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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.

2014 Cycling Goals: MTB, CX, Dirt Road Races

OK, OK.  It’s goal setting time. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it, but over the years I’ve learned to become more flexible in goal setting (it’s true!  I’ve lightened up a bit!).  That said, I have so much I want to accomplish.  I think it’s reasonable to break out the year into chunks to better manage all the things I want to do.

Chunk #1- Januaryish to Marchish
Ride 3x a week
Run 2x a week
A good portion of my riding will have to be on the trainer. We have about a foot of cold white snow out there right now and a new weather term to discuss at the water cooler, Polar Vortex.
Events planned: None.

Chunk #2 Aprilish to Juneish
Ride 4+x a week
Run 1-2 a week
As much mountain biking as I can do (depending upon trail conditions)
Ramping up road mileage.
At least 1 CX ride (dirt roads, light trails) per week.
Events planned: Fat Tire Classic in Farmington, CT April 20, 2014 (tentative) MTB Race, Cat 3 40+ Masters
Kingdom CX in Victory, VT May 3, 2014 MTB/CX Race, 25 miles
Root 66 Domnarski Farm MTB Race in Ware, MA June 1, 2014 MTB Race, Cat 3 40+ Masters

Chunk #3 July to August
Ride 5+x a week–Base miles, big miles.
Cross skills practice 1x a week.
Intervals 1-2x a week.
Events planned: VT Overland Gran Prix in Woodstock, VT August 24, 2014 CX/Dirt Road Race, 53 miles
Monson Cyclocross Race in Monson, MA (alternative event to VT Overland) CX Race
Blunt Park Cyclocross Race in Springfield, MA (alternative event to VT Overland) CX Race

Chunk #4 September-December
Ride 4x week–cyclocross season. Hard weekends–racing or training. Hard Wednesdays.
Cross skills 2-3x week.
Intervals 1x week (Wednesdays)
Running if I feel ambitious.
Events planned:  Ooff. 10+ Cyclocross Races! Which ones? Nothing is officially scheduled yet, but here’s a partial list of races I’d like to compete in 2014.

Quad CX in Maynard, MA
The Night Weasels Cometh in Shrewsbury, MA
Gloucester Gran Prix in Gloucester, MA
Providence Cyclocross Festival in Providence, RI
Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross in Northampton, MA
Orchard CX in Hampton, NH
Sterling CX in Sterling, MA
Cheshire CX in Cheshire, CT
DAS Beaver CX in Dayville, CT

I’d like to compete in some smaller CX races, if possible. I do love the bigger races, the Gloucesters the Northamptons, the Providences….but they kill my points and I need some smaller races to even me out. Plus I feel like it’s easier to meet people at the smaller grassroots races.

My biggest goal for my 2014 Cyclocross Season is a top 50% finish. I know I’m capable of this and I need to set my sights on being fast and strong. I have a healthy season of larger race-oriented events (although I see these less as races than as events to build my strength and experience).

I have been told that the sophomore season of any sport is the hardest.  Hardest, with the most growth.  The 3rd year is supposed, supposed to be the year where that growth is realized.  Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to a terrific 2014.

-Karen

Year End CX Race Stats

Now that my CX season is officially over, I wanted to evaluate my results.  I do this for fun, but always want to improve. I was on the USA Cycling site to check out renewing my license when I noticed a ranking result for all the races I competed in.  Someone compiled stats for me and broke it out into a percentage?  Yay!  Now you’re talking.  Almost as fun as Crossresults.com.

My 2013 Cyclocross Results.

My 2013 Cyclocross Results.

OK so the screen shot is a bit small.  here’s the data:

YOUR CYCLO-CROSS CAT 4 STANDINGS
Rank in your zip code (01075) 1 of 1 (First)
Rank in your state (MA) 25 of 65 (38.46%)
Rank in your riding age (44) 7 of 41 (17.07%)
Rank in 5 year age range (40-44) 24 of 156 (15.38%)
Rank in 10 year age range (40-49) 36 of 276 (13.04%)
Overall Rank 184 of 1203 (15.30%)

Mind you there is a Cat 3, 2, and 1 above me.  I’m a beginner.  But I did achieve several (but not all) goals this year.

  1. Have fun. Check!
  2. Finish. No DNFs!
  3. Stay upright. Not all the time.  I had my first over the handlebars during a race crash at CSI CX in Northampton.  I wiped out pretty good at the DAS Beaver CX too (icy corner).  There were other times, I can’t really remember.  No injuries, and that’s what I was going for. Hop back on and keep going!
  4. Don’t finish last. Success!
  5. Middle pack. Pretty consistently yes!  I’m most pleased about this.
  6. Top 50% I fell 1 place short of this on 2 occasions.  Next year I need to make this happen.

The USA Cycling Stats helped my ego significantly.  Maybe it’s because I’m in New England and the cyclocross scene here is so strong with so many top level riders, some who will be competing on an international stage in a few years (thinking about the 14 year old who killed a field of 80 Cat 3/4 women….there are other youngin’s schooling the rest of us, I wish them all well), but at any rate, I really didn’t feel like I was a top 15% Cat 4.

So next year- next year the goals list remains. A reach goal would be to worm my way into a Cat 3 ranking. I’m not sure how that works, what kind of results I need to achieve to get that upgrade.  I’ll have to consult the rule book.

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Nonetheless I completed 10 races and feel great about it. It was hard on my personal schedule to get to all these races. There was a bit of a financial stain as well:  registration fees, gas money, speciality foods and portable nutrition, many tires, many tubes, extra bike maintenance, and perhaps most expensive, time. Time is a rare commodity for me, and as the light began to fade as solstice approached, I got less and less time on my bike. I went from 4 to 6 hours a week on my bike to 1.5 to 2. Performance fell accordingly.

All and all, 2013 was a great year, and with a few things brewing (pun intended) for 2014, I’m seeing the trajectory continue upward.

Happy New Year!

-Karen

Cheshire CX 2013 Race Report

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.

The Sand at Cheshire CX.

Men in the Sand at Cheshire CX. Photo from 2012.

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.

Hard, dry and fast at Cheshire this year.

Hard, dry and fast at Cheshire this year.

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.

Shouldering the bike on the hill.

Shouldering the bike on the hill.

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.

-Karen

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.

Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross 2013: Photos Day 1

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!).

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The name of the game is pain.

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Ride. Climb. Cross.

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This was the “easy” run up. Ha.

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Anthony Clark of the JAM Fund Team. SickWhat? This guy is infectiously crazy. I’m really rooting for him.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Lots of crashes here.  Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

Lots of crashes here. Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

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The new Gnar section in the woods. Thank you for adding–LOVED it.

This is by far the most intense run up I've come across thus far.

This is by far the most intense run up I’ve come across thus far.

Crystal Anthony on the run up.  She won the women's elite race on Saturday.

Crystal Anthony on the run up. She won the women’s elite race on Saturday.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women's CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross, looking focused.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women’s CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross), looking focused.

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Charging toward the downhill.

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.

-Karen

 

 

 

 

 

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