Last weekend I raced the Fat Tire Classic–a mountain bike race I’ve never done but had wanted to do for years. Up before 6:30am on a Sunday, I was seriously questioning why this was important — a Cat 3, 35+ event at 9am a state away. My stomach was feeling off all morning and I was tired and unmotivated. Already running late, I was concerned to find the LONGEST pre-reg line I’ve ever seen in my life. I barely got to the start on time and with no course inspection whatsoever, we went.
Then, I proceeded to have one of the greatest races of my life. Not because I’m all that. I was lucky enough to be very evenly matched with another woman. First place was long gone but my race was the race for second. I was 3rd, then 2nd, then 3rd, then 2nd again. I’m not sure how often we traded places by but the second lap we had traded names and complimented each other on the spirited rivalry.
In the end, I held her off to claim second, but another mile of trail and it very well could have been her taking the second spot on the podium. We hugged after the race and I thanked her. So seldom do I get a real race in these events, and she really gave me that, which made the day for me.
I bagged out of the duathlon I signed up for last February and entered a mountain bike race instead last weekend. Originally this race was to be held at Hodges Dam, but the heavy rains flooded part of the race course so organizers decided to move it to Wallum Lake at Douglas State Forest in Douglas, MA.
The course was a 6.6 mile loop of flat fire roads, rocky singletrack, and doubletrack trails. I entered the over 40 cat 3 race and did 2 laps. My start was great, I was second then first, then it all faded away. I burned all my matches and 3 miles in, I was regretting wearing long sleeves under my jersey, even though temps were just in the 50s.
The single track was very rocky, and I was queen of the pedal strikes. I had never ridden the course before so it was all new to me, which I know worked against me. I passed one women who flatted in the first lap. At the finish I saw her again; she repaired her flat and kept racing (props). The second lap I was mostly alone. I was passed by a under 40 woman and then we were neck and neck up a double track hill littered with rocks. I passed her on the hill, and was concentrating so much on picking the right like up the hill, I missed a left turn into the woods. Suddenly I arrived at pavement and realized I was off course, and my competitor was long gone. I doubled back and found the trail, but it cost me at least 2-3 minutes. Even though she was out of my age group, I wanted to make up what I lost. I caught sight of her again through the woods a few times and tried to close the gap, but she was too far gone. My final placement was 4th in my age group.
The race lasted 2 hours, 13.3 miles–which is no joke for a Cat 3. I was hungry and tired for the next 2 days, but the intensity of the race felt cleansing and was what I needed to set me on the path I want to be on in terms of cycling fitness. The winter was long and this was a great jump start.
I’m signed up for another MTB race this weekend, at Winding Trails in Farmington, CT. That course is supposed to be groomed, flat, fast. It will be fun to check out another place to ride. I like seeing new trails and meeting new people, as well as seeing some familiar faces from the cyclocross scene at these races. I’m hoping to do a couple more races after Winding Trails, as well as some longer, more social gravel road rides.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.