This race, Divine Providence as it’s called, was so much fun. I think it’s the most fun I’ve had so far. I regret not staying longer, I regret not taking Friday off and getting a hotel room and making it a long CX weekend experience. There is so much to get excited about, and I can’t talk about it all in one post. So for now–I’ll talk about the race. My race. The Women’s Cat 3/4 35+ race.
It was raining the whole way down to Providence. We left at 6:30AM and arrived a bit after 8:00AM. The rain backed off a bit, spitting and stopping and spitting again. The parking was crazy–it was much busier than last year. I hustled down to registration, grabbed a number, hustled back to the car, changed, pinned, and tried to make a full lap of a pre-ride. I got 1/2 lap before riders were pulled from the course for the Men’s Cat 4/5 9AM race. I scoped out some of the course from behind the barriers. There were several similarities to last year. The course was wet and a little muddy, but with the same rolling terrain with fun curves. I have to admit I was more than a little excited for the rain. This was going to be a real CX experience! I met up with my pal Vickie and met a few of her friends and we kibitzed about CX waiting for call up to start.
At the call up, I enjoyed chatting with more new friends. There were lots of familiar faces and the chatter was happy and friendly. I had an average start, but I made my way into the first 1/3 again. There were 135 racers and the pack was tight, especially in the corners. Things felt slow (and this is coming from me so they must have been awfully slow) and I felt excited. I jumped off the single file and onto the grass and started passing women. I rode wide into the corners and passed more. I was chasing a new friend, Natalie. She just started racing this year after lots of success on the mountain bike and she’s a better racer than I am. I knew if I could keep up with her, I’d be doing OK.
I caught Natalie, and passed her. I was riding aggressively, more aggressively than I have in a race. There were always other racers around me. In front, in back–I never lost contact with other riders throughout the entire race. I tried to find another carrot to chase. I was riding well and still had energy, but I knew I couldn’t keep the pace up much longer. Then Natalie appeared again. She was smiling, and yelled “I wish we lived closer, I’d love to train with you!”
That was the last I saw of her.
I faded a bit, but still pushed. Cat and mouse with several riders. I noticed something: in the mud and on the corners especially, other riders appeared timid. They slowed way down on the corners. I had to brake so I wouldn’t crash into them. I realized I could be faster in these areas and started to use it to my advantage. I even sprinted on a couple of straight areas. On the flyover, a series of tight “S” curves preceded the steep climb up the flyover. Many riders swung way out to get a running start. I didn’t need it, and picked up positions by cutting the corner shot and muscling up the flyover, then cutting the corners out of the flyover area.
These technical areas were wonderful fun. I love them. I delighted in managing my approach and tactics. Stronger riders still passed me on straight areas, but the cat and mouse game was enthralling. Then the third lap came.
On this lap, the rain was light but steady. I wasn’t concerned about the rain. I wear inserts in my glasses, so removing my glasses is problematic in the rain–my vision is blurry. But the rain obscured my vision from my left eye. Still–I managed. The real problem was that I felt like I was bonking. My heart rate was crazy high. That familiar pain in my right shoulder came back (I had that in Gloucester too). I felt totally cooked. I slowed way down. I grew dizzy. Riders passed me. I needed to de-escalate my heart rate but didn’t want to slow down anymore.
I recovered enough as I came to the bell lap–I knew I had just this last lap and then I was done, and I didn’t want to lose any more positions. I was still ambitious enough to think I might be able to gain a position or two. I was still cat and mousing with a couple of riders. As I came into the last section of grass and woods before the pavement to the finish line, I heard a guy cheering for the rider behind me. I didn’t know where she was, how close she was behind me or even what she looked like. But I held her off. Then I heard the man yell “Get her on the pavement!” I knew she’d hit the pavement and sprint for the finish, and I was worried about that. I’m a poor sprinter. So as soon as I jumped the curb off the grass, I pedaled as hard as I could. It was at least 100 yards, maybe more of sprinting. She passed me with about 30 feet to go to the finish line. But I had given it my all.
Afterwards, I almost threw up. My effort was so intense I was choking. I had taken a decongestants for what I thought were some mild allergies, but now I think I may have a mild cold. My throat was full of junk and breathing was complicated. After a little rest and some water, I could speak intelligibly again.
My result wasn’t too bad. I’m definitely landing in the middle of the pack. I place 70th of 135 riders. Only 91 finished. Honestly, I thought I had done better. I thought I had placed at least 10 more positions ahead of 70. I realize that this was the largest field I had raced in, with riders from all over the northeast, many of them quite a bit younger than me. 70 isn’t awful. I felt very happy with how I rode the first part of the race. I pushed hard the whole race-to the point I was dizzy and bile rose up in my throat. I gave it everything, but still I hoped for a better result.
The good and the bad:
- I love mud!
- I am approaching and handling corners faster and more confidently than some other riders.
- I rode more aggressively in this race than in any other.
- I am not afraid of riding in large groups
- I’m finding time in technical areas
- I have to find a way to maintain energy throughout the race
- I am curious if nutrition choices before the race can help me maintain energy in the 3rd and 4th laps
- I’m still losing time on the straits
This is my 5th race this year–which means I’m officially 1/2 way through cyclocross season. I’ve managed to reliably worm my way into the middle of the pack. My next goal is to break through the top 50%. I keep coming up short of that goal.
Next year I want to do both days. I had so much fun riding this course–it’s rolling and flows and just loads of fun. I have been thinking all week “I want to do that again!” But I have to wait a whole year for Holy Week.
The 2013 Cyclocross Season is officially underway, and finally my quiet brooding over the last 9 months can be realized as the full-blown obsession it should be. I have 2 races under my belt this year so far, and I’ve been pleased so far with the training I’ve done and the performance of the new CX bike.
There’s still lots of work to be done, however. Nutritionally speaking, I always have opportunities. I need lot of skill work, too. That just takes repetition, repetition, repetition.
The next 3 weekends I have races scheduled. Silk City is this weekend in Manchester, CT. Then, the Holy Week of Cyclocross in the Northeast kicks off the following weekend in Gloucester, MA with the Gloucester Gran Prix (I’m racing Sunday), and then the weekend of Oct 4-5-6 is the Providence Cyclocross Festival in Providence, RI. (also racing Sunday at Providence). I am excited about all of this, but Gloucester is what I’m most excited and nervous about. I’ll post more about Gloucester soon, it’s so big deserves it’s own post.
So this week I prep–beet juice, veggies, protein, intervals, tempo rides, skills work. How to do this with no babysitter? No idea. Well, a little idea. I will need to resort to the trainer to keep the legs primed. Skills work can happen in the back yard. The actual rides are tough for me now since I’m not home from work until 6 and it’s dark by 7, and the lack of a sitter is killing me. I’ll do what I can and hope for the best. This is for fun after all–I just want to keep my good trend going.
This past weekend I had a mini vacation with family in New Hampshire. I got 3 solid days of riding in around Great East Lake on the New Hampshire/Maine line and the hills were great. The mountain air was cool and crisp and there was dirt, gravel and quiet rolling roads. My legs actually feel sore today–that’s something that hasn’t happened in a while. I really feel very good about the work I did on the bike this weekend. I didn’t log a ton of miles but the work was there and I’m hopeful it will give me an edge. I also swam (66 degrees outside but speak now or hold your peace until next June so I took my shot), I finally tried Stand Up Paddle boarding, and did some light hiking. A nice break before the leaves turn and fall and CX season goes full steam ahead. Woot! Now another reason fall is my favorite time of year.
Diane Nyad wants to go to Cuba. Very badly.
It’s her #XtremeDream to swim from Cuba to Florida–no one has ever done it before. No one knows if it’s even possible. Only a world class athlete could possibly make it the 103 miles. She already holds the World Record for swimming. But here’s the wrinkle in the plot….and it’s quite a wrinkle indeed. Diana Nyad is 64 years old.
Yes, you heard me. She’s a year away from Medicare. She’s 401K eligible. She’s old enough to be your mother twice over.
She’s the badass, Diana Nyad is. Her relentless pursuit of what many think is impossible is what makes her so completely inspiring to me. She’s tried twice and failed, suffering life threatening injuries from poisonous jellyfish like box jellyfish and the Portuguese man-of-war. And then there are the sharks. Great white ones.
Let us not forget the amount of time she’ll be swimming. For at least 60 hours. No resting, no sleeping. Pausing to eat but remaining in the water. No lifejacket. No holding on the the side of the boat that will remain with her. This will be her 5th attempt. In 1979 Diana broke the world record for distance swimming for both men and women. That record still stands today.
Diana borrows from poet Mary Oliver and asks, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” It’s a worthwhile question, and strikes truth quickly. Tomorrow morning Diana will enter the dark water and try again for her XtremeDream. It doesn’t matter if she reaches Cuba or not, she’s proven to the world she is not to be discounted. Never to be trifled with. She’s Diana Nyad; completely awe-inspiring, Always reaching stroke by stroke toward her dream, in and out of the water.
Preseason CX? Why sure!
I know a lot of of people think that August is too soon for cyclocross, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the Monson Cyclocross Race held on Saturday August 24, 2013.
The women’s field had 33 riders on the start line, more than double than the previous year of 15. Ground surge in cyclocross? Check. Ground surge in women’s participation? Check. Breaking out the Women’s Cat 3/4s from the Elite field next year? I’d bet on it.
I arrived wayyyyyy earlier than I should have. I had a lot of time to kill, and did so pre-riding the course 3 times. It was a beautiful day, clear and sunny with temperatures in the mid eighties. The sun was HOT. The course was dry and dusty, and mountain-bikey. There was a fun rocky downhill, a run up with two fallen trees to hurdle at the crest, and a set of 4 barriers. There were hairpin turns that would end with a sharp incline, forcing riders to grind uphill after slowing for the turn, often through 2-3 inches of soft, fine, dusty dirt or sand. The women were the last race of the day, which means the course was torn up from all the previous racers. It was brutal. But manageable.
We lined up and received instructions. I was in the second line and picked a position behind a fast looking woman. When we started, she was away and I followed. I stumbled getting into the clips but recovered enough to jump on to the end of the lead 1/3 of riders. The hole shot was where the pavement ended and the first uphill began, a dicey sloped hill that required minimum climbing but across a slope. The earth was destroyed by previous racers. There were few decent lines. As we entered the hole shot, I heard a crash and a woman yelled “Oh my God are you alright?” That happened right behind me. I was clear of the danger and safely at the rear of the front field.
Riders spaced out pretty widely from the start, however. I passed one woman running her bike through the course, presumably with a flat tire. I had heard through the grapevine that the men had flatted often and trashed a few wheels as well (neutral support was not pleased). I chased a few women and passed one on the 2nd lap. She trailed me for the next 2 and then eventually caught me. A few others caught me too. By the 3rd lap my mouth felt like sticky film coated in dust. I needed water badly, and got a Gatorade hand-up on the 4th lap. I drank half the bottle before tossing it aside and pushing on. The last lap my performance had radically decreased–I was completely gassed. According to my Strava stats, my lap times went down by 2 whole minutes–horrible. We did 5 laps in total.
Unofficially (still waiting for official results at Crossresults.com as of this writing) I finished 18th of 33 starters. Only 26 finished. I did not get lapped (I don’t think I did anyway) and I lapped at least one woman. Considering there were Cat 1-2-3′in the field, I think I did pretty well. Not quite the 50% finish I wanted but firmly the middle of the initial pack. For a first race of 2013, I was overall happy with the effort and the result.
But of course I’m going to Monday Morning Quarterback a bit. To improve upon:
- Speed performance and endurance in the last 15 minutes of a 40-45 minute effort.
- No more than 2 laps on the pre-ride
- If there is a water/Gatorade hand-up allowed–plan for it and take it. Mine was too late in the game and improvised (thankfully my significant other was johnny on the spot with the hand-up when I asked for it).
- And a side note***I would have never been able to ride up those hairpin-turn-and-ascend-through-3-inches-of-dust with my old bike, the Specialized Tricross Sport. The Kona was light enough to take me through these tough spots.
I didn’t race the Sunday race at Blunt Park in Springfield. I’m ok with that choice. I had a great recovery ride this morning on another glorious day and relaxed a bit before starting another work week. I may not get to race again until September 21. I might try for an earlier one but my personal schedule is questionable, so we’ll see.
All and all it was a good start to what I hope to be a great season!
Gloucester & Providence
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.