Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snow Sparkle Days

When my sacred woods become covered under a blanket of snow, it is time to strap on the cross-country (XC) skis and go explore this strange new topography. Although riding my bike is my favorite thing to do, seeing the woods covered with snow is very beautiful, and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to journey into the woods under these circumstances.

Art and I were surprised to find a XC specific machine groomed double track at the local park where we ski. We took it to the top of the climb, but then decided to venture off the groomed and break our own track towards the lakes and around. Dense snow conditions made breaking super smooth, and there is something special about seeing and feeling a consistent virgin sea of white in front of you as you ski. Tiny snow flakes lit up the floor like jewels in the sun.

Once we reached the first lake, we realized that we were pressed for time to make it all the way around before darkness. We opted to take a hiking trail as a short cut. Try to imagine 2 people negotiating a 2 ft wide twisty catwalk elevated 30 feet above a lake, with 6 ft skis on their feet. A few laughs and some not so pleasant words later, we reached the other side and were able to connect with another skiers tracks.

Although our heads were down trying to make it back by dark, the next hour was incredible as the sun began to set. First, the ground and the tree tops turned a glowing peach color. Then around a bend and all went blue as the sun dipped. By the time we were near the parking lot, the sky was on fire as the sun finally set. ….Once again, an epic outing chasing the sun home.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Snow

above photos all taken by Art with my new mini camera, that was tucked in my pocket while shoveling all day.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Ringwood Ice Hike

nice hiking trail

wilted cactus

me and my mom

Friday, December 17, 2010

Short Days

photo by Art

My first amaryllis bloom chose to open on the solstice.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crossing the Line

Last Saturday was my last cyclocross (CX) race of the season. If you asked me on Oct 15, before my first CX race this year, if I would be racing CX in December, I would have said, no. Last year my CX season ended with me feeling burned out and I questioned if I had done the right thing by upgrading to Cat 3. I told myself that I just raced too long into the season, and I would not do that again.

This past year has been incredible, and I have come leaps and bounds with figuring out what cross is all about and how to extend my fitness into the fall. This past season I did 9 CX races, won 2 of those races plus some cash, and diced it up with some pretty fast ladies. So here I am, 2 weeks into December, writing my last race report for 2010:

Hudson Valley Cross (HVCX) was a small race just north of New Jersey that was being put on by my friends Tim and Ed. Yes, December 11 is a tad late in the season to still be racing, but these guys put together great courses and I wanted to show my appreciation and support the event. In addition, they had a decent payout, so I had the chance to win some cash while having a hoot.

Unfortunately, the turnout was really light, but the venue was as nice as I expected, nestled in a small park overlooking the Hudson River. Everyone was cheery when I arrived, and I quickly hopped out and walked the course with my camera to see all the little berries and views that I would inevitably miss during my race when I would be tearing my lungs out chasing girls around the course.

At this point I did not really feel like I was in a racing mood. I had only been on my bike Tuesday the week before and was feeling stiff from not exercising. On top of that I drank a few glasses wine with dinner the night before. I am telling you this, but not necessarily advising anyone to do this. I usually avoid or limit the amount of alcohol consumed the night before a race, but had let that rule slip as well as a few other dietary restrictions for the last race of the year. I had already begun to let my guard down for the holidays.

There were only 3 women that took the line in the open/elite field. Even sadder was that there were no men elite’s at all. Us ladies were the main event, and only a handful of people, mostly our husbands gathered around to cheer. Christina’s husband, Tommy was the lap horn blower. The whole setting was actually very comforting, considering the pain that would be unleashed in seconds.

Once under way, the leader set a hard pace that put me in a bother, but I did manage to hold her wheel. I have the advantage of pushing a little harder into my fitness because my bike handling skills are second nature from racing a mountain bike for 17 years. So although I felt close to out of control, I was able to keep it upright and stay on the bike in the first technical section.

I eventually found my stride and I decided to take a risk and pass the leader on a long straight. My thinking was that if I could stay in front to the first turn, I could put some distance on her in the twisting decent. It worked, and I held pretty steady at about 8 seconds ahead for 2 laps. Putting the gas on to pass, had my stomach on the verge of cramping. Once I got leveled out, I was able to pull away increasing the gap even more, ending the race and the season on a very positive tone. At the time I crossed the finish line, I crossed the line from my race season to winter. From that day on, my eyes will be looking to 2011.

Sunday as rain fell, I stayed in the house and decorated my Christmas tree like people do this time of year. I was not a bike racer that day. I did not even think about riding my bike. I drank more wine with dinner and enjoyed the feeling of being done. Monday I got out for my first winter ride, and it started to snow. How perfect, I thought.

Dan, my pick for most improved mountain biker of the year!

Monday, December 6, 2010

You Lucky Dinges

Now with a December cyclo-cross race behind me, and a muddy one at that, I feel as if I am one step closer to being a real cyclo-cross racer. As the first muddy race of the year, I was surprisingly quite comfortable with riding in the mud. I guess one can really appreciate things once you go without them for awhile. I'm not sure if all the ladies felt as sentimental about the mud as I did, but my race year may not have felt complete without some mud.

One of the not so good parts about late season cross is the ice and cold. I saw a bunch of guys go down in the morning on the icy trails, and was real thankful to have a later start with more mud than ice. I wore just about every article of clothing I owned and was quite toasty while riding. I'll admit, the hanging out in the cold all day was beginning to get to me, but I did my best to deal with it. I actually warmed up on my trainer while wrapped in a blanket.

My race started off well, getting right to the front which successfully got me through the first mud bog cleanly. Unfortunately for a few others, there was a bit of of a pile up in the mud hole. It may seem really bad to fall in the mud, but in 15 minutes we all were going to be covered in mud anyway. It was really slippery. I was fighting to keep it upright around every turn. Sometimes a tire would just let go on the flat and turn me sideways. It was great practice for my balance and my ability to nurse for traction and still try to put the power down.

As each lap went by, what I could grip on was disappearing, and I started to get brambles tangled in my wheels and drive train. I tried to push ahead but felt like I kept losing places. I was so glad to hear the bell for the last lap. At that point my front derailieur was so clogged with mud that it would not work and I was small ring only. Legs burning, I gave it the final push, and held a 5th place finnish. I received some cash and a cool lucky horseshoe. What sealed the day was the belgian wafel with "speculoos" topping that Art bought for me after the race.