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 almost—almost didn’t allow to return.
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.”
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!
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.
Yesterday I took advantage of a sunny day and headed up the Mohawk Trail for some skiing. I learned to ski shortly after learning to ride a bike, and had already tackled Killington at age 7. I love to ski, but over the years, I stopped. For the past 10 or so years I have skied just once. A lot of it was due to being a new mother, then a single mother, and having a young child. Skiing, like cycling, is a very expensive and time intense sport. I had to pick and chose. And you can cycle a whole lot more days of the year then you can ski–at least where I live in mid New England.
I went to Berkshire East–a small hill by skiing standards, but with $38 lift tickets and no lift lines, I wasn’t complaining. We’ve had a few nice snowfalls over the last couple of weeks, followed by cold temperatures that allowed for snowmaking, The slopes had packed power, nicely groomed like corduroy. There were a few ice patches but they were manageable.
Another plus–there was almost no one there, which meant I never waited for a lift. Unload at the top, ski down, ski right up to the chair, load back up. The chairlifts are older so they don’t run very fast, and the hill wasn’t tall so I reached the bottom fairly quickly. But I got a decent number of runs in, and the conditions were so lovely, it was nice to enjoy carving out turns without reckless teenagers or out of control novices interrupting the run.
I spent little time in the lodge, but was there long enough to notice this big banner draped on the railing inside.
After some research I learned that 2013 will be the second annual Berkshire Highlands Pentathlon. If you like bagpipes, read on. The race consists of 5 legs: a 10k trail run, 23 miles of road biking, 5 miles of kayaking, a mile to the top of the mountain and a downhill ski to the finish. They hold it in late March because it’s possible to do all 5 events during late winter/early spring. The allow teams of 2, 5 or single entries (know as Bravehearts). Yes, there is a guy in a kilt playing the bagpipes on a rock against a backdrop of open fields and mountains. It’s all for a good cause–local preservation efforts, and looks mildly insane. Of course, I’m interested. It will go under consideration for this year’s events to participate in.
Camp Sloper held it’s annual cyclocross race to a warm, bright autumn day during peak foliage season here in New England. Sloper is in Southington, CT and getting there didn’t take long, providing you have a trusty Mapquest App on your smart phone. I got there with ample time–I am finally getting the timing down on these races and know that it isn’t outrageous to arrive 3 hours before the start of your race.
The day before I had spent in the Ronald Reagan Airport in DC, stuck while I waited for the airline to get us another plane. I had come off a week of traveling, no workouts, and poor diet. I was really tired and felt thin in my attempt to do most things. Get dressed, pack the car, have breakfast–all took deliberate effort. I was deeply fatigued but had registered and it was such a beautiful day, I decided to push on in the hopes that I would rally, as I often do.
The rally never came for me. The course had very minor elevation changes (almost none) and no barriers. There was a steep, slightly muddy climb with a hairpin at the crest, a sandy beach with a stair run up, and a sand volleyball court as obstacles. There was a section of woodchips which were more treacherous than they looked, and some small loose gravel areas. But you really only had to dismount once a lap for the stairs. Otherwise if you had the power and the sand gods were on your side, you could just ride through.
I took my place in the back with the other Cat 4 women. I delayed the entire race by accidentally pinning my number upside down, and the woman next to me re-pinned it for me (thank you!) A rookie move for sure, I laughed it off and the other women seemed to take my mistake in good humor (I hope so anyway).
Then we started. I didn’t feel good from the start, but I know the first lap can mean a lot and I pushed what I had, which wasn’t much. I managed to pass the woman in front of me, then she me, and then we played cat & mouse for the next 2 laps. Then I was done. What little energy I had slipped away so quickly–I felt transparent. I tried to hold off another woman who was downright chipper. She was chatty and conversational and rode with me a bit. I appreciate her because she was friendly and puts things in perspective….and I didn’t really mind when she finally pushed past me.
I had a spill too. My pedals were sticking and my cleats were also filled with sand. I got in on one side before a small climb but could not clip into the other. I lost momentum and fell over. Then tried to unclip when on the ground with no leverage. I struggled on the ground, twisting the bike away from my foot to unclip, get up and run through the mess I was in. Sand was a first for me and boy you need to choose your path carefully. I think there is an art to it but some spots just seemed to snag you. The sand was a major time and energy suck. It drains you quickly.
Then I was alone for the last 3 laps. And when I say alone–I was ALONE. I saw the chipper woman a few times in front of me but by the last lap she was out of sight. I saw NO ONE behind me. I thought for sure I was last. All I had in my head was to finish the damn thing and go home. As much as I wanted to “turn it on” there was nothing to turn….nothing in the legs, no strength at all.
I finished and headed back to my car and kind of crashed. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I tried to eat something. I drank and coughed and sneezed and sat for a bit to try to collect myself. I thought about driving away immediately. But then I thought I should check results and snap a few pictures so I did.
When home, I got progressively worse. This happens to me sometimes after a big event and effort. I get really sick. Headache, nausea, and stomach fall out. This is the 4th time it has happened, and I have been very careful this year to eat and drink correctly before during and after these events. From the week I had prior, I think my system was just off its game. And with no one sticking a bottle of Gatorade in my hand and telling me to drink, I probably wasn’t getting enough hydration. It was a rough reminder that I need to be careful about hydration and nutrition.
Additionally, I checked my numbers on Strava. I could not believe my average MPH. I am capable of faster speeds by 2-3 MPH on courses with more elevation and physical barriers. On this day I was SLOW. How I felt for the whole race was right there in the numbers.
All day yesterday was pretty shot for me as a result. And I admit for a good part of the day, I was feeling so sick I thought “This isn’t worth it.” But now that I’m feeling a little better (still fighting something I think, but better than yesterday), I’m thinking that I need to end of a high note. I have 3 more races I’m seriously considering. The 2 days at Northampton and then Hop Brook back in CT. That should give me a few more opportunities to finish strong for the year.
PS–Results are in and I was not last. There looks like there were again, issues with the final numbers. The first results showed out of 15 women I was 12th (I took a photo of the handwritten results at the race). Official results from crossresults.com show I was 13th. I’m not sure what the issue was but it hardly matters. I had a bad day and could have done better. Not by much but better. Next time….
More Photos Here of the Men 35+:
They speak my native tongue there. They speak Boston, and despite a remarkable lack of the letter R in virtually all sentence structures, we’re all talking bikes & fun. Another year another #GPGcx–and every year I think it can get no bigger, no better. And then it go ahead and gets even more awesome. I’m going to post a bunch of pics to show you what it’s like.
AND there is a beer tent. Nuff said!
So launching a business the week before a long ago scheduled vacation isn’t the smartest thing a person can do. After a really, really crazy week, I did get away for a week and was able to still handle the growing pains on the home front.
Vacation started heading north to Portland, Maine. We stayed in Old Port, right in downtown Portland. There are some great shops and restaurants and getting around is easy. I haven’t spent any significant time in the Portland area so now after a couple of days in the area–I have some clear ideas of where I’d like to ride. I was particularly fond of Freeport and Casco Bay–beautiful long climbing roads with a warm salty scent of summer–it was quintessential Maine. Still, the closest sport I participated in while in Freeport was shopping the 40% sale at North Face and Patagonia.
Instead of road riding at Casco Bay, I did check out the mountain biking at Bradbury Mountain. The mountain wasn’t so much a mountain, but it was a boatload of fun at Bradbury. The trails were cut and maintained by the Gorham Bike & Ski Club according to the signs trailside. There was some great singletrack–I particularly enjoys a trail called Fox Run–a sweet run of singletrack with rocks and roots and switchbacky turns. I really enjoyed the ride–complete fun and everything mountain biking should be.
After a couple of days in Maine, we trekked north and west, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into the Green Mountains of Vermont, and we checked into The Stowe Mountain Resort. A pricy spot, but really spectacular. We did a leisurely ride on the rec path the evening we got there. I really recommend the path for families and anyone who just wants a completely chill and pleasurable cruise. Stowe is a beautiful resort community and they do a good job letting the natural beauty speak for itself. There are several bridges and stream crossings and the path runs alongside Mountain Road with woods and farmland and a cold mountain stream running with the path.
The following day I made sure I hit the road with the ‘cross bike. Talk about climbing. It’s hard not to climb at Stowe. I climbed Mountain Road which I had anticipated being pretty rough from the car ride. It wasn’t all bad, but I hardly pulled out any QOMs according to Strava. I won’t beat myself up for it though. There are pros that train on those mountains, and I’m a 41-year-old woman who does this for fun. Most people would take one look at the hills and stick to the bike path. The scenery at every turn is epic. Only 5 miles away is the Trapp Family Lodge (cue Sound of Music soundtrack here). The mountains are just incredible, lush, green and sweeping. It’s an easy place to be and an easy place to stay.
After my big climb, I was fool enough to do a 4 mile hike to Mount Pinnacle that afternoon. The tightness in my knees doubled with foot climbing and I took a break the next couple of days. I did some light hiking to a waterfall called Bingham Falls, which was beautiful and cold and packed with people cooling off in the abnormally hot and humid temperatures.
All & all I didn’t pack in the miles one would expect out of a vacation week–I slipped from my goal of 100 per week to under 50. But the change of scenery was restorative and it was nice to do a little swimming and hiking as well to round off my activities. It’s also funny to me that I have all this great riding and exploring fairly close to home. Actually, it makes me feel pretty lucky that within 4 hours I can be truly out of the hills and into the biggest mountains the Northeast offers. It’s not the Rockies, but it’s still pretty awesome.
Today I signed up for my first event, the Rockbuster duathlon in Ashland, MA. I’ve blogged about (and done) the Mud, Sweat & Gears duathlon in Ashland, and Rockbuster is essentially the same race. Same course, same distance, same event–different time of year. It takes place on April 22, 2012 and if you’re feeling up for some off-road cycling and trail running, you can sign up here.
I’m petitioning my brother to do this event with me and right now, he says he’s up for it. It’s 34 days away and I’m not sure how active he’s been this winter. But he’s got this great “jump right in with both feet” attitude about pretty much most everything he does, so I’m not counting him out.