Archive by Author | Karen

The 6+ hour sweet spot

Like any good cliché I’m changing up the diet and trying to work out more. In all the years I have been riding, I’ve noticed a threshold of activity when I start to really see a physical transformation in my body. That magic spot is 6+ hours. 6 is a minimum, 8 is better. Without noticing, jeans are roomier, I sleep better, and I crave healthier foods (while shunning crappy food–what a great problem to have). I notice it in the mirror, I notice it on the scale.

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Getting the saddle time is the challenge, especially in the winter. This week I started riding the trainer. I have to make friends with it every year. Last year I didn’t ride the trainer very much and it was a harder road back to any kind of fitness. I don’t want to start so far behind this year. But I can’t imagine getting 6 hours in on the bike this way.

Recommendations for weight maintenance is 150-250 minutes a week. I’m in that zone right now, hoping to scape together enough outside time to creep past the 6 hour mark and shedding some of the holiday weight I’ve gained.  My schedule is such that I achieve my ideal weight for a short period in the summer, then I stat to slowly soften as the days get shorter and my opportunities for exercise diminish with the seasons.

How are you getting your ride / activity time in?

Adventure Bucket List for 2016

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Ambition will probably get the better of me, but I’m fired up about 2016 and I’m making plans.

I lust for adventure, but with a tight schedule and tighter budget, I take what I can get, and work to create the rest. This year I’m looking at some “local” adventure, and with a little luck and the right celestial alignment, I might manage to get out west again in some shape or form (I’d love a repeat of Whistler but haven’t committed to a location quite yet). So here’s the list: some are bike related, other are not. The whole point is to get outside and explore new places and have new experiences with cool people, old and new friends alike.

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En route to Whistler, BC.  The snowpack still up there in early August 2 years ago.  

1.) Bikepacking  This is happening!  A campsite is booked this spring in the Berkshire hills and Laura and I are in. Doors are open to other participants, but ladies only (sorry fellas, it’s a girl’s weekend).  I’ll be recon riding the area prior to the trip, and finding a good spot to safely and collectively park cars.  In the meantime, I’ve been doing a ton of research, collecting gear necessary, and reading up on some really great resources for this new endeavor.  Check out cyclewrite for backpacking in western Mass or Bikepacking.com for great gear hacks.

2.) Hammock Camping This very well may be a part my bikepacking experience.  I have the gear, but need to field test in my backyard or someplace relatively close to home before trekking into the woods for the real thing.

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3.) Dog Sledding This is a birthday gift for my son that I could not deliver upon, since we are in full El Nino here in New England. We finally got snow this week. A bit more snow will make this work. I found a great place with a team of Siberian Huskies in mid-state Vermont. We’re hoping to go by the end of January.

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4.) DH Mountain Biking I’m doing this-either here on the east coast of on the west coast or ideally, both.  I’ll have to rent a ride since I don’t own a full suspension rig (yet).  I had such a great time at Whistler 2 summers ago, I want to do more of this while I still can.

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5.) More Camping My parenting win of the year was successfully hooking my son on camping.  Our trip with friends last summer was so much fun, he cannot wait to do it again and talks about it all the time.  This is great news. He’s even talking about going on a mini version of bikepacking with me.  I have to plan a few trips to get out into the woods more with him.  Hey, it’s better than Minecraft all day long!

Hope you are carve out your own adventures in 2016!

-Karen

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3000 miles in 2016 (or bust)

Goals are funny. We want to achieve them but we like our routines. We like our habits, even the bad ones.  

I set a goal of 3000 miles. I’ve wanted to do this kind of mileage before but never (I don’t think) put it in writing. 60 miles a week doesn’t seem insurmountable. But I’ve never been able to pull that kind of mileage off. Here are my most recent stats:

2015 Stats
Distance 2,114 miles
Elevation Gain 92,450ft

2014 Stats
Distance 2,345 miles
Elevation Gain 89,850ft

2013 Stats
Distance 2,710 mi
Elevation Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)

2012 Stats
Distance 2,127.8mi
Elevation Gain 81,385ft

2013 was my best year for miles and climbing, and there is a great reason: I was laid off from my job for the first time in my entire life. Being out of work and being COMPLETELY stressed about it is a perfect recipe for high miles: high stress to pedal off and lots of free time to do it. Honestly I can thank cycling for getting me through that dark time. But things are on the upswing these days, so it would be great to log even higher miles and have them just be for fun, not exclusively for mental health.

Mid summer in 2015, I was feeling a loss of wind in my sails around training, about the approaching cyclocross season and how invested I could be or wanted to be in the race season. I got it together, mostly.  But my miles dropped off hard as soon as daylight saving time came around, and with that, so did my overall fitness.

So why 3000 miles?  It feels like a magic number to me. In 2013 when I was riding a ton, things started to shift for me in terms of my cycling performance. I got faster, I climbed better, I became a more capable cyclist. It felt so great. I moved off the plateau and onto higher ground, and it was nice, and surprising, to learn that was still possible in my forties.

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So-3000 miles for 2016.  Hopefully the mild winter will continue, my personal schedules fall into place, and I can get the saddle time I need to get there…..and hopefully I’ll move off that plateau and onto that higher ground I’m looking for.

-Karen

Adventure with Intention

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As the year winds down and we all start thinking resolutions, I’m left to consider what I did this year and what I didn’t.

In reality, I have a ton to feel proud about. But if I’m being honest, I have to admit one of my character flaws emerge when I look back on the year. I have a problem with comparing myself to others. I’m always thinking I could have ridden more miles, climbed more hills, hiked more, skied more, mountain biked more. My desire to be outside and exploring is compulsive. It’s as essential as breathing. Yet I am never fully satisfied. I always want more. And at the end of the year, I feel, somehow, that I could have done more.

This is crazy talk. I was outdoors all the time. I raced 10 cyclocross races, 1 mountain bike race, 1 Spartan Sprint. I did the JAM Grand Fundo with Laura. I joined a cyclocross team, which was a great step ahead in my cyclocross experience. I went hiking and camping and riding in beautiful Vermont. My son and I panned for gold and chased crayfish in a shallow river there. I gave him his first knife–a Swiss Army and taught him to whittle. I snowshoed and skied and trail ran and I can keep listing these things to prove….to myself…..that it was enough.

I don’t want to falsely give the impression my insecurities are the primary driver of my outdoor life. I’ve always loved exploring and being outdoors. I love the camaraderie of competition, pushing myself and the shared experience of pushing physical limits. I love finding new places. I feel simultaneously fascinated and at ease with nature. I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and I shouldn’t. I don’t have oodles of free time and to get outside and do any of the many things I do get to do–it takes a lot of planning and intent. Constant intention.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m ridiculously persistent. I feel this is one of my better attributes and it’s served me well. So as 2015 comes to a close, I’m considering what adventures lie ahead. In 2016 I intend to do the following:

  • Another 10+ races of Cyclocross
  • Compete in Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford, CT in 2017
  • Bikepacking Trips
  • Spartan Sprint Boston
  • Warrior Dash Boston
  • Rugged Maniac
  • DH Mountain Biking @ Berkshire East
  • The JAM Grando Fundo
  • More Camping
  • More Hiking

We all lead busy lives with demands on our time. So many things are important and balance is hard to strike. Here’s to living with more intent to get outdoors and into another great adventure.

-Karen

Fun CYCLOCROSS photos from 2015 #NECX

Gloucester Gran Prix, Gloucester, MA

Gloucester Gran Prix, Gloucester, MA


White Park Cyclocross, Concord, NH


Paradise CX Frenzy, Windsor, VT


Paradise CX Frenzy, Windsor, VT

  

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

  

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

 

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

  

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

  

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI


The Night Weasels Cometh, Shrewsbury, MA

 

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

  

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

   

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

Off Season At Last


Cross season is over.  Officially.  I strung out the last two months as best as I could.  I had a much better time this year due to a properly adjusted attitude. And now it’s time to relax.

Right!  That never happens. I’ll spend this winter obsessing about what I should have done differently and not forgiving myself for not training harder, despite the reality of a highly demanding schedule.

What’s on my list this winter?

  • Mountain biking
  • Trail running
  • Hiking

So far this winter has been record setting mild.  No snow, a few cold days but nothing serious.  I need to get back into running; I have some serious muscle imbalance going on, and I need to challenge some different muscle groups.  Yoga would help. Now I need someone to make me do some yoga.

In 2016 I am signed up for a few obstacle course races starting in the spring and concluding in September. I’m hoping to squeeze a couple of mountain bike races in this summer too. Mountain biking is something I really love and during the summers I find myself not spending as much time as I would like in the woods. 

Goals for 2016 will be forthcoming, but right now, no agendas, just fun. Happy holidays everyone!

-Karen

The Ice Weasels Cometh, El Nino Style

At last, I’ve experienced the infamous Ice Weasels.  Considered the end of the season party for the New England Cyclocross community, I have regrettably missed this party for the last 3 years.  Now I see what all the fuss is about.  This was a blast.  A completely rad course, beer handups, White Russian handups, candy cane handups, silly costumes, a Star Wars theme, and a bike jump!  What more could a girl ask for?  Oh, the amazing #NECX community.  So great. With ironically warm temperatures in the low 60’s, the Ice Weasels did not disappoint. Here are the highlights:

  • the above photos collected from links from the crossresults.com site  Thank you to the awesome #necx for sharing!

The race had some serious gnar.  Crazy chutes and granite ladders, dual pump tracks through the woods, a deep sand section that hells yeah, I rode through nearly every time, and lots of on and off the bike action.  I really loved this course–it was sick and twisted in all the best ways and the cheering from spectators was a frenzy of fun.  I haven’t raced since Northampton last month and have had almost zero time on the bike. My fitness was marginal but none of this mattered: this race was all about the fun.  But, you still are racing, you are still moving along at a good clip.  So when I felt a pop in my left calf on my very first dismount, followed by searing pain, I knew things were not good.

At first I tested what I could do….riding the crazy downhills was so much fun, I loved it.  I heard a couple loud crashes behind me as women lost it on the loose sand descent of some of the downhills.  I played tug of war with a Cannondale rider.  It was hard to assess what shape my calf was in while I was on the bike. I was in the moment.

Then I dismounted for the granite steps, and I felt more searing pain in the calf. I could pedal fine, but running off the bike, and worse, remounting, was agony. I limped through my runs off the bike.  I slowed way down, babied it as much as possible, and at times, walked when I would have been running.  I tried to push through it but to what end?  This was the fun race, I reminded myself.  When someone is sticking a solo cup in your face…..sometimes, sometimes you should just slow down and take it.

Next time, I will!

-Karen

More photos for your enjoyment (these ones are mine):

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