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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

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

 

 

 

Gran Prix of Gloucester. One Big Huge Deal in Cyclocross Day 1 Photos

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.

Tim Johnson warming up.

Women’s Elite race.

AND there is a beer tent.  Nuff said!

-Karen

 

New wheels for my new wheels

I recently bought a new vehicle–well, new to me. One thing that was essential in selecting a new vehicle was bike transport. I have enjoyed the convenience of a pick up truck for many years, and a Thule bike rack mounted in the bed. Hauling bikes was a breeze. I didn’t want to give that up.

However, pick up trucks are NOT conducive for family travel. It was essentially a two seater. So a change was needed.

After several model reviews and lots of test drives, I finally settled on a car that is not longer being made: the Honda Element. 2011 was the last year they made the Element, so acquiring one proved difficult. I had to travel out of state for my Element – not too far, just south to Connecticut.

I could not be happier with my choice. I got a great deal and I love the unusual look. Plus, the functionality is perfect for a practical gal like me. I now have 4 seats, but if traveling with bikes and fewer passengers, I can fold up or even remove the seats completely. I don’t even need to remove the front wheel of the bike.

I’m pretty psyched about how this is working out. Everyday chores like grocery shopping are loads easier, but I can still cart the bikes anywhere I feel like rambling.

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See how cozy it is? It even has little hooks for my bike helmet. No more rust fears for extensive travel in weather either. Love it!

–Karen

Mud, Sweat & Gears–All Weekend Long

This weekend is bike-topia for me.  This Saturday I’m participating in Mud, Sweat & Gears duathlon in Ashland, MA.  Then on Sunday, I’m heading over to Fort Stage Park in Gloucester for the Gran Prix of Gloucester:  Pro Cyclocross racing at it’s very best.  There, I’m strictly speculating, as well as playing amateur photographer.  Also, my son is racing in the kids race–but I doubt he’ll be shouldering the bike like this young guy:

Cross season is here!

It’s been raining this week, and the Northeast has been suffering record flooding all summer long. The ground is so saturated, if you bend over and grab at the turf, water oozes like suds from a sponge.  Showers are predicted for Saturday as well.  It’s going to be a mud bath.

As I consider the conditions, I find myself grinning a bit.  I’m actually looking forward to racing in the mud and rain.  I realize this very well may be an over-inflated, romantic notion that doing this hard thing (racing) in uncomfortable, sloppy, difficul,t conditions (mud and rain), will be–somehow–enjoyable.  Why would I think this?  There is no logic or reason to support such thinking.  If I were in my right mind, I’d be cringing when checking the weather report.  So why am I smiling?

Someone answer, because I’m not sure I have it 🙂

–Karen

PS–talk to me again after the race and see if I’m still smiling…..

Pacific Northwest Cycling Culture

Bikes lined up in front of Pike's Public Market, Seattle, WA

My vacation to Seattle & Portland was 3 weeks ago.  I spent a week out west–4 days in Seattle, 1 at Mt Hood, and 2 in Portland.  None of it was enough.  I’ve been told by scads of people about the enormous bike culture in the Pacific Northwest–particularly in Portland.  They were all right.

Seattle: 

Maybe it was because I spent more time in Seattle, but I almost got the sense bike culture was stronger in Seattle than Portland. In fact–I was altogether, quite taken with Seattle.  I love being both on the ocean close to epic mountains.  But back to the bikes–fixies rocketing through city streets, bikes chained to every lamppost….the fleet of bike commuters unloading off the morning ferry from Bainbridge Island, commuter bikes….e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.  It was embraced, fully, by the city.  As I walked the streets of downtown there were all kinds of people, tall, elegant, european looking men with pinned pants and leather satchels, polished women, native american citizens, outdoorsy types with high-tech clothing on their way to the office, a fair number of homeless and clearly heroin addicted souls, and the next generation of whatever comes after the grunge era.  Maybe it was because it wasn’t raining all week, and it had, by local accounts, been cold and dreary until the week we arrived.  But Seattle had a very positive vibe for me and I liked it–a LOT.

I learned that any new office building that is built must have bike racks and showers for employees to encourage bike commuting.  Anyone who has been stuck on Interstate 5 will understand what a good thing this is, green economy notwithstanding.  I started to just enjoy looking at everyone’s ride–the amount of style and personalization each commuter bike had.  Some were beaters but other were truly beautiful, unique, funky, classic, original machines.  And they were everywhere–every corner, every railing.

The cycling was just one part of it though–with the flagship REI Store located in Seattle, as well as Northface, Columbia, and Nike stores–the temperate climate, the epic rugged scenery, and the natural beauty of the area, blended with the high-tech, nearly cosmopolitan downtown Seattle, and yes, a coffee shop on every. single. block.  This was a place I could get used to.

Of course, if it rains as much as the says it does, I’m sure I’d grow depressed and hate it.  I need my Vitamin D.  But when the sun shines in Seattle–it’s a pretty great place.

Mt Rainer: We visited Rainer for a day.  Visiting a place referred to as Paradise–for the fields of colorful wildflowers that only bloom in August–we were surprised when we arrived to 10-15 feet of snowpack high in the park.  Where the ground was bare, flowers erupted, but the rest of it was dirty, deep, glacial snow.  Paths were blocked by it, and the streams still rushed violently.  Rainer stayed blocked by clouds, but it’s 14,411 feet peeked out and it’s hard to describe the massive beauty of this stratovolcano.  I was most impressed by cyclists in the park climbing, climbing, climbing.

Mt Hood:

The intent during this trip was to rent mountain bikes at a place called the Ski Bowl at Mt Hood.  I had been looking forward to mt. biking out here and adding it to the list of great places I’ve mountain biked in North America.  Going to Mt Hood was kind of like entering the Twilight Zone.  We drove through a town called Government Camp and could not locate anyone over the age of 20 in the whole town.  It was–strange.  There were discarded beer and Red Bull cans in the streets, weeds popping from the sidewalks, all amidst a backdrop of beautiful rugged architecture that looked like a resort in Aspen.  It was as if the developer ran out of money, didn’t finish building the resort town, and left. Feeling out of our element–we killed our plans to rent bikes and drove up to the Timberline Lodge where the snowboarders and ski bums were still playing in the snow.  They were pretty impressive.

Portland:

As we checked into our hotel on the riverfront, we heard the concierge giving another guest directions to the infamous Voodoo Doughnuts.  This was a definite on the list and it did not disappoint.  We waited in line, a quick 10 minutes, for what was hands down the most pleasurable donut experience of my entire life (sorry Kane’s, my hometown shop was named better than Voodoo by Bon Appetit magazine but I disagree…Voodoo wins).

But back to bike culture–on our last night purely by chance they had an independent documentary film festival for bikes & beer called “Clips of Faith,” on the lawn next to our hotel on the riverfront.  We didn’t even plan this and here’s yet another example of how pervasive bikes are in the fabric of Portland’s community.

Along with 40+ bicycle shops in Portland proper–this is definitely the most bike friendly region I’ve visited.  And some people may think it’s weird, but I’d agree with this following sentiment:

I’ll be back~

–Karen