The race I finally got Heather to do! 2 years of bugging paid off. I have finally converted another to the sport of cyclocross. I’ll let her post about her experience, if she so chooses. The following is from my point of view.
Heather met me at my house to carpool down to Cheshire early Saturday morning. We made a hasty stop at Highland Hardware & Bike for a mechanical issue Heather came across when converting her Fuji from commuter bike to cross rig. As per usual, the crew at Highland saved the day. The service there is spectacular. They had us on our way within 10 minutes.
We arrived at Cheshire Town Park and in an unusual turn of New England November weather, it was warm. I was wildly overdressed in the winter skinsuit, but had packed no alternative. We registered and barely got one lap in for a preride before the next race began. I was hoping for at least 2 laps to review the course. The course was as fun as I remembered from last year, but dry and dusty with loose soil. I have been striking out in the mud department this year–the closest I’ve come so far is Providence. The course itself has all great features for a cyclocross race: woods, sand, epic run ups, roots, turns. Great technical riding with more woods than grass.
Heather seemed incredulous that she was actually present and accounted for and intending on finally racing–right up to the whistle. I’m smiling remembering this
Cat 4 Women lined up after the Elite call up. We started a minute behind the Women Pro 1-2-3′s. We scrumed for the front line and I got a front spot on the inside. When out whistle blew, I was off and made a tight first turn. I was 3rd through the hole shot and kept that position for nearly the whole first lap. My overall goal was a top 50% finish, and so far I was making it.
My fast start caught up to me. I’ve had a nagging congestion for the last 6 weeks. After 1 lap, my sinuses opened and started dumping stringy mucus down my throat. Sorry for the disgusting description, but it was…..well it was disgusting. I was literally choking. This was seriously distracting from my focus and speed. I tried to clear the crap from my throat and spent the entire 2nd lap doing so (sorry–gross. I know). I final was breathing a bit easier by the third lap, but I had damaged my place. I was passed by one or two more racers on the 3rd lap. I still had energy and was planning on throwing it all down for lap #4, but with just a couple 100 yards to go, I was passed by the leader of the elite race, and she was about to cross the finish line. The rule is when the elite leader crosses the line and finishes, so does EVERYBODY behind her. Which meant I never got my final lap, or chance to make up any ground. I felt a little shortchanged. I had more race in me, and nowhere to put it.
I finished 8 of 14. 2 DNFed. I missed my 50% goal again. I’m definitely mid pack on these smaller grassroots races, so I’m happy about that. Heather and I packed up and hit the road after the results were posted.
The good news is that Heather reports she enjoyed herself and has penciled in two more races for 2013: Sterling CX in Sterling, MA and DAS BEavEr CX Race in Dayville, CT. I am doing these races as well.
Photo notes: I didn’t take a single picture this year but found some online that I’m borrowing (they had a sharing button so I consider that fair game–if you are the creator of any photo I posted please contact me and I will remove it immediately or give you props–whatever you prefer!). I took a ton last year and have used those as well to give readers a taste of the venue.
Too much to post about! I raced both days, lackluster performances both days. More on that later. I’ll start with some photos. (I dare say I’m a better photographer than I am a bike racer!).
A write up will come….sometime this week. I’m spent. This was a fun weekend, on a great course. I went in sick and my results were my results. It is what it is. It was a beautiful weekend in New England for bike racing.
This weekend: no racing. This week: almost no riding. I had an opportunity to ride Wednesday and didn’t take it, because I was still limping around after Granite Gorge. Granite Gorge shredded my quads so badly–I haven’t been hurting that badly in years. After the lactic acid ebbed away, I still had a bright soreness in the Vastus Medialis area of my left quadriceps. Tender to the touch, I let it rest. My week was so busy between work and kid activities it wasn’t hard to take a break.
This weekend I have no race on my schedule. I wish I could get up north to Orchard CX in Hampton Falls, NH. I keep hearing great things about that race but it’s just not working out with my personal life. Honestly, I’m still a bit concerned about my quad. Additionally, my rear wheel was sent out 3 weeks ago to be rebuilt to the manufacturer. My awesome LBS set me up with a hand-built swiss wheel as a loaner for last weekend. I returned it so my CX bike is without a rear wheel. I’m hoping to get the rebuilt wheel back next week, but if not, my LBS will let me ride on the swiss wheel again.
All of this worry and waiting and wheel wrangling is in anticipation of the 23rd Annual Cycle-Smart International /Shimano New England Professional Cyclocross Series. I’ve been going to this race for years as a spectator and raced it for the first time last year. This is really my hometown race, taking place in Northampton, Massachusetts. This will be the only back to back racing I will do all season, and after a taste of it last year, I know all too well how two straight days of cyclocross will destroy a body.
So I’m taking it easy. I will ride on Sunday. It’s cool now, it won’t get out of the 50′s, and I won’t ride more than 20 or so miles. Next week I might spin on the trainer a day or two. I want to keep the legs in shape but not taxed. I want to allow all the time I can for that quad to heal, before I run it through the grinder again.
Northampton will be colder too, and with a 9:30AM start I would expect the frost on the course to be barely thawed. The long range forecast calls for cold rain on Saturday.
The week leading into Northampton I plan on cleaning up my eating a bit, eating more beets (I’m out of beet powder, drat!), and trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly (that will be a neat trick). I want to do as well as I can and have enough in the tank to enjoy some of the festivities of my hometown race: spectating, the free beer (yes folks, free!) and of course the fantastic New England Cyclocross community.
See you at the races! –Karen
Diane Nyad wants to go to Cuba. Very badly.
It’s her #XtremeDream to swim from Cuba to Florida–no one has ever done it before. No one knows if it’s even possible. Only a world class athlete could possibly make it the 103 miles. She already holds the World Record for swimming. But here’s the wrinkle in the plot….and it’s quite a wrinkle indeed. Diana Nyad is 64 years old.
Yes, you heard me. She’s a year away from Medicare. She’s 401K eligible. She’s old enough to be your mother twice over.
She’s the badass, Diana Nyad is. Her relentless pursuit of what many think is impossible is what makes her so completely inspiring to me. She’s tried twice and failed, suffering life threatening injuries from poisonous jellyfish like box jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war. And then there are the sharks. Great white ones.
Let us not forget the amount of time she’ll be swimming. For at least 60 hours. No resting, no sleeping. Pausing to eat but remaining in the water. No lifejacket. No holding on the the side of the boat that will remain with her. This will be her 5th attempt. In 1979 Diana broke the world record for distance swimming for both men and women. That record still stands today.
Diana borrows from poet Mary Oliver and asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s a worthwhile question, and strikes truth quickly. Tomorrow morning Diana will enter the dark water and try again for her XtremeDream. It doesn’t matter if she reaches Cuba or not, she’s proven to the world she is not to be discounted. Never to be trifled with. She’s Diana Nyad; completely awe-inspiring, Always reaching stroke by stroke toward her dream, in and out of the water.
And so it begins.
The Monson Cyclocross Race will be held just one week from today. By this time next week, I’ll be one race in to a 10 race season (at least). I’m hoping to feel tired, happy with my effort, and enjoying a burrito from La Casita Azteca.
I’ve been super busy these past few weeks, riding whenever I can and not feeling like I’m getting enough miles into my legs. Last week I attended a CX clinic near my office in Connecticut (I now work in CT). It was only an hour long but I picked up some tips and identified some really bad habits that are classic to beginners. Truthfully, I realized how out of practice I was with basic ‘cross skills–not that I had a ton of skills to begin with–I am still super new to this game. I have just one week to smooth out my dismount and remount. The barriers I need work on too–this is harder to replicate but I have a makeshift barrier I built last year I can resurrect for backyard practice.
I couple of weeks ago I visited the site of the race and used the Strava Explore feature to walk parts of the course. I wanted to ride parts, but my bored and uninterested son wasn’t having it…..so we hiked it instead. I found a video as well, which helps me visualize mentally what to expect.
I have a friend riding in the Men’s Cat 4–actually my friend’s boyfriend, and his race goes at 9AM, while mine’s not until 2. I’m hoping to get some tips from him after the fellas in his group break in the course. I finally understand now the timing of getting a pre-ride in before the event–which in my opinion is crucial. That too will help me prepare just before the event.
Monson’s course seems to be just the kind I like–lots of off-road stuff, technical, lots of turns, not just a grass crit. That said, I’m in the Women’s Open category, which means I’ll get my ass handed to me by the rest of the field. I’m a Masters Cat 4. Those Cat 1, 2, and 3s will ride roughshod over me. So, time to review my goals (in order of importance) for this race and all others.
- Have fun.
- Stay upright.
- Don’t finish last.
- Middle pack.
- Top 50%
I usually hit the first 4 consistently. I have touched the middle of the pack but it runs away from me in the middle of every race, I’m still chasing that one. One of my overall goals for 2013 is to finish in the middle more often than not. I doubt Monson will be the race where that happens.
Making the top 50% in a race is also a goal for me this year. This is a little more dangerous for me to talk about. I think this is well within grasp, but I don’t want to set myself up for too much disappointment, either. We’ll see what happens. I’m in better physical condition overall and have a lighter faster bike, but Goal # 1-HAVE FUN-should always take precedence over all other goals. My competitive nature aside, the fun is in racing bikes with a bunch of other people crazy enough to love cyclocross as much as you do.
At the CX Clinic, I overheard some attendees talking just before it started. One guy said “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m a triathlete, you cyclocrossers are crazy.” Another rider replied, “Are you kidding? Triathlons are the crazy sport!” And that’s just it–right there. There’s no shame in this game. We’re all out here to have fun and challenge ourselves. We all work up in our heads why we aren’t going to be good at something, why we might fail, why this all might not work out. But we still show up, and say what the hell? You only live once. And then get on our bikes and slip behind the tape.
Cyclocross season is starting. Come play with us.
It happened again. Saturday I went out for a hilly 37 miles on the CX bike. It was a great ride, cloudy, humid, mid to high 80′s but halfway refreshing considering how oppressive it’s been here in New England. When I got home, I was thoroughly spent, but in a completely joyous way. I hadn’t bonked. I went through my water and was dry the last 15 minutes or so, but began drinking immediately post ride. My ride ended around 3PM.
I showered, changed, had a lovely, healthy dinner–a little white wine in hand, I happily grilled chicken on the BBQ while my other half made us a nice fresh salad and a warm buttery baguette. It was an ideal way to spend a Saturday. Happy, relaxed, well fed, I settled down to watch some television.
At about 10:45PM, my head started hurting. Bad. By 10:50PM I was clutching my skull and rubbing, trying to knead out the pain as if my head had a knot in it that just needed to be worked out. The nausea kicked in at this time as well. 11:00PM I abandoned the movie I was watching and retired to the bedroom, plugging in a heating pad to wrap around my throbbing head.
11:15PM I went to the bathroom. Not my normal time of day–but my body had other ideas.
11:20PM I tried to got back to bed. My head was enveloped in indescribable pain. I was exhausted and only wanted to escape into sleep. I’d close my eyes and my mind would speed up. A bizarre show unfolded behind my closed eyes, a fast twisty ride filled with surreal images that I couldn’t slow down or stop. Moving constantly, I opened my eyes and the pain amplified, but the crazy ride stopped. The nausea intensified. I made the decision to return to the bathroom.
11:30PM I vomited. More than once. Maybe 4 times in a row. I don’t know, I was pretty sick and my brain wasn’t working well at this point. The only think I knew was that the pain had set up camp in my brain and I only had one trick left to beat the migraine back. I stripped down and turned the shower on hot. I sat in the shower–sat–for about 30 minutes, the hot water working my scalp, my neck, my back. I felt the pain ease and lift. Not vanish but it abated for long enough I felt I might be able to sneak into bed and fall asleep. I did. I slept 8 hours straight and felt completely fine in the morning.
I wish I could say this was the first time this has happened, but it isn’t. More like, the 7th? 8th? It always happens when my life gets so busy that I don’t take regular care of myself–I rush, I hurry, I skip the basics just to get in that ride. I should have been drinking lots of liquids on Thursday and Friday in preparation for the weekend. Each day, I sweat our fluids. I’m sweating when I blow my hair dry, when I walk to the car, even just sitting inside and watching TV. The AC can’t keep up with the intensity of this heat.
I had a goal of 100 miles last week. 35 on Saturday, and another 35 on Sunday and I would have made it. I’ve been doing mileage like this all year, that and much longer. But after Saturday’s hydration failure, my other half insisted I take it easy. I usually would fight about it, but this time I had to agree.
I really need to get my arms around, and KEEP them around this problem I have. I wonder if others experience this problem like I do. I know what happened to me is a result of classic dehydration. I sweat easily and I’m probably losing fluids when I’m not working out–something I really need to be more aware of. I should have a refillable water container at my desk all day and in the car. And I should indulge in some Gatorade from time to time. So–just curious–anyone else have this problem? Care to share? Please comment if you would.
This was the closest thing to a cyclocross race you can do on two feet. Seriously, the Warrior Dash was pretty fun. Ropes course, hay bales, barbed wire, mud, and a fire barriers make for a fun day. Add a couple of people you sort of hung out with in High School 25 years ago, and it’s a good way to spend a day.
Gotta love the mud.
I’m not a morning person, but in order to maintain continuity in my fitness, I’ve started getting up early to ride. I wake between 5 or 6am, sneak in an hour or so, shower, dress, and then drive 45 minutes to work. I’ve been about to eek out some mileage by doing this. I’ve also avoided the wave of afternoon thunderstorms that have been plaguing the Northeast for the past 3 weeks. It’s so hot, humid, and wet here, there are few opportunities to ride without overheating or getting doused.
The early morning rides are nice. Few cars. The sun rising. A hint of coolness still in the air. Animals. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful way to wake up. Until last week, when as I was cresting a hill just two towns away at about 6:30AM, when I head this ringing pop from my front wheel. The bike immediately slowed. I pulled over and discovered one of my spokes dangling helplessly from the rim.
So what happens when you bust a spoke is your wheel warps. This makes the wheel impossible to spin. I was only 6 miles from home but on a truck route with no sidewalks, and as I mentioned, it was 6:30AM. I called my girlfriend who did not answer. I started to walk home with the front wheel lifted parallel to the ground. I was traipsing across front lawns, my cleats sinking into the wet, soft earth. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t getting home for another 1.5 hours which would certainly make me late for my new job, which is a 45 minute commute one way. It was a “save thyself” situation. I stopped on a front lawn and removed the errant spoke entirely. Then I was able to bully the wheel just straight enough to roll through the brakes, which I had opened wide. I wouldn’t have front brakes. And my wheel was still pretty warped, but it would roll. So I would roll with it.
I gingerly rolled home, slow but a heck of a lot faster than walking would have been. I made it to work on time and still got my workout for the day.
Since my first cyclocross race ever last September, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I was hooked. I wouldn’t be able to stop. And judging from my numbers on Crossresults for the season, I knew I’d need a faster bike.
No disrespect to my Specialized Tricross Sport, but truthfully, it wasn’t meant to race. Dirt and gravel roads, a randonee perhaps, but it just wasn’t made for speed. Weighing in at 23.5 lbs, I got strong riding it, but placed at the end of the pack every time. I decided at the end of CX season in 2012 I needed an equipment upgrade.
Enter the Kona. I walked into a bike shop I’d never set foot in in Southwick, MA called New England Bike Shop. The only reason I went there was because my friend and I were bored and she said they carried Cannondale, and I had my eye on the Cannondale SuperX Carbon Rival. I was dismayed, because despite having a really wonder selection of mountain bikes and road bikes, I couldn’t find any CX bikes. Finally after a bit of browsing, I asked if they had any Cannondale CX bikes and they pointed to a CAADX. But next to it was this……
The price was reduced from $3282 to $2252 and it was a leftover demo from 2011. They had demoed it last year at the NEMBA Fest. The new Major Jake (2013) retails at $3400. I was surprised to see it there, since it was a 2011, and was loving the price. Once I picked it up I was very, very interested. It weighed in at 17 lbs, 15 oz. A very noticeable difference from any of my other bikes. Oh the difference a full carbon frame makes. A seed was planted, and a few days later I returned with my pedals and cleats and bike shorts for a test ride. 3 hours later, after a few adjustments to the stem and handlebars, I was packing it into the back of my Element and taking the Major home with me.
One of the deciding factors was watching the “Bike Talk” video with Helen Wyman, the British 8 time National Champion, who rides the Major Jake. I’ve watched Helen race the Gloucester Gran Prix in 2011 and 2012, and I even managed to sneak her a bag of my coffee to her at the 2012 race (although I missed meeting her, she tweeted some nice words about the gift the following day). Helen is FAST. Like, no one can touch her fast. A few months back, I openly polled my Twitter Stream for CX bike recommendations and Helen responded with “Kona. End of Discussion.” Sure, she races for them so of course she says nice things. But her performance speaks for itself.
After I got the Jake home, I had almost no time for a ride before my son returned home from school. I jumped on the Jake and sprinted over to the closest patch of woods to my house. I have a nice, private CX loop segment I do there, and it’s saved on my Strava profile. It’s a great area to practice CX. My best time on the Tricross for this segment was 6:02. On the Jake, without going 100%, my time was 5:09. Almost a whole minute. What would that mean over the course of a whole CX race?
Middle of the pack, here I come.
I injured myself last night, not while riding the bike, but largely because of excessive bike riding. Or, excessive bike riding without proper cool down and stretching. Only a few years ago, I could hammer for hours and then do some completely different exercise and never bat an eye. Maybe I’d be a bit sore, but a little Advil and I’d hop on the bike again. Gone are those days. Gone for good.
It made me think more about how things are changing now that I’ve crossed the age 40 mark. Things hurt more. I don’t recover as quickly. Although I’m working out more now than I ever have in my life (other than high school), and I feel I’m the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been, it’s still different.
How? For a glimpse of the future, see the chart below and plan accordingly.
You are a mere babe in the woods! You can drink beer all night, eat pizza, and ride and ride. You almost never stretch. Never do you gain an ounce. Lycra actually looks good on you.
What’s that? You gained 3 pounds? That’s your metabolism slowing down to a dull roar. You probably work full time now, or are slaving away in grad school and working part time. But on the weekend, you can hop on your bike and do a century with almost no preparation. You can race your bike and do all right. If you are serious about cycling, you are really coming into form right now. Lycra still looks amazing on you.
You spend the first 4 years of your thirties in utter disbelief that you are that old. Everyone in their 40′s+ finds this simultaneously adorable and annoying. Your face is leaner looking, yet these deposits of flesh can now be found cuddling your kidneys. You may be full engaged in child bearing now, and this will make you fat no matter if you are a woman or a man. Your job feels endless, and cycling is on the backburner out of sheer adulthood. If you have a super supportive spouse, you get to ride during the summer. A little. You use this to whack away the extra 10+ pounds that has found you.
You realize you are running out of sweet, precious time. You think now–now is the time to really make your mark with this sport. You are kidding yourself, and everyone knows it but you. Your ab muscles are in great shape, because you’ve become deeply practiced in sucking in your gut.
The wheels start to fall off. You hear a bell ringing in the distance on your 40th birthday, and later realize that’s the sound of your expiration date. Things on your body hurt for no reason. You tweak your back getting out of bed in the morning. You sit entirely too much at work. Wearing lycra is now a supreme act of either bravery or denial.
You hate the people who are still in their 40′s and complaining about how stuff hurts. They have no idea what’s next. You smirk and tell them they are being babies. And they thought you’d be understanding…..
You have transcended physical pain and vanity and are regarded as somewhat of a mystic of the sport. Lycra looks ridiculous on you as your body has naturally withered in some places and bulged in others, but dammit you are seeing this sport through ’til the bitter end. Your road bike is considered an antique, but has the retro charm that all those hipster kids are after. People of all ages admire you deeply, and hope they can age as gracefully. Your legs still look fantastic.
Whatever your age, just keep riding….but always stretch!