DNFing @ Bubba’s

Today was the Bubba Xmas CX race in Gill, MA. It was a race, but not really a race–the organizer cancelled it due to snow and downed trees on the property after a good bit of weather. Our money was refunded and an “at your own risk” race was held instead. Since there were only 11 total racers pre-reg’d, this was more of an informal, connect with your local cycling community event. Very low key and small. All the pressure was off for this one, and I was happy to check out this somewhat local course.

Jon O was smart enough to bring the mtb.

Jon O was smart enough to bring the mtb.

I arrived 10 minutes before start time and got about a half a lap preride in before beginning. Heather and I both lined up in the rear. The men took off and quickly formed a single thread of riders. The course was treacherous in some places. The flat parts in the center field had a few inches of snow to grind through. Finding a line in the snow was a crapshoot. The woods were pretty straightforward. A little muddy and greasy in the corners but manageable. The singletrack by the river had icy descents that threatened to dump you in the the drink if you didn’t have the bike handling skills. My first lap I took very easy.

There was a long hill with a gnarly descent at the start of the second lap. There were a few descents which prompted me to get down in the drops for better brake control and keep my ass off the saddle and as far back as I could manage for balance. Many parts of the course favored a mountain bike, and a few guys had the presence of mind to bring theirs. Cross bikes worked, but probably weren’t the best tool for the job.

The only pavement there.

The only pavement there.

My second lap went better, and faster, although I was not going race speed. The snow made that impossible, really, and the course conditions were dicey enough to warrant caution. I concentrated on my “smooth is fast” mantra and started clearing sections I previously dismounted for. I was shocked when I made it through the mud section on the banks of the river without a single dismount. I was starting to have some fun, and the course was exactly what I like–technical. Things were definitely improving, and I was feeling decent when I started lap 3 (with 4 to go….)

That’s when the crash happened.

There was a long hill after an icy bridge, some loose rock where there wasn’t snow and ice, and then thick mud. I dismounted and ran (ok, walked) the bike here. I did not remount at the crest of the hill, because the conditions of the descent was just a little too sketchy for a “fun” race. I walked it down to a semi flat section about halfway down the hill, then remounted and pointed my front wheel forward. Before I knew what was happening, the bike slide out from underneath me and I slammed down hard on the side of the hill.  It took me a moment to collect myself–I was a bit dazed and I wasn’t sure I wasn’t seriously hurt. My head had hit the ground hard and I felt my helmet catch the impact. I was shaken up, and it took me a moment or two to get to my feet and clear my bike from the course. When I got clear, another rider crashed in the exact same spot–except he hopped up unharmed and kept going. I considered for a split second continuing, but I felt shaken up enough that I decided to just head back to the fire burning in an old oil barrel at the start line.

Heather, who had abandoned after the first 100 feet of the race in favor of spectating saw me walking my bike back and came to intercept me. I hadn’t noticed my chain had dropped from the crash. The entire left side of my body was coated in mud from my upper shoulder down to my ankle. I knew I was OK–but not really OK enough to jump back in the action. We waited for the guys to finish next to the fire.

Sliding down a muddy hill will rip your number off.

Sliding down a muddy hill will rip your number off.

This race wasn’t official, didn’t count for anything but fun, good practice and a reason to socialize with your selected cycling tribe. I had that in mind the whole time. But I was still second guessing my decision to stop. I had a lousy race at Cheshire and had wanted this to be fun, but redeeming. Although I know I made the right decision, I had wanted a different outcome. When I got home, I examined my helmet and found it had cracked it from the impact. I knew I banged my upper thigh pretty good but the circle of pain had many friends who have now made their presence known. My knee, upper thigh, lower glute, shoulder and the palm of my right hand has a purple lump growing on it. I’m sore all over from the body slam from mother earth. But it’s my ego that still suffers the most…..

cracked

Thanks to Heather for being my cheering squad and riding over from her house to watch the carnage. And thanks for making sure I got home ok!

There is still Scrub Zone Nationals on January 11th. I might need to wait until then for redemption

-Karen

CX Season Ain’t Over Yet

Elvis has left the building and is shredding CX snow!

It was 13 F degrees this morning when I woke up. I have patches of lawn showing through the snow outside my window, and if the wind blows, your face turns to wood in under a minute. The cold enough to drive the heartiest New Englander inside to a roaring fire, a tattered quilt and fond memories of mud and tearing quads to warm the soul. But it’s only December 8th, and it’s not over until it’s over.

The race schedule for #NECX is still pretty healthy. Here’s the rundown for coming weeks:

The Ice Weasels Cometh, Rowley, MA Saturday Dec 13, 2014
March Farm Cyclo Madness, Part of the CT Cross Series, Bethelehem, CT Saturday Dec 13, 2014
Bubba’s XMAS Cross presented by Snocountry, Gill, MA Sunday Dec 14, 2014
DAS Beaver CX, North Grosvernordale, CT, Sun Dec 14, 2014
Elm City Cross, New Haven, CT Sunday Dec 21, 2014
Scrub Zone Nationals, West Warwick, RI, Jan 11, 2015

This is the time of year when #NECX starts to let it’s hair down. Ice Weasels sets the tone as one of the most famous, well attended, and fun CX races. I’ve never been but the mythological proportions of this race are all over the interwebs. March Farms is a new race. I was planning on going. I still might. Or I might finish my Christmas shopping-I haven’t decided yet. I have, however, signed up for Bubba CX. It’s only 25 miles away and I can’t beat that with a stick. It’s going to be a small race, but fun. So far only me and Heather have signed up for the women’s race….and as much as I like riding with Heather I hope we get a few more.

The DAS Beaver CX is also this weekend, and if Bubba wasn’t happening, I’d be there. It’s a little further away but I had the BEST time at BeaverCX last year. The pickle and  grannie panty hand-ups are not to be missed. Last year, Elvis raced-in the snow. What could be better?

Pretty.  Average.

Pretty. Average.

Elm City is next weekend, and a little too far away and a little too close to the holiday for me. What I’m really looking forward is Scrub Zone Nationals. Another brainchild of @resultsboy who also birthed the entire Weasels series, as well as creating the website I spend silly amounts of time obsessing on, crossresults.com. Scrub Zone is for all of us NOT going to Nationals. Because, you know, we suck. So this race is for us. I haven’t signed up yet, but I’m thinking, yes, sign up Karen, it’s your last chance for  a B category CX race for another 9 months. Take it.

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Thankful Cycling-My Top Ten this Thanksgiving

Grateful, thankful, happy.  I’m feeling it this year.  Are you?  Here’s my top ten list.

10.) For cycling! It’s been there for me during some of the toughest parts of my life. It smooths my rough edges, and makes me a better person, keeps me in shape, calms and mellows me in ways no drug can. I derive so much joy from cycling in nearly all it’s disciplines, I cannot express my gratitude enough for the sport.

9.) Lara bars. These have been a key addition to my nutrition routine.  Gluten free, diary free, soy free, all natural, all awesome and freaking delicious. I’m so happy I discovered them.

8.) My helmet. I’m always amazed when I see someone riding without on. I haven’t had to use it yet but I know eventually, it will save my noggin. I thank my helmet in advance. Wear one!

7.) Strava. Social, competitive, and with amazing amounts of data. I have no idea how I existed before Strava!

6.) Full fingered cycling gloves. Yup, used them the last 2 races because it’s that cold already. Makes all the difference.

5.) My new workplace. There are 2, count em, 2 guys there who are avid cyclists that I can geek out with.

4.) My LBS-Highland Hardware and Bike in Holyoke, Massachusetts. These guys have treated me very well for 15 years. And while I’ve flirted with other shops, they are the consistent winners with a tenured, veteran staff that focuses on friendly service.

3.) My bike mechanic(s). You guys never get enough credit.

2.) My girlfriend, who drives me crazy sometimes (so I return the favor). But, she reliably supports my cycling by watching my son and pushes me out the door so I get my bike ride, and who has single-handedly equipped me with most of the cool cycling gear like my Garmin, my Contour video cam (which yes I need to actually use), a few of my kits, and my road ID.

1.) My sweet, kind, good natured and compassionate son. He amazes me daily with his surprising wit, his consideration of others, and his internal sense of kindness and justice. He makes me proud every single day–which sounds like a commonly expressed sentiment, but it’s true. I beam. I’m most grateful for him.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014 everyone!

-Karen

Monday Morning Quarterbacking, Cyclocross Style

One more month of cyclocross left, and I’m looking for a redemption race. No grandiose dreams of podiums, just my dignity. I don’t mind placing last or close to last if I leave it all out there on the course. But I didn’t bring anything to leave.

If this were a line graph, it would be going in the wrong direction.

The Cheshire CX Course.

The Cheshire CX Course.

Results were posted today from Cheshire, and I placed 14 of 15. I haven’t done that poorly in a race since my very first one.  What the hell happened to me out there? The lungs were definitely compromised, but looking at my specific results from the last 3 years, my best overall was when I got started in this sport 3 years ago. My very best lap time was from last year, and my absolute worst performance was from 3 days ago.

Reflecting, I wasn’t totally focused on the race. I’m not in crisis nor have anything distracting happening in my life, I just wasn’t amped up. It was cold. Like, really cold. My lungs did crap out on me in a pretty terrific way. Still–with all these things, I still should have done better.

And it’s not like these are fast times to begin with, but I always seek to improve, and this data shows no improvement. Quite the opposite.

Also, and quite curious, is the fact that in 2012, I was racing on the Specialized Tricross–which is an awesome bike, but it weighed 25 lbs, which might as well been a million lbs. What’s up with that?  Maybe the weight of it helped me bomb down the hills faster–I don’t know.

I could drive myself and anyone around me crazy with my constant questioning, analysis, and self scrutiny, but that won’t do any good. Time to move forward to another venue, with a stronger effort.

Cheshire CX 2014 Race Report

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I’ve always really liked the course at Cheshire. There’s a lot of woods time, and enough off the bike action to keep anyone happy. But yesterday, I had a less than stellar performance at Cheshire CX.

They started the women together with the Pro-3’s staged first, and the 3/4s behind them, to start a minute later. I just barely got a position on the front row, seeded 8th of the 16 who pre-registered. My start was decent enough for the first 100 feet, but after the first turn the next straightaway before entering the woods left me quite in the dust. I gulped the cold air in (about 38 degrees) and my lungs seized before the first run-up. I spent the next 2 laps not riding, but drowning. I don’t mean to be gross, but the cold was such a shock to my lungs they filled with fluid. I could not clear it fast enough. This has happened before at this race–it’s just that time of year and my lungs froze up.

The trails were much harder packed than I remembered–they almost seemed groomed to me. I moved through the woods alright–not as fast as I would have liked but the technical sections were fine. I finally reached the 80 meter hill, AKA Heckler’s Hill, AKA “The People’s Hill,” I think I heard it referred to a few other nicknames. The first 2 times up I was DYING. There was a person dressed as a cross between a teddy bear and Chewbacca, (or maybe an Ewok?) and I thought I saw the Easter Bunny… but I had my head down for most of it as I was off the bike and pushing upward. Drums beat loudly. Spectators leaned in and screamed in my ears. I was offered a San Pellegrino hand up (what, no beer? So disappointing). By the time I reached the top, I was light-headed and starry-eyed, and not because I was in love with that hill. Involuntarily, I slowed. I had to. I just wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I wasn’t really racing, I was just riding-just surviving. I didn’t want it to be like this, but it was.

By the 3rd lap, I was riding better. My lungs were a bit more under control and I just tried to ride well. I had been lapped by most of the Pro field and at least 1 cat 3 woman. Definitely not my day out there. I kind of knew it would be that way going in, too. I’ve ridden 10 miles in 2 weeks, which is a big problem. It was pretty cold yesterday, and I usually adjust well to colder temps, but I haven’t made the switch yet. I also crashed twice. Minor crashes, nothing serious but enough to slow me down enough to be passed by a rider I probably could have held off otherwise. Meh. I can’t worry about it too much. I’m 44 years old and doing this crazy sport for fun. And the race–it was fun. But I have a lot more fun when I’m really racing, when I’m physically performing, and this time, I just wasn’t.

So now, I have to find a race to do between now and the end of the season to end on a high note. I’m considering one or 2 other races….but the fields are tough, they just keep getting younger and faster, and I just keep getting older and slower. Maybe it’s time to get serious with that trainer in the basement.

Mo Bruno Roy in her Stars & Stripe World Champ Singlespeed kit, tearing up the course.

Mo Bruno Roy in her Stars & Stripe National Champ Singlespeed kit, tearing up the course.

On another note; the race was PACKED. This is my 3rd year doing this race and I have never seen so many people. They had fires going which took the chill off when you got close enough to them. The costumes were a blast and they had a huge turnout for the Singlespeed Race. As a bonus, Cyclocross Singlespeed National Champion, the one and only, Mo Bruno Roy raced. So awesome. I met Mo a couple of years ago and she is super nice, and I found out we are from the same town originally (she moved when she was still a kid). Anyway–any cyclist with a Boston accent is OK in my book :) I got a few pics of her in her stars and stripes kit. And the race announcers did an excellent job calling the race, keeping it lively with a professional feel.

No, it wasn’t my day at Cheshire yesterday–but still a great race, and growing in popularity. Put it on your list for next year if you can!

-Karen

Keene Pumpkin Cross Race Report 2014

Me and mysterious co-blogger!  She exists!

Keene Pumpkin Cross

This was the first year of this race, held on the same weekend as the annual Keene PumpkinFest which is famous regionally, but this year, made national news when students from Keene State went crazy and started flipping cars and rioting. 84 were arrested. Made my years at UMASS look innocent. Fortunately, the race venue was far away from the carnage of PumpkinFest. It was a small race, a little over 100 racers in total. Heather joined me for this one, with 15 total in our combined category (3/4). I wanted 8th at least. I got 10th. I raced–mailed nothing in. While I wanted 8th, I know my competition was fitter and earned the better positions. I am happy I held off one racer, who was seriously reeling me in during the 3rd and 4th laps. At a critical point, I managed to hold her off (even when I dropped my chain after a remount), and stayed away for 10th. I like the racing, and I had some good racing here.

IMG_0248

The course was also somewhat muddy–not terrible, but greasy and boggy in spots. There was a lot of sand, a lot of flat, powerful sections (which do not favor me), and a very cold wind. I wore leggings for this race. There was a good run up, a log jump, sand, and a couple of barriers.  It sounds like a lot of technical elements, but it really wasn’t. Anyone good at crits or road racing would have the advantage here, and that sure wasn’t me.

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I had fun, and that’s the point. Set on a lake with the autumn New Hampshire foliage as a backdrop, you couldn’t ask for much better. They had hot chocolate and hot dogs and other goodies, but I did not partake. It was a nice little venue–great for friends and family alike. I’ll do this again next year if they have it.

-Karen

More photos from Geoff Martin, who is a great photographer. See his other work here.

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Providence KMC Cyclocross Festival 2014 Race Report

I’ve fallen behind on my blogging this season, for a ton of great reasons.  Never mind those, here’s the report:

Providence KMC Cyclocross Festival

I can say with a lot of confidence, after experiencing this race for the third time, that this is my all time favorite cyclocross race. The buzz around the course was that there is a push for this venue to be a future World Cup location.  I have never met anyone who doesn’t LOVE Providence in terms of a cyclocross race.  It’s really a remarkable venue, remarkable course, and amazing ride, every. Single. Time.  This time they had a total of 3 flyovers, one of them a double flyover, which was -OMG- totally awesome.  And a jump!  How awesome is that?

114 women lined up and I was one of them.  I finished 86th and had a great time.  I’m never going to do “well” at this race, but I’m always going to love it.  I was happy with my performance.  Good race, went hard, saw friends, had fun.  Mission accomplished.  Here are some pictures:

Me and my 13 year old nemesis, Maddy.  She beat me this time!  Watch for her to keep moving up the ranks.

Me and my 13 year old nemesis, Maddy. She beat me this time! Watch for her to keep moving up the ranks.

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Around the hairpin media tower.

Steady pedal section--wasn't much of this but when it came, you took it.

Steady pedal section–wasn’t much of this but when it came, you took it.

World Cup?  Yes, please.

-Karen

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