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Spring is Here. Really.

It’s been a long hard winter for most of us–I couldn’t write here anymore because I didn’t think it would help to complain. So I didn’t. I was always here through, biding my time.  Now that Spring is here, I’m ready to begin again.

Not that I ever fully stopped, but this year has had a slow start.  I still have snow in my yard, but for all road biking purposes, it’s gone. Roads are wet with melt and muddy with sand that hasn’t been swept, but who cares?  It’s above freezing at last.  I’m way behind where I was last year in terms of fitness and miles, but not so far gone that it will take me long to ramp up.

Saturday I got out for a just shy of 40 mile ride, with a huge climb right in the middle. I’d like to start doing at least one “big” ride a week.  Right now big is 40 miles.  But soon I’d like to get 50-60-70 miles at a time.  I’m trying to stick to my plan in terms of working out–right now I’m only averaging 3x/week.  I’d prefer 5, but that will come.  I started running again, once or twice a week. I have my eye on an off road duathlon in April that I’ve done a few times before.  I’m talking my brother into doing it with me (this time I’d like to beat him).  It’s a 1.8 mile trail run, 5.5 mile MTB/CX off road ride, followed by another 1.8 mile trail run.  It’ll be done in an hour, but it’s a nice warm up for racing this year and I like the cross-training aspect of a duathlon.

Downhill: Mud, Sweat & Gears 2011. Ashland, MA

Downhill: Mud, Sweat & Gears 2011. Ashland, MA

The one tweak this time is that I’ll be doing it on my cyclocross bike.  The other times I did this race I did it on my mountain bike.  But I asked the race promoter and yes, CX bikes are legal.  They are also a hell of a lot faster.  I’m not a fast runner, and last time I was in the last 1/3 of the race after the run, and then moved up considerably during the bike portion of the race.  Unfortunately, the running at the end pushed me back again.  I’ll take any advantage I can get, and the carbon fiber Kona will do nicely.

Everyone get on your bikes!  Spring is here!

-Karen

Delayed Spring, Delayed Training.

Mid march and the icy grips of winter seem to be easing at last. Like most cyclists, I’ve pushed back any kind of structured training week after week, trying to stay active by shoveling snow, skiing and snowshoeing. I’ve ignored the trainer because I freaking hate it. Sorry but the trainer sucks. I’d rather ride in the snow (and sometimes I have).

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I’m not really sweating it, but I’m eager to get started. My schedule is tough but I’m pretty good at wringing a workout out my my busy life.  To get started, I’m looking at different events to guide my training goals through the spring and summer. The Fall will take care of itself and be exclusively focused on cyclocross (of course). Here’s what I’m looking at for spring/early summer. Nothing definite but here’s the (very short) list:

Rockbuster Duathlon-Ashland, MA.                                                  Saturday April 19th, 2014

This is a 1.8 trail run, 5.5 mile off road bike, 1.8 trail run. I’ve done this race twice before in the fall under the name of Mud, Sweat and Gears. It’s a good event, a mass start, and a lot of fun running around the woods. I contacted the race organizer and asked if cyclocross bikes were allowed and they are! I’m going to see if my little brother can join me for this one, as he has before.

Root 66 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike Race-Ware, MA             Sunday June 1, 2014

This one is close by. Sort of. The landowners encourage pre-riding so I hope to get out there in May to recon the course. I’m planning on renewing my US Cycling License and will be doing the Cat 3 (Beginner) Masters Women Race. I’ll be a little nervous only because I haven’t done a mountain bike race in about 12 years. I don’t plan on doing any other MTB races at this point but I’m surfing bikereg.com to see if anything looks fun and is on a free weekend. The best part about this race is that I plan to be on a brand new bike by that time. As soon as the government forks over my tax return I’m marching down to the LBS and picking out a new bike. Yay!

I’m still considering the summer. I need to connect with Laura of PA for a century ride, either organized or not. It would be my first century ever. I’m looking at doing an Obstacle Course Race for fun (and for beer). I’m also looking at the D2R2 at the end of summer (as I consider this every summer, I still have yet to sign up) plus a few other events. Lots of want to’s. There will only be a few that will work out for me.  Meh–this is how is goes. I do what I can.

-Karen

While Old Man Winter Wasn’t Looking…..

Heather & I road some bikes.  Yeah, it was raining, and yeah, there was some snow, and some ice, and some mud.  But it was above freezing, which sadly qualifies as “good weather.”

Resting after a stream crossing.

Resting after a stream crossing.

I’m deeply grateful that I have a crazy enough friend who lives close by enough to join me to ride in these conditions. I am managing to get out about once every week or two, but as evidenced by the snow you see above, it’s hasn’t always been possible to ride.  And when there wasn’t several inches of snowfall to contend with, there was the “Polar Vortex.”

The icy ascent.

The icy ascent.

Anyway, it was good to ride outside, and have some company to boot.  We kept the elevation under 1000 ft, but the extra effort pedaling through a few soft inches of snow and tire sucking mud didn’t make us feel like we were slacking off.

As I type, 4 new inches of snow lie in my yard, and another 6-12 predicted tomorrow night, with a Nor’Easter predicted for Sunday with a rumor of several feet of snow.

That groundhog?  Call the exterminator.

-Karen

Building My Own Bike: Part 1

When my brother gave me a $75 gift card to Bike Nashbar for Christmas, I’m sure he didn’t think he’d be the tipping point in me deciding to build my own bike.  I just learned how to change my own tires last year, so sure, I can build a bike, right?  Right.

I purchased an aluminum cyclocross frame off Nashbar’s site and paid about $30 for it.  That was mostly for shipping.  I took advantage of the gift card, a fantastic post holiday sale and Nashbar’s brand frame.  As soon as I ordered it, I tweeted about it, which resulted in a flurry of closet bike mechanics coming out of the woodwork giving me advice.  Wow–I had no idea how many bike builders I knew.  I know next to nothing, but with their help, and the Internet, I’m learning so much.  And that was partially the intent of taking this project on.

Now, armed with a ton of online articles, Twitter, and an amazing spreadsheet from Ashley from Aerochick, who built her first bike last year, I am researching parts and slowly buying what I need.  I’m giving myself until September to finish it.  I’m planning on building a single speed cyclocross bike, and racing it occasionally in 2014.  With talk of the Single Speed World Championships coming to Boston in 2014, I want to give the fringiest part of my fringe sport a try.

I’ll keep you posted on the build, how it goes, and where I run into trouble (I’m sure I’ll run into a bunch).  I know there are a few stages that require me to bring it to the LBS for installation (feeling no shame–Cyclocross Magazine even recommended this), but otherwise, I’m going to try and give everything a good college try before taking it to my mechanic for help.

-Karen

2014 Cycling Goals: MTB, CX, Dirt Road Races

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Karen

Year End CX Race Stats

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

My 2013 Cyclocross Results.

My 2013 Cyclocross Results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SnowCXapoluza

So, Sterling didn’t happen. It was the best choice for me, I struggled all weekend with a painful sinus infection that left me with a throbbing headache and fatigued. I read stories of the “frozen ruts of death” that plagued the early races. Part of me feels relieved, another part wistful with regret.

Onward. I finally broke down and saw a physician last night. I have meds! Not the fun kind, just antibiotics. I am signed up for the DAS Beaver Cross race scheduled to be held in Dayville, CT on Sunday Dec 15, 2013. Even better, I struck a deal with the race promoter and my coffee is on the prize list! So showing up is mandatory. On the race’s Facebook page, the promoter posted this:

forecastShe then said “Challenge Accepted” and provided instruction for volunteers to bring shovels.

Now it’s only Tuesday, and I live in New England, and a lot can happen between now and Sunday. But I would bet money that some kind of precipitation is going to happen and Sunday’s forecast is predicting a high of 39F. I’ve been bitching all season about not having a real muddy, messy, crazy-weather cyclocross race. Looks like I’ll finally get what I’ve been asking for.

-Karen

Contemplating Sterling CX

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…..).Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 10.22.45 PM

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.

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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.

-Karen

Exhibit A

Race #

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.

Post race recovery plan

Heather

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