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Making Plans 2015

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I make a lot of plans when it comes to cycling. I’m really good at that. This year, I need to improve on execution.

It’s not that I don’t ride a lot, but in the world of cyclists, I don’t ride as much as some. That’s not my fault entirely–I do the best I can with my schedule. But when I do ride, I need to get more out of it.

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Head down, time to work.

I also need to get more disciplined in the kitchen. This is tougher for me, but getting easier the more I make the effort.

Since time is my biggest enemy, causing me to 1.) not spend the kind of time I’d like to on the bike and 2.) not have the time to shop for and prepare decent healthy meals. I also not the most inspired chef. But mostly, it’s the time that’s working against me.

To combat this–I’ve killed some time sucks.  OK, maybe that’s harsh.  First-I’ve closed my online business.  I loved doing it, but it demanded a lot of time and energy.  I already work full time and parent full time, a side business demanding what little time was left.  Second, I’ve been getting more organized–throwing out stuff, donating clothing and books and other stuff to worthwhile charities.  This feels good in lots of ways.  Less stuff to manage, and someone who needs my gently worn stuff gets it free or for very cheap.  Good mojo.

Keep things simple, then I can focus on the things I want.  This is my strategy for 2015.

Priorities remain, in this order

1.) Fun

2.) Strength & Fitness

3.) Get Fast(er)(ish)

5.) Make new friends, see old friends.

6.) Race a bunch!

5.) Explore new roads, trails, places, worlds.

I can’t wait to get started.  Now if I can just get this snow to melt…

See you on the road,

-Karen

Top Ten Ways to Cope with Not Riding Your Bike in the Wintertime

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The snow is deep here in the Northeast.  We all stopped counting how many feet once we hit 3 or 4.  Boston has 8, Whatever. It’s hard. No one cares enough anymore to run out for bread and milk with each weekly snow event. Even if you’re hardy, and have a fat bike, the extreme cold and -20 degree wind chills will keep you indoors.

Here are some of the ways I’m trying to keep busy.

10.) Surf for bike stuff online. Post holiday sales, clearance bins, returned items. There are deals to be had.

9.) Log on to Bikereg. Every. Single. Day. Plan your race calendar for Spring and Summer. Check to see if they have added new races to that one free weekend you have in June (they haven’t).

8.) Research segments on Strava to check out when the snow melts.

7.) Go to your LBS and talk to the shop guys (and gals) every weekend. They are bored too.  There are also great deals there (always support your LBS!)

6.) Ride your trainer. I know, I know, I hate it too. Desperate times, desperate measures.

5.) Go to a bike maintenance clinic at your LBS and learn some new skills, meet some new friends.

4.) Rent a Fat Bike!

3.) Go overboard with homemade baked goods.

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2.) Build that bike you’ve been dreaming about…….I did!

Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 9.35.14 PM1.) Blog your frustrations away….

Pray for Spring friends.

-Karen

Happy New Year! Welcome to Your Mid-Life Crisis :)

Hey 2015, it is NOT time to hang it up.

OK, maybe I’ve been in crisis for a little while now.  New Years resolutions notwithstanding, I’ve been setting all kinds of goals for myself the last few years, mostly because I realize that if not now, when?  Guys, I’m 44 and not getting any younger.  That doesn’t mean I can’t be fit and halfway decent on a bike, but it takes a little more work, a little more time, and demands a little more recovery.

During Christmas I was at a party and got chatting with a beautifully exotic couple–urban-bohemian artists who raise chickens and sculpt art for Sir Paul McCartney. She runs. He plays hockey. We talked about these sports we live for. He said, “So typical. We turn 40 and realize we are going to die.” Yup. I’m a middle aged statistic grasping for the remains of my youth.  And so what? So will you too, if you’re under 35 and shrugging your shoulders reading this. No one escapes.

Anyway–off the soapbox and onto what I’m doing in 2015.  I broad terms, I plan on:

  1. Entering at least one mud race, probably Boston Spartan Sprint in Barre, MA this August.
  2. Entering at least 1 (or 2) Mountain Bike Race(s)
  3. Entering 10 Cyclocross Races

I remember when a 5K foot race in a year was a big deal. I remember when I’d train and look forward to the LIVESTRONG Challenge for most of the year. One event. Now I’m racing a dozen or more times a year. And that’s not to diminish those out there who train for and look forward to that one race you do. That race–it’s a big deal. It was hard. You were nervous about it. You were maybe a little worried, maybe a little excited, maybe a little scared. And afterwards you felt freaking amazing. You did it. All you. And even if you never do another, you did this one and no one can take that away.

I got hooked on that power–that empowerment of completing something physically hard and pushing myself to be better than my last best performance. The only way I can think of to keep that in my life as the sands run down is to keep on doing it.

I don’t know why I feel this nagging pressure–a persistent feeling like it all may end at any moment, but I do. I feel that a lot. I’m not sick. I’m not unhappy. But all of this is so much fun and it’s not something old people do. If I’m going to age, God help me I do not want to get old doing it.

It’s 2015 people. Don’t let it slip away. Get on your bikes and ride! You never get another chance after the day is gone.

-Karen

So long 2014

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This was not the year I had wanted on the bike. But it was a good year, a key, pivotal year for me.

I started with ambitious goals, like I do every year. A full summary can be found here.  But to sum up, here is a short excerpt:

My biggest goal for my 2014 Cyclocross Season is a top 50% finish. I know I’m capable of this and I need to set my sights on being fast and strong.

I’m really happy to say, that by the skin of my teeth and thanks to the algorithms at crossresults.com, I finally had a top 50% race finish! Day 1 of CycleSmart International Cyclocross on home-turf (Northampton) was the magic day. I went hard, crashed once, and had a good amount of fun during this race.

But–things pretty much peaked there. I came close to breaking that top 50% barrier at Gloucester, and on Day 2 in Northampton, but in the Open categories and 3/4s, I fell very short.  Here are my complete results:Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 10.33.02 PM

Aug 23 CompEdge Cross @ Forest Park WOMEN OPEN  6th
Sep 6 Big Elm Brewery Cyclocross Women Cat 1/2/3/4 Open 9th
Sep 20 Uncle Sam Cyclocross Grand Prix Day 1 Women Cat 4 6th
Sep 27 Rapha Super Cross Gloucester Day 1 Women Cat 4 44th
Oct 4 KMC Cross Fest Day 2 Women 3/4 86th
Oct 19 Keene Pumpkin Cross Race W3/4 10th
Nov 1 Cycle-Smart International – Day 1 Women 4 26th
Nov 2 Cycle-Smart International – Day 2 Women 4 30th
Nov 15 Cheshire Cross ’14 WOMEN’S CATEGORY 3 /4 14th

These races had as many as 114 racers (KMC/Providence) or a few as 8. All were hard. I raced–really raced, only 5 of them. I bombed at Cheshire, almost willingly DNFed Big Elm, and struggled at CompEdge & Uncle Sam. Keene hurt the worst, only because I really fought to hold my position. But hands down my favorite race was KMC/Providence, which was huge at 114 racers. It had a double flyover, slippery corners and a world-class course. I just love that race.

I also raced in Gill, MA at Bubba’s Xmas CX, which was an unofficial race. Ironically, the crash I had in the snow & mud there left me with a probable broken rib. I haven’t been to the doctor and don’t plan to go, but it’s been 2 1/2 weeks and everything else is healed up except the ribs. I hope it feels better before Scrub Zone Nationals on January 11th.

I often compare myself to fellow racers in New England, and the women’s scene has really skyrocketed here over the past couple of years. And with a racing age of 45, the competition keeps getting younger and faster. But thankfully I have USA Cycling to stroke my delicate ego:

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Top 50% in Mass! Higher everywhere else but with such a strong concentration of cyclocross talent in Mass and New England I’m extra proud of my state rank for cat 4.  Especially since I’m old enough to be Mom to many of my competitors.

This year I transitioned into a new position with a great company–and my focus on cycling took a backseat to this mid fall. I’m still settling in and very happy with the move, and once I hit my stride at work I will be able to refocus on my cycling goals and racing both cyclocross and a couple of mountain bike races too. Onward to 2015!

-Karen

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

DNFing @ Bubba’s

Today was the Bubba Xmas CX race in Gill, MA. It was a race, but not really a race–the organizer cancelled it due to snow and downed trees on the property after a good bit of weather. Our money was refunded and an “at your own risk” race was held instead. Since there were only 11 total racers pre-reg’d, this was more of an informal, connect with your local cycling community event. Very low key and small. All the pressure was off for this one, and I was happy to check out this somewhat local course.

Jon O was smart enough to bring the mtb.

Jon O was smart enough to bring the mtb.

I arrived 10 minutes before start time and got about a half a lap preride in before beginning. Heather and I both lined up in the rear. The men took off and quickly formed a single thread of riders. The course was treacherous in some places. The flat parts in the center field had a few inches of snow to grind through. Finding a line in the snow was a crapshoot. The woods were pretty straightforward. A little muddy and greasy in the corners but manageable. The singletrack by the river had icy descents that threatened to dump you in the the drink if you didn’t have the bike handling skills. My first lap I took very easy.

There was a long hill with a gnarly descent at the start of the second lap. There were a few descents which prompted me to get down in the drops for better brake control and keep my ass off the saddle and as far back as I could manage for balance. Many parts of the course favored a mountain bike, and a few guys had the presence of mind to bring theirs. Cross bikes worked, but probably weren’t the best tool for the job.

The only pavement there.

The only pavement there.

My second lap went better, and faster, although I was not going race speed. The snow made that impossible, really, and the course conditions were dicey enough to warrant caution. I concentrated on my “smooth is fast” mantra and started clearing sections I previously dismounted for. I was shocked when I made it through the mud section on the banks of the river without a single dismount. I was starting to have some fun, and the course was exactly what I like–technical. Things were definitely improving, and I was feeling decent when I started lap 3 (with 4 to go….)

That’s when the crash happened.

There was a long hill after an icy bridge, some loose rock where there wasn’t snow and ice, and then thick mud. I dismounted and ran (ok, walked) the bike here. I did not remount at the crest of the hill, because the conditions of the descent was just a little too sketchy for a “fun” race. I walked it down to a semi flat section about halfway down the hill, then remounted and pointed my front wheel forward. Before I knew what was happening, the bike slide out from underneath me and I slammed down hard on the side of the hill.  It took me a moment to collect myself–I was a bit dazed and I wasn’t sure I wasn’t seriously hurt. My head had hit the ground hard and I felt my helmet catch the impact. I was shaken up, and it took me a moment or two to get to my feet and clear my bike from the course. When I got clear, another rider crashed in the exact same spot–except he hopped up unharmed and kept going. I considered for a split second continuing, but I felt shaken up enough that I decided to just head back to the fire burning in an old oil barrel at the start line.

Heather, who had abandoned after the first 100 feet of the race in favor of spectating saw me walking my bike back and came to intercept me. I hadn’t noticed my chain had dropped from the crash. The entire left side of my body was coated in mud from my upper shoulder down to my ankle. I knew I was OK–but not really OK enough to jump back in the action. We waited for the guys to finish next to the fire.

Sliding down a muddy hill will rip your number off.

Sliding down a muddy hill will rip your number off.

This race wasn’t official, didn’t count for anything but fun, good practice and a reason to socialize with your selected cycling tribe. I had that in mind the whole time. But I was still second guessing my decision to stop. I had a lousy race at Cheshire and had wanted this to be fun, but redeeming. Although I know I made the right decision, I had wanted a different outcome. When I got home, I examined my helmet and found it had cracked it from the impact. I knew I banged my upper thigh pretty good but the circle of pain had many friends who have now made their presence known. My knee, upper thigh, lower glute, shoulder and the palm of my right hand has a purple lump growing on it. I’m sore all over from the body slam from mother earth. But it’s my ego that still suffers the most…..

cracked

Thanks to Heather for being my cheering squad and riding over from her house to watch the carnage. And thanks for making sure I got home ok!

There is still Scrub Zone Nationals on January 11th. I might need to wait until then for redemption

-Karen

Thankful Cycling-My Top Ten this Thanksgiving

Grateful, thankful, happy.  I’m feeling it this year.  Are you?  Here’s my top ten list.

10.) For cycling! It’s been there for me during some of the toughest parts of my life. It smooths my rough edges, and makes me a better person, keeps me in shape, calms and mellows me in ways no drug can. I derive so much joy from cycling in nearly all it’s disciplines, I cannot express my gratitude enough for the sport.

9.) Lara bars. These have been a key addition to my nutrition routine.  Gluten free, diary free, soy free, all natural, all awesome and freaking delicious. I’m so happy I discovered them.

8.) My helmet. I’m always amazed when I see someone riding without on. I haven’t had to use it yet but I know eventually, it will save my noggin. I thank my helmet in advance. Wear one!

7.) Strava. Social, competitive, and with amazing amounts of data. I have no idea how I existed before Strava!

6.) Full fingered cycling gloves. Yup, used them the last 2 races because it’s that cold already. Makes all the difference.

5.) My new workplace. There are 2, count em, 2 guys there who are avid cyclists that I can geek out with.

4.) My LBS-Highland Hardware and Bike in Holyoke, Massachusetts. These guys have treated me very well for 15 years. And while I’ve flirted with other shops, they are the consistent winners with a tenured, veteran staff that focuses on friendly service.

3.) My bike mechanic(s). You guys never get enough credit.

2.) My girlfriend, who drives me crazy sometimes (so I return the favor). But, she reliably supports my cycling by watching my son and pushes me out the door so I get my bike ride, and who has single-handedly equipped me with most of the cool cycling gear like my Garmin, my Contour video cam (which yes I need to actually use), a few of my kits, and my road ID.

1.) My sweet, kind, good natured and compassionate son. He amazes me daily with his surprising wit, his consideration of others, and his internal sense of kindness and justice. He makes me proud every single day–which sounds like a commonly expressed sentiment, but it’s true. I beam. I’m most grateful for him.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014 everyone!

-Karen

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