3000 miles in 2016 (or bust)

Goals are funny. We want to achieve them but we like our routines. We like our habits, even the bad ones.  

I set a goal of 3000 miles. I’ve wanted to do this kind of mileage before but never (I don’t think) put it in writing. 60 miles a week doesn’t seem insurmountable. But I’ve never been able to pull that kind of mileage off. Here are my most recent stats:

2015 Stats
Distance 2,114 miles
Elevation Gain 92,450ft

2014 Stats
Distance 2,345 miles
Elevation Gain 89,850ft

2013 Stats
Distance 2,710 mi
Elevation Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)

2012 Stats
Distance 2,127.8mi
Elevation Gain 81,385ft

2013 was my best year for miles and climbing, and there is a great reason: I was laid off from my job for the first time in my entire life. Being out of work and being COMPLETELY stressed about it is a perfect recipe for high miles: high stress to pedal off and lots of free time to do it. Honestly I can thank cycling for getting me through that dark time. But things are on the upswing these days, so it would be great to log even higher miles and have them just be for fun, not exclusively for mental health.

Mid summer in 2015, I was feeling a loss of wind in my sails around training, about the approaching cyclocross season and how invested I could be or wanted to be in the race season. I got it together, mostly.  But my miles dropped off hard as soon as daylight saving time came around, and with that, so did my overall fitness.

So why 3000 miles?  It feels like a magic number to me. In 2013 when I was riding a ton, things started to shift for me in terms of my cycling performance. I got faster, I climbed better, I became a more capable cyclist. It felt so great. I moved off the plateau and onto higher ground, and it was nice, and surprising, to learn that was still possible in my forties.

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So-3000 miles for 2016.  Hopefully the mild winter will continue, my personal schedules fall into place, and I can get the saddle time I need to get there…..and hopefully I’ll move off that plateau and onto that higher ground I’m looking for.

-Karen

Adventure with Intention

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As the year winds down and we all start thinking resolutions, I’m left to consider what I did this year and what I didn’t.

In reality, I have a ton to feel proud about. But if I’m being honest, I have to admit one of my character flaws emerge when I look back on the year. I have a problem with comparing myself to others. I’m always thinking I could have ridden more miles, climbed more hills, hiked more, skied more, mountain biked more. My desire to be outside and exploring is compulsive. It’s as essential as breathing. Yet I am never fully satisfied. I always want more. And at the end of the year, I feel, somehow, that I could have done more.

This is crazy talk. I was outdoors all the time. I raced 10 cyclocross races, 1 mountain bike race, 1 Spartan Sprint. I did the JAM Grand Fundo with Laura. I joined a cyclocross team, which was a great step ahead in my cyclocross experience. I went hiking and camping and riding in beautiful Vermont. My son and I panned for gold and chased crayfish in a shallow river there. I gave him his first knife–a Swiss Army and taught him to whittle. I snowshoed and skied and trail ran and I can keep listing these things to prove….to myself…..that it was enough.

I don’t want to falsely give the impression my insecurities are the primary driver of my outdoor life. I’ve always loved exploring and being outdoors. I love the camaraderie of competition, pushing myself and the shared experience of pushing physical limits. I love finding new places. I feel simultaneously fascinated and at ease with nature. I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) and I shouldn’t. I don’t have oodles of free time and to get outside and do any of the many things I do get to do–it takes a lot of planning and intent. Constant intention.

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m ridiculously persistent. I feel this is one of my better attributes and it’s served me well. So as 2015 comes to a close, I’m considering what adventures lie ahead. In 2016 I intend to do the following:

  • Another 10+ races of Cyclocross
  • Compete in Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford, CT in 2017
  • Bikepacking Trips
  • Spartan Sprint Boston
  • Warrior Dash Boston
  • Rugged Maniac
  • DH Mountain Biking @ Berkshire East
  • The JAM Grando Fundo
  • More Camping
  • More Hiking

We all lead busy lives with demands on our time. So many things are important and balance is hard to strike. Here’s to living with more intent to get outdoors and into another great adventure.

-Karen

Fun CYCLOCROSS photos from 2015 #NECX

Gloucester Gran Prix, Gloucester, MA

Gloucester Gran Prix, Gloucester, MA


White Park Cyclocross, Concord, NH


Paradise CX Frenzy, Windsor, VT


Paradise CX Frenzy, Windsor, VT

  

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

  

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA


Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

 

Northampton CSI CX, Northampton, MA

  

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

  

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI


The Night Weasels Cometh, Shrewsbury, MA

 

KMC Cyclocross Festival, Providence, RI

  

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

   

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

The Ice Weasels Cometh, West Warwick, RI

Off Season At Last


Cross season is over.  Officially.  I strung out the last two months as best as I could.  I had a much better time this year due to a properly adjusted attitude. And now it’s time to relax.

Right!  That never happens. I’ll spend this winter obsessing about what I should have done differently and not forgiving myself for not training harder, despite the reality of a highly demanding schedule.

What’s on my list this winter?

  • Mountain biking
  • Trail running
  • Hiking

So far this winter has been record setting mild.  No snow, a few cold days but nothing serious.  I need to get back into running; I have some serious muscle imbalance going on, and I need to challenge some different muscle groups.  Yoga would help. Now I need someone to make me do some yoga.

In 2016 I am signed up for a few obstacle course races starting in the spring and concluding in September. I’m hoping to squeeze a couple of mountain bike races in this summer too. Mountain biking is something I really love and during the summers I find myself not spending as much time as I would like in the woods. 

Goals for 2016 will be forthcoming, but right now, no agendas, just fun. Happy holidays everyone!

-Karen

The Ice Weasels Cometh, El Nino Style

At last, I’ve experienced the infamous Ice Weasels.  Considered the end of the season party for the New England Cyclocross community, I have regrettably missed this party for the last 3 years.  Now I see what all the fuss is about.  This was a blast.  A completely rad course, beer handups, White Russian handups, candy cane handups, silly costumes, a Star Wars theme, and a bike jump!  What more could a girl ask for?  Oh, the amazing #NECX community.  So great. With ironically warm temperatures in the low 60’s, the Ice Weasels did not disappoint. Here are the highlights:

  • the above photos collected from links from the crossresults.com site  Thank you to the awesome #necx for sharing!

The race had some serious gnar.  Crazy chutes and granite ladders, dual pump tracks through the woods, a deep sand section that hells yeah, I rode through nearly every time, and lots of on and off the bike action.  I really loved this course–it was sick and twisted in all the best ways and the cheering from spectators was a frenzy of fun.  I haven’t raced since Northampton last month and have had almost zero time on the bike. My fitness was marginal but none of this mattered: this race was all about the fun.  But, you still are racing, you are still moving along at a good clip.  So when I felt a pop in my left calf on my very first dismount, followed by searing pain, I knew things were not good.

At first I tested what I could do….riding the crazy downhills was so much fun, I loved it.  I heard a couple loud crashes behind me as women lost it on the loose sand descent of some of the downhills.  I played tug of war with a Cannondale rider.  It was hard to assess what shape my calf was in while I was on the bike. I was in the moment.

Then I dismounted for the granite steps, and I felt more searing pain in the calf. I could pedal fine, but running off the bike, and worse, remounting, was agony. I limped through my runs off the bike.  I slowed way down, babied it as much as possible, and at times, walked when I would have been running.  I tried to push through it but to what end?  This was the fun race, I reminded myself.  When someone is sticking a solo cup in your face…..sometimes, sometimes you should just slow down and take it.

Next time, I will!

-Karen

More photos for your enjoyment (these ones are mine):

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Cycle Smart International 2015 – Cat 4 Women Photos

I got access to my gf’s camera and wanted to share a few photos from the Women’s Cat 4 Women’s race in Northampton last weekend.  Some are of me–others of teammates or other riders from the category.  Enjoy!

Catching a little air!

Catching a little air!

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Northampton Cycle-Smart International Weekend-2015

My co-workers Michele & Chelsea cam out to cheer and heckle me, and got this shot of me approaching the run up.  I had to explain to them that heckling was good, and it didn't take them long to take full advantage of that aspect of cyclocross culture.

I count myself lucky to have the CSI Cyclocross Race as my “local” race. Celebrating it’s 25th edition, I started watching this race when it was still at UMASS back in the early 2000’s.  Now at Look Park, the race has grown into a community event everyone looks forward to.

When I started the season, I wanted to make this weekend my “second wind” of the season. Not racing for almost all of October took it’s toll. At Paradise Frenzy in VT last weekend, I went looking for my fitness again. I actually did not place last as expected. But darn close. Work has been extremely intense: a 50 hour work week, and putting in a scant 30 minutes on the trainer mid-week, I didn’t even have time to adjust my expectations about the weekend.

Day 1- Saturday

It was unseasonably warm for a cyclocross race. My start was “meh” and by the time we reached the woods the group was already dismounted and running the first hairpin turn before the run up. In fact, the group was running the large mound before even entering the woods. This really slowed things down, and while this was a more conservative, orderly approach, I would have preferred more of a scrum.

The run up went pretty well and I was forced right, which is the steeper line. The benefit is that if you can climb it, you reach the top that much faster. I picked up at least 4 positions after reaching the top.

Day 1 Run Up-Noho Cx

Day 1 Run Up, Noho Cx (Cat 4/5 Men-but everyone got the pleasure of this signature feature).

In Northampton, I call the top plateau “the land of opportunity” and the bottom fields “the land of opportunists.” This is very specific to my skill set–and lack of skill set. I’m good in the woods and bad on the flat, straight, wide course on the lower fields. The corners help, but if there is enough room for a rider to gather speed, they will easily overtake me.

I got caught behind a few riders on top I would have liked to pass. They moved slowly through the technical areas where I could not pass and then rode away from me on the lower grass areas. In the sand on day 1, I tried to ride it but had to run most of the time. For the whole race, I pushed hard, sprinted when I could, and gave a full effort. I felt fine about my effort but a little disappointed with my result: 37 of 55 racers. My Strava results show that I PR’d, but my race results were 12 positions lower than last year. What does this mean? Are Cat 4 women getting faster?  I wasn’t sure how to interpret my results.

Day 2

I started sneezing about 20 minutes after Saturday’s race, and didn’t stop all day. I was convalescing on a couch by 4PM. Dinner was Zicam and orange juice chased with a shot of NyQuil. I wasn’t sure I’d be in any shape to show up on Day 2. But I felt OK when I woke up, and without a smidgen of expectation, went to the race.

My start was good. The first woods portion was a reverse route from the day before, without the crazy run up. A bit of congestion and then onto the double sandpit, which would become the feature that would eventually decide the outcome of my race. I rode 1/2 way though and ran the rest of the sand on lap 1. Back on the flat course we snaked to the zig-zag run up. This feature wasn’t hard, just disruptive to flow. Several of us approached this at once, another rider took a line I did not expect and forced me in a direction that was all wrong. My bike twisted, and I became entangled with 2 or 3 others. We managed to sort it out and continue up the hill.

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Coming off the top levels, I found I was with a few riders I know that typically beat me, although not by much. Uncharacteristically, as soon as I came off the hill, I made a move on two competitors. I played leapfrog with one–a woman I’ve become friendly with who I’ve only beat once in 2015 (out of 5 prior races). Somehow, throughout the flats I stayed on her wheel. As we rode through the finish line on lap 2 and began the last lap, I still wasn’t thinking about anything other than I was keeping up with her. I worked to continue to do that.

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My co-workers Michele & Chelsea came out to cheer and heckle me, and got this shot of me approaching the run up. I had to explain to them that heckling was a good thing, and it didn’t take them long to take full advantage of that aspect of cyclocross culture.

She slipped away finally, but not too far. I trailed behind and gained some time in the woods when one rider became dismounted on the hairpin around the tree and I rode higher, clearing the tree, the stalled rider, and 3 other women. But each time I’d advance, she’d reel me back in.

Then we hit the sand. She was in front of me again, but only by a few seconds. She took a line I wanted. There was another rider between us that took the second best line, forcing me into the unknown. Both of their lines exploded, while I leaned back and pedaled through the first sand pit and then the second. I was on the grass again and knowing that I had made some time there, I sprinted. I pushed through the last lap with as much as I had. I knew there were 3 or 4 women close behind and as I rounded the final corner to the grassy straightway to the finish I knew I need to sprint with whatever was left. I got up out of the saddle and went as fast as I could, and lost one position in the last seconds. But I held off 2 other very worthy competitors who typically beat me. I was really pleased with myself, scoring 28 of 55, 9 whole positions better than the day before.

All & all, a great weekend of racing. I had said that everything after this race was gravy, but I’m still having fun and don’t want it to stop. So what’s next?  Stay tuned….

-Karen

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