Tag Archive | Cycling

The Nudge

Last year Laura and I had a bet, and I won. It was that same one we had in 2013-who can ride the most miles on their bike in a calendar year. She won that one. The prize this year, which had never really been discussed, was decided to be a day on bikes together. Given that she lives outside of Philly, and I in western Massachusetts, and given we both have crazy schedules, this wasn’t an easy prize to deliver on.

This weekend they posted the JAM Fund Grand FUNdo ride on Bikereg. The FUNdo is 68 miles with 5300 feet of climbing and benefits the developing professional cyclocross team founded by current US Cyclocross Champion Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue and Mukunda Feldman. This ride is supposed to AWESOME, and it happens nearly in my back yard, and I’ve never been able to do it because of childcare reasons. This year, they moved it out a week and I’m free to do it. Win. I posted the link on her FB page and before I knew it, she signed up and so did I–and it’s on! We’re hanging out and riding bikes all day July 25th. I’m so excited!

This was exactly the nudge I needed too–yes there are races peppered through my schedule this summer and more regularly in the fall, but this is a big ride. 68 miles, 5300 feet of climbing, 20 miles of dirt. And all in the bosom of the beautiful Pioneer Valley. This is the event I needed in my schedule to train for.

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Not from the Fundo–but you get the idea….

I’m not a great climber and long distances burn me out–so I’ll need to prepare carefully. Most of the prep will surround food, hydration and timing of these two important elements. I’ll train too, off course, for the distance and the hills–I know I can do it–it’s just not being completely destroyed afterwards.

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Image credit: Jam Fund website http://www.jamcycling.org

And bonus–I already talked to mysterious co-blogger Heather about this event and it’s on her list to do. Additionally, I’d bet money a bunch of the NCC guys I chat with on twitter will sign up (guys if you are reading I know you are a lot faster than me but at least I’ll see you at the pig roast).

Totally stoked for this event! Hopefully the weather gods are kind and the winds are at our backs. To sign up and support the JAM Fund, go to BikeReg and check it out!

-Karen

Training Starts Now

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Sometimes a nudge can set plans in motion.

Because we have had so much snow, I’ve enjoyed a few extra weeks to make plans about cycling. So what’s to plan? Well–a lot. It takes a lot of thought to juggle a full time job, full time parenthood, and then tackle aggressive cycling goals.

Broad goals

  • 3000 miles in 2015
  • Three top 50% Cyclocross Finishes
  • 10++ races/events

Events on the tentative schedule for 2015 (some will be added, some subtracted…)

  • Domnarski Farm MTB Race June 7th
  • JAM Fund Grand FUNdo July 25
  • Forest Park CX Race August 22
  • Blunt Park CX Race August 23
  • Spartan Sprint OCR August 29
  • TBD CX Race September 5-6
  • TBD CX Race September 19-20
  • The Gran Prix Gloucester Cyclocross Race September 26-27
  • The Night Weasels Cometh CX Race September 30
  • KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival & CX Race October 3-4
  • TBD CX Race October 17-18
  • Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race October 31-November 1
  • Cheshire CX Race November 14

Any racing I do after mid November is gravy. Between daylight savings time and my son’s extracurriculars, I am not able to keep my fitness at the level it needs to be to “race.” I need to switch my mentality to manage my own expectations of myself–that’s hard for me to do–and just go into any of these events with a more fun attitude. Cycle Smart is my last huge effort and then I need to just do what I can without feeling bad about not being able to do more.

I’d like to do more MTB races but the schedule just isn’t lining up with my personal schedule. It’s OK. I’m going to try and preride the Cat 2 route at Domnarski to be sure I can do it competently (I know I can do it, just don’t want to sign up for complete humiliation).  I took 1st in the Cat 3 race last year so I should be able to handle the Cat 2 race (but let’s be clear–I have no delusions of podiums for that category).

Spartan Sprint kicked my ass last year and I’m going back this time and training for it. At least this year I’ll know what a burpee is before taking on that event.

The cyclocross racing is the main focus for me. Last year I was distracted by a job change and much of my focus was there–and that was a wiser, more appropriate choice for me. As a result, my racing performance suffered, I rode less miles overall. I was a couple lbs. heavier and less fit, and my head wasn’t in it like I wanted it to be. I’d like to write a different story this year. Nothing fictional, but something respectable (for me). Balance is needed in all things. I just want my cycling bucket to have a little more weight this year.

So what was that the nudge anyway?  Stay tuned…..

-Karen

The Next Three Weeks

The Next Three Weeks

In like a lion, out like a lamb.

Shiver Me Timbers: #Strava Ride Today

Today’s ride was c-c-c-c-cold. The 26 degrees wasn’t so bad, it was the blasting headwind, gusting strong at 30+ MPH that was tough to take. I stayed closed to home and took it slow at times, steady most of the ride.  I really didn’t enjoy this ride, and mid way through I found myself just wanting it to be over.

This winter is the toughest I’ve had on the bike in some time.  The temps have been extremely cold, and whenever I do have an opening in my schedule to ride, it’s often snowing.  I’ve been dabbling with the trainer just to get some energy out and to keep my legs in some kind of shape, but I’m really seeing why the pros just move to California during the winter months to build their base miles.

Anyway, I climbed the Notch, which isn’t the hardest hillclimb but it’s not something I usually do in January.  Hills are my friends, hills are my friends, hills are my friends.  I’ll be grateful come summer when I’m faster for it.

-Karen

One Leg Drills

I’ve been an avid cyclist for 14 years now, and never heard of the “one leg drill” before.  I’m hanging around the right people on Twitter, and just learned the term. After Googling “one leg drill cycling,” I learned plenty.  Recommended in the early weeks of base training, a one leg drill is performed on the trainer and is made to build strength.  Watch this great video to illustrate how it’s done.

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I’ve been reluctantly spinning on the trainer from time to time lately, no more than an hour–I just can’t take the tedium of a longer time period.  The weather coupled with my work schedule hasn’t allowed riding outside.  I last rode outside almost 2 weeks ago, and before that, another 2 weeks.  This weekend looks highly questionable for outside cycling; as I type even more snow swirls and falls outside.  It is 8 degrees.

So OK, I want to do the work, and the work will have to be on the trainer.  I unclipped, spun for .3 mile, re-clipped, then repeated on the other side another .3 mile.  Guess what?  It was HARD.  I should have done more.  More importantly, I should have done it in an easier gear. I went back to the Internet (after I finished spinning) and got the following instruction:

Unclip one foot and rest it on a chair next to the bike so you are left to pedal with only one leg. With the bike in a low (easy) gear turn the crank at a comfortable cadence. The first thing you’ll notice is that getting through the top of the stroke, the 12-o’clock position, is difficult. Focus on smoothing this top transition. At first you may only last a few seconds before the hip flexors fatigue. When that happens switch to the other leg. When it fatigues clip both feet in and pedal for a few minutes applying what you have learned in the single-leg pedaling. Repeat the drill several times throughout the workout.

I did notice the “dead zones” in my pedal stroke they discuss in the video.  I can see how this engages more muscles and works the leg much more specifically.

I’m really having a tough time with the lack of real riding over this winter, and there is no end in site.  I am trying to stay active in the evenings, but oftentimes I am not free to workout until after 9PM, and let me tell you, that just ain’t happening.  So I’m going to try and do the one leg drill thing, at least once a week, and several times during the workout.

-Karen

2013 Totals

This will be short & sweet. I should have written down my numbers for 2013 so I don’t have exact stats.  Fortunately I still have enough brain cells to remember the ballpark….

2013 Stats

Distance 2710 mi
Elev Gain 118,000+++ft (should have written this one down!)
148 miles run, walked, hiked or skied.

2012 Stats

Distance 2,127.8mi
Time 173hr 44m
Elev Gain 81,385ft

Happy that I crushed last year.  I took on more climbing and found that it really made me stronger and faster. More of that in 2014. I’m not sure I’ll be able to match these achievement given my heavy work schedule. But I’ll have a great time trying.

-Karen

CSI Cyclocross Weekend 2013

It seems like every time I sit down to write about a race, I always want to convey how excited I was about the event–how much I look forward to it.  Each race is different and special. Northampton is my home (or thereabouts) and is special for that reason, but it’s more than that. This is the oldest UCI race in the country, and in its 23rd year, the race has taken place at Look Park for many years now.

This weekend is the ONE weekend I have ALL YEAR that is ALL MINE. My son is away with my ex. My significant other is away on business. And there is a huge 2 day cyclocross extravaganza practically in my backyard. I look forward to this weekend all year.

So you can imagine how bummed out I was when I started to feel like a tired piece of crud on Thursday. I started popping Zicam like candy on Friday and by Saturday morning, I was still feeling abnormally fatigued and a bit sneezy. Not to mention, I haven’t been riding much the last month  Work, fading daylight, and increasing demands of my son’s schedule have made rides few and far between. Now that I’ve properly explained away why I did so crappy, I’ll tell you about the races.

Day 1-Saturday

Course was slightly moist, not really muddy, but greasy in spots. I got a really terrible start. Too much hesitation in front of me and I was caught in the dominos. On the first pass of the run-up, I was forced right, up the steepest, least climb-able part of the hill. The racer in front of me slipped and lost control of her shouldered bike and hit me, and then the same thing happened to me.  I practically dragged the bike up the steepest part of the hill.  It was ugly.

By this lap I had the run up practically to myself.  Much better.

By this lap I had the run up practically to myself. Much better.

Then we were in the woods, which I liked.  The course twisted and turned and spit us back down onto the flat and fast grass, taking us down a swift singletrack.  On the grass there was lots of sprinting and braking and turning and more sprinting.  The second run up wasn’t anything to sneeze at, and wound us through the woods again, and onto my favorite addition to this course.  A very mountain-bike-esque set of dirt turns through trees with minor elevation changes.  I LOVED this section.  It was just plain fun and challenging enough to keep the best riders on their toes.  I think I liked it because it was hard without being dangerous.  Perfect.

Some choose to run the mountain-bikey section of the course.  A tactical decision, but I think more fun to ride it!!

Some choose to run the mountain-bikey section of the course. A tactical decision, but I think more fun to ride it!!

I did, however, crash in this section.  My first actual crash in a race.  The rider in front of me spilled and forced me into deep unstable soil and I went ass over tea kettle.  She quietly apologized (Cat 3/4 Women as very polite racers I’ve discovered) but I hopped back on and kept going (and so did she).  No worries.  This was all part of the adventure.

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Some of the fellas on the same section. Larger fields in the men’s categories mean more traffic.

After this the course shot us down a trail on over the railroad tracks.  If you had enough speed, you could catch air here.  I did every time and it was wicked fun.  Despite feeling like shit, I was having a good time.

If you look closely, I'm sticking out my tongue for the camera.

If you look closely, I’m sticking out my tongue for the camera.

Back on the grass it was power, power power……something we all know I’m short on.  I did my best and tried to ride hard and smooth.  I finished 60 out of 82 racers.  Now I shouldn’t feel too bad about this since the top 15 are all crazy good.  But this wasn’t the middle of the pack I was aiming for.  Sigh.  Being off the bike for nearly a month has its repercussions.

Crossing the finish.

Crossing the finish.

Day 2-Sunday

On Sunday, the two monster run ups were gone and the course was much, much faster.  The good news is I felt much better this day.  After spending Saturday hanging out with co-blogger Heather and new cycling friend Aileen drinking beer and eating pizza and watching the Elite races, I got some rest and Daylight Savings Time gifted me another whole hour of sleep.  Sunday was a new day.  The bad news is it was 15 degrees colder and fast courses eat me for breakfast.

Whatever.  I was there to race.  I decided that I was going to leave it all out there on the course,  Save nothing!  I lined up and had a much better start.  I was more aggressive and sprinted when things opened up.  I had contact with riders for 3 of the 4 laps, playing cat and mouse with several.  By the 3rd lap things had shaken out and riders were stretched through the course. I stayed on the wheel of one rider for a half a lap until she shook me and steadily opened a gap on me that was too big to overcome.  I worked on keeping myself enough ahead of whoever was left behind me.

Coming off the barriers I tried to keep things moving quickly on the grass.

On day 2–coming off the barriers I tried to keep things moving quickly on the grass.

I sprinted for the finish alone, finishing 62 of 75.  A worse result than Saturday.  I was a bit mystified by this because I really felt like I raced this one, rather than just survive it.  I think this just illustrates how much better I do in technical sections than on flat open sections.  I am no sprinter, I am not fast. I like dicey technical stuff.

So a great weekend all in all.  I really would like a full CX experience by having a really sloppy muddy race.  Or snow.  Most of my races (this year and last) have been very dry.  The muddiest race so far has been Providence.  I’d love to see how I do in some terrible conditions.

-Karen

MORE PICS:

Run up #2 on Day 1-Women's Elite race.

Run up #2 on Day 1-Women’s Elite race.

More run up!

More run up!

Coming out of the woods.

Coming out of the woods.

Voted best kit by me and Heather :)  I think even Cycling Fashionista Aileen approved.

Voted best kit by me and Heather :) I think even Cycling Fashionista Aileen approved.

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Anthony Clark on the run up.

Anthony Clark on the run up.

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