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The What’s Next: 2017

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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

Adventure Bucket List for 2016

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Ambition will probably get the better of me, but I’m fired up about 2016 and I’m making plans.

I lust for adventure, but with a tight schedule and tighter budget, I take what I can get, and work to create the rest. This year I’m looking at some “local” adventure, and with a little luck and the right celestial alignment, I might manage to get out west again in some shape or form (I’d love a repeat of Whistler but haven’t committed to a location quite yet). So here’s the list: some are bike related, other are not. The whole point is to get outside and explore new places and have new experiences with cool people, old and new friends alike.

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En route to Whistler, BC.  The snowpack still up there in early August 2 years ago.  

1.) Bikepacking  This is happening!  A campsite is booked this spring in the Berkshire hills and Laura and I are in. Doors are open to other participants, but ladies only (sorry fellas, it’s a girl’s weekend).  I’ll be recon riding the area prior to the trip, and finding a good spot to safely and collectively park cars.  In the meantime, I’ve been doing a ton of research, collecting gear necessary, and reading up on some really great resources for this new endeavor.  Check out cyclewrite for backpacking in western Mass or Bikepacking.com for great gear hacks.

2.) Hammock Camping This very well may be a part my bikepacking experience.  I have the gear, but need to field test in my backyard or someplace relatively close to home before trekking into the woods for the real thing.

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3.) Dog Sledding This is a birthday gift for my son that I could not deliver upon, since we are in full El Nino here in New England. We finally got snow this week. A bit more snow will make this work. I found a great place with a team of Siberian Huskies in mid-state Vermont. We’re hoping to go by the end of January.

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4.) DH Mountain Biking I’m doing this-either here on the east coast of on the west coast or ideally, both.  I’ll have to rent a ride since I don’t own a full suspension rig (yet).  I had such a great time at Whistler 2 summers ago, I want to do more of this while I still can.

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5.) More Camping My parenting win of the year was successfully hooking my son on camping.  Our trip with friends last summer was so much fun, he cannot wait to do it again and talks about it all the time.  This is great news. He’s even talking about going on a mini version of bikepacking with me.  I have to plan a few trips to get out into the woods more with him.  Hey, it’s better than Minecraft all day long!

Hope you are carve out your own adventures in 2016!

-Karen

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MTB Nirvana: My Vacation To Whistler, BC

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Speechless, which is what this post will be for the most part. I was utterly speechless walking through the Village of Whistler at the base of Whistler Mountain.  DH, full suspension mountain bikes leaning everywhere, being walked, being coasted and hopped down the playful mounds of earth sculpted in the mountain bike park. I did a couple hours in the park and did a ton of other riding, and hiking. It was freaking awesome. Go to Whistler if you love mountain biking or hiking or being outdoors and seeing beautiful mountains and bikes pretty much every time you open your eyes. I’ll leave you with some of the sites I saw while on vacation. Whistler, I’ll be back!!    -Karen

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CX Race Scheduling Taking Form 2014

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At last BikeReg is showing some of the first CX races of the season and I’m starting to plan. I know, I know, it’s only July. What’s the hurry? Truth is, doing 10+ races in one season isn’t going to happen without some serious planning. Here’s what I’ve jotted down so far. The * indicates races not yet scheduled but based on history, they are anticipated. So don’t hold me to any of this!

Saturday August 23, CompEdge CX Race at Forest Park, Springfield, MA

Saturday Sept 6, Big Elm CX at Butternut Ski Area, Great Barrington, MA

Sunday September 7, Quad CX, Maynard, MA* (Tentative)

Saturday September 27 and Sunday September 28, Gran Prix of Gloucester, Gloucester, MA* (probably just Saturday)

Wednesday October 1, The Night Weasels Cometh, Shrewsbury, MA (Tentative)

Saturday October 4 and Sunday October 5, Providence Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI (probably just one of these days)

Saturday November 1 and Sunday November 2, Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race, Northampton, MA*

This is ambitious, and I likely won’t hit all of these races. In my life, everything is subject to change. That said, I loved the course at Quad CX but the race isn’t scheduled yet, and co-blogger Heather is doing Big Elm that same weekend, and driving from the middle of the state to the far west of the state to the far east of the state over one weekend is a bit much. But still, I might sneak that one in. Gloucester will probably only be Saturday.  I might be doing the Rugged Maniac OCR back in western MA on the 28th, because cyclocross isn’t enough torture for me.

Night Weasels has been on my list for a couple of years but childcare is ALWAYS an issue (please, where have all the good babysitters gone?  I swear they are IMPOSSIBLE to find). It’s an hour 15 from my house, and I work 45 minutes away, you can see logistically it is difficult. But hey, that’s what personal days are for. Now if I can only find a sitter….

Providence might just be one day. Depending upon a number of factors, some financial, I may get a room and stay overnight. We’ll see.

I’ll have to wait to see how the rest of the schedule shakes out, and how the rest of my life is accommodating my desire to abuse myself on cold autumn weekends. I do know one thing:  I need to start training right now, because the last few weeks have been light on challenging rides. Intervals, hills, and doing things that push me out of my comfort zone need to start happening ASAP.

Also, for a week in August I am on vacation. I plan to be very active and will be riding, but not big miles. It will be, however, be doing some big mountain riding as I am heading to Whistler, BC to the best mountain bike park in the WORLD. That, my friends, will not suck.

 

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I still have mid October, November, and December to consider as well.  But those feel like a long way away right now, and this feels like a good place to start.

-Karen

Cheshire CX 2013 Race Report

The race I finally got Heather to do!  2 years of bugging paid off.  I have finally converted another to the sport of cyclocross. I’ll let her post about her experience, if she so chooses.  The following is from my point of view.

The Sand at Cheshire CX.

Men in the Sand at Cheshire CX. Photo from 2012.

Heather met me at my house to carpool down to Cheshire early Saturday morning.  We made a hasty stop at Highland Hardware & Bike for a mechanical issue Heather came across when converting her Fuji from commuter bike to cross rig.  As per usual, the crew at Highland saved the day.  The service there is spectacular.  They had us on our way within 10 minutes.

We arrived at Cheshire Town Park and in an unusual turn of New England November weather, it was warm. I was wildly overdressed in the winter skinsuit, but had packed no alternative.  We registered and barely got one lap in for a preride before the next race began.  I was hoping for at least 2 laps to review the course.  The course was as fun as I remembered from last year, but dry and dusty with loose soil.  I have been striking out in the mud department this year–the closest I’ve come so far is Providence. The course itself has all great features for a cyclocross race: woods, sand, epic run ups, roots, turns.  Great technical riding with more woods than grass.

Heather seemed incredulous that she was actually present and accounted for and intending on finally racing–right up to the whistle.  I’m smiling remembering this 🙂

Cat 4 Women lined up after the Elite call up.  We started a minute behind the Women Pro 1-2-3’s.  We scrumed for the front line and I got a front spot on the inside. When out whistle blew, I was off and made a tight first turn.  I was 3rd through the hole shot and kept that position for nearly the whole first lap.  My overall goal was a top 50% finish, and so far I was making it.

Hard, dry and fast at Cheshire this year.

Hard, dry and fast at Cheshire this year.

My fast start caught up to me.  I’ve had a nagging congestion for the last 6 weeks.  After 1 lap, my sinuses opened and started dumping stringy mucus down my throat.  Sorry for the disgusting description, but it was…..well it was disgusting. I was literally choking.  This was seriously distracting from my focus and speed.  I tried to clear the crap from my throat and spent the entire 2nd lap doing so (sorry–gross.  I know).  I final was breathing a bit easier by the third lap, but I had damaged my place.  I was passed by one or two more racers on the 3rd lap.  I still had energy and was planning on throwing it all down for lap #4, but with just a couple 100 yards to go, I was passed by the leader of the elite race, and she was about to cross the finish line.  The rule is when the elite leader crosses the line and finishes, so does EVERYBODY behind her.  Which meant I never got my final lap, or chance to make up any ground.  I felt a little shortchanged.  I had more race in me, and nowhere to put it.

Shouldering the bike on the hill.

Shouldering the bike on the hill.

I finished 8 of 14.  2 DNFed.  I missed my 50% goal again.  I’m definitely mid pack on these smaller grassroots races, so I’m happy about that.  Heather and I packed up and hit the road after the results were posted.

The good news is that Heather reports she enjoyed herself and has penciled in two more races for 2013: Sterling CX in Sterling, MA and DAS BEavEr CX Race in Dayville, CT.  I am doing these races as well.

-Karen

Photo notes: I didn’t take a single picture this year but found some online that I’m borrowing (they had a sharing button so I consider that fair game–if you are the creator of any photo I posted please contact me and I will remove it immediately or give you props–whatever you prefer!).  I took a ton last year and have used those as well to give readers a taste of the venue.

The Eve Before: The Gran Prix of Gloucester

It’s Friday night.  Tomorrow, the much anticipated, hard fought Gran Prix of Gloucester returns to Stage Fort Park for it’s 15th year.  Of those 15 years, I’ve attended for approximately 8 years of the last 13.  This weekend, I’ll slip behind the CAUTION tape to participate instead of spectate.  I am totally excited to be a part of this epic race–on an anniversary year, after the community of Gloucester almostalmost didn’t allow to return.

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This historic cyclocross race also takes place on the North Shore of Boston–the same area I hail from.  My family will be there to cheer me on, and I’m really nervous and excited about that.  This is arguably one of the biggest races in the country for cyclocross, and it takes place with the cold Atlantic ocean as its landscape.  It is truly an iconic venue, a legendary course, and to quote one of my twitter connections, “Gloucester is a special race.”

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My race is Sunday morning at 10:00am.  There are 100 women registered–just like almost all the fields–it’s sold out.  I’m hoping to place somewhere in the middle of all of that–maybe the bottom middle, but the middle nonetheless.  The most disappointing thing that could happen is a DNF, but I’m staying positive.  The weather is predicted to be perfect–a sunny and dry 71 degrees with an ocean breeze. My bike is just back from the shop, I have a few more adjustments to make, a short ride planned tomorrow morning for an opener, and then I travel to Boston to spend the night on my mother’s couch.

A full race report will follow.  Stay tuned, and wish me luck!

-Karen

Just a girl?

Last weekend, I was at my favorite LBS when I picked up a copy of SingleTracks.  SingleTracks is the free magazine put out by NEMBA (The New England Mountain Biking Association). It’s a nice black & white publication with stories, photos, trails, events  and of course, ads.

I was thumbing through SingleTracks tonight when I came across an ad that sounded vaguely familiar.  It was a company based in Maine that offered 30 miles of single track at their location, tours, weekend trips, rentals, and events.  I had an experience with this company back in 2002 that I’d like to share with you, since I checked the url and the company and owner appear to be the same.  I do not plan of reporting the name of the company publicly in this blog (but email me and I’ll dish freely).

In 2000 I started mountain biking, and jumped in with both feet.  I couldn’t get enough.  I read a very favorable review in a magazine about a mountain bike company in Maine that hosted miles of single track trails, camping, a freestyle park, and yurts for weekend trips.  My family owns a camp very close by to this outfitter, so during my annual vacation there I set out to check it out with a companion.  While I was relatively new to the sport, I had already raced and placed at a local event, and my companion had been a serious cyclist for many years, racing and placing in road, triathlon and mountain biking events.  We were both very comfortable in the woods and happy to explore wild areas.  For the record, we were (and still are) both women.

Granted, there are not a lot of female MTBers in comparison to male MTBers.  It’s a little better now, but back then, it was really hard to find other women who MTBed.  But we weren’t completely mythical creatures.  The following is my story of how our experience went with this outfitter.

We found the location and met the owner.  On the property there was a freestyle park and a yurt, the owner’s home, and allegedly trails in the surrounding woods.  After a warm welcome from the owner, we started to get down to business.  No we didn’t need overnight accommodations–I had a place nearby.  We expressed interest in riding his trails, which as advertised, was free.  His trails, he disclosed, were mostly built on public land, only a small portion of the trails were on his land. He offered to take us on a guided tour.  We declined, we really just wanted him to point us to the nearby trails.  We didn’t need a guided tour, we’re more interested in exploring on our own and setting our own pace.  Then his warm welcome evaporated.  He pressed the guided tour idea.  He wanted to make a dollar on us.  Sure, I get it, of course he’s looking to make some coin, but the trails were on public lands, and advertised as free.  We were too independent to take a tour.  We politely declined again.  Could he sell us a map?  Those too were advertised.  At least our exchange wouldn’t be a total loss.  I didn’t really want a map but I offered to buy one as a gesture.

Then, and I will never forget this moment, he looked us up and down, then glanced at our bikes on the roof rack of the car, and said, “You’ll never find my trails.  I have them hidden.  You won’t find them.”

I was pissed but didn’t show it.  Years of customer service training made me an expert at this.  “We’ll just take the map then.” I said, upbeat.  He left  to get a map.  When he returned, we paid him for it and drove off.

In the car, we were mad.  Really mad.  We both understood exactly what he thought of us, our ability as cyclists, and our ability to find our way out of a paper bag in backwoods Maine.  He discounted us.  And he did is because we were women.

Why do I think this?  Because it’s happened so many times before.  I know because I know that look he gave us, the one of disregard, of no confidence.  He wrote us off with a glance.  You know what this means when it happens to you.  Especially when you’ve always been told you couldn’t play because you were “just a girl.”  Yeah, he was probably a bit put off that he wasn’t going to get a tour fee from us too.  But we just showed up.  He had no other clients, we were not monopolizing his time.  Why he thought it was OK to act like a DB I just won’t understand.

Instead of staying mad, we got even.  We found the trails after 10 minutes of driving.  We shredded the rest of the afternoon.

I’ve always been extremely athletic and active and participated in sports.  I ran as fast as the boys, was MVP of my baseball team. played basketball with boys, fished, camped, hiked, explored, made forts, climbed trees, rode dirt bikes, road street bikes, swung on rope swings, did all and anything the boys did.  I still do.  As a young girl, I fought hard against anyone who told me I couldn’t do something because I was female.

His once over, and his open challenge to us shocked me, even back in 2002, because I hadn’t experienced it in so many years–really since girlhood. And I’m happy to say, I haven’t personally experienced that since.  Men I come across in cycling these days are encouraging, and are excited to talk to women who love the sport they love.  But once you’ve been discounted like that, you don’t forget how it feels, and you know when it’s happening.  People may argue with me about this, but my friend felt the same way I did.

So there it is, my tale of sexism in cycling.  I’m happy to say I’ve only really experienced this once.  Most bike shops treat me with respect, and the men I meet who love cycling are really excited to share it with another, regardless of the chromosome arrangement.  This guy, however, is still in business.  Who knows, people change.  I know a lot of people who have changed their opinions of lots of things through the years.  But I don’t plan to send him any business.

And I still have that map he sold me 11 years ago 🙂  Anyone want to ride with me in Maine?  I know the way.

-Karen