This year is nearly half over, and I’m just feeling like it’s starting. The winter was long. So long. Like still getting snow in April long. Now warmer weather is here and all I can think about is being outside riding. I’m getting out enough, but it’s like I feel the need to make up for a lot of lost time. This spring I returned to Montpelier, VT for The Muddy Onion Spring Classic. I entered the first mountain bike race of the year as a Cat 2 rider, and played hookey for a solo adventure ride that took me somewhere I deeply needed. Let’s play catch up.
The Muddy Onion
We just call this “The Onion” now. We actually call it “The Funion” because it’s such a good time. Gail, Laura an I rode up to Vermont together, meeting Matt at a diner for some late night breakfast the evening before the event. Laura didn’t feel well after dinner and I was worried she might not be able to ride in the morning. She toughed it out and rallied for the event, even changing my flat tire at mile 31.
The route changed slightly this year, but still brought us over some primo peanut butter mud and gravel. It had been raining all day Friday, and the roads showed it. I overheard that it was the muddiest Muddy Onion ride on record. I was just happy to be back in Vermont, a place I feel akin to. Beautiful roads under moody skies with friends and friendly cycling community. This ride attracts a group of good people.
I should mention, my entry was comped by the GRVL-XX Project.
“GRVL-XX is a group for female cyclists only, dedicated to increasing participation of the ladies in gravel riding and racing and to showcase fun and unique events.”
They have a good community of FB and use their platform to grow the sport for women. Check them out of you are a female rider, or a race promoter of a gravel event and are interested in promoting a little gender diversity.
Fat Tire Classic-Winding Trailing Mountain Bike Race
Despite the terrible weather all year, I’ve been keeping up with riding and while I’m not dedicated enough to be doing scheduled intervals on the trainer during the freak snowstorms we just kept getting all spring, I felt I was in good enough shape to level up to the Sport category for mountain biking. When I started racing mountain bikes again in my 40’s, it was only a
couple few years ago and I did a small handful of races. I always raced Cat 3 (beginner) and I’m not a beginner. I’m just middle aged and slow. But my bike handing skills are descent enough. I started bringing home some hardware from these cat 3 races-which was nice! Mountain bike races increase overall length of the race when you upgrade, and I can handle the increase in miles, so I figured–just go for it. Upgrade! Also-the mountain biking scene tends to be more chill that cyclocross, which is a nice break. I’m competitive enough in my own head, and a laid back culture is a very nice counterbalance. I like that about mountain biking-a lot. Just ride!
So I entered as a cat 2. Winding Trails is a pretty buffed out course, but this year had some changes to the course and it felt harder–like maybe there were more climbs than last year. Instead of 10 miles (2 laps) I was in for 15 miles (3 laps). We lined up at the start and it’s nice to know some of the women I race against now. I saw Sarah from cyclocross (who now races elite in cx while I’m still hanging out in cat 4) and Kait who started racing last year and just keeps winning everything. We were causally chatting right up to the whistle, so different than the tense silence in the moments before the start of a cyclocross race. I was hoping to place among the 35+ crowd, and I was foolish enough to think this was possible.
I don’t know if it was the long winter, my overbloated confidence, or WHAT, but 15 miles was HARD. I rode as efficiently as I could, and the trails were not too technical at all, but I got my ass KICKED in that race. Dead last among all the women. I did pass one of the older guys who started before the women’s race on the same course. We exchanged pleasantries on a particularly unpleasant climb. But that was my only pass and it counted for nothing.
Since then, I have not done another mountain bike race–only because of scheduling issues. I plan to do at least one more–maybe two. And I’m planning on sticking to Cat 2, even though I got killed in it. Because I CAN handle the miles and I’m NOT a beginner, and mountain biking culture is totally chill. Maybe that combination is really the right one.
Solo Adventure Ride
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a day off and just have a “me” day. I don’t think I know how much I needed this until I did it. 54 miles, solo. Vague idea of where I was going. Beautiful weather, beautiful roads, beautiful non-roads. The best ride. I’ll leave you with my Instagram post after that ride and the photos of it.
Today I took the day off and rode my bike 54 miles on pavement, gravel, mud, grass, snowmobile trails and cow paths. I accidentally ended up in a cow pasture and the cows noticed me and started coming for me. I was off the map for a while. I hopped fallen trees, crossed a stream, jumped an electric fence, and stepped carefully over barbed wire. I found a very ominous looking murder shack in the middle of nowhere. I found a rubber red goldfish tucked into a 150 year old oak tree. I saw waterfalls. A gaggle of wild turkeys. At one point when I was pretty lost, with no bars on the cell phone, I looked down and half buried in the mud was a small sign nailed to a post that had broken off, that read “YOU ARE HERE.” That was my favorite moment of this extraordinary day.
Summer’s finally arrived–go ride!!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
More photos for your enjoyment (these ones are mine):
Speechless, which is what this post will be for the most part. I was utterly speechless walking through the Village of Whistler at the base of Whistler Mountain. DH, full suspension mountain bikes leaning everywhere, being walked, being coasted and hopped down the playful mounds of earth sculpted in the mountain bike park. I did a couple hours in the park and did a ton of other riding, and hiking. It was freaking awesome. Go to Whistler if you love mountain biking or hiking or being outdoors and seeing beautiful mountains and bikes pretty much every time you open your eyes. I’ll leave you with some of the sites I saw while on vacation. Whistler, I’ll be back!! -Karen
**LAUNCH ANNOUNCEMENT & INVITATION**
Do your plans for 2014 include getting on your bike or maybe even trying out a little racing? Or perhaps you know someone who does? Check out Second Crack Cycling – a fun recreational women’s cycling club hatched by Vicki Bocash of Evverge Creative and me! Karen Lynn of Sip, Clip, & Go! Coffee.
We love bikes, coffee, and good design & technology. In addition to all those things being a bit like crack to us, in coffee roasting terms, the “second crack” is the point of roasting when the coffee bean cell wall breaks open and the richer flavor develops. That being said, this may be our second+ time around on many things, but we like to think we just keep getting better one sip and pedal stroke at a time.
Sometimes it’s tough to hit the reset button when you’ve been out of the game for a while, or just feel a bit intimidated or don’t want to go it alone. It doesn’t matter your geography, or if you are a beginner or already belong to another club or team, we welcome all affiliations and skill levels – and encourage it, actually. Same goes for the dudes who support, train/race with, encourage, heckle and cheer us on. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do intend to have some serious fun! And we’re not afraid to try new things. We also like to mix it up with other sports and recreational activities and spend as much time as possible outdoors. But our common ground is cycling and its soul-liberating power! Almost every discipline of cycling is open: road, recreational, mountain biking, and even cyclocross. We love it all! Racing is NOT required, but if you’re game, so are we. Vicki competes in Triathlons, Cyclocross, and is generally up for anything. Karen competes in Cyclocross, Mountain Biking, Dirt Road rides/Events, Road Cycling Rides (no races), OCR (Obstacle Course Races like the Warrior Dash) and 5Ks.
Join in the fun and get cracking!! Club kit apparel and random merchandise will be available for the upcoming season. Connect with us while we crack the code on a new website and make plans to organize opportunities to ride, train and race together.
Please send us your ideas, comments and suggestions and please pass along!
Main Website: TBA (in development)
We welcome you to the sport of cycling, and encourage you to get on your bikes and ride!
-Karen & Vicki
And so it begins.
The Monson Cyclocross Race will be held just one week from today. By this time next week, I’ll be one race in to a 10 race season (at least). I’m hoping to feel tired, happy with my effort, and enjoying a burrito from La Casita Azteca.
I’ve been super busy these past few weeks, riding whenever I can and not feeling like I’m getting enough miles into my legs. Last week I attended a CX clinic near my office in Connecticut (I now work in CT). It was only an hour long but I picked up some tips and identified some really bad habits that are classic to beginners. Truthfully, I realized how out of practice I was with basic ‘cross skills–not that I had a ton of skills to begin with–I am still super new to this game. I have just one week to smooth out my dismount and remount. The barriers I need work on too–this is harder to replicate but I have a makeshift barrier I built last year I can resurrect for backyard practice.
I couple of weeks ago I visited the site of the race and used the Strava Explore feature to walk parts of the course. I wanted to ride parts, but my bored and uninterested son wasn’t having it…..so we hiked it instead. I found a video as well, which helps me visualize mentally what to expect.
I have a friend riding in the Men’s Cat 4–actually my friend’s boyfriend, and his race goes at 9AM, while mine’s not until 2. I’m hoping to get some tips from him after the fellas in his group break in the course. I finally understand now the timing of getting a pre-ride in before the event–which in my opinion is crucial. That too will help me prepare just before the event.
Monson’s course seems to be just the kind I like–lots of off-road stuff, technical, lots of turns, not just a grass crit. That said, I’m in the Women’s Open category, which means I’ll get my ass handed to me by the rest of the field. I’m a Masters Cat 4. Those Cat 1, 2, and 3s will ride roughshod over me. So, time to review my goals (in order of importance) for this race and all others.
- Have fun.
- Stay upright.
- Don’t finish last.
- Middle pack.
- Top 50%
I usually hit the first 4 consistently. I have touched the middle of the pack but it runs away from me in the middle of every race, I’m still chasing that one. One of my overall goals for 2013 is to finish in the middle more often than not. I doubt Monson will be the race where that happens.
Making the top 50% in a race is also a goal for me this year. This is a little more dangerous for me to talk about. I think this is well within grasp, but I don’t want to set myself up for too much disappointment, either. We’ll see what happens. I’m in better physical condition overall and have a lighter faster bike, but Goal # 1-HAVE FUN-should always take precedence over all other goals. My competitive nature aside, the fun is in racing bikes with a bunch of other people crazy enough to love cyclocross as much as you do.
At the CX Clinic, I overheard some attendees talking just before it started. One guy said “I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m a triathlete, you cyclocrossers are crazy.” Another rider replied, “Are you kidding? Triathlons are the crazy sport!” And that’s just it–right there. There’s no shame in this game. We’re all out here to have fun and challenge ourselves. We all work up in our heads why we aren’t going to be good at something, why we might fail, why this all might not work out. But we still show up, and say what the hell? You only live once. And then get on our bikes and slip behind the tape.
Cyclocross season is starting. Come play with us.
“The Rapha Women’s 100 is not a competition to see who is the fastest, it is about gathering a global community of women around the world to take part in this shared adventure.”
There was a wonderful organized ride in Amherst, MA held today. I was invited to go by my friend Gail, and it was a great opportunity to ride with group of local women. A BBQ was planned afterwards, and the entire ride was preplanned, and supported with SAG vehicles and water stops by the husbands of several women riding (not that I’m an expert on husbands but seriously, these men are dolls for doing this).
I couldn’t go. I couldn’t get 5 or 6 hours or childcare for my extremely energetic 8-year-old son. I guessed approximately 4 hours riding with stops, plus the necessary set up/break down and talking before and after. That comes out to about 6 hours by my social calculator.
Bummed as I am for not being able to participate I did sneak out for an hour (and hour is a lot easier to get a friend to watch the offspring than 6 hours). My riding time has gone way down between the new job and the rain and now the extreme heat. I’m getting a bit cagey, and 60 miles (or 100km) today would have been great, even in these crazy temperatures of 90 degrees with dew points of 70+. I do regret not being able to connect with some new local women. It’s so hard to find women to ride with, and I know if I did, my riding would improve. I have a few friends and contacts to call for a ride, but honestly, I am now squeezing in every minute of effort into miles….I have no extra time and every time I get on my bike, it’s squeezed between one commitment or another.
I’m back to my old mantra of “Something is better than nothing.” But at least it’s something.