Archive by Author | Karen

Why I’m totally, completely, not ready for cyclocross

Ug!  I’m not riding nearly enough for so many reasons.  I’d like to being doing 70-80+ miles a week.  Instead, I’m sometimes breaking 40. Why?  Same old same old.

  1. No sitter.  Freaking babysitters, I cannot find a reliable one to save my life.  I really need to fix this because I’m not riding my bike after work.
  2. Work. I was riding to and from work every once and a while.  That’s pretty much stopped now.  There’s several reasons for this I won’t get into, but mostly it’s extremely difficult to squeeze 20 mins of riding before and after work, put a full day in, and still make it back in time to pick up my son from day camp.  I just don’t have to time without something giving.
  3. Needing rides to be more for fun.  I’ve been super stressed lately and I use riding to work out tension, fill my brain with endorphins, and clear my head of the bullshit of life.

My life feels wobbly right now, and one of the most grounding elements for me in the last 10 years has been cycling. Friday evening I picked the hardest place I know to mountain bike.  I needed to mash pedals, to hurt, to jar myself free of my stress. I fell off a bridge into the muddy edge of a pond. Win. Then, last Saturday I had the whole day to ride, and I thought about doing a 50 miler. Then I thought, well, maybe 40. Then I thought, no. Imposing a goal was just adding to my stress, and not taking it away.  I needed to just go ride my bike and let the rest work itself out.  It worked.  26 miles and I found a strong steady rhythm.  I pedaled until I felt resolved, if only for a little while.  Then I went home and got shit done (which also helps my stress).  Sunday, rain was forecast so I tried to beat it. I didn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing. Mountain biking in the warm rain washed my week clean. Mountain biking always means a 1/3 of the miles I’d be doing on a road bike, but the visceral action of mountain biking is like deep tissue massage for my soul.

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That leaves me here: not really ready for cyclocross. OK I’ve been riding some, but not training.  Major Jake is still hanging in my basement, untuned, unlubed and needing new bar tape.  I’m not doing intervals.  I’m not practicing dismounts.  I’m not practicing remounts. I’m not trying to cure my stutter step.  I’m not practicing carries, suit-casing, or shouldering while sprinting up a muddy hill. And I haven’t built that single speed cx bike yet either.

And I have to be honest, I’m not sure I should be putting my energies here, since life is needing my time and energy and some work that doesn’t involve a bicycle.

I have a vacation coming up and will be riding my bike at the largest mountain bike park in the world.  While it’s unwise to have expectations, mine are high.  I won’t by riding the whole time but I will be immersed in one of the most active mountain biking cultures on the earth: Whistler, BC.  Maybe after I return, I can refocus on cyclocross, and some of the non bicycle parts of my life.  Because all of it can be better.  

-Karen

CX Race Scheduling Taking Form 2014

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At last BikeReg is showing some of the first CX races of the season and I’m starting to plan. I know, I know, it’s only July. What’s the hurry? Truth is, doing 10+ races in one season isn’t going to happen without some serious planning. Here’s what I’ve jotted down so far. The * indicates races not yet scheduled but based on history, they are anticipated. So don’t hold me to any of this!

Saturday August 23, CompEdge CX Race at Forest Park, Springfield, MA

Saturday Sept 6, Big Elm CX at Butternut Ski Area, Great Barrington, MA

Sunday September 7, Quad CX, Maynard, MA* (Tentative)

Saturday September 27 and Sunday September 28, Gran Prix of Gloucester, Gloucester, MA* (probably just Saturday)

Wednesday October 1, The Night Weasels Cometh, Shrewsbury, MA (Tentative)

Saturday October 4 and Sunday October 5, Providence Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI (probably just one of these days)

Saturday November 1 and Sunday November 2, Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race, Northampton, MA*

This is ambitious, and I likely won’t hit all of these races. In my life, everything is subject to change. That said, I loved the course at Quad CX but the race isn’t scheduled yet, and co-blogger Heather is doing Big Elm that same weekend, and driving from the middle of the state to the far west of the state to the far east of the state over one weekend is a bit much. But still, I might sneak that one in. Gloucester will probably only be Saturday.  I might be doing the Rugged Maniac OCR back in western MA on the 28th, because cyclocross isn’t enough torture for me.

Night Weasels has been on my list for a couple of years but childcare is ALWAYS an issue (please, where have all the good babysitters gone?  I swear they are IMPOSSIBLE to find). It’s an hour 15 from my house, and I work 45 minutes away, you can see logistically it is difficult. But hey, that’s what personal days are for. Now if I can only find a sitter….

Providence might just be one day. Depending upon a number of factors, some financial, I may get a room and stay overnight. We’ll see.

I’ll have to wait to see how the rest of the schedule shakes out, and how the rest of my life is accommodating my desire to abuse myself on cold autumn weekends. I do know one thing:  I need to start training right now, because the last few weeks have been light on challenging rides. Intervals, hills, and doing things that push me out of my comfort zone need to start happening ASAP.

Also, for a week in August I am on vacation. I plan to be very active and will be riding, but not big miles. It will be, however, be doing some big mountain riding as I am heading to Whistler, BC to the best mountain bike park in the WORLD. That, my friends, will not suck.

 

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I still have mid October, November, and December to consider as well.  But those feel like a long way away right now, and this feels like a good place to start.

-Karen

Spartan Sprint Mohegan Sun

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Last year, I did a Warrior Dash, and it was fun. A 5K with a few fun and dirty obstacles. It was over pretty quickly, enough time to hang out with some friends from High School and have a few beers, and I was happily sore afterwards.

So it didn’t seem like a big deal to sign up for a Spartan Sprint. I signed up last February, and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

My girlfriend mentioned it to me a couple of weeks ago; she had started running to prep for it. I wasn’t particularly concerned. I ride my bike all the time and I’m in great shape–really, this is NBD, right?

So, so, wrong.

We left early and arrived at Mohegan Sun about 2 hours before out start time.  PLENTY of time to register, pin numbers, check our bag. And better–a clutch parking spot in the garage, attached to the casino–which means access to REAL bathrooms (no port-o-pottie!). We ventured into the casino in search of sunscreen, and benefited from the shade of a dark, air conditioned, oxygen rich environment. Outside the sun was bright and shining hot–temps quickly ramping into the upper 80’s and lower 90’s. We prepped to start, staying cool as long as possible.

The start should have been the first clue. To simply load into the starting area, you had to get over a 4 foot wall. 250 people in our heat hopping over a 4 foot wall in a 10 minute period.

What’s a Burpee?

We started with a chest thumping Arooo! and were off.  The first obstacle after the start was a 6 foot wall.  Um, yeah.  I gave my gf a hoist but then was left alone on the other side without a team member.  The penalty for not completing a challenge was 30 burprees, which was the 1st thing I didn’t know about this event. Not to mention, until then I had never DONE a burpee. I asked a impossibly good looking, mostly naked, I just walked off the cover of Men’s Health Magazine dude for a lift over the 6 foot wall. Young man, could you help your mom over this wall?  It worked. Half a second later, I was over–no burpees this time.

The next obstacles were pretty easy. Hay bales, over a few 4 foot walls, under some barriers with netting, and through some trenches of muddy water. The heat and sun were worse than the course so far. This was going well. Then we hit the barbed wire. About 50 feet of it.  Some of it was electrified. I’ve crawled under barbed wire before but never this low, never this much.  The ground was grassy, but that was too gentle, so sharp landscaping stones were sprinkled throughout the course to drag your body across. The sun beat down hard. Sweat poured, grass stuck to our clothes. Pinned numbers were scattered on the ground, ripped off people’s shirts. Now the fun was really beginning.

An elevation change, a woods run, then the sandbag carry. I don’t know how many pounds it was, but we carried it up a steep grade and loose dirt hill, then back down that same hill. Hot, slow, punishing. The climb was slower than you intended your legs to move. Between the weight of the bag and the intense heat, gravity felt twice as heavy. Finally, we dumped the bags at the bottom and pressed on.

More woods, more hiking. We entered the Mohegan Reservation which as a child I would have imagined Native Americans hunting and running through the woods, silent as a deer. Nothing like the slow steady, sometimes clumsy march we were on. Almost everyone was walking now, and eventually we came to the cargo net climb. This was about 12 or 15 feet high, I’m not good with distances. The net was only so big and with so many people on it, it bounced and stretched in every direction, making climbing and coming over the top extra challenging. Several people who had made it over pulled a turn at the bottom, pulling it taut by sitting on the ground, bracing the net with arms and legs to keep the tension on and assist other climbers get over with out getting literally bounced off. When I got over, I took a turn at the bottom, while a guy who weighed in at approximately 240 lbs. nearly came crashing down on me. He didn’t, thankfully. We advanced to the next challenge.

How long is this race?

What was the next challenge?  I’m not even sure. There was a spear throw, and inverted wall climb, a rope climb over 4 feet of freezing cold water, more walls, more barriers to scootch under and over and through. I failed the spear throw (had to make it stick in a hay target), which meant 30 burpees, and I failed the rope climb over the cold water, which was another 30 burpees. The heat was insane. I was about 20 burpees in after the rope climb when I felt a shrill pain from the back of both my thighs simultaneously. I froze mid-burpee and crawled into an upright pose. I had really pulled something–two somethings, equally, and I didn’t feel bad about NOT doing the additional 10 burpees. I took a break and strolled to the next obstacle, which was lifting a 60 lb. round cannonball off the ground, carry it across to another station, drop it, do 5 burpees, then pick it up and carry it back. Asinine. There was a real back up at this challenge for the women, because many women struggled lifting the 60 round pounds. We were allowed to help each other on this, it was really the only way to keep things moving. I was happy I was able to left it on my own, but passed the round cement ball to another woman waiting on the other side when I was finishing the challenge.

We were now 4 miles into the race, and I thought it all along it was a 5K. We went back into the woods and up a steep rocky path, a rock garden, more switch backs. 90% of the people were walking. We could see the casino now. We flipped a few humongous tires, then climbed a few stories up a wooden ladder, across a massive platform that bridged a street, and back down. This was the last bunch of challenges and all at the finale. The herculean hoist, the traverse wall, the rope walk up a slanted wall, and finally–the fire jump. We were done!  Medals and bananas and a free t-shirt awaited us.

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We didn’t stay for the free beer–my coupon was ripped off my bib a left to be found somewhere on the course. We had left the house at 6:45AM and didn’t get home until 5:30PM. I was out cold by 8PM. Two days later and I’m still moving like a geriatric. I won’t underestimate a Spartan Sprint again.

-Karen

Cyclcocross Schedules Are Going Up 2014

The first races of the 2014 NECX season have been posted to Bikereg. Like a freak, I’ve been obsessively checking the site a few times a week.  Finally a few days ago, The first races of the season were posted:  Monson and Blunt Park.

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The women’s start at Monson CX 2013.

A lot of people feel August is too early for CX.  I’m not such a purist.  With my schedule–I am quite happy for an opportunity for the season to start early.

August 23, 2014  CompEdge Cyclocross Race in Monson, MA  Springfield, MA (Forest Park).It’s a smaller race but the course is pretty tough–eating tires and spitting them out. Last year it was a hot, dry dust bowl.  I felt like there was a film of dirt in my mouth by the third lap.  Very technical race, very fun. still being built.  Complaints abut last year’s course has prompted organizers to move the venue to Forest Park in Springfield.  It’s still supposed to be a rough and tumble course, just not as tire – eating as Monson.

August 24, 2014  Blunt Park Cyclocross Race in Springfield, MA  I didn’t do this race last year.  I hear it’s fast, fast, fast–a course that doesn’t really favor me. I’ll take the technical stuff over the flat and fast any day.  I doubt I’ll do this one.

September 6, 2014 Big Elm Brewing Cyclocross Challenge in Great Barrington, MA  This race had the great misfortunate of being scheduled last year during the same weekend as the Gloucester Gran Prix. The turnout was less than 100 racers. This year it’s been moved up so the turnout should be much improved.

September 7, 2014 Quad CX in Maynard, MA This isn’t posted yet but I’m 99% sure this is the date. This race was SO FUN last year. Fast spots, twisty, turny, technical, and loads of fun. Turnouts are strong being in Metrowest of Boston. I’d really like to do this one again.

September 13, 2014 Aetna Silk City Cyclocross in Manchester, CT  The first race I ever did!  In 2012 it was pretty technical. In 2013, it was a freaking mountain bike course with all the gnar it had. Not for the faint of heart! But a great race. Unfortunately I don’t think my schedule will allow me to race it, but I might drive down and watch Heather if she signs up.

The rest isn’t scheduled yet, but we already know Gloucester is happening the last weekend of September (27-28), Followed by Providence CX Festival my birthday weekend October 4-5. Northampton CSIcx will likely fall on it’s regular weekend too, November 1-2.

With cyclocross season starting up at the end of August, that means by mid July I’ll be switching to the Kona almost exclusively.  I still need to invest in some file treads, and then there’s a the singlespeed cx bike–which still needs parts and to be built.

It’ll be a busy summer….

-Karen

 

Another Photo: MTB Race

Another Photo: MTB Race

After the start….

Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race

Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race

I stole these from the organizer’s Facebook Page–hope he doesn’t mind–it was a great race!  I’m #3677 in the black BIKE CAFE kit.

Root 66 Domnarski Farm MTB Race Report

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The last time I raced my mountain bike it was 2002. I had been mountain biking for about 2 years and raced only twice before. I was in northern Connecticut and don’t remember how I did. I remember my seat post slid down so low over the course of the race my lower back felt like someone had slammed it with a 2X4. Afterwards, I got into one of the worse fights ever with my then fiancée. It was one of the worst days I can remember. That was 2002.

Fast forward to last Sunday, June 1st, 2014. I have finally (and just recently) replaced that same mountain bike with the slipping seat post. I signed up the the Root 66 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike race. I did this because I finally feel (gasp–wait for it) comfortable with the idea of racing my bike. Sure I still get nervous but I’m not worried about how old I am or how I might look or sucking incredibly bad. I’m happy and comfortable in my own Cat 3 skin.

Just before the race.

Just before the race.

The smartest thing I did with this race was to preride the course. Twice. I did this the day before. I arrived around 11AM and met up with this guy named Joe who had the same idea. We fumbled around looking for the parking lot, and eventually found where lot was (behind a gate–so we parked on the street) and with the use of my cell phone and the Strava App, figured out where to start.

Preriding revealed an immediate, steep, rocky climb that had me off the bike and pushing on and off for about a mile and a half. There were a few breaks with singletrack, stream crossings, and a snaking ascent. Some spots I just had to dismount and hike-a-bike. It was so steep and rocky, on my first pass I thought “maybe I won’t come back tomorrow for the race.”  Yeah. It was that unpleasant.

But I did come back, and good thing too. More on that later. The parking lot was open the next day and was as the race promoter had warned, a complete mud bog. There was a grand total of 4 Cat 3 women racing. Me (+35), Sara (19-34) and 2 juniors (12-18). Each age category was considered a separate race so Sara and I were going to win our respective age groups as long as we finished. I race against Sara in the CX season and we finally got to formally meet at the start line. We lined up together and my plan (based on the preride) was to hang back, not get in the way, and do my own thing. I thought we’d be starting with the other Cat 3’s–with the men, but they staggered each age group among the men and then let our little group of 4 women go together. So my plan changed. There were 2 clean lines heading into the woods and up the mountain. I was on one of those lines. I took the lead early and just tried to ride steady and clean. I had done 2 laps on my preride the day before so I knew most of the lines to take. I still was off the bike for at least 1/2 of the long, rocky ascent. But when I got to the top, I realized I was alone, with no one in sight behind me.

THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

And now that the rest of the way was downhill or mostly flat–I went. I pedaled hard where I could and kept trying to ride smooth and clean. I blew through the start line and ended my first lap, and just tried to repeat for the second lap.

On the second lap, I caught a couple of the Cat 3 guys and played leapfrog with them for most of the race. In the end, I passed one mid lap and I passed the second near the end (he had flatted). I tore across the finish line still not believing that I had come in 1st. And yes, I was going to “win” my age anyway, but I’ll be honest, it felt pretty good to win overall.

All done!!

All done!!

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

As an added bonus, afterwards I noticed CX Pro and phenom Crystal Anthony wiping down her bike. I had seen her out there preriding the course–she had past me but I recognized her immediately. I’ve watched her race at Northampton CSIcx and she’s crazy-amazing-good. I walked up and introduced myself and told her she was a pleasure to watch race.  Fan-girl moment of the day.  She was very gracious and friendly.  It’s not every day you get to meet one of the top women cyclocross racers in the country.

All & all, Domnarski Farm was a great time.  I’ll aim to go back next year and race the Sport category (Cat 2), and get my ass kicked again like I’m used to.

-Karen

PS- I wore a heart rate monitor for this race.  My average heart rate was 181 and my max heart rate was 191.  Discuss.

What’s Important.

Tonight I learned a friend from high school passed away. We we not close, but she was on Facebook, I was on Facebook, and she actively shared her life with that community.

This sad event has given me some pause, as I read the outpouring of kind words of remembrance on her page. She always seemed overwhelmingly positive, openly expressing her joy with her fiancée, her small dog, and they life they had carved out together. I had gathered from her posts that she was dealing with a long term illness as she mentioned several times through the years about going to Mass General for procedures or treatments. She frequently dealt with migraines and fatigue as well. Beyond that, I do not know what she was fighting, but today she passed away in her sleep.

We all make plans and have dreams, and by this point in life we realize that the plans we once had might not work out the way we hoped. Some off us get distracted, are led astray, get wrapped up in careers and marriages that don’t always go the way we wanted. Some of us think that if we had just a little more money we’d be happier, or if we had a different job, or more time, we’d do those things we always wanted to. We’d see our family more. We’d reach out to our own communities. We’d give back more. We’d serve these people in our lives they way we want to, if we had the time.

I feel this way constantly, and this death has snapped these feelings into the front of my mind to deal with. They have been lingering in the background, growing larger as I advance into my forties, but the death of a peer really pushes them forward for me. I feel like a wait a lot. I don’t like waiting. I feel confined by my situation often. That’s a shitty way to feel about a relatively awesome life.

One thing I feel I’ve gotten right, with regard to living this life, is cycling. Pursuing this passion has made me a happier person. It’s been a companion through hard times, and happy times. Cycling helps me, heals me, makes me stronger, and invigorates my spirit. I think I’m proud to be a cyclist because I wasn’t always one. I decided to be one.

But even more important than the bike, I have an AMAZING son who I’m immeasurably grateful for.  He is a sweet, generous, bright kid and I’m so very proud of him. I have a modest home in a fine neighborhood in a decent town. I have a job. I have a cat, and although he wakes me up to be feed and let out at 4am every day, I love him too. But I’d be lying if I said I don’t constantly, and I mean constantly, whirl my brain around the things that I want to change but don’t feel I can. The passing of this classmate really illustrates that life needs to be lived.  Things don’t matter, people do. People and experiences, kindness, learning, and love. Love matters most of all.

-Karen

 

 

Recovery

If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably heard me talk about the chronic problem I have with post-ride migraines and general sickness. The more intense the ride, the worse it is. This experience seems inconsistent, but I’m sure it isn’t.  I’ve tinkered with hydration, pre and post….and that seems to help, but isn’t bulletproof.

Then I came across this article about how post workout nutrition on the bike is different for woman compared to men. The article leads with the popular notion of chocolate milk as a “perfect” recovery drink (an idea I was totally on board with) as being “not enough” for women.

Disappointing, because I freaking love chocolate milk.

But this was good information. The biggest take away I got was this tidbit:

“Women have a much smaller window than men—30 minutes versus 2-plus hours—in which to optimize recovery through nutrition.”

This week I’m on a stay-cation from work and riding a ton. The perfect time to tweak my pre, during, and post fueling habits. Here’s the rundown:

Friday  Rode 3 x (partial commute to and from work and then MTB in evening)  Headache by 9PM

Saturday Rode 21.6 miles hard in heavy headwinds.  Headache by 7PM

Sunday day off

Monday Mountain biked HARD in extreme terrain for 6.7 miles or 1.5 hrs. Headache and muscle fatigue by 8PM

At this point, I made some changes.  Water bottle filled with 70% Gatorade, 30% water.  Sip every 20 minutes.  Eat every hour while biking.  Eat immediately after ride is done.  Things changed for the better after that.

Tuesday Rode 36 miles on the road and then did a 2nd ride– 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS

Wednesday Rode same 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails.  Went home, had lunch.  Rode an easy 15 miles after lunch on the road. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS.

Eating and the timing of eating, combined with some beverage that assists in keeping my sodium and electrolytes in balance seem key.  The timing is just as important as the ingredients. I’ve visualized it as keeping this balanced nutrition in the pipeline, preloaded, and post-loaded.

Today I’m taking a rest and recovery day. I’ve done 67 miles this week and my legs, hips, and back are hurting. The mountain biking (on my new Giant) has been super intense and awesome. My legs are literally twitching from the effort over the last week. Tomorrow I plan on mountain biking again, in the rain no less. I need to check out a race course about 25 miles from here in the middle of nowhere. I’m going alone and a little worried about it, and wanted fresh legs for the adventure.

-Karen

#Bikeschool New England Ride: Postponed. But Brunch Was Yummy!

Saturday was the planned #bikeschool New England ride.  Somehow, I was to be the co-leader of this ride.  I found a route, rode a recon ride, recorded it for everyone to check out.  My co-partner in climb, Lou, created the event on Eventbrite and we both shared the hell out of it on social media. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating and we called the ride off.  But the group got together anyway to enjoy brunch at Sylvester’s in Northampton, MA and chat about bikes.

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My childcare had fallen through for the day anyway–so I was happy not to miss the ride, even though we all ended up missing it.  We all strolled around Northampton afterwards, and a couple of us had our kids along–who were appropriately kid-like.

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The photobomber belongs to me :)

 

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We all had a great time and it was nice to meet some “virtual” friends from the Twitterverse.  I’m sure we will reschedule out ride for another time–hopefully the weather gods will be kinder next time.

-Karen

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