Archive for June, 2009

Computers

I hate computers.

I used to love computers. I used to want to study computer science and write computer programs.  I taught myself HTML back when it was new and the only thing to use to write web pages, and designed web pages and choose-your-own-adventure games.  I was one of four girls at computer camp in 7th grade.

I don’t know what happened. Something inside me snapped, or I came to my senses, or something. But I hate computers.

This is why I use a Mac.  See, you hardly even realize that you’re operating a computer. You don’t have to do anything to make it work properly.  It knows what to do when you want to open a PDF or a photo editing program.  It already recognizes the file extensions you work with without you having to program them all in. No command prompts or run file lines or function this- or- that. Nope. All there.  It just works, all by itself.

Until it doesn’t.  Your Mac mysteriously stops working, and it is reduced from a beautiful, easy to operate, high functioning machine– nay, it is practically a personal assistant, that’s how little you thought about “using” it… it just does its job–  into a useless hunk of plastic who’s production is destroying the atmosphere and precious metals that were probably mined by child slaves. I’m not kidding about the child slaves.

And then you’re screwed, because the vast majority of people who operate Macs have no idea how to actually use them. And so when it breaks, it is catastrophic. Unless you paid the extra $100/year to ensure that a Mac expert (ahem. a “Genius.” those cheeky bastards.) is standing by in case your Mac decides to self-destruct.

But nooooooo.  Macs are so effing reliable. They never break.  Why would I need to buy Apple Care?

$%&#*@.

PC owners, particularly those with Linux-based machines, on the other hand, know how to use computers, because they are constantly having to do things in order to make the PC function properly. Installing drivers (what the hell is a driver anyway? I have never had to install a driver on a Mac), running commands (I don’t even know where the Mac command function is, or what I would use it for), configuring networks (my Mac just “found” my wireless network without my having to instruct it): these are all things I have had to do or wished I knew how to do  in the two or so days that I’ve been trying to operate a PC.  You have to know how to use an effing computer in order to operate a PC.

And I hate computers.

Pig Bug and Motivation

Well, I am currently sitting in the restaurant of my hotel in Huehuetenango, enjoying a second cup of hot chocolate. Yep. Second.

Two nights ago, when I arrived, I was curled up in my bed watching English-language movies while oscillating between feeling way to hot and feeling freezing cold, and wondering if my backache might indicate that I had something terrible like meningitis.  Feeling supremely sorry for myself, I thought, “It would really suck to die of swine flu after how much I’ve laughed at all this ‘pandemic’ media hype.”

Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure I don’t have swine flu now.  I woke up the next morning with my nose having turned into a faucet, but otherwise feeling a whole lot better than the night before.  Damned rainy season cold.

However, I am now using this as my excuse for dawdling on getting my butt to my fieldsite, where I promise you there is no English-language TV, very likely no hot water, and certainly no free internet access. All of which my classy (that’s the word the guide book uses) hotel in Huehue has in abundance.

You see, swine flu (or “gripe A” as it’s called here) has been on the front pages of both major national papers for the past week and a half, as well as on the radios.  The health department is warning everyone to stay away from anyone with a runny nose or cough (however, they do not explain what to do if you happen to have a runny nose or cough. how helpful.). The hotel staff is already looking at me sideways, so I’d rather not repel potential contacts at my fieldsite with my plauge.

I’m hoping, in the meantime, that I will find the motivation to walk through the rain to the bus terminal to inquire about the schedule of buses to Sipakapa in this second cup of chocolate con leche.  If not, then maybe in the third.

La Muela

Oh, did I mention that I am pretty sure I have tendinitis in one of my right hip flexors? Yeah, it’s great. I think it was a combination of having my saddle poorly adjusted during the bike race, and then doing lots of shoveling in the garden. And then walking everywhere wearing poorly-supportive shoes. Going on three weeks, and I still can’t lift my knee to anywhere near 90 degrees  (as in.. when I’m walking).

Good gawd, I sound like a wreck.

So the other day Doc and I were getting cabin fever, having been sitting out the unusually sunny days inside reading and writing IRB applications and replying to emails from potential contacts.  So I popped a couple of ibuprofen, diminishing the pain in my hip/ quad to a bearable twinge (yes, I know that was a stupid move. blah blah blah, rest- shmest.)  Doc went to the market to stock up on picnic food, and we set out to climb “la muela”, a small peak above town to the southeast.

The road out of town eventually turned to dirt.

The road out of town eventually turned to dirt.

The road steadily tilted upwards, starting right at the south end of the plaza.  We stopped a few times for “granola” bars (in fact, rice crispy treats marketed as granola bars), but saved our lunch for the cumbre.

We passed fields of broccoli and onions outside of Almolonga.

We passed fields of broccoli and onions outside of Almolonga.

The route turned off the road and onto a dirt and gravel track  shortly before the town of Almolonga, the bread basket of Central America.  From there, it became progressively rockier until we went from walking to scrambling over boulders.

Scrambling

Scrambling

It got pretty steep. Like, tumbling head over heels if you slip- steep. Or… falling a long way straight down- steep.  Did I mention that I get a little bit of vertigo? It was funny, usually I’m the one looking at something stupid and saying “ooh, let’s climb that!” Or “Let’s just keep walking and see where this road goes.” But on this climb I was actually the cautious one.

Don't slip...

Don't slip...

Still having fun, despite the vertigo. :)

Still having fun, despite the vertigo. 🙂

Doc was much more adventurous than I.

Doc was much more adventurous than I.

When we neared the top, a group of kids came running up behind us.  There’s a reason Xela’s soccer team gets the name “super chivos” (super goats). The chivitos hung around on the cumbre with us.  As Doc was climbing up the other side (there are acutally two cumbres), I heard one guy tell his girlfriend, “That’s a really difficult climb, there’s a lot of risk in it.”  Looking at it, I tended to agree; but Doc came back and rolled his eyes, saying that the chivito was just trying to impress the ladies.  Apparently it was easier than it looked from a distance, but my hip was getting stiff so I continued to play cautious.

Doc climbing the other cumbre, which I thought looked stupid-dangerous.

Doc climbing the other cumbre, which I thought looked stupid-dangerous.

View from the cumbre: Almolonga down to the left, Xela down to the right.

View from the cumbre: Almolonga down to the left, Xela to the right (behind the ridge).

When Doc got back from his mini-side- adventure, we settled down to lunch: panches de papa (potato pouches, like tamales but with potato), tamalitos, two very buttery avocados, and a fresh mango.

Seriously the best meal we've had yet.

Seriously the best meal we've had yet.

The mango was mostly soft, but even the firm (less-ripe) parts were sweeter than any mango you could get in the States. YUM.

Most delicious mango ever.

Most delicious mango ever.

The best part of the meal? All of the waste was biodegradable.

Hojas (leaves) from the panches, mango peel, and avocado peel. Not exactly LNT, but not plastic, either.

Hojas (leaves) from the panches, mango peel, and avocado peel. Not exactly LNT, but not plastic, either.

The chivitos asked us to take some pictures for them, and then they headed down. We hung around a bit longer enjoying the view, and then scrambled down before the rain.  In all, about a 3-hour hike.

Digan, "Wikeeeeeeeeey!"

Digan, "Wiskeeeeeeeeey!"

RIP Macytosh.

Okay, okay, ONE more feeling-sorry-for-myself thing.

My computer died. Officially. It’s gone. The machine turns on, but it just sticks at the Apple logo. I probably need to reinstall the system software, but no one in this city uses Macintosh.  And, obvio, I left my discs at home.

(Amusing note: searching for a place that worked on Macs, we passed several stores with the Apple logo on their signs. Upon entering and asking if they could repair my computer, they looked at me like I was completely loca. No, of course they don’t work on Macs.)

I’m waiting on some less-than-legal discs from a place called “Discolandia” that may or may not be a temporary fix. Otherwise, I now have a 4 lb. paperweight in my bag.

I think I’m going to buy a PC when I get home. Apple has disappointed me.  Someone talk me out of that.

Now I’m over it. For realz.

Xe lajuj no’j

The second largest city in Guatemala is officially named “Quetzaltenango”, but that’s a mouthfull for fast-talking bus driver ayudantes to shout to their potential passengers, especially when there are three other destinations to say, too. By the time they would have gotten that single name out, weary travelers would certainly have moved on.

So, drivers shout “Xela” (usually three times fast), which is the city’s official nickname.  In fact, if you want to get technical about it (and, um, alternative left-wing solidarity-y about it) “Xela” is a more accurate name for the city, anyway. The K’iche’ name for the city, back when it was the capital of the K’iche’ kingdom pre-conquest (which, by the way, was after the K’iche’s conquered the Mams), was Xe lajuj n’oj, or “Under the ten wise ones”.  The ten might refer to the peaks of varying size surrounding the city, or it might refer to the leadership of ten cofrades, or elders.

Xela is for short.  And trust me, everyone calls it Xela. Don’t call it Quetzaltenango. And definitely don’t ever, ever call it “Quetz”.  FYI: in most Mayan languages, the ‘x’ is pronounced like the English “sh”.

Not to make it any more confusing, but the department is also called Quetzaltenango (“place of the quetzal birds”, probably from a combination of a Mayan language and the Nahuatl “-tenango”, which is “place of”), and never abbreviated to “Xela.”

So, Doc and I arrived in Xela a little more than a week ago, eager to settle in to a semi-permanent (at least, permanent-feeling) residence and start reviewing K’iche’.

We got off to kind of a rough start.

The bus ride wasn’t bad– one flat tire, very little traffic, only moderate nausea and not even one close-call with a truck or other vehicle larger that us.

After five hours on the bus, though, we were ready to settle in. No such luck. First, the residence that Doc had reserved quoted us a higher price than they had promised in their emails, and the communal kitchen was a bio-hazard. Seriously. A literal bio-hazard. Contrary to popular belief, I can (and do) put up with crumbs and untidy roommates in the kitchen. But this was just beyond anything I’d ever seen before… beyond even the kitchen at NerdHouse the summer after my freshman year (where we observed the “no-second” rule, because if a piece of food falls on the floor at NerdHouse, it was guaranteed to have pubic hair on it. Yes, I just typed that.).

So, we got some food at the taquería on the corner and talked over our options. I voted for a move to the hotel I was fond of, with a private bathroom, TV, and clean shared kitchen.  I called, and they promised a room with a private bathroom for the coming week.

When we got there, they claimed to not remember my calling. And there were no rooms with private bathrooms available.  However, two anthro-friends of ours were staying there, so we decided to stay anyway.  The dueña promised a room with a private bathroom would be available the next day.

That never happened. I have asked every day about the room change, and I am still in the crappy TV-less shared-bathroom room. I am fairly certain they are lying about the room, because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the hotel right now. It doesn’t make sense.  And the dueña got worried that I was going to leave without paying, and made me pay several days in advance. Yes, I should have just moved. I’ve paid through tomorrow, and then I’m off to Huehue. It makes me sad, though because I ‘ve recommended this place to several travelers.  Not anymore.

To calm some nerves that were starting to frazzle, we met Doc’s friend/ research assistant/ our K’iche’ tutor, Jaime, at el Cuartito, the local super-hipster coffee hangout for drinks. Yes, Xela has a hipster scene. Or maybe its a cross between “hipster” and “hippie”.  El Cuartito also happens to have excellent mojitos.

Alas, they had changed the mojito recipe.  Whereas before your rum, tonic, and simple syurp came steeped with whole mint/ yerba buena leaves, now they appeared to be ground/ blended to a pulp. So… when you took a sip out of your straw, you got a not-so-nice dose of green mush stuck in the straw rather than a refreshing trago. Nevertheless, we drank the entire pitcher. One must not waste rum, especially when one is nearing the end of one’s rope.

We consoled ourselves about the bad luck with the hotels and the mojito recipe with the thought of a delicious meal at the best Italian restaurant outside of Italy, where Doc is friends with the chef.

When we got there, the chef (Alfredo) was not in.  We asked the server, and he said that Alfredo had left (for good) before he had started working there. He had no iea where Alfredo had gone.  Doc wasn’t surprised… he pointed out that Alfredo was both something of a rolling stone and a dirty old man, and thus changed venues with some frequency.  We again consoled ourselves with the hope that the sous-chefs were the same, and so the food would be reasonably similar in quality.

Quality, almost. Quantity, not at all. The portions had been cut roughly in half, and we both left feeling still-hungry.  We set out to find some dessert, which is surprisingly challenging in this city.

Honestly, I can’t remember what we had for dessert. We went to Casa Babylon, but that’s all I remember. Oh, well.

One more sad thing before I drop the woe-is-me shtick: our second-favorite restaurant, makers of amazing homemade veggie burgers (with lentils and REAL vegetables! and a fried egg on top! and a homemade bun!!) and even more amazing sangria (a blend of wine, rum, gran marnier, and vodka, apparently, along with the requisite fruit), that had a beautiful courtyard seating area with flowering trees and twinkly lights… had closed. Now that space is home to a gringo bar.

Things began to look up, however. We spent quality time with our friends (a prof at WashU and his wife, who is a student at Harvard… who also happen to be collaborators/ good friends with my advisor. Small discipline.) getting Indian food for dinner the next night (the quality of which fortunately remained unchanged from last year). We arranged our K’iche’ schedule with Jaime, did some hiking, watched a movie, drank lots of mediocre coffee and excellent hot chocolate, had a small adventure, and went to Bake Shop whenever it was open.

When we arrived, the weather was unusually, and disconcertingly,  warm and sunny.  Now it has changed to a reassuringly steady, cool  rain.

More, in detail and illustrated, to come.

Guate, por fin

Well, it was certainly a whirlwind leading up to June 7… that is, the day I took off for Guatemala for the summer. What with final exams in April, traveling, visiting folks, and a bike race in May, and trying to get the house clean and the garden to a point where my summer renters just have to water and pull weeds… I can’t believe I actually got it all done. Of course, I had serious help for the garden and house cleaning (pictures and description of that later). But whew.

So, June 7, like it or not (and chores done or not… but mostly done) Doc and I arrived in Guatemala City.  My summer plans are to study Sipakapense (a K’iche’an language… specifically the language spoken to a greater or lesser extent at my field site), to take lots of pictures of environmental and cultural significance, and to rewrite a paper on advertising by the mining industry in Guatemala… lucky for me, I was greeted by this image as we left the airport.

"We invest in a country in development. The valuable thing is to develop."

"We invest in the dreams of a country in development. The valuable thing is to develop."

Right next to the English-language Visa billboards.  Oh, Goldcorp (Montana Exploradora) is the company that has a mine at my field site. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ostensibly, I wanted to be in the capital to talk to a couple of environmental NGOs based there.  In reality, I hadn’t been able to set up meetings before leaving the US, and so my out-of-the-blue emails to them were met with friendly suggestions to meet at a later date.  Doc wanted to be in the capital to meet with various bilingual publishing houses, but ran into the same problem as I did. So, we ended up spending three days being tourists, which was fine by me as it was my first time in the capital.

We stayed at a small guest house in Zona 13, right next to the airport. Relatively low crime, and walking-distance from the Museo de Archaeología y Etnología, which was our first visit.  We were greeted by a familiar name on the banners at the entrance to the museum.

Citado: C. Kottak 1994.

Citado: C. Kottak 1994.

That would be a citation of Dr. Kottak’s (former chair of my department) textbook Anthropology, used in several 101 classes, on the banner explaining “Anthropology.”  Oddly, they list five subfields. Huh.

The collection of Pre-Colombian artifacts was really impressive, although somewhat poorly organized and displayed.  There was a group of elementary school kids running around while we were there, and some of them would freeze and stare at us when they heard us speaking English. Then, giggling, they’d imitate us in Spanish along the lines of “Hee hee, we’re speaking English.”

Among my favorite objects were the ceramics. I really love the designs on some of the ceramic pots; they were surprisingly simple black and red geometric designs that were really striking.  On the other end of the ceramic design spectrum was this stamp– so intricate! I want to reproduce it on a mug when I get home, either with vibrant colors or with the same earth tones, or maybe one of each. I can’t decide which would be cooler.

Precolombian stamp, made of clay (I think it's a late Pre-classic for you archaeo geeks).

Precolombian stamp, made of clay (I think it's a late Pre-classic for you archaeo geeks).

Their “ethnology” section was quite a bit smaller than the archaeo part, but it was still interesting.  It didn’t hold a candle to the Museo Ixchel, though, located accross town in Zona 10.  I mean, check out their gorgeous website, for starters.

The Museo Ixchel is located on the campus of Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM) on the far north end of Zona 10, in the building adjacent to the Museo Popol Vuh.  The Ixchel focuses on textiles and indigenous culture, while the Popol Vuh focuses on archaeology. Neither museum allowed photography, so definitely check out their beautifully designed and incredibly informational websites (available in English, too).

Zona 10, I should mention, is the swanky part of the city with absolutely the lowest crime rates.  I always wonder why thugs haven’t clued in to the profitability of that neighborhood. I think the answer has something to do with the fact that their bosses live there… don’t quote me on that one, though.  Doc and I spent some time wandering around on our second day trying to find a bookstore/ cafe mentioned in my guide book, but found it closed.  We ended up sitting on the patio of the Guatemalan equivalent of Panera (called “San Martín”) for a solid chunk of an afternoon, enjoying the free wireless and sandwiches.  We eventually discovered that the bookstore, Sophos, had just moved to an even swankier plaza/ mall in the Zona Viva (lively zone) of Zona 10. Never fear, we bought both books and refreshments in their cafe (coffee and chocolate mousse for me… did I mention that our first three days here were vacation? 😉 )

We headed over to the UFM campus on our third (and last) day.  I was shocked by how gorgeous the campus was– I mean, wow. They must sink some serious quetzales into landscaping.  There were little paved, covered paths that went between buildings, winding through lush ferns, flowers, and other foliage accented by the occasional imitation Maya stelae. I took a picture of this crazy flower on a tree… it looked like it had pink hair!

Fuzzy Pink Flower

Fuzzy Pink Flower-- 10 points if you can identify it!

Unsurprisingly, UFM has a particularly strong business program, and has inspirational quotes from Milton Friedman printed on their cafeteria tables.  Doc and I enjoyed a very economical lunch in said cafeteria– I had a chicken and avocado pannini, sugary coffee shake, and bottle of water for around $3 from the Guatemalan coffee chain “Gitane.”

The sugar and coffee concoction was delicious. Note the lush landscaping in the background.

The sugar and coffee concoction was delicious. Note the lush landscaping in the background.

The Museo Ixchel takes you through the Guatemalan textile tradition from Precolombian origins, to Spanish influence, to present day techniques, materials, and designs.  The exhibts are really nicely organized and designed, and include English translations of the descriptions (I admit: I defaulted to the English placards. I wanted to absorb more information.).  I searched in vain for a huipile from San Mateo Ixtatán in their gift shop, and settled on a funky “Creaciones Indígenas” t-shirt instead. I think “Creaciones Indígenas” is, in fact, a t-shirt company. But the design riffs on Maya glyphs, the money supported the museum, and I thought it was cool (side note: I’m wearing it today, and one of the travelin’ gringos in our hostel asked if I bought it at a store called “Urban Renewal” in Antigua [aka: Gringotenango]. She noted the “robot-guy design” on it. I just smiled and told her where I bought it, but she had never heard of the museum.).

The Popol Vuh museum is considerably smaller than the National Museum, but they make up for it with info-packed descriptions and a beautiful layout and design.  I learned a lot at both of these museums, and had a lot of geeky fun, too.

On Thursday morning we got up and grabbed a first-class (i.e. fan-CY!) bus to Xela (or, more properly, Quetzaltenango) the former K’iche’ capital of the Western Highlands, and the city that feels most like home in Guatemala.

Statue of Tecun Uman, colonial K'iche' hero, in the capital.

Statue of Tecun Uman, colonial K'iche' hero, in the capital.

Mohican 100(k)… illustrated!

The Short Version:
Where: Loudonville, OH, and surrounding region
What: 62 miles (and some change) and 11,000 feet of climbing on a mountain bike, on mostly trails and some pavement, in just under 12 hours.
Who: me.
Why: insanity? fun? a good challenge?
How’d it go: good! bad! hella terrible! fan-friggin’-tastic! read on for the gory details…

The Long Version:

I started training for this race in January. It was kind of one of my New Year’s Resolutions. But if I do it again next year, I’m starting training no later than October… seriously. If nothing else, just to make up for the black hole that is April in the life of an academic.

Mom, Doc, and I drove down to Loudonville, OH on Friday afternoon, getting a late-ish start after working in the yard all day.  We made a couple of wrong turns, and transformed what would otherwise have been a 3 hour drive into 6 hours (yes, that’s right, 6 whole hours). I tried not to see that as a forecast for the race.  We stayed in a super-cute B&B (Red Fox Inn) about 20 minutes outside of town, right at the edge of Amish country. Just to help you visualize. It was very pretty, and even in the car you could tell that it was a *bit* hillier than southeast Michigan (!).  Dinner was at one of the two restaurants in town: a hamburger topped with cheese and chili and sweet potato fries on the side. Delicious. Screw carbo-loading.

Don't be fooled by my pre-race dinner. I have plenty of sugar in my water bottles.

Don't be fooled by my pre-race dinner. I have plenty of sugar in my water bottles.

It poured rain all night.

Woke up at 5 am to get breakfast before driving to Loudonville to register and… ride! The innkeeper was incredibly kind and made me an egg, ham, and cheese sandwich on an english muffin, to- go. Paired that with a Cliff Bar and felt ready to roll. Except… my pedals weren’t on, my front tire was flat, the chain needed grease, and the seat was at the wrong height. You’d think I would have learned by now to take care of those things the night *before* a race, but I guess I have been less- than on top of things the past couple of weeks. At least I had prepped my drop bags, sport drink bottles, and CamelBak the night before. I was rushing to get my shoes on and the saddle adjusted, and missed the gun at the start by about two minutes. I almost bailed before I started, but with some major encouragement from my race crew I finally set off down Main Street in Loudonville to the first climb. Oh god.

It was very early. It was chilly. It was very pretty.

It was very early. It was chilly. It was very pretty.

Thank goodness another girl had missed the gun also, and we rode the first two miles together to the start of the single track. In those first two miles, I climbed more than I ever do on any ride in Ann Arbor, unless I’m doing hill reps up Spring. I seriously thought I would puke in the first three miles.

I'm the one in the pink, with the green Camel Bak (second group up the hill).

I'm the one in the pink, with the green Camel Bak (second group up the hill).

I settled in after catching the tail of the group and finding the single track. It was comforting knowing that there was so much mileage to make up time, and that I’d be doing the shorter course (there is a 100 mile option), so there would absolutely be people on the trail long after I finished. I hoped.

I rode with one woman for a few miles who’s goal was to make it to the first aid station. She had already decided to drop there. That was both reassuring (I could drop there if I had to, and I didn’t have to be ashamed) but also a little discouraging (I didn’t want to quit that easily!). We chatted for a while, and I moved ahead on a climb and dropped her.

The trail was absolutely gorgeous– I was skeptical at first, since they started us out through some campgrounds (steep climbing, but nothing technical) and a muddy river crossing followed by a muddy wall (hill). But then the trail opened up into this beautiful pine forest, with hard-packed single track that twisted and wound and jumped over logs. Seriously flowy and way fun.  I had been worried that the trails would be chewed up with all the rain we had the night before, but they were miraculously bone-dry.

I was enjoying the ride, but found myself walking a lot more than I should have been.  Climbing I felt great, and the rock gardens were fine, but for some reason I kept grabbing a handful of brakes before log piles and having to walk them. And I learned very quickly that I can’t descend for beans. Through the entire race, I walked the vast majority of downhills (especially switchbacks), otherwise crouching over my bike and gripping the brakes with white knuckles, my butt hanging way back over the rear wheel. My hands, arms, and shoulders were sore long after my legs recovered!

I found a guy to ride with around mile 10, and we hung together until mile 40, for better or for worse.  Chris was actually quite a bit faster than me, but he rested much more frequently (and checked his GPS with equal frequency!).  This was good in that it reminded me to slurp some Gu and chug some CarboRocket sport drink, but bad in that I felt like I could have kept moving while we were resting. That said, I don’t think I would have made it if I hadn’t ridden with him for so long… camaraderie definitely keeps you going.

Made it through the first rest stop at mile 20 and had a couple of bananas with peanut butter and a ProBar. I love ProBars. No, not PowerBars… ProBars. They’re unsweetened nut and carob chip bars that taste like Real Food, even more than Cliff Bars. Unfortunately, they’re three times as expensive as Cliff Bars. But I digress…

Things stopped being fun around mile 30, and I was glad Chris was there, chatting up a storm and keeping my mind off the aches and pains developing… everywhere. I thought the second rest stop would never come. But it did, and then I wished that it hadn’t… because the next 10 miles (or so it felt like) were paved. And all up and down. Big up. Fast down. I had NO idea Ohio was that freakin’ hilly. Holy. Cow. I came to love my granny gear with a new sort of passion. At least I wasn’t gripping the breaks on the paved downhills! I had used Chris’s phone to call my mom, and left a message asking her and Doc to meet me at rest stop 3 (mile 46). At that point, I was thinking I could drop out there.

Chris dropped out at mile 40, right before a section of single track.  After asking the two guys in front of me, who also paused at the road/ trail juncture and seemed to have some local knowledge, I determined that the next 6 miles were not too technical for my energy levels, and proceeded to walk only about 1/3 of it. I was on the tail end of my third wind. The trail emptied out into a field, and joy of joys, there were my mom and Doc, waiting with a frosted chocolate cupcake (Oh, my goodness!).

Coming in to the third rest stop.

Coming in to the third rest stop.

I was really happy to be at the third rest stop.

I was really happy to be at the third rest stop.

Not flattering, but definitely indicative of my mindset. With cupcake.

Not flattering, but definitely indicative of my mindset. With cupcake.

I sat for longer than I should have, and when I stood to go had a painful coughing attack. I had gotten a new inhaler especially for the race, but of course I had left it in the car. But I didn’t think it would have done any good, anyway.  Basically, my pride got me back on the bike. No WAY was I going to drop out with just 16 more miles, a supply of more sugar than I could consume in two years, and a perfectly functioning bike!

I had been averaging a painful 5 mph (based on the clock and the distance, not on my odometer), and told Mom and Doc that I’d see them at mile 56 in about two hours. That put me in line to finish at 8 pm… 13 hours after the start. Ick.

BUT! The next ten miles were paved, and I somehow managed to average 15 mph on knobbies (I credit the cupcake), making it to the last rest stop so much sooner than I had estimated, that I almost rode right past it. A brief stop, and I was back on the bike for the final 6 miles (with a stupidly-full 3L CamelBak. Don’t ask.).

One of the race volunteers passed me up the first climb, promising a cold beer at the end. Let me tell you, the image of that beer kept me going.

The course finished on the section of single track that we had first ridden, but in reverse. The beautiful pine forest. The flowy trail. Even the log piles (I rode them this time). I came out onto the pavement at the end with a big grin on my face.

But then… I saw the course signs pointing *away* from the finish and up another steep climb. WTF?? I had forgotten about the campgrounds and river crossing. I held it together through the campgrounds (walking a bit, riding in the granny gear when I saw campers) but started blubbering as I stumbled down the wall before the river crossing. No fair!! I thought I was done!!!

And somehow all that evaporated when I finally rolled across the line, in about 11 hours and 50 minutes. Whew.

WOO HOO!! Where's my beer?!

WOO HOO!! Where's my beer?!

They had arranged for some Mongolian BBQ for dinner (YUM)… but they were out of the promised beer and pint glasses. Sad face.

The verdict: painful, but fun. Especially in retrospect. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than getting to ride your bike all day, on beautiful trails. Unless it’s followed up by a giant piece of warm chocolate cake and coffee ice cream…. no, I didn’t have any of that, but if I did the race again, I totally would.