Having Fun at the JAM Grand FUNdo

Last Saturday, Laura came to town to settle a bet.

The prize was the JAM Grand Fundo a fund-raising ride for up-and-coming young cyclists. It’s an incredibly popular event, headed up by National Cyclocross Champion Jeremy Powers, who happens to be a local.

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Jeremy Powers gives us last minute instructions before the start.

We signed up for this event back in March. Laura has had a TON of life event stuff going on, and I’m impressed she found the time to eek out an entire weekend in western Mass. After a big interstate move, she underwent surgery for a problematic thyroid. A couple of days later, she discovered that it was cancer. The good news was that the cancer was completely removed with the surgery. That said, we made the call to downgrade from the Fundo (70 miles, 6500 ft of climbing) to the Mini-Fundo (40 miles, 3500 feet of climbing).  It was the right call. The ride was still tough, still  beautiful, still packed with great folks who just enjoyed the picture perfect day for riding bikes with others in the cycling community.

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After the event, we hung out for the BBQ, the local micro brew, and baked goods. I got to chat with a few friends from the cyclocross season and briefly connect with my new team’s captain Kathy from KIT.

The following day we struck out for a little recovery mountain biking at Nonotuck Park.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 11.31.03 PMIt was a great weekend and Laura & I finally got to ride together, which was pretty cool. Now that she’s moved slightly further north, we’re hoping to get together again for another day of fun on bikes, and perhaps a replay of the Fundo, this time the 70 mile version.

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My Race Results Aren’t Pro, But My New Kit Is!

Just about the only thing that comes close to new bike day is new kit day, and today was that day!    The grassroots cyclocross team I have joined for the 2015 season is Keep It Tight, or KIT for short. The kit for the team is sharp, with an awesome color combo that pops just right. I received my jersey and bibs, along with a cx skin suit in the mail today and despite the rainy forecast, I suited up and demoed it around town. Made by Craft, it has a very euro fit. I sized up on the bottoms and should have sized up on the top. The pad in the bibs is legit….not too thin or flimsy, but not so stiff and big that you feel like you are sitting on a stack of cardboard. I still need to take it on a long ride, but on my short ride tonight it had all the makings of the goldilocks of chamois pads.   I’m looking forward to meeting some of my teammates, and to the cyclocross season, which will be here before we know it.  Until then, I need to work on “keeping it tight” and trying to race as good as my new kit looks.

-Karen  

Cycling isn’t ballroom dancing. Or is it?

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The struggle is real.

I’ve written a lot about how hard it is to pursue cycling goals and still maintain the rest of my life.  I’m forever in conflict, feeling out of balance between knowing I need to mow my lawn and paint my house and needing to put more hours in on the bike, and go to my son’s baseball games, and concerts, and awards ceremonies.  Single parenting to a school aged child is demanding work in itself, but then I work full time in a job where it’s not unusual for me to put in hours long after I leave the office.

I’m tired of writing about this.  I’m tired of thinking about this.  But I’m not sure how to stop.

Recently I watched a documentary on television.  I’m not sure what it was, I platooned in mid way while channel surfing one evening.  The premise was happiness across various modern cultures.  They focused on a woman from Japan who loved ballroom dancing, and did it competitively.  She was passionate about it, practiced for hours, sacrificed time away from her family to compete on the highest levels.  She explained that there are very few dance partners that would commit for a season, and the pressure to get a good male partner was high, since there were so few male dancers. The men had their pick of decent female dancers. The pressure for her to be at her best, so she could get a good partner and compete to win, was stressing her out to the point where she stopped enjoying the dancing she loved so much.

So she gave it up. She gave it up because she loved it so much, and didn’t want to ruin it.

I found myself relating to her story. I totally get it. It was sad, but liberating. By not participating at that level, she was free to enjoy it, and regain the balance in her life.

I stop just short of adopting this strategy for myself. I was so disappointed in myself last year–my performance on the bike was really not representative of what I think I’m capable of doing. But what I’m capable of cannot be achieved because I only have 6-8 hours a week I can ride. How do you break through to the next level of personal performance with just 6-8 hours? More in needed. And I don’t have more, If I had it, I’d give it.

I have tried to lifehack my way into better workouts, getting more from less, applying all my management skills into my sporting endeavors. It’s fun, to a point, and then it feels a lot like work. I love cycling. I don’t want to ruin it.

So, what to do?

OK. So here’s the thing. I’m not throwing in the towel…..yet. And I don’t think I’ll ever walk away from cycling. It’s been too good to me and I love it too much. But I may need to give up some of the goals I’ve been hanging onto that may or may be driving me a little crazy.

But before I do that, I figure this is it. I have this block of time this summer where I think I can work myself up to that next level that I lived in oh-so-briefly when I had the saddle time. If I can do that, and maintain that gain, then I can try to have a satisfying cyclocross season. I’m on a grassroots team this year, Team KIT, which should help psyche me up.  I need more friends to ride with, so rides don’t feel like a job, but positive ways to build relationships with the cycling community. Hopefully Team KIT will introduce me to even more fun cycling people. I need to keep it fun too–making sure I do at least one “fun” ride a week, which means dirt, mud, woods, and a mountain or ‘cross bike, without an agenda. But here we are–summer’s here! One more stab at mediocrity before a new chapter of more recreational, more adventurous, more explorative cycling–not just intervals and comparing my results with women half my age. I’m realizing about turn to a corner here. I’m going to take it at full speed.

Cycling is dead. Long live cycling!

-Karen

2015 CX Season here I come!

2015 CX Season here I come!

Playing Bikes at Cady Hill-Stowe, VT

The last couple of weekends I started working mountain biking back into my routine.  Memorial Day Weekend I spent in Stowe, VT.  We’ve been going there the last few years and we missed last year so it was nice to be back.  In years past, I’ve brought my cross bike. This time I brought my new MTB–the Giant XtC 27.5 (which I LOVE).  This was not a “Karen gets to ride her bike all weekend” holiday, but I did get out for a short ride.  I visited Cady Hill on Mountain Road–a place I’ve driven by a bunch of times but never visited. The lot was packed and I lucked out, grabbing the last spot as a car left for the day. There were lots of MTBers in the lot, chatting about their bikes, their gear, and geeking out over equipment.  The trail system goes up, and quickly.  There are several one way trails to prevent riders from tearing around a corner and hitting others head on.  The trail up the Green Hair was plush–very smooth with banked switchbacks that snaked up the hill gradually enough to make it in one steady climb.

The Green Chair at Cady Hill in Stowe, VT.

The Green Chair at Cady Hill in Stowe, VT.

The Green Chair provided an nice viewing area but the ride was really just starting. I love a good view but I was too excited about how fun and twisting these trails were, so i just kept going. The trails were pretty well marked but I lacked a map so I wandered, keeping my wits about me and trying to gauge where I was in relation to everything else (because that always works so well). I found the trails lost their smoothness and had more gnar. I dropped off step like drops of 12-18 inches, descended pitched banks and then found a trail that turned plush again–and fun. A descent that offered the best blend of singletrack, whoop-do-dos, jumps if you wanted them, and banked switchbacks to whip you around downhill for more fun. Glorious! This was a total blast. i went down, down, down, until I didn’t know where I was.

Fast and flowing at Cady Hill.

Fast and flowing at Cady Hill.

I started down another trail which dead-ended to a road. I didn’t want the fun to end so went back into the woods. I was a little lost, so I checked my map on Strava to get my bearings.  It wasn’t a real trail map but better than nothing. I climbed another trail that was pretty steep, and twisting. Through the woods I watched a group of riders slice silently through the trees on trails I couldn’t see or get to. The trails ribboned close to one another in a tightly packed area.  I reached another intersection and headed down another trail, trying to get back to the Green Chair.  This was a much rougher trail.  I stopped to dismount down one hill that downhillers probably jumped but I decided the 6 foot drop wasn’t for me. Back on the bike I worked my way down, and ended back to the same intersection I was trying to get unlost from.

Fortunately there was a group of 3 guys taking a break at the intersection.  They were Canadians and true to the reputation for being super nice–they gave me directions and a spare map, because, well…Canada.  (I just love Canada).

With their help, I found my way back to the Green Chair, and then took the decent down Bear’s Run and right into the parking lot to my vehicle.

It was maybe one of the top 5 MTB rides of my life.

So the plan is to go back, and ride more!  I also found fun MTB trails while doing a little family hike at the Von Trapp Family Lodge (yes, the Sound of Music place).  I’d like to sample that too.  Co-blogger Heather has indicated her interest so I’ll have the benefit of someone with some EMT cred around in case I crash into a tree, which I did recently while riding solo last weekend.  That blog post will come next.

Trails at the Von Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, VT.

Trails at the Von Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, VT.

Mountain biking might not net me high miles, but I just feel like I’m getting a better workout all over–and it’s just soooooo much fun. With all the goals I set for myself, it’s important for me to keep fun in the equation. For June, i hope to jack up the mileage in general, but to ride MTB at least once a week to keep the fun vibe present, and my technical skills sharp for CX season.

-Karen

Slow Ramp Up

I’m lying on my couch right now, looking at my road bike which needs a tube change before tomorrow morning’s ride. I cannot summon the energy to do it.

I worked out twice today, once on the bike, again with a 4 mile hike, and I can’t tell if I’m just that out of shape, or if I’m really feeling my age these days.

My rides have felt slow to me in 2015.  It’s almost May–I got a late start (we all did here in the Northeast), but I’m still feeling like riding is taking more effort than it should.  Was my hibernation that profound?  Is the hole I’m crawling out of that deep?  I don’t know.

I’ve set some goals for myself and I put some serious thought into them to make them reasonable, yet not too soft.  I’m still super pressed for time, sneaking in rides here and there–an hour on the bike when I can grab it. When I do ride, it’s almost always on the cross bike, and I almost always try to add something different:  a new path.  A piece of dirt road I haven’t explored yet.  Even just riding the grass next to the road. If it’s going to be an effort, I need to keep it fun.

Today I stayed local while my son was at baseball practice, and explored the banks of the Connecticut River.  I saw a loon and came across these raccoon tracks.  These are the perks of exploring with a cross bike.

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I finally hired a sitter–who starts tomorrow, The extra time I buy (literally) will allow me to push into rides that are 2, 3 or more hours. I need the base miles, more time in the saddle, to stretch and build my conditioning.

But again, right now I’m barely able to lift my arm to change the channel on the TV with the remote. Hopefully as I slowly re-enter my exercise routine my fitness will return and I won’t feel so shattered every weekend.

-Karen

Looking for Cookie and a Good Deed Done

Last Sunday I got to ride. After a leg stretching 18 miles in a balmy 40 degrees. I returned to my girlfriend’s place. As I was cleaning my bike up out front, an elderly woman approached. I greeted her and she said she was looking for her lost dog. After some prompting, I got a description of her little mostly white dog, Cookie, and offered to spin around the neighborhood looking for the little guy.

I rode around through the immediate neighborhood, and then hers. I stopped another older woman on her walk and asked if she had seen a little lost dog named Cookie. She asked where, and  told her what road the woman lived on. The woman exclaimed, “My daughter lives there!” She agreed to talk to her daughter and I pedaled on, calling “Coooooookie!  Cooooooookie!” I weaved down side streets and cruised slowly, scanning for little lost Cookie.

I turned back down the woman’s street and notice the walker I had stopped standing in the middle of the street, talking to a man and waved me toward her. I rode over and entered the discussion.

The man was the son of Cookie’s owner. I told him “I’m looking for a lost dog for a woman, it’s small and white and named Cookie.” He replied, “The woman is my mother, and that dog has been dead for years. I’m more concerned about where my mother is.”

Oh. Well I could still help. I knew where his mom was. He explained she gets a bit confused and occasionally wonders off her walking route. All was well that ended well. Mother was found, and I returned home shortly after.

This story didn’t turn out how I thought it would, but it felt good to help out in a small way. It’s sad that we age at all, and the results of aging for everyone varies, but no one choses how time will diminish us. That might sound strong–I don’t mean it to–but it captures my fear of aging. I want to remain as strong and sharp as I can for as long as possible. The march of time is without escape. Riding keeps me young–I feel like a kid when I’m on my bike.  I’m counting on that to help me as I travel through the last half of my life.

-Karen

The Nudge

Last year Laura and I had a bet, and I won. It was that same one we had in 2013-who can ride the most miles on their bike in a calendar year. She won that one. The prize this year, which had never really been discussed, was decided to be a day on bikes together. Given that she lives outside of Philly, and I in western Massachusetts, and given we both have crazy schedules, this wasn’t an easy prize to deliver on.

This weekend they posted the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo ride on Bikereg. The FUNdo is 68 miles with 5300 feet of climbing and benefits the developing professional cyclocross team founded by current US Cyclocross Champion Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman. This ride is supposed to AWESOME, and it happens nearly in my back yard, and I’ve never been able to do it because of childcare reasons. This year, they moved it out a week and I’m free to do it. Win. I posted the link on her FB page and before I knew it, she signed up and so did I–and it’s on! We’re hanging out and riding bikes all day July 25th. I’m so excited!

This was exactly the nudge I needed too–yes there are races peppered through my schedule this summer and more regularly in the fall, but this is a big ride. 68 miles, 5300 feet of climbing, 20 miles of dirt. And all in the bosom of the beautiful Pioneer Valley. This is the event I needed in my schedule to train for.

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Not from the Fundo–but you get the idea….

I’m not a great climber and long distances burn me out–so I’ll need to prepare carefully. Most of the prep will surround food, hydration and timing of these two important elements. I’ll train too, off course, for the distance and the hills–I know I can do it–it’s just not being completely destroyed afterwards.

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Image credit: Jam Fund website http://www.jamcycling.org

And bonus–I already talked to mysterious co-blogger Heather about this event and it’s on her list to do. Additionally, I’d bet money a bunch of the NCC guys I chat with on twitter will sign up (guys if you are reading I know you are a lot faster than me but at least I’ll see you at the pig roast).

Totally stoked for this event! Hopefully the weather gods are kind and the winds are at our backs. To sign up and support the JAM Fund, go to BikeReg and check it out!

-Karen

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