Monday, October 29, 2007

Canton Cup

In New England (or New Belgium as Zanc likes to say), Canton has become almost as popular a 'cross race as Gloucester. I really liked this course last year, and I LOVED it this year - I just wish the results showed that enthusiasm ;-).

Mike and I got to to the venue really early, in time to talk to all TWELVE of the NEBC 3/4 women lined up to race, as well as a handful of other women I know. WOW! I have to say, it was so impressive seeing so many teammates and friends on the starting line, and you all had TERRIFIC races! I think I had more fun cheering all of you on than I did in my own race. A special congrats to Libby on her second place finish.

I socialized with the women's team some before watching Mike, Wayne, Jim and Edzo in the Masters 35+ race. Despite what he says was a "bad start" Mike managed to jump from group to group in his race, finishing 23rd in a field of 66 finishers. He looked strong throughout, but I particularly like this picture as he is determined to beat the guy who finished ahead of him the day before at Brockton ;-). Kudos also to Edzo - he wanted (I think) to quit, but hung in to finish the race, and according to the posted results, wasn't last!

After Mike finished his race, I headed over to the car to get warmed up for my race. That meant that I didn't get to see all of Scott's race, but he did well, finishing 10th despite breaking his brand new shoes!

In my race, I desperately wanted to have a good start, after having such a poor one in Brockton the day before. I was focused. I concentrated. I set my HRM one minute before we really started. I was ready. I counted down from 10, and....nothing. I ended up going into the woods DFL. I don't even know what happened, except that I did get somewhat boxed in with racers on the right having to skinny-up. I really need to practice the start - I've had such mixed results with it this year.

So, I sat DFL, trailing Roz P for the entire first lap. Mike cheered. Don cheered. Gewilli cheered. Scott and ML cheered. Kathy, Geoff, Linda and Karin cheered. Other people cheered. And still, I was DFL. But then my legs kicked in. And Roz slowed up in a section. And Susanne faltered on a small uphill. I took advantage and got a bit of a gap. And then I remembered everything I yelled at my teammates earlier in the day - sprint out of the corners! Smooth and steady! Each lap, Mike and our friend Don let me know that my advantage was increasing, so I made sure not to let up, no matter how much it hurt. I sprinted every corner, botched the barriers, and sprinted some more to hold them off. I ended up finishing third from last, but was happy with how I ended up racing in the end.

Yup, racing with the Elites kicks my butt. But it is also helping me to become a stronger racer, and I look forward to getting my butt kicked some more before the season is done ;-).

For additional pics from the Women's 3/4 race, Masters 35+ race, the start of the 2/3 race and the Elite women's race, click here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Brockton - City of Champions

Finally some true 'cross weather - kind of. Rainy and wet, but a little on the humid side (temps ended up hitting into the 70s during the day). We were ready, but where was everyone? Apparently the 'cross weather, and two competing races (one in CT and one in VT) made for small starting fields in all of the races.

We'd heard reports about the Brockton course from last year, so were planning for two things - mud, and lots of technical sections. Mike built up a new "beater bike" for me to use to race, and he was going to break out the KHS single speed he won at the Witches' Cup in August, both outfitted with mud tires. Imagine our surprise then, when we arrived in Brockton to a newly redesigned course that included lots of - PAVEMENT!

A preview lap showed a course that was 50% pavement, flat and FAST. This was going to be a crit, with one run-up and one bridge and some fast grassy corners thrown in. I was glad that I wasn't on a single speed (although Mike still finished in 6th place with the SS and a slowly leaking/flat rear tire) ;-).
I lined up with a whopping big Women's Open field of 9 racers. We had a pretty casual atmosphere on the starting line - so casual, that I was busy starting my HRM when the whistle blew! That caused me to go into the run-up second to last. Note to self - PAY ATTENTION! Starts are key, and I blew it. I was angry for missing that, so put the hammer down to try and get around some of the other women, and found myself in 4th position after about a half of a lap. After a dropped chain by Jennifer, I ended up in 3rd, battling back and forth with a racer I later found out was a sophomore in college! On the second to last lap, my teammate Tamela past me, and I mentally quit as she dragged Jennifer and the college racer with her, putting me in 6th place, where ultimately, I finished.

My HR was PEGGED for this race - average of 178 bpm with a max of 185! Guess taking some days off this week wasn't necessarily a good thing...

Lessons for me - I need to pay more attention to the starts, and listen to the advice I give others on the team - NEVER quit racing...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Scootering to Concord

What FUN! It was a glorious fall day although a little crisp, so I decided to ride the scooter over to Concord where I was meeting a friend for coffee (hmm- does one ride or drive a scooter?). I am DEFINITELY in love with the Ruckus! Now I am sad that winter is approaching.

I found that most traffic wouldn't pass by me, even though I was riding all the way to the right of the lane. Of course, I was also going between 30 and 35 mph, which is close to the speed limit in many places around here.

I meandered around the back roads where we normally ride our bikes, and had a GREAT time. Also bumped into a fellow Ruckus rider commuting home from work! I hope the days stay at least a little warm so that I can get out again soon.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pics from the Kanc Ride

Blogger wouldn't cooperate and let me upload any pics yesterday, so here are some from the ride - great foliage, although the pictures don't really do the vistas justice!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cruisin' the Kanc

Mike and I hadn't been up to the house in Maine in two months, so we decided it was time to head up to make sure all was well (and to clean up mouse poop, and set the traps!).

This morning, we drove over to Glen, NH, and parked at Storyland. We unloaded the 'cross bikes, and set off under beautiful sunny skies and warm temps to get in some good miles, and a climb or two.

First up - climbing Bear Notch from 302 in Bartlett, NH over to the Kancamangus Highway. The roads were a bit wet, but the views and the colors were spectacular! I would say that this weekend is peak foliage in the North country, and you could tell all the leaf-peepers were out ;-).

After descending down to the Kanc, it was time to head up. This climb isn't steep, but it is relentless - going on, and on and on, with no breaks. And today, we did it into a headwind - just to add insult to injury. Once we reached the top, we decided not to go with the original plan (which called for a descent into Lincoln and then continuing over Franconia Notch to Twin Mountain and then down Crawford Notch to return to Glen), and headed back down the way we came. Going up at between 7 and 8 mph turned into a tailwind-aided 40+ mph descent! It was fast, and surprisingly, COLD!

We climbed back up over Bear Notch and headed into Conway on West Side Road, and then back 302 and 16A to the car. We were cooked - 4 hours and 62 miles with A LOT (approx. 3500 ft) of climbing. But, it was a beautiful day, and as tired as we are, it was a great day.

I'll have to post pics tomorrow, since blogger isn't currently cooperating.

Oh - and NEBC became famous with pics up on! Thanks to Geoff for taking some awesome shots on the first day of Gloucester.

Monday, October 15, 2007


UGH! I am so tired today, despite going to bed at 8:30 last night. Gloucester is in the books for this year, and it was fun, fast and challenging. Besides being tired, I am sun/wind burnt, more bruised and hoarse from cheering for all my teammates and friends. What a GREAT weekend!

Day 1 - Saturday

To heckler yelling at me to put it in the big ring, "I've only got one!" (Photo: Geoff Martin)

Mike and I arrived early so that we could get a good parking spot, and get on the course before racing started at 9:00 am. It was a very cool 34 degrees when we arrived, so we waited just a bit for the sun to warm things up to about 40 before heading out. Three laps of the course told me that it was going to be FAST, and require a lot of power.

Since my race wasn't until noon, I played the cheering specatator for the 3/4 35+ race, and then making sure that Mike was all set for his race at 11:00. Heading down to his start, I bumped into gewilli (which, I was corrected, is pronounced gee-willi...). He had just finished his race, and seemed to be fairly happy with his finish. Thanks for cheering me on as well!

With Mike's race and mine so close together, I was only able to watch him as I warmed up on the trainer. He had a great race, though, and finished well in a very experienced field of racers (led by Johnny Bold and Kevin Hines).

I registered early, and had a great front-row starting position for my race. This turned out to be a good thing, given that our field started out with 52 women! I was nervous. At our team meeting prior to the race, I had asked everyone their goals, but had not revealed my own - I wanted a top 5 finish, and I was going to have to work my butt off for it.

When the whistle blew, I went out as hard as I could, knowing that the start was all important in this race. Roz P (Cambridge Bikes) flew past me like there were rockets attached to her bike, but I still ended up being the third woman into the field, quickly passed Roz (whose rockets abruptly died, it seemed), and was solidly in second place. Someone behind me hit my rear wheel/derailleur going into the first left-hand turn, but I knew I had to keep the pace up, so I didn't even look back. Held onto the same mentality when someone behind me went down on the small dirt uphill shortly thereafter - not sure if others got caught in the melee, but again, didn't look back to find out.

Cris R yelled for me to keep the foot on the gas as I ran up over the barriers, so I did, and I managed to hold that position for most of the lap, but drifted back into 4th by the end of the second lap. As I settled in, I came to the realization that if I was tired, so was everyone else. That gave me a little extra boost - time to take advantage of those tired competitors!

The rest of the race was fairly uneventful, but I did end up losing a couple more spots along the way. I was never so thankful to be lapped by Luke Keough as I was in this race - that meant that I didn't have to do 6 laps, only 5! I finished the race in 9th - didn't meet my original goal, but given my effort and the strenght and size of the field, I was really happy with a top 10 finish.

Click here to see pictures of NEBC teammates and friends from Saturday.

Day 2 - Sunday

After the hard effort on Saturday, I decided upon hearing the course did not change not to do any pre-riding of the course on Sunday. This allowed me to relax and enjoy watching our friend Jaime in his first-ever 'cross race, and then cheer on our many friends in the 3/4 Masters 35+ race before having to start getting ready for my own.

For some reason, I was more nervous lining up on Sunday than I had been on Saturday. I think I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to improve on my results from Saturday, and to see if I couldn't achieve my top 5 goal after all.

I chased Libby and Roz for the hole shot, and ended up on the dirt again in second/third place. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to hold this position today. Why? Not sure. My legs felt great, but for some unknown reason, my bike couldn't figure out which cog it should be in on the rear cassette, and there was a lot of skipping around on the back.

I did play leap frog with a couple of women throughout the race, but was really frustrated with my shifting. The deafening cheers from friends and teammates definitely helped though. Coming up over the barriers, through the chicane section and again up the start/finish hill, the cheers were almost deafening at times. Thanks to everyone who cheered and encouraged over the two days of racing - it definitely helps when the motivation is low ;-).

With two laps left for me to race, I entered the chicane section to warnings that riders were down in the turn ahead. I kept my head up to be sure I could see any obstacles and WHAM! was hit from behind by a junior trying to pass in a very difficult spot. He completely wiped me out. At that point, I was frustrated already, and this just demoralized me. And then came Alex. Alex shouted at the top of her lungs "You will not give up!", pointing her finger at me, and running with me as I remounted my bike. That was the encouragement I needed - thanks, Alex (guess I should have been in the sandpit for you!).

Of course, going into the next turn, the NEXT junior decided to have a go at me, ramming into my shoulder as he tried to pass. Luckily, I managed to stay upright, and continue on with my race, bent brake hood and all! With one lap to go, I gave everything I had. I knew my teammate, Shannon, was right behind me, and I really didn't want her to beat me. Head down and hammer it out was the thought in my head, and you can definitely see that in the finish photo ;-). Today's finish - 14th, but only 3 seconds slower than yesterday. Guess some of those other women got their race legs on Day 2 ;-)

I had never raced Gloucester before this weekend, but I loved everything about it. It was an AWESOME course, great venue and very well organized. With a couple of weekends of back-to-back racing, however, I think we'll keep it low key next weekend as we get ready for Canton at the end of the month.

Click here to see pictures of NEBC teammates and friends from Sunday.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Downeast 'Cross

This was our second year racing at Pineland Farm, and the weather was stellar again - sunny and temps in the lower 60s. The course changed some from last year, taking out the barriers right before/after the off-camber dippity-doo (that's the technical term), removing the mud pit and huge log barrier, and the rooty woods section, but adding another off-camber climb, and a steep run-up full of baby-heads. I think I liked the course a little better last year - lots more climbing this year, and not a lot of chance to rest.

We managed to get to the venue fairly early, just as the B women were finishing up their race. That let us watch the B Masters before Mike set off in the A Masters race (where he finished in the money at 7th, with teammate Wayne right behind in 8th). Got a lot of good photos of friends in both of those races (more pics are posted here)

After the handlebar debacle in Biddeford, I took a spin on the course and realized just how sore I really was. Also found another good-sized hematoma on my leg ;-). After pre-riding, I resorted to warming up on the trainer so as not to get into any more trouble.

With all of the big-name New England Women off racing in Long Island for the weekend, our starting field was small - 7. Even smaller than yesterday, when we were 12. At go, I almost got taken out by Kate (West Hill) in the first pavement corner - she came across the road and completely cut my line, forcing me to brake pretty hard to avoid hitting the curb/deck. I hauled down the pavement after that, but was already chasing when we hit the off-camber dippity-doo. I slowed too much here to get a good, rideable line, and then was forced to chase hard into the next off-camber climb, where I hit a pedal, and was forced to dismount. I got passed by Heidi (aka Wonder Woman) at that point, and realized that I was suddenly in LAST PLACE. I beat Heidi only once last year, so really wanted to get back by her. I did, and then saw her only one other time in the race.

So, essentially, I rode 6 laps on my own, with 5th place often in site, but out of range. I had to bargain with myself through the last half of the race - only 2 more times up that run-up, now only one more time... On my second to last lap, as I was coming off of the run-up section, I saw the leader going into there, and determined that I WOULD NOT GET LAPPED with only one more to go. Dug deep, and kept the hammer down to go out and finish my last lap.

The promoters of this race are to be HIGHLY commended. Everything was well orchestrated and on time for the whole day. In addition, they PAID OUT the entire women's field! Yup - I got paid for finishing next to last. This is not something seen in most of the women's races (Casco Bay shortened the payout from 8 to 5 when only 12 women lined up), so a great surprise, and a huge thanks to them for doing so!

Carbon Bars + 'Cross = Ouch

In this case, a picture is worth more than 1000 words....

Mike TOLD me to warm up on the trainer, but I HATE the trainer and decided instead to go warm up on the roads. I cruised up the pavement from the parking lot, and took a right by a school. Knowing that the pavement isn't good on my 'cross tires, I hopped up to ride on the grass alongside the sidewalk, and BOOM - hit a hole. As I was headed off my bike, I heard a snap and knew this was going to 1) hurt a lot, and 2) damage my bike. I was right on both counts.

A HUGE thanks to my teammate (and National Champion) Julie - she let me race her BRAND NEW Redline after a pedal swap and a quick lesson on how to work the SRAM shifters. If it weren't for Julie, I wouldn't have been able to race, so thanks, Julie!

Unfortunately, because my head wasn't really in the game after crashing so hard, and I was riding a bike I didn't know (have to say, not a big fan of the SRAM...), I didn't end up doing that well in the race - finishing 10th out of 12 starters. It's too bad too - the course was FAST and FUN.

Mike decided to try a race with the big boys - P/1/2/3 men. He's been racing A Masters for two seasons, and has been doing fairly well at it this year, typically finishing in the top half of the field. The difference in this race was that the juniors took the line as well, and the race was 60 minutes vs. the 45 he usually does. In his usual fashion though, he got stronger as the race went on, and looked great, finishing 21st in a field of 31 finishers.

Sadly, instead of heading up to the house in Bethel, we had to drive back to MA to buy and install new [aluminum] bars and cables on my bike to prep for the next day's race.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

End of the Season...NEBC Women's Rides

I have mentioned in two previous posts about our NEBC Tuesday Women's rides. Now that the darkness settles in early, these rides are finished for the season, but were a resounding success! Some of the ride leaders met this week to discuss how we can make these rides better for next year, and we came up with LOTS of great ideas. Stay tuned to next season, and thanks to Kathy and Catherine for organizing a great ride all season long, and to Teri and Serene for hosting our dinner/meeting!

Monday, October 1, 2007

A Wedding in Vermont

This past weekend, our good friends Rich and Carrie were married in Waitsfield, VT. We had a great time celebrating their marriage.

The wedding day started off with the obligatory ride, and I had "groom-sitting" duty. That meant that I had to make sure that Rich didn't get lost, crash or over/under-estimate our ride time so that he was back in time to get ready. We did a hilly tour on our 'cross bikes (this is Vermont - no flat riding here!), and had him back in one piece in plenty of time to make it to the ceremony ;-).

Rich and the boys on the "Wedding morning" ride

The wedding reception was at the Round Barn Inn, which offered a spectaculor Vermont backdrop, complete with cows! We ate delicious food, danced and celebrated alongside Rich and Carrie. I think the most fun though was seeing all of our riding friends in "dress-up" clothes - we all clean up real nice!

Congratulations, Rich and Carrie! Here's to many happy years of riding. (Oh, and we can't forget a photo of their wedding gift!)