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Cyclocross is Underway!

Guys, I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it this season. Call me late to the party, but I’m here! Cyclocross season is underway in the #NECX and I’m gearing up for my 6th year.

So lots has happened since I was here last. I sold my house, moved in with my long time partner, started my son at a new school, got braces (yeah you read that right, I got braces–thanks Invisalign), and have been enjoying the “who know what will happen next” feeling of being a contract consultant and working sans contract. Nonetheless, I’m in good spirits, and for the first time in a long time, it feels like my life has some traction (now to keep my head down because saying it aloud makes me wonder just where that next hit will come from).

After the JAM Grand Fundo, I did the NEBRA August Adventure Ride–which was just so amazing.  Pencil that one on the must do list for next year everyone.  As the uncertainty of house selling toyed with me at the end of summer and the beginning of September, I all but stopped riding in favor of tag sales, craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, cleaning, packing, moving, repairing, etc, etc. OMG WHAT A LOT OF WORK. If packing up and selling off 16 years worth of a life isn’t like interval training I don’t know what is.

But it’s over. Officially. And I’m able to focus on a much happier obsession.

KMC CROSSFEST

So I planned to jump into the season at KMC Crossfest in Thompson, CT.  They’ve been trying to make KMC a really big deal, starting things off on a Thursday and concluding on Sunday.  It’s a C1/C2 race, and part of the USAC US Cup CX.  Meaning star power from the Pro Ranks would be there to compete.

I wasn’t there for that–I love watching the pros but I’m always more interested in doing rather than watching.  The entry fee was very expensive as far as cx races go. $60 a day, plus $10 to park-each day! Attendance withered as a result. I used to race in a field of 120 at this event. But on Day 1, only 25 women lined up.

The race was fast–as cross races go.  More pavement than I’ve ever seen at a cx race.  But the technical part was highly technical.

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In the cat 4 race they scored 40+ masters separately from the Under 40 cat 4s…..which to my complete surprise resulted in a podium for me!

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I got third!

I’m still psyched about it.

On my second day at KMC–a much different outcome. The field thinned even further–only 16 racers, and even fewer masters. I felt I had a good chance at repeating the result I had on Saturday and was very hopeful. I was really tired but had slept a good 10 hours and tend to rally after the whistle blows. The course was beat up from 3 days day of hard racing and only 1/2 way through the 1st lap I flatted. What a huge disappointment. My friend Jon was cheering for me and saw what happened. I was walking to the exit the course and had my hand on the tape when he yelled “No Karen! They have neutral support! Run to the pits!” I thought he was nuts. The pits were over a mile away.  “It’s so far!” I whined. But then I realized–yeah, I was whining. Stop it. Pick up your bike and run to the freaking pit.

So I did that.  Thank you Jon.

I’d never pitted before, so I took this as a great learning experience. The Shimano mechanics were great–they fixed things on my bike I didn’t even know needed fixing, and had me on my way very quickly with a new wheel. But the time lost running the course with my flatted out tire was significant. I lost an entire lap and finished dead fucking last. But DFL–>DNF–>DNS and I gained just a little more experience in the sport.

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Multi-approach to the gnarly downhill.  A LOT of crashes here but these Cat 3 women all made it down in one piece.

My sixth year and still a cat 4, still learning, and getting older (just had another birthday but still not as old as my racing age would have you think), but maybe getting better? Maybe.

Minuteman CX

That podium experience got me pretty fired up, and while I doubt that I’ll repeat the perfect storm of low attendance, high entry fee, and high profile event with a rule that has them scoring masters 40+ women separately again this year, I’m still just delusional enough to think I might be improving a bit. So I signed up for Minuteman CX–a race I’d never done before due to childcare schedules, but now my child is a breath away from teenager status and he came along to take pics.

The course is not very hilly and not very technical, except for the incredible number of turns/corners. So many corners! Cornering well would be the #1 skill to bring to this race. To my delight, overcast skies opened up 5 minutes before the race and continued to rain steadily for the whole event. We were ringing our gloves out at the start line, where a healthy group of 58 women lined up for the cat 4 race.

I had contact with someone pretty much the whole race, traded places, passed some got passed by others, crashed once, and got soaked and muddy. It was perfect. I finished just in the top 1/2 of the group–a solid mid pack finish which is what I aspire to do but always come up a little short. I was 29th of 58 and had a great time with teammates and friends.

Next weekend is the Gran Prix of Gloucester, and I’m racing both days, hosting friends at my Mom’s house, and going to a party with friends from high school. The original hometown race. The competition will be tougher but still shooting for mid-pack finishes, no flats or crashes, and maximum fun.

Guys, cx season is here!! So much fun!

-Karen

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JAM Fund Grand FUNdo – 2017

  • The JAM Fund Grand Fundo has became a signature cycling event in western Massachusetts, known for it’s cycling star power, beautiful and challenging routes, great food & drink, and warm community.  Living in western mass, I feel particularly fortunate to connect with so many cycling friends  at an event in my backyard that I otherwise would not get to see in my day to day life.

This year, Laura came back to do the full Fundo–67 miles and over 5,650 feet of climbing on a mix of paved and gravel roads.  It was a warm and cloudy day and I was grateful temps didn’t move past the mid 80’s.

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Laura & Gail.

We rolled out from Black Birch Winery in Southampton and hit gravel within just a few miles. Soon we all tackled the formidable King’s Highway, followed by Krug Sugarbush and then around mile 22, our first rest stop.

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KIT Teamies, Steph & Kathy at rest stop #1. I felt a little guilty in my NCC kit. They gave me a pass….”when in Rome….”  Northampton Cycling Club for summer, Keep It Tight for cyclocross season.

Soon after, we were back on gravel for what seemed like the next 30 miles. I was riding my gf’s gravel bike, a 2016 Specialized Dolce Evo, which was super comfortable. I loved the stopping power of the disc brakes and the Lazy-Boy quality of the seat. But it didn’t help me in the climbing department, and at 22 pounds, I was used to a lighter machine. I slogged through each hill, which slowed all of us down (sorry guys), but on the descents I bombed past everyone. The Specialized tracked superbly and I could confidentially hit 40+ mph on gravel and then stop on a dime.

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Laura’s taking a selfie and I’m showing her the pretty birdie.

By mile 50, I was more than ready for our downhill finale. 17 miles of reverse hills I was downward dogging it back to the winery. I REALLY wanted to hang out and enjoy the food and beer and friends, both new and old–but my son had been dropped off at a neighbor’s house after 2 weeks away from home (tech camp & a Cape Cod vacation) and I couldn’t wait another second to see my boy. I can’t complain though–It was a full day on bikes with friends at a terrific event supporting the next generation of cyclocross greats. I’ll be back next year for another helping!

-Karen

Muddy Onion Spring Classic

Oh Vermont, I want to run away with you forever.

But for now, I just have the occasional jaunt north. Last weekend, it was for the Muddy Onion-a gravel ride kicking off in Montpelier and looping across 3,700 feet of green mountain goodness on mostly gravel roads. Laura & I signed up back in February, and as the event got closer, Gail and Matt decided to join us. A couple of my KIT cyclocross teammates Kathy & Michele also signed up. The bike tribe gathered to celebrate the end of winter.

Gail & I Laura met up at my place Friday afternoon and we carpooled up to the state capital,  Packet pick up was a cinch at Onion River Sports. Matt had already arrived and the 4 of us dined at The Skinny Pancake–a first for me and definitely not a last! Crepes for dinner were A+.

Saturday morning, the weather for the ride could not have been more perfect. Mid 60’s in late April in Vermont was unusually warm but no one was complaining. We rolled out, and up, and up, and up. We were on gravel within just a couple of miles and stayed on gravel 90% of the time.

The views were beautiful and the rest stops stocked with maple syrup shots, chocolate covered bacon and Pabst Blue Ribbon. We climbed, talked, traded idle chit chat with fellow riders and enjoyed every moment of the 35 miles in picturesque Vermont.

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After the ride we enjoyed a free beer and veggie burgers and BBQ chicken. Back to the motel for a quick shower and we went back into town on a mission to find coffee and Zero Gravity Beer. Unavailable in Massachusetts and brewed in Burlington,VT- both Gail and I discovered this independently and have been fans ever since. We found it in liquor store in downtown Montpelier, and cleaned the place out. The store clerk entertained us with stories of his southern Georgia catholic-hebrew upbringing–a delightful encounter with a unconventionally lovely fellow.

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Gail, Laura and I returned to Massachusetts that evening and rode mountain bikes in thunderstorm the next day. Bikes and friends and great food and drink all weekend. I feel happy and blessed to have these getaways to remind me of what a balanced life is like. Occasionally I get it.

-Karen

FOMO Bike Racing

Last January in a fit of “oh my God I haven’t been able to ride outside in a week” desperation, I freaked out and signed up for a duathlon for mid April. I needed something to focus on. I have done the event before–a couple of times, although it’s been a few years. An off road trail run, a mountain bike ride, followed by another trail run. The while thing is done in about 90 minutes. I reasoned that the running would be a good thing to focus on throughout the winter to keep me active–and easier than trying to ride on icy roads. Plus it would get me in shape for the Spartan Event I’m doing in June (for the 4th time, God help me).

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Me and my little brother in 2009?  2010? at the duathlon. Anyway, in typical competitive first born nature, the thing to point out here is I’m ahead of my younger brother.

All that made a lot of sense. I had been watching Bikereg like a mother–always trying to find a couple of spring/summer events to do before cyclocross season, and it was January–so of course there wasn’t a lot posted. I got an email from the duathlon race promoted with a discount and it seemed like a perfectly good idea. I signed up.

Then about a month later, a mountain bike race was posted for the same time, same day, slightly closer to home. I figured oh well. But as it gets closer, I’m waffling.

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The same thing is happening at the end of April.  I’m signed up for the Muddy Onion Spring Classic. On the same day, another mountain bike race was posted 2 towns away. I am totally psyched for the Onion, but man I wish that mountain bike race was scheduled another day! I’d sign up in a heartbeat if were on another weekend.

It’s been a really long winter and it’s not quite over yet, with more snow expected on the very last day of May. I have found that I need something to look forward to to get me through long stretches like winter. Signing up for that duathlon was a sound choice but now…..now I’m looking at that mountain bike race and thinking–that’s what I’d rather be doing! I suck at running, I just tolerate it. It’s like doing homework. But a couple hours on my bike in the woods with like minded people?  Yeah, that’s my jam. There is a short 5.5 mile mountain bike portion of the duathlon, so its not like I wouldn’t get bike time, but it just doesn’t feel the same.

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I was having SOOOOO much fun at this race in 2015, even though shortly after this was taken I flatted and pushed my bike 4 miles through the woods. This is still more fun than running.

Ignorance is bliss, choices paralyze us. If I bag out on the duathlon and lose the $70 fee, and sign up for the mountain bike race, and then have a bad time at the race, will I be full of regret for changing my mind because of a little FOMO? Or is this just an example of going with my gut?

My gut love bikes, and it’s been a long, long winter.

-Karen

Women’s Mountain Bike Weekend-Planning Phase

Plans are underway for another off road getaway with Laura and Gail,  and with interest from others building from our respective Facebook feeds.  Upstate New York is the place, deep in the Hudson River Valley.

 

Bikepacking was the original plan, and I have a better rear saddle bag this year that I’m dying to test out, but this is shaping up to be more of a camping trip with bikes, with some minor bikepacking required to reach the campsite which is off the beaten path and away from parking. The bonus is our vehicles will be nearby enough and it will be easy to cache food and supplies there, but far enough away to feel a bit more off the grid. And there is less stress around route planning, which takes up an enormous amount of time.

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Camping is primitive and we can obtain a permit for up to 10 women. There has been interest expressed by a few different people. My attitude is the more the merrier–it will allow for mingling and new friendships and small groups to break off to hike or mountain bike or swim or do whatever.  I also am a fan of safety in numbers, and this campsite is said to be much more remote than our trip last year. We will be deep in bear country as well, so having more people and cars nearby (about a mile away) is a plus.

Stay tuned…..it’s coming together!

-Karen

 

US Cyclocross Nationals

Last Sunday I drove down to Hartford, CT to watch the pro races at the US Cyclocross National Championship.  The entire week had been a “spin the wheel” of extreme weather: rain, mud, snow, frozen ruts, frozen ruts covered by snow, frozen ruts with a layer of mud covered by more snow–they really had it all.  I watched Katie Compton claim her 13th national championship title, and Stephen Hyde his first. Actually I had to leave about 15 minutes before Hyde’s spectacular finish with a broken derailleur, which I’m still shaking my head over–I can’t believe I had to miss that!  Anyway, I shutterbugged and socialized and had a nice time despite the frigid temperatures.  Here are some of the better photos–enjoy!  -Karen

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Katie Compton was completely dominant

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Stephen Hyde, the new National Champion

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Jeremy Powers, the 2016 National Champion

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Jeremy Durrin

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Jeremy Durrin keeping it together

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Katie Compton

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The safe line on Bonk Breaker Hill

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The pro women down the chute off the hill and into the woods

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#BeardsOfCx is a trending hashtag

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Treacherous

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Lucky 13 for Compton

The What’s Next: 2017

2016 was a pretty great year adventure-wise:  I had a ton of fun and “got away from it all” on more than one occasion.  I doubt I can repeat but will try to with perhaps some variations to my normally scheduled program.

On the list for 2017:

1.) Fat Biking.  Never done it, and we’ve had the snow for it.  I expect we’ll be getting more since it’s only January.

2.) Dog Sledding.  I wanted to do this last year but there was no snow. There’s a team that runs twice a week in Windsor, VT.  I promised my son we’d do it so now it’s a matter of booking the dogs.

3.) Kingdom Trails-again.  I had such fun last year I need another helping of this slice of MTB paradise.

4.) An island…..or a canyon?  My mom has offered to take the family on a vacation.  The problem is, she can’t decide where. Oh I know, how unfair.  It’s rough. It’s between Nantucket and Montrose, Colorado.  Personally I’m in favor of Nantucket because 95% of the trips I take are to the mountains and sometimes I miss the sea.

5.) At least one Mountain Bike race.  Whoever is in charge of scheduling nearly every single mountain bike race in New England doesn’t want me signing up for any MTB events.  This seems to be true every summer.  Right now Domarski Farm lines up with one of the 26 weekends I have free a year.

6.) The JAM Grand Fundo.  The full Fundo this time.  I missed last year due to childcare conflicts.  I don’t know when the 2017 Fundo will be but want to attend.

7.) The Muddy Onion Spring Classic.  This one I’m already signed up for with Laura.  It’s not the Rasputita but its still 34 miles in late April on gravel roads in VT, which means mud.  I’m looking forward to it.

8.) A Dog. Wait, what?!  Yeah, I want one–have for years.  The last of my cats left us 3 years ago and I’m ready to grow my little family again.  A change in my work has allowed me to work from home up to 4 times a week, which means I can be home for an animal.

9.) Bikepacking, V2.0.  We’re doing it again!  Still working out details but locations under review are Fahnestock State Park in Carmel, NY, The Adirondack Trail Ride (TATR) in Northville, NY, or potentially just a bike/camp weekend in The Kingdom.

10.) Mystery Getaway.  I have a vacation yet-to-be planned and I have no honest idea of what or where that will be.  It’s been determined that Hawaii is on tap for 2018 so I need to save for that and be a bit leaner this year.  I have time–it’s only January!  I’ll figure it out…

11.) 3 more OCR Races. I’m already signed up.

12.) Cyclocross!  I’m adopting a wait and see attitude about the 2017 season.  I may back off a bit from CX and get a few weekends back to do other things.  Of course when September comes I’ll be chomping at the bit again so who knows.  I’ll stop when I’m dead.

And hiking, and camping, and so on, and so on…..

What’s your 2017 plan?

-Karen