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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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A Race to the Bottom

Tomorrow I’ve signed up for my first ever back-to-back races in the same day.

Wut?

Yup.  Race at 12:00PM, then again at 1:30PM.

It would be difficult for me to be less prepared for this endeavor. I haven’t had a serious workout in what feels like a long time. Last week I spent doing 16 hour days consisting of of air travel, conference sitting, client meetings, presentations, walking several city blocks in heels, extravagant dinners of rich southern creole cuisine (the food part is not an actual complaint), and entirely too much alcohol. I’ve barely been on my bike. To add to this completely bad idea , my calf injury seems to have reappeared, leaving me feeling like if I strain or stretch the wrong way, that sucker is going to pop and tear like it did in the middle of Ice Weasels last year.

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Solo on the stairs at Gloucester. Photo credit: Marylou Hanson

 

The first race is a short 30 minute race with cat 4 women. I’m again, predictably, expected to be in the middle of that pack. I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a New England thing, but some of the cat 4 women ride their bikes pretty fast. I’m hoping to stay in the middle if at all possible, but my fitness has slid as it does every year (you know the drill: work, kid schedules, lack of daylight, blah, blah, blah).

The second race is an Open Category: 1/2/3/4. I’m predicted to be last. So all the pressure is off!  I’ll start at the back, stay at the back, and if I can pick someone off, great. I’m basically going to focus on chasing my friend Kathy and see if I can keep up with her. I did this same race last year and was also predicted to finish last, but somehow didn’t, so there’s always hope.

I’ve called this my “race to the bottom” weekend. I’m not going to have great results tomorrow, in either race. I’m feeling pretty sluggish. I didn’t ride my trainer tonight for openers. I did laundry and washed dishes and watched Westworld for the 3rd time this week, because mentally, I needed those 3 things tonight. You know, priorities. It’s not that I’m not motivated: I’m totally excited to race tomorrow and have been thinking about racing cyclocross every day and obsessing over it like I do every year. I’m just wicked freaking tired from life. So I figure–sign up for these grassroots races, get a race or two into the legs, avoid further injury to that calf, and kick the body back into the cross season. Northampton is next weekend and I want to be past this worn out “rock bottom” feeling and back into an upswing.

I might be racing to the bottom tomorrow, but at least I’m still racing.

-Karen

 

 

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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When you can’t ride or race, blog about riding and racing

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I’m 3 weeks into October and as expected, my ability to get out and ride my bike has gone into serious decline. This happens every year, but I never am able to let myself off the hook for it. Work and my son’s school schedule + extra-circulars ramp up, daylight ramps down, and not a lot of time is left for me. The timing sucks if you love cyclocross. Adulting is a lot of work.

Last week I intended on racing. I decided not to. Partly because I was seriously jet lagged from my business trip to Portland, and partly because I couldn’t work out an arrangement for a little extra time on Sunday before my son returned home. Since I hadn’t been out on the bike much and everything felt like work, I just decided to play.

Saturday I picked a spot near the Quabbin Reservoir that I’ve not been to, and decided to go exploring with the ‘cross bike. It’s peak foliage season, and I was out for almost 3 hours, 2 of them actually riding, taking pictures of stone walls and the gorgeous scenery, riding rocky fire roads, climbing through farmlands and enjoying the full throttle colors of autumn.

Sunday I had less time, and it was even colder.  It was in the high 30’s and I headed out to do some mountain biking. Mountain biking demands so much more attention, which helped me not think about work and some of the less fun aspects of adulting.  I got a little lost, which stressed me out a bit, and came across a Canadian couple hiking. They tried to direct me, and adorably, ended up bickering with one another as to whether or not I could ride over Hitchcock Mountain.

The woman: “That trail is not one you can take a bike on,” she cautioned.

The man: “Look at those tires,” he said pointing to my front wheel, “of course she can go up that trail!”

I headed back from where I came, went in a circle, and finally found a trail I recognized. I love to explore, I don’t like feeling lost. Light snow started to fall and it rustled the leaves with a chorus of tiny taps and rattles on the freshly fallen leaves. I labored up the side of the Holyoke Range, climbing almost 1200 ft in just 7.5 miles.

I’m remembering these weekend rides to sustain me through another intense work week. I have not been on the bike and don’t see it happening again until Saturday at least. I need to start back on doing sprints in my workouts, and getting my heart rate back into gear, and I won’t be racing again this weekend due to childcare again. This October break will be longer than I planned, but I’m planning a November surge….

I signed up for Paradise Frenzy Cyclocross in Vermont next weekend for Halloween. I heard from Heather it’s a great course–one that I’d love.  After that will be Northampton–2 days of racing and a “local” race which means I don’t have to drive a bunch that weekend (win). Then I’ll likely do Cheshire CX again, especially if I can talk Laura into driving up from NY for it.  Then–we will see.  Ice Weasels is scheduled, and it’s on a weekend I’m free, so I’d like to so that race as well. Anything after Northampton is just the icing on the cake anyway.

So there is my mid-season ramble about the woes of not riding.  Hopefully I can get a break and purge some of this extra energy I have with a  good long ride.

-Karen

The KMC Cyclocross Festival-Providence, RI

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It’s fair to question yourself when it’s 6:00AM on a Saturday morning, and you find yourself driving alone in a cold rain 90 minutes in the dark to a muddy park in Rhode Island.

By the time I arrived at Roger Williams Park, the rain had stopped, but the cold was much harder to shake. I got my gear on and got onto the course for a pre-ride. There were a lot of changes from the 2 previous years. The course used different areas of the park and just about everything was super slick. After one lap, instead of feeling more confident, as is often the case, I felt pretty freaked out.

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We lined up and waited for what felt like a long time. It was 50 degrees F, windy, overcast, and the cold easily penetrated my long sleeved skin-suit and my leg warmers. Then we went. I got an OK start, moved past some traffic and stayed within the group for a good while. The run ups were super slick and I used the hand rail each time–which was slower, but wiping out on the ramp was a time killer. Eventually the group thinned, but there were enough women racing (100 pre-reg’d) that I had contact with at least one rider for the whole race.

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The course had an impressive run up and a scary decent that had 2 lines. I hear one of them was easier, but I never took it (insert mountain bike cred here). This afforded me several places by taking this riskier descent. Despite being nervous about the course prior to the start, my feelings changed for the better during the race. Every single muddy inch of this course was an absolute delight. Slick flyovers, slippery turns, greasy climbs and gnarly descents…I loved ALL of it.

I raced well (for me), and made the cutoff and did 4 laps instead of 3. I beat a couple of women who I haven’t beat this year, and one I haven’t beat ever….so that felt good.  I guess 4 races in 7 days is good for me. It makes me sad for the 2 week break I need to take (because work) before my next race.  I hope I don’t lose all I’ve gained in the last couple of weeks.

-Karen

(More pics of the Master Men race and some causal shots of the course and people at the festival–sorry–no shots of the women–I was busy racing!)

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