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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

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

 

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

No time rides and being the QOM.

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I nailed my first QOM*  of the season a few days ago.  The best thing about this was that I wasn’t trying.

I was the current QOM and rode this segment many, many times. It’s a flat stretch of farmland connecting two main drags close to my home in a neighboring town. When I approached it, I thought to myself “just give it a solid steady effort, and see where you land.”  I was not an all-out, vomit when your finished effort.  It was a steady push.  I beat my PR by 8 whole seconds.

What?  How the hell did that happen?

I’ve been the popsicle rider all winter long, not riding much, not nearly enough.  My schedule has again become insane.  Between working all day a state away, 90+ minutes of car commute per day, my son’s extracurricular sports activities, and visiting my father, who has been in a hospital in Boston for the past 5 weeks (with many more to go), I have had very little opportunity to do what I want to on a bicycle.

It’s easy for me, at this point, to go on a rant about the unreasonable demands on my schedule, and moreover , my life.  I’m stressed. So what?  So are you.

If you think that those 6 miles road bike rides mean nothing, you are wrong. They do.  If you think taking the stairs at work 3 times a week doesn’t make a difference, you’re wrong again.  It does.  If you think that because you worked a 12 hour day and all you could manage was a jog around the block with your kid riding his bike next to you doesn’t mean you are exercising enough to matter……guess what?  It does.

My desire to ride my bike for as much and as long as possible have never been in question.  I share a common frustration with millions of Americans who want to lose a few pounds, feel stronger, and get some exercise.  We have no time. If you feel like cycling is something you love to do–don’t feel like you need to do a certain amount of it in order to “qualify” as a cyclist.  Little efforts can be impactful, and they are.  Cycling, as well as any fitness activity, is cumulative.

That doesn’t mean that when you do have the time, you shouldn’t hammer.  Don’t stop trying to get a 3 hour ride in.  Or a 4 hour ride in.  And if you’re feeling cheeky, try a good 30 mile ride and chase it with a 2 or 3 mile run.  Don’t stop the effort.  Make it a steady one. Because steady efforts, always pushing it just a bit, can make you the QOM of your next mountain.

-Karen

*QOM: Queen of the Mountain–an achievement for fastest women’s time of a road segment on the fitness tracker application, Strava  KOM: King of the Mountain for the fellas.

 

Spring is Here. Really.

It’s been a long hard winter for most of us–I couldn’t write here anymore because I didn’t think it would help to complain. So I didn’t. I was always here through, biding my time.  Now that Spring is here, I’m ready to begin again.

Not that I ever fully stopped, but this year has had a slow start.  I still have snow in my yard, but for all road biking purposes, it’s gone. Roads are wet with melt and muddy with sand that hasn’t been swept, but who cares?  It’s above freezing at last.  I’m way behind where I was last year in terms of fitness and miles, but not so far gone that it will take me long to ramp up.

Saturday I got out for a just shy of 40 mile ride, with a huge climb right in the middle. I’d like to start doing at least one “big” ride a week.  Right now big is 40 miles.  But soon I’d like to get 50-60-70 miles at a time.  I’m trying to stick to my plan in terms of working out–right now I’m only averaging 3x/week.  I’d prefer 5, but that will come.  I started running again, once or twice a week. I have my eye on an off road duathlon in April that I’ve done a few times before.  I’m talking my brother into doing it with me (this time I’d like to beat him).  It’s a 1.8 mile trail run, 5.5 mile MTB/CX off road ride, followed by another 1.8 mile trail run.  It’ll be done in an hour, but it’s a nice warm up for racing this year and I like the cross-training aspect of a duathlon.

Downhill: Mud, Sweat & Gears 2011. Ashland, MA

Downhill: Mud, Sweat & Gears 2011. Ashland, MA

The one tweak this time is that I’ll be doing it on my cyclocross bike.  The other times I did this race I did it on my mountain bike.  But I asked the race promoter and yes, CX bikes are legal.  They are also a hell of a lot faster.  I’m not a fast runner, and last time I was in the last 1/3 of the race after the run, and then moved up considerably during the bike portion of the race.  Unfortunately, the running at the end pushed me back again.  I’ll take any advantage I can get, and the carbon fiber Kona will do nicely.

Everyone get on your bikes!  Spring is here!

-Karen

Delayed Spring, Delayed Training.

Mid march and the icy grips of winter seem to be easing at last. Like most cyclists, I’ve pushed back any kind of structured training week after week, trying to stay active by shoveling snow, skiing and snowshoeing. I’ve ignored the trainer because I freaking hate it. Sorry but the trainer sucks. I’d rather ride in the snow (and sometimes I have).

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I’m not really sweating it, but I’m eager to get started. My schedule is tough but I’m pretty good at wringing a workout out my my busy life.  To get started, I’m looking at different events to guide my training goals through the spring and summer. The Fall will take care of itself and be exclusively focused on cyclocross (of course). Here’s what I’m looking at for spring/early summer. Nothing definite but here’s the (very short) list:

Rockbuster Duathlon-Ashland, MA.                                                  Saturday April 19th, 2014

This is a 1.8 trail run, 5.5 mile off road bike, 1.8 trail run. I’ve done this race twice before in the fall under the name of Mud, Sweat and Gears. It’s a good event, a mass start, and a lot of fun running around the woods. I contacted the race organizer and asked if cyclocross bikes were allowed and they are! I’m going to see if my little brother can join me for this one, as he has before.

Root 66 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race-Ware, MA             Sunday June 1, 2014

This one is close by. Sort of. The landowners encourage pre-riding so I hope to get out there in May to recon the course. I’m planning on renewing my US Cycling License and will be doing the Cat 3 (Beginner) Masters Women Race. I’ll be a little nervous only because I haven’t done a mountain bike race in about 12 years. I don’t plan on doing any other MTB races at this point but I’m surfing bikereg.com to see if anything looks fun and is on a free weekend. The best part about this race is that I plan to be on a brand new bike by that time. As soon as the government forks over my tax return I’m marching down to the LBS and picking out a new bike. Yay!

I’m still considering the summer. I need to connect with Laura of PA for a century ride, either organized or not. It would be my first century ever. I’m looking at doing an Obstacle Course Race for fun (and for beer). I’m also looking at the D2R2 at the end of summer (as I consider this every summer, I still have yet to sign up) plus a few other events. Lots of want to’s. There will only be a few that will work out for me.  Meh–this is how is goes. I do what I can.

-Karen

While Old Man Winter Wasn’t Looking…..

Heather & I road some bikes.  Yeah, it was raining, and yeah, there was some snow, and some ice, and some mud.  But it was above freezing, which sadly qualifies as “good weather.”

Resting after a stream crossing.

Resting after a stream crossing.

I’m deeply grateful that I have a crazy enough friend who lives close by enough to join me to ride in these conditions. I am managing to get out about once every week or two, but as evidenced by the snow you see above, it’s hasn’t always been possible to ride.  And when there wasn’t several inches of snowfall to contend with, there was the “Polar Vortex.”

The icy ascent.

The icy ascent.

Anyway, it was good to ride outside, and have some company to boot.  We kept the elevation under 1000 ft, but the extra effort pedaling through a few soft inches of snow and tire sucking mud didn’t make us feel like we were slacking off.

As I type, 4 new inches of snow lie in my yard, and another 6-12 predicted tomorrow night, with a Nor’Easter predicted for Sunday with a rumor of several feet of snow.

That groundhog?  Call the exterminator.

-Karen

One Leg Drills

I’ve been an avid cyclist for 14 years now, and never heard of the “one leg drill” before.  I’m hanging around the right people on Twitter, and just learned the term. After Googling “one leg drill cycling,” I learned plenty.  Recommended in the early weeks of base training, a one leg drill is performed on the trainer and is made to build strength.  Watch this great video to illustrate how it’s done.

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I’ve been reluctantly spinning on the trainer from time to time lately, no more than an hour–I just can’t take the tedium of a longer time period.  The weather coupled with my work schedule hasn’t allowed riding outside.  I last rode outside almost 2 weeks ago, and before that, another 2 weeks.  This weekend looks highly questionable for outside cycling; as I type even more snow swirls and falls outside.  It is 8 degrees.

So OK, I want to do the work, and the work will have to be on the trainer.  I unclipped, spun for .3 mile, re-clipped, then repeated on the other side another .3 mile.  Guess what?  It was HARD.  I should have done more.  More importantly, I should have done it in an easier gear. I went back to the Internet (after I finished spinning) and got the following instruction:

Unclip one foot and rest it on a chair next to the bike so you are left to pedal with only one leg. With the bike in a low (easy) gear turn the crank at a comfortable cadence. The first thing you’ll notice is that getting through the top of the stroke, the 12-o’clock position, is difficult. Focus on smoothing this top transition. At first you may only last a few seconds before the hip flexors fatigue. When that happens switch to the other leg. When it fatigues clip both feet in and pedal for a few minutes applying what you have learned in the single-leg pedaling. Repeat the drill several times throughout the workout.

I did notice the “dead zones” in my pedal stroke they discuss in the video.  I can see how this engages more muscles and works the leg much more specifically.

I’m really having a tough time with the lack of real riding over this winter, and there is no end in site.  I am trying to stay active in the evenings, but oftentimes I am not free to workout until after 9PM, and let me tell you, that just ain’t happening.  So I’m going to try and do the one leg drill thing, at least once a week, and several times during the workout.

-Karen

New Cycling Club Announcement-2nd Crack Cycling

**LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT & INVITATION**

Do your plans for 2014 include getting on your bike or maybe even trying out a little racing? Or perhaps you know someone who does? Check out Second Crack Cycling – a fun recreational women’s cycling club hatched by Vicki Bocash of Evverge Creative and me! Karen Lynn of Sip, Clip, & Go! Coffee.

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We love bikes, coffee, and good design & technology. In addition to all those things being a bit like crack to us, in coffee roasting terms, the “second crack” is the point of roasting when the coffee bean cell wall breaks open and the richer flavor develops. That being said, this may be our second+ time around on many things, but we like to think we just keep getting better one sip and pedal stroke at a time.

Sometimes it’s tough to hit the reset button when you’ve been out of the game for a while, or just feel a bit intimidated or don’t want to go it alone. It doesn’t matter your geography, or if you are a beginner or already belong to another club or team, we welcome all affiliations and skill levels – and encourage it, actually. Same goes for the dudes who support, train/race with, encourage, heckle and cheer us on. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do intend to have some serious fun! And we’re not afraid to try new things. We also like to mix it up with other sports and recreational activities and spend as much time as possible outdoors. But our common ground is cycling and its soul-liberating power!  Almost every discipline of cycling is open:  road, recreational, mountain biking, and even cyclocross.  We love it all!  Racing is NOT required, but if you’re game, so are we.  Vicki competes in Triathlons, Cyclocross, and is generally up for anything.  Karen competes in Cyclocross, Mountain Biking, Dirt Road rides/Events, Road Cycling Rides (no races), OCR (Obstacle Course Races like the Warrior Dash) and 5Ks.

Join in the fun and get cracking!! Club kit apparel and random merchandise will be available for the upcoming season. Connect with us while we crack the code on a new website and make plans to organize opportunities to ride, train and race together.
Please send us your ideas, comments and suggestions and please pass along!
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/2ndCrackCycling
Twitter: https://twitter.com/2ndCrackCycling
Strava: http://www.strava.com/clubs/2ndCrackCycling
Main Website:  TBA (in development)

We welcome you to the sport of cycling, and encourage you to get on your bikes and ride!

-Karen & Vicki

Vicki Bocash & Karen Lynn pictured her at the DAS Beaver CX Race in December 2013.

Vicki Bocash & Karen Lynn pictured her at the DAS Beaver CX Race in December 2013.

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