The next couple months are going to be crazy.
As summer winds down, cyclocross season kicks off, and my schedule goes into overdrive. My calendar runneth over with races, and not just cyclocross races. This is what I’m currently planning for the next 6 weeks….
- Sunday 8/23 Putney Cider House Classic MTB Race – Putney, VT
- Saturday 8/29 CompEdge CX @ Forest Park – Springfield, MA
- Sunday 8/30 Boston Spartan Sprint – Barre, MA
- Saturday 9/12 Aetna Silk City Cyclocross – Manchester. CT
- Saturday 9/19 The Dude Smash – West Warwick, RI
- Sat & Sun 9/26-27 Gran Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, MA
- Wednesday 9/30 The Night Weasels Cometh – Shrewsbury, MA
- Saturday & Sun 10/3-4 The KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival – Providence, RI (one of these days, not sure yet).
Then I have a business trip for the better part of a week to the west coast in mid October. That will really screw up my fitness. I plan of trying to race every other weekend in October, but I’m not sure which ones and the particulars of my schedule that far in the future. I want to stay in good fighting shape for Cycle-Smart International November 7-8 in Northampton, and after that–well everything is gravy.
I’ve really changed my expectations this year. I used to stress about racing well every single race. That’s not realistic. And I used to think I could keep up the pace through December. That’s also not realistic. I just don’t have the space in my schedule for that. But I can use the summer to build a good base and go into September in pretty decent shape, This year, I’m riding almost twice as much as I did last year (at this time). I had to work really hard to make that happen within the confines of my schedule. Last summer I was job hunting, and my focus was on my professional development. I was feeling a lot of conflict trying to ride well and also pursue life’s priorities. As a result, I had a relatively crappy season. This year, I tried to ride more often, rest deliberately, and dabbled with HR training.
Now I know-(I know) I’m a 40+ mom with a full time job and while my athleticism is holding up relatively well, I’m not 20, or 25, or 30, or even 35 anymore. I’m very competitive in spirit–I always want to do well for me, and I’m getting better at accepting that while I can get faster, I will never be fast. I know what I’m good at (technical, sketchy, mountain-bikey terrain) and I know what I’m not (steep hills, speed, extreme heat). So my strategy this year is to go into the season relatively fit, dial it in after the first couple of races, then go hard. Try to rebound after mid October’s known setback of a week of travel, and then punch it again at the end of October and Early November. Then I will chill. I’ll race when I can but won’t feel guilty or like I’m not a real athlete for not committing every weekend through December to CX. I love the sport, but I have to keep life balanced.
My goals remain: Have a ton of fun, give my best effort, stay upright, try not to DNF, finish mid pack when I can, and enjoy the cyclocross community.
See you at the races,
For anyone racing cross this season, I’m attempting to gather up details to help you all prep for upcoming racing in New England. I’ll use course descriptions, photos, personal experience, and link to any published content (including video) I can get my hands on. If you have any resources you’d like to share, please comment, tweet, or email me. Get in touch! We’re all in this sport together. If you are new to cyclocross doing your homework can help you mentally prepare for each race. Get ready! #CxisComing!
Why is this information important?
While weather is often the most reliable influencer of course conditions, each course has characteristics and features that unless you’ve already raced there, you may not be prepared for. When Gloucester is dry it gets incredibly dusty with loose stones. Northampton has essentially two sections: one up on the hill and one flat twisty, grassy drag race. Quad Cross is great for anyone with solid mountain biking skills. Blunt Park has been described as a grass crit.
Should I attend a cyclocross clinic?
Absolutely. And as many as possible. You cannot get enough of these, really. If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for the KIT clinic with the amazing Mo Bruno Roy or attend Cross Camp with Adam Myerson, attend one of the many local clinics on BikeReg. You can also go on the weekly group cx ride, where practice makes perfect…
Should I watch videos of previous races on the course?
Yes! Some of them can make you dizzy with motion sickness, but the quality improves every year. A good video can show you what it’s like to race in a group, what a crash looks like close up, it can show you the twists, turns, hills, barriers, and other features of a course and allow you to mentally pre-ride the course. This allows you to anticipate terrain and plan your strategy. It’s like game tape for cross racers. There aren’t videos of every race, and beware of courses that have changed over the years (some remain the same year after year, some change often to keep it fresh). Always check the description on BikeReg to see if there have been any changes made to a race course.
Should I watch cyclocross videos in general?
Yes! An especially good series is called Svenness from CXhairs.com. Discussed are conditions, tire selection, technique, strategy. It’s an excellent analysis and gets you into the mental game behind race tactics. And please check out Behind the Barriers TV, created by Jeremy Powers. There is some excellent video there from last season and while they will not have the same content in 2015, it is an extremely valuable resource.
Does watching course videos mean I can skip pre-riding the course?
No. Always budget time to pre-ride in addition to watching video. I’ve missed pre-rides and it’s cost me. A few laps, even a slow trolling pace can be the intelligence gathering difference that can mean several places in your race results.
Should I check the weather?
Like a worried mother, yes, check the weather. This will greatly influence clothing and tire selection.
What is the best way to really prepare for a cyclocross race?
Honestly, the best way to prepare for a race is to race. Each race prepares you for the next. You will make mistakes, learn new things, meet new folks, Race, rinse, repeat. Experience is the best teacher!
Good luck, have fun, and Happy Cx!
Double meaning, anyone?
This week, temperatures are final climbing north of 40, which brings a waves of relief to those of us who have suffered through the winter with no end. It’s April next week, so we’re good and ready to leave the snow behind, just in time for 30 Days of Biking to begin.
It’s been snowy or windy or just plain cold the last two weeks. It has slowed my biking down a bunch, which I’m not psyched about, but I’ve stepped up my running a bit. My women’s pickup basketball group has secured a gym for the spring and we’re starting our pickup games again, which is a ton of fun as well. But I’d like to get started with longer rides soon.
This week I’m going to try and log 100+ collective miles. I’d like to get a month of those in, if possible. I’m in a unique position where I have some time to ride, and I don’t expect it to last forever, so I’m taking it while I can get it. I want a good base going into summer, and I want to keep it up and try to get faster in general going into the fall. My end game is of course cyclocross season, which constantly resides in the back of my mind, looking for a reason to slip front and center.
Today I took a short-ish ride on one of my familiar (i.e., getting dull) routes. I spiced things up by going off road for a bit. I have been riding the ‘cross bike almost exclusively for the past year and I just don’t want to give it up. I love dipping into the woods whenever I feel like it. I like mixing up the ride with some mud and wet sand, or like today-snow and roots, pine needles, standing ice water and a couple of dogs out for a walk chasing me, wanting to play. I really have to credit the ‘cross bike with keeping me engaged with riding. Other years I burned out, especially when training for a long charity event. But now, I just want more. It’s the best addiction ever, and now that the weather is finally getting a little friendlier, I’m able to get outdoors and play. I think it reminds me of when I was a kid playing on dirt roads in New Hampshire, jumping over roots and tearing through the woods on bikes with friends.
At any rate, Spring is supposed to be here, and this week I might start to believe it. There’s still snow in my yard. I need to stay off the trails until they dry out a bit, but the gravel and dirt roads are fair game, and I don’t mind playing in the mud.
Have you signed up?
Sounds easy, but it’s a little trickier than you’d think. I gave this a try last year and missed about 3 days out of 30, all weather related. Still, I rode a ton, and it wasn’t as if I was logging super long rides. Most of the rides I did was with my son around the neighborhood. This had several unplanned but wonderful results. First, I was able to spend more time with him. We weren’t in front of a TV or on the couch, we were riding bikes. Second, I was able to teach him some of the rules of the road. He’s getting to that age when he’ll want to be venturing out on his own soon, so I tried to instruct him to ride defensively. He gets a verbal quiz and if he does well, he gets to lead the ride. It’s a leap of faith for me to allow him in front of me on the road, even on our sleepy side streets, but little bird has to learn to fly sometime, right? I’m happy to be there coaching him along the way.
My son was very into the idea of 30 Days of Biking. There were days I wasn’t feeling super motivated that he dragged me out on the bike with him, and I was never sorry that he did. As a result, I rode more miles than I normally would have. I felt great, and it’s a great kickstart to the cycling season.
So ride someplace, every day. To the post office, the bank, around your neighborhood, or do a century. Just get on the bike, every day. You won’t regret it.
I couldn’t resist comparing ‘cross with one of my favorite movies–Fight Club. If you have seen it, it either disgusts you or you think it is genius. Men in particular connect with this movie, which was its target audience/subject. I am one of the few women I know who absolutely loves it. I haven’t met anyone who only feels medium about this movie. It’s all or nothing, love or hate.
I was a professional bookseller for 14 years and can discuss the literary worth of this piece of fiction (the book is always better than the movie), the role of masculinity in today’s modern society, the sexual orientation of the author–but for the sake of brevity and focus I’ll just discuss the analogy the my title makes. Cyclocross is Fight Club with Bikes. I know I’m still new to it, but there are philosophical elements to this sport that I can take with me throughout life. They feel similar to racing cyclocross. I’ll use some popular quotes to illustrate.
“How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” ~Fight Club movie, screenplay by Jim Uhls, directed by David Fincher, novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Agreed. You learn more about yourself by experiencing difficulty. These races are difficult. No, it’s not violence. It’s not war. Perhaps it’s a safer expression of difficulty. Social norms still apply but it’s not called an hour in hell for nothing. Racing hurts. There’s physical pain. There is spiritual emancipation.
“You aren’t alive anywhere like you’re alive at fight club…. Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. You see a guy come to fight club for the first time, and his ass is a loaf of white bread. You see this same guy here six months later, and he looks carved out of wood. This guy trusts himself to handle anything.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
The line “he looks carved out of wood” resonates with me. Over the last 3 months I’m seeing my softness wither and a leaner version emerge. The athletes at these races are fit, lean, and muscular. Racing hammers the soft parts away. Racing builds confidence. You race bikes for crying out loud! You can nail anything you try for.
“One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
There are so many mistakes you can make over the course of a race. A hundred things at least to get wrong, or right. Having an entire minute of perfection within a race is hard to achieve. Perfection is fleeting, so it’s savored.
“May I never be complete. May I never be content. May I never be perfect. Deliver me, Tyler, from being perfect and complete.” ~Chuck Palahniuk
Being perfect is no fun. Who wants that? Perfection is boring. It’s the work we do on the road to perfection that is divine.
PS–this parting quote is worth noting….
“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
So get on your bikes people!
I signed up for 30 Days of Biking, which officially begins tomorrow on April 1st. It’s no April Fool’s joke–a worthwhile endeavor that I’m now seeing might be a challenge for me. Here’s 30 Days of Biking one rule:
“Bike somewhere every day for 30 days—around the block, 20 miles to work, whatever suits you—then share your adventures online. We advocate daily bicycling because we believe it enriches lives and preserves the Earth. A worldwide, thousands-strong community of joyful cyclists has been forming around that idea since April 2010—and will further amass in 2012. “–from “Our Story” of 30 Days of Biking
It’s a good and simple rule. Although the commitment will take a concerted effort to change my morning routine. I’m not balking on my pledge–no, no. I’m problem solving. And that’s the good thing about taking on the challenge of 30 Days of Biking. It makes you really think about doing things differently.
Why 30 days? They don’t discuss this on their site, but I think it’s more than a convenient time measurement–a month’s worth of biking. Psychologists agree that 30 days is how long it takes for you to 1.) break a habit and 2.) create a new one. 30 days is the threshold for change. Just 30 days. In the scheme of life, it’s a drop in the bucket. But what a splash 30 days can make.
How different could life be if you cycled more? Better health, less gasoline consumption, more money in your pocket…I don’t know about you, but it’s about $50 a week at the pump for me. Imagine replacing your car with cycling. You’d save $200 a month. That’s $2400 a year. Gosh–that’s a least two shiny new bikes, or one really, really fast one.
Change never comes easy, and I’m not saying that this will be easy. I think it needs to be a little hard. But at the end of the month, will you be changed?
Don’t you want to be?
You know that expression, “why don’t you go pound some sand?” Well if you want to see what that looks like, watch the Cyclocross World Championship race this weekend.
The cyclocross season officially wraps up at the 2012 World Championship Race in Koksijde, Belguim. You can get a schedule and article here. Sand dunes are the dominating feature of the course and if you’ve ever pedaled through sand, imagine for a split second how these racers are going to feel. If you need some visual stimulation, check out this video.
It took some searching but I finally found a URL for live streaming coverage. I watched it last year as well and the lack of English commentary does not lessen the excitement.
Both men are from Massachusetts and I’ll be watching them from the home state. J-Pow just won the National Championship and is having a great year, it will be fun to watch him. And as always, I’ll be rooting for Timmy loudly. Here are a couple of pictures of these two American pros (and former teammates) in action from the Gloucester Gran Prix, Day 2, 2011. Powers won that race, by the way. And Johnson took second after leading for 95% of the race. They had some sand to contend with there too, on the coast of Gloucester, but nothing like what they are racing in Belgium. I wish them both good luck at the Worlds.