I had every single intention of racing my bike this Saturday. I have the weekend free, Sterling is actually fairly close by, and I keep hearing the Twitter buzz about a fun course. Additional, my mysterious co-blogger has caught the CX bug (I’ll take full credit for that, thank you very much) and she’s texting me daily, “did you sign up yet? did you sign up yet?” No. And now pre reg is closed.
The reason is a cold. I’ve been fighting something for a while–You might remember I complained of being sick during Northampton’s CSI International CX race weekend, and again at Cheshire, I suffered a coughing fit that lost me places in my race. The germ that has taken up residence in my upper respiratory system has invited friends over to party. I’m trying to kick out the bug but each time I start to think I’ll be just fine, I break out into another coughing fit.
It’s only Wednesday, so I have a couple of days to improve my lung function. I’m going to ride tomorrow and Friday too….I’ll know better if I can hack it (pun intended). Same day registration is allowed so the option remains to race, and Heather still seems interested. But if I don’t go for it, I still plan to ride (thinking as I type this, if I’m planning on riding anyway, maybe I should just race…..).
I guess the difference is intensity. The predicted temperature at the starting whistle is an optimistic 20 degrees F. Start time is 9:30 AM, I’d need to leave the house at about 6AM, up by 5:30AM. Intense cold, early start, and its a race, so full gas. I think my lungs would seize. Riding on my own means slower spins, exploring, playing, starting later at a balmy 30 degrees, and stopping to pull my Kleenex out and clear the pipes every so often. Not to mention the travel time and registration $$$$. On the other hand, racing means seeing some of the fantastic New England Cyclocross Community again. I’m very torn.
If I miss this weekend, the season isn’t over yet. I am doing the DAS BEavER CX race in Dayville, CT. My coffee is on the prize list there so it’s a must attend for me. And then there is the famous Ice Weasels Cometh race in Walpole, MA. Both of these races are in the same weekend, so that would be a whole weekend of CX, and lots of road time. But if I’m healthy, it would be a great last hurrah for me to wrap up the 2013 cyclocross season.
Thoughts? My lungs make the final decision. I think if it were at least 20 degrees warmer (like, the 40′s) I’d feel my lungs could take it.
What you see right there is my race number. Yes, an actual Cheshire Cross race number issued to me (the silent co-blogger). It took Karen a while, but the conversion is well on its way. Wonder if she gets a toaster oven for that one? My “race” was more like paying for permission to do a few laps around the course while an event was going on. It was a hell of a lot of fun, and I am planning on doing two more this season. Seriously, any sport that allows me to have this for a post-race recovery plan is fine by me.
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.
It seems like every time I sit down to write about a race, I always want to convey how excited I was about the event–how much I look forward to it. Each race is different and special. Northampton is my home (or thereabouts) and is special for that reason, but it’s more than that. This is the oldest UCI race in the country, and in its 23rd year, the race has taken place at Look Park for many years now.
This weekend is the ONE weekend I have ALL YEAR that is ALL MINE. My son is away with my ex. My significant other is away on business. And there is a huge 2 day cyclocross extravaganza practically in my backyard. I look forward to this weekend all year.
So you can imagine how bummed out I was when I started to feel like a tired piece of crud on Thursday. I started popping Zicam like candy on Friday and by Saturday morning, I was still feeling abnormally fatigued and a bit sneezy. Not to mention, I haven’t been riding much the last month Work, fading daylight, and increasing demands of my son’s schedule have made rides few and far between. Now that I’ve properly explained away why I did so crappy, I’ll tell you about the races.
Course was slightly moist, not really muddy, but greasy in spots. I got a really terrible start. Too much hesitation in front of me and I was caught in the dominos. On the first pass of the run-up, I was forced right, up the steepest, least climb-able part of the hill. The racer in front of me slipped and lost control of her shouldered bike and hit me, and then the same thing happened to me. I practically dragged the bike up the steepest part of the hill. It was ugly.
Then we were in the woods, which I liked. The course twisted and turned and spit us back down onto the flat and fast grass, taking us down a swift singletrack. On the grass there was lots of sprinting and braking and turning and more sprinting. The second run up wasn’t anything to sneeze at, and wound us through the woods again, and onto my favorite addition to this course. A very mountain-bike-esque set of dirt turns through trees with minor elevation changes. I LOVED this section. It was just plain fun and challenging enough to keep the best riders on their toes. I think I liked it because it was hard without being dangerous. Perfect.
I did, however, crash in this section. My first actual crash in a race. The rider in front of me spilled and forced me into deep unstable soil and I went ass over tea kettle. She quietly apologized (Cat 3/4 Women as very polite racers I’ve discovered) but I hopped back on and kept going (and so did she). No worries. This was all part of the adventure.
After this the course shot us down a trail on over the railroad tracks. If you had enough speed, you could catch air here. I did every time and it was wicked fun. Despite feeling like shit, I was having a good time.
Back on the grass it was power, power power……something we all know I’m short on. I did my best and tried to ride hard and smooth. I finished 60 out of 82 racers. Now I shouldn’t feel too bad about this since the top 15 are all crazy good. But this wasn’t the middle of the pack I was aiming for. Sigh. Being off the bike for nearly a month has its repercussions.
On Sunday, the two monster run ups were gone and the course was much, much faster. The good news is I felt much better this day. After spending Saturday hanging out with co-blogger Heather and new cycling friend Aileen drinking beer and eating pizza and watching the Elite races, I got some rest and Daylight Savings Time gifted me another whole hour of sleep. Sunday was a new day. The bad news is it was 15 degrees colder and fast courses eat me for breakfast.
Whatever. I was there to race. I decided that I was going to leave it all out there on the course, Save nothing! I lined up and had a much better start. I was more aggressive and sprinted when things opened up. I had contact with riders for 3 of the 4 laps, playing cat and mouse with several. By the 3rd lap things had shaken out and riders were stretched through the course. I stayed on the wheel of one rider for a half a lap until she shook me and steadily opened a gap on me that was too big to overcome. I worked on keeping myself enough ahead of whoever was left behind me.
I sprinted for the finish alone, finishing 62 of 75. A worse result than Saturday. I was a bit mystified by this because I really felt like I raced this one, rather than just survive it. I think this just illustrates how much better I do in technical sections than on flat open sections. I am no sprinter, I am not fast. I like dicey technical stuff.
So a great weekend all in all. I really would like a full CX experience by having a really sloppy muddy race. Or snow. Most of my races (this year and last) have been very dry. The muddiest race so far has been Providence. I’d love to see how I do in some terrible conditions.
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
Boom! Providence Cyclocross Festival! Probably my favorite course–especially with today’s rain–a true CX experience! Race report will follow. Results are in but under review so I’m going to wait until those bake a bit to talk about the race itself. Until then, here are a few pics of the fun!
Stay tuned for the race report……
It’s Friday night. Tomorrow, the much anticipated, hard fought Gran Prix of Gloucester returns to Stage Fort Park for it’s 15th year. Of those 15 years, I’ve attended for approximately 8 years of the last 13. This weekend, I’ll slip behind the CAUTION tape to participate instead of spectate. I am totally excited to be a part of this epic race–on an anniversary year, after the community of Gloucester almost–almost didn’t allow to return.
This historic cyclocross race also takes place on the North Shore of Boston–the same area I hail from. My family will be there to cheer me on, and I’m really nervous and excited about that. This is arguably one of the biggest races in the country for cyclocross, and it takes place with the cold Atlantic ocean as its landscape. It is truly an iconic venue, a legendary course, and to quote one of my twitter connections, “Gloucester is a special race.”
My race is Sunday morning at 10:00am. There are 100 women registered–just like almost all the fields–it’s sold out. I’m hoping to place somewhere in the middle of all of that–maybe the bottom middle, but the middle nonetheless. The most disappointing thing that could happen is a DNF, but I’m staying positive. The weather is predicted to be perfect–a sunny and dry 71 degrees with an ocean breeze. My bike is just back from the shop, I have a few more adjustments to make, a short ride planned tomorrow morning for an opener, and then I travel to Boston to spend the night on my mother’s couch.
A full race report will follow. Stay tuned, and wish me luck!
Last Sunday I raced QuadCX, a popular cyclocross race in the quiet Boston suburb of Maynard, MA. I had heard about QuadCX for years-it had a good reputation for being a fun race. But beyond that, I knew nothing more of it.
The #NECX scene (New England Cyclocross) is hot, hot hot. These are the cool kids of the sport. I’m a native of the Boston area, growing up less than 10 miles from downtown Boston on the North Shore. But since moving to western Mass more than 20 years ago, I’m not completely in the loop. Plus I’m old. Like, I have a kid old. Still, if the #NECX scene says QuadCX is a blast, then believe them. They know the deal.
I signed up for the race at the last minute, about 2 hours before registration ended Friday night. Normally I have some mental prep time before an event. This time I was really not in the racing state of mind. I hadn’t had a decent bike ride in what felt like weeks, and felt largely unprepared.
I arrived at the Maynard Rod & Gun club plenty early, registered, and then tried to pre-ride. The race organizers were busy still building the course, so the little group of women I latched onto would ride a part of the course, then it would evaporate. We improvised until the rest of the caution tape went up and the course was complete.
Maybe it was the last minute-ness, or the uncertainty of the pre ride, the early hour, the lack of coffee, the not-sleeping-in-my own -bed factor…or maybe it was discovering exactly how technical the woods portion of the course was–but I wasn’t feeling super confident about the race. My head wasn’t screwed on right. I had to quickly embrace a “what-the hell” attitude lest I beat myself up with nerves. I headed over to the start.
At the start, I ran into a friend I didn’t expect to see. She was running late, needing help with her number, holding a bag of gear, her bike, and a smartphone with a recently shattered screen. I pinned her number for her and she ditched her stuff and lined up for the call up with me. While I was waiting to begin, my long silent co-blogger Heather showed up to watch the start. I haven’t seen her in ages and it was great to see her in the crowd.
On the whistle, I had a great start. I clipped in immediately and was surprise when there was no one in front of me. I thought, “this can’t be right,” and like tempting fate, my cleat disengaged from my pedal and I faltered. Racers swarmed. I corrected and jumped on, still in a decent position. But when thinking back, it could have been so much better….
Then I raced. There was some contact on climbing hairpins and a run up. Nothing serious but I lost some time in these minor snarls. There was a sand pit with a hairpin that I thought I’d run, but somehow I pedaled through it each time. The lead group thinned and pulled away through the first lap and a half, and then I found myself somewhat alone. In the woods, I lost any apprehension I had during the pre-ride and found it flowing and mountain-bikey, with a bit of gnar here and there. It was loads of fun. The grass was deceiving–what you would expect to be smooth was terribly bumpy, with stray holes and rocks in the track to keep it interesting.
As I past the start line for the second time, the lap indicated we had 2 to go. I took inventory of my resources and realized I felt pretty strong. I had someone behind me, but had a decent gap on her. Ahead of me were two women from the Cat 3/4 under 40 group (my group was a Masters group, starting 1 minute behind the youngin’s). After that, I saw no one. So I decided that even though catching either one of these women would mean nothing in terms of advancing me in race position, it would be great practice in closing gaps, attacking, and with luck, gaining positions. The cat and mouse game began.
For two laps I would catch and pass on the woods, they would catch and pass on the grass. The finish was on the grass, so it went that way. Right down to the last little bit of the race where I decided to give it all I had. I still had gas in the tank, which surprised me. 2 weeks prior I was spent by the 3rd lap. I latched onto the rider in front of me with a half a lap to go. We were on the grass but I hung on through the off-camber turns and the barriers. I hung on through the more technical sloping, twisting climbs over the quickly disintegrating earth, I stayed with her through the last turn into the straight before the finish line and sprinted. And she knew it, and sprinted too. She finished one second before me, but it was so very fun. Like I said, I lost nothing to her, she was in a completely different race. I felt I gave the race a great effort and I learned a ton by doing it.
I had to leave immediately after for family reasons, so I really didn’t know how I did. My friend Vicki (who’s race number I pinned at the race start) texted me results….13th of 24 starters, only 21 finished. Does this mean I’m officially in the middle of the pack? I’m a fan of rounding down, so yes. Yes I’d say I’ve finally hit the middle.
Woot! CX season is here!
PS–big thanks to Heather for taking photos.
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.