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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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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

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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Spartan Sprint Boston 2015

No, I am not Irish step dancing here. This is the fire jump. You *feel* like an action hero when you do it. You look *this* silly when you actually do it.

No, I am not Irish step dancing here. This is the fire jump. You *feel* like an action hero when you do it. You look *this* silly when you actually do it.

Last year I wrote that the Spartan Sprint was no joke.  That has never been more true. In fact, this year, it was even harder.  And last year was pretty freaking hard.

I didn’t race this event, but experienced it with family. We took our time with each obstacle and I failed at some. I won’t beat myself about that. I was feeling pretty anxious about contaminating my wounds front he crash I had the day before at Forest Park. I knew there would be a ton of mud and being that it took place on a farm, there were bound to be lots of other biological goodies hanging out in said mud. I used the tegaderm on both my leg and elbow, and reinforced it with duct tape to keep out the gross stuff.  And there was plenty of gross at Spartan Sprint.

So. Gross.

So. Gross.

Last year I only failed at 2 obstacles.  This year there were many more.  The obstacles were hard–more upper body challenges that I didn’t see any women conquering. I was constantly stressing about my leg and elbow, and half way through the 100 yard barbed wire crawl (yeah, 100 freaking yards), the duct tape failed on my elbow and I made the decision to abandon that obstacle. I just couldn’t willingly smash dirt and manure into an open weeping wound. I’m tough. I’m not stupid.

I felt bad about it, a little. I don’t like bagging out on challenges, so it bothered me, and it changed my attitude for most of the race. I wish I had been without these wounds so I could have approached the event with more zeal and less caution. But as I type this 5 days later, my elbow is still weeping and I’ve been fighting an infection for the better part of the week. I’m finally starting to feel like I might have turned a corner and it will start to close up and heal a bit, but it really still just hurts. The leg is healing nicely though–so that’s getting better anyway.  I just need the elbow to catch up.

Even without succeeding at all the obstacles, the whole event is still wicked hard. I did my burpees and climbed walls and scaled cargo nets and jumped over fire and all. It’s not cycling, but it was fun, and I definitely used a bunch of muscles I’m not used to using, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Now….back to cycling!

-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

Why I’m totally, completely, not ready for cyclocross

Ug!  I’m not riding nearly enough for so many reasons.  I’d like to being doing 70-80+ miles a week.  Instead, I’m sometimes breaking 40. Why?  Same old same old.

  1. No sitter.  Freaking babysitters, I cannot find a reliable one to save my life.  I really need to fix this because I’m not riding my bike after work.
  2. Work. I was riding to and from work every once and a while.  That’s pretty much stopped now.  There’s several reasons for this I won’t get into, but mostly it’s extremely difficult to squeeze 20 mins of riding before and after work, put a full day in, and still make it back in time to pick up my son from day camp.  I just don’t have to time without something giving.
  3. Needing rides to be more for fun.  I’ve been super stressed lately and I use riding to work out tension, fill my brain with endorphins, and clear my head of the bullshit of life.

My life feels wobbly right now, and one of the most grounding elements for me in the last 10 years has been cycling. Friday evening I picked the hardest place I know to mountain bike.  I needed to mash pedals, to hurt, to jar myself free of my stress. I fell off a bridge into the muddy edge of a pond. Win. Then, last Saturday I had the whole day to ride, and I thought about doing a 50 miler. Then I thought, well, maybe 40. Then I thought, no. Imposing a goal was just adding to my stress, and not taking it away.  I needed to just go ride my bike and let the rest work itself out.  It worked.  26 miles and I found a strong steady rhythm.  I pedaled until I felt resolved, if only for a little while.  Then I went home and got shit done (which also helps my stress).  Sunday, rain was forecast so I tried to beat it. I didn’t. That wasn’t a bad thing. Mountain biking in the warm rain washed my week clean. Mountain biking always means a 1/3 of the miles I’d be doing on a road bike, but the visceral action of mountain biking is like deep tissue massage for my soul.

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That leaves me here: not really ready for cyclocross. OK I’ve been riding some, but not training.  Major Jake is still hanging in my basement, untuned, unlubed and needing new bar tape.  I’m not doing intervals.  I’m not practicing dismounts.  I’m not practicing remounts. I’m not trying to cure my stutter step.  I’m not practicing carries, suit-casing, or shouldering while sprinting up a muddy hill. And I haven’t built that single speed cx bike yet either.

And I have to be honest, I’m not sure I should be putting my energies here, since life is needing my time and energy and some work that doesn’t involve a bicycle.

I have a vacation coming up and will be riding my bike at the largest mountain bike park in the world.  While it’s unwise to have expectations, mine are high.  I won’t by riding the whole time but I will be immersed in one of the most active mountain biking cultures on the earth: Whistler, BC.  Maybe after I return, I can refocus on cyclocross, and some of the non bicycle parts of my life.  Because all of it can be better.  

-Karen