I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend. It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed. Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.
When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross. But I was selling my new addiction short.
I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total. They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout. At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4. I’m interested to see how that looks. I was really pleased with my results at Northampton. I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence). In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th. And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field. It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.
Other things I have noticed in this pursuit: I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year. Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes. This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all. I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.
To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to. There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts. I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me. When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time. After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds. And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well. It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.
Not making mistakes on the course carves time. Getting faster and stronger carves time. Building endurance carves time. Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time. Skills work carves time. Staying healthy carves time. Staying lean and light carves time. I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.
Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack. I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.
Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one. The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result. But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross. It’s just really, really fun. It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun. It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible. This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.
So I bagged Rockbuster. My phone rang at 8AM Saturday, the day before the race–it was my brother. “It’s today, right?” Of course the answer was no–but he mixed up the days and was standing in his kitchen in Lycra–not something little brother wears often weighing in at 225 lbs, apologizing as he confirmed his mistake with me on the phone.
I thought I might go anyway, because I still kind of wanted to. But we had a soaking rain forecast. Then I did a little math….3 total hours of driving for an event that lasted an hour. $40 in gas. No one there to cheer me on, in the rain. No one to suffer it with me in solidarity. A warm bed. A hard ride on Saturday. These factors, in combination, spelled doom for my chances of showing up for Rockbuster. I slept 9.5 hours Saturday night and don’t regret the decision to take a little time for myself.
The upside to this little disappointment is that my ride on Saturday was pretty zippy. I hooked up with one of my mountain bike friends who is returning to cycling after the birth of her first son. She spent the winter in spin class and wasn’t fooling around as we set off at a pace of 19.5 mph–her on a road bike, me on my ‘cross bike. I stayed with her for the first few miles, we backed off to about 18 mph–all on flat roads. Finally the hills hit us and we slowed down a bit. But all said and done my first 5 miles was at a pace 5 minutes faster than my best lap when I’m out on my own. My home route is hills, hills, hills so I’m not beating myself up too much–but no doubt cycling with her made me up my game.
So–you win some, you lose some, and sometimes you sleep in. I’m in it for the love of the ride and the shared experience, and I got a satisfying dose of that on Saturday. That to me was a win, no race necessary.
Yup, just a week away is the first event of the year–for me anyway. I am woefully unprepared for it. But this hasn’t been from lack of trying. I had a strong off season of running, with a bit of biking for good measure. Then things went awry. Ironically, I think it was just as I was about to break through to that elusive “next level” when my body just started to unravel.
I’ve had a solid break from running and a lot of PT, I’m starting to run again–a couple of times a week, and I’m riding more. But I’m not running as fast and I have this sense that things are a click or two shy from really coming together.
I am not worried about being able to to do Rockbuster, I am completely capable. But I’m not going to be breaking any records next weekend. After such a mild winter and a strong off-season, I can’t say I’m not disappointed in this. But hey, this a fun thing. I’m keeping some perspective on these things finally.
My little brother has signed on for the event again. I’m about 85% sure he’ll show for it. I hope he does because it will make getting up that early in the morning and driving 90 minutes a little more worth it. Ironically, the drive–(one way)–will be longer than the event itself. C’est la vie. I’m looking forward to my first event of the year.
March 18th, 2010—a freakishly beautiful day. It reached 70 today, and an ill timed appointment smack in the middle of the day forced me to push my bike ride into the afternoon.
I’ve not been consistent in my workouts over the winter, and motivated by guilt, or over enthusiasm, I decided to take advantage of the best day of the year so far, and work out twice.
I ran three miles in the morning, then went for an hour long ride in the afternoon. I originally wanted a good block of time for a long ride, but my day just didn’t work out that way. Still, as I write this my legs buzz with the heat of recent exertion.
Note: I’m posting this entry from my smartphone, and can’t wait to see how it looks. If this works out I may never sit at my computer desk again!
Originally uploaded by sipclip&go
When I woke up this morning, it was -2F. I’m all for hard work, but I’m not a masochist. I did make it out last Thursday for a 2.25 mile run (at 35F) followed by a 20 minute spin on the trainer (at 68F). Nothing crazy, but the spin was a nice little push after the run.
I have a good deal of the next week off, and the weatherman promises the upper 30’s by the end of the week. I really want to get outside to ride then–when I ride outside I got further and I’m happier, and since I have the time off, I will be able to clean the salt of the bike.
On another note, I’m a little hesitant to say it aloud, but I really do believe that my mysterious co-blogger has, in fact returned after nearly a year-long hiatus. 2 posts inside a week’s time? Welcome back Heather, we’ve missed you 😉 Now if you can just start riding your bike as often as you post, I might start getting concerned about you beating my ass at the Rock Buster Duathlon this spring.
PS–ask Heather what she’s really training for….
Last Monday Gail & I made it out for a planned brick: a short trail run followed immediately by mountain biking. We’re prepping for the Mud Sweat and Gears Duathlon in Ashland, MA on October 4th. This is my first attempt at multisport, and my first race since in about 8 years. My racing experience is very limited: I’ve done three mountain bike races, all within a year of taking up the sport. I’m training for this, but my goal is simple: to finish in one piece. I have no aspirations of placing or even doing well. I really don’t care about that anymore, It’s more important to me that I’m just out there still slugging away. I know I’ll inevitably feel that competitive nature rear up when people start passing me, but I really just want to run my own race, and not worry about comparing myself to others.
That said I’ve been running a lot more, since I don’t particularly enjoy running and it doesn’t exactly come natural to me. Pairing up with Gail is good for me because she is such a talented runner, and great athlete, I’m forced to do better. I always know if I work out with Gail, I’m going to be sore later–which means I really got a good workout. Also something happened to me the other night that truly surprised me: I dreamt of running. And it wasn’t a nightmare! Truly, I can see if I keep apply myself to this aspect of training I can grow to tolerate (even look forward to?) running.
And that’s a good thing, because Mud, Sweat and Gears is a 1.8 mile run, followed by 5.5 miles mountain biking, followed by another 1.8 mile run. 2/3s of the race is running, I better have some miles in my legs for not just the bike.