‘distracting’. He likes to zone on brain-numbing, flat, paved roads, defensively waving off every car that passes. And if there’s a chance for a psychological battle with the enemy in a car, he’s up for it. That’s really where he gets his rush.

Of course I like the dirt, sand, and mud. Any messy substrate will do. These more natural elements seem softer somehow, less cruel than a paved street. Even the rocks will sometimes move for you if you carve into them. Besides, after four knee surgeries, my road run quickly deteriorates into a road limp to a thumb stuck out with hand on hip.

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Mark and Marla

But Mark and I want to work out together, somehow. So we make it happen with maps and timetables and flow charts. Sadly, it often must involve the dreaded car to connect the dots. So we incorporate an errand like picking up plywood or getting a smog test that requires the car. That way we don’t feel as guilty.

Logistics need not be logical.

So if the errand that needs running is one town away, I’ll drive there with the bike on its rack while Mark runs to that town. I’ll unload the bike and ride some nearby trails, then later ride home leaving the car in a designated spot. Mark’ll show up huffing and puffing, and while still sweaty, deal with the errand, and then drive home. A substantial errand can be very effective in neutralizing workout disparity.

It usually works out well. But sometimes while we’re in that town (which always has more desirable cultural amenities than ours), we do like to have a nice meal and perhaps see a movie. Our car, an old beat up VW bus, has a solar shower, a decent sized changing room, and gear bags full of jeans, sweatshirts and baseball caps, so it’s not too hard to transform for a “date”.

Although, the timing of the movie can ultimately be a deal breaker. An early movie means not much of a work out before hand, but afterwards a decent dinner. A later movie means a great work out, and a great dinner, but I usually fall asleep shortly after the movie credits roll, which means that I end up accidentally renting the DVD later.

I’m not sure we’ll ever completely work out our workouts. Somehow, we’ve always managed them with a little planning, a little bit more of arguing, and then a lot of compromising.

(Which can be a work out in itself)