Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This weekend Brett, Scott, Chris and I went to Wisconsin for the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40.

The fun was nearly never-ending.

We left Denver on Wednesday night after work, packed into Brett's new E.

We drove WAY further into the night than planned because of some sort of interesting farm convention happening in Nebraska, causing all of the hotels to be booked up. Once we finally got settled into a dive of a hotel in Seward, we slept for a few hours before getting out of there as quickly as possible in the morning.
(The apples Scott brought us from his parents' apple trees in Iowa were by far the best I've ever had)

In the early evening we made it to Eau Claire, Wisconsin where we met up with one of Brett's friends and got to cruise around on some awesome single track. The riding in Wisconsin looked to be just my kind of riding -- no hills, no rocks, just smooth swoopy funness. I hoped this is what the course would be like on Saturday. Unfortunately we were racing the setting sun and the vicious peloton of mosquitos so we didn't get very many pictures of the ride.

We had some good burgers in Eau Claire, stayed in a decent hotel, and got back on the road for a few hours on Friday. Soon we found ourselves in Hayward, Wisconsin -- our home for the next whoppin' day and a half. We were treated to standing in the world's largest Muskee (yes, I'm sure there's a big market for those, making the competition stiff).

After many too many minutes of trying to find somewhere out in the woods, we settled into the cottage on the lake and headed back to the car to drive to race registration a half hour away.

I forgot the camera, but registration was quite the sight. Chris has me used to these underground races where "registration" consists of a few beers and a two-minute prerace meeting. Cheq's race registration had 2800 people piled into some sort of hotel or ski lodge -- one line for getting your race packet, one for getting your ankle bracelet, one for your shwag bag, and one for testing your ankle bracelet. I have to hand it to the race organization though -- the registration was streamlined and quick moving. Everyone seemed really nice and happy to be there. After I went through the first line behind Scott, the lady at the table made the comment "Wow! There's two of you from Colorado in a row! What are the odds?" Ha, I had to laugh at that one. Shocking!

Brett, being the race veteran, was grilled by me and Scott throughout the night. We wanted to know EVERYTHING about the course. Scott and I had never ridden in Wisconsin (other than our hour jaunt in Eau Claire the day before) and we were both quite concerned that we might die. Chris, also having never ridden in Wisconsin, was cool as a cucumber. Getting over a nasty sickness and feeling pretty terrible, but cool as a cucumber.

We spent the evening scraping off the hoards of dead bugs from the front of our bikes, eating a tasty meal cooked by the chef of the house, and organizing race food and clothes for the next morning. There was a general air of stressfulness over where people would start, how early they should get their bikes to the start to get a good position, etc. Lucky for Chris and Brett, they had preferred start and didn't have to worry about getting there early to be in the front, and luckily for them, Scott and I didn't care AT ALL where we started in the group. That meant no one in our group had to get up at the butt crack of dawn to place bikes upside down in the middle of the main street.

The next morning found Chris up early making Brett, Scott, and I some pancakes and eggs. Worried about that northern Wisconsin weather, I was fully prepared to freeze at the start of the race. When I stepped outside to load my bag into the car, I was pleasantly surprised to find downright WARM weather! Who knew that existed up north in the fall (says the Colorado native)? We did our prerace activities, placing Scott and I's bikes in the middle/back of the quickly growing field of upside down bikes. We finalized clothes, food, water, and nervous chit chat about how a mountain bike course in Wisconsin could not possibly have 4,000 ft of climbing in it... even if it is 40 miles.

Before we knew it the race was about to start and Scott and I found our bikes. We chatted it up with the others around us -- most of them laughing when they heard we were from Colorado and actually concerned about the course. I guess being from Colorado means we're hardcore. Scott and I threw each other "haha, little do they know" glances and were soon off with the crowd. The sound of 2700 riders clipping into clipless pedals can never be replecated. I love that sound. The click, click, click, click sound is strangely comforting. The sound of 2700 wheels spinning down the road was like sitting in the middle of a vicious pack of swarming bees. Despite the start being the part I was most worried about (I know our group can stay on a line for 3 miles on a road, but you can't control the things 2696 other people will do). Turns out the start was pretty tame. No screaming crashes like I was warned about. There were stops and starts along the way, but overall it was fine.

Since 40 miles is a long way, and frankly would make from a long, fairly boring race report, here are a few memories, insights, and observations about the course:

1) The rolling grassy hills of the Berky were painful. I'm not used to miles and miles of rolling hills. I felt totally and completely retarded trying to ride them. I was constantly in the wrong gear. I do have to say that I quickly learned the benefits of not touching your brakes on the downhills. Why give up all that precious free speed?

2) Despite my previous statement, I learned in this race that I can climb. Really. Amazing actually how this suddenly came to me. I would climb past people walking up the hills ALL THE TIME. It was almost funny. On the one *big* climb of the course, I rode over half of it while strings of people hiked up the side. I rode everything else. And I wasn't even out of breath. At all.

3) Connecting to number two (I'm all about transitions today), breathing at sea level is significantly easier. People would be huffing and puffing and I was able to carry on complete (although often one-sided) conversations with those around me. I'm not sure my breathing ever reached beyond a pretty normal level. My legs, on the other hand, were hurting pretty good almost immediately! Strange.

4) Even though I've never actually done it before, I was really good at taking the water hand up on the fly. Must be all that 24 Hours of Moab practice being on the other side of the hand up.

5) Chris, despite being sick, feeling generally crappy, and being largely untrained, still beat me by an hour and a half. Humbling.

6) I only beat Scott by 8 minutes. Neither of us knew the other was that close. Otherwise it would've been a lot of fun to ride together.

7) Thank goodness fellow cyclo-blogger Vito warned me of the last 8 miles. "Relentless hills" is an understatement. It wasn't just hills, it was rollers. And we all know I hate the rollers.

8) Fighting a cold for the first 3 weeks of school, then doing a hard 40 mile race, gives the cold a considerable edge. My head and sinuses felt absolutely horrible the night after the race and I ended up sleeping a full 12 hours, starting at 7:45 pm, through the drunken banter upstairs. the sleep helped a lot though and I felt a lot better the next day.

9) I'm glad I took time now and then to look around. The leaves were spectacular in Wisconsin and they were especially pretty on a few parts of the course. Back at the cabin I picked 20 big red leaves to bring home to my students. For once I can teach them about the colors of fall without them looking at me with skepticism as all they see in Denver is green, brown, and yellow.

I think that's it. We took Sunday and Monday to drive home and Tuesday was back to work. It was hard returning to the real-world after a blissful 5 1/2 days of friends, fun, eating, laughing, and riding.

Thanks to Brett for all of the driving. Chris and I got to hang in the back and relax the whole trip. I'm not sure that has ever happened and it was lovely.

(P.S I finished the race in a relatively slow 3 hours and 51 minutes... although this was as good as I could do given my current fitness, so I'm pleased. Next year it'd be fun to go back and gun for the 3-3.5 hour mark -- easily do-able with a little work. At least I'll show good improvement!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chequamegon or bust!

On Wednesday after work, Scott, Brett, Chris and I leave for Wisconsin for the Chequamegon 40.

Since I will most likely run out of time, motivation, and energy to make a pre-race post between now and Wednesday, here it is.

I'm ill prepared, under trained, and super excited.

I originally planned to make this the "focus" of my biking season, really training and preparing for it.

Unfortunately, work, grad school, and throwing a lot of mental energy into the fertility issues have managed to change those plans. (I know, excuses excuses -- but what good are excuses if you don't use them when you need them?)

I still think I'll do alright though, and here's why:

1) My bike is awesome. The squeaky ladybug should strike fear in those around me and they will simply move out of the way and let me past.
2) While the race is UP in Wisconsin, it is also WAY DOWN in Wisconsin. There will be so much oxygen in the air that I'm sure my body will sprout an extra lung. That can only help.
3) Our new team kits are sewn together with magical threads and there is a hidden rocket in the back pocket.
4) It's 40 miles. Only 40 miles. That's nothing. That's what I tell myself at least.

So, in all, piece of cake.

No problem.

I can't wait!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I am a...



Welcome to Pinky, my cute little Toshiba mini-notebook:
An investment in the next few years of grad school from my wonderful hubby.

I am a Mac person, always have and always will be (and going back to Windows is not easy).

But this is a pretty cool little computer.

And yes, as a mini "notebook" it is already lighter than my actual school notebook that houses gazillions of articles about language, literacy, and culture.

It's really cute too.

Thanks for the wonderful surprise hubby.

Doing homework just got a bit more fun!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dirty house

I clean when I'm stressed.

I think I get that trait from my mom, who would always break out the dusting and vacuuming when the Broncos would be blowing a game.

My house has been dirty.

Now that's a good sign in my house!

School has been going great. I have 17 well-behaved, sweet, and generally knowledgeable kids. I've certainly paid my dues with difficult kids in the last few years and it is a whole different world having a class without any major issues. I am starting to remember why I love teaching. (I'm really not just a fair-weather teacher, it just takes a lot of energy and tolerance that wears thin to have the challenging ones -- and yes it is often more rewarding to teach them than the 'easy' kids).

I finished the climbing part of my cute mountain bulletin board:

Now I just need some clouds. The kids love it and it looks really cute!

I am taking a full-time load of graduate classes this semester -- one online and one weekly class downtown. The classes so far have their ups and downs, and it is a lot of work. I'm getting through it though and I'm sure the semester will be over before I know it. I wouldn't call the classes stressful, just time consuming.

Even though work and class haven't been too bad so far, it sure was nice to have this three day weekend.

Friday night after work, Chris and I caravanned down to the Tabaguach/Shavano trailhead to park the Es and get a nice night's sleep before our big ride on Saturday. The views in the morning were spectacular!
E camping is the best kind of camping at the end of a long week.
Beautiful 14ers views!

Saturday, Brett, Chris, and I met Erik and Michelle at the Poncho Springs Visitor Center to organize our shuttle vehicles to go up to the top (the trail starts up at the top of Monarch Pass at 11,700 ft then climbs and drops back down to Poncho Springs about 34 miles later).

Our self-shuttle was a good idea until the keys for the finish car ended up in one of the start cars. Luckily bikers are nice and someone gave Chris and Brett a ride up the pass to get the cars.
Four bikes. Two 29ers. Two with front wheels on. Lots more room. Elements rock.
I was glad I had my camera!
Getting ready to roll.

The trail is a classic and I can see why. The rolling and varied terrain keeps the trail exciting. There is plenty of climbing for a shuttle route and since you are riding at 12,000 ft, the burning lungs add an interesting challenge. The down hills were great fun -- until we hit the sloppy mud and wet roots at least.
Our new team kits made a glowing debut. We got a lot of compliments on the trail.
All smiles today!
We spent much of our first few hours stopping to take pictures. Amazing views!
We spent a decent amount of time riding above tree line.
"Look fast!"
Chris, Brett, and Erik were speedy!
Chris might be getting his bike-smile back!!!!!!!!
The peanut-butter mud made things interesting!
Frankendoo takes a rest on the Rainbow Trail while I wait to the boys' pictures.
One of the best shots of the day.
The Rainbow trail had a lot of steep ups and more loose ickiness than the rest of the trail. Chris, as usual, rocked everything on his rigid single speed. People would watch him from the side of the trail with their jaws open as he made it up some of the steep climbs. I had a hard time walking them and he would give it one good grunt and be dancing up. He hasn't really ridden his bike in a while and it seems like he never put it down.
The end of the ride consists of a 35-40 mph coast down highway 285. Without a big ring on my bike I joined Chris in the "really spun out" category and we enjoyed the ride. I did wonder a few times if MTB tires are rated to go 35 mph for 10 minutes on hot pavement. They survived though!
What an absolutely spectacular ride. I felt good all day up until the last five miles or so on the trail. By that point I was getting pretty tired -- having been out on the trail for 6 hours so far. After the cruise down the highway we regrouped in the parking lot and there may have been some napping happening while Brett and Chris got the cars from the top.

To see the rest of the pictures from the wonderful ride, go here: http://picasaweb.google.com/marniplesko/MonarchCrestTrail?feat=directlink

The delightful weekend got cut a bit shorter than I would've preferred because I had to be back for a blood draw at 7 am Sunday morning. We all ended up driving home Saturday night instead of having one more night of camping.

On Sunday while Chris was climbing with Brett, I caught up on some homework and... yes ... cleaned the house. But thankfully not out of stress, just out of necessity.

It was a beautiful weekend.