In like a lion, out like a lamb.
Here we are mid-February and in the Northeast we have oh–about 3 feet of snow on the ground. Cycling outside has been curbed significantly. The trainer has been avoided, mostly because it’s the trainer. And even running has been difficult due to icy streets, sub zero temperatures, and my complete lack of a babysitter. I’m not making the goals I outlined for myself. At best, I’m working out 3x a week, not 5. That might seem like plenty, but in my mind, it feels like next to nothing.
Let’s review, these were my goals:
Chunk #1- Januaryish to Marchish
Ride 3x a week
Run 2x a week
Events planned: None.
I’ve always been an opportunist about working out. I really have no choice. I take what I can get. Not accounted for on Strava are the women’s pickup basketball I’m playing Saturday mornings now (this is my 3rd year). That at least keeps my cardio up. This week I had a short stay in Florida, where there is no snow. I did a lot of walking and swimming and even hit the treadmill for a 3 mile jog.
The good news is that it was in the 40′s today, and may reach 50 by the weekend. There is a huge melt underway. Colder temps are supposed to return next week, but this weekend, I’m riding outside, both days. I cannot wait.
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….
Distance 2710 mi
Elev Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)
148 miles run, walked, hiked or skied.
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.
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