Monday, June 28, 2010

Dog Dayz Weekend ends in 2nd and 2nd

Steve and I spent just about the entire weekend at Burns Park in North Little Rock, AR. It was hot and humid, as usual, but I could think of worse ways to spend a weekend.

Saturday morning, Steve raced the Dog Dayz XTERRA. The top 4 swimmers all arrived at pretty much the same time with Steve first out of the water. Amongst the top four was my friend Jocelyn Wood from Oklahoma. (She puts so much time into her competitors during the swim and bike legs that they don't stand a chance!)

Out of T1, Steve took a wrong turn and entered the single track in 3rd place behind the eventual winner, Chuck Olinger from Texas, and Jocelyn. He caught and passed Jocelyn during the bike leg. Despite a good run leg, Steve never managed to catch Chuck, finishing a few minutes behind. Joey Guajardo of Texas (the winner of XTERRA Eureka Springs) took third after struggling during the swim. Overall, it was a great race for him Now, he's looking forward to the Jonesboro XTERRA. (His chances are good to take the AR series win.)

Saturday afternoon I showed up for the short track events. The women were supposed to have a separate race, but since I was the only female racer, they ran me with the A men. After a Le Mans start, all the men rode away from me and I rode around and around by myself for about 30 minutes. (The A men race 30 minutes plus 2 laps, but shortly before racing I was screwing around and slammed into the ground trying to do a wheelie. The race director kindly shortened my time to 20 min +2. Next time I'll remember to hit that right brake before it's too late.) Just for showing up, I ended up with a pair of wool socks and a box of margarita flavored Shot Bloks. Good stuff!

Sunday morning brought the XC race. Steve took his turn as videographer while I raced against some really tough chicks including Jocelyn, my friend and climbing partner Keshari Thakali and Suzanne Karklins among others. The race was 2.5 laps.

The first half lap and most of the first full lap, the four of us were riding together with Suzanne leading the way. Jocelyn had some chain trouble and fell off the pace for a while, but worked her way up and wasted no time in making a move on the rest of us.

Eventually, Suzanne and I caught back up to Jocelyn and the two of them battled it out some more. I was having a great time watching them race while doing my best to match their pace.

When Suzanne made her final move toward the top of the 2x4 climb and Jocelyn didn't match the effort, I went around and tried my best to get close to Suzanne. At one point, I got within, maybe 15 seconds, but she pulled away again through a techy section and won. I came in second which I am thrilled about. Jocelyn ran her bike across the line for 3rd (more chain trouble) and Keshari was right behind in 4th with no grip under her left hand. Mechanicals suck!

The Fat Tire Festival in Eureka Springs on July 16-17 should bring even more competition and more good racing for us women. Now, if I can motivate myself to get on my bike and train between now and then...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cyclist Killed in Little Rock

On Sunday morning, Marilyn Fulper Smith was killed while crossing an intersection with the signal on a bicycle. According to witnesses, the driver of the vehicle ran a red light and struck the cyclist. The cyclist was crossing over Cantrell Road toward River Mountain Road. The driver was west bound on Cantrell. In the police report, the driver stated that she never saw the bicycle. Obviously, she didn't see the red light either.

I didn't know Marilyn, but her death saddens and angers me. I cross that intersection on my bicycle at least 3 or 4 times a week as do countless other people on their way to Little Rock's River Trail. River Mountain Road, the road toward which the cyclist was heading, is the farthest road west that leads to the River Trail on the south side.

View of the Arkansas River from River Mountain Road

The River Trail system runs along the northern and southern shores of the Arkansas River connected by "Big Dam Bridge" a pedestrian and cycling only bridge. Another bridge is currently under construction to connect the south side of the River Trail to Two Rivers Park and there are plans for another north-south connector bridge near the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown.

It is a wonderful place to ride a bike, walk or run. So many people use the trail for exercise, dog-walking, bird watching, fishing, foraging for wild fruits or just to enjoy a beautiful day. It is something I really love about Little Rock.

I'm sure Marilyn was on her way to get a good ride in, maybe a hard training ride, maybe a ride simply for pleasure. Tragically, her ride and her life were cut short by a distracted driver. Her and her family are in my thoughts today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

XTERRA Eureka Springs

Originally, Steve's plan was to do the XTERRA at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham, AL. Having just recovered from that 6 hour drive to Birmingham last weekend for Bump and Grind, he decided to scrap that plan and do the race at Eureka Springs, AR instead. A shorter drive across the Ozark Plateau and marginally cooler temps tipped the scales. Plus, now he's in the running for the Arkansas Cup. Fido and I went along as support.

The swim leg is in Lake Leatherwood. The water is cool and pretty clean, but the grassy area leading up to the start was a mine field of goose droppings. I couldn't avoid stepping in it once or twice and Fido managed to get a couple piles in his mouth when I wasn't looking. I saw a racer lying down amongst the poo to do some stretches and thought for a second that I should warn him. In the end I didn't say anything. He either knew it or didn't need to know.

XTERRA Eureka Springs, June 12, 2010 from Heather Ladd on Vimeo.

Steve had a great swim leg and came into T1 in 2nd place. A quick transition put him in first place on the bike leg.

The bike leg was two loops, one 5 mile and one 8 mile. After the 5 mile loop, Steve and another guy were still in the top two spots, but a couple more guys were charging fast and the 8 mile loop has two long, steep (as in granny gear) climbs and plenty of technical rocks to keep it interesting. Steve went down on some algae covered rock and bruised up his bum pretty good, but recovered and came in to T2 in 4th place, maybe 20 seconds behind 2nd and 3rd.

The first long climb of the 8 mile bike loop is also part of the run course. Steve caught and passed a guy on that climb. The fact that Steve was walking and the other guy was running gives some perspective about how steep these climbs are. Anyway, the pass stuck and Steve finished in 3rd place overall. Woo hoo!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scooter Update

Wednesday, Scooter had the staples removed from her amputation surgery. Our neighbor found her at the warehouse where he works and brought her to our house thinking we would take her in. She was surprisingly healthy for a stray despite an open wound where she lost her front right leg. The vet suggested amputation surgery to remove the remaining bit of leg attached to her shoulder and close up the wound.

The surgery was successful and she recovered quickly. By day 2, it was hard to "keep her quiet" as the take-home instructions from the vet suggested. This 51 sec. video of her playing around was taken the day before the staples came out.

We weren't looking for another pet. Goodness knows we already had plenty with Sadie, JD and Fido. But, adding her to the brood was easy peasy. She has a good nature and no one seems to mind her playfulness. They might even like it.

JD and Scooter.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bump and Grind

Crossing the finish line.

Steve and I drove to Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend to race Bump and Grind at Oak Mountain State Park. We got to the park on Saturday afternoon for a pre-ride and ran into our friend Beth who won the Turn and Burn event that day. Way to go!

Packet pick-up wasn't open yet, so we got our gear on and headed out to the trail. It was fun to ride the red trail again, but we probably shouldn't have ridden the entire 20 miles that day and taken hack after hack at blood rock until I finally cleaned it to clapping by the volunteers hanging banners. (Thank you) By the time we finished, we were both out of water and tired from having driven all morning and ridden in hot, muggy weather.

We went back to the home of our gracious hosts Mike and Maaike, showered, rested, and left for dinner at Chez Lu Lu with Beth and Monty. I had the Andalusion Gazpacho and Mixed Greens Pie. I love that place.

Race day, Sunday, I got a great start , exactly what I wanted. I think I entered the singletrack in 3rd. I could feel a girl getting antsy behind me, so I offered to let her pass. She thanked me, went around, and promptly went down in a turn leading to a wooden bridge. Still in 3rd position on the fire road climb, I was feeling pretty good. Then, all of a sudden, I wasn't keeping up with the front two anymore and got passed about 2/3 of the way to the top. Disappointed in myself, I kept riding with the hope that it was a long race and I could catch back up, until my back began to get very sore. The last 5 miles of the first lap were torture and I was as close to quitting as I've ever been.

Then, Loretta Simpson from Georgia, who I didn't know at the time, came flying by me at the start of the second lap and offered encouragement to ride harder because a "Vantaggio girl was right behind us". I don't know if I rode harder at that point, but I did keep pedaling and my back loosened up while descending Johnson's Mountain. It allowed me to finish the race with a strong effort, catching and passing Loretta on the last section of singletrack. Then catching another girl right at the end. Unfortunately, I was not able to come around before the finish. I ended up placing in 5th, tired and ready to drive back to AR. Steve also finished in 5th. Next year, we'll keep the pre-ride to an hour.

Steve says the best part of the weekend was breakfast at Mike and Maaike's house the morning of the race. They have a very inviting home and it's nice to relax with old friends. It was fantastic, but looking back, I enjoyed the camaraderie I felt from the other racers, especially Loretta. I often ask myself why I spend money and time to suffer so. The answer is: to stay healthy and meet great folks.

Meanwhile, my BOT teammate, Cindy Reese, cleaned up at Tulsa Tough - two crits and two wins. She's a tough competitor.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ziva's Hat

I finished knitting the Ann Norling Fruit Cap for Ziva (a friend's new daughter). The ladies at Yarn Mart in Little Rock helped me pick it out as well as the Baby Boutique yarn I used.

Next, one for Ella.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rustic Peach Brown Betty

I was browsing some of my favorite food blogs last week and came across this recipe for Strawberry Brown Butter Betty on Smitten Kitchen. The idea of using flattened white bread (I used Pepperidge Farm Thin Slice) as the crust sounded easy enough to do on a hot summer evening.

Apparently, we are no longer in strawberry season in Arkansas, but I did manage some very yummy peaches. (Wild blackberries are everywhere, but they would never survive the ride home with a hungry cyclist.) Because I was now using peaches and was too lazy to peel them, I thought about The Minimalist's Stone Fruit Patchwork Bake.

Anyway, I combined the two recipes and got these rustic beauties. Steve and I had them with vanilla ice cream. Great end to a nice a weekend.