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New Toy: 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 (2) Mountain Bike

XtC_27.5_2

My first love, mountain biking, is being rekindled with the long awaited arrival of my newest toy:  The 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 Mountain Bike. It’s been 14 years…..YEARS…since I bought a new MTB.  It was time.  I probably could have done smarter things with the money, but after putting my first love on the backburner year after year, I took a look at my chronological age and thought if it was going to happen, it probably should happen now.

The XtC is a fairly reasonable mid level bike.  Not carbon but lighter than what I’ve been riding, even with it’s disc brakes.  I’m also on a larger wheel, a 27.5 (650b).  I demoed the XtC 29er and the 27.5 and fund the 27.5 much nimbler and responsive than the 29er.  The 29er rolls fast but I found you needed to plan turns.  When I mountain bike, I find it a reactionary experience…quick decision making on the trail and nimble handling is much appreciated. I’m riding a real upgrade in the XtC.  Here are just a few highlights:

  • RockShox Recon Gold with 15mm thru-axle, OverDrive steerer suspension fork
  • Shimano SLX/Deore 2×10-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes
  • Giant S-XC2 27.5 double wall rim, Giant Tracker hub, stainless steel spoke wheelset

I’d like to report more on the riding experience, but truth is, I got it on Saturday and haven’t had a chance to ride it yet.  It’s driving me a little insane to have this machine in my living room with 62 degree perfect degree days and me not having the time to ride it.  I mean to remedy it soon, and as soon as I do, I’ll give a full rundown of it’s awesomeness.

 

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).

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.11.37 PM

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

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.

2ndcrackcycling

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

2013 Totals

This will be short & sweet. I should have written down my numbers for 2013 so I don’t have exact stats.  Fortunately I still have enough brain cells to remember the ballpark….

2013 Stats

Distance 2710 mi
Elev Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)
148 miles run, walked, hiked or skied.

2012 Stats

Distance 2,127.8mi
Time 173hr 44m
Elev Gain 81,385ft

Happy that I crushed last year.  I took on more climbing and found that it really made me stronger and faster. More of that in 2014. I’m not sure I’ll be able to match these achievement given my heavy work schedule. But I’ll have a great time trying.

-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.

P1040565

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

Race Report: DAS Beaver CX–In the SNOW!

This was the race that almost wasn’t.  We had a fair sized storm heading toward New England and snow forecasts had anywhere from 3 inches to 18 inches.  Gotta love New England Meteorologists.  I wish I could give estimates that wide in my job. Anyway, race organizer Liz Allen had a big decision to make. She created a Doodle poll, posted it on Facebook, and the discussion ensued. In the end, all systems were “go.”  Since my coffee was on the prize list–it was a “must attend” for me–hell or high water, or snow, I was going.

My feelings were split, if I have to be honest, about going.  My body is aching to be in full winter hibernation and I was apprehensive about traveling in bad weather.  My Christmas shopping isn’t done.  I like watching CBS Sunday morning with my honey.  Blah, Blah, Blah.  ON THE OTHER HAND…..I’m a extremely prideful native New Englander-snow is in my blood. I do like playing in the snow.  I love the cyclocross community.  There would most certainly be other crazy people there.  And, I come from Cyclocross Royalty for crying out loud!  I had to go.

I don’t think I can overstate how glad I am that I did go.  This was the best way to close out a great season of New England Cyclocross.  It was a small venue, made smaller by 5 inches of snow with a nice helping of freezing rain and sleet.  About 75 people, in total showed up.  That’s smaller then some of the fields I raced in this year.  There was a roaring bonfire in a halved drum that had a small group gathered around it.  It was about 32 degrees, which was twice as warm as it had been the day before–which made it not so bad at all.

The course was shortened due to the conditions and for safety reasons.  Fun but relatively safe.  During the race, volunteers would use shovels to add snow to the well worn paths–just to keep things interesting.  Corners were icy and slow, and clipping back into pedals was a 50/50 endeavor–the slushy snow packed so deeply into cleats, if it had been a few degrees colder there would be no knocking it free.

Best of all–the crazy people!  How great is a guy who decorates his CX bike with garland and working Christmas lights, puts a big Santa beard and hat on and races that way?  How about pickle handups?  How about grannie panty handups?  Donut handups?  Yes, we gave the go ol’ Portland, Oregon crowd a run for their money down at the little DAS Beaver CX race. So. Much. Fun.

corners at DAS

Corners around the trees were icy.

close ice shot

santa bike

Santa races CX!

The aftermath!  Frozen mud & slush.

The aftermath! Frozen mud & slush.

Plus, I achieved a few goals. Yes, it was due to weather related attrition, but hell, I’ll take it. I finished 4th, won money, swag, and was in a podium photo.  I also saw my friend Vicki and a few other people I knew. It was the best possible way to end my sophomore season of cyclocross.

Elvis has left the building and is shredding CX snow!

Elvis has left the building and is shredding CX snow!

post DAS 2 post race DAS podium DAS

The organizers, volunteers and Liz Allen in particular, deserve a load of credit and thanks for pulling off a great race in terrible conditions and making it a complete blast.  DAS Beaver CX–I’ll be back!

-Karen

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