Yoga for broken old ladies who cycle

As an athlete, I have some terrible habits.  Not stretching is one of them.

When it comes to sports, I don’t like staying still. I’m an impatient person and it works against my nature.  I do like quiet time.  I’ve tried yoga before, more played at it, the athletic equivalent of pushing vegetables around on my plate.  I know it’s good for me, but I don’t really like it.

Lately my body has felt like a crumpled up piece of paper; broken and bent and frayed in places.  Age and office sitting and cycling exclusively for exercise with a lack of stretching has contributed to looming sciatica and a chronic calf injury that I fear may be here to stay.

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-8-07-05-am

Without discussing the severe lack of time and the challenges of being a single parent, I decided, early on a Sunday morning, to start my day with a little yoga.  The backstory is that my son was hosting a sleepover with 2 of his friends.  Three middle school boys under the same roof, and me.  Their giggling woke me at 6AM.  They were sequestered to the rec room in the basement, and I was up anyway, so I decided to give this yoga a shot again.

6:30AM-Start a 22 minute beginner’s yoga with Rodney Lee.

6:39AM-Son’s friend # 1 wonders upstairs to collect a Nerf gun from my son’s room.  I stop, wait for him to go.

6:41 AM-Son’s friend #2 comes upstairs to get a 4 foot foam sword.  Pause yoga routine again.

6:42 – Son’s friend # 1 is hanging out on stairs between first and second floor, because he’s trying to ambush the other boys. But’s it’s my 22 minute attempt at yoga that’s been ambushed.  I hear chortling and shouting downstairs.  It’s hard to believe there are only 3 children down there and not 20.  The serenity and calmness of the warrior pose I’m trying to do in my pajamas is under attack by my real life.

6:44 – All boys are downstairs and I’m fighting my feelings of annoyance and trying the hold the next pose.  I am feeling the stretching and realize how inflexible my body has become.  I really need this, probably on a semi-regular basic.

6:45 – Just when the boys are at bay, I have a hot flash. Awesome.  This usually only happens at night, but it’s still technically sleeping time I suppose. I continue through yet another disruption, this one courtesy of age and biology.

The next 7 minutes continued, incredibly, without interruption.

So that’s a great example of why I can’t exercise how I want, when I want.

Yoga isn’t a bad idea at all and I do need to do it more often, if only for a morning stretch. Next time I’ll try to do it when I’m the only one home….

-Karen

 

26th Annual Verge Northampton International Cyclocross-Cyclesmart

Local race!  My 5th year racing Northampton and each year the course gets a little bit better. Technical features have been introduced and they seem to tweak the gnar factor year after year. I raced both days, placing exactly where the race predictor put me. The torture I endured last weekend in Vermont brought me back in line to where I should be; feeling like I was actually racing.

2016-11-13-15-23-10

HUP United represented here in the Women’s Elite Race on Day 1.

Day 1

Saturday started cold. 27F degrees when I arrived at 7AM. I ate something that had been disagreeing with me the day before, and had a terrible night’s rest. Despite this, I got a fair start and had a clean race, very few mistakes and steady effort. I passed a few when I could but found myself with a comfortable gap in front and behind me, which left me wanting in terms of “racing.” There was no “race inside the race” for me Saturday. I finished 43rd and felt relatively satisfied with the effort.

After Saturday’s race, I ran home, grabbed a shower, and then retuned to meet up with Laura who drove up from New York to see her first ‘cross race. We chatted all after noon while catching the pro women and pre men’s race, and then headed to Local Burger in Northampton for dinner.

2016-11-13-16-30-53

US Cyclocross National Champion Jeremy Powers in pursued by Curtis White of Cannondale on the run up on day 1.  White would later catch Powers and win in a very dominate fashion.

2016-11-13-15-28-58

Crystal Anthony (3) is on U23 National Champion Ellen Noble’s wheel in the turn after the sandpits at Northampton on day 1.

2016-11-13-15-19-22

Pro women on the run up day 1.

2016-11-13-16-31-03

Superman remounts.

Day 2

Sunday was much warmer. I was stiff and tired from Saturday’s efforts, and didn’t sleep well again. I wasn’t feeling very racey right up until the whistle. But after we went, I raced more aggressively than Saturday, attacking often (and having some of my attacks answered). I traded places frequently with one young woman who eventually bested me.  My fatigue was evident when I tripped on the barriers (first time that has happened).  I had another delay when I got caught up in the sandpit and was forced to run the entire 2 lengths of the pit, which was so much more draining then pedaling through it. I finished 30th and felt very good with my effort.

fullsizerender-1

Hey that’s me, over the covered railroad tracks after the super sketchy descent on day 2.

Sunday I wasn’t planning on hanging out long. I left by 10AM before results had been posted, showered, and was sipping a mocha latte at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters in Easthampton by 11:30AM. I decided to check my results online.  That’s when I noticed my place was all wrong. They counted my first 2 laps as one and placed me second to last. I ended up driving back to Look Park to speak to a US Cycling Official to formally protest and explained what I believed happened. They fixed it immediately.  ery positive experience for my first “protest.”

The rest of Sunday I felt tired and happy. My weekend was full of friends, bikes, racing, and spectating-much needed break from social media, traditional media, and the current state of affairs in our country.

-Karen

More Photos!

2016-11-13-15-30-35-1

Pro women in the sand, day 1.

2016-11-13-16-49-52

Pro men on run up #2 on day 1.

Paradise CX Frenzy Twofer

Sometimes you have to wring yourself out to get somewhere.

I signed up for 2 races last Saturday, the Cat 4 and then the Open Category just 45 minutes later. After too little sleep, too little riding, too much travel, too much work, too much stress, and too much alcohol & food at client dinners (and breakfasts and lunches and coffee breaks)….. I needed the ass-kicking to get me back on track.

The Cat 4 Race

Staging was odd–I was in the second row but figured I’d be in the 3rd. My start was great and I was in the lead group through the squiggly, hilly turns after the first corner. Then the straightaway, and pick, pick, pick….they came. I slid back to the middle. The back fields were a maze of corners.  Around one corner I cut too close to one of the stakes and my foot slammed square into the post and nearly knocked me off the bike. Pick, pick, a couple more slid by me.  Then on a modest descent before a sharper right turn, a young woman blasted by me to the cheers of her friends. She passed, then lost control and wiped out in grand fashion right in front of me. I managed to avoid her crash but was forced to dismount for the sharp right turn and hill (which was totally rideable in any other circumstance).  I pushed on the the front of the course and the heckle-hill. They changed the hill a bit this year; the apex was characterized by a severe left turn on a sloping hill that slowed dismounts and caused some to topple down the hill.

About 3/4 into the first lap, I started coughing and my lungs started filling. My speed slowed to a non-race pace. I’ve had this problem before when the temps get cold: sports induced asthma.  It was in the high 40’s but felt colder somehow. I struggled through the rest of the race, trading places with one other racer a few times but in the end she won the battle and I lost yet another place. No Crossresults posting yet but at the venue I came in 15th/22? I think 22. Not so great and I am definitely capable of more.

At the end of the race, I was literally wheezing. I found my friend Kathy who was getting ready for the Women’s Open and told her exactly how I was feeling at that moment: I don’t want to race again. I went back to my car to warm up and lick my wounds. I called my girlfriend and told her how I was feeling. “You sound miserable. If you feel that awful then just come home and skip it.” Inside my brain, hearing her say this aloud was like a needle scratching across a record. I was miserable, but I was there, and quitting would feel worse than coughing up whatever was left of my lungs.

Women’s Open 1/2/3/4

So I lined up for the second race, the harder and longer race with the fast women. Again, they staged us in an odd manner….someone realized it must be alphabetical, which was really bizarre. I found myself in the front row, which I had no earthly business being. We started fine and on the straightaway I moved over on purpose. I did not want to be in anyone’s way. I didn’t want to interfere with anyone’s race. It didn’t take long for the field to pass me and my wheezing lungs and leave me by myself.

This was just fine.  I concentrated on form and smooth execution, and tried to push where I could, but the previous effort left me with very little. My lungs seemed to settle down but my energy was zonked.

On heckle hill, there were issues. Most heckles are in good fun. I joked with the spectators at the top and let them know I wasn’t taking myself too seriously. At least one heckler’s comments were what can only be described as condescending and pandering. I heard similar complaints from the other women post race, so I was not alone in this perception.

I got lapped and finished last–unless someone DNF’d (which happened last year).  I felt 100% destroyed and 100% better than after my first race.  If the first race tore me apart, the second pounded me into dust,which was exactly what I needed.

I’m hoping for a halfway decent showing next weekend in Northampton.  It’s always difficult to keep momentum during cross season–it’s a big frustration for me to not be able to do my best because “real life” demands don’t allow me to race or train or even get enough sleep to be healthy.  Hopefully Paradise CX’s pain will have some value next weekend.

-Karen

img_4793

 

A Race to the Bottom

Tomorrow I’ve signed up for my first ever back-to-back races in the same day.

Wut?

Yup.  Race at 12:00PM, then again at 1:30PM.

It would be difficult for me to be less prepared for this endeavor. I haven’t had a serious workout in what feels like a long time. Last week I spent doing 16 hour days consisting of of air travel, conference sitting, client meetings, presentations, walking several city blocks in heels, extravagant dinners of rich southern creole cuisine (the food part is not an actual complaint), and entirely too much alcohol. I’ve barely been on my bike. To add to this completely bad idea , my calf injury seems to have reappeared, leaving me feeling like if I strain or stretch the wrong way, that sucker is going to pop and tear like it did in the middle of Ice Weasels last year.

gloucester-stairs-2016

Solo on the stairs at Gloucester. Photo credit: Marylou Hanson

 

The first race is a short 30 minute race with cat 4 women. I’m again, predictably, expected to be in the middle of that pack. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a New England thing, but some of the cat 4 women ride their bikes pretty fast. I’m hoping to stay in the middle if at all possible, but my fitness has slid as it does every year (you know the drill: work, kid schedules, lack of daylight, blah, blah, blah).

The second race is an Open Category: 1/2/3/4. I’m predicted to be last. So all the pressure is off!  I’ll start at the back, stay at the back, and if I can pick someone off, great. I’m basically going to focus on chasing my friend Kathy and see if I can keep up with her. I did this same race last year and was also predicted to finish last, but somehow didn’t, so there’s always hope.

I’ve called this my “race to the bottom” weekend. I’m not going to have great results tomorrow, in either race. I’m feeling pretty sluggish. I didn’t ride my trainer tonight for openers. I did laundry and washed dishes and watched Westworld for the 3rd time this week, because mentally, I needed those 3 things tonight. You know, priorities. It’s not that I’m not motivated: I’m totally excited to race tomorrow and have been thinking about racing cyclocross every day and obsessing over it like I do every year. I’m just wicked freaking tired from life. So I figure–sign up for these grassroots races, get a race or two into the legs, avoid further injury to that calf, and kick the body back into the cross season. Northampton is next weekend and I want to be past this worn out “rock bottom” feeling and back into an upswing.

I might be racing to the bottom tomorrow, but at least I’m still racing.

-Karen

 

 

Gran Prix Gloucester: Rough & Dusty

There is something really special about Gloucester.  Maybe because it’s a race I’ve gone to for years as a spectator long before I started racing, or that it’s so close to where I grew up, but I’ve never had a bad time in Gloucester.  Last weekend was no exception.  

Cat 4/5 men day 1


My results don’t really matter.  I felt lousy Saturday but poured everything I had out at the end to fight off an attack in the last 100 yards.   That was a win for me.


After my race I joined friends from a million years ago; people I had not seen in nearly 30 years. <read:I’m old> after 8 hours of bad party food and great laughs, I went back to my mom’s and was out cold by 9pm.

Sunday I felt recovered.  The cold symptoms I experienced Saturday seemed to wane and I had a better race overall.  I finished alone amount the middle of a strung out field.  After I met up with friends again to enjoy a bit of spectating.

I really have to give a shout of appreciation to Paul Boudreau, the race director and everyone who works with him and volunteers to make this the very professional and special race that it is.  Gloucester never disappoints.

-Karen 

More photos of the 2 days at Gloucester…

KMC CX Fest-Thompson Speedway

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-14-28-pm

I read somewhere they wanted this to be like Zolder.  I’ve never been to Zolder, but have watched enough SVENNESS videos to say that I think they are squarely in the neighborhood with the new KMC CX Course at the Thompson Speedway.

It hasn’t rained significantly in New England for several months.  But the heavens opened all day Friday and most of the day Saturday, and again Sunday night. The result was a true cyclocross experience.  Thick, sloppy mud, standing water, disintegrating sand on the run ups, and very sketchy descents.  It was awesome.

Day 1

It was still dark when I left the house and the rain was light and steady.  I arrived early, wanting to pre-ride and unable to make the course preview Friday afternoon.  First impressions were “HOLY SHIT.”  The run ups were crazy but the off camber demanded some serious skills.  The “pro-only” sections were just that, and if you browse the Instagram under the hashtag #KMCCX you will see the best pro men in America going ass over teakettle down the pro-only descent.  Even though I didn’t have to deal with that, the other areas were tough enough.

I had a solid race.  It was hard.  The mud was exhausting.  But I loved it.  I haven’t had a total mud bath of a cyclocross race in the 4 years I’ve been racing so it was great to finally get that.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-07-07-pm

Day 2

Forecasts said no rain, but when I left in the morning it was still raining, so I knew the course would still be a lovely mess for my early race. The course had a few changes; direction was reversed in sections and a new run up and off camber was introduced. The mud was getting tacky and stiff in some sections, but still sloppy and thick in others. I got just as filthy on day 2, but rode faster, and had a strong finish. I beat a few women that I don’t typically, and came off feeling pretty psyched.

Most people are disappointed in rainy weekends. In this case, the rain made mine.  -Karen

Screen Shot 2016-10-02 at 11.08.50 PM.png

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-09-23-pm

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-11-09-41-pm

Head Games & Cyclocross: 5 Years to Settle Down

screen-shot-2016-09-18-at-10-53-19-pm

In my 5th year racing cyclocross as a “beginner,” something is changing which feels like an edge to me.

Starting this sport at age 40 and not being graced with a lot of speed, I’ve remained a cat 4 racer. I could write to USA Cycling and argue I should be a cat 3 due to the years I’ve raced, but I don’t see a point to it, other then my pride. If I race exclusively cat 3 or in the 1-2-3 race I’m coming in last or darn close to it every time. I hang in the middle of the pack in cat 4, clearly it’s where I belong.  I’m ok with that (finally).

I still lack time to train and have the same, if not more responsibilities I’ve had all along. A busy middle schooler to parent, a full time job with a host of demands, et cetera, et cetera. So what’s different now?

Mental. It’s totally mental. It’s the difference between trying to race, or playing at racing, and actually racing. What am I talking about?

When I started racing, I was just trying to hang on and finish. It was terrifying and exhilarating. What an insane sport! Addicting, but I really wasn’t throwing down every race, the whole time. Maybe I’d go 60%, or 70%. I probably felt like I was giving 95-99% but upon reflection, I wasn’t. I’m capable of more.

Each year I have tried to have races where I felt I was giving more. And it hurt. But I started to race. Maybe only 2 races a year were like this, but it was happening.

Last year I considered making it my last year. I had a lousy 2014 season and just wanted to redeem myself and feel good again. My schedule allowed me to race Holy Week–almost every race. Gloucester, Night Weasels, KMC/Providence. 4 races in one week. Something flipped.

p1020304

 

I started recovering faster, having more energy later in the race, and found a little something in my legs when in years past, I’d be praying for God to come down and end the race and have mercy on my soul.

I also changed my attitude and relaxed a bit. While I still am competitive at heart, I relaxed  and got a little more focused. Results in 2015 didn’t start great. My scores were terrible and my placements much lower than mid pack. But by the end of the season they had improved considerably. An upswing as I chilled out and reapplied myself.

So far I’ve raced 2 races in 2016. Race #1 I DNF’d but felt really, really good. I was looking at a strong finish. No podium (let’s banish those illusions right now and forever), but top 50%, which remained the overarching goal.

Race #2 was last week–Quad CX, where I raced more conservatively, and I feel regret about being more conservative. I worked hard, but did I leave it ALL out there? Not quite. I wanted a finish, not a DNF, and that influenced my approach.

Reflecting on this, I am thinking I do not want to do that again. My physical abilities are finite, but I’m learning more about my mental game.

Example:  Race #1 I was completely ambivalent leading up to the race. It wasn’t until the whistle I committed, fully, to kicking as much ass as I could kick. And my performance (measured against my own standards) was strong.

Race #2 I was eager. I felt like I was in good shape. I had raced the course once before. I wanted to NOT DNF, but finish well. I guess I achieved that, but walked away knowing I probably could have gone a bit harder, a bit faster. Would that have improved my placing? Maybe, maybe not, but I won’t ever know, and that is what is on my mind as I consider the rest of the season in front of me.

Go hard, the whole time. Don’t think too much about it beforehand. Don’t think at all. Don’t care too much about the outcome. Care about the moment. Care about the act of racing.

Ok?

Go!

-Karen