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26th Annual Verge Northampton International Cyclocross-Cyclesmart

Local race!  My 5th year racing Northampton and each year the course gets a little bit better. Technical features have been introduced and they seem to tweak the gnar factor year after year. I raced both days, placing exactly where the race predictor put me. The torture I endured last weekend in Vermont brought me back in line to where I should be; feeling like I was actually racing.

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HUP United represented here in the Women’s Elite Race on Day 1.

Day 1

Saturday started cold. 27F degrees when I arrived at 7AM. I ate something that had been disagreeing with me the day before, and had a terrible night’s rest. Despite this, I got a fair start and had a clean race, very few mistakes and steady effort. I passed a few when I could but found myself with a comfortable gap in front and behind me, which left me wanting in terms of “racing.” There was no “race inside the race” for me Saturday. I finished 43rd and felt relatively satisfied with the effort.

After Saturday’s race, I ran home, grabbed a shower, and then retuned to meet up with Laura who drove up from New York to see her first ‘cross race. We chatted all after noon while catching the pro women and pre men’s race, and then headed to Local Burger in Northampton for dinner.

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US Cyclocross National Champion Jeremy Powers in pursued by Curtis White of Cannondale on the run up on day 1.  White would later catch Powers and win in a very dominate fashion.

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Crystal Anthony (3) is on U23 National Champion Ellen Noble’s wheel in the turn after the sandpits at Northampton on day 1.

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Pro women on the run up day 1.

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Superman remounts.

Day 2

Sunday was much warmer. I was stiff and tired from Saturday’s efforts, and didn’t sleep well again. I wasn’t feeling very racey right up until the whistle. But after we went, I raced more aggressively than Saturday, attacking often (and having some of my attacks answered). I traded places frequently with one young woman who eventually bested me.  My fatigue was evident when I tripped on the barriers (first time that has happened).  I had another delay when I got caught up in the sandpit and was forced to run the entire 2 lengths of the pit, which was so much more draining then pedaling through it. I finished 30th and felt very good with my effort.

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Hey that’s me, over the covered railroad tracks after the super sketchy descent on day 2.

Sunday I wasn’t planning on hanging out long. I left by 10AM before results had been posted, showered, and was sipping a mocha latte at Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters in Easthampton by 11:30AM. I decided to check my results online.  That’s when I noticed my place was all wrong. They counted my first 2 laps as one and placed me second to last. I ended up driving back to Look Park to speak to a US Cycling Official to formally protest and explained what I believed happened. They fixed it immediately.  ery positive experience for my first “protest.”

The rest of Sunday I felt tired and happy. My weekend was full of friends, bikes, racing, and spectating-much needed break from social media, traditional media, and the current state of affairs in our country.

-Karen

More Photos!

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Pro women in the sand, day 1.

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Pro men on run up #2 on day 1.

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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Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross 2013: Photos Day 1

Too much to post about! I raced both days, lackluster performances both days.  More on that later. I’ll start with some photos.  (I dare say I’m a better photographer than I am a bike racer!).

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The name of the game is pain.

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Ride. Climb. Cross.

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This was the “easy” run up. Ha.

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Anthony Clark of the JAM Fund Team. SickWhat? This guy is infectiously crazy. I’m really rooting for him.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Race organizer of CSICX and #NECX legend Adam Myerson.

Lots of crashes here.  Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

Lots of crashes here. Nice to know my crash site was the same as many elite riders as well. (Well, not nice, but you know what I mean.)

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The new Gnar section in the woods. Thank you for adding–LOVED it.

This is by far the most intense run up I've come across thus far.

This is by far the most intense run up I’ve come across thus far.

Crystal Anthony on the run up.  She won the women's elite race on Saturday.

Crystal Anthony on the run up. She won the women’s elite race on Saturday.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Lots of remounting on day 1.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women's CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross, looking focused.

Molly Hurford of Colavita Women’s CX Team (and writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and author of Mud, Snow, and Cyclocross), looking focused.

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Charging toward the downhill.

A write up will come….sometime this week.  I’m spent.  This was a fun weekend, on a great course.  I went in sick and my results were my results.  It is what it is.  It was a beautiful weekend in New England for bike racing.

-Karen

 

 

 

 

 

The air is out of the tires.

The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been.  Pretty flat.  After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season.  I started riding “for fun.”  And that was–I thought–a good plan.

It should have been a good plan.  I started mountain biking.  Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters.  I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure.  The problem is, it hasn’t been.

Of course that isn’t ALL true.  But there is something missing.

I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season.  Although I admit, I needed the break.  My muscles felt frayed and tight.  Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem.  The weather hasn’t been ideal either.  I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.

I’ve even tried changing up locations.  Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community.  I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town.  The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees.  12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet.  Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.

Pausing to rest.  The light is fading on the season.

Pausing to rest. The light is fading on the season.

I’m not sure what to do about this.  Should I take a real break?  Stop riding altogether for a couple of months?  Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December?  I already feel my fitness slipping.  And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.

Suggestions?  I’m all ears.

-Karen

 

Cycle-Smart International Day 2-Race Report

So I learned what 2 consecutive days of cyclocross racing feels like.

An ass kicking.

A beating.

A demonstration of discipline and tolerance to pain.

Self flagellation.

Masochism.

Thank goodness for day light saving time, because in theory, it gave me an extra hour of sleep.  Unfortunately, a text message at 4:44am from someone in an airport that I did want to hear from changed any plans I had for extra rest.  I had napped after Saturday’s race so I was rested enough, and I actually arrived at Look Park earlier than necessary.  As a result, I was able to preride the course and see the changes they had made after day 1.  Yes, they change things up in these 2 day events–it keeps racers on their toes. Because ‘cross is already hard, but let’s keep ’em guessing too.  That’s just how the sport rolls.

Major changes included the run up and the descent.  The run up was a short uphill (rideable) and hairpin turn, then another hairpin, dismount, run-up to the upper deck.  The decent was a very sharp downhill followed by an immediate right turn which claimed a few riders (crashes).

I was very sore from my efforts on Saturday and I didn’t feel like a had a lot to offer, so I kept me expectations reasonable.  The field was a bit larger at 75 racers.  We lined up the start and I tried the concentrate on just having a good race, despite my beaten body.  The whistle blew.  I had a terrible start.  The rider in front of me staggered, so it forced me to as well.  Then I couldn’t clip in immediately.  Another rider in front of me choked on the first corner and I was caught behind her, so I choked with her.  I needed to stay out of trouble, and it was everywhere.  On the first hairpin turn before the big run up, the barrier tape had collapsed and created havoc–we were all forced to dismount and shoulder the bike while lifting the tape out-of-the-way so we could pass one at a time.  Major time suck!  This is why starts are so important.  When things fall apart in the back, you don’t get dragged down with it.

Run up, Day 2 Cycle Smart International Cyclocross Race, 2012.

This isn’t an accusation either–this just happens.  It’s like one small thing causes a chain reaction and then the rest of the field is affected.  This is just how it is.  Being fast gets you a better starting position.  Being fast allows you to be faster.  Good starts are everything, and this was a great example of why.

After that most of the trouble had cleared.  I felt a bit empty but pushed it anyway.  I battled a couple of women but lost often.  I just tried to have as good a day on the bike.  My muscles were torn up and didn’t have the push they did on Saturday.  I did the best I could.

Which ended up being not as bad as I feared.  I finished 55th of 75 riders–still solid and in keeping with my results on Saturday.

My next goal is to crack the 40’s on a race of similar size (any in the NEPCX Series).  I don’t think it will happen this season but something to work towards next season.

If you’d like to see what the course looked like, please look at this extremely excellent video by CyclingDirt of the pro men racing on Day 2.  Note: this is same course used as the rest of the racers in amateur classes.  The video really captures the course layout–very good stuff.

And here are some shots of the Cat 4 Men on Day 2 hitting the barriers.

I don’t want this to be the end of my season.  I would like to do at least 1 more race, a smaller one that I’m healthy for.  I am head over heels for ‘cross (figuratively, fortunately–although the literal version is completely possible when doing the sport).  It’s fun and hard and amazing and hurts but in a way that makes you feel so alive–it’s hard to explain to people.  I’m clearly addicted.  I don’t care if I suck.  That’s not what it’s about.  I’m not sure I can put into words what this is about, but I’ll keep doing it until I figure it out.  Then I write about it here.  Then I’ll do it some more.

-Karen

The Girl with the Stilettos and Cross Bike

This photo has been making the rounds on Facebook, and I thought I’d share it here.

Just because we hammer, doesn't mean we can't still girl-it-up.

The woman who posted to it FB thought it might have originated in Sweden, which just goes to show you that not only do they have The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but also The Girl with the Stilettos & Cross Bike–a woman who may prove to be even more mysterious than Lisbeth Salander.

At any rate, I fell in love with the photo and thought it did a few wonderful things, like:

  1. Empowered women to ride
  2. Empowered riders to still be feminine
  3. Laughed really hard at itself
  4. Enjoyed life just a little more than everyone else
  5. Set the example for having some FUN.

But it got me wondering…..is it harder to ride with those things on, just like it is harder to walk?  Are those heels any good in the sand?  Could this new piece of equipment give rise to a new category of cyclocross racing?

That’s a race I’d like to see.  Where Mavic and Jimmy Choo compete for sponsorships.

–Karen

Knobby Roots

Morning dew on the knobby rear wheel.

A little more than a week I’m racing!  Well, I’ll be participating in a race.  I’ll have a number and I’ll gather at the start line with the pack of amateur athletes. But truth be told, I’m not sure I really know how to race.

I know how to not stop.  But that’s hardly racing.  I have made peace with the fact that I will never be first.  I can endure a good deal, string out my resources and survive a course.  But I’m not gonna be first across the line.  Ever.  That’s OK.

This year has been one of great transition for me.  I’ve changed careers–a scary proposition in this economy.  Let’s pile on some single motherhood, a mortgage and that ugly number 40 too.  But the gamble (fingers crossed) is paying off and I am experiencing sustained happiness of which I haven’t experienced in about 8 years time.  Because of the career change, I am able to work out consistently, which also contributes to my overall happiness.  As for cycling–I’ve returned to my mountain biking roots for the pleasure of it.  I have only been on the road bike a handful of times and have a beautiful new cyclocross bike I’ve ridden 4 times.  I’m playing in the woods on my starter Trek, 11 years old and still a great ride.  And I’m really happy just playing, riding, fooling around, exploring new trails.

So next weekend, I will not come in first.  But I’ll be smiling when I cross the line🙂

–Karen