Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to Reflect

We're in between holidays, and quickly approaching the end of the year. Seems to me like an appropriate time to reflect, once again, on the year gone by. And it's been a doozy!

Notchfest 1 - March
While early 2011 saw us spending a lot of quality time out on the skinny skis in the snow, 2012 wasn't kind to us in the snowfall category. In fact, the brand new snowblower, generator and skate skis sat dormant all winter long. Season passes to Weston went virtually unused (we did get out twice). So, instead we rode. A lot. In fact, Mike started a streak of riding that has continued through the year - every day on the bike. We're about to bid adieu to 2012, and he's still on the bike daily, even in a foot of snow. I'm proud of him for that accomplishment, his dedication and drive! And me? More miles this year than in any so far. Not too shabby.

There was also a lot of change at our house this past year. Mike won the work lottery in January, and was laid off from his long time position working for "the man". He took some much needed time off, and spent it working around the house on various projects that had taken a backseat to working, riding and racing - a new mantle for the fireplace, all new cabinets in the workshop, a new leaf for the dining room table, painting, installing a chimney cap, and LOTS of outdoor work as well as all of the regular household chores (yup - groceries, cleaning and laundry!). The house and yard look fantastic. In June that came to an end when he took a new job. The good news is that it is in Bedford. The bad news is that it is a job. I miss my happy house husband - maybe 2013 will bring him back :).

I also made a job change this year. Early in the year I recognized that while I had learned a significant amount in my time at Harvard, the job wasn't really what I wanted to do. I woke up one morning and realized that I had become a Software Development Project Manager - not something I know much about, nor had a passion to continue doing. I have since returned to a contracting company I used to work for, and am contracted back to the Learning and Development group at HP - it's like putting on a comfortable pair of old slippers going back, working with the same people and processes. Working from home 100% is also a huge benefit - I don't think that I could ever return to having a commute. Plus, where would Opie and Ellie sit?

As I think about how quickly the time has gone by this year, I am reminded of my beloved grandma, whom I lost in May. It was a running joke with us about where the time went. I have missed her a lot this year, and will continue to. She was a very special person in my life, and I am very lucky to have such a well of fond memories on which to draw. This was the first holiday season without her, and I missed her terribly.

We did get to spend some quality time with our families this year as well. In January, I visited my mom and dad in Florida for a few days of warm and sun. My mom turned 65 this year, and I went up to Canada for a surprise visit (all planned by my dad and I). Somehow, we even managed a complete surprise party for her! Then, in the summer, my mom and dad and niece came to visit us for the better part of the week. We had a great time seeing the sights and just enjoying each other's company. I don't get to see my niece as often as I would like, so our time together is always special. Mom and dad came to visit again at Thanksgiving - celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary by staying at the Governor Bradford in Plymouth where they honeymooned! We also celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas before they left again for the warmer climate of Florida for the winter.

Grafton MTB Race
The road and MTB race seasons for me were pretty short and non-descript. I only competed in two road races - Battenkill and Sunapee. I haven't decided yet if I will do ANY road racing next season - I really didn't miss it. I did do a few more MTB races, and had a great time. The competition in the W Cat 1 35+ category has become pretty stiff, and I'm going to have to up my game some for next season, especially with Nationals coming to Pennsylvania...

The primary racing focus for both of us this year, though, was on cross. And what a season it was! Reducing the amount of racing we did early in the year meant that we went into the cross season fresh, and looking forward to racing. I finished up the season with 29 races (Mike had 33) - a personal record. The best news was that I didn't burn out this year. Typically, I get to early November and am tired. Not this year! I was still excited about racing just the week before Christmas!

Green Mountain Race Leaders
Photo: Vicki Thomas
Thinking back on my season, it's hard to pinpoint specific highlights - there were so many! I finally found my way well into the top 10 of the big (Verge and Shimano) races this season. Though I saw mixed results, racing with the leaders (and, in the case of NoHo, actually LEADING the race) was a huge improvement for me over years past. I gained a lot of confidence through the season, and realized that I DID deserve to be there, and had what it took. The support of the other women was tremendous, but the support from Mike was really key. It took some stern comments from him for me to see myself as a top level racer.

Together, Mike and I raced the entire Zanconato SSCX series, with the exception of only two last minute additions that conflicted with the Downeast Verge weekend. While the competition is equally as fierce in these races as in the bigger series races, the atmosphere is also more low key and friendly. For me, there was also some tough competition this year - Katina W from NY came out and did all of the races, winning all but one. Kerry L took up racing SSCX this season, and we went back and forth in several races. I also managed to convince Allison S to race SSCX on more than one occasion, and hooked yet another competitor into the field. It's awesome to see this series growing. At the end of the series, Mike and I both ended up in second place overall, with spiffy trophies to show for our efforts.

A win at Providence
We also raced the entire Verge and Shimano series. Mike had a stellar year with multiple wins and podiums throughout the season. In some cases, I think I was more excited and emotional than he was! I cried tears of joy at Gloucester when he finished 2nd on the first day, and was over-joyed when he WON the second day. Watching him was inspiring, but also induced some pretty good heart palpitations on occasion :). I am so excited that all of his hard work and dedication paid off, and am very proud of his accomplishments.

Keeping good company at Regionals
If I had to pinpoint one highlight race of the season for me, it would have to be the New England Regionals. I registered for the Women's 45+ race alongside a field of elite racers, world champions and national champions. Looking at the start list of 8, I figured that I would finish about 6th (and, in fact, that's where the Race Predictor had me finishing). After a stern lecture from Mike about my attitude and him telling me that I COULD, in fact, beat some of the people in my field, I lined up ready to race. It was a good course for me - lots of power sections and not too technical, but just enough to keep everyone on their toes. I started well, and found myself in a small group, having caught both my teammate Kathy, and Katina (my nemesis on the SSCX scene). Soon, I couldn't see Kathy, but could see my good friend Michele and my other teammate Karen ahead of me. I worked on making time wherever I could, eventually passing Karen, and Michele (she bobbled in the sand, and I got around her). In the final lap, I knew that I was sitting solidly in 3rd place, and could still see Katina just ahead of me. Unlike other races, I never looked back (knowing full well that Michele was close behind), but focused instead on closing the gap in front. The finish came down to a sprint between Michele and I, but I was determined not to lose my podium spot, and Mike was yelling like crazy for me to keep going. For the first time in a couple of years, I finished ahead of Michele. I also finished ahead of my teammates (something that hasn't happened since at least 2009), and only 9 seconds behind Katina. It was a good day - no, a GREAT day for me on the bike, and the highlight of my season.

I would be remiss in mentioning that I couldn't do ANY of what I do without Mike. He is my fellow adventurer, cheerleader, motivator, coach, mechanic, soigneur and most importantly, my best friend. Thank you for all that you do, and for sharing this year with me.

Now, we're enjoying some down time after the busy holiday rush. There is snow up in Bethel, and we are taking advantage - snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling. Mike is still out on his bike - today marks his 366th straight day of riding.  My bike is here, but I'm taking a bit of a break for now.

It's definitely been a full year, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead and what adventures it will bring our way. I hope that you and your families have also had a good year, and that the year ahead brings much joy and happiness to all.

Farewell, 2012, and Happy New Year!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Playing in the Mud

Yes, that's Plymouth Rock in the background
 With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's always a good time to visit Plymouth. OK - so typically all we get to see is the race venue, but it's still fun to go and visit!

The Mayflower II
To this point in the season, Mike had already done 10 weekends of double races (I skipped Providence, so had 9), and we were getting a bit race weary. Thus, we decided on just one day of racing at Plymouth this year.

Due to construction, the race course was starting from the Middle School instead of the usual high school. I liked the new venue - it afforded better viewing opportunities for spectators, and easier access to the course. I was also excited about the weather - it was sunny, not too warm or cold, and dry. Or was it? When we arrived, we got the lowdown on the race from some friends, including a warning about the "ankle deep" mud run. "How bad could it be?", I wondered... BAD is the answer!

Ankle deep, shoe sucking mud
I went out for a pre-ride and LOVED the course. Complete sections were redesigned from years past, and the course was more of a technical challenge with lots of off camber ups and downs, a nerve-wracking downhill into a VERY sharp, sandy corner and lots of power sections sprinkled throughout. And of course, the mud. I opted not to pre-ride that section of the course, but did get a look at the entry - just not a close enough look at the actual run up.

I had another infamously BAD start. I think there are two reasons for this: 1 - I have two pairs of shoes and I believe the cleats need repositioning on the mud pair; 2 - I am afraid. Yup - fear. The start at Plymouth was a long straight into a reasonably tight and fast corner, into another straight before a dog leg off the pavement to the left, and the entire thing was lined on both sides with metal fencing. I do not want to crash, and I have determined that I let this fear get the best of me...

Once we were onto the more challenging part of the course, however, I started to move ahead, first avoiding the pile up on the first uphill. Unlike some of the women in the field, I was able to cleanly ride all of the off camber up and downs (some were actually running these sections). Going into the mud section for the first time, I managed to enter with some pretty good speed, and carry my momentum all the way to the bottom of the hill - where it was a soup bowl. Literally ankle deep mud at the bottom, and every step up the hill had me worried about losing a shoe. It was definitely a slog.

I managed to progress pretty well through the race by keeping steady power. In the fourth lap, I caught and passed Melissa L - one of my main nemeses this season. I was pretty psyched about this, and given the gap I could see, knew that just riding clean would keep me ahead for the final lap of the race.

Once in the final lap, I also started catching Jessie D. She went into the mud pit, and I followed right on her wheel, but keeping the same line I had used the entire race - all the way to the right, where the branches were smacking me in the face. Suddenly, I heard the sound no one EVER wants to hear - a stick - in my bike. I stopped immediately, not wanting to rip my derailleur off. I quickly got off the bike and pulled the stick, and nothing. Then the panic set in - Jessie was going clear, and here came Melissa. Thankfully, I heard Gewilli calling out instructions, "Stay calm", "Get it clear, you have time." "Good. Now pick up the bike and RUN!". I am so grateful to him for keeping me calm in what was a pretty panicked situation!

Unfortunately, I was now chasing Melissa again, and given the gap, was unable to catch her before the finish. Still happy with the race though - except for the start and that darned stick :). I later told Bill S (the promoter) that this was the hardest Plymouth course I had raced - and we've been racing Plymouth for seven years now.

Sunday was a fun day of riding with the boys and eating WAY too much lasagna! It was nice not to have to pack up, get in the car, and travel somewhere to ride the bikes. At this point in the season though, a 3+ hour road ride just about killed me!

Looking forward to some more solid racing this weekend. Back to two days of fun on two wheels.

Cowboy Beans and Rice

Before adding the rice
This picture I posted on Facebook yesterday generated a lot of comments! Since the end result was delicious (proven out by the fact that there aren't any left overs), I thought I would share the recipe - both the original, and the changes I made to it.

The original version of this is good for vegetarians, but I wanted to add meat to it.

Prep: 15 minutes. Cook: 5 to 6 hours (low) or 2.5 to 3 hours (high), plus 30 minutes (high)

2 15 oz cans chili beans in chili gravy
     - subbed 1 21 oz can Bush's Texas Ranchero Grillin'Beans
1 15 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained - omitted
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained - used 2 15 oz cans
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped green pepper (1 medium)
3/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper (1 medium)
1 medium fresh jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped
     - subbed one 7.75 oz can Chi Chi's jalapenos, chopped
1 18 oz bottle barbecue sauce
     -  used one 18 oz bottle Sweet Baby Rays Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
1 cup vegetable broth - subbed 1 15 oz can beef broth
1 cup uncooked instant brown rice - used 3 cups uncooked instant white rice
Added: 3 lbs kielbasa sausage, sliced

  1. In a 5-6 quart slow cooker, combine all beans, onion, peppers, and jalapeno. Stir in BBQ sauce and broth. Also add the kielbasa.
  2. Cover and cook on low setting for 5-6 hours or on high for 2.5 to 3 hours.
  3. If using low heat setting, turn to high. Stir in uncooked rice. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or until rice is tender.
This recipe (with my modifications) fed 8 adults after a mountain bike ride :) Definitely something that I will make again.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Good to be True :)

So, once again I find myself behind on reporting on my races, but I have a good excuse this time - I was worried about jinxing myself! You see, unlike some people at my house, my results this season have been up and down. Having two good races in a weekend had been eluding me - I was often good on Saturday, and posting p*ss poor results on Sunday.

Happily, I have now had TWO good weekends of racing, with good races BOTH days! Hooray! What changed and made the difference? My recovery routine on Saturday was a big key change (I believe), and I also took another rest week (yes, Sara, that makes TWO!).

Canton Women's 1/2/3

Mike and I both really like the Canton race - it's close to home and the course definitely suits me well. Last year I raced in the 3/4 race in the morning, after having done a few years of racing in the 1/2/3 field. I had a tough season last year, and needed a good result to boost my confidence, and I got that in the Canton race. This year, I looked at both fields and opted to race in the 1/2/3 field instead, since many of my peers were racing there as well.

I had a front row start, along with 12 other women! The tight grid lines and the fact that the right side (where I was lined up) narrowed to the left soon after take off made me pretty nervous. There is pictorial evidence of what a BAD start I had, but I'm too embarrassed for anyone to see them! Thankfully, by the top of the pavement, I had moved myself back up into the top 10 or so, and settled into the paceline. This was a good course for me - fairly flat, lots of power and pedaling, smooth corners. the removall of the uphill barriers and the chicanes before the "run up" meant that the dismounts were down to just two per lap, both for barriers.

I moved up in the first lap, and quickly found myself well inside the top 10. A bobble by a rider in front of me on a small incline put me off the bike, letting two other racers pass me by. I quickly caught back onto one, and had my good friend Michele with me as well. Now it was a game of tactics - drafting and resting where possible, making good attacks. Of course, wanting to drive, I pulled just a bit too long such that when Michele went around me on the last lap, I didn't have the snap I needed to jump right back onto her wheel. She bested me in the end by just 2 seconds, but I was pretty pumped to finish 8th in a 1/2/3 race!

Orchard CX SS

As sunny and nice as the weather was on Saturday, we had the complete opposite on Sunday with Hurricane Sandy starting a bit earlier than predicted. We drove up to NH through mist, then rain, and back to mist on a cool, miserable day. I love the Orchard Cross race though - this is the third year of the race (it was canceled last year because of a freak snowstorm - guess the hurricane was slightly better), and the orchard welcomes us with open arms. It's really family friendly with a petting zoo, face painting, delicious apples, butternut squash bisque (I wait all year just for this soup!), and a costume race.

Jenn and Kristen
Teri aka Cupcake

We arrived early enough to watch the costume race, socialize, check out the course and partake in some yummy bisque. The SSCX race was the last of the day (note to promoters - can we mix this up a bit next year? It's no fun ALWAYS being the last race.) and I was trying to be careful about the amount of walking and standing I was doing. You see, I knew that I needed to get a recovery in between Saturday and Sunday if I was going to have a good performance - I had done the right things on Saturday, getting in a recovery drink right after the race, eating some food, spinning out the legs, and then resting. I was hoping this would pay off for me on Sunday.

By 3:30, the drizzle was still steady (not rain so much as a constant mist) and the course had some slick corners to it, but it wasn't terrible. I was excited to see about 7 women on the line for our race! I didn't get a good start (again), but was able to quickly move forward and sit about 4th wheel. Not too far into the first lap, Kerry went down in front of me. I managed to get around her, she passed me back, and then fell again later. I got around her a second time, and buried myself to try and stay ahead. I was able to put down some power on the flat sections, and could gap Allison who was sitting in 4th, but she could close the gap slightly in the tighter, twistier sections of the course. Thankfully, I managed to stay ahead, and finish on the podium in a strong group of women!

I was excited about the weekend's performances, but wasn't yet ready to go shouting from the rooftops. I wanted to see if I could get another good weekend in the books...

NoHo/CSI 1
Photo: Pete Banach
What the heck am I doing on the pointy end of the bike race?!?!?!?
I admit it - I've never been a huge fan of the Northampton races. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but it's just never been one of my favorite courses/weekends. But, after a second REAL rest week, I was actually feeling pretty good on Saturday morning. I pre-rode the course and was excited to know that the practicing we have been doing was paying dividends as I managed to rail the corners with little to no brakes. Much of the course was flat and fast, playing to my strengths. I was anxious to see how this would play out.

As we were standing waiting to be staged, I suddenly realized that for the first time in 7 years of CX racing, I had my number pinned on the wrong side! What a rookie move! Thankfully Don S. was on hand to re-pin me as we staged. Many thanks to him for that!

I somehow found myself staged in the front row. Remember that embarrassing start at Canton? I do! And I was really nervous about completely blowing it. Instead of letting any butterflies get off the ground though, I focused - I envisioned a smooth, fast start, finding my pedal and just going. And it worked! Before I knew it, I was sitting second, and then third wheel on the pavement! I was at the head of the bike race! Wait - what?!?!?!? Yup - before I knew what was happening, I was LEADING the race. I couldn't believe it! But I felt great.

Ahead of teammate Roni - for now.
As we came down off the top section of the course and over the railroad tracks, I found myself suddenly flying, weightlessly, no wheels touching the ground. I somehow managed to land that one and heard Christin exclaim, "That was AWESOME!" to which I wanted to reply, "I think I pooped my pants!" I continued in the lead to the barriers, where Mike admonished me for pulling in the wind. So, I settled in behind Christin who was soon admonished by Colin not to pull in the wind :). She looked at me and I replied, "I just got the same advice, girlfriend!". Eventually, I made my way to the back of our small group of about seven racers, and settled on Kathy's wheel. Unfortunately, in one of the corners Kathy had to brake check, I hit her rear wheel and proceeded to hit the deck. I quickly got back up and on the bike, but enough of a gap had opened that I had to chase HARD for the next two laps of the race.

I did manage to catch back onto the lead group finally, but by the time I did, I was pretty much done. I hung on to a tight finish - between first and eighth (where I ended up) was a mere 22 second gap. Now that's racing!

I followed my new post-race routine on Saturday to ensure that I wouldn't have a bad performance on Sunday, and cheered Mike on to a solid second place finish in his race.

NoHo/CSI 2

The course had some changes on day 2, some I thought were good, and others, not as much. I didn't care, for instance, for the hard right hand turn into a half spiral at the start. I knew that this was where the selection for the race would be made, and that for others, it would be a giant cluster.

I fretted more over my start on Sunday than I had on Saturday. It was going to be super important to have a good start, but I was lined up in the third row. That was going to make things harder. I can't put a finger on what else I had going on, but I was overly emotional at the start too, holding back tears a couple of times. This was going to be a harder day for me, I knew, before the whistle even blew.

I got quickly clipped into my pedals and had a decent start. I tried to move up on the far left, but most of the field had gone right (it was marginally shorter), and a number of people got by me. My line turned out to be a blessing, however, as I managed to avoid whoever had crashed on the right hand turn, quickly avoid the next crash on the left, jostle with other racers trying to stay upright, and focused only on finding a hole in the giant cluster of racers. Finally free, I put my head down and buried myself to try to minimize the spots I had lost. Looking ahead, however, I could see that my prediction was right - the leaders of the race had separated in the first section of mayhem, and the likelihood of catching was pretty minimal.

I chased up to and through a group of women, and this turned out to be my race - trading places with this group as we made our way around the course. In the end, a couple of them finished ahead of me, and I managed to stay ahead of some others. I was holding off a charging Abigail I. for much of the race only to be pipped at the line as the cub junior winner sat up in a victory salute in my sprint line, causing me to sit up. That's racing... Although I was disappointed that I hadn't made the initial selection, in the end I was happy with my race - I finished 14th overall and had a very smooth race. Most importantly, I was on par with my Saturday performance!

I have to say I am super proud of Mike as well. I was chasing his race around the course taking photos, and unlike the previous day when he and Paul had a significant gap on the field, there was a relatively large group on the front of his race. He drove to the front to push the pace, and to my surprise, the next thing I knew he was on the side of the course rolling his tire back onto the rim as several in his group passed him. I sprinted to the pit to get him his spare bike, and he HAMMERED the remainder of the race to still finish 7th. Not an easy task.

We had a blast hanging out with good friends and teammates all weekend as well. It was especially fun to catch up with Marc and Vicki, who we haven't gotten to see much of this season. It was at this very race in 2008 that I met Vicki and reconnected with Marc after not seeing him since our days together at UW.

In between all of the excellent racing, we got to celebrate my favorite holiday as well - Halloween! Now if I could just stop eating the leftover candy, I might be able to continue with some decent performances in the coming weeks.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Rules

Every year, there is grumbling from racers about other racers in the field. Typically, the grumbling is about people who are doing well in the field, and the fact that those people should upgrade or move to a different race (typically, the Elite race). Often, the people doing the grumbling aren't aware of the RULES associated, and every year, I find myself having to explain what the rules are...

So, the first rule is that the Junior racers (those racing in the 15-18 men's category, or Women's 3/4 category) CANNOT race in a UCI Elite field until they have reached a racing age of 19 for men, and 17/18 for women (see UCI rule 1.1.036 and 1.1.037 in the general rules and 5.1.001 in the Cyclocross rules).

And from USA Cycling and UCI rule 5.1.001:
Eligibility for Masters World Championships
The UCI is very strict on who can ride the Masters World Championships. Unfortunately, the rules differ slightly by discipline. Below you will find what the eligibility requirements are for each discipline. Note that in general, you are eligible if you are 30 and over and do not lose your master’s status via one of the specific rules. 
Masters Cyclocross World Championships
You can ride the Master World Cyclocross Championships if your racing age is 30 or above unless you: 

  • Have been on a UCI team of any type (any discipline) in the current season* 
  • Have competed in the Elite World Championships, Continental Championships, or World Cups in any discipline in the current season. 
  • Are ranked in the UCI CX classification published after the National Championships in Europe.
* Note that the season is not the same as the calendar year. The 2011 CX season begins September 1st, 2010 and ends in mid February 2011 at the World Championships.
This means that any of the Master's Women, racing in the 3/4 category, also cannot race Elite at any UCI events if they plan on racing at the Master's World Championships.

[Edit: the women CAN race Elite, but must ensure that they do not accumulate any UCI points by either A) not racing to their full potential; B) waiting until all of the points places have crossed the line before finishing (a la Marilyn Rusekas); or C) DNF'ing the race.]

What does this mean in New England? At any of our Verge/Shimano series races, the juniors and masters have to race in a category that is available to them - typically for the men, the Junior 15-18 race, and for the women (both juniors AND masters), the Women's 3/4 race. However, in the smaller, non-UCI races, you will find many of these junior men/women and master's women racing in the Elite fields because they don't have to worry about their age, or accumulating UCI points.

My philosophy? I have a lot to learn from the racers in my field who are stronger than me - juniors, masters and everyone else. And, if I want to place higher, I need to work harder. We might not like the rules, but knowing what they are helps to put everything in perspective. And really? This is just riding bikes :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Some people have noticed that my kit has changed :). I was asked about joining Kathy's Blue Steel Cyclery team a little while ago, and after much discussion and a lot of thought, I decided that the timing was right for me to make a change. I have been racing against Kathy and Karen T. since I started racing 'cross oh so many moons ago, and know that I still have a lot to learn. Who better to have as teachers than a multi-time World Champion CX racer, and someone who has won her fair share of CX races?

So, the past two weekends, I have registered and raced for Blue Steel Cyclery, and I will continue to race for them for the remainder of the season. I'm really excited about the change, and what I can learn. Oh - and after the muddy racing in ME last weekend, I am even excited about the fact that my new kit is black :). Some of you have commented that it will take awhile to get used to me in the new kit - well, me too! Just look for the crazy knee socks - I promise that won't change :)

I guess I should also comment on the racing that has been going on. Here's the short version of the past two weeks.

Mansfield Hollow - SSCX - We'd never done the long-standing Mansfield race, so decided to make the trek down. We weren't disappointed, and as I said to Ron M (the promoter), our first visit there definitely won't be our last! 

On previewing the course, I absolutely loved it. There were 5 dismounts per lap (depending on how good your technical skills were - some of the guys likely only had two), with two sets of barriers, sand, a run-up and a diagonal uphill crossing of a telephone pole. Oh - and there was a chicken running around the course :). 

My race was reasonably uneventful, save for one lap where I miscalculated my speed heading into a turn/uphill/rock/root and hit the rock/root head on. Stayed upright, but it cost me at least a few seconds. I still managed a second place finish, but the best part of the race was that we had a new convert in the women's field! Allison S had raced in the Women's 3/4 race earlier in the day, and then jumped into her first SSCX race. Talking to her afterwards, I knew it wouldn't be her last race on the SS.

Photo: Nick Czerula
MRC SSCX - I was excited about this race despite the rainy, wet, slippery, muddy conditions - I like this course, I managed to convince Allison to give the SSCX another try, and there were EIGHT women lined up to race (including one woman who bought my Kona just that morning!). The best part of the race for me came in the form of racing against a very good friend. 

I could see Teri and a B2C2 rider in front of me for a long time, and I SLOWLY was making progress closing the gap. As I was nearing the end of the third lap, I could see the race leaders (Curtis and Mike) coming up behind me. I COULD. NOT. GET. LAPPED. So, I dug harder and managed to get across the line before the leaders, but barely. 

Heading back up the straight, I managed to catch and pass the B2C2 rider. That left just Teri ahead of me. At one point, she called out, "C'mon, Cathy!" - I was TRYING! I didn't actually get by her until the back straightaway, after the sand "pit". When I passed, I called out "Don't you give up now!", and the race was on. I knew that Teri was there as we crossed the logs, went through the tough uphill turns by the parking lot, and then into the barriers. As we were about to make the final turn into the finish I called out, "Are you ready?", and then I hit the fence. Not hard enough to put me down (thankfully), but hard enough to get my foot unclipped and to let out a yell. Keeping the bike upright, and not having Teri plow into me was a good thing! And we really sprinted it out for the finish - racing at its finest. What I hadn't realized was that we were racing for the final podium spot of the day!

Downeast - Day 1 - What's not to love about racing in mud and cow poop? The race at Pineland Farms has long been a favorite, and John G and his crew did a FANTASTIC job with the course this year. I loved every minute of it, as painful as it was! 

Early in the race (despite a bad start), I managed to get around some mayhem and bad handling skills, but still sat somewhere in no man's land. Mike yelled at me at one point to "Go!", and I managed to put a gap into the riders who were right behind me. I was never passed by any riders, and rode solo for much of the race, so didn't know where I had placed when I was finished. It wasn't until after Mike's stellar race (he won another one!) that I found out I had finished in 6th place, just missing the 35+ podium (and what would have been a Blue Steel sweep). That was one of my best Verge finishes ever, reminiscent of Green Mountain. And it had been so much fun!

Downeast - Day 2 - My mother always told me that if I didn't have anything good to say, I shouldn't say anything at all. So, there you have it :).

Off for more racing this weekend. Definitely will be doing the SSCX race at Orchard Cross on Sunday, and still debating what to do about Saturday's race at Canton.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Every year it seems that the 'cross season comes fast and furious. This year is no exception, with the first CX race in August, and already four double weekends in the books. It's no wonder, then, that I was tired after Gloucester, and in need of a break.

Don't worry - Tide will get the tough stains out!
Photo: Nick Czerula
Yes, Gloucester happened. I went and played in the mud both days, and had a great time. The most fun I had, though, was watching Mike's absolutely STELLAR races both days. I am so proud of him. He put in a lot of really hard work this year, and seeing it payoff literally left me in tears. He's been pretty humble about his performance, but I'm happy to tell you all just how great he really is :).

Yes, those are tears!
Men's 45+ Podium (Day 1)
Men's 45+ Podium (Day 2)

So, after Gloucester, I decided that I was going to take a break. A real rest week. Yes, my former coaches Sara B. and Aidan would be COMPLETELY shocked by this! I have long joked that the word "rest" is not in the Rowell vocabulary. But, it was time. The season is long, and the body and mind wanted to slow things down a little bit.

Don't get me wrong - resting didn't come easy. On Tuesday, I was seriously watching the weather and debating going out to the Night Weasels race on Wednesday. I hadn't raced there since the first year... I looked at the weather. I looked at the pre-reg lists. And then, I somehow managed to convince myself that I wasn't going. Amazing. Instead, I rode the rollers for a scant 30 minutes watching others race there on the live web stream (well, at least until the stream went black :)).

The next battle came with the Providence races. I had decided I wasn't going to race on the weekend - still resting, and that course is in my head after having avulsively fractured my ankle there in 2009. But still I looked at the weather. I saw that my friends and teammates were racing. I hmm'd and I haw'd. Ultimately I decided against racing again. Anyone who knows me, however, will know that this wasn't something that was easy for me - I am a cyclist - I ride and I race. To decide NOT to do that went against what I knew. I'm considering it learning at an old age :)

Photo: TGP
I still made the trek down to Providence to support Mike in his racing, and to cheer on my friends and teammates. Of course, with the nicer weather, the lederhosen came out as well :). I started this tradition about 5 years ago at Gloucester. My heritage is German, and I grew up in a very German region of southwestern Ontario (Kitchener was called Berlin prior to WWII - the name was changed afterwards for obvious reasons). In fact, Kitchener-Waterloo boasts the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany, and I have been more times than I can count. It seemed to me that with beer tents and bike racing, lederhosen made sense. Unfortunately, my trend hasn't caught on :).

I stood on the sidelines as the women's 3/4 field staged in the starting grid, and heard a chorus of "Why aren't you racing?" and "What are you doing over there?". The funniest moment though came when Sara B. (my former coach) asked why I wasn't racing and I told her that I was taking a break and resting. I thought she might fall over from the shock :). It was great fun, however, to cheer on my friends, fellow competitors and teammates as they made their way around Stage Fort Park.

Day 1 Finish
Photo: Duane K.
Then it was time for Mike's race. I headed to the starting grid with a clear path to the pit as soon as the whistle blew. From the pit, my view of the race was pretty limited, but early I could see that he was racing smart, and doing well. As the 45 minute mark of racing approached, we heard that there was STILL one lap to go! This was a LONG race, and the temperature was pretty high. Mike doesn't always do so well in the heat, so I hoped he could hang onto the lead he now had. My worry was unfounded, however - he held his lead to the line, and this time, I managed to be there for the finish. Another great race for him that would be followed by a second day of stellar racing on Sunday. He has now had two weekends in a row of great performances, at arguably, the biggest races on the New England calendar.

Amazingly, I was wiped out after a weekend of not racing! Standing on my feet all day both days, running around the course, and the long days outside were not quite as restful as I had anticipated ;). This week was a return to some good training (though I somehow thought I would feel a bit better after being so rested :)), and now it's all 'cross, all the time for the remainder of the season!

I hope that the rest week paid off. We'll see what this weekend brings.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


In between racing Green Mountain and the races this past weekend in NH, life at the Rowell house was incredibly busy. Both Mike and I were slammed at work during the days, and then in the evenings, we had workouts to accomplish in addition to needing to build new SSCX bikes, glue up two pairs of new carbon tubular disc wheels, and build my new Cannondale SuperX Disc bike. Add the regular daily chores, and by the end of the week, I was pretty well beat BEFORE we started racing!

Thanks to Chris at The Bikeway Source
for the new sneakers!
Huge thanks to Big Al at Bikeman
for the spiffy new rims

Saturday was a return to White Park in Concord, NH. We raced the inaugural edition of this event last year, and really loved the course - technical, sort of MTB-like, but mostly a LOT of fun. Our CX pal Nick C. was the promoter, so we were pretty psyched to get out and support the second year of the race - and even more so as it was the third event in the Zanc SSCX series on which we are both focused this season. I was also pretty excited to run the new SSCX bike through its paces and see how it performed.

Photo: Tipsy McStagger
Pre-riding the course, I loved it - well, except for that first hill climb. For whatever reason, I couldn't get the legs to turn over enough to make it up the hill (I run a 37x17 - and I don't change it out based on the course). This was going to be my trouble spot throughout the race.

We showed up for staging, and Nick talked to us about starting the women all together in the back of the men. Um, no thank you. Kerry and I pushed him to stage us mixed IN with the men - so much better! I did feel bad for Katina though - it was only after Nick agreed to the change that she let us know she preferred the initial option - it didn't seem to hinder her however, as she rode on for the win :). With so few women racing in the SSCX category, staging with the men gives us someone to race with. 

Speaking of which, WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN?!?!?!? Really, I am more than happy to be on the podium every week, but this would be more fun with a bigger women's field. SSCX is really a different kind of racing, but it's still really fun, and really competitive. Come out and give it a try - and if you are interested, my beloved root beer colored Kona SS is for sale :)

2009 Kona Major One SS - you know you wanna :)
Sure enough, on the first lap, the first hill was what got me. While others rode up, I was left to dismount, run across the bumpy, off-camber top, and remount just before descending to the hairpin around the big tree. Sigh. Of course, I still gave it my all - keeping other racers in sight the entire time, and working to just keep moving forward. When I went through the start/finish and saw 5 laps to go, I literally thought I was going to cry! Thankfully, a couple of laps later, Mike passed me on his way to a definitive win, leaving me with one less lap to have to race - I have never been so glad to be lapped!

After the race, we zipped home for a couple of quick chores, and then out for dinner at our favorite local joint where I ate too much food, drank a couple of beers and followed everything up with ice cream! Before heading to bed, I definitely felt the effects, and had a full blown tummy ache.

Sunday was the day of one of my favorite races, run by one of my favorite promoters. Suckerbrook was my first ever CX race, and over the years, I have done it every year (save one). Jack does an awesome job with the race, and this year decided to include a SSCX event. While Mike decided that doubling up was a good idea for him, I wisely learned from that mistake last year, and decided on just one race.

A significant part of my love of racing cross is the community. People are friendly, supportive and encouraging. Before I could even make it past the end of the van on Sunday, I had already chatted with several friends - it was a good 30 minutes after we arrived before I could finally head to my intended immediate destination - the ladies room!

I love the Suckerbrook course. Some complain that it's just a grass crit, but there are enough tight corners, off camber turns and other features that you really have to keep your head in the game. Pre-riding showed that the bike was working great (although having switched to the carbon tubulars the previous night, the brakes were squealing like nuts!), and I actually felt pretty good. After seeing what was what, it was time for some more socializing, prepping Mike for his Elite race, and then cheering him on and taking photos.

Yeah - that last part? Probably not the best warm up routine, but it was fun. Mike had a GREAT race in the first event, and I made sure that he still had a front row starting spot and the single speed race waited for him (and other Elites who were doubling up) before starting. Once again, the women were staged with the men, and I had both a decent position in the grid, and a reasonably decent start. I need to get better at carving the corners without brakes though, because too soon, I found myself near the back of the race...

There was a prime in our race for the first person who could cleanly ride the sand. Since I was already a bit off the back, I decided to attempt this on my first lap, making it through the turn before bogging down and having to run. More beach practice for me :). Then I saw Kerry running with her bike. After determining that she was OK, I put my head down to try to build up as much of an advantage as possible. I ran scared, and could see that she was making progress to catch back up. With one lap to go, I still had a slight advantage, but knew that the writing was on the wall. I still went AS HARD AS POSSIBLE to try to stay ahead, but she finally passed me as we ran over the barriers. I held on, and it was only when we got to the sand that she got enough distance on me that I couldn't manage to close the gap in the final sprint. It was a hard fought battle though, and the final two laps of our race were the fastest for me...

Mike repeated a win, making it a two-for-two weekend. I am consistent - ending once again in 3rd place :). Again I ask, why aren't there more women coming out to race SSCX??? It really is a fun scene - hard racing, but really fun people (assuming not everyone is gone from the venue by the time you are ready for a beer :)).

This coming weekend is the New England World Championships (aka, Gloucester). I'm looking forward to some tough racing and maybe, a reappearance of the lederhosen :).