Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard 2010

The snow is finally here, and at our house, there is major excitement. Even Opie and Ellie are excited (trust me - this was excitement!). Opie was just like a little kid - shivering madly, but wanting ever so badly to go back outside and play! That's what we're off to do now...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Flying with MRC

Flyover? Really?

When I first heard about the now infamous flyover from Gary of MRC, I told him that if there was to be a flyover, I wasn’t racing. So much for that! I thankfully saw a photo of said contraption prior to arriving on-site, and figured it couldn’t be that bad. Plus, when we arrived, all the Cat 4 men were riding it without incident…

On the pre-ride, I got to the top and thought – “Oh – I don’t think so!”, but knew that the only way down was on my bike. Paul Curley had gone down ahead with Mike, and called back to me to just look at Mike and go – so I did. Piece of cake! Luckily, Mike and I were able to convince some of our other teammates of this before the race as well.

I lined up on the start line of the 1/2/3 race right behind Andrea Smith of Ladies First. I knew that would be a good choice, and it turned out I was right – she launched like rockets were attached to her bike on the whistle, and all I could do was try [in vain] to hang on. I had a great start, and was still within striking distance of the front group on the first part of the course. Unfortunately, I overcooked a corner just before the “kitty litter”, and completely slid out, coming off my bike. Michele got by me then (DOH!), but I stayed right on her wheel. I figured I would use her in the sections where drafting was an advantage. Then, I hesitated too long on the top of the flyover (note: do NOT put right leg over and then put left foot into pedal all while standing still!), and Sally also got by me, and Michele had a gap.

Now I was in a bit of a panic. I REALLY didn’t want to let either Sally or Michele get away, so I attached myself as close as possible to Sally’s wheel – too close. Just after we went under the flyover, Sally over-banked a turn and lost traction with both wheels. She went one way across the course, and her bike went another. And I had nowhere to go. I think I managed a paniced “Oh no!” before riding over some part of Sally’s bike, coming to a stop and asking if Sally was ok. I seemed fine, my bike seemed fine, and someone (Mike, as it turned out) was screaming at me to go – so I did. Unfortunately, I never caught back up to Michele, but I did find out that Sally got back into the race and was ok.

I LOVED the course, and ultimately, the flyover (despite the fact that I never really mastered the remount there).

The hardest part of my racing day, however, was standing and watching as Mike and Ryan duked it out for the finish of the Men’s 35+ race. I think if I had had my HR monitor running, it would have shown my highest HR of the day! It was nerve-wracking indeed, but came out well in the end.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Racing Suckerbrook

Five years ago, I raced Suckerbrook as my first-ever 'cross race. Who knows how many 'cross races later, I still think this is one of my favorites of the season - great course, great organization, and a great cause (oh, and don't tell Mike, but I love Jack! ;)).

I pre-rode with some of the other NEBC women before the race to dial in the lines, and see what had changed since I last raced here (I had to miss it last year due to a family commitment). There were more corners (YAY), the same stairs and whoop-dee-dos (although with more sand this year), fewer trees, the same amount of rocks, a new log and woods section, and the dreaded sand. And despite multiple practice sessions in sand prior to the race, and multiple tries before the race at a clean line, I ended up running most of that section during the race.

As everyone knows (or now knows), the first race at Suckerbrook is TO the race. Despite a 9:45 start time, I was second to line up on the start - at 9:29 ;). But, it got me a terrific starting position on the front row, and I tried (in vain) to stay with hole-shot-Sally on the whistle. I did end up onto the course in 4th, and quickly moved up into second place behind Emily. And that's where I stayed for 3 of the 4 laps - slowly making up time on Emily in the power sections (and the whoop-dee-doo section), only to lose it once we hit the sand. Apparently the front was a good place to be - the course was REALLY dusty, and without a significant number of people in front, I was clearly able to see the entire time (and likely didn't eat quite as much dirt as some others later in the day).

And then, in the 3rd or 4th lap, the 3rd place racer caught and passed me as well. I had seen her coming for a bit and tried ever-so-hard to stay ahead of her. When she passed, though, instead of giving up the chase, I burned matches to stay attached. I was closing in on both Kate and Emily on the final lap when my foot popped out of my pedal on the uphill whoop-dee-doo - leaving me to see them ahead, but not be able to catch.

I was pretty pleased to finish with my best result here ever - landing on the podium. Thanks to EVERYONE who cheered madly from the sidelines - I heard you all, and gave the race everything I could.

After watching the start of Mike's race, and a quick stop at the podium, it was off to the pit for me to watch/support Mike. Here's his version of his race:

I’ve always had reasonable results at SBC and enjoy the race. This was the site of my legitimate entrance into cyclocross back in 2006. Prior to that I had only done a total of two races back in the late ‘90’s. Coming in this year I’ve had a string of issues and most recently back to back horrible results. I saw this race as a crossroad. If the luck changed, I could still pull off a good season but if it didn’t, I may just give it up.

Many of the big guns chose to race the Elite race instead of the Master’s race. Going in, I’d planned to do both. I felt pretty good and was hoping for a good show in the AM race. I started from the front row but once again got a terrible start; I just can’t seem to sprint start in a cross race for some reason. Immediately I was mid-pack. Some strategic chasing and frantic passing got me up to the lead group. Unfortunately I tried a dicey move on the last up of the steep up, down, up but got taken to the tape and hooked around a stake. Off the bike, untangle, running, remount, dismount, barrier and I’d lost half a dozen spots and was gassed. More frantic chasing, passing, and attempting to pass people with superior skills who didn’t want to be passed and the group was gone. All I could do from there was settle and start making ground back, which I did until I missed a turn where the tape was broken in the field and rode off course only to have to stop, turn around and ride back.

The laps went by and I feared the worst, however the gap was coming down. With about 2 to go I was in 8th and could now readily see the group of three just ahead. On the final lap I knew that it was now or never so focused on the catch. I made contact on the back double-track section with a surge around Ryan R. so as not to let him attach. We were thick with traffic and dust so I had to keep on the gas around the corner and into the log hop. At that point I contacted Big Al and Jeff M. as well as some traffic behind them. On the final double-track into the sand I passed the traffic and launched as hard as I could so as to hit the sand first. It worked albeit with a little rubbing when Al switched lanes at the last minute. I pinned it along the fence and then when we made the corner on the pavement I laid down all of the seated power that I could muster, which fortunately was enough to win the sprint, with a bike throw, by a solid wheel length. Nothing like waiting for the last minute I guess.

What Mike's report doesn't tell you is that he had a great ride, finishing 5th in the Elite Master's 35+ field! It helps to make up for some of the racing last weekend...

We both planned on doing a second race, but after hanging out and standing up for too long, decided to sit and spectate while heckling our friends instead! It was a terrific day and many thanks to Jack and Justin for their hard work in making it happen. We'll be back next year for sure!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Winned!*

This year is my fifth season of racing 'cross. I remember back in 2006 when my good friend Cris told me that I needed to "try" a 'cross race to see what it was like. I finished 14 races that season, and have been hooked ever since.

Despite wins on the road and on the MTB between then and now, I haven't been able to get a win on the 'cross bike. Last weekend at Green Mountain, that changed - finally! Of course, I had to race the "old ladies" (W 35+) to get the win, but I'll still take it.

I was excited when I saw that Alan was going to offer a Master's Women's field, and signed up for that category to support the effort, and in the hopes that more promoters would offer a field specifically for Master's Women. The only downside? We raced at the same time as the 3/4 women (same start time - no gap), but had to stage IN THE BACK ROW! DOH! It was a challenge to get past many of the women in front. I pulled a bit of a dicey move, starting in the middle of the last row, taking 3 pedal strokes, and moving immediately to the far right to move my way up the field.

I could see the leaders of the 3/4 race ahead of me, and put my head down to make as much progress as I could. Part way through the third and final lap, I looked and could see the 2nd place woman in my field behind. At that point, the race was mine to lose, and I didn't want her to catch. I buried myself, running scared, to the line - using the 3/4 field as rabbits (I passed my teammate Sam, but she passed me back and I was too gassed to get back by her). I managed to cross the line ahead of the remainder of the 35+ field to take my first ever 'cross win! Wahoo!

Sunday's race wasn't as kind. I got stuck in some 3/4 traffic forcing me to come to a complete stop at one point, and the leaders were gone. Every time I would catch on, they would accelerate and I couldn't respond. I finished just off the podium in 4th place on Sunday, disappointed that I hadn't had a better race.

The next Verge series race is in New Gloucester, ME, and John G has also added a W 35+ field! Looking forward to getting out and trying my hand again. Before then, there is a lot of racing to do - starting with Suckerbrook tomorrow!

*Disclaimer - the grammatically incorrect title was written by an English major ;)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kitten Cam

Ellie loves laundry
Opie being lazy
I folded all the clothes - the dryer is empty!
Best pals.

It's Here, It's Here, It's Here!

Since I'm sitting in VT ready for the first weekend of Verge racing, I figured I'd better get my race report from LAST weekend's race up...

Yes, fellow crossers, there is a Santa Claus, and he brought the 2010 'cross season! I am literally like a 5 year old on Christmas morning - ecstatic over the possibility of what is to come this season.

Last Sunday was the "official" start of my 'cross season at Quad Cross (I did do one race in August, but hey - it was AUGUST and 90 degrees - not really 'cross ). The best part was that the race was in my hometown - no 2 hour, 1.5 hour or 3 hour drive to get to the race venue. Instead, I rode over from the house to get my warmup in for a 9:00 am start, while Mike brought the car loaded with pit bikes, tent, clothes, food, water... Packing for 'cross is a SCIENCE!

I did a few warmup laps on the course and L-O-V-E-D it. It wasn't technical except for all of the corners - the one thing I am really good at! There were also long power sections, another strong suit for me.

Imagine lining up with 46 Cat 3/4 women, and 6 45+ women at the first "real" race of the season. There were many who were out for their first 'cross racing experience - or their first ever bike racing experience! So exciting to see the enthusiasm, and feel all of that energy.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a great start and ended up in a bottleneck in the first corner, putting me immediately at a deficit. From there, I got caught behind a crash, further opening a gap to the leaders that proved to be insurmountable the remainder of the race. I did, however, have a race on my hands with those around me, and quickly became frustrated at the lack of cornering skills of some of the other racers. I may even have become a bit more vocal than I maybe should have, as a result of that frustration .

One of my Cross Results nemesis' was ahead at one point, and literally put her foot down (not out, DOWN) in every corner. She braked going into a small sandy section, and got completely bogged down in her gearing. At one point I said to her, "For God's sake, SHIFT!". Finally able to get past her, I managed to open a gap in the remainder of the race, by getting into the corners first, and powering back out of them.

I finished in the top 10, but wasn't completely satisfied - a better start and some smarter handling behind some other racers would have certainly helped.

Of course, if one race is good, two must be better, right? Later in the afternoon, I lined back up for the 1/2/3 race - 40 more minutes of top notch fun . I think I might have a slight issue...the fast girls were in the house, so I knew I was going to have to lay it all out. I was worried before the start that having already raced, I was really going to embarass myself. On the whistle, I dug deep and had a great start, only to come to a screeching halt in the first corner - DOH! Apparently bad cornering skills aren't limited to the 3/4 field . I was off on the chase but felt surprisingly good!

Suddenly, as we entered the first technical S-turn, I found my legs spinning and the bike not moving - my chain had jumped off the front ring, but NOT over the chain guide. I had to come to a complete stop to get it back onto the chainring, remounted and found it still wasn't engaged. Another try and I was back iin the race - DFL. EVERYONE had passed me. SIGH.

I put my head down and motored. I made solid progress throughout the race, and was one of the LAST people not to get lapped by the leaders. I was happy about that, but slightly disappointed about the mechanical. I would love to know how that might have worked out since I really felt better and better as the race progressed...

So, now it's on! Races both days, every weekend, between now and the middle of December! The Verge Series starts here in Williston, VT tomorrow, and a pre-ride shows that I really should have made sure to pack my climbing legs.

Regardless, I'm so excited! Thank you Santa, for bringing the 'cross season back.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I Did on Summer Vacation

Sunday - rode my bike (75 miles)
Monday - rode my bike (60 miles)
Tuesday - rode my bike (60 miles)
Wednesday - rode my bike (62.2 miles)
Thursday - rode my bike, twice (43.2 and 18.8 miles)
Friday - rode my bike (28.4 miles)
Saturday - raced my bike (26 miles)

It was a big mileage/hour week for me - in fact, the biggest ever. I ended seven days of riding (on 4 different bikes) with 373.6 miles/20.5 hours in the saddle. Now, I need a vacation from my vacation ;).

The week culminated with a return to the Attleboro Crit. Two years ago, I managed somehow to win the 3/4 race here. This year, I went and raced the Women's 30+ race. I was a bit concerned that all the miles on my legs would be an issue, but I had a good race, stayed away from the crash in the field, and managed to hold on to a 2nd place finish in the end! More importantly, I had fun racing my bike - something that I haven't had for awhile now. I'm hoping the big training week, and the successful race, will be the end of my riding/racing funk!

After my race, it was time to plunk myself in a chair for the remainder of the day, and watch as Mike contested both the M35+ and the P/1/2/3 races, for 95 total laps of the course (after already having 400+ miles for the week!). He looked strong and held on well in both races. Looks like he is going to have another strong 'cross season ahead!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Overnight

Twenty-three years ago, I became a suicide survivor. I was nineteen, and had a week left before high school graduation. My best friend and first love lost his battle with depression on May 1. Seemingly, he had a lot to live for - college, a loving family and friends who adored him. None of that was enough to save him.

I still remember that day vividly, down to what he was wearing, and the fact that we fought - our final words to each other. That experience shaped me for the next several years as I struggled to understand, to make sense of the non-sensical. The memories have not faded, nor will they ever.

Last year, I became a second time survivor when my thirty-eight year old younger brother ended his life on May 14. I was celebrating my birthday with friends when I got the call from my mother. In an instant, life was turned upside down. He left not only my mom & dad and myself, but also a six year old daughter. Once again, I struggled to understand.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. In hindsight, looking at my brother's behavior over several years, he was most certainly battling some sort of depression. His highs were high, but the lows were at the bottom. In some conversations, I felt as if I were walking on eggshells, just waiting to step on the right one, and have it crack. Despite my previous experience, I was oblivious to my brother's illness.

In the days, weeks and months after Brad's death, I shied away from telling people about how he died. Society has placed a stigma on suicide and depression. Both are looked at as character flaws, weaknesses. As I have continued to heal, I realized that this stigma is just that - a label that is convenient, but wrong. We are accepting of diseases that can kill, like cancer, diabetes, heart disease - even AIDS. But mental illnesses (which can also kill) are still something that society feels should remain a "dirty little secret".

Last night, I took a step (18 miles worth, actually ;)) to erase that stigma. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) hosted its annual walk, "The Overnight - A Walk Out of the Darkness". Accompanied by good friends Hannah, Michele and Sue, and my new friend Lindsay, I walked to help raise awareness - to remove the stigma attached to suicide and depression - to help just one person make a different choice and get the treatment they need.

This was an emotional journey that started when I decided to sign up for the walk in late May. First, I needed to tell my parents, who are still healing themselves, what I was planning. They were both very supportive and even helped to spread the word to their friends. Next was actually putting out to the world via email and Facebook that my brother had committed suicide; a major step, but one that was met with compassion and understanding.

In fact, the response to what I was doing was overwhelming to me. I heard from so many people who had in some way been affected by depression and/or suicide. Brothers, cousins, fathers and uncles lost, children struggling, personal struggles. It was an honor to share those stories with all of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support that you gave, both in financial contributions and emotionally.

I knew going in that this event was not going to be easy. I wasn't so much worried about the walk, as the emotional aspect that I would face. And, as I registered and got myself squared away prior to the event, the emotion hit full force. As part of the event, walkers are sent luminary bags to decorate which are then used to light the path back to the event in the early morning hours. I found pictures of Brad and I from 1974 and 1995, had copies made, and attached them to my luminary, as well as writing a note. When I went to hand the bag off, I just couldn't do it. It was just a symbol, but it was symbolic of the relationship we shared, and the first tears were shed. I ended up carrying the bag to dinner, but did manage to turn it in (tear free) before the walk started.

The opening ceremony was another very emotional event. Here we were, sitting in City Hall Plaza, almost 2000 people who all had lost someone to suicide/depression, or were themselves, battling to overcome the disease. Twenty-three years ago, I felt like NO ONE, with the exception of my friend's family, knew what I was going through, and that I was alone. Last year, again, I felt that sense of aloneness - people couldn't possibly understand what this was like. And last night, I was surrounded by 2000 people who all KNEW exactly what it was like.

The personal stories were heart-wrenching, as were the reactions of the people in the crowd. In front of us, a mother, father and daughter all clung to one another - they had lost their son/brother. Beside us, a woman on her own (who we later walked with for several miles), remembered her best friend's father (her best friend was married last week, and the absence of her father was difficult for everyone). Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. So much loss in such a small space.

But, as we began the walk, the mood shifted. People were excited to be underway, to be walking to make a difference. Tears were replaced with laughter. Conversations were animated, and many stopped to take in the sights along the way.

We started the walk at City Hall Plaza, and headed to Beacon Street - past the State Capital, the sunset reflecting in the gold dome. We crossed the Charles on the Mass Ave Bridge, and walked along the opposite shore - flanked by MIT on one side, and the Boston skyline on the other. And then, back across the river and back into the city - past BU and around Fenway Park. By this point, we had come from some of the last walkers to start, up through the pack to pass much of the peloton (oh - wait - this isn't supposed to be a race report!).

It was at Fenway, at mile 6.2 (and after 10 pm), that Mike was waiting. He had ridden in from home to cheer us on, and to show his support. Along the way, he'd gotten lost, but was determined to be there when we walked past. It meant a lot to me that he was there, just as it has meant a lot to me that he has supported me through this difficult time in my life. I don't say it to him often enough, but I thank him for being there, and helping me along the right path.

We left Mike and Fenway behind (he later texted to let me know he'd gotten home just before 11:30 - by then, we were in Southie!), and continued walking all the way down Boylston St - through the shopping district, past many VERY busy bars, along the opposite side of the Boston Common, and into Chinatown. We saw some pretty interesting characters on this stretch of the walk. I'm not sure some of the skirts could have been shorter, or the heels taller! DOH - that just showed my age, some ;).

From there, we passed South Station and headed into the Seaport district. We were excited along this part of the route to pass the halfway mark - nine miles down, and only nine more to go! All five of us were still hanging tough, ready to conquer the remainder of the route.

I had never been to South Boston before, but the neighborhood here was actually quite lovely. Nice architecture, and we walked along L street to the shore, where we were greeted with the ocean, some fireworks, a lovely park, and lots of "kids" just hanging out. We reached the "dinner" stop on Castle Island around 12:30 a.m. I didn't realize that a ham sandwich at that hour could taste so good ;). We spent a bit of time here, eating, stretching and changing our socks. We were at mile 12.3, and on the homeward stretch now.

But, just like on a long bike ride, the stop likely wasn't a great idea. It was about this point that the tired started to settle in, and the aches started to be more pronounced. Around mile 15, as we passed Rowe's Wharf, Lindsay claimed that she felt as if she were waddling - it took all of our effort to pick the legs up and move them forward without swinging them in a half circle. Our last pit stop came around mile 16 at the New England Aquarium. By now, all 5 of us had sore feet, sore hip flexors, and were pretty fatigued. We felt a few splatters of rain as we passed the TD Garden, but it was, thankfully, short lived.

We knew we were near the finish. As we approached City Hall Plaza just before 2:30 am, we were all tired. What greeted us there were cheery volunteers, 2000 lit luminara telling the stories of victims and survivors, and - breakfast. We took one last photo together - we made it. Eighteen miles all to help make a difference. My feet were sore, my legs were sore, and I was ready to go to bed. But none of that compares to the pain and suffering that my brother dealt with. I can only hope that he was watching over me last night, proud of what I was trying to do in his honor.

At the end of 18 miles

We were too tired to sit for three hours for the closing ceremony, so we all headed home. As I drove on 128, the sun began to rise ahead of me, with the full moon in my rear view mirror. I had accomplished a lot - not just overnight, but in the months since Brad's death, and certainly on the journey. I watched the sunset over Boston, and watched it rise again in the morning - literally walking out of the darkness. In my car, I whispered, "I love you, Brad", and knew that we had done a good thing.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

No Racing...

... so you get kittens instead (which will make a couple of you happy).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All For the Glory?

Pushed. Elbowed. Sworn at. Buzzed. And this wasn't even WalMart at 4 am on Black Friday - there wasn't a 50" plasma TV waiting for the low, low price of $2.50, just a medal and bragging rights.

In all seriousness, EFTA's Pinnacle was the most un-sportsman-like race I have done - EVER. Despite a decent start in my field (the Cat 1 women, Master Men and Juniors all went off together), as soon as the Cat 2 men (who started a mere 30 seconds behind us) starting catching, all h*ll broke loose. We climbed on a tight trail filled with wet, slimy roots and rocks. There wasn't a good place to pass a single person, never mind having 50 testosterone-laden men racing for 20th place breathing down your neck. And once ONE person flubbed anything, it caused a chain reaction of people off bikes. Getting back on the bike, and into the conga line was near impossible. Within the first mile and a half, after all of the pushing, elbowing, swearing and having my tires buzzed multiple times by one rider, I literally gave up racing.

As I continued to climb, I thought about quitting. The course didn't suit me at all - there was a lot of climbing, the roots were wet and slick, and there were bridges (did I mention the wet part?). It wasn't fun. And then I even got yelled at by some of the WOMEN riders for riding down the left side of the Plummet - "Left is for walking, right is for riding" they chided as they dismounted and I rode. Oh well - I rode the left line every time down. I crossed through the start/finish after the first lap, STILL thinking about quitting. Then one of the women, who was literally in tears, said that she just didn't want to DNF. And I worried about what Mike would say if I quit. So, I kept going.

In lap 2, the Elites and some of the Cat 1 men started lapping me. This wasn't as bad, as I could get out of the way of most of them without having to get off the bike, or being pushed ;). In fact, many of them were downright pleasant, with one apologizing to me after he passed, and I slid on a root. Quite a difference in attitudes, and these guys were racing for more than just a medal!

At the end of lap 2, I looked directly at my friend Meg (who was cheering wildly) and said "This sucks" to which she replied, "But at least you're finishing". I gritted my teeth and said, "I have ONE MORE LAP TO GO". Ugh. But, off I went. And partway through the final lap, Keith caught me (cue angelic music from above here). It was nice to see a friendly face after all of that time - especially one with a halo circling his helmet. I tried to move out of Keith's way to let him pass, but he literally decided to ride the entire last lap WITH me. That was my saving grace. Being able to ride the remainder of the race with someone, and following good lines was the only thing that got me through the rest of the race.

Keith and I literally crossed the finish line within seconds of each other, both excited to finally be done. So, DFL for me (and in more than one category...), but I finished.

That is it for me for mass start MTB races though - never again after what I experienced at this race. Yes, you're racing and yes, you may be faster than me. BUT, I was racing, too. I paid the same amount to race as you did. Let's all get along out there - we're all doing it for fun, right?

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Our first quest of the day took Mike and I to Gordon College to go and ride our SS MTBs "somewhere different". We haven't ridden here in years, so there was some circular navigation for a little while before we found the really HARD trails. Let's just say that to me, the SS was like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Yes, there was also a lot of walking ;)

But, we missed most of the rain, and managed to stay relatively dry.

The second quest of the day? Donuts. You see, Mike loves donuts, but he likes GOOD donuts. We discovered Kane's a couple of years ago, but every time we've been back, they've been closed. So, an Internet search revealed that Verna's, on Mass Ave in Cambridge had donuts, and they had good reviews. We made it there just in time for closing, so our options were limited, but they did have jelly - Mike's favorite! I'm sure this will be awesome pre-race food for tomorrow ;)