US Cyclocross Nationals

Last Sunday I drove down to Hartford, CT to watch the pro races at the US Cyclocross National Championship.  The entire week had been a “spin the wheel” of extreme weather: rain, mud, snow, frozen ruts, frozen ruts covered by snow, frozen ruts with a layer of mud covered by more snow–they really had it all.  I watched Katie Compton claim her 13th national championship title, and Stephen Hyde his first. Actually I had to leave about 15 minutes before Hyde’s spectacular finish with a broken derailleur, which I’m still shaking my head over–I can’t believe I had to miss that!  Anyway, I shutterbugged and socialized and had a nice time despite the frigid temperatures.  Here are some of the better photos–enjoy!  -Karen

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Katie Compton was completely dominant

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Stephen Hyde, the new National Champion

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Jeremy Powers, the 2016 National Champion

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Jeremy Durrin

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Jeremy Durrin keeping it together

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Katie Compton

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The safe line on Bonk Breaker Hill

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The pro women down the chute off the hill and into the woods

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#BeardsOfCx is a trending hashtag

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Treacherous

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Lucky 13 for Compton

The What’s Next: 2017

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2016 was a pretty great year adventure-wise:  I had a ton of fun and “got away from it all” on more than one occasion.  I doubt I can repeat but will try to with perhaps some variations to my normally scheduled program.

On the list for 2017:

1.) Fat Biking.  Never done it, and we’ve had the snow for it.  I expect we’ll be getting more since it’s only January.

2.) Dog Sledding.  I wanted to do this last year but there was no snow. There’s a team that runs twice a week in Windsor, VT.  I promised my son we’d do it so now it’s a matter of booking the dogs.

3.) Kingdom Trails-again.  I had such fun last year I need another helping of this slice of MTB paradise.

4.) An island…..or a canyon?  My mom has offered to take the family on a vacation.  The problem is, she can’t decide where. Oh I know, how unfair.  It’s rough. It’s between Nantucket and Montrose, Colorado.  Personally I’m in favor of Nantucket because 95% of the trips I take are to the mountains and sometimes I miss the sea.

5.) At least one Mountain Bike race.  Whoever is in charge of scheduling nearly every single mountain bike race in New England doesn’t want me signing up for any MTB events.  This seems to be true every summer.  Right now Domarski Farm lines up with one of the 26 weekends I have free a year.

6.) The JAM Grand Fundo.  The full Fundo this time.  I missed last year due to childcare conflicts.  I don’t know when the 2017 Fundo will be but want to attend.

7.) The Muddy Onion Spring Classic.  This one I’m already signed up for with Laura.  It’s not the Rasputita but its still 34 miles in late April on gravel roads in VT, which means mud.  I’m looking forward to it.

8.) A Dog. Wait, what?!  Yeah, I want one–have for years.  The last of my cats left us 3 years ago and I’m ready to grow my little family again.  A change in my work has allowed me to work from home up to 4 times a week, which means I can be home for an animal.

9.) Bikepacking, V2.0.  We’re doing it again!  Still working out details but locations under review are Fahnestock State Park in Carmel, NY, The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR) in Northville, NY, or potentially just a bike/camp weekend in The Kingdom.

10.) Mystery Getaway.  I have a vacation yet-to-be planned and I have no honest idea of what or where that will be.  It’s been determined that Hawaii is on tap for 2018 so I need to save for that and be a bit leaner this year.  I have time–it’s only January!  I’ll figure it out…

11.) 3 more OCR Races. I’m already signed up.

12.) Cyclocross!  I’m adopting a wait and see attitude about the 2017 season.  I may back off a bit from CX and get a few weekends back to do other things.  Of course when September comes I’ll be chomping at the bit again so who knows.  I’ll stop when I’m dead.

And hiking, and camping, and so on, and so on…..

What’s your 2017 plan?

-Karen

2016 in Review – Bikes, Love, Loss

About this time every year there are people who start making plans for next year.  Usually about the next big adventure. I might be one of them. This is not that post.

2016 was complex. I had one of the funnest summers since childhood. I also experienced (and continue to experience) difficult loss.

This summer I bikepacked with Laura for the first time. What a magical weekend. It set the tone for the whole summer, promising fun, adventure, and friends. I traveled to Whistler, BC again with my girlfriend, this time bringing my son. Spectacular vacation. I got to share new adventures in a familiar place-one that is remote and beautiful and full of bikes, mountains and wildlife. How very blessed I felt. I finally visited Kingdom Trails in Vermont, camping next to (drumroll please) an actual waterfall in northern Vermont, and riding KT all weekend with Gail and Matt. In between all of this were hikes, hundreds (yes hundreds) of bike rides, mud-runs, and fun.

We also lost my dad this summer. After 6 very difficult years he passed away with my mother by his side and me on the telephone with her. I traveled home to the north shore often during this time as his health continued to decline. We were able to keep him home, with help from an agency, for his final few months. I was happy he could die at home, he hated all the long term care and rehab facilities he had gone to recover enough strength to return home. All he wanted was to go home. His loss is felt like an echo that never really fades away. Now months later, grief hits me at odd moments; it cannot be predicted.

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Mom & Dad.

Then, a sucker punch.  An old friend and colleague died of a swift moving brain cancer the day before her 37th birthday. I cried for a week. One of the most ever-positive people I had know had been stolen away. How completely unfair.

2016 was a teacher. Live now. Adventure now. Enjoy now. It’s all slipping away from us. Buy the bike, take the trip, fall in love, take that shot. Be here with the ones you love. Tell them, show them. I want to get a little place in the mountains of Vermont, with a good view and a woodstove or fireplace and post & beam construction. A place close to skiing and hiking and mountain biking. I’d like to get back into woodworking. I’m trying to figure out how to do that and still pay for my son’s college (and save for my own retirement). I’m not sure how to do this, but I have to figure it out, because if I don’t, I miss out. All the trite advice about how you only go around once feels very, very real. I had a great year. I experienced much sadness and much happiness. Every year should teach us something. We aren’t going to be here forever, we better make today count.

-Karen

2016 Ice Weasels Cometh – Handups Are Not a Crime!

When I posted last year’s video of the Ice Weasel’s cyclocross race on Laura’s facebook page, with a casual mention that it might be a fun race for her to try, I really didn’t think she’d go for it.  Instead, she registered immediately and our plans began to take shape.

We met late Friday afternoon at the Riverpoint Cyclocross Park in West Warwick, RI for some low pressure course inspection.  It was a windy 31 degrees, with the sun low in the sky and light fading we squeezed two laps in and got a decent preview of the course.

It was a pleasure to wake up 10 minutes from a cyclocross race.  I slept in (7AM!), but was eager to get going in the morning. We were careful however to not arrive too early–the temps were even colder: 28 degrees with a 10 mph winds.  Fires burned in the team tent area as well as on the handup hill where most of the crowds gathered to heckler and pass out treats and beer. The Singlespeed/Fat Tire Race means costumes.  Really costumes are OK for everyone, but the Singlespeeders seem to dominate this category.  Wicked fun crowd.

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The race itself was awesome.  So much fun-I got an excellent start and just tried to apply steady pressure the whole time. Preriding the day before was highly beneficial and I had a good idea of how I wanted to approach each section of the course.  Ice Weasels is a party, but I still wanted to feel like I was racing my bike.  I did, however, remember regretting not enjoying the moment last year.  This year I willingly took whatever handup offered, including a White Russian, a chocolate donut hole, and a dollar bill (I lost the dollar).  Taking handups meant screwing up my descent down the gnarliest hill on the course.  I nailed it during preride but I clearly cannot consume liquor and sweets and ride my bike at the same time. No matter, I didn’t lose a place since everyone had the same healthy attitude about balancing racing and partaking.  It was a blast.  I came in 12 of 28. Finally a top 50% finish this season!

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Someone kept snow in a cooler for a week and brought it to the race to throw at anyone who managed to claw their way up this intense run up.  Many crashes here, even when snow wasn’t being thrown.

Laura faired well for her first time, placing 26/28.  It’s worth noting there were approximately 36 women preregistered: the cold definitely kept some away.  She took handups and generally enjoyed herself.  I don’t think she was being polite either since she started texting me Monday night asking about tire widths and setting her Salsa up for another race.

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After our race we watched the Singlespeed race and passed out mini chocolate cupcake handups and brownie bite handups.  It was fun to participate in the handup &  heckling and I find my thoughts keep drifting back to an outrageously fun weekend.  It has me thinking of one more race (maybe just one!) next weekend…..no decisions yet but seriously considering March Farms Cyclocross race in Bethlehem. CT.  Snow and rain are forecast, sound like the makings of a fun day!

-Karen

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Pro women on the run up day 1.

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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.

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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!

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Pro women in the sand, day 1.

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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

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