Friday, December 30, 2011

The End

We're into the final few days of 2011. As I get older, it seems that the years seem to pass more and more quickly. I think I am turning into my grandmother :). It's natural at this time of year, to look back and reflect on the past twelve months - the good, the bad and the in between. Here are a few highlights:

With all the snow we had in the winter, Mike and I put in A LOT of hours on the skate skis, as well as some time on the cruisers in the woods. It was awesome to do something different from all the riding. It did, however, mean that we spent even LESS time in Bethel - the conditions were so good in MA, it just didn't make sense for us to make the drive up to ME most weekends. We also discovered biathlon - which I have fallen completely in love with!

We celebrated Opie and Ellie's first birthday, and one year adoption. All the celebrating was followed by an admonishment from the vet, and a diet plan for the poor kitties. They continue to wreak havoc - unfurling toilet paper, chewing on boxes, eating donuts out of the box (not kidding), and chewing the Christmas decorations. It's a darned good thing they are so cute!

I fell out of and back into and back out of love with road racing. While I scaled back on the total number of races, I had some success, some fun, and some disappointment. 2012 is likely to see even less road racing for me.

I also scaled back the number of MTB races, but did have some success at a couple of races, and ate more than my fair share of mud at a couple of others. We had a least two "epic" races in the rain/mud, including sinking so far into a puddle while riding, that my butt was submerged!

I continued to see improvement at the weekly TT. In fact, this season I hit a PR of 23:03 for our 9.75 mile course, making me the 5th fastest woman to race the course. I was ecstatic at first, but then realized that I need just 4 seconds to get into the elusive 22 minute range. Worse, I THEN realized that I need 22 seconds to become the third fastest woman... Goals. It's all about goals :) Good thing that Santa brought us some wind tunnel time.

Mike started a Junior Development team this year, and I helped. I think this is one of the greatest accomplishments of the year, at least for me. What started out as 2-3 kids who wanted nothing more than to ride together, turned into a team of 10 who trained together weekly, raced together and have really bonded. Despite some issues staying upright (and two concussions), the team had a very successful year on the road, and then transitioned to 'cross - something NONE of the kids had done before! Thanks to generous donations from NEBC members and Mike's time and know-how, we managed to get 5 bikes out to the kids and they raced full seasons, falling in love with the sport that Mike and I love so much. I'm very much looking forward to next season with the team, and hoping we can all manage to keep the rubber side down.

I ended my tenure as president of NEBC. Since 2005 I have been the Women's 3/4 team captain, a BOD member and president. It was time for me to move aside for someone new to bring their ideas to the table. Part of me was sad to let go of something that I poured a lot of time, energy and passion into, but it was the right decision.

We added a new room to the house - a three season sun room. We're really excited about being able to use the room next year - it got a bit too chilly for us to use it this year after it was finished.

And then there was the 'cross season. I had some highs and some lows during a "scaled back" season of 22 races. The lows included some less than stellar performances in the Verge races this season (the competition was tough, and my head wasn't in the game). While it was fun to see my friends every weekend, I just couldn't motivate myself in those races. I did have some success in the smaller races, including my best performances of the year in Canton and Plymouth (despite nearly crashing spectacularly). 

The biggest success for me, however, came in racing my SS CX bike. I had a win and a couple of other podiums in the Zanconato SSCX series, and ended up winning the women's series outright at the Ice Weasels (despite being told by someone that I was taking the race too seriously). The series win was followed up the next weekend at the New England Regional Championships where I took the Women's SS CX title. The season was long (we started racing CX in August this year, and went all the way through the weekend before Christmas), and again, part of me is sad that it is over - I miss my friends from CX, and in a way, the routine of racing every weekend. Again, looking ahead to next year.

And by far the biggest accomplishment of 2011 at our house was becoming debt free :)

I am really looking forward to 2012 - lots of goals to achieve and adventures to be had. For the past couple of years, I have really not been excited about racing my bike, but now, with the season just barely put to rest, I am looking forward to and planning for the year ahead with great anticipation - the training, the racing, the camaraderie of my fellow cyclists, and the time spent with my favorite riding partner. I'm hoping for great things, but more importantly, fun times.

Wishing you and your families a very healthy, happy and adventurous 2012!

Friday, September 30, 2011

The CXers Are Coming, The CXers Are Coming!

And the British came too!
(this photo by Russ Campbell; podium photo by Michael Foley)

Wednesday night we ventured to the Lancaster Fairgrounds to kick off what has been dubbed the "Holy Week of Cyclocross" here in New England. The Midnight Ride of Cyclocross would be the first in a series of 6 races over an 11 day period - Gloucester, Night Weasels and Providence would round out the "Holy Week".

This race marked the second in the Zanconato Single Speed series as well, so Mike and I decided those were the races we would do. I really wanted no part of lining up with the likes of Helen Wyman (British National CX champ), Gabriella Day, Mo Bruno-Roy and other REALLY fast women. Instead, I took the line with 49 of my SS friends (sadly, there were only 3 of us women) to blast away for 45 minutes with only one gear.

Prior to the race start there was much discussion amongst competitors about gearing choices. I laughed when Cort C. asked what gear I was running. Those of you who know me know that I don't pay ANY attention to those details - I simply ride what Mike puts on my bike. Cort laughed at that, and then agreed with me that zip-ties on a geared bike to limit to a SS was actually cheating. The people doing that had the opportunity to find the right gear for the course on the pre-ride, and then quickly zip tie their shifters into their selected gear. It's much harder to change out cogs than it is to zip tie a shifter - just sayin'.

I really liked that the promoters of this race staged the women SS racers amongst the men. I had reservations about this at first, but it turned out to be a big benefit as I had people with whom to race the entire time. Because of my points and being pre-reg'd for the race, I managed to be in about the 6th row starting out, allowing me a good opportunity to move up on the start whistle, and then to quickly get passed by some stronger men who had the misfortune of being staged behind me ;). The first twists and turns on lap one were a cluster - being so far back, there was a lot of braking, jostling and wistfully watching the front of the race maneuver seamlessly about 3-4 turns ahead of us.

I settled in, closely watching the other women competitors through the twists and turns. When I came through and saw 3 laps to go, I quite literally told myself that meant that I only had two - I was FULLY expecting to be lapped by the front runners of the men's race, as I had been at Quad. By that lap, I was attached to teammate Mark L. and a "Dr. Gonzo" racer (that's what was printed on his butt, which is all I saw). They rode smoothly, gapping me off in some corners and on the uphills, but I chased and could catch back on on the flats and power sections.

Going into the penultimate lap, I figured this was my last go round, but I was still with Mark and Dr. Gonzo. I had paid attention in the previous lap, and was able now to stay with them in the corners, pedaling through instead of coasting and sprinting. And then they slowed down. It became obvious that Dr. Gonzo was drafting to conserve energy, and I couldn't get around both of the riders. When Dr. Gonzo finally passed Mark just before the barriers, I shouted at him to hop on Gonzo's wheel and stick to it. That got me the evil glare from Dr. Gonzo, and he stepped on the gas to open an insurmountable gap.

Mark cramped at that point, and I left him to chase the racers ahead. Suddenly, I could see the race leaders on the course behind, and I literally talked myself through the latter part of the lap - spectators on the course probably wondered who the crazy lady was as "Don't get lapped" "Don't let Curtis lap you" "C'mon Cathy, go, go, go" came out of my mouth (in pants) as I desperately tried to NOT get lapped by Curtis, or any of the other leaders.

Curtis was coming, I stepped on the gas. I needed to ride the technical hill section cleanly to stay ahead. As I sprinted towards the start/finish, I checked under my arm to see where Curtis was, and pumped my fist when I realized that I really was going to finish on the lead lap! Wahoo!

I just needed to ride one more lap, and to ride it clean. I did get passed by the last racer on the course who wasn't lapped, shouted at the Elite men who were warming up that I WAS still racing, and finished off the race ecstatic - I had won the women's SS race, and I DID NOT GET LAPPED by Curtis! Success!

It hurt. It was hard. But it was oh so much fun. I don't think I've had that much fun racing my bike in a long time! So excited that this series is in place. Of course, now there is a giant sucking sound as I look at results and realize that I might need to do more of these races than originally planned to defend my position - maybe that was the intent ;).

Monday, September 12, 2011

Time for Some 'Cross Racing!

I'll admit that my excitement for racing this year has been pretty hard to muster. There have been only a handful of road races, and a few more MTB races - down a significant number from previous years. I have been riding, but the racing just wasn't doing it for me.

But, it's "fall", and that means 'cross. And I am finally excited again about the prospect of getting out and racing! I love this time of year, and I love the feeling of a just finished cross race - knowing that I have gone out, and laid it all on the line for 40 minutes.

Two weeks ago, Mike and I headed out to Monson for our season opener in advance of the pending hurricane. The forecast was for overcast skies and humid temps, but no rain until late in the afternoon. On pre-riding the course I was VERY excited about the changes from the previous year - no more "I'm-gonna-poop-my-pants" downhill followed directly by the "I'm -going-to-have-a-heart-attack" climb. I liked the changes in general, though the laps were going to be on the short side.

Mike's race was first, and he had a demon or two to tame on this course over last year ;). He raced really well, quickly catching the 1/2/3 field that started 10 seconds ahead of him, and getting through most of them. I'm never sure which one of us is more excited about him having a good finish, but his reaction on crossing the line showed that he was pretty excited about his win - as was I.

I went off after his race to get ready, and Mike took the juniors out on the course for a preview. We were all racing at the same time, which was going to be - um - interesting. As we stood ready to race, the beginnings of the rain started, and it POURED. So much for the rain holding off until AFTER our race! The rain made the course conditions much more challenging - what had been dry for Mike's races was now mud-riddled and sloggy for us. The poor conditions, in addition to witnessing a junior racer (thankfully, not one of ours) introduce his face to a chain link fence made me race tentatively - not a good approach, and something I needed to work on. I wasn't entirely happy with my performance, but I looked at the race as an opener for the season.

Mike and I pre-reg'd last week for the upcoming Quadcross race, and I started obsessing. I checked start lists, and I checked them again. I looked at the race predictor. Then I started "freaking out" (in my friend Vicki's words) about the race. In fact, Vicki and I went back and forth a bit, and it was through those interactions that I realized I was being dumb. So much of racing is mental, and I needed to give myself a swift kick in the back end to realize that I have the engine - I needed to WANT it. So, I changed my attitude - I wanted to race. I was going to go hard. I was going to be aggressive. I WASN'T going to give in to self-doubt and self-talk. This is MY season!

So, after remembering how to pack the car for two people racing a day of 'cross, we headed off to Quadcross. In year's past, this has been held in Bedford - entirely convenient for us to roll out of bed and over to the venue! Unfortunately, a new venue had to be used this year and we had to drive all the way to *gasp* Maynard :). The venue was spectacular, and I have to say, the course was A LOT of fun.

The combined Women's 1/2/3, 3/4 and 3/4 Master's 40+ fields had 85 racers! That is A LOT of women out enjoying one of the most fun cycling disciplines you can find. It was also fun to see so many NEBC women on the line (11 in total). Because the Master's women were lined up BEHIND the 3/4 women, and starting at the same time, a good start was going to be essential. Unfortunately, I found myself suddenly behind a woman on an MTB who needed to borrow a t-shirt to wear under her sleeveless jersey! YIKES! That aside, I tore up the left side as hard as I could on the start, and made good headway through the field ahead. Then it was a matter of being smart and getting through as much traffic as possible, as quickly as possible.

It was confusing to know just who from my field was ahead of me - Andrea from CCB passed, as did Michele and a racer I didn't know. I figured that meant that I was sitting in about 4th place. I continued to push hard through the whole race, and at the finish, expected that I had ended up about 6th or so (ironically, where said I would be). Turned out I missed the Cycle Lodge women having a better start than I did! I ended up 7th, but ahead of some fast women I typically don't (or am lucky to) beat. I was really happy with the way I raced.

Instead of changing, having some food (and a beer), and taking in the aura of a 'cross race, I spent the next couple of hours on my feet - first watching our juniors experience the wonderful world of pain that is cyclocross, and then watching Mike's oh-so-competitive Master's 1/2/3 35+ race. Mike had a terrific race, finishing in 5th place! Of course in that time, there was also some socializing and running back and forth. I'm pretty sure that all of that was good prep for the coming SS race later in the afternoon ...

Yes - for some reason we decided that racing a SECOND time, on the SS bikes would be a good idea. There is a real SS series happening this year (though I think zip tied shifters are cheating) - 6 races with a raffle for a custom Zanconato frame at the end of the season. What's not to love about racing SS 'cross bikes?

Unfortunately, the standing, running, lack of eating and hydration and the almost 4 hours between races was enough to put me in a bad place - massive dehydration headache and legs that were shouting "ARE YOU CRAZY?" on my pre-ride lap. Of course, I shouted back "STFU legs!" and went out to race anyway. A good number of men lined up, but only 3 women, so the officials set us off about 15 seconds behind them. Like my previous race, I went out hard, trying to distance myself from the other two women. The defining moment came on the second uphill on the course - Cait rode it, and I had to run. Poo. I managed to stick with her for awhile, but then my legs stopped listening when I told them to STFU, and they started screaming back. I did finally manage to ride that uphill (screw you, legs!) for the final three laps, but it was too late - couldn't catch Cait.

I did get lapped by a bunch of the men, including Mike. I was surprised not to see him near the front of the race, but when he went by, he let me know that his chain kept popping off. He needs to fire his mechanic :). After arriving at the race venue at 8:30 in the morning, racing two races, catching up with the 'cross family, downing one beer at the end of the day, and collecting some sweet coffee schwag for the SS race, it was time to finally head home - after 5 pm! It was a long day, but I am SO PUMPED now for the rest of the season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I have been participating in the CBTT (Charlie Baker Time Trial) since 2005, and have made significant time improvements over the years I have been racing - some as a result of coughing up for all the right equipment, but also through some hard work.

Last week, I rode from the house over to the event, as usual, and felt like absolute poo. I had raced a VERY muddy and wet MTB race the Sunday before (that took over 3 hours due to miserable conditions and a rear wheel that wouldn't turn on it's own), and had ridden reasonably hard with our junior development team the night prior. I figured that this was just not my night, and accepted that. The excuses were flowing fast and furious before I even started!

Heading out on the first leg of the loop (it's a 9.75 mile course with all right hand turns and one climb), I felt good, and was surprised to see speeds in the 27 to 30 mph range without feeling as if I was killing myself. I know that those speeds are high, and I backed off just a bit, worried that I wouldn't have anything left on the backside [hilly] part of the course if I went all out here. I assumed that I was riding with a major tailwind and would wind up paying later.

Mike started 30 seconds behind me, and I was surprised at how long it took him to catch me. When he did go by, I made it a goal to see how long I could keep him in sight, knowing he would soon be gone. I maintained visual contact all through the second leg of the course (woohoo!). As we made the right turn onto the final leg, I was very surprised to find myself closing the gap between us. Um - now what do I do? I shouldn't be passing him back - just not possible! But, pass him I did. And then I floored it to see if I could maintain my position.

I crossed the finish line in 23:03 - 14 seconds FASTER than my previous PR set last year!!! That equates to a 25.4 mph average speed. I am, of course, excited about the new PR, but also a bit disappointed that I couldn't find the extra 4 seconds needed to break into the 22 minute range. This is why I keep going BACK to the stupid TT! I also did a search of faster times over the years. There are now only 4 women faster than me, and 3 of them are professional triathletes with Ironman wins and a World Championship, and the other is an Olympic cycling hopeful for 2012! Not bad company, I'd say.

Tonight - the MTB TT championship!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Never Say Never Again

After my last experience racing on the road this year, I said I was done. That was it - no more for me, thank you very much. Those of you who have hung out in this black hole of a blog for any time may remember that I have a bit of an issue with NOT racing whatever I decide it is I've had it with - this year road racing, last year, MTB racing (but I've NEVER quit 'cross - that would be crazy!).

All that said, I really like the Norwell race, and have done it a couple of times in the past with the Master's 45+ men (before they re-introduced a women's field). I debated a bit about registering though - I planned to ride the Fundo (64 miles and almost 5000 ft of climbing) the day before, and wasn't sure how the legs would hold up. The early morning start was also unattractive after getting up early for the Fundo. I briefly considered racing with the Master men again given their later start, but figured with so many teammates heading to the early women's race, I needed to be a team player :).

At the pre-race meeting, Juliane asked what everyone's goals were. Mine was simple - hang in. My legs felt like lead on the pre-ride, and 9 times up the finish hill after the previous days' effort was certain to hurt - A LOT. Jackie was more direct though - she wanted to win. I told her I would help if I could.

The race started out steadily enough, but with some suspicious bike handling by a few riders. We had a couple of strong women who tried attacking downhill - something I have learned (the hard way) never works. They must have learned it too, because I think they wore themselves out.

The first time a break went up the road, it was launched on the finish hill - the perfect place for it. We could see that group for a long time, and it was pretty easy to tell that they weren't working together. With a little effort from various racers, we managed to catch them. I did think it was funny that one racer said "C'mon - let's catch them. Just one more hard effort", but never put in an effort on the front herself...

The next time up the finish hill, though, another small break formed with three riders, including Jackie (again). After telling another NEBC racer NOT to chase her teammate, I sat on the front for a bit, literally sitting up (and no one trying to go around me, which I thought odd), and let the group of three get a good sized gap. Then, it was just a matter of defending. The chase group was made up of 6 racers, with 3 of us from NEBC. At this point, my goal was to sit second wheel and not do any work to bring back the break. Now, we were racing for 4th place!

The tactics worked perfectly. At one point, another racer (and NEBC member, but racing for another team) tried to wave me through, but I was having none of it given that I had a teammate up the road. She and another racer did try to work together for a time, but they couldn't shake any of the NEBC women :).

In the final lap, I found myself on the front of our group (not where I wanted to be or should have been, but I drifted there climbing the hill). As we descended the hill on the backside, teammate Lisa L. was there, and I jumped on her wheel. I told her that she needed to go as hard as she could despite being tired. Lisa pulled like crazy along the false flat leading to the finish (later commenting that she felt like a sled dog with me calling mush!), delivering our group to the base of the final climb. I started the sprint, and was happy to see Julianne take the field sprint for 4th, and Elizabeth finish 7th. After all of the work, I was happy with the 9th place finish, and excited that after the previous days' effort, my legs held up for the team.

There was real racing happening in this field. Constant attacks and perfect team tactics. I might have even had some fun racing my road bike, but we'll keep that just between us :).

Monday, May 16, 2011

No More Paying to Ride in Circles

I have been racing my bike for well over a decade. While I started out racing on the dirt, I soon discovered time trials and road racing, and then the vortex that is cyclocross. And I loved it all. The more races the better - I was having a blast!

This year, however, my enthusiasm to race is less. I still LOVE to ride my bike, but the racing is not as exciting to me. In fact, after my experiences racing on the road this season, I believe I am done with that discipline. Paying money to go and ride around in circles with other women at 15-16 mph, just to see who can outsprint whom at the finish, is not racing to me. I'll have no more part of it.

You see, I lack patience. In my first race of the season, I attacked, attacked again, and attacked some more. Each time, every one of the women in the field came with me, and then, when I pulled off the front, settled in to a 16 mph pace. In that race, myself and a teammate did the bulk of the time on the front of the field, trying to animate the race. I finally gave up and did what everyone else was doing - sat in and waited to race in the final half mile. I ended up on the podium, but didn't feel good about it.

This past weekend, it was more of the same negative racing. Really, if all you intend to do in a race is sit in the field for 20 or 30 miles, comment on how we must be having a coffee break now or what a great group ride this is, and then sprint at the end - what have you accomplished? Why not just have a 5 minute sprint race? Why waste all the rest of the time?

So, with my lack of patience rearing its ugly head again on the weekend, as we rode along at 15.5 mph, I muttered, "Seriously?", and then laid down an attack - ramping the speeds up into the 20+ mph range. Of course, the entire field marked the attack, and proceeded to sit on my wheel. When I finally gave up, the counter attack went and all of those "sitter-inners" went with it. Me? I got dropped, but I never felt bad; I knew that I had animated an otherwise boring ride around in circles.

I managed to catch back onto the group (thanks in part to the field being neutralized, but also in part to their speed vs. mine) and heard "Well, we won't catch them." I also heard the coffee break comment - from someone who never once put their wheel in the wind, never once tried to make it a race. If you are going to sit in and suck wheel, you have NO RIGHT to complain about the pace of the race - it's within your control to change. Don't wait for/expect someone else to do it! There were only 2 women in the main field who legitimately shouldn't have been working - they had teammates in a break up the road. The rest of the field, however, shouldn't have let one of those two set the pace at 15 mph...

My lack of patience got the best of me again at the finish - I jumped too early and dragged at least 3 of the "sitter-inners" with me, getting bested by them at the line. Yes, I know that part of racing is tactics - I've been racing long enough to know that and to understand how to make them work. But how did all of these women end up with the mentality that they would just sit in and sprint at the finish????

I think I'll switch my focus away from the road for now. The frustration level for me is just too high. Instead, I'll do what I do best - TT and MTB through the summer seasons, and cross in the fall. Those disciplines let me race - REALLY race. There is no hiding or sitting in, and I can truly feel good about my results. The effort is hard for the ENTIRE race, not just the final 200 meters.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's Mud In Your Eye

It's 4 days post race, and I'm still digging dirt out of my eyes. And the kit that I washed 4 times (plus one hosing outside) still has dirt in it, too.

I was reluctant to do this race - not because of the course, but because of the weather. Through the night prior, I could hear the rain hitting the skylight in the bedroom. It rained the entire way down to Taunton, and it was WET. It didn't help when the park ranger shared that the forecast was for a pretty good thunderstorm rolling through around 11 am - right when our race was to start. And did I mention that temps were in the low 40s? Not only was it wet, but it was also cold.

After some socializing, registering and getting kitted up, Mike and I went out to do some recon on the course. At that point, it wasn't raining, and the trails were in surprisingly good shape. Pre-race intel told me there were a lot of roots and a couple of bridges - wet roots are gross; wet bridges scare the pants off of me! I didn't think the roots were that bad, and after balking at the second bridge on the pre-ride and Mike MAKING me go back and clean it (he's good like that!), I was ready to roll.

We went back to the car for some last minute fueling and changing and that's when the skies opened. It was DEFINITELY going to be rainy, wet and slimy for our race - hooray!

On the start line, we all stood shivering - Pro women and Cat 1 women all together. We were already soaked through and hadn't yet turned over the pedals! I looked at Karin, whose lips were literally blue and wondered how on earth we were going to make it through 3 laps of this. And I felt a little bit guilty - I had talked my friend
Meg into upgrading (she won the Cat 2 race at Winding Trails by 7 minutes) and I was thinking of her aversion to racing in the rain to begin with, and now she was lined up for an extra lap of suffering (and kudos to her for finishing a strong 4th)!

I made the mistake of removing my glasses before the race, and putting them in my jacket, which I was leaving at the start line. The lenses were spotted with rain, and were fogging up on me making them pretty much useless. I decided it would be best to race without them - a decision I would come to regret less than 5 minutes into the race!

On the whistle it was a mad sprint up the pavement to try and beat the chaos into the woods. I managed to get in right behind the pros, Karin and a couple of younger Cat 1s, with several racers still behind me. The initial pace was fast and furious and before I knew it, I was following those in front, digging mud out of my eyes, and riding over both the bridges that I had not really liked on the pre-ride. Thankfully, I didn't get caught out - behind, I could hear someone miss the entrance to the second bridge, holding up the riders behind. I was now in the front group, with just Rachel in my category ahead of me.

I chased Rachel for quite awhile - slipping my tires on a climb I had made on the pre-ride, and being forced off the bike. This opened a gap that I was having trouble closing. Soon, I came upon Rachel on the side of the trail. I asked if she was ok, but kept riding. She chased on, and on the next technical climb, passed me again. I could see her for the remainder of the lap, but after missing the dreaded bridge on the second lap, she got away, never to be seen again.
At that point, I almost shut it down - I just didn't want it bad enough.

Fortunately, every time I looked behind me, I could see Michelle P. - not quite close enough to catch, but close enough that it made me uncomfortable, and I went just a bit harder, even though she wasn't in my category! That got me through the second lap of the race, at which point, I lost sight of Michelle as well.

The third lap was pure misery. I was cold and the course had turned into a giant power-sucking mud pit. The hills were now all runs as traction was gone on all but the most impossible of lines. I had no one in front, and no one I could see behind. About 5 miles from the finish, I heard the dreaded sound of a stick in my derailleur. Oh no! After looking down, I heard and saw the stick dislodge, and figured that someone was smiling down on me. Walking the final 5 miles would have been more misery than I could have managed!

Unfortunately, I now only had about 4 gears with which to work. I figured that either the stick had tweaked something in the derailleur or the hanger, or that the mud had caked into the drive train badly enough to ensure that shifting was now pretty much out of the question. I got a clean line down the treacherous "point and shoot" mud chute, and spun what gears I had as best I could on the remaining flat/downhill sections.

As I came into the final 2 run-ups of the course I caught a glimpse of a racer coming up from behind - NO! At this point, I was absolutely NOT getting caught. I had two near perfect cross remounts, and pushed as hard as I was able to cross the finish line in 2nd place. The advertised 21.3 mile race was actually almost 25 miles and over 2.5 hours.

Mike met me at the finish, and saw that about 2" of my free-loading stick was still stuck in my derailleur, having broken the jockey pulley! It was luck that I didn't completely shatter it during the race!

Then it was back to the car to try to get warm and clean-ish before heading home. Not only did I have dirt in places no one should EVER have dirt, but I learned that the reason I couldn't get anything to drink from my Camelbak was because it had leaked - my legs were dyed blue! With the weather conditions, I didn't even notice...

Was it fun? Well, I'm sick now and cleaning up was a disaster. The race itself was an exercise in suffering. But it makes a good story, and left a lasting impression on my eyes ;)

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Fought the Demons - And I Won!

It was a hard fought battle!

Racing is supposed to be fun. We don't get paid to go out on the weekends and ride around as hard as we can for 2+ hours, so it should be fun. Right? Then how come this race got in my head so badly, making the nerves and anxiety what I remember most?

I like the Winding Trails course a lot, and was really looking forward to this race - especially after a really good solo MTB ride during the week prior. I had heard about changes to the course, and on pre-riding, determined that they were for the better - more twisty windy singletrack, but even fewer places to recover. It was going to be an all out sufferfest for sure.

The nerves and anxiety started on the line. I have always done well at this venue - winning twice, and finishing second one other time. I looked around at the women in the Cat 1 field, and was suddenly intimidated. What if I didn't do as well this year? My nemesis, Sue L was here - I can't beat her, was what I told myself (in my defense, the last time Sue raced here she beat all of the Cat 1 and Pro women, and put 11 minutes into my time). I wasn't where I wanted to be on the start line. It was going to be tough, and the mental demons were waging a war that they were intent on winning.

Thankfully, on the whistle, the demons quieted their war temporarily - enough for me to focus on getting a good position going into the singletrack. Oddly, as the first woman on the trail endoed on the log in front of me, cursed like a sailor, and then cut me off as she got back on her bike, it was me telling her that she needed to be calm. Me - 1; Demons - 0.

With only two young'uns off in front of me the first lap, I went hard. Too hard (and I knew it). Approaching the finish of the first lap, I knew that Sue was gaining on me. Then, she passed me, and I couldn't counter. I had gone out too hard for the first lap, and it wasn't going to be sustainable for another 3. I watched her ride away, and never saw her again. Me - 1; Demons - 1.

I pressed on in the second lap and was surprised to be passed by another racer late in the lap. I was now in 3rd place. Me - 1; Demons - 2. This wouldn't do. I had resigned myself to 2nd place before the race even started, but I was intent on NOT finishing 3rd! I got my head back into the race, and out of the war to chase her down and pass her back. Me - 2; Demons - 2.

Despite lapping traffic (including causing Mike to bobble and slow as he tried to get by me - never a good thing to get in the way of your spouse ;)), I managed to stay in front of the remainder of the women for the rest of the race (although in the final lap, I could certainly see people gaining, and had to put in an extra effort to maintain my position). I crossed the line in 2nd place - goal achieved! Me - 3; Demons - 2. Sue bested me by 6 minutes (hey - this is an improvement!), and I managed to hold off the next woman in my field by a mere 32 seconds. It was a victory with a slim margin, but I would take it.

In the battle of me vs. the demons, it appears that I won ;).

Friday, April 15, 2011

Finding Zen

I had a long day in the office, I was cranky, and the last thing I wanted to do was ride my bike. Add that my trusty riding companions couldn't join me, and I was even less motivated ('cause I REALLY didn't want to go and suffer with the boys!). There was a time when any one of those would have kept me indoors - especially the thought of going out and riding in the woods alone.

I still suited up, strapped on the helmet, grabbed the bike, and went out the door, fully expecting I would ride just for an hour or so - enough to say I had done it.

But once I was on the bike, and finally into the woods, things changed. It was quiet - just me and the bike. I focused not on the results of the day or the week, but on the trail stretched out before me - leading me further into the woods. The bike wanted to ride, and who was I to hold it back?

I became one with the bike - floating over the rocks and roots, nailing the turns, clicking, shifting and pedaling without thinking. I was savoring the woods - I didn't hear the traffic, and was only interrupted from my zen-like state a few times, while passing other riders out for the same reason. A quick hello, and we passed, each off to continue to get the most out of the ride.

I cleaned the Smash Your Hooch trail from end to end, and let out a small whoop of joy. I smiled as I rode the Gravity Cavity, past the Mini Mangler, across the Bridge Too Far, both directions on the Refrigerator Door trail. I was muddy and I was happy, and grinning while I rode.

As the sun finally started to dip, I heard in my head the voice of my mother from my childhood. "You need to come in. It's getting dark out." So I did what every good kid in the same situation would have done - rode one more trail, just because, and then took the long way home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When the Cat's Away...

OK. So the cats stayed home and Mike and I went away. But, I specifically told them both that they were to be NO PARTIES while we were gone, and that if there were, we would find out about it. Apparently, they weren't listening, or thought the consequences wouldn't be too harsh...

Sure enough, we received the photographic evidence of their shennanigans. But how can you stay angry at such cute kittens? And who among us hasn't tried the same thing at one time or another?

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

One of my all time favorite April Fools jokes growing up was to get up early, and then tell my little brother that it had snowed overnight. I'm not sure why, but every year when I said this, he would get up and look out the window, and I would yell "April Fool"! He didn't think it was funny.

This morning, I don't think it's funny either. The overnight storm waffled an apple tree in the backyard as well as dislodging a huge limb from a maple tree that just missed a fence.

Enough already - this really isn't funny!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie Day

I officially declare today to be Lemon Meringue Pie Day!

This was my brother's favorite dessert, and today, he should have turned 40. I should be calling him, giving him a VERY HARD time about getting old, and turning the big 4-0. He should be replying that I'll always be older (true!), and twisting the tables by commenting on my gray hair ;).

Instead, I celebrate his birthday eating his favorite dessert, and remembering all of the good times we shared. The pie, and the memories, are both delicious.

Happy 40th Brad!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Turn It Off!

Don't get me wrong - I love snow. Earlier this winter, I was chastising people for complaining about the snow - it's winter in New England after all. But, even I have almost had enough. Every Wednesday we get another foot or more of snow! I'm fine with it, but when I have to shovel the snowbanks in preparation for the next storm, or help lug the snow blower onto the roof, it's really a bit much.

Here are some scenes from today's snow - for my mom and dad who are in sunny, snow-less Florida...

From the front of the house to the street, and back

The neighbor's driveway - his car barely fits in the opening

The front walkway and yard - we shoveled those banks yesterday to make room for today's snow.

Mike has shoveled the roof multiple times, but still there is ice - and snow.

The narrow tunnel that is our street; today's accumulation on the grill