Rocket Grrrls

Check the speed on the Cateye. I wasn’t that slow all day long,
but I was pretty damn close.

The weather has taken a seasonal turn. Yesterday I waited overlong to get out for a ride and the wind bullied me, getting all up in my grill no matter which direction I was headed.

The nice thing about riding a cyclocross bike on a day like this is that it gives you more options for dodging the breeze. So I swapped pavement for trail and trail for pavement as necessary for a little over an hour, jinking this way or that if the wind or some maskless eejit loomed large dead ahead.

When I got tired of playing meteorological and virological hide-and-seek I headed for home through High Desert. I had glimpsed what I thought was a pair of roadies behind me as I ground along in too big a gear past the Bear Canyon Trailhead, and figured they’d hang a right on Spain, but nope.

It was two women from the Rocket Grrrls squad on either ’cross bikes or gravel bikes, and they passed me on the short climb to Wilderness Estates, where a short connector trail leads to the Embudito Trailhead and the pavement that takes me back to El Rancho Pendejo.

They were on fire, too. Rocket Grrrls indeed. I didn’t bother to get off to check for flats or rubbing brake pads. I’ve ridden with Karen Hornbostel, Mari Holden, Dede Demet, Alison Dunlap, and Katie Compton, if only briefly and without distinction, and I know when I’ve been chicked.

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37 Responses to “Rocket Grrrls”

  1. JD Says:

    PO’G: If you’re looking for sympathy from this crowd, you may be disappointed. I help coach a high school mountain bike team (see NICA) and on my best days I can barely hang with the girl JV riders.
    My excuse is that they have about 55-60 heartbeats a minute more capability than I.
    I do share my wisdom: “I used to go fast and far; then I just went far; now I just try to go.”
    So …. just go, smile, enjoy, and stay safe, healthy, and sane!! 🙂

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      My man Hal coaches cross country at Weirdcliffe and reports similar performance. No slouch himself, he was legging it along one day ahead of the team and felt a presence tucked in behind him. It was one of the girls.

      • SAO' Says:

        It’s funny how many different people you’ll see this attributed to.

        “Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” – Fausto Coppi, David Mamet, Tamora Pierce(?), Joan Gruffard (again, who?), Wayne Freaking Newton, Willie Nelson, and the old standby, “Greek Proverb.”

  2. khal spencer Says:

    I have lost track of how many times I’ve been dusted by the younger crowd. What’s cool about that is we have managed to grow the cycling fraternity with the next generation. Some time ago there was concern that with TCWSNBN being disrobed of all his medals and credibility, cycling would tail off. But here in Fanta Se at least, its thriving. No bike shops (knock on titanium) have gone belly up and indeed, practically sold out.

    Agree on the wind, which was a bit of a bear up here so I took the Stumpjumper out on La Tierra, getting used to the new section and only taking one bad curve on a sharp descent and having to bushwhack my way back onto the trail. Fortunately, no one was around with a camera. There is enough cover on those trails that I didn’t get blown off the course but it sure got cold.

    • SAO' Says:

      My favorite quick run in Hawaii was from my apartment in the middle of Kailua to Kalapawai Market , then hang a right and do the Lanikai loop. The homes in Lanikai didn’t look like much, but if you could afford to live there, you were doing already.

      And I was maybe 32 at the time, and had run the Honolulu Marathon twice, the Oahu Perimeter Run once, half a dozen half marathons, and the same number of century rides.

      But every time I went through Lanikai, I got passed by someone I had no business letting go by me. A woman pushing a double BOB stroller. A Geta-wearing seventy-year old. More than one guy with a full lower prosthetic.

      Hawaii was awesome for ones ego, because the second you thought your PR was something worth bragging about, you’d get a full serving of 21 crows baked into a humble pie.

      • SAO' Says:

        … doing alright, not doing already, already!

      • khal spencer Says:

        Nice. Lanikai Loop was one of the side shows on our tandem rides from Kalama Valley. We would head out over Makapu’u Point, cruise through the back of Waimanalo, and then up Kalanianaole Highway and through Kailua and sometimes do a loop through Lanikai.

        Truth, brah, about the prices in Lanikai. I had a colleague, a geophysicist, who lived there. Either he was getting paid way more than I was (likely) or bought before the prices went through the roof, which they seemed to do periodically, leaving us without our shirts.

        I tried racing there with the Oahu Cycling Team, sponsored by The Bike Way on Ward Avenue. As I said once before, that taught me humility. as Dirty Harry said, “a man’s got to know his limitations”. In a race, I would blow up on every hard climb.

        • SAO' Says:

          I was renting in Kailua, and Uncle Sugar was paying me my O-3 salary times 125% in housing allowance, so I only looking at the real estate market as a voyeur. Can’t remember the exact numbers, but if I had paid cash and bought my apartment outright, the HOA/maintenance fee was more than my mortgage payment in Georgia. Seemed like a common story was, folks either inherited their property or bought it before the explosion. And now their home was worth way more than they paid for it. But there was no way to cash out, because then you had to find someplace else to live, and you were starting the game all over again.

          Also noticed that maybe 10 years after we left, all of my favorite burrito places, bagel shops, smoothie shops, and coffee houses were all out of business and replaced by chains.

        • SAO' Says:

          Our standard Saturday ride was clockwise from Kailua to the marina in Hawaii Kai. We’d stop there at a coffee shop for 2 smoothies and an everything bagel with cream cheese and bacon. In the year or so after that, I think I wrote Clif a dozen letters begging for a cream cheese and bacon Clif bar.

          Pretty sure that coffee shop is now buried underneath a Costco, Outback, Dunkins, and Starbucks.

          Boston’s Pizza is the only local favorite of ours that seems to still be in biz. Their spinach/garlic/white was the best.

      • Shawn Says:

        I was a starving student on Oahu back in ’84. I recall eating a lot of canned mackeral and ramen. A couple of times when we were out of food, and of course I was starving, I recall buttering bread with butter flavored Crisco and eating that. Yum ! I still recall the greasy after-feeling in my mouth. The point is, the thought of buying any kind of a home or apartment was out of our realm of thought. We were paying $600 a month for a two bedroom apartment down behind Holiday Mart near the Ala Wai canal, and the only reason we could afford that was because Alaska offered very generous student loans and at that time, Hawaii and Alaska had tuition reciprocity. Gee, am I going to go to school in Alaska, or take a year and go to school in Hawaii? Hmmm. I don’t remember the distance around the point over to Kailua, but my training distances at that time in my racing career (chuckle) were not extensive, and I think I made it over there and back only a couple of times. I never came back over via the Pali lookout because I don’t think it was a practical route – If I recall correctly it was all treacherous freeway. Riding back then on Hawaii roadways was not really the safest thing to do.

        • SAO' Says:

          my go-to poor student trick was to get the $1 bowl of chili at Wendy’s, then take 100 saltine packs and 50 packs of ketchup. Half the saltines went towards making the chili last for 3 meals, the other half mixed with the ketchup to make tomato soup.

          Yeah, not sure I ever saw a bike on the Pali. Not sure it even had a shoulder back in the day. That was my drive to work every day, Kailua to Fort Shafter, right by the airport and the Big Salmon Building. Scenic as all get-out, but keep your eye on the road, for sure.

        • khal spencer Says:

          Nuuanu Pali Drive or something like that got you up to the top of the climb from the Honolulu side but then you had to get on the Pali. That said, it was a downhill run through the tunnels. I used to do a loop in the summer, leaving my office at UH Manoa, heading through town to Nuuanu-Pali, up over the Pali and then back down the Windward side to Hawaii Kai. But I never rode up Pali Hwy from the Windward side. Treacherous.

          The old Pali Road was still passable on a bicycle when I lived there in the nineties. You could ride it up from Kailua and with a bit of scrambling, get on the Pali Hwy once you were going downhill again. We used that road a couple times for the Dick Evans but I think it was crumbling away too much. I followed the pack on a rented motorcycle once, when I was doing race caravan duty. Scary, esp. as all the curves were moss covered.

  3. Pat O'Brien Says:

    I was riding my commuter bike, a nice C’Dale hybrid, home from work one day, and I was cooking up a short climb. A young soldier in fatigues and combat boots on a Wally world special bike passed me like I was standing still. I also got swallowed up by a group of supported women touring riders. Once they found out that I rode that route often because I live here, while they had to pay big money to do it, they dropped me like a bad habit.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I think I’ve mentioned the time Hal and I rode Hardscrabble Cañon with a young fella from the Pueblo newspaper who fancied himself a fast man on a bike.

      I had been racing for quite a few years, and was outfitted in full Mad Dog regalia. The kid turns up wearing all the hip kit, and with some nice bike.

      Hal is aboard some beat-to-shit, Biopace-equipped beater that hadn’t seen maintenance since Heck was a pup, and he’s wearing a cotton T-shirt, running shorts, and running shoes (his bike had clipless pedals, but he had those little plastic platforms clipped into them that let you ride with street shoes). Topping this ensemble of the absurd was a skating helmet.

      Now, Hal may be a little casual about gear, but he is always stronger than a horseradish-and-jalapeño sammich washed down with Everclear. So naturally he takes off like a turpentined jackrabbit, and straight away I’m chasing the sonofabitch like he owes me money. Didn’t catch him until about halfway up the steepest bit, and didn’t get much of a gap after that.

      The newspaper dude was DFL. Shortly afterward he sold the bike, gave up the newspaper game, and turned to the Lord for solace.

  4. Michael Porter Says:


    As you know this is still an everyday occurrence with Michele (i.e. she kicks my @$$). She too tangled horns with that crowd you mentioned, and then some. Whether it was her first Hell of the North Boulder series in the early 90’s or on the roads of Idaho. Even at 57, and me being three years younger, she still is a highlight reel on STRAVA particularly in the hills.

    All the best to you and Shannon and a Happy Thanksgiving.

    Michael P

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      O, yeah, in Bibleburg a fella had to get comfortable with having his ass handed to him by the women (and most of the junior men, too). That was a tough crowd.

      Two of my favorite memories:

      (1) Watching the dudes fight for Mari Holden’s wheel on a windy ride down to the racetrack south of Fountain. This was not only nigh-on impossible, it was pointless, because drafting Mari was like trying to draft a hummingbird full of loco weed.

      (2) Watching Danny Pate and Mike Creed out in front of the Sunday training ride through the Air Force Academy. They were fresh back from across the pond and having a high old time. “This is how we ride in Europe!” one shouted and the two of them slammed shoulders together and started shoving each other all over the road.

      A happy T-day back atcha from Herself and me/

  5. Says:

    meh, i console myself with the conjectures that will they be riding at my age (>75) and that i am still faster than those in the cemetery…

  6. Shawn Says:

    Velocity and being passed is a relatively thing. If those who are prettier, younger, older and prettier, almost as old as I and not nearly as ugly, and everyone else in particular, are passing me on a grinding 1% climb or failing to allow me to draft them as they mash out into the wind, then it might be because I want to go faster then them in the other direction. So there !

    The longer you ride, the longer you have to enjoy the ride.

  7. Tony Geller Says:

    Since it’s just after the traditional El Tour de Tucson weekend, perhaps a story of the reverse. Many years ago I was riding El Tour and our group came up to the T-Mobile women’s team going very easy. Everyone but me kept going while I slowed down and asked if I could tag along at the back, which they graciously allowed. I got to hear their stories and team chatter and share an enjoyable time; the ones who pushed on got an unremarkable and totally forgettable time.

    As a footnote, the team wrote about the day for one of the online pubs and how they were told it was an easy day and under no circumstances were they to go above a recovery pace.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      My old comrade Charles Pelkey always enjoyed covering the women’s races, in part because they were less bristly about the whole deal than their male counterparts.

      I remember once when I was stinking it up on Wolf Creek Pass, during what I think was called the Pagosa Springs Stage Race, Dede Demet led the women’s break past me and took a moment to holler some encouragement. It was a stunner, what with me being more accustomed to abuse. (Get out of my way, watch your line, call yourself a cyclist, etc.)

      • Pat O’Brien Says:

        We always worked neutral support for the women’s races at the Vuelta de Bisbee. There were a variety of reasons for that, but the biggest one was they had a overall better attitude towards the sport and us volunteers.

  8. khal spencer Says:

    Apparently, Eddie B checked out due to Covid.

  9. Herb from Michigan Says:

    Rail trail only 1/2 mile down the way and I ride it a lot on a heavy ass commuter bike to run errands.. It has 8 internal gears and clipless pedals.Over and over I kept getting passed by a woman MY AGE on a 3 speed Browning in flip flops for chrissakes! A few times I would spot her up ahead and resolve to catch and pass and it took all I had to do so and sometimes I failed. She became a white whale of sorts for me out there on the high seas of tarmac.Didn’t see her for a couple of years and then this summer I did. O Lord she now has a new bike with a rear derailleur indicating at least 7 speeds! . I’m doomed…I probably won’t keep up even with my Ti Road bike…especially since she wasn’t wearing the usual flip flops.

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