Tag Archive | Training

Why I’m totally, completely, not ready for cyclocross

Ug!  I’m not riding nearly enough for so many reasons.  I’d like to being doing 70-80+ miles a week.  Instead, I’m sometimes breaking 40. Why?  Same old same old.

  1. No sitter.  Freaking babysitters, I cannot find a reliable one to save my life.  I really need to fix this because I’m not riding my bike after work.
  2. Work. I was riding to and from work every once and a while.  That’s pretty much stopped now.  There’s several reasons for this I won’t get into, but mostly it’s extremely difficult to squeeze 20 mins of riding before and after work, put a full day in, and still make it back in time to pick up my son from day camp.  I just don’t have to time without something giving.
  3. Needing rides to be more for fun.  I’ve been super stressed lately and I use riding to work out tension, fill my brain with endorphins, and clear my head of the bullshit of life.

My life feels wobbly right now, and one of the most grounding elements for me in the last 10 years has been cycling. Friday evening I picked the hardest place I know to mountain bike.  I needed to mash pedals, to hurt, to jar myself free of my stress. I fell off a bridge into the muddy edge of a pond. Win. Then, last Saturday I had the whole day to ride, and I thought about doing a 50 miler. Then I thought, well, maybe 40. Then I thought, no. Imposing a goal was just adding to my stress, and not taking it away.  I needed to just go ride my bike and let the rest work itself out.  It worked.  26 miles and I found a strong steady rhythm.  I pedaled until I felt resolved, if only for a little while.  Then I went home and got shit done (which also helps my stress).  Sunday, rain was forecast so I tried to beat it. I didn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing. Mountain biking in the warm rain washed my week clean. Mountain biking always means a 1/3 of the miles I’d be doing on a road bike, but the visceral action of mountain biking is like deep tissue massage for my soul.

P1040513

That leaves me here: not really ready for cyclocross. OK I’ve been riding some, but not training.  Major Jake is still hanging in my basement, untuned, unlubed and needing new bar tape.  I’m not doing intervals.  I’m not practicing dismounts.  I’m not practicing remounts. I’m not trying to cure my stutter step.  I’m not practicing carries, suit-casing, or shouldering while sprinting up a muddy hill. And I haven’t built that single speed cx bike yet either.

And I have to be honest, I’m not sure I should be putting my energies here, since life is needing my time and energy and some work that doesn’t involve a bicycle.

I have a vacation coming up and will be riding my bike at the largest mountain bike park in the world.  While it’s unwise to have expectations, mine are high.  I won’t by riding the whole time but I will be immersed in one of the most active mountain biking cultures on the earth: Whistler, BC.  Maybe after I return, I can refocus on cyclocross, and some of the non bicycle parts of my life.  Because all of it can be better.  

-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

New toy: Garmin heart rate monitor

Like most cyclists, I am a self-confessed data junkie.  Because I love data, analysis, and retooling performance to achieve better numbers, I had resisted plunging all the way down the rabbit hole by getting a heart rate monitor.  But after last season’s cross racing experiment, I decided–I’m in.  Let’s do this, the right way.  With data and stats and some real training.  So I asked Santa, and Santa delivered.

My new HR Monitor is a Garmin and works with my Garmin Edge 500.  I tested it out on my “high intensity day” yesterday and here was the result, as provided by my Garmin data and Strava:

Strava Heart Rate & Watts

I’ve started playing with the Miller Formula to learn where I should be. I am quickly learning that a lot of this is subjective, and not everyone is the same. According to the formula, my maximum heart rate is 181. But clearly my numbers are actually higher.    These numbers are appropriate because it was a high intensity training ride, and designed to make my performance faster. But I should be hanging out in 130-150 zone to build endurance.

Heart Rate Zones for Exercising Chart:

* Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) = 50 – 60% of maximum heart rate:
* Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) = 60 – 70% of maximum heart rate
* Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) = 70 – 80% of maximum heart rate
* Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) = 80 – 90% of maximum heart rate
* Red Line (Maximum Effort) = 90 – 100% of maximum heart rate

More to come on this as I learn more about training within heart rate zones.  The reading I’ve done so far indicate that mixing things up will make me strong, fast and with enough endurance to last.

-Karen

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

Road to Improvement

The Finish Line at Gloucester’s Gran Prix 2012.

I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend.  It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed.  Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.

When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross.  But I was selling my new addiction short.

I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total.  They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout.  At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4.  I’m interested to see how that looks.  I was really pleased with my results at Northampton.  I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence).  In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th.  And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field.  It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.

Other things I have noticed in this pursuit:  I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year.  Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes.  This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all.  I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.

To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to.  There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts.  I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me.  When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time.  After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds.  And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well.  It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.

Not making mistakes on the course carves time.  Getting faster and stronger carves time.  Building endurance carves time.  Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time.  Skills work carves time.  Staying healthy carves time.  Staying lean and light carves time.  I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.

Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack.  I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.

Negotiating these tight turns is another skill to practice to carve time. Gloucester Gran Prix, 2012. Women’s Elite.

Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one.  The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result.  But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross.  It’s just really, really fun.  It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun.  It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible.  This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.

-Karen

The hardest, funnest 1.5 miles: Cyclocross practice

For many years I have been a Cyclocross fan–attending races in the rain, snow and cold.  I love watching the sport and snapping action photos of the athletes performing in some ridiculous conditions.  It’s great fun.  And in the back of my mind, I confess I’ve always sort of wondered about doing a ‘cross event.

Then last year I bought a cyclocross bike.  I told everybody, including myself, that it would be used for the winter–lousy conditions.  For gravel roads which can be found here in western Massachusetts.  And to round out my bike collection.  Am I going to race?  No, don’t be silly.  I’m in my 40’s now.  Those days are over.

Over the last 3 weeks, I started catching the fever.  I found myself watching this video.

So yesterday, after I completely my weekly goal of 100+ miles I decided to give the dismount a try.  It’s a complicated move and I learned how heavy the Tricross is when I tried to incorporate an imaginary barrier (a line in the dirt and a few straight sticks across the road).  I’ll let it be seen to the world so anyone out there in the know can either give me pointers or advise me to stay under the beer tent at races.

At any rate, it seems clear this will take practice to become second nature.  I let go of the bike a couple of times and when remounting I came down hard enough to be grateful yet again for my female gender.  Having some “game tape” is helpful and seeing how I look when trying to execute the move.  As I practice I’ll incorporate more and more “real life” conditions like actual barriers, hills, run-ups, sand, etc.  The dirt road I found in Nonotuck Park in Easthampton was a great start.

I have plans to attend a female ‘cross clinic on Labor Day and hope to drag Heather along.  I need a partner in crime.  I’m not sure I’ll feel ready to actually do one of these cyclocross events but do you ever feel ready?  Might be one of those things you just jump in with both feet and see how it turns out.

-Karen

Rockbuster Duathlon: 1 week & counting

Yup, just a week away is the first event of the year–for me anyway.  I am woefully unprepared for it.  But this hasn’t been from lack of trying.  I had a strong off season of running, with a bit of biking for good measure.  Then things went awry.  Ironically, I think it was just as I was about to break through to that elusive “next level” when my body just started to unravel.

I’ve had a solid break from running and a lot of PT, I’m starting to run again–a couple of times a week, and I’m riding more.  But I’m not running as fast and I have this sense that things are a click or two shy from really coming together.

I am not worried about being able to to do Rockbuster, I am completely capable.  But I’m not going to be breaking any records next weekend. After such a mild winter and a strong off-season, I can’t say I’m not disappointed in this.  But hey, this a fun thing.  I’m keeping some perspective on these things finally.

My little brother has signed on for the event again.  I’m about 85% sure he’ll show for it.  I hope he does because it will make getting up that early in the morning and driving 90 minutes a little more worth it.  Ironically, the drive–(one way)–will be longer than the event itself.  C’est la vie.  I’m looking forward to my first event of the year.

-Karen

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