Friday, August 31, 2012

coach of champions

the 2012 NCAC cross country championship course,
drawn by Coach Dennis Rice
The Wooster cross country team wouldn't be what it is without Coach Rice. He's been coaching for about 27 years and plans to continue for at least another 40. As a young buck in high school, Coach was already on track for greatness (and presumably people were already calling him "Coach" instead of Dennis). In college, Coach Rice was an All-American runner twice and awesome all the time. His last race was a marathon in which he broke both legs but still finished, he enjoyed a post-long run meal of a dozen Boston cream doughnuts and a two liter of RC Cola, and the front of his jersey was always clean. During his career at Wooster, Coach once restarted his own heart. His only fear is lightning.

He's also an expert at rousing team morale. In my four years at Wooster, Coach has basically been the reason I get up and run every day. An example, as told by Wooster alum Eliot Fackler:

  • Coach to the men's team, mid September 2003:

    We’re doing some faster stuff on Thursday. We wanna beat Allegheny. I’ve heard about the Gators all season. I’m sick of hearing about the Allegheny Gators. I can’t even read this book, Zac the Alligator, to my daughters anymore. In this story, there’s this little kid who gets a toy alligator from his uncle in Florida. You’re supposed to water this alligator and it gets bigger. So, the kid puts it in the shower and the alligator gets bigger and bigger. Then the alligator comes to life, and he’s this really cocky alligator who sings and dances and says, ‘look at me, I’m Zac the alligator.’ And he causes all kinds of trouble and the little kid gets blamed. Finally Zac the alligator goes out in the sun and dries out. He starts shrinking because he needs water, and that’s exactly what those slaps at Allegheny are going to do when they get to the pond at the bottom of the golf course at the conference meet. [continued]
     ·  · May 19, 2008 at 11:01pm

They’re going to start shrinking and they’ll jump in the pond because they need water. We’re going to beat the Gators. That’s what we’ve been preparing to do all season and we’re going to do it. We haven’t won a conference title since 1989. We’re gonna do it this year. Then we’re going to come back two weeks later and challenge the top teams in the region to go to the national meet.
Now, it’s a great day to run! It’s cold and rainy... true Cross Country weather. You have to go out there, face adversity, challenge it, and overcome it. Let’s go!

Today we have the first meet of the season - home course, 6:00. It's a 4k. It's going to be 90ยบ and 75% humidity. About which Coach said yesterday, "Well, we're going to go out conservative. We don't want to go out too fast tomorrow and be wiped out at the end. But we're going to run hard and be competitive. And when you put on that Wooster singlet, make sure you take pride in that. Because this is - without a doubt - the best cross country program in the country. And you all represent that program. It's going to be a beautiful day tomorrow - a nice warm day for a race."

So in the race today - even though it'll be blistering hot and I'm not in tip-top shape from my 8 months off of training - I'm going to go run as fast as I can at the moment, just because Coach told me to.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

the coolest kid on campus

Monday - the first day of my senior year of college. I flounced across the dewy academic quad in my new dress, backpack stocked with new pens, waving excitedly at all my old college chums I hadn't seen since my semester in New Zealand. (Okay, that last sentence is a lie. I didn't actually see anybody I knew. Somehow 80% of the student body look like freshmen this year. But so do I, so that's not saying much.)

I hurried into the grand old stone castle of the humanities departments to be a fashionable 5 minutes early for my poetry class. I sat down on a bench next to a dumpy girl in sweatpants and glasses.

"Are you here for Spanish class?" she asked.

I glanced at her and shook my head. Why was she waiting outside of the classroom for modernist poetry? Weirdo. A student walked into the room and I jumped up to catch the door before it shut.

I sat down at a chair in the middle of the room and looked around. I knew a couple people there. My roommate Libby was supposed to be in this class, but she wasn't there yet. More kids filtered in. A couple political science majors. A girl who'd once thrown up on the cross-country team's couch. A kid in a flat-brimmed hat. The dumpy girl from the bench. Where were the ironic square-framed glasses? Where were the leather messenger bags? This was all wrong.

I opened my planner. The numbers didn't jive with the numbers on the door. As quietly as I could, I shut the planner and slid it into my bag. Then I snuck out the door and hurried upstairs into the loving arms of my fellow English students.

I never found out if it was a Spanish class or not.

Coming back to campus is a bit of a shock, mostly because everything has shifted about five feet from from where it used to be: the printers in the library, professor's offices, the dressing at the salad bar. There's an entirely new gym and fitness facility, so I never know exactly where the exercise machines are or how to use them correctly. The English faculty's gotten rid of a bunch of old people and brought in a bunch of new ones. And the library's been reorganized yet again to help people locate numbers in order on a shelf.

Sometimes I find myself wandering around lost trying to remember my mailbox combination, and then some nice person intervenes to ask me how I'm liking my first semester of college.

Very much, thanks.

Besides being a poorly-adjusted upperclassman, I'm also kind of busy. I've got a senior project to work on (details pending), cross country practice every day, a whole bunch of photography supplies to buy, and a digestive system that's still adjusting to the cafeteria food.

Luckily, I found this blog to distract me.

I love this ice-cream-headed man so much I might set him as my desktop background. Or marry him, because what says romance better than an edible face?

Also coming soon - a compendium of Coach Rice quotes and pictures of tie-dye shirts.

Preview: "You all look like you've got tar on your shoes right now. But by the end of the season, you'll be so fast you won't believe it. You know what? I'm going to dip all your shoes in tar and see if it comes off at the end of the season. Right in time for the Conference Championship. Heh, heh."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Breck Epic.

People kept asking me if I raced in the Breck Epic this year. The answer is no, thanks. I wasn't feeling too enthusiastic about breaking my neck this year.

If you want to read about it from a rider's perspective, you can check out the Little Elf Man, his enormous friend, the Birdman of Charleston, or Montana's blog. Or if you're into the official journalism-type thing, head on over to Dirt Rag - also conveniently written by Montana.

But like I said, I wasn't racing. I was in for a week of high-altitude CamelBak refilling, taking pictures of people with Clif Bar crumbs in their beards, and watching my boyfriend flirt with other men in the hot tub.

One of the lady racers heard that I was staying in a condo with twelve dudes. Her eyes got wide. "Wow," she said. "You must be really patient."

Overall it was a pretty cool week. While everyone was out riding, I wheezed through a run. Then I rode my bike to the aid stations where I could heckle my friends and throw things at them. After each stage was over, they'd get back and start eating absurd amounts of ridiculous foods.
Bacon and pickles - post-race fuel of champions?
A bike-fixing party started after that and everyone complained for the next 6 hours about broken seat posts and backwards chains and water bottles that had been filled with powdered donuts. Then we'd go to the daily podium announcement, eat more food, and bedtime was promptly at 9:30 each night.

From what I gathered, stages 1 through 5 were really hard. But the podiums were nowhere in sight for those sea-level oxygen-breathers (besides Peter and Dicky, who got last-place out of two teams every day), so they spent the last day riding around the trails and drinking beer. There wasn't nearly as much bitching after that one.

To cap off the week, there was more food and beer at the awards ceremony.

Unfortunately, we had to peace out right away the next morning for another 28-hour drive. I needed to make it back to Wooster in time for the first week of cross country season (woop woop!).

It was a wonderful road trip and a nice week in Breck, but I'm glad to be back on a training schedule and eating free food daily at the dining hall with people who don't make disgusted faces when I talk about running. Hopefully next year I'll be in good enough bike-riding shape to do the 3-day mini Epic. Till then I'll stick to my running shoes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

things we do in Colorado

This year I only took one picture in Boulder. I really had a fancy for this bicycle covered in plastic flowers. I'd ride one like this if the stems wouldn't get stuck in the spokes and make the cranks seize up. Some things are more whimsical than functional, I guess. Among other things we saw in Boulder: contortionists, trustafarians, pro cyclists, and thunderstorms. Apparently it storms every afternoon on the front range in August - which we found out when we got trapped in a monsoon under a bathroom awning at the bike park.

After a couple days we decided to get out of Boulder to suffocate ourselves at higher altitudes. We drove away from Winter Park wheezing and then found this terrific mountain pass.
It dropped us out somewhere in San Isabel National Forest, which seemed like a perfect place to get a flat tire before we carried on to Salida.

Salida was neat. Lots of fun desertish riding, a random classic car show in the center of town, and surprisingly good thai food.

After fiddling about with the flat tire for 24 more hours, Montana finally relented and got it fixed at an actual tire shop - for free. It seems that common sense takes a long time to break through the male ego. Then we drove back up to the mountains to ride a few miles of the Monarch Crest trail.
A ride at 12,000 feet was a little scary - mainly because I couldn't breathe. Otherwise, it was totally awesome. The trail was mostly super-buff and basically flat along the ridgeline. Surprisingly easy riding for someone who's only been riding a bike for a week. And the new bike's pretty terrific. I can't believe I wasted 2 years of my life dragging my boat-anchor Karate Monkey up hills and trying to tell myself it was fun.

Then on to Crested Butte. Scenic views abound and I struggled up those hills on an 8-mile run.
And this guy from Alabama who camped next to us.
We left Butte, drove about 30,000 miles of gravel road to Redstone (a tiny town with no cell phone service and only one public payphone), miscommunicated with our boss who had offered us a place to stay for the night, and ended up camping in the red cliffs outside of town. Then on to Fruita.
I love Fruita, and I love the riding there. But apparently 1:30 in the afternoon is too late to go for a bike ride if you're not into becoming a bleached animal carcass on the side of the Kokopelli Trail.
My friend Anna and me, in the very hot shade underneath a 500-year-old tree that's probably sick of being in the sun for so long.
Out of the hot desert and finally up and over Independence Pass to Breckenridge, because Montana had to do that race and stuff. We're staying in a condo with 11 other middle-aged mountain bikers who are also in the race. One of them thought it would be brilliant to trudge up a mountain two days before it started. We got really tired and saw a family of mountain goats. Boyfriend's report about it here.
Good stuff. Everyone was really sore and bitchy for the next two days. 

Then the race started, and good times were had by all, especially on the second day.

Watch more video of 2012 Breck Epic Stage Race on

I've been running around the trails in Breck and attempting to help out at aid stations, but on the hypothermia day I stood in the rain at the finish line with coffee and a warm sweater for Montana so he wouldn't die. That hot tub is a quite literally a life saver.

In a few days the race will be over and we'll have to leave Colorado and drive all the way back to Ohio. I'm a little sad about that. But I'm drowning in testosterone here, and I can't wait to be reunited with my lovely cross country ladies.

Friday, August 3, 2012

kind of a long drive...

So it turns out that Vermont isn't exactly on the way to Colorado. Still, the extra few hours of driving were definitely worth it. Vermont was lovely. We spent two days exploring the trails around Stowe and eating Ben & Jerry's. Montana even got a chance to wear his banana suit and get rowdy at the Single Speed USA ride. I was a little sad that I sold my single speed, but I don't really think I'm up for a 25-mile ride on steep, rooty Vermont trails with beer at the aid stations instead of water.
The next morning we headed out to Burlington, up to the Canadian border, down through the Adirondacks, and across the Midwest. I'd never been further north than Lake Erie, so I hardly knew those mountains existed. New England was lovely and cool, with rivers and mountains on par with New Zealand scenery. 
But in a few hours the mountains were over, and the Midwest reared its ugly, flat head. We drove through the night to Ohio and stopped for a couple hours at another friend's house. When we hit the road again we managed to get outside of St. Louis before crawling back into our sleeping bags for the night in an empty parking lot.

In the morning we found out that the air conditioning in the truck wasn't doing too well. That is, it wasn't working at all. We were in for 12 hours of flat, dusty hell. Halfway through blazing Kansas we had to stop and soak ourselves with an emergency water pump at a rest stop. 
Finally a storm rolled over the plains as we crossed the Colorado border. The air cooled off and the wind funneled into the cab, sluffing off the Kansas dust and drying the sweat beading on our foreheads. We turned a corner as the front ranges spike up in front of the setting sun.
Sam's haven of pro mountain biking was only half an hour away in Boulder. Thank God. I really needed a shower.