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
The new definition of insanity: Waking up at 5AM on a Sunday to drive 150 miles to compete in a 30 minute CX race. It helped that recently silent co-blogger Heather offered to play photographer. Granite Gorge is a small ski area in Roxbury, NH (near Keene) where there has been a recent push to make it more of an all season multi-sport recreation area. They are doing a series of dual slalom mountain bike races, and are giving cyclocross a try.
The race site was easy to find and although parking was limited, we arrived early and got a great spot. My race was the first of the day at 9AM. I wore the winter skinsuit for the first time ever. It was 42 degrees and we had showers pass through the night before, making the grass of the course dripping with cold dew. I got on to pre-ride right away. The course wasn’t “broken in.” There were no established lines, grassy, rutted and incredibly hilly terrain. They made use of a small footprint of their ski area by packing in the most off-camber turns I’ve ever experienced. Building them into the ski slopes made them even more challenging. There were only 2 spots where any kind of speed could be achieved. I wiped out on the preride on the slick grass, which I took as a sign. I felt clumsy during the preride, I couldn’t find a rhythm. I don’t know if it was the early hour, the lack of sleep, or lack of coffee. I also needed a trip to the restroom, which I was denied because whoever has the keys to the lodge was late getting to the race so the bathrooms weren’t open until I was into the first lap of my race (Points off for that….)
It was a scrum start with the juniors lining up after the Cat 4 women. I wasn’t in the front line but after the whistle blew I was # 6 into the first set of turns. Then, not 100 yards from the start, my first mishap happened. I got tripped up on a short steep sandy rise. I corrected, but the I’m sure the women right behind me weren’t happy about the sudden stop. Then, a turn later, I swung too wide and my handlebars became entangled in the tape. I lost a lot of ground when that happened. After that, I realized that with a 30 minute race, there wouldn’t be too much recovering possible. I chased a rider for a lap and she finally shook me loose. I caught another and passed her on the 3rd lap, on a hill no less. The was the only position I was able to regain. Other than that I was riding alone, with a vague awareness that I wasn’t last but wasn’t in the middle of the pack where I should have been. Instead I concentrated on riding the course as smoothly and efficiently as I could, which was hard on this course. So much of it was disruptive and difficult. I tripoded the corners often. I became unseated more times than I can remember. I dismounted a minimum of 4 times a lap (laps were only 1.25 miles/each with 2 sets of barriers). I ran the bike through spots where I became unseated to try to regain lost momentum but it was a losing battle. My best lap was the last lap (lap #5) where I had finally mastered a few of the trickier turns (but not all of them).
There were 12 women racing and I had wanted to come in 6th. Race predictor thought 6th and I thought that was fair. Alas, I came in 9th. It could have been worse, but it most certainly could have been better. Meh, it happens. I had a lot of fun and hanging out with Heather was a long time coming. I also met a lot of great folks, which has been one of the best things about this sport I’ve discovered.
Notes on Granite Gorge:
- Crazy hilly course. Most intensely mountain-bikey course to date. Even more than Silk City. Wouldn’t hate it if this was toned down a bit.
- A 40 minute race would have made this a little more for the money, and the travel.
- Bathrooms should be open when registration opens! Riding with a full bladder was a tad distracting.
- HIGH marks for camp factor. Loved the Halloween decorations, the taxidermy coyote, the dummy snowboarder, the random VW Buses. Fun.
- They had a representative directing parking. This was a good organizational indicator. He was friendly and gave good directions to racers looking for registration.
- Great people, as always.
I hung out after to snap some shots. The men are Cat 4/5 and Masters. Heather took the photos of me (thanks Heather). Then she introduced me to 5 Guys Burgers and Fries in Keene. Greasy hamburgers after this intense little race hit the spot.
PS–More photos below!
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……
Photo Credit: Vicki Bocash of Rhode Island. Thanks for cheering me on Vicki!
But here’s how it started:
It was a foggy start, but 30 minutes before race time, the fog broke and the sun quickly heated up Stage Fort Park in Gloucester. I took a practice lap in the fog. The races were tightly scheduled so I only got one in–but reports from friends who raced Saturday were confirmed: dry, rocky, bumpy on one whole side of the course. The rest of it was fast, fast fast. And very dusty.
I was pretty nervous about this race all week. I spent the night at my parent’s house, sleeping on the couch. My son was with me and my Mom was taking him to the race. He was so excited, he couldn’t sleep the night before (when I really needed to). And on my end, I woke at 4:15AM, mind racing. I had been to Gloucester so many times, but never as a racer. I got there in plenty of time, registered, warmed up. When I finally got on the course, it hit me–I’m doing this, I’m at Gloucester. Gloucester! This is the biggest race I’ll ever be in. It’s Gloucester!
I had been trying to keep a lid on my excitement all week. I never imagined I’d be competing, even at the low level I compete at, at a venue as fantastic as Gloucester. I never thought it was a dream to race there. But maybe it was–in the back of my mind–one I never gave myself the freedom to imagine.
We lined up. There was an issue with the call up–my name was not called in order of the crossresults points list, so I lost a good staging position. I would have started a couple of rows ahead of where I ended up. I had a decent start anyway, making up some ground and landing at the end of the top 1/3 of the group. I hung on to this for about a lap before they (almost) all caught up to me. As per usual, I’d pick up positions in the technical spots: stairs, barriers, off-camber turns, dicey loose rocky stuff. I can ride that stuff. Then an open space would come and they’d gobble me up. Many would catch me on the straights and then I’d pass some of them in the technical areas. Cat, mouse. But I ended up losing many positions. I wanted to finish in the top 60. Crossresults predicted I’d finish 57. I finished 60th, on the spot. Little did I know, as I was finishing as strong as I could, I had two women 3 seconds behind me (glad I didn’t just coast that last 100 yards).
- My dismounts are improving–I’m slightly faster doing this but with more room to improve.
- My remounts are getting much better. I definitely picked up time over competitors this way.
- My stutter-step is all but gone. This newly acquired bad habit I’ve been working on eliminating. I did it twice this race. Much better than in earlier races.
- I trying to rip through turns more and brake less. This is racing!
Room for improvement:
- Clearly, my biggest weakness is speed in open areas. I need interval training. Hmm. I mean, I need MORE interval training.
This course was a lot faster and less technical than Silk City–which was more of a mountain bike course than a CX course. I liked Gloucester, a lot. When you are actually racing CX, you don’t have time to be nervous about where you are or the notoriety of the venue. But I have to share this with you: there was a section near the pits, with the Atlantic ocean just 100 years away, ships with sails drawn high in the air, the smell of the ocean penetrated my lungs and reminded me; I was at Gloucester!
And being at Gloucester was enough.
I placed 60th of 86 riders. 83 finished. 100 were registered. I lapped 2 riders. I did not get lapped. And even though 60th wasn’t the best result, or the result I had aspired for, it doesn’t matter. I raced my bike at Gloucester today.
Photo credit: Marylou Hansen and Donna Lynn. The first 2 fog pics were mine–from the iPhone. Thanks for cheering!