Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyclocross = BIG $$$

While I admit I have been lax about riding cross this season, I have only just realized the biggest reason that I avoid it as much as I do. Holy Crap is that $%!* expensive!

 Mountain bike racing can be pricy itself with most races costing about $30 per entry, and then the traveling involved usually racks up some pennies at the gas pumps. That being said, the amount of time spent racing (1.5 - 3 hours) somehow justifies in my mind the cost of the experience. Plus, if a podium is manageable, there's usually some swag, or even some cash to buy lunch on the way home.

 Cyclocross racing is a whole other thing. Not only is one race at least $30, but most weekends have TWO races!! That's at least $60 in race fees. (DANG) Also, if you are a Saturday worker like I am, you have to take the day off of work without pay. Then there're the issues of "pit wheels," or if you're extra fancy, an entire "pit bike." Not only that, but you probably need two full team kits to race in because the chance of getting the first one clean and dry before the second race is pretty slim. The races themselves are hardly a bargain because they only last 30-60 minutes, and in that amount of time, there is little room for error, let alone recovery from said error. So, if you DO fork over the time and money to race all weekend, one little mistake and you might has well have just tossed your entry fee in the mud and rolled around on it a few times in your team kit.

 All whining aside, cross is super fun. The courses are all different and each have their own kind of fun attached to them. Maybe someday I will no longer be a student working sporadically with an up and down income. However, by then, my daughter will likely be a teenager sucking the money from my bank account faster than I can put it in there.

 So, for now I will have to be a budget cross racer. I will do the cheap races, the races close to home, and the races I can, for some reason or other, afford to do because I came up with a random extra $30. I will train when I can, and if I do race, it's going to be without any sort of back-up in the pit and for the sheer enjoyment of being on my bike and going wicked fast.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Weekend of Racing Close to Home

This weekend was a nice reprieve from the rigors of school, work and life in general. I planned about a month ago to race some cyclocross Saturday and mountain bike Sunday and I was fortunate enough to have my plans hold up. While my time probably would have been better spent getting ahead on homework, I would have been miserable and bored. Having made it through the weekend, I can honestly say that I feel like I made the right choice. Yesterday's cyclocross race was 5 minutes from home at Mansfield Hollow State Park. It was my first "official' cross race of 2011 and the only other cross course I've raced at besides there a few years ago is the DAS course at Owen Bell Park in Dayville, CT (this year's race is Dec. 11... prereg now at It was an awesome day. I went to cheer on my fellow teammates in the morning and went back for the women's race in the afternoon. I stuck myself in with the Cat 1/2/3 group knowing that my inexperience would make for an interesting race. The course was AWESOME! It was long and tough and super fun. I don't think cross is my favorite thing in the world, but it's something to do when there're no mountain bike races going on. I got my butt kicked thoroughly, but was only really 4 minutes off the leader (Karen Potter aka super awesome person/racer). I was kind of shocked that it went by so quick; it seemed like we had just started and I had finally warmed up. I usually race better after an hour of racing, so I might need to rethink my warm-up routine before I race anymore cross. So, in all, the day was fun. I had a blast cheering on my friends, and they all did really well themselves. While I was at the race, I got to talk to one of the race director, Ron Manizza. What a cool guy. When I told him I live nearby, he started telling me about all of the places that I could go ride, and there are actually some I haven't been to yet that are right here in town. I told him how much I liked the course, and he told me that there is some real cross history there dating back a century. That's right, they raced bikes there back then too! Very cool. My race today was EFTA's Treasure Valley Rally in Rutland, MA. The course was a true mountain bike course. There were more rocks than I've EVER seen in a race, and some endless climbs and hairy descents. While it was the toughest course all season, it was definitely one of the best. I like a good challenge, and this was definitely that. They had the elite racers do 2.5 laps which cut out one of the long descents and one of the long climbs, but by the third lap, I was grateful. I ended up giving someone my co2 pump on the first lap expecting him to catch up and hand it back at some point, but he must have dropped out of the race because I never saw it again until I had crossed the finish line. Good thing I didn't flat (I forgot to bring a tube too... dumb). I ended up in 3rd with wicked fast Karen Potter ahead in 2nd and the super awesome Mary McConneloug in 1st. It was very cool to meet Mary; she's a really nice gal and VERY very fast. Now it's time for a break. I'm done with the long hours in the saddle unless the ride has the label "fun" attached to it. I'll do some tinkering with that cyclocross thing and attempt to enjoy it. I might even get some homework done now too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

As if you wanted to know... but I'm going to talk about it anyway because I can.

Periods. No, not the punctuational ones. I bring this up because, as an "athlete" (so weird to call myself that), I find that the dreaded monthly cycle of hormones tends to effect my performance on the bike.

I know this may seem a strange topic to blog about, but I'm sure I'm not the only female on the planet who feels a little "off" when they are trying to perform at an A-game level during a visit from Aunt Flo. I noticed this a few years ago myself, but with all of the riding/training I've done this year, I'm noticing it again. It seems pretty fair to say that I'm finding a real correlation between the way I feel on the bike and the way my hormones are doing their thing.

So, to explain, I've broken it down so ya'll know what I'm getting at:
WEEK 1 - we'll call this "the week after" - I feel ok on the bike. I'm not overly tired, but I don't feel overly powerful either.
WEEK 2 - "normal" - I feel normal... maybe a bit more on the strong side.
WEEK 3 - "A-game" - I feel focused and strong and I can ride like a maniac.
WEEK 4 - "game over" - I feel depleted. I feel like I have low wattage... very big let down after "A-game" week.

I was curious whether or not my findings have any bearing in the scientific world, so I searched some medical journal sites. Basically, there is no scientific evidence on vo2max or lactate threshold that shows women's hormonal changes having any effect on athletic performance. The only area where there is a measurable effect came when women were in the hormonal stage that slightly alters their body temperature and they worked out for a prolonged amount of time in high temperatures. Essentially, if it was hot out during the week before their period, they got tired faster than they would have if they were in a different point in their cycle.

I guess I'm a quack. It's all in my head. Having my period is just my excuse for not being in my "A-game." OR, there really is no quantifiable way to measure whether the hormones are having an effect on my cycling... my quacky theory is this: hormones come from the pituitary gland in the brain (your head), therefore, it SURE IS all in your head. Maybe all of that hormone secretion going on up there is also making me perceive myself to be more tired, even if my muscles are working at the same physical level they always are. I can't seem to find any studies involving that.

So, to you men who don't have to deal with hormonal fluctuation in regards to your athletic performance, be grateful. Also be grateful that you can pee from your bike. To you ladies, is it all in your head too?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Road Riding... It's been a while.

I finally got out and did my first actual "group" road ride of the year. In fact, it was my first road ride in months. I got to a point this summer where I was out riding on the road but wishing I was in the woods the entire time, so I stopped training on the road and started riding my a$$ off in the woods. I always thought I needed the road to get fast in the woods, but that's a big stinky lie. I did just fine and was tons happier hiding in the woods for the rest of the summer. That being said, I will still try to ride the road next spring/ summer for fitness, but I'm not going to make myself the way I used to.

So, today was the Ashford Metric Century, which had a full century option that I intend to do next year (Andy Chambers tells me it's the hardest one around)... I like pain. The weather for today said "spotty showers." Our first "spotty shower" hit before we left the parking lot. I say we... this was the three QVV members I found in the parking lot to ride with. We took off in a bit of rain, and it got heavier as we went. Within the first mile or two, one guy got a flat. We did a team effort to change it, and upon filling the new tube (which wasn't really new, but patched) with air, it went flat again. The second effort was better - meanwhile it was POURING.

It poured for the first 14 miles. At that point, there was an option of splitting off to do the smaller 25 mile loop or staying on course for the 62+. Two folks peeled off (I can't blame them, it was miserable), and two of us continued on - as did the rain. It poured through Woodstock and into Brooklyn. I think the rain finally stopped as we reached Brooklyn. All through Pomfret though, the water washed down the roads in rivers. It was insane. People must have thought we were lunatics riding our bikes in that nonsense.

Overall, the route was hilly, the aide stations were REALLY well stocked (so many cookies), the people were friendly, and I had a great time. I guess I can't really call it a group ride, because it was really only me and another person the whole time... and most of the time we were split up because we don't ride at the same level, but the ride itself had a LOT of people registered. Proceeds for the ride are benefitting the Ashford Rec. Department.

So, that's that. I finally got back out on the road. Oh yeah, best part? I got to borrow Donnie D's ( specialized roubaix pro. I was thinking I would hold it for ransom... I kind of like it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

12 Hours of Bradbury 17 September 2011

Yesterday marked the date of my first REALLY LONG DAY on my bike. I've done epic rides before, but nothing as epic as 9+hours of single track out in the lovely Bradbury Mountain State Park, ME. I drove up Friday afternoon with my buddy Dan and we arrived in Brunswick around 7pm after hitting some traffic (which included the wreckage of a crashed camper).

Our awesome friends Kevin and Amanda let us crash at their home and welcomed us to their town with a delicious home-cooked pasta dinner. After a quick trip to the grocery store for some race-time fuel foods, we headed back to the house to shower and all made an attempt to get some sleep before our alarms went off at 5:30am. The race started at 8am, but we had about a 20 minute drive over from Brunswick, and we still had to set up, so we had planned to leave the house by 6:30 or so.

Geting set up, I felt like a complete disorganized mess... I had no idea what to do with my stuff. I ended up finding a spot near where we would be going through on our laps, and I set up all of my stuff on a camp chair so that I'd be able to reach everything I needed without having to bend down much. I had planned on a bottle of accelerade per lap and to eat one to two packets of gu as well. I also wanted to make sure that I was eating some solids throughout the day so that I wouldn't bonk. I had a bunch of bananas slung over the back of chair and a bag of organic energy blocks at my disposal to stuff in my pockets and my mouth every lap.

When the race started at 8, I was pretty cold. I didn't want to overdress, so I just put on my wind jacket and hoped for the best. My legs were freezing, but it didn't matter anyhow. The group started out in a big bottle-necking cluster of people and didn't really spread out until we were more than halfway through the first lap. I didn't really worry about it though because I knew I'd be able to make up plenty of time later. What were the next 11 hours going to be for if not for making up for the first lap? The course was fun, but VERY slippery. There were roots everywhere and every last one was wet.

Throughout the first lap I could hear the other two solo women conversing somewhere behind me, so I knew where they were. Even though it was a slow lap, I managed to get myself a lead and the first lap ended up being about an hour and one minute or so. Not bad considering the bunching up of people.

I knew going into the race that there was a prize for the fastest female lap time, so I planned on going hard for at least a lap. The first lap, being slow and not really knowing the course, was not the place to do it. Even the second lap, with super slippery roots from the overnight dampness was not the time to haul donkey. So, I decided to go for it on lap 3. I watched the time when I could and managed to pull out a 52 minute lap (The rest of my laps were right around an hour and a little over). I still didn't go completely all out because I knew I had a long day ahead of me, but I was content knowing I put out the effort.

Lap 4 wasn't too shabby either, but from there, the laps started to seem longer and longer... maybe because it was taking me a little longer each lap to get through them.

I did okay chasing away my mental demons until lap 9. At this point, I knew I'd need lights soon, and I knew the roots were getting damp again. I was sore (my back and arms hurt to touch). I was IRRITABLE! I was on the edge of crying at the thought of doing two more laps. So, when I came in from lap 9 and inquired with a very wonderful lady (who had helped me through a bunch of my pit stops earlier in the race and was there for her hubby), she informed me that my competition was out on lap 7 and their laps were around an hour and a half. My last lap was an hour and 13 minutes or something like that due to my miserableness. I knew that no matter what, I had the race in the bag.

While I feel like somewhat of a chump for calling it quits at that point, I am glad I saved myself from potentially crashing and/or crying like a baby out on another lap. I happily packed up my stuff, headed over to the campsite to see my friends who I hadn't really seen since 8am that day (except for Kevin when he passed me), and deliriously tried to figure out what to do with myself. Luckily, the BBQ was still open for a veggie burger and a big honkin' piece o' corn bread, and the showers were HOT and FREE!!!! YAY!

The awards didn't really happen until around 9pm, so I got to hang out and watch Kevin and Amanda finish up their final laps. Dan and I rolled out around 10pm I think and got to Plainfield CT after 1am. All in all, it was totally AWESOME, and I can't wait to do it again next year!

Next up? Mansfield hollow cyclocross Oct 15 and EFTA Treasure Valley Rally MTB race Oct 16. Can't wait for more MTB fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Long time, long time... long time gone.

Ok, so it seems I have been rather uninspired over the last year but I have also been extremely busy. That being said, my creative writing has taken a hiatus and the only writing I've done has been out of necessity. This is for the sole reason that I only had time to write if it was a necessity (i.e. papers for school). So, I'm back but not exactly writing in the same capacity. What I'm going to be posting from now on will still be based on inspiration, but it will be more about what inspires me rather than the product of inspiration. You follow?

The past year has been filled with working like a maniac, followed by continuing to work like a maniac while going to school full time and then the usual working interspersed with mountain bike racing and the training required for that. While I can say I would have liked to have trained more or with more purpose, the season wasn't a flop. I managed to do well for having taken a lot of time off over the past two years. I feel as though I am back in such a way that I am comfortable and less stressed about the whole racing process. I take myself less seriously, and when I find myself getting the urge to stress, I somehow manage my thoughts so that I can find the fun in it all again.

Before the race season even began, I got my eating habits partially under control and lost the weight that I needed to in a safe way. I did it with good old fashioned calorie counting. That's right... energy in = energy out. Now I just have to fight off the urge to binge on corn chips...