Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creating your own Local Training Loop


A few years ago while diligently studying a Mountain Bike magazine I came across an article that taught how to train for cross country races. It was built on the idea that you should create your own short loop. This is a trail system that is easy to reach and is reasonably challenging but most important of all, it has to be fun. It has to beg your attention more than once a week.

Simple concepts often whisper truth in a language we assume that we understand. My assumption was wrong. Hopefully others can benefit from the mistakes I made.


I thought the short loop was a great idea so I started tracking one out near my home in Massachusetts. Unfortunately I made a series of amateur mistakes. First, I couldn't settle on one set course. I kept changing my mind. Second, each time I altered the route it got a little longer. My desire to get in a complete workout while also advancing my abilities was like weight lifting on a treadmill.

I tried to include every hill, berm, drop, jump and climb in a ten mile radius. After a couple months my short loop was 21 miles long, it traveled throughout Myles Standish State Forrest and it was truly arduous.


That long, difficult route was too much to handle. One trip would physically wipe me out for days. I was lucky if I got to ride it once a month. This indecision defeated the purpose of having one set route. The goal was to hit some of the same elements over and over thus allowing yourself to get comfortable, balanced, skilled. Only by repeating a tight turn or struggling over a rooty section can you get good at it.

I have never been short on ambition but I've always been short on patience. It was this flaw that made my design plans fall through. Lesson learned.


Here in Englewood, Florida I was initially upset with the lack of trails appropriate for Mountain Bikes but that's because I didn't know where to look. I have ridden the Ann Dever trails and the Oyster Creek park but each has little nuances that cannot be discovered in a single day. In fact, it took a couple years of exploring to assemble all of the connectors to make a good system.

 On Christmas Day the final piece of the puzzle emerged. The end result is a simple 9 mile loop that can be accessed from my home. It is mostly off road, rides on sandy singletrack and crush shells with some short grass and pine needles. It crosses and re-crosses 6 bridges. There are rooty parts and stretches of road. It is an excellent mix of all the available surfaces and elements.



Combining the pieces was well worth the wait because now I'm psyched to wake up early and get to pedaling. The pressure of forcing myself to do long distances at a high rate of speed has subsided. No more pushing hard only to burn out time after time. I'll still need to hit the streets for endurance rides but this short loop is where I'll keep my skills sharp and retain my love of going off road.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Night Riding in the Carlton Reserve


One of the joys of Mountain Biking is the sense of exploration. The opportunity to escape the confines of paved lines and stop signs, to distance oneself from the sounds of honking cars and busy lifestyles. Nothing says exploration like trying something for the first time. Recently I got the opportunity to do three different things for the first time and all of them took place on the same ride. 

My new friends at Real Bikes Englewood told me of a regular Tuesday night group ride. They would all meet at an agreed upon location at sundown, armed only with the normal riding fare plus a few thousand lumens worth of light. I decided to give it a try. I bought a basic model light for my bike, clamped it to the handlebars and met the riders at the Sleeping Turtle Preserve in Venice, Florida.


Remember those three things I have never done? Here they are - I have never gone on a group ride in Florida, I have never explored the Carlton Reserve Park and I have never done a night ride. On this cool evening less than a week before Christmas I would be trying all three at once.

About 19 riders slowly gathered at the parking lot and began introducing themselves. I had befriended a number of cyclists on Facebook over the last two years and on this night I met many of them for the first time. They brought along every imaginable type of bike. From a vintage steel frame with drop bars to a cyclocross bike and a singlespeed to full suspension 29ers. 


The gathering broke up into two groups A and B. The A group was made up of hardcore riders. They were aiming for a 35 mile ride at a high pace though I later learned they had to make a couple stops for the sake of avoiding alligators. The B group was more my speed, lead by Randy and Eric of Scorr (Sarasota County Off Road Riders).

We set off down the road and the eight of us drifted into the trails of the Carlton Reserve just past 6pm. It was already dark but with a clear sky illuminated by stars and a shade short of a quarter moon. The trails are what you would expect from a Southwest Florida park, grassy curves with sandy singletrack. Each section of trail undulates back and forth until it reaches one of the endless fire roads.


Had I ridden these trails in the daytime I would not have been impressed but there is a better energy when you are riding with a group. Plus, our ride leaders knew the composition and undulations of every path so we always knew what to expect. Secondly, riding at night makes everything more exciting. Each turn of the trail is a slightly ominous dark corner that could reveal a sounder of pigs digging in the dirt or a stray coyote or as the A group encountered, an alligator.

Best of all was the sheer freedom that comes only in the evening. When you are lifting your bike over a fence chained shut or riding under a cloud of fog lifting your arm so your fingers caress the grey, ghostly surface. For that short time you feel like a kid again. You feel like you have escaped the confines of the real world and chosen to travel in a dreamland painted with picturesque night skies and deep curving tunnels.

Photo from the Carlton Reserve website
Fifteen miles was a hearty workout. There were sections of spongy grass and pig holes that kept the ride challenging. I usually stayed in second or third position shifting up or down only to alleviate the ache in my quads. My single light was adequate mostly because everyone else had such brilliant hardware but I would recommend something more powerful.

We returned to the parking area just after eight o'clock and enjoyed some fluids as the nippy air cooled our exposed skin. Our ride leaders were real characters. Not only did they tell amusing biking tales while in the woods, they continued their stories afterwards. Had I not been starving I would have stayed longer just to enjoy more of the conversation.


If you have never been on a night ride, I would strongly recommend it. This ride is regular on Tuesday nights at 6pm (Excluding Christmas of course) and meets at the Sleeping Turtle Preserve parking lot. It is open to anyone and there is no cost.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Personal Record at the Frosty 5K

Frosty 5 K

Who says you can't have snow or a snowman in Florida weather? I saw them both at the Frosty 5K run at Twin Lakes on Clark Road in Sarasota. Ok, the snow came from a machine and appeared to be more foamy than frozen and the snowman was wearing running shoes. Regardless of these minor details, 500 competitors enjoyed the 60 degree weather during a fun morning of racing, charity and comradery.


The park is somewhat smaller than I imagined but it did have a fun 1/2 mile jogging course that circled round a small pond. This meant that most of the race course went through adjoining neighborhoods. These were quiet suburban back roads that made for flat, straightforward runs. Parking was packed, this is clearly a popular year end race. I know that the Zoomers Run Club uses it as their race series final so I was happy to get in at least one score in 2012.


The Frosty 5K is put on by the Active Suncoast Foundation and they did an excellent job. The goody bags were huge and full treats including an attractive white logo dri-fit t-shirt. Vendors were present with athletic related products and even the Baltimore Oriole showed up. The food lines were very long but being exhausted I didn't stick around for photos and awards.

This race had a similar atmosphere to the Turkey Trot I ran a month ago at Edison College. The crowd was diverse, well humored and accepting of new people. Active Suncoast runs their times a little differently than I'm used to. Instead of attaching an electronic tag to your laces it was attached to your race number. The numbers themselves were very colorful and made for a prize in themselves.


As for the outcome, The Male Open winner was Sarasota's Jeff Vereckt. How many 40 years olds do you know that can run a 5K in 16:45? That is an impressive time. In the Ladies Open  we saw North Port's Heather Butcher take the win with 18:30. The youngest runner to complete the course was Sarasota's Mark Schroeter. This 6 year old finished in 44:45 beating out 60 other runners. The eldest runner to finish was 85 year old Edward Shearer of Venice who scored well with 52:32.

2012 Frosty 5K Results


My start was a little stiffer than usual. Friday night before the race Terri and I had a full schedule which included reporting on a race at Tampa BMX. After which we had a 2 hour drive home. We got back at midnight. I didn't fall asleep until 2:30am then awoke at 5:30 for the race. 

Otherwise all was right on track. I remembered to warm up fully, I remembered to use my Ironman Timex to track the split times and I remembered to steadily increase speed only by small increments. All of it worked perfectly. At the one mile mark I was sitting pretty at 7:57. My pace slowed a little in the next mile but by then I was in a groove and was able to shift into that next gear. I sprinted across the line in 26:12, a new personal best. The results put me in 13th place out of 27 runners in my age group plus I was 151 out of 495 overall.


This was my 3rd and last running race of 2012. This new hobby has encouraged me to lift up my home training so that I'm now running 4 mile routes, the most recent only took 38:48. I'm planning on continuing to attend one race per month starting in the new year. Now that I have started running it is hard to imagine that I could ever stop.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Englewood Triathlon Fat Tire Division


I like big wheels. As hard as I try I can't seem to convince myself to buy a road/tri bike but it turns out that I don't have to change. As my aspirations lean more in the direction of doing the Englewood Triathlon I started talking to people who have been there, done that. The owner of Real Bikes Englewood, the town's newest bike shop told me that the Englewood Triathlon has a Fat Tire division. Perfect!

I checked the results from last year's race and sure enough there was a Fat Tire class with 8 competitors, 3 men / 5 women. That makes this adventure even more fun. Not only do I get to test my endurance in swimming, biking and running but I can do it on my knobbies.


What makes me excited about this venture is that I love to time trial on my MTB. Last summer I did two of them with the Tempo Cyclery group and managed a 10 mile time of 33:40. It was some of the most fun I've had on a bike.

With this in mind I decided to go to the actual location where the race will be held next year - Englewood Beach. There I met Peyton "Shrek" Read, a BMX friend who cross trains on road bikes. Peyton has some monster legs and can pound out 30+ miles on skinny tires so I knew I'd be in for a serious workout.


Going north on Beach road Shrek lead the way into a headwind. He held the pace between 16-18mph which I could handle while drafting in my second largest gear. We reached Manasota Beach in about 24 minutes. Then we turned around and with the wind at our backs, we turned it on. Peyton shot up to 22mph and I moved into my highest gear pushing every muscle in my legs.

He was easily able to walk away and in fact waited a few times for me to catch up. We both picked up the pace when another rider decided to cruise past us. This is a 13 mile TT and my dream goal was to finish in 45 minutes, I did it in 46:15. Peyton could have done it even faster.


This was a good step for many reasons. First and most obvious is that if you train in the location of the actual race it builds your confidence. Second is that this was part of an amazing weekend of training that allowed me to set 3 personal records.

Bike 13 miles: 46:15
Swim 400 yards: 15:14
Run 5K: 26:54

Add those up and then build on it.
Who knows, I might just be competitive come next July.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Photos from the 2012 Turkey Trot 5K Race


The 2012 Turkey Trot 5K running race took place on Thanksgiving at Edison College in Punta Gorda, Florida. 540+ runners came to enjoy 50 degree fall weather, make space in their tummies for Thanksgiving dinners and to support a great cause. This Turkey Trot benefits Habitat for Humanity and boy did they make out well. In addition to the runners there were also hundreds of people walking the 5K distance.


The course created for the 5K never left the college grounds. They cleverly used each road as an out and back format adding in a lap around the pond. This was great because it allowed you to see the leaders and be motivated by their awesome pace. Timing was done by the Zoomers Run club, who always do a spectacular job. 


The first decision of the day was how to handle the 50 degree chill. Floridians are not comfortable in this kind of weather so each had to decide what to wear. Personally I arrived in my Charlotte BMX jacket, the only one I own but by race time I had to put it away knowing that the run would warm me up. However some people did race in their sweaters and sweat pants.


As always there is young and old, male and female, all types of runner from first timers to local legends. The youngest runner was Bradley Hensen who took 2nd in the Male 9 & Under class with time of 32:09. The oldest or Veteran Master was 81 year old Richard Quevillon who won his class with 23:27. The overall female winner was 40 year old Heather Butcher with 17:56. The overall winner with the absolute fastest time was 15 year old Tyler Fisher who ran an astonishing 16:38.


The race was well received which makes sense, how else could it hang on for 14 years? I'm so glad I made it. With great weather, nice people and inspiring runners how can you go wrong? 

This was only my second 5K but I had been practicing ever since the first one a month ago. My only goal was to beat my former race time of 30:45. I'm happy to say that I did it. I sprinted across the line at a respectable 26:54 and loved every minute of it.


After I finished I pulled out the camera and started snapping shots of runners. I also stuck around to get pics of the awards ceremony. These pictures are posted on Facebook so feel free to tag yourself.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

There are No Magic Shoes


A BMX friend who reads my blogs asked why I had suddenly become interested in running? As many of you now know my long term interest is that of competing in a Triathlon. Even a Sprint Triathlon has a short finishing run as part of the trio of sports. That's what started me on 5K running races. However, they have begun to fascinate me for other reasons.

I never imagined that this would be a part of my life. Having said that, my answer is simple: running is honest, local and cheap. You can't beat that combination of virtues. Allow me to explain.


Let's start with the costs. Most sports are pricey. For the past four years I have been competing in cycling races and they are very expensive. I paid $1,500. for my Fuji Reveal cross country race bike. I paid another $1,000. for all the parts to assemble my Sette Venom downhill bike. This didn't include hundreds of dollars in protective pads, spare parts and repairs. Mountain bikes break down a lot when you ride them hard. All of this adds up to thousands of dollars.

This is all less true for BMX racing. I never paid more than $250. for a bike. A one year membership is $60. The fixes are easier and the race fees range from $8 (local) to $45. (National). It's not bad but one solid season can still be a $900. punch to your wallet.

Running, by comparison, is practically free. I spent $55. on a pair of Adidas trail running shoes and $15. for a one year membership to the Zoomers Running club. The race fees vary but are usually $25. and you only race when you choose, maybe twice a month.


The next issue is travel costs. Racing XC or DH in New England I would have to travel up to 5 hours to reach an event. Racing BMX in Florida some tracks are even further away. The closest BMX tracks to me are 45 minutes in either direction. Not a big deal when gas prices are low but again, just pull out the calculator and put it all together. Even an economical car like my Toyota is starting to get tired.

Running races, by comparison, are right around the corner. My first race 'Howl at the Moon' was a mile and half from my house. I could have run there. I guess there is a lot to be said for enjoying your local organizations.

Better yet, the road is outside your front door. No matter where you live in Florida, you don't have to travel in order to go for a run. You don't need a track or a trail head.


Lastly, running is honest. I know that sounds like a strange virtue to focus on but stick with me. In America the advantages go to the athlete who has the strongest connections, the best equipment and the most opportunities. All of which are afforded with wealth. The athlete who can spring for every race, buy the best bikes and socialize in the right circles, is more often than not, the athlete who wins.

In addition, the cycling sports have loopholes that allow advanced athletes to race at lower skill levels. It's called sandbagging and you will find a lot of it in XC with some in BMX racing. Add to this the politics of track management or sanctioning bodies and even best of athletes get frustrated. These minor offenses can discourage new riders from further participation. When basic unfairness goes unresolved long enough it can drive people away.

By contrast, in running competitions there is no way to sandbag and there are no politics. There are no advantages that can be bought with wealth. Money can't make you run faster. Social connections won't improve your time. There are no magic shoes. 


Sorry about the long explanation but I want people to be aware of all the options they have. No matter what sport you pick there are certain realities best understood by experience. Every sport has its upsides and downfalls but you should know what you are getting into.

Having recently been involved in a range of sports I was happy to find one that is clear of such obstacles. Running has more benefits than most and at a lower sticker price. The equipment is minimal, the atmosphere is relaxed, the costs are reasonable. The field is wide open, the competition is fair and the road is always waiting.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Inspired by a Revolution


At 35 years old I fell in love with the sport of cycling. Since then I have raced Mountain bikes in cross country, downhill, Super-D and time trial competitions. I've even crossed over to BMX racing but it wasn't until very recently that I paid attention to another sport that shares the same spirit as cycling but adds the benefit of developing a more complete athlete.

The sport I'm talking about is Triathlon. Now when I pictured Triathlon, my mind filled with images of runners and swimmers traversing incredible distances in crazy short times. What I forgot was that the cycling portion of these races would now be my strength. Most everyone who tries Triathlon comes into it with at least one strength so I'd be no different.


So what about the other two parts of the race? Most recently I competed in a 5K race and completed it in a reasonable time despite an almost total absence of training. It's a start I can easily build upon. The big challenge for me would be the swimming.

I didn't learn how to swim until I got into high school. There I only learned the basics which would allow me to enjoy the water and stay alive. I never learned proper stroke technique, training methods or even breathing. This would be a huge weakness in what is considered the mother of all race types.


Out of curiosity I looked up the distances and times of my local race - the Englewood Triathlon. This race takes place once a year during the summer and is what's known as a Sprint Triathlon. A Sprint is the shortest type with a 400 meter swim, a 13 mile time trial and a 5K run.

Suddenly my eyes were opened wide. I can do a 5K run in 30 minutes flat, I can do a 13 mile Time Trial in about 45 minutes but the swim? Here is where the doubts creep in. Luckily I live close to the beautiful Oyster Creek public pool where I can practice under the watchful eye of well trained lifeguards. So, now came the question of motivation - how bad do I want this?


When the Revolution 3 Triathlon came to Venice, Florida on Oct 28th I gave it a walk through. Just visiting the Expo and seeing the finish line, the gear, the timing systems and especially the athletes made me feel those stirrings of wanting to be a part of it. I came home and starting marking my calendar with a steady training system appropriate for next year's Englewood Triathlon.

I have an idea of just how hard this is going to be. I'm reading all the articles online and reviewing books by Andy Holgate and Chris McCormack. I'm hitting the pool twice a week, riding my bike in the Time Trial style and planning out my 5K runs. I have 8 months to train but my wheels are already turning. This is my next great goal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Redemption in my First 5k Race


Failure is both a beginning and an end. A couple weeks ago when I attempted my first Florida mountain bike race and then crashed during the first lap, I was deeply disappointed. However, my motivation on that day was fuzzy at best. Two weeks later I took part in my first ever 5k running race but this time my motivation was crystal clear - I was not going to fail again.


We arrived at the Ann Dever park in Englewood, Florida at the crack of dawn. The dark pavilion was humming with early morning chatter as runners confirmed their registrations, accepted their goody bags, pinned numbers to their shirts and zip tied electronic tags to their shoes.

The Howl at the Moon 5k was sponsored by the Bocca Lupo grill in Port Charlotte and was coordinated by the Zoomers Running club. The Zoomers did a fantastic job organizing the event. There was a friendly and relaxed group start, a well marked race course plus helpful volunteers along the way. A brightly colored finish line was set in place complete with timing clock and Red Cross first aid station.


227 Runners of every age and fitness level, some dressed up in Halloween costumes, completed the race all in under one hour's time. The overall winner was Heather Butcher (40) who outpaced everyone with a time of 19:08. The men's overall winner was 20 year old Danny Duncan who aced it in 19:27. The youngest runner was 6 year old Zachary Simmons who completed the race in 39:17 and the oldest was 75 year old Bill Welch who paced it well at 40:56.

The complete list of results can be found on the Zoomers website.


How did I do? Not bad at all. The relaxed pace at the start was a perfect warm-up especially since my right foot was still hurting from a running session I had the week before. I stayed in a tight middle pack group for the first mile but by then my foot pain had gone away and my breathing settled in. At that point I started to lift the pace and passed about ten people.

Shortly after passing the 1.5 mile mark, I hit the wall. My body reminded me that I was not properly trained up for this distance. I got a stitch in my side and my breathing became labored as I slowed down. This is where the mind games began. I had been reading a book by Triathlon Champion Chris McCormack who said you have to take control of your thinking in times of suffering so that is what I did. I kept repeating to myself the mantra, "Don't stop, just keep moving. You didn't finish the mountain bike race so you MUST finish this race."


The mantra worked. I accepted a cup of water from the volunteers, took two sloppy sips and then poured the rest down the back of my neck. Most importantly I kept moving. My pace was slow but I was pulling it off. Closer to the finish I relaxed my stance a little and tried to pick up my knees but my body was already working at maximum capacity. It wouldn't go any faster.

In no time at the I could see the finish line, I controlled my breathing as best I could while trying desperately not to throw up. I finished the race in 30:45 taking 6th in my age group and 107th overall. I couldn't have been happier.


My lovely wife Terri was there supporting me and taking pictures and videos.
You can see all of her photos at this link:



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Getting Ready to Howl at the Moon


When you're a kid you run because you have to. When you're an adult, you run because you want to. I have never been a fan of running or jogging but I always saw it as a necessity. Whether it was running from trouble, training for sports or preparing for the Army, keeping my knees high and my head forward was how I faced the future. Now I'm lacing up the shoes for fitness and charity.

Why the sudden switch from wheels to feet? You might assume that I was upset about my crash in the Alafia Mountain Bike race but not so, it's more about finances. The MTB races are just too far away and until my TV Show Fundraiser is completed, I simply can't travel for anything except BMX reporting. That only leaves running local races. So, it's time to huff it up.


After the Army I never thought I would run again but now that I'm creeping towards forty, my priorities appear to be changing. Living in one place, working as a writer and having the blessing of a loving wife allows me to pursue sports as a hobby so long as I can afford them.

Thanks to a friend's discount card for Sports Authority I picked up a new pair of Adidas Trail Runners and took to the Oyster Creek woods. My goal is to tackle a 5k race known as 'Howl at the Moon' which benefits the Zoomer's Scholarship fund. They will also be collecting can goods for the Englewood Zombie walk. While I haven't run this kind of distance in almost 20 years, that's not the real challenge. The struggle is how short a time I have to get ready - about 10 days.


I tried the race route to see where I stand and the results were not pretty. I can run a solid mile but that's about all. My breathing was much more strained than what I'm used to on the bike. My best efforts made for a completion of the run in parts, stopping every once in a while to walk out the pain. My calves and shin muscles took a beating.

It's amazing how different the trails appear when on foot but jogging by yourself offers no real distractions. Seeing other runners spurred me to push harder so hopefully the adrenaline on the day of the race will lift my determination. In the meantime all I can do is limp and bear it. In a very short time I will be back in competition enjoying the same old trails in a brand new way. Wish me luck!


Monday, October 8, 2012

Heartbreaking Crash at Alafia MTB Race


You can plan for most anything except bad luck. One moment I was ripping through Shelly's Loop trail trying desperately to stay with the race pack, the next I was laying at the bottom of a ridge pinned between my twisted bike and a tree. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what happened but one thing was immediately evident, my race had not gone the way I planned.


Let's start from the beginning. After spending an entire summer training for the Florida State Championships Series Race at Alafia River State Park the day had finally arrived. The morning started with a few mistakes. I woke up early, too early, a full hour before I was supposed to. While setting the alarm I had accidentally reset the time but early is better than late. My morning meal had been pre-planned to ensure enough energy for the race but the smoothie I chilled overnight had gone bad. In addition I had forgotten to pack ice in the cooler. That was strike three but still I had hope.

Unlike many of my races in new England, I was able to visit Alafia State Park a couple times to practice the trails and get some initial loop times. An unforeseen dent in my income meant that I only made two trips but the slight bump in confidence was worth it.

There was some great racing in the kids classes
Alafia is an amazing place to hold a race. The variety of trails can be linked in such ways that no amount of rain can force a race to be called off, the organizer would simply re-route. That is exactly what they did. Cat 2 racers would do one 6 mile lap and two 8 mile laps (Adding North Creek) for a total of 22 miles. It sounded like a tough route except all of the trails are familiar to me except two - Bridges and Shelly's Loop.

GoneRiding.com did a fantastic job coordinating this race. Parking, registration, number plates and even calf markings were organized with ease and professionalism. These guys put on a great event. Despite their efforts I have to admit that when I stood in staging with sixty other riders, I felt oddly intimidated. Worse yet, my head just wasn't focused. I can't explain why. We stood at the starting line, waited for the whistle and took off.

The battle for the holeshot was always elbow to elbow
Hats off to the Cat 2 30-39 crew, these guys were fast! I can usually keep up with riders in a sprint but I immediately dangled off the back and pushed hard to stay attached. By the time we reached Shelly's Loop I was falling further behind and breathing very heavy. This was the first day I had ever tried this particular trail. It has solid climbs, quick downhills and a wicked wall berm. I was going a tad faster than I could handle and my lungs couldn't keep up. Reaching the top of a cemented climb I leaned too close to the far edge of the trail and lost my balance. Suddenly everything was moving in slow motion but there was nothing I could do about it.

The next few seconds was a blur of dirt and handlebars as I tumbled sideways down a ledge towards the water until the bike hit a tree and my body came to a sudden stop. The wind was knocked out of me. I lay gasping for breath as I tried to move my limbs. My left leg was not responding the way I wanted and the right side of my ribs had frozen in pain. Every small movement was labored. Eventually I was able to stand and it took a good five minutes to push the bike back up the sharp incline and onto the trail.

If not for a friendly tree, I would have landed in the swamp
The bike was in working order but I was not. I rode very slowly from that point on, mostly hoping my strength would return. Each shallow breath constricted my stomach muscles which had cramped on both sides. Knowing that I was an obstruction to other racers I pulled to the side for anyone who came up behind me and then took the first exit off the race course.

An hour later Terri would find me laying on a picnic table under the pavilion. I was wheezing, overheated and it would take another hour before I could talk in anything more than a whisper. So there you have it, another disappointing attempt at racing Cat 2. Maybe I'm still not ready yet? Even if I had not crashed my legs and lungs fell far short of the other riders in my class. I don't want to jump to conclusions but returning to Cat 3 seems like a possibility. In the meantime, any decisions about mountain bike racing will have to wait for I have stranger worlds to conquer.

You can see my distracted expression in the background