Plans mean nothing, planning is everything. Eisenhower said this first, but it sums up the way I operate pretty nicely. That said, I have jotted the CX races I’m interested in participating in for 2013. Here is the schedule:
DATE Race Location
August 24 Monson CX Monson, MA
August 25 Blunt Park CX Springfield, MA
September 21 Aenta Silk City CX Manchester, CT
September 28 Great Brewers Gran Prix Gloucester, MA
September 29 Great Brewers Gran Prix Gloucester, MA
October 5 Providence Cyclocross Festival Providence, RI
October 6 Providence Cyclocross Festival Providence, RI
October 20 Sloper CX Southington, CT
November 2 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA
November 3 Cycle-Smart International Northampton, MA
November 16 Cheshire CX Cheshire, CT
November 30 Sterling CX Sterling, MA
December 1 Sterling CX Sterling, MA
Some of these dates are confirmed, others are educated guesses. The smaller races like Sloper and Cheshire and Silk City are repeats from last year. Hopefully they will be held again on these similar dates. Gloucester, Providence and Northampton are pretty set, and those are the big ones. I’ve attended Gloucester for many years but never races it–and I’m excited for that one. It’s close to my hometown and has by far the best crowd, and takes place next to the cold gray Atlantic ocean–an epic location for a ‘cross race. There is some uncertainty at the time of this writing as some local folks in Gloucester are against the race taking place since as it has grown, so has the wear and tear on the park immediately post race (the park heals nicely and within weeks you can see the grass growing back. By spring, no one would ever know a race took place at Stage Fort Park. But I digress…). If you want an absolute on the existence of these races, you’ll have to check BikeReg from time to time, although many don’t get posted until well into Autumn.
Absent from this list is Night Weasels. I want to do that race as well, but it’s typically held on a week night, which always presents a layer of difficulty in terms of work/childcare. I think that takes place in November sometime.
Of course there are a bunch of other races I’d like to do not listed above–especially in Maine and New Hampshire. We’ll see what I can sneak in, and what will need to be omitted. But I have a list, a working list, and that’s a good start. It’s also double the number of races I did last year.
Now, I just have to get that new carbon CX bike so I can worm my way to the middle of the pack….
Double meaning, anyone?
This week, temperatures are final climbing north of 40, which brings a waves of relief to those of us who have suffered through the winter with no end. It’s April next week, so we’re good and ready to leave the snow behind, just in time for 30 Days of Biking to begin.
It’s been snowy or windy or just plain cold the last two weeks. It has slowed my biking down a bunch, which I’m not psyched about, but I’ve stepped up my running a bit. My women’s pickup basketball group has secured a gym for the spring and we’re starting our pickup games again, which is a ton of fun as well. But I’d like to get started with longer rides soon.
This week I’m going to try and log 100+ collective miles. I’d like to get a month of those in, if possible. I’m in a unique position where I have some time to ride, and I don’t expect it to last forever, so I’m taking it while I can get it. I want a good base going into summer, and I want to keep it up and try to get faster in general going into the fall. My end game is of course cyclocross season, which constantly resides in the back of my mind, looking for a reason to slip front and center.
Today I took a short-ish ride on one of my familiar (i.e., getting dull) routes. I spiced things up by going off road for a bit. I have been riding the ‘cross bike almost exclusively for the past year and I just don’t want to give it up. I love dipping into the woods whenever I feel like it. I like mixing up the ride with some mud and wet sand, or like today-snow and roots, pine needles, standing ice water and a couple of dogs out for a walk chasing me, wanting to play. I really have to credit the ‘cross bike with keeping me engaged with riding. Other years I burned out, especially when training for a long charity event. But now, I just want more. It’s the best addiction ever, and now that the weather is finally getting a little friendlier, I’m able to get outdoors and play. I think it reminds me of when I was a kid playing on dirt roads in New Hampshire, jumping over roots and tearing through the woods on bikes with friends.
At any rate, Spring is supposed to be here, and this week I might start to believe it. There’s still snow in my yard. I need to stay off the trails until they dry out a bit, but the gravel and dirt roads are fair game, and I don’t mind playing in the mud.
This video is making the rounds in social media, and I had to share it–just watching it makes me regret even more deeply that I did not book a trip to see the Worlds this weekend!
At the very least, if this doesn’t get you psyched about the sport of cyclocross, nothing will.
I remember when I first heard that the 2013 Cyclocross World Championship races would be held, for the first time ever, in the United States. I think it was about 2 years ago. Louisville, Kentucky doesn’t seem like a long trip, and I thought I should book my flight right then. I’m regretting now that I didn’t.
Thank goodness that USA Cycling is offering live streaming of both the women’s and men’s elite races. Here is a link from Cyclocross Magazine in case you’d like to check it out. Saturday, February 2: 11:00 a.m. ET – Junior Men / 2:30 p.m. ET – U23 Men. Sunday, February 3: 11:00 a.m. ET – Elite Women / 2:30 p.m. ET – Elite Men. And bonus! Commentary won’t be in Flemish. We Ugly Americans certainly appreciate that.
I’m fighting off a funk in terms of my cycling routine. And I’m not going to blame the weather either. The weather is not an issue. It seems as suddenly all these crazy workouts have caught up with me. I had one good ride last week and I was rewarded with a tweaked hip that pinched a nerve and made it near impossible for me to cross my own kitchen, let alone pedal. I went mountain biking with a friend which was great–I liked the social aspect. But the ride was slower due to conversation and 5 minutes before we wrapped up I crashed and smashed up my left knee.
Also-last weekend I rolled my ankle and it’s been stiff ever since.
I officially sound like everyone’s older parent bitching about what aches. How awful of me. I don’t like it. I don’t like that my knees pop and crack when I try to get off the couch, and that my hamstrings are so tight they cramp when I bend down to pick up my son’s Legos.
What to do? A lot of folks advise some time off the bike, but I don’t know….I’m sort of afraid to stop. I feel like momentum is one of the things I have going for me.
This is where I am, wrestling between time off and another goal. The most immediate would be next weekend’s finale on the cyclocross season.
The New England Cyclocross Championships is a Dec 15/16 and in Fitchburg, MA. There are some good videos posted online and it doesn’t look like a really crazy course. Despite the name it’s really not a big race. There is a flyover which looks fun–you have to dismount, climb up, and remount at the top. I am looking at racing Saturday in the 35+ Masters Women group. Like anything, I have analyzed this to a ridiculous level and know that based on last year’s race it’s a small group, under 10 women, and that if I raced those same women from last year, I would finish last. I know that even if I do finish last, I will score low points as scored on crossresults.com, which will help my overall average and earn me a better starting position in larger races next year.
I am pretty proud of myself for doing all these races but after reviewing my results, I have a lot of improving to do and I do want to get better race results. So I suppose I should just take my creaky middle-aged body to Fitchburg next weekend.
I’m not committing 100% yet. I’m going to do my normal training plan leading up to a race and see how I feel after Wednesday. Then I’ll either pull the trigger or stay home and ride the couch. Then I’ll get it together to recap the year and set some new goals for 2012. Providing the Mayans aren’t right and all.
The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been. Pretty flat. After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season. I started riding “for fun.” And that was–I thought–a good plan.
It should have been a good plan. I started mountain biking. Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters. I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure. The problem is, it hasn’t been.
Of course that isn’t ALL true. But there is something missing.
I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season. Although I admit, I needed the break. My muscles felt frayed and tight. Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem. The weather hasn’t been ideal either. I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.
I’ve even tried changing up locations. Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community. I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town. The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees. 12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet. Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.
I’m not sure what to do about this. Should I take a real break? Stop riding altogether for a couple of months? Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December? I already feel my fitness slipping. And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.
Suggestions? I’m all ears.
I have been slacking on my blogging duties. Sorry about that. I raced my bike a couple of weeks ago–let’s chat about that little race in Connecticut.
Cheshire CX took place in the Cheshire Town Park and had 197 racers in total. The amateur women had 2 groups–cats 1-3 and a separate Cat 4 which was scored separately, although we Cat 4s raced a minute behind the 1-3s.
I was alone again for this race, which I have to admit is getting old. The bright spot is that I’ve become friendly with another Cat 4 who started racing at the same time. We both did Sloper CX as our first race, and it has been the only time I have beaten her. She’s in her 20′s, it was bound to happen. Anyway it’s great to pair up and do a warm up with another racer and just talk bikes. I don’t get that a lot and I appreciate the new friends I’m meeting by pursuing cyclocross.
The course was in a word: awesome. I knew this would be a course I liked. Lots of twists and turns, lots of woods and roots and rocks and trees. There was sand, and grass, and loose leaves and pine needles. It even had mud! I was so excited. There were 2 run ups that forced a dismount. The first one I liked better than the second. The second run up was technically rideable but I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t see anyone in my group riding it. It was a 80 meter hill with some steep hairpins at the top. It was tough the first time, painful the second, and by the third lap my legs actually started to seize up on me. I nearly fainted (no joke) at the top after remounting and trying to spin away from the hilltop and the pain.
Despite this, I was having a blast. The course has a roller coaster quality to it and was more technical than I had seen in other venues. I really liked this. More time in the woods meant I was more in my element. There was a woman behind me who laughing, named me “motivation” and tried to pass me. She did, then the woods would come and I’d pass her on the run up. She remarked “Oh. This is where you are good.” Yup. I’ll take that as a compliment. She stayed on my wheel for 2 laps. I had opened a pretty big gap on her on the first of those laps but by the last lap she was closing and I knew–I just knew, she would sprint for the win. I also knew I was pretty spent from the 80 meter exercise in pain. I tried to make a little time on her but she was on me, and pounced in the last straightaway to the finish line. As she passed me, she yelled “let’s go!” She wanted to race. I responded for about 2 seconds and knew I was toast. She rode away and stole 7th place from me–she earned it entirely.
I really like engaging in these mini races inside the race–I like it a lot. I want to go back to Cheshire next year and really improve, because I know I am faster than my performance. I felt “ok” for the race but not my best, not like I felt in Northampton or Providence. This also may be my last race of the season. There are only a couple of weeks left of racing in New England. I’m missing Warwick and Ice Weasels, but I might…..maybe……do the New England Championships in Fitchburg. This sounds more impressive than it is, to me it’s another race. There is a 35+ Women’s category on Saturday that I would do–IF I decide to. Jury is still out….but I’m strongly considering it.
I couldn’t resist comparing ‘cross with one of my favorite movies–Fight Club. If you have seen it, it either disgusts you or you think it is genius. Men in particular connect with this movie, which was its target audience/subject. I am one of the few women I know who absolutely loves it. I haven’t met anyone who only feels medium about this movie. It’s all or nothing, love or hate.
I was a professional bookseller for 14 years and can discuss the literary worth of this piece of fiction (the book is always better than the movie), the role of masculinity in today’s modern society, the sexual orientation of the author–but for the sake of brevity and focus I’ll just discuss the analogy the my title makes. Cyclocross is Fight Club with Bikes. I know I’m still new to it, but there are philosophical elements to this sport that I can take with me throughout life. They feel similar to racing cyclocross. I’ll use some popular quotes to illustrate.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” ~Fight Club movie, screenplay by Jim Uhls, directed by David Fincher, novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Agreed. You learn more about yourself by experiencing difficulty. These races are difficult. No, it’s not violence. It’s not war. Perhaps it’s a safer expression of difficulty. Social norms still apply but it’s not called an hour in hell for nothing. Racing hurts. There’s physical pain. There is spiritual emancipation.
“You aren’t alive anywhere like you’re alive at fight club…. Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
The line “he looks carved out of wood” resonates with me. Over the last 3 months I’m seeing my softness wither and a leaner version emerge. The athletes at these races are fit, lean, and muscular. Racing hammers the soft parts away. Racing builds confidence. You race bikes for crying out loud! You can nail anything you try for.
“One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
There are so many mistakes you can make over the course of a race. A hundred things at least to get wrong, or right. Having an entire minute of perfection within a race is hard to achieve. Perfection is fleeting, so it’s savored.
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.” ~Chuck Palahniuk
Being perfect is no fun. Who wants that? Perfection is boring. It’s the work we do on the road to perfection that is divine.
PS–this parting quote is worth noting….
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
So get on your bikes people!
I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend. It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed. Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.
When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross. But I was selling my new addiction short.
I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total. They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout. At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4. I’m interested to see how that looks. I was really pleased with my results at Northampton. I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence). In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th. And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field. It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.
Other things I have noticed in this pursuit: I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year. Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes. This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all. I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.
To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to. There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts. I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me. When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time. After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds. And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well. It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.
Not making mistakes on the course carves time. Getting faster and stronger carves time. Building endurance carves time. Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time. Skills work carves time. Staying healthy carves time. Staying lean and light carves time. I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.
Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack. I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.
Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one. The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result. But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross. It’s just really, really fun. It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun. It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible. This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.
So I learned what 2 consecutive days of cyclocross racing feels like.
An ass kicking.
A demonstration of discipline and tolerance to pain.
Thank goodness for day light saving time, because in theory, it gave me an extra hour of sleep. Unfortunately, a text message at 4:44am from someone in an airport that I did want to hear from changed any plans I had for extra rest. I had napped after Saturday’s race so I was rested enough, and I actually arrived at Look Park earlier than necessary. As a result, I was able to preride the course and see the changes they had made after day 1. Yes, they change things up in these 2 day events–it keeps racers on their toes. Because ‘cross is already hard, but let’s keep ‘em guessing too. That’s just how the sport rolls.
Major changes included the run up and the descent. The run up was a short uphill (rideable) and hairpin turn, then another hairpin, dismount, run-up to the upper deck. The decent was a very sharp downhill followed by an immediate right turn which claimed a few riders (crashes).
I was very sore from my efforts on Saturday and I didn’t feel like a had a lot to offer, so I kept me expectations reasonable. The field was a bit larger at 75 racers. We lined up the start and I tried the concentrate on just having a good race, despite my beaten body. The whistle blew. I had a terrible start. The rider in front of me staggered, so it forced me to as well. Then I couldn’t clip in immediately. Another rider in front of me choked on the first corner and I was caught behind her, so I choked with her. I needed to stay out of trouble, and it was everywhere. On the first hairpin turn before the big run up, the barrier tape had collapsed and created havoc–we were all forced to dismount and shoulder the bike while lifting the tape out-of-the-way so we could pass one at a time. Major time suck! This is why starts are so important. When things fall apart in the back, you don’t get dragged down with it.
This isn’t an accusation either–this just happens. It’s like one small thing causes a chain reaction and then the rest of the field is affected. This is just how it is. Being fast gets you a better starting position. Being fast allows you to be faster. Good starts are everything, and this was a great example of why.
After that most of the trouble had cleared. I felt a bit empty but pushed it anyway. I battled a couple of women but lost often. I just tried to have as good a day on the bike. My muscles were torn up and didn’t have the push they did on Saturday. I did the best I could.
Which ended up being not as bad as I feared. I finished 55th of 75 riders–still solid and in keeping with my results on Saturday.
My next goal is to crack the 40′s on a race of similar size (any in the NEPCX Series). I don’t think it will happen this season but something to work towards next season.
If you’d like to see what the course looked like, please look at this extremely excellent video by CyclingDirt of the pro men racing on Day 2. Note: this is same course used as the rest of the racers in amateur classes. The video really captures the course layout–very good stuff.
And here are some shots of the Cat 4 Men on Day 2 hitting the barriers.
I don’t want this to be the end of my season. I would like to do at least 1 more race, a smaller one that I’m healthy for. I am head over heels for ‘cross (figuratively, fortunately–although the literal version is completely possible when doing the sport). It’s fun and hard and amazing and hurts but in a way that makes you feel so alive–it’s hard to explain to people. I’m clearly addicted. I don’t care if I suck. That’s not what it’s about. I’m not sure I can put into words what this is about, but I’ll keep doing it until I figure it out. Then I write about it here. Then I’ll do it some more.