Reflections #4: Taste the Happiness

German culinary art is outstanding. People come from all over the world to try some of Germany’s most admired cultural venues. I most admire the baking tradition here. It is hard to miss the “Bäckerei” or “Café” signs at almost every street corner. Here, people can satisfy their appetite by trying the more tradition breads (Vollkorn-, Dinkel-, Weißbrot etc.), rolls (my favorite are Laugenbrötchen), and then there are the pastries. Yesterday I tried a “Mohnschnecke” and brought it down to the beach for a sweet afternoon snack. It was absolutely delicious. It’s a dessert that contains a poppyseed filling and has a sugar glaze on top. The one I tried yesterday was a bit dry, but I’ve had numerous other ones that were made to perfection (sweet, light, and containing just the right amount of moisture so you didn’t need an additional drink to accompany the pastry).

A delicious Mohnschnecke. Took 5 minutes to buy, 1 minute to devour.

As mentioned, I spent most of the afternoon along the ocean front. Here the locals flock the beach starting as early as sunrise, the tourists take wind- and regular surfing lessons, and others simply enjoy the weather with their friends and family. The fun lies in catching the waves! The water fronts here are fairly calm (probably due to soft and hard armoring along the coast), without big waves that you can use to surf. Nevertheless, people wait along the shore until the occasional wave hits.

Scandlines cargo and passenger ship
Scandlines cargo and passenger ship

This happens everytime a big freight ship or cruise ship enters or exits the harbor close by. As soon as one wave breaks at the beach, a mass of surfers runs into the water. It was pretty entertaining to watch. What I also liked as I walked along the “Promenade” that stretches parallel to the beach, were the numerous kites flying up high. People here really take advantage when a day of nice weather reaches Warnemünde and the surrounding towns.

Flags and kites
Flags and kites
beautiful sunset

Reflections #3: Ferry this, ferry that

Traveling by boat sounds time consuming, but really it really isn’t in this niche of Germany. Although I live in Warnemünde (GER), the only way to quickly get to downtown Warnemünde, is by boat – specifically by ferry. At first I thought buying the occasionally ferry ticket would be enough, but I’ve come to realize that I’m better off buying a pass for the entire month, which also covers the bus system and S-Bahn system in the entire area considered part of Rostock. On a regular basis, I take the ferry across the channel to the other side, where all the action is.

Today was an exceptionally beautiful day here. We had an average temperature of about 73 degrees and only a slight breeze. On my way home, after going to go workout in downtown Rostock, I took some fantastic pictures of the horizon as seen from the ferry. It was absolutely stunning.

Big ship

Tomorrow is a special day over at the docks. Once in a while when multiple big cruise ships leave the harbor, there is a type of “going-away” celebration at the harbor front. Mostly there are lots of small food stands selling Bratwurst, beer and ice cream (or so I have been informed), but there will also be some fireworks later on in the night. One of these huge ships was anchored in the harbor all afternoon, and although I didn’t think it would leave so soon, it departed by the time I returned to Warnemünde.

I’ll keep you posted if I end up going to the Board Party tomorrow. For now it’s, Gute Nacht (good night) und bis Morgen (’til tomorrow).


Reflections #2: Getting there isn’t always as easy as it seems

For those of you who travel a lot, you will easily be able to relate to my experience. Even those who don’t travel, yet have a busy schedule based on specific appointments, meetings, and events, you will also be able to know how I felt on my trip from San Francisco to Rostock, GER. It had all been planned out perfectly: fly from San Francisco to Chicago, from Chicago to Copenhagen (Denmark), and lastly, take the ferry from Gedser (100km from Copenhagen) to Rostock (Germany). However, this plan did not go accordingly. It was edited multiple times before my plane ever took off from San Francisco, and even while I was in the air, changes continued to be made. Here’s my advice to fellow travelers: always be prepared for the worst and value changes as opportunities, not predicaments.

First off, being prepared can save you time and trouble. My family is used to preparing for long trips. So, before saying my goodbyes I was handed a huge Ziploc bag full of chocolate goodies, cut apples and carrots, and a warm mug of tea to take to the airport. I’d never think this snack bag would come in handy, but it actually saved me from times of despair. Due to weather problems over the Chicago airport, my flight that was supposed to leave from San Francisco at 10:20am ended up boarding, and being delayed for 3 hours. Since I hadn’t been able to check-in to my connecting flight in Chicago, I was getting a bit uneasy as the minutes kept ticking away, and one delay announcement followed the next.

Finally, I couldn’t stop worrying about potentially missing my flight, so I spoke up. Communication is the key. Talking to the stewardess initiated other ideas…like, why don’t the pilots get another snack. As a result, the crew announced that all passengers had the options of deplaning and since I wasn’t able to get Wi-Fi on the plane, I gladly jumped on this opportunity to check-in to my next flight. By the time our plane actually took off, I had called my next airline provider, checked-in online, eaten all of the chocolate treats, sent out a few emails and felt very accomplished.

Talking about changes in planes, the worst was yet to come. Realizing that Gedser was too far away from Copenhagen to allow me to catch my ferry on time, I had to make a quick decision–it resulted in canceling my ferry reservation and booking a flight from Copenhagen to Berlin. Flying to Berlin meant that although I would arrive in Germany, I’d still be a bus ride and train ride away from my final destination. All went well though, and talking to people who were experienced at the airports helped get me from one transition point to the next.

Also, whenever you travel, make the most out of each opportunity given to you to explore a new place, do something out of the ordinary, or learn something about the people and the cultures around you. Before I even set foot on the plane to Chicago I learned something everyone should know about San Francisco’s airport: the people there are genuinely nice. That’s a characteristic not every airport can boast about. Not only were the people at the gate happy to assist me by printing my next boarding pass, they even gave me suggestions while I was frantically trying to find the toll-free number for my next airline provider.

If you’ve never flown with Virgin America, I’d like to suggest trying their services next time you book a flight in the US. They had excellent service and the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in on a plane—now, now…of course I’m not talking about flying first class!
Try to avoid the Chicago O’Hare airport if you’re flying in the Midwest. The chaos you’ll encounter is normal there but it’s very difficult to find good affordable food and the corners that have free Wi-Fi are hard to find.

Traveling in Europe is easy—both physically and as well as it’s easy on your wallet. One of the nice things about flying within Europe is that they don’t usually charge you for checking in your first piece of luggage. If you travel by bus in Germany, you’re almost guaranteed to get where you want on time. This also holds true for the train system in Germany. Everything is wonderfully punctual.

Taking a short-cut across the channel
Taking a short-cut across the channel

Overall, I’m glad I safely made it to Warnemünde, Germany (it is a city on the outskirts of Rostock). I’ll keep you posted about the life of marine biologists here at the Marine Science Center and about the culture of Germany and the people of the Baltic Sea!

Category 3 Women's Podium, Courtesy of Chelsea Summer Brown

Turlock Road Race

I was thrilled it didn’t rain at all for the race. The weather forecast people lied (but what’s new). Joined Evan and Co. for the early morning ride to Turlock, had a good warm up and was off to the starting line right on time. Still, I need to get used to showing up a bit earlier since there are always those announcements. Missed them, but oh well. Just then, I also realized they had combined the P/1/2/3 racing fields simply due to numbers. My plan for the race was to stay in the front group and to see how things developed. This would be my longest RR (46.5 mi) so I was especially excited. I like the last road race I did (Bariani) so I was hoping for another enjoyable race.

The field moved out at a really slow pace and no one chased after the one Metromint girl who created a big gap for herself. I kept calm and quiet and didn’t make any efforts to change the pace or close the gap. Truly just sat in for the entire first lap. It was actually pretty annoying how slow the pace was. It sped up when we got to the prime section but then it went back to the same old pace. Actually, I think the pace did speed up when one of the Cat 1 girls, I had raced with at OTF, took the reigns. Slowly the Metromint girl was pulled back into our midst.

When we reached the feed zone I handed one of my empty bottles to Evan’s dad but told him I didn’t need anything since I really wasn’t working hard. The second lap was much the same as the first. We almost had two crashes due to the course marshall on the motorcycle. He told us to go single file 2x to let the men pass and by doing so he completely killed what little momentum we had. The second time it was really inconvenient since he slowed us as we were descending and getting ready for one of the longer climbs.

Turlock Road Race Course Profile
Turlock Road Race Course Profile

The tempo sped up a lot on the last couple rollers. A few ladies made attacks, but they didn’t last long (it did show me how much power many of the riders had left in their legs). I knew I had to quickly get up to the front if I wanted a chance at placing. Right after the puddle section I took to the outside and made my way to the front of the group (was positioned in the top 5 riders). It was good since people rushed out of the final 90 degree turn and more attacks happened in the last 2 miles before the finish. I was in the front with 200m to go and went for it. The finishing straight is a false flat which was just perfect. I went for my sprint, pushing the usual big gear (I know I need to work on being more efficient with my lower gears :) ). Head down, pedaling fast, I suddenly heard the terrible sound of carbon bikes becoming roadkill. A couple riders went down (or at least that’s what it sounded like). I turned my head to check, couldn’t tell what had happened, turned to the other girls on my left and shouted “do we keep going?”…argh, what a lousy beginner’s mistake. The girls on the left just started pedaling faster. I realized my mistake and tried to sprint back to first. Lost my stupid first by an inch (AGAIN!). Happy I didn’t crash, but mad I didn’t get first. In the end, I should be happy with my result. Got second place and got a big jar of honey. Now it was off to another 2.5 hour ride home and to rest for Sunday’s Santa Cruz Crit.

Courtesy of Brooks Bikes

Off the Front Omnium–Circuit Race and Time Trial

I was a bit disappointed by the turnout in today’s race. Compared to last weekend, at the Bariani RR, where there were 57 Cat 4 women in the race, today’s 5 racers was nothing. For the circuit race, we started off all together for the first lap and then it quickly spread out a bit. This crazy lady I was warned about almost made one of the top 2 finishers crash during the first lap as she abruptly swerved just to get the lead for a bit. I made sure to keep an eye out for her but she didn’t last more than two laps with the top 3.

Felicia Gomez of Pinnacle Reactor and Hanna Muegge of MBRT
Felicia Gomez of Pinnacle Reactor and Hanna Muegge of MBRT

Again, I didn’t realize these two girls were on the same team since they were wearing different jerseys but after one of them broke away and I asked the other to work with me to catch up to her, she retorted with a simple “no, that’s my teammate”. Great! I fell for it AGAIN. I obviously haven’t learned my lesson yet. So, I attempted to bridge the gap and dragged the other girl around the course for 3 laps. My legs felt tired…but oh well, I couldn’t change that but what I could do was to focus on catching the girl up ahead. She really wasn’t too far off, but then the girl who had been coasting behind me broke away and I just didn’t react in time. I should have gotten out of the saddle right as she made her move and trailed her. Instead I waited about 3 seconds, and that was enough to give her the opportunity to chase up to her buddy. They worked together for the remainder of the race, and I never saw them again. Nor did I see anyone else from my original field. What a race, I ended up racing by myself for the rest of the race (although I did see Chris White and Andrew Moss along the way), and finished 3rd.

The time trial was much shorter than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, there was the finish. Again I placed 3rd. I’m mad at my performance during this race a) because I think it would have helped to have someone to try and chase down (but the two girls in front of me didn’t show up) and so I felt like I didn’t have the fire in my I might have had if I knew someone was racing against me, b) I didn’t look at the course during the short warm-up and so I wasn’t aware of the fact that the final climb wasn’t as long, and c) I shouldn’t jump gears too quickly. I dropped my chain right after the first couple of pedal strokes and had to slow down to get the chain back on. This cost me some nerves, energy, and lots of speed.

Overall, I should be happy that I finished 3rd for both the circuit race and the time trial, but I am bummed nevertheless. Maybe it was the overload of sun that just drained all the energy out of me, maybe it was the early morning wake-up at 4:30am to drive out to Friant, or maybe it was the fact that I simply don’t like getting anything but 1st. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I really do enjoy winning, especially when it’s a hard win against a lot of people (but which competitive athlete doesn’t like to win!?!?). I would have probably accepted the third place finish as a good race if it had been a bigger field and if I had been overly tired after the race because I knew I worked for it. But finishing a race uncontested by the next lowest finisher, just doesn’t do it for me. But hey, tomorrow is another opportunity to race and to complete this weekend and the last day of my spring break on a high note.

Bariani RR_Start2

2014 Bariani Road Race

I hadn’t even considered doing the Bariani RR until Jen got a hold of me and asked me to join her on the long haul to Zamora, CA. If she hadn’t gotten a hold of me, I would have come out to do CCCX. However, since I like to travel, especially to new places, I was easily convinced.

Bariani RR Strava Course Profile
Bariani RR Strava Course Profile

The Cat 4 Women’s field was exceptionally large on Sunday. 56 racers and I new quite a few of them from the Early Birds. It was going to be a tough race–the 2 Tibco girls (including my friend Diana) were there too which meant I had to be careful to save up energy since they only show up for the finish. The sun and heat added to the challenge of the race. During the warm-up I became acquainted with some of the potholes and gravel I was bound to encounter on the roads, as well as the swarms of bees racing us for the perfect draft. Fortunately, the race course didn’t take us past any beehives, though I did have to swerve, close my eyes, and hold my breath during my warm-up a couple of times as I passed a lively aggregation of hives.
Bariani RR_StartThe whistle sounded and off we went. For the first 100m it was just an easy roll out to the course and then the first left basically was the true starting point. I lost my freedom of positioning right from the start since I only showed up 5 minutes before the start. I was surprised there was a short announcement beforehand, but I must have missed the memo to come to the start 10 minutes prior race time. In any case, I was stuck right in the middle and couldn’t move one bit. After the first small downhill I managed to slide a little bit closer to the front, but as everyone was trying to re-position themselves, elbows started to rub and people instinctively reached for their breaks. I was squished between two girls once and that was pretty scary. We all managed to hold our pace and line and luckily no one caused a crash.

The first lap saw a few attacks right out of the turns, but nothing too serious. As we approached the second lap, I made my way to the very front and pushed the tempo a wee bit more (only for a little bit though). Three of us started to work the front by rotating every 10-30 seconds and I think these efforts led to the field breaking up into two groups. On the short incline towards the final miles of the course, one girl dropped her chain. I told the girl in the front, “go now, let’s attack”…she made a bit of an effort and I followed but I had no intention of actually going for an attack. No way José! I’m not one of those crazies yet. By speeding up the tempo even more, the field stretched out but as we turned onto the finishing stretch of road (center line was no longer in effect), I could hear the buzzing swarm of anxious riders coming up on us two front riders from both sides. I kept sweeping my head left and right, expecting an attack into the final sprint any moment. Suddenly, I noticed the two Tibco girls to my left. They kept glancing at each other, so all my senses were tuned in to what was bound to happen. When someone did start their sprint prematurely, it wasn’t the Tibco girls, but one of the Fremont riders. She just leaped out of her saddle and started pumping her legs…goodness, we had about 800m until the finish line!!! I had to catch her wheel, because who knows, maybe she would keep accelerating. With 200m to go she started to slow. That’s when I realized I had to give it all I had left since once I start a sprint I can’t just stop.

Out of my peripheral I saw the big stocky girl closing in on me. In the final 4 pedal strokes I put it all out there, leaned and knew I was either 1st or 2nd. Dehydrated, and exhausted it was time to get off the bike ASAP and collapse on the shoulder of the road. Better get off the bike voluntarily, than fall off while blacking out. Next time there’s a race in 85 degree weather with no tailwind but a long finish into the headwind, I’ll need to hydrate even more on the drive. I was surprised by how dead I felt–I did drink 2 full bottles of water, 1 homemade coffee with choco-soy milk, 1 Starbucks latte, and 1 double shot iced latte before the race. 1 bottle during the race must not be sufficient. Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to gauge what is needed to stay hydrated during the race?

It took a while for the results to appear on the board, and though it said I had won, I wasn’t going to celebrate yet. I had talked to the girl who was listed as the 2nd place finisher. She mentioned she thought she got 1st and would contest the results. The officials did end up reviewing the top 6 finishes, but because two other racers were not content with their placing. I luckily still ended up in 1st place at the end of the day, so I’m very relieved and happy that the hard work paid off (and I got some more upgrade points :) Yay!).

Women Cat 4 Podium
Women Cat 4 Podium
RK2_Lateral view

Red Kite Omnium Series #2 Criterium

What a tiring morning, but it was worth it. For the Red Kite trip my dad wanted to tag along. After a wonderful dinner with my family at my favorite restaurant, Yama Sushi, and feasting on the leftover cake my mom brought back from work (her co-workers must not appreciate German marble cake as much as I do), I fell asleep on the couch while watching The Adventures of Tintin with mi familia. The alarm jolted me awake at 4:30am (with the time change we lost an hour of sleep so it was 3:30am…yuck!), had 2 cups of coffee, for me it was much too early for breakfast, I made the couch, packed some snacks for the 2 hr ride, and my dad and I were out the door by 5am. It’s funny how people have started relying on their GPS on car rides. As we were driving past Marina our TomTom said it had lost signal and was useless for at least 10 minutes. Good thing we knew where we were going, plus I had planned ahead and printed off directions.

We arrived in Livermore with 30 minutes left until the start of my race. 20 racers had pre-registered and 3 were day-of-registrees. I had a bit of a panic moment when I pulled my front wheel out of the trunk of the car–the tire was completely flat. Weird, I had just pumped it up the day before and the valve was closed. Since I have problems using my pump on my old tubes (the valves are now too short with the new wheels on the FUJI), I asked around if someone has a spare tube with a longer valve. This guy gave me his in exchange for one of my tubes. Good thing people are nice and willing to lend others a hand.

Courtesy of Katie Truong
Courtesy of Katie Truong

The race got off to a good start. I positioned myself right in the front group but never worked more than to catch up to others who attacked or to get good positioning out of a turn. Six laps in and I noticed my tire pressure had changed in the front wheel. Going into the turn before the finishline I signaled that I had a flat and came to a stop. With no spare wheels ready, the course marshall asked around if anybody else was willing to lend me a wheel to complete the race. A man offered me his daughter’s and I got right back into the race. The mentors weren’t too thrilled as I merged back into the field right at the front, but hey, I had turned my head to ask what I was supposed to do and no one gave me any feedback (so, I chose to get back right where I had dropped out from). Mei and Galina, two girls I had raced with at the Early Bird Training Series, were great team mates during this race. We worked together a lot and warned each other whenever there were attacks. I communicated quite a bit and after the race Galina pointed out how helpful that was for her.

I guess there were priemes during the race, but I had no idea what that meant so I missed out! I kept hearing the cowbell go off and the guys at the start/finish yelled something but I couldn’t make out the words. Oh well, next time I’ll no better and work a bit harder during those laps. The last lap wasn’t much faster than the others. I was in the front entering the final turn and got out of the saddle to start the sprint…but there really wasn’t enough road to get to top speed for me. I crossed the finish line at the same time as this other girl. I assumed that she beat me by a hair so when a course official came up to us to ask about the finish, I now wish I had just kept my mouth shut. I said the other girl probably won, but who knows if he was just asking out of his own curiosity or if what I said ended up being the official determiner of the placing for 1st and 2nd. Oh well, turns out that the wheel I used was the same girl’s so no matter the placing, I’m grateful for her wheel. The girl (from San Jose) placed first, I got 2nd, my friend MeiSin (Wheel Talk Cycling) got 3rd.

The Red Kite Omnium Cat 4 podium
The Red Kite Omnium Cat 4 podium

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