Muddy Onion

I had thought about doing the Muddy Onion over the winter, but I got scared off by the 3,324 feet of elevation gain over 35 miles.   Then last week the GRVL-XX Project still had some codes left for the ride, so I decided to do it anyway.  I took a half day and headed up Friday afternoon.  Packet pickup was fast and easy.    I stayed at Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast.  I’m not a huge bed and breakfast fan, but it was walking distance to Onion River Sports, and we could ride to the start without thinking about parking.   There was a nice big porch to relax on, and the bed was comfortable.  Best of all the orange pancakes they had for breakfast were fantastic.    There was also a resident cat and dog, and an adorable tuxedo cat mooching attention outside.  Outside cat was hard to photograph because they where too interested in rubbing against my legs and bike.


This was my first non-race/non-shop ride bike event.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  The first thing I noticed was the huge variety of bike’s and body shapes present.  I also noticed by the way everyone racked their bikes that there weren’t many triathletes in the crowd.  (Top tip… you can fit more bikes on a rack of you alternate which way the bikes face.  The racks got much fuller as people started showing up, and again after the ride.


I had started the morning out with arm warmers and clear lenses in my glasses.  Of course being spring in New England the sun promptly came out and I got too warm, so I rode back up to the B&B and ditched the arm warmers and went to darker glasses.  Coincidentally the hill was on E. State Street along the route.  I actually felt slightly less anxious after riding up it once because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

I seeded myself at the back of the starting area and anxiously awaited the start.  I’m not sure if there was any pre-race talk because I couldn’t hear it back in my spot.



The ride starts uphill.  Going uphill with 400 of your closest friends is an interesting experience.  People where generally well behaved, and I didn’t see anything too sketchy.    Things started to break up more slowly then I expected, probably because there were just so many people around.  After a short stint on pavement we got into the dirt roads.   The roads where in really great shape.  I’m definitely glad I went with the Vittoria Cross XN Pro II file treads vs my knobby Challenge Griffos.  There were a couple of rougher loser freshly graveled section, but mostly well packed smooth surfaced dirt. There where some  rollers along the road( like mini pump tracks?), one or two ruts, and a couple of muddy spots.   I was pretty cautious defending since I didn’t know the roads, and things were pretty steep.  My hands got tired on a couple of the longer descents from riding my breaks.  The organizers did a good job putting up reminders to stay on the right side of the road, and caution signs if the road conditions warranted it.   The course was marked with little orange signs with arrows on sticks.  I was never really alone and I’m not sure I payed much attention to the signs.  The only place where things could have been improved was a downhill leading in to a left hand turn.  I would have missed the turn if I didn’t see people turning up ahead of me, and some folks behind me did miss the turn.  Their friends had to yell to try and get them back.  Looking on the route map I think it was the turn from Marshfield Rd to E. Hill Rd.


I didn’t have any real goals for this ride, but I was kind of hoping to do the whole thing without walking up the hills.  I didn’t succeed at this goal.  The first hill I walked was a silly mistake.  I didn’t realize I was in the big ring.  I walked a couple others because my hips and back where not too happy with life.  I had packed my Ridley Crossbow, which I love, but I’m staring to realize its not too comfy on long rides.  I probably should have gone with my heavy Surly Cross Trek.  It would have been more comfortable, and it has a triple.   I haven’t been riding the Surly much, so I was hesitant to take it.    Another fun fact, I recently played with my saddle position on the cross bow.  A couple of rides ago I wound up with a hole in my bibs after a ride.  (I fell in my last race of the season and knocked the saddle out of whack and never fixed it satisfactorily.) I thought it was from my saddle bag and I fixed the problem.  Turns out it was actually from my seat post clamp and I put another hole in another very expensive pair of bike shorts on this ride.

IMG_1584 The aid stations had the promised bacon and maple syrup shots. Plus there where pickles, cliff bars, and vermont meat sticks… think high quality slim jim. I had bacon and maple syrup at the first stop. I should have also eatten one of the rice cakes in my jersey pocket. My stomach wasn’t supper happy with me for a little bit after this stop. Not really GI issues, just not happy.



I went back and forth with Oscar and the Cookie monster for much of the ride.

The second aid station actually had grilled PBJ sandwiches along with most of the items from the first station.   I was pretty beat by this aid station.  I sat down for a longer then I intended and had a bit of a rest while I enjoyed my PBJ and pickles.  Everyone said there was really only one more hill after this aid station, but I knew they where lying.

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There were a few impromptu rest stops in the last 10 miles. Some water and snacks in the back of a pickup truck. Probably leftovers from the first aid station. After two more steep hills and a few less step hills I finally hit the long downhill into town. I didnt’ stick around for two much of the post race fun. I had some food. I think I had some chips, coleslaw and a veggie burger. I already took and topped up a bun before I realized the options were veggie burger or grilled chicken thighs and legs. I had a can of generic coke too. I didn’t notice any deserts, which is often the case at these things. I was also quite slow, so it could be any sweets were gone by the time I finished. Luckily there was a donut cart near by.

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I’m glad I went up. Before the event I was worried about doing the entire ride by myself because I’m not very fast. I was actually with people the entire time. I went back and forth with about 10 people for most of the time.  I was not well trained for this event.  The distance would have been no problem, but the 3K+ of elevation killed me.  I wish I had done some more hill work and some much longer rides to get a better base for the event.

Studying Up

I’m sitting on my enclosed porch soaking up the last bits of warmth for the day with my fuzzy friend.  Tomorrow we go back to cold and snow, but it remains clear that spring is almost here.   With the added pressure of day light savings time arriving I’m doing something I should have started months ago…. reading up on training plans.  The past two seasons I really faked my way though the triathlon season and it showed.   I did use a plan to build up to Rev3 Quassy but then I kind of burnt myself out and fumbled about.  Luckily regularly attending group rides kept me in OK shape.    Given that I can’t afford a coach right now I headed to amazon and ebay to pick up some used books.



I’m probably going to stick with The Cyclist’s Training Bible, but The Time-Crunched Cyclist does have a cyclocross specific plan.   It’ll probably take me another week or two to get though everything and come up with my plan for the season.  I have to be honest reading these books geared at the really talented cyclists kills me a little.  I have very little natural athletic talent, and I feel like the “real” athletes would make fun of me with my little training plan.   I do want to get better and this is the only way I know how to do it so I will soldier on.


All this reading about training means I have to make some decisions about the up coming season.  I’m planning on doing a short triathlon season early in the summer and then shift my focus on doing whatever I have to do to have an awesome cyclocross season.  I’m not quite ready to give up on triathlon.  At the same time I had so much fun racing cross last year that I want to see what I can do if I really focus this year.

Elm City Cx

I was had a sore throat/cold thing for a week leading up to this race.  I knew it was going to be muddy, and I really wanted to play in the mud.   I decided that if I could breath at 11 AM on Saturday I’d go ahead and register.   Lucky for me I woke up Saturday feeling much better.

We had to get to the venue very easy since my other half was in the first race of the day.  His race was almost all snow with no traction.  My race was at 1 pm, so I had a lot of time to kill.  I managed to fall twice when I was pre-riding. I have a lovely scrape up my shin from one of them.  Note: crashing into snow doesn’t really hurt, but hitting the pavement does. The downside to the venue/snow combo, was a lack of warmup space.  The park is really in the middle of a city, and I didn’t feel comfortable on the streets.  If I do this one again next year I will definitely bring my trainer to warm up on.  I joined some other women in the slow circles on a paved path while we waited for call ups.

The race was a muddy mess and everything I hoped for.  As usual I didn’t do well with the uphills, and the snow and mud  sketched me out for the one steep downhill after I crashed in warmup.  (I also notice looking at the pictures now I managed to screw up the level of my saddle in one of my warmup crashes.)


First Cross Race

I bought a used cross bike back in July which meant I had to actually had to follow though on my plan to do a cyclocross race this year.



I did some research on local cross races and decided on Riverfront Cross since it had a really small women’s field last year.  My plan backfired and the field was much larger this year.  I suspect that may be due to Cross Nationals being held at the same venue this year.



I got lucky, and they decided to hold a free clinic the day before the race.  I’m not sure what I would have done without the tips on the long off camber section.  It also gave me the chance to pre-ride the course when it was almost empty.  Aside from the off camber, and a fun little hill around a tower the course wasn’t terribly technical.  A couple sets of barriers (full UCI height barriers at that).   The off camber section pretty much terrified me.  You run up the side of a dyke and then ride across the top, drop down and ride back across the hill in the opposite direction, drop down and ride back one more time.  Then shoot down a hill.  The downhill also terrified me.  I’m fine bombing down hills on the road, but a downhill ending in woods freaks me out.   I felt slightly better after practicing.   The park was pretty close to home, so I got to sleep in.  It was also pretty hot which meant I didn’t have to think too hard about what to wear.  I checked in and got my number, and a disposable timing chip to stick on my helmet (YAY lap times!)  We watched for a little while.   I got on to pre-ride the second half of the course.  I knew if I went back to the off camber section with all the faster riders around I would probably bail on the whole thing.   I got to the sand pit and tried to ride in an existing groove and went right over my handlebars.   Someone on the side was laughing and said “I’m glad I’m not the only one who did that.”   DSC_0011

After that I went back to the car and had a snack.  I warmed up on the road and headed to the start.  A few of the women from my shop where there.  I think we were all hiding on the back trying to stay out of the way.  They started all the women’s fields a minute apart.  Which ment that the masters women where catching up and passing me right at the off camber section.  I managed to focus on what I needed to do and tried not to get nervous about the women flying by.   I did wimp out and run the downhill on the first two laps and then road it for the second two.   Everything went by really fast, and I have waited too long to do a race report.   One of the girls from my shop flatted out on the first lap.  There was a section on the pavement, then you had a choice of running up some stairs, or hopping up a sharp stone curb and running up the grass and over a barrier.   A lot of people flatted when they hit their wheel on the curb whilst carrying their bikes.   I also forgot I had a big ring until the last lap.  (Further proof that I should go for a 1x setup?)


Rev3 Quassy Olympic Race Report

Short version: Awesome race company, super hard corse, fun swag.

I hemmed and hawed on signing up for this race.  Its known for its hills, I am not a small person and even when I was a skinny little thing in college I wasn’t great at hills.  I road the course and said “That’s it I’m not going to do it this year.”  That really didn’t last long.  I really liked racing with Rev3 in Maine, and I was really excited they where back this year.  There was also a lot of excitement in my tri club.  There was also something about a free trucker cap and a club porta-poty.  I signed up with 9 weeks to train.  My swimming was in good shape since it was shortly after our big swim meet of the year where I got a best time by a pretty good margin in the 500 free (-00:21) and the 1650 free  (-1:48)  I was in OK shape from doing an indoor workout or two with Zwift every week and the mild winter meant I was also getting an outdoor ride in on the weekend.  I switched to tri training mode.  I road my bike up all the hills (including another training ride on the bike course followed by riding the run course too).  I tried all three dirty duathlon races  and even managed to finish one.  (Mountain biking on a cross bike is interesting).  I did cut back on swimming more then I intended to.   I increased my running distance, but neglected to seek out hills.  I think I did the best I could without a coach and with limited time to ramp up the training.

Friday I worked a half day then came home to get ready for bike checkin.  My boyfriend’s friend came over to stay with us rather then paying for a hotel room, so the three of us headed over.  We got stuck in the awful Waterbury traffic and worried about making it in time for the athlete meeting.  We picked up our packets and got in line for our chips.  We were lucky and the athlete meeting started late and we were able to listen to it while we waited in line.  Nothing too exciting, but they didn’t weigh me in for the athena division, which they had done in Maine.

Got up at o’dark thirty on Saturday.  I ate my oatmeal at home instead of in the car.  I wish I had eaten in the car so that breakfast would have been closer to race start.   We got there by 5:30 which means we got parking at Quassy.  The downside is I was in the last wave at 7:35 am.  It only takes me about 10 minutes to pump my tires and set up transition.  I also squirreled away my nutrition: two Generation Ucan gels in my bento box, one Gu in my jersey pocket for the run, and skratch half way up my areo bottle (I knew the potholes were coming) and in my water bottle on the bike.   Then I went down to the beach to try and relax.

IMG_7618 I sat on a damp lounge chair and waited for the fog to lift.  I was pretty convinced it would burn off quickly.  It didn’t…there wound up being a half hour delay which pushed my start time out to 8:05. IMG_7624

I probably didn’t do enough of a warm up.  I swam out to the first buoy and back before the first wave started.  I like to actually see the buoys and get a feel for where the sun will hit on the course.  I have to give Rev3 credit.  Thoes waves went off exactly 5 minutes apart.  I did get back in the water a couple of times to make sure I didn’t overheat in my wetsuit.

The swim was pretty good.  Its my best event, but this is a big race that draws people from farther away then my normal races. That means stiffer competition.  I managed to hang with most of my group.  I found someone to draft off of for the second half of the first leg.  I lost her at the turn.  I started passing yellow caps (wave before mine) before the first turn.    Just before the second turn I passed my first green cap.  I managed to find someone to draft behind for a little bit of the last leg of the swim, but then lost them.  I think I went too far to the left on that last leg.  I get tired and my sighting suffers.


I cheesed it up for the triclub spectators.  Mostly because our president aquired a megaphone just in time for the race.   I was actually thinking deep thoughts about the bike and the hills to come.

My transition was OK.  I haven’t been practicing so I’m sure it could have been faster.

On the stick part of the lolly pop course the pros were headed back as I was going out.  I actually passed a lot of people on the downhills.  I’m heavy and possibly more confident on the bike?  I’m sure if I was in an earlier wave this might have been a different story.  Not as many people passed me on the uphills as I thought.   Plenty of people still passed, but it wasn’t a steady flow of people flying by like I was expecting.  On one of the first really steep sections (I think it was on Platt Road) I spent a while contemplating what exactly I had gotten myself into.  On the first really steep uphill kick I am ashamed to admit I briefly thought about how nice it would be to get off and walk. Then I saw someone actually get off their bike and start walking.  I decided to switch to a more positive line of thinking after that.  I did go back and forth with a couple of people along most of the course.  After that first uphill I felt tired but OK for the loop part of the course. The stick is mostly uphill back towards the park.  I was watching the clock at that point trying to make it in under 1:50.  I just made it.

I did drop my first Ucan gel which was a bummer.  My hands where soft from the swim and it just slipped out while I was trying to unscrew the top with my teeth. Next time I’ll unscrew the cap while its still in my bento box so I don’t have to fumble as much.  I pushed eatting my other one out until I hit the halfway point on the bike.  My original plan was one at the start and one at the end.   In retrospect I should have eaten my second one then and gone for my caffeinated Gu right before the run start.

T2 was interesting.  Someone took my spot on the rack which had me flustered and I took too long deciding what to do.  I got my shoes on and then tried to run out the bike in.  A volunteer stopped me before I made it too far.

IMG_7924 I greatly underestimated the run.  The hills where long.  The downhills hurt almost as much as the up, and my knee started bothering me from the bad roads.  I should have eaten something in transition or at one of the first aid stations.  Instead I pounded flat cokes and hoped the sugar and caffeine would work their rocket fuel magic.  Someone from the swim team was out on their bike along the course, and another was manning the aid station at the bottom of the steepest uphill.   I walked a lot more of the course then I wanted to, but its my fault for under training the run.  When I got to the last uphill I knew the tri-club president would be there with his megaphone, so I ran past him.  He caught me walking when I thought I was out of his line of sight.



I was very happy to be finished and I felt pretty awful.  I really need to work on my nutrition, especially making sure I have enough in my tank for the run.  For whatever reason I don’t do a good job of fueling once I get off the bike, and with my slow run times, thats not a good plan.

Another Yarn store Closeing

Bella Yarns is going out of business.  I shopped their frequently when I lived in the area and I’m sad to see another yarn shop closing.  I’m not sure if knitting is going out of fashion, or if the ecomony is just not recovering fast enough.  I went over today and it was a bit depressing to walk down 114 in Warren and see so many empty store fronts.   I picked up some eco wool and some Ito Tetsu.

Rhode Warrior Race Report

Last Sunday I participated in the olympic distance Rhode Warrior Triathlon.   I did the foolish thing and woke up at o’dark thirty and left my house at 4:10 am in order to get to there nice and early.  I was a bit anxious about finding parking after seeing how crazy everything was at the Surftown race.  I opted to pay $15 and park across from the state beach lot.  (Side note, later in the day they where charging  $13… annoying)  I’m not sure how fast the lot filled up, but at 5:36 in the morning there were a handful of cars.  By the time I got my tires pumped and left there was a pretty steady stream of cars coming in.  The free parking option was to park up at Walmart and ride 4 miles to the start.

I live about an hour and a half from the race, so I didn’t make it to packet pickup ahead of time.   The largest shirt they had left was a mens medium.  This is a bit of a pet peeve for me since they asked my shirt size ahead of time and didn’t have a women’s Xl, or even a women’s L available.  I’ve never actually gotten a women’s shirt in the size I wanted from this organizer.    However, she did send out an email about doing a second order of shirts because a lot of people didn’t get one that fit.  I’m not going to bother since I have so many tee shirts anyway.

Other then the whole t-shirt thing packet pickup went quickly since there was no line that early in the morning.  A helpful volunteer helped me find my bike rack and I set up my area and chatted to some of the people around me and choked down half a PBJ.   I wondered around killing time and eventually lubed up and put my wetsuit on up to my waist.  According to my watch it was a 1 mile walk down the beach to the swim start.  It was around this time that I remembered I don’t actually like honey stinger waffles.

I swam out to the first buoy so I could check out where the next buoy was and do some visualizing.   Then I noticed I was drifting backwards.  The packet pickup said that the director would check out conditions race morning and set the course to swim with the current.  I’m not sure if she just checked out which way the finish bouy was pulling, or if the currents changed, but it was definitely against the current.   The bouy’s were being pulled by the wind, which would have given you the wrong idea about what the water was doing.   I hope that if this was the case she’ll take a better look at it next year.  If the currents changed then thats just tough luck.  I know she probably took a lot of flack for the swim, but her races are constantly well run, and I don’t think the flack was really warranted.  If you want perfect conditions every time you race you should probably check out some sort of indoor sport.

The swim was parallel to shore, and the buoys were really close to shore. The half iron people started further down the beach ahead of the olympic folks.  There was a newbie wave for the half iron group that hadn’t made it past “our” buoy by the time the olympic men started.  Anyway i went out the first buoy pretty easy and after the turn I felt like I was really alone.  There were only 4 buoys on the olympic course, so they were pretty far apart. This meant siting was interesting and I seemed to be closer to shore then a lot of people.  I also prefer to breath to my right which meant I was looking on the beach and didn’t see anyone to my left.  The current was stronger in some spots then other and you really got the treadmill feeling a few times.  The little bit of a rip current pulled me back and forth in a few places too.   My garmin says I did a pretty crappy job of swimming in a straight line which didn’t really help me go any faster.   I spent a lot of the swim concentrating on taking nice long strokes and contemplating weather or not I would have been better off without my wetsuit.  I have a really strong kick (seriously I lap most of my masters group on kick sets despite not being a particularly fast swimmer) which really gets screwed up by my wetsuit.   I did do some breast stroke to see if it would work better in the nasty current, but it didn’t’ seem to help.  I was starting to feel hot by the time I finished.   You could really tell how much the current was messing with people because everyone was finishing way to the right of the finish.  Anyway, 57 minute swim.   I was expecting to be under 30 minutes.  That means I spent an extra 27 minutes in the water.   I went up to T1 where I took my sweet time getting the sand off my feet, downing a gel and getting my bike stuff on.   My splits got screwed up on my garmin and from the timing company, so no idea how long it actually took.

The bike ride was longer then a standard olympic, 30 miles with  around 1200 feet of climbing.  I had a really hard time getting comfortable on the bike.  There was never really a flat section, and my shoulders were angry from the extra long swim which made areo interesting.   It was mentally though for me.  I felt very alone on the course after the first couple of miles, and I suck at climbing.   The turns were marked with bright pink arrows followed by additional arrows after the turn.   I liked the arrows after the turns because I knew I didn’t’ screw anything up.  There were cops at the bigger intersections.   I had another gel at mile 15.   T2 was also pretty slow.  I really need to put transition practices back in my training plan.  I had a caffeinated gel and tucked another one in my jersey pocket.

I had a hard time with the first mile of the run.  I started having some GI cramping which led to a bunch of walk/running.  After the first mile I settled into my nice slow run and walked the water stops.  It was really humid out and I drank water at all the stops and was dumping it on my head.  I took some skittles at one of the stops, but never had my gel.  Somewhere around mile 4 I started to notice my knees hurting, mile 4.5 I started to walk running again.   I’m not sure why my knees started bothering me so much.  They never bothered me in training.   I must have looked pretty miserable when I crossed the line since the nice ladies asked me if I was OK.

The post race food offered a nice selection of sweet and salty snacks.  I went and sat in the ocean for a while to help my knees feel better.  Then I watched the awards ceremony.  The results seemed to be missing some age groups and people.   I’m not sure what happened with the timing company, but they got it sorted out and announced the missing people about 10 minutes later.   I thought about hanging out at the beach for a while, but opted to head home instead.
There where a lot of challenges for the race director in this race, but all in all I think she did a good job.   I did find it to be a very challenging race for me between the tough swim and the rolling bike course.    There were not a lot of people competing in the Olympic distance which added a whole new level to the mental game.