Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spance

The second day is always the hardest for me as far as time changes go, so I'm really just writing this to stay awake. I'm writing from Spain, on the the first part of our "Spance" trip (Spain+France=Spance). We're holed up in a little hotel just outside Bilbao (One of the largest port cities in Spain). Bilbao is in the Basque region in the northern bit of the country. It's beautiful here! Everything is super green, mountains, little euro roads, roundabouts. It reminds me of Switzerland, but not as Sound of music-y. It's Europe! It's raining a little bit now, but yesterday was about 80°F and sunny. I guess today's weather is more indicative of the season than yesterday's and the rain will carry through the weekend.
As per usual, this is a race trip. Nine athletes and staff made the trip over for two P1 events (Smaller than a world cup). Two people are only doing the Spanish race, so our group will shrink when we go to France (huh- huh!). Racing starts on Saturday with two time trials, then a road race on Sunday. Categories are supposed to be combined for the races which I'm really looking forward too. Men and women of like categories will be racing together. I'm so tired of women's racing... this will be fun!
We still have an hour to kill before our afternoon ride. Amazingly, as I was reminded of earlier today, there is even less to do here than at the Training Center. We're all trying to stay out of trouble, and stay awake. 
Till next time!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Cat Show



Never in my wildest dreams would I think I’d have the material for this blog. Today I went to a cat show. Let me repeat myself, I went to a CAT SHOW. Yes, that's right, a show of felines, hundreds of them, and crazy cat ladies to accompany them. Now, you may be asking yourself Why the hell would she do such a thing? Surely she's gone mad. Well yes, not really, I mean... maybe I have. 

Several days ago, I was riding my bicycle- like I do every day- and saw that there was a cat show coming to the City Aud. I thought to myself Greta, this is too good an opportunity to pass up! Think of the mocking you can do at a CAT SHOW! I quickly told Stacy about this and she agreed that we simply must go. After some investigating online, we found that admission was $5- a small fee for the potential greatness to come.

So last night, I was trying to plan my outfit for the show. (I was imagining something like either the Westminster Dog Show, or an ultra trashy convention of crazy cat ladies. I was leaning towards the latter.) I'd planned to wear either an amazingly pretentious outfit (think Westminster), or astoundingly trashy (think crazy cat show). Rather than doing either, I decided to just wear my favorite purple sweater and jeans. My second outfit choice was a sweater vest worn as a tank top. Next time. So we arrive at the City Aud and all the doors are locked. WTF? We weren't as worried about not being able to get in, as having to ask for directions to the cat show. The shame. We find an open door and ask the hip(ster) looking guy working the film festival for directions.

We enter the main hall (where the roller derby team competes) to find it filled with long tables covered in cages and containers, filled with cats. And of course, tons of middle-aged women with cat shirts and sweaters walking around with their cats. The man at the door seemed fairly excited that two non-cat people were there to experience their first cat show. This guy looked like he was straight out of a King of the Hill cartoon or something- high and tight haircut, neon hunter’s orange t-shirt, huge beer gut, wranglers, and a plate of greasy potatoes and eggs. Not at all what I’d expected to see. He goes on to explain that the “kitties” are all lined up here, and the “kitties” are judged over there. I’m thinking to myself Seriously, we’ve been here one minute and I’m about to start hysterically laughing. Great start.

Honestly, the whole thing was quite overwhelming. We weren’t sure what to expect but it was nothing and everything we expected. We started walking around looking at the cats, and looking at people interact with their cats which was amazing. The first cat we looked at was hideous. It’s face was horribly disfigured, which apparently, is how all cats in this breed look. Unfortunate really. The one we saw was a different color, but looked like this:



We walked around, looked at a bunch of cats, too scared and embarrassed to ask questions about anything. We met a woman who makes folk art in the form of cloth, stuffed cats. These fake cats looked nothing like real cats, mainly because they were made of printed fabric, with puff-paint faces and whiskers to match their fabric. Impressive in the fact that she (and her 90+ year old mother) made them all by hand, but really, nothing I would ever want in my house. Ever. We talked for a while then moved on to the other craft tables where there was a skinned cat! Now, maybe it's just me but as (presumably) cat lovers, why the hell would you have the pelt of some type of house cat at a cat show? A trophy? I've got nothing.

Being the smart people that we are, we decide it would probably be best to learn about the cats and the whole deal at the judging rings. One judge looked like he hated cats and didn't want to be there at all, one looked mildly turned on by the cats, and the one lady seemed mostly normal. She talked through the whole thing which was helpful to learn what the cats are judged on. Basically being as close to that breed's standards as possibly, and the personality of the cat.

After about an hour or whispering to each other and getting dirty looks from the cat people, we work up the courage to ask someone questions. The women we asked first were incredibly nervous and socially awkward- cat lady?? They tried to recruit us into showing cats and gave us business cards to help get us started (check out the Cat Fancier's Association).

The second woman we talked to was really helpful in explaining a lot about showing cats. We learned it was much harder to have a Champion cat than dog because of the tournament like competitions you have to advance through. She told us it was the last show of the season, and the new season would be starting up May 1st (which is next weekend btw) so apparently there's no cat show off-season. A good entry level show cat costs about $600, maybe $500 if you're really lucky. This woman was also terrified of my claw. Now, it often fools people because of it's tan shell, but it really is a claw. She was quick enough to notice that it wasn't a real hand, and in fact a metal claw, and it was very clear she had NO idea where to look. So, rather than acknowledge I was standing there, she just looked at Stacy the whole time, and occasionally her eyes would dart to the claw then right back to Stacy. Rad.

She told us basically everything we could ever want to know about cats and then some. We saw huge cats, cats with smashed in faces, cats that looked like you could break them in half, cats that looked like cats, cats that looked like an explosion of fur, cats that use hair product in their fur, and cats with coffee filters around their necks to prevent them from licking their fur and undoing all the hard work their owners had done to style their fur.

All told we spent about 2 hours at the cat show, and as quickly as we decided to go to a cat show, we decided it was time to leave the cat show. Admittedly, I was hoping the cats would have to perform tricks like dogs ranging from jumping through a hoop, catching a frisbee, and walking on it's hind legs. You know, things a good cat would be able to do. After seeing the spectacle in person, I can now say with certainty that I have NO desire to show cats, have a cat, or be a crazy cat lady. Crazy? Sure. Cat lady? No thanks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April Camp




April camp just wrapped up in Chula Vista, CA. Most of us have been racing for a while now, but you could say this served as the official kick off to the season. Unlike December or January camp where we log lots of miles at a moderate pace, April camp keeps it short and sweet. By "sweet" I mean painful, and the taste of blood is more prevalent than anything "sweet".
I’m usually excited for training camps because it means the whole team gets to ride together, and beat each other up. Bragging rights are on the line for our time trial tests, and it’s an opportunity to really measure yourself against teammates and your results from previous camps.
This camp I was especially excited for, and I can’t really pinpoint any one reason as to why; it’s the official season kick off, we’re going to Euro-land to race next week, some really fun workouts were planned, and I was ready for some sunshine. The heavy hitters were all there except for the men’s tandem (who we missed dearly) and we all took advantage of throttling each other every day.
The 20 athletes at camp broke into groups each day to do race-like workouts. Team time trial work, lead-outs, attacks, bridging gaps, and good old fashioned floggings were on tap each day. After slaying each other every morning, we’d drag ourselves up the hill into to the training center. (That hill seemed to get bigger and bigger as camp went on.)
Despite trying to ride each other into the pain cave- which we all did very well- everybody stepped up to the plate and rode better than ever.
As usual, the last day of camp meant our time trial up the famous, or infamous, Honey Springs road. It’s a 7 mile, 6% average climb that at the end of camp may as well be Everest. We do it on the last day of camp as sort of a nail-in-the-coffin ride, but also for the coaches to see how we handled the workload of the week.
This time around we had a bit of a tailwind which was welcomed, but meant it would be hot, hot, hot climbing. About two minutes in, my jersey was totally unzipped, and the glove literally came off right after. I’d had a really successful camp up to that point, and wasn’t really looking for a spectacular ride- I decided to just ride my bike to the top of the road. Instead of looking at my powermeter, I just looked up the road, and rode. Soon enough I was catching people, and knew I was rolling pretty well. It didn’t even feel like I was riding uphill. About half way up, a little group of three had formed and we rode the rest of the way together. None of us could drop the other two, but none of us were slowing down any either. It was hands down my best effort, and to do that on the last day of camp was really exciting for me.
I’m not only happy with how I rode, I’m thrilled to come home a little darker, with crisper tan lines. All the work my mother did trying to keep my pasty skin a fine English porcelain was for naught.
After this camp, I’m certain that 2010 will be a fantastic year for everybody on the team. Good things will come, I can feel it. Or maybe that’s just my sunburn.

Friday, April 9, 2010

La Creperie- ToCS



Monday ToCS went French (huh-huh!) and hit up La Creperie downtown. I have to admit that I wasn't very excited about going French. My experience with French food in France was less than optimal which could've been for a number of reasons- we at all our meals at a hotel, and the only meal I truly remember was fish. When I say "fish" I mean and ENTIRE fish (thankfully minus the guts) head, tail, scales and bones all together and fried then put on a plate. It looked at me the whole time. It looked sort of like this but with smaller fins.

There were six of us, and we each ordered a different entree and dessert which I thought was impressive in itself. My dinner was really good! A chicken avocado crepe with brie. Everyone at dinner thought their crepe was quite tasty as well. Dessert was another crepe, this time filled with fresh blueberries and a drizzle of chocolate. They had a bunch of options for both dessert and a main entree, primarily crepes, but a few other dishes too.
The restaurant itself was small, and I felt cramped. It seemed like our group of 6 took up most of the restaurant. There's probably only seating for 20-25 people in total (indoors). The service was good, especially for only having one waitress.
My rating- gold fireworks (In between gold star and fireworks). The food was really good, but the cramped seating drags it down a bit.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New Rating System

What do you think of the new blog lay out? Feel free to use the ToCS rating system.



We have a rating system. If you don't like it.... well that's too bad.
Sunshine
Fireworks
Gold star
Goat
Pinecone
Cloudy
Toilet paper


It started with "Sunshine" and gold stars are always good for ratings too.