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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

Shiver Me Timbers: #Strava Ride Today

Today’s ride was c-c-c-c-cold. The 26 degrees wasn’t so bad, it was the blasting headwind, gusting strong at 30+ MPH that was tough to take. I stayed closed to home and took it slow at times, steady most of the ride.  I really didn’t enjoy this ride, and mid way through I found myself just wanting it to be over.

This winter is the toughest I’ve had on the bike in some time.  The temps have been extremely cold, and whenever I do have an opening in my schedule to ride, it’s often snowing.  I’ve been dabbling with the trainer just to get some energy out and to keep my legs in some kind of shape, but I’m really seeing why the pros just move to California during the winter months to build their base miles.

Anyway, I climbed the Notch, which isn’t the hardest hillclimb but it’s not something I usually do in January.  Hills are my friends, hills are my friends, hills are my friends.  I’ll be grateful come summer when I’m faster for it.

-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

40 Something

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.

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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.

-Karen

22 inches of NO BIKING

Sad times here in the Northeast.  If you have a problem with riding a trainer, you’d better get over it fast, because it’s pretty nasty in our neck of the woods.  We got clobbered with snow, 22 inches in my town, 25-30 in the Boston area, and up to 40 inches on the coast of Connecticut.  There is nowhere to put it all.  Suffice to say, it’s a bit soul crushing for cyclists.

I’ve been doing time on the trainer about 3 times a week, and meh–it is what it is.  I still play basketball once a week but roads were impassable last Saturday, plus there was a statewide driving ban (that probably saved lives and many thousands of dollars in property damage).  If I could Strava snow shoveling, I’m the freaking Queen of the Mountain.  I’ve shoveled walkways, driveways and even sections of my roof.  Drifts of 4 feet on sections of roof plus rain caused roof collapses in this area 2 years ago.  I got off easy with ice dams that destroyed my ceiling.  So I was up on the roof preventing any potential problems from this round of weather.  We had rain all day today which made the load of snow we had significantly heavier.

Sigh.  I miss my bike.

I suppose its good to want it so bad.  Off season should be a time to rest up and recharge.  I’ve burnt out by late summer before and I don’t want to repeat that.  Cyclocross has helped keep things fresh.  Worlds were fun to watch online.  But otherwise, I’m eager to ride outside sooner rather than later.

So a bit blue about no riding (other than the trainer, but do we count that?  No.),  but I figured I’d share some of my favorite social media images from the historic storm.  Thankfully I didn’t lose power so I had the Internet to entertain me.  For those folks who aren’t from New england that read this blog, it’s worthwhile to note that this past storm occurred on the 35th anniversary of the famous Blizzard of ’78, which is the storm that all others are compared to.  I was 7, my Dad was in the National Guard and activated, and gone for 3 days while my mom tried to dig us out on her own (she was successful, as mom always is).  Enjoy the pics.

-Karen

My 7 year old self in the Blizzard of '78

My 7 year old self in the Blizzard of ’78

My driveway 2013--my neighbor is getting banana bread for this.

My driveway 2013–my neighbor is getting banana bread for this.

Wicked Stawm

Wicked Stawm

These people are true New Englanders!  Done in response to getting too many obnoxious photos on facebook from friends in warmer climates enjoying cocktails on the beach.

These people are true New Englanders! Done in response to getting too many obnoxious photos on facebook from friends in warmer climates enjoying cocktails on the beach.

This was about right.

This was about right.

Yankee Ingenuity.

Yankee Ingenuity.

Bring on the spring!

Is that a wrap? Not quite yet.

I’ve been absent a bit.  Sorry about that, I was off trying to get my groove back.

I didn’t do that last race of the season and I struggled with the decision right up until a a day after it was over.  I wasn’t going to be happy either way.  I probably should have done it, but meh–I didn’t.  My year’s recap is still pretty freaking good.

I had been needing a break and resisting taking one.  That said I managed to back off on my rides, started playing hoop again Saturday mornings, and started running a bit and hiking.  When I cycle, 90% of my rides have been on the mountain bike.  Low mileage, high fun riding.  Making the transition to less riding and more resting, peppered with alternative exercise has been a bit uncomfortable.  However, my legs finally feel fully recovered.  I’m having a lot of fun exploring a network of mountain bike trails that is close by and I haven’t fully explored due to my focus on mileage and CX training.

I plan to approach 2013 with some seriousness in training.  I plan to race again next fall, and I’m looking at building a credible base and at last some speed.  I plan to upgrade my Strava membership, purchase a US Cycling License, and dive headfirst into heart rate, suffer scores, and watt analysis. I have about 5-7 pounds to lose, but I’m giving myself until September to do that :)

I’ll chronicle more tangible goals and events after Christmas.  But for the last few days of 2012, I’m going to keep riding the mountain bike, increase my running distance and frequency, and enjoying my women’s pickup games, which have really taken off this year (I’m actually playing guard for the first time in my life, since 50% of the women showing up are 5’11” – 6’1″  -I am 5’8″ in shoes).

-Karen

The air is out of the tires.

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.

Pausing to rest.  The light is fading on the season.

Pausing to rest. The light is fading on the season.

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.

-Karen

 

Lunch Ride

Mid fifties in March isn’t too shabby, and like everyone else in the northeast, I wasn’t going to let this day get away.

I did my normal loop from the house, which brings me through 3 towns via back roads. On my route, a car slowed and pulled alongside me. A very happy and excited guy struck up a conversation with me. He told me he was on his way home to suit up and get out on the bike too. Funny how warmer weather makes us all a little nicer to one another.

I took the cross bike out for this ride. Not that we have a lot of sand on the roads since winter was so mild, but the off road tires made me work a bit harder. I came home and inhaled a nice big cup of coffee and some homemade spinach feta pizza. Yum.

So, 21 miles, about 1 1/2hr with stops for traffic and a quick snapshot of the tricross. I’ll take it.

-Karen

PS-I must not be used to the fresh air because I’d like nothing more than to take a big fat nap right now.

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