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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

Training Starts Now

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Sometimes a nudge can set plans in motion.

Because we have had so much snow, I’ve enjoyed a few extra weeks to make plans about cycling. So what’s to plan? Well–a lot. It takes a lot of thought to juggle a full time job, full time parenthood, and then tackle aggressive cycling goals.

Broad goals

  • 3000 miles in 2015
  • Three top 50% Cyclocross Finishes
  • 10++ races/events

Events on the tentative schedule for 2015 (some will be added, some subtracted…)

  • Domnarski Farm MTB Race June 7th
  • JAM Fund Grand FUNdo July 25
  • Forest Park CX Race August 22
  • Blunt Park CX Race August 23
  • Spartan Sprint OCR August 29
  • TBD CX Race September 5-6
  • TBD CX Race September 19-20
  • The Gran Prix Gloucester Cyclocross Race September 26-27
  • The Night Weasels Cometh CX Race September 30
  • KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival & CX Race October 3-4
  • TBD CX Race October 17-18
  • Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race October 31-November 1
  • Cheshire CX Race November 14

Any racing I do after mid November is gravy. Between daylight savings time and my son’s extracurriculars, I am not able to keep my fitness at the level it needs to be to “race.” I need to switch my mentality to manage my own expectations of myself–that’s hard for me to do–and just go into any of these events with a more fun attitude. Cycle Smart is my last huge effort and then I need to just do what I can without feeling bad about not being able to do more.

I’d like to do more MTB races but the schedule just isn’t lining up with my personal schedule. It’s OK. I’m going to try and preride the Cat 2 route at Domnarski to be sure I can do it competently (I know I can do it, just don’t want to sign up for complete humiliation).  I took 1st in the Cat 3 race last year so I should be able to handle the Cat 2 race (but let’s be clear–I have no delusions of podiums for that category).

Spartan Sprint kicked my ass last year and I’m going back this time and training for it. At least this year I’ll know what a burpee is before taking on that event.

The cyclocross racing is the main focus for me. Last year I was distracted by a job change and much of my focus was there–and that was a wiser, more appropriate choice for me. As a result, my racing performance suffered, I rode less miles overall. I was a couple lbs. heavier and less fit, and my head wasn’t in it like I wanted it to be. I’d like to write a different story this year. Nothing fictional, but something respectable (for me). Balance is needed in all things. I just want my cycling bucket to have a little more weight this year.

So what was that the nudge anyway?  Stay tuned…..

-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

Cyclcocross Schedules Are Going Up 2014

The first races of the 2014 NECX season have been posted to Bikereg. Like a freak, I’ve been obsessively checking the site a few times a week.  Finally a few days ago, The first races of the season were posted:  Monson and Blunt Park.

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The women’s start at Monson CX 2013.

A lot of people feel August is too early for CX.  I’m not such a purist.  With my schedule–I am quite happy for an opportunity for the season to start early.

August 23, 2014  CompEdge Cyclocross Race in Monson, MA  Springfield, MA (Forest Park).It’s a smaller race but the course is pretty tough–eating tires and spitting them out. Last year it was a hot, dry dust bowl.  I felt like there was a film of dirt in my mouth by the third lap.  Very technical race, very fun. still being built.  Complaints abut last year’s course has prompted organizers to move the venue to Forest Park in Springfield.  It’s still supposed to be a rough and tumble course, just not as tire – eating as Monson.

August 24, 2014  Blunt Park Cyclocross Race in Springfield, MA  I didn’t do this race last year.  I hear it’s fast, fast, fast–a course that doesn’t really favor me. I’ll take the technical stuff over the flat and fast any day.  I doubt I’ll do this one.

September 6, 2014 Big Elm Brewing Cyclocross Challenge in Great Barrington, MA  This race had the great misfortunate of being scheduled last year during the same weekend as the Gloucester Gran Prix. The turnout was less than 100 racers. This year it’s been moved up so the turnout should be much improved.

September 7, 2014 Quad CX in Maynard, MA This isn’t posted yet but I’m 99% sure this is the date. This race was SO FUN last year. Fast spots, twisty, turny, technical, and loads of fun. Turnouts are strong being in Metrowest of Boston. I’d really like to do this one again.

September 13, 2014 Aetna Silk City Cyclocross in Manchester, CT  The first race I ever did!  In 2012 it was pretty technical. In 2013, it was a freaking mountain bike course with all the gnar it had. Not for the faint of heart! But a great race. Unfortunately I don’t think my schedule will allow me to race it, but I might drive down and watch Heather if she signs up.

The rest isn’t scheduled yet, but we already know Gloucester is happening the last weekend of September (27-28), Followed by Providence CX Festival my birthday weekend October 4-5. Northampton CSIcx will likely fall on it’s regular weekend too, November 1-2.

With cyclocross season starting up at the end of August, that means by mid July I’ll be switching to the Kona almost exclusively.  I still need to invest in some file treads, and then there’s a the singlespeed cx bike–which still needs parts and to be built.

It’ll be a busy summer….

-Karen

 

Root 66 Domnarski Farm MTB Race Report

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The last time I raced my mountain bike it was 2002. I had been mountain biking for about 2 years and raced only twice before. I was in northern Connecticut and don’t remember how I did. I remember my seat post slid down so low over the course of the race my lower back felt like someone had slammed it with a 2X4. Afterwards, I got into one of the worse fights ever with my then fiancée. It was one of the worst days I can remember. That was 2002.

Fast forward to last Sunday, June 1st, 2014. I have finally (and just recently) replaced that same mountain bike with the slipping seat post. I signed up the the Root 66 Domnarski Farm Mountain Bike race. I did this because I finally feel (gasp–wait for it) comfortable with the idea of racing my bike. Sure I still get nervous but I’m not worried about how old I am or how I might look or sucking incredibly bad. I’m happy and comfortable in my own Cat 3 skin.

Just before the race.

Just before the race.

The smartest thing I did with this race was to preride the course. Twice. I did this the day before. I arrived around 11AM and met up with this guy named Joe who had the same idea. We fumbled around looking for the parking lot, and eventually found where lot was (behind a gate–so we parked on the street) and with the use of my cell phone and the Strava App, figured out where to start.

Preriding revealed an immediate, steep, rocky climb that had me off the bike and pushing on and off for about a mile and a half. There were a few breaks with singletrack, stream crossings, and a snaking ascent. Some spots I just had to dismount and hike-a-bike. It was so steep and rocky, on my first pass I thought “maybe I won’t come back tomorrow for the race.”  Yeah. It was that unpleasant.

But I did come back, and good thing too. More on that later. The parking lot was open the next day and was as the race promoter had warned, a complete mud bog. There was a grand total of 4 Cat 3 women racing. Me (+35), Sara (19-34) and 2 juniors (12-18). Each age category was considered a separate race so Sara and I were going to win our respective age groups as long as we finished. I race against Sara in the CX season and we finally got to formally meet at the start line. We lined up together and my plan (based on the preride) was to hang back, not get in the way, and do my own thing. I thought we’d be starting with the other Cat 3’s–with the men, but they staggered each age group among the men and then let our little group of 4 women go together. So my plan changed. There were 2 clean lines heading into the woods and up the mountain. I was on one of those lines. I took the lead early and just tried to ride steady and clean. I had done 2 laps on my preride the day before so I knew most of the lines to take. I still was off the bike for at least 1/2 of the long, rocky ascent. But when I got to the top, I realized I was alone, with no one in sight behind me.

THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

And now that the rest of the way was downhill or mostly flat–I went. I pedaled hard where I could and kept trying to ride smooth and clean. I blew through the start line and ended my first lap, and just tried to repeat for the second lap.

On the second lap, I caught a couple of the Cat 3 guys and played leapfrog with them for most of the race. In the end, I passed one mid lap and I passed the second near the end (he had flatted). I tore across the finish line still not believing that I had come in 1st. And yes, I was going to “win” my age anyway, but I’ll be honest, it felt pretty good to win overall.

All done!!

All done!!

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

As an added bonus, afterwards I noticed CX Pro and phenom Crystal Anthony wiping down her bike. I had seen her out there preriding the course–she had past me but I recognized her immediately. I’ve watched her race at Northampton CSIcx and she’s crazy-amazing-good. I walked up and introduced myself and told her she was a pleasure to watch race.  Fan-girl moment of the day.  She was very gracious and friendly.  It’s not every day you get to meet one of the top women cyclocross racers in the country.

All & all, Domnarski Farm was a great time.  I’ll aim to go back next year and race the Sport category (Cat 2), and get my ass kicked again like I’m used to.

-Karen

PS- I wore a heart rate monitor for this race.  My average heart rate was 181 and my max heart rate was 191.  Discuss.

Recovery

If you follow this blog at all, you’ve probably heard me talk about the chronic problem I have with post-ride migraines and general sickness. The more intense the ride, the worse it is. This experience seems inconsistent, but I’m sure it isn’t.  I’ve tinkered with hydration, pre and post….and that seems to help, but isn’t bulletproof.

Then I came across this article about how post workout nutrition on the bike is different for woman compared to men. The article leads with the popular notion of chocolate milk as a “perfect” recovery drink (an idea I was totally on board with) as being “not enough” for women.

Disappointing, because I freaking love chocolate milk.

But this was good information. The biggest take away I got was this tidbit:

“Women have a much smaller window than men—30 minutes versus 2-plus hours—in which to optimize recovery through nutrition.”

This week I’m on a stay-cation from work and riding a ton. The perfect time to tweak my pre, during, and post fueling habits. Here’s the rundown:

Friday  Rode 3 x (partial commute to and from work and then MTB in evening)  Headache by 9PM

Saturday Rode 21.6 miles hard in heavy headwinds.  Headache by 7PM

Sunday day off

Monday Mountain biked HARD in extreme terrain for 6.7 miles or 1.5 hrs. Headache and muscle fatigue by 8PM

At this point, I made some changes.  Water bottle filled with 70% Gatorade, 30% water.  Sip every 20 minutes.  Eat every hour while biking.  Eat immediately after ride is done.  Things changed for the better after that.

Tuesday Rode 36 miles on the road and then did a 2nd ride– 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS

Wednesday Rode same 5 miles mountain biking on moderately difficult trails.  Went home, had lunch.  Rode an easy 15 miles after lunch on the road. NO HEADACHE, NO ILL EFFECTS.

Eating and the timing of eating, combined with some beverage that assists in keeping my sodium and electrolytes in balance seem key.  The timing is just as important as the ingredients. I’ve visualized it as keeping this balanced nutrition in the pipeline, preloaded, and post-loaded.

Today I’m taking a rest and recovery day. I’ve done 67 miles this week and my legs, hips, and back are hurting. The mountain biking (on my new Giant) has been super intense and awesome. My legs are literally twitching from the effort over the last week. Tomorrow I plan on mountain biking again, in the rain no less. I need to check out a race course about 25 miles from here in the middle of nowhere. I’m going alone and a little worried about it, and wanted fresh legs for the adventure.

-Karen

New Toy: 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 (2) Mountain Bike

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My first love, mountain biking, is being rekindled with the long awaited arrival of my newest toy:  The 2014 Giant XtC 27.5 Mountain Bike. It’s been 14 years…..YEARS…since I bought a new MTB.  It was time.  I probably could have done smarter things with the money, but after putting my first love on the backburner year after year, I took a look at my chronological age and thought if it was going to happen, it probably should happen now.

The XtC is a fairly reasonable mid level bike.  Not carbon but lighter than what I’ve been riding, even with it’s disc brakes.  I’m also on a larger wheel, a 27.5 (650b).  I demoed the XtC 29er and the 27.5 and found the 27.5 much nimbler and responsive than the 29er.  The 29er rolls fast but I found you needed to plan turns.  When I mountain bike, I find it a reactionary experience…quick decision making on the trail and nimble handling is much appreciated. I’m riding a real upgrade in the XtC.  Here are just a few highlights:

  • RockShox Recon Gold with 15mm thru-axle, OverDrive steerer suspension fork
  • Shimano SLX/Deore 2×10-speed drivetrain with hydraulic disc brakes
  • Giant S-XC2 27.5 double wall rim, Giant Tracker hub, stainless steel spoke wheelset

I’d like to report more on the riding experience, but truth is, I got it on Saturday and haven’t had a chance to ride it yet.  It’s driving me a little insane to have this machine in my living room with 62 degree perfect degree days and me not having the time to ride it.  I mean to remedy it soon, and as soon as I do, I’ll give a full rundown of it’s awesomeness.

 

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