Blog Archives

Growing the sport of cyclocross in Rhode Island

A few teammates attended the opening ceremony for the George Redman Linear Park on the Washington Bridge in September and got a good photo op with Rhode Island's politicians.

A few teammates attended the opening ceremony for the George Redman Linear Park on the Washington Bridge in September and got a good photo-op with Rhode Island’s most prominent politicians.

I think most people thought Ed Raff was crazy when he started talking about the possibility of starting a high school cyclocross team at his school in Providence. I have to admit that I was skeptical that he could pull it off in just one short season. Even Donny Green, the elite cyclocross racer that Ed recruited to coach, had doubted its success when he first approached Ed to help get the team up and rolling. However, with the support of Providence’s newly elected Mayor Jorge Elorza, a partnership with Tom Bacon from Mt Pleasant High School, and the passionate dedication of 8 high school kids from the Met and Mt Pleasant, the One Providence Cycling team has become a big hit.

Starting off the first race of the weekend during the KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival.

Starting off the first race of the weekend during the KMC Providence Cyclocross Festival.

I had the pleasure of witnessing these kids race their first race, in the cold and miserable rain, on the first weekend of October during the KMC Cyclocross Festival in Providence. Donny had started coaching them less than a month earlier, and most of them were riding single speed steel framed bikes that Ed had bought through State Bicycle. Most of these kids had little to no prior experience handling a bike in such technically demanding conditions, but they all stayed in the single speed race that evening, despite getting lapped, despite the miserable weather conditions and having a hard gear ratio, they never gave up. It was painful to watch, honestly. They looked defeated every time there was a hill, every time they had to walk laboriously up a flyover, and every time they had to dismount and remount their bikes. You could see how much they exhausted themselves, and they literally gave every ounce of effort their bodies could muster to finish that race.

There they go, off the start at Monstah Cross in Walpole, MA!

There they go, off the start at Monstah Cross in Walpole, MA!

Fast forward about six weeks, and 5 members of team have just completed their second race. Compared to Providence, this race was pretty flat and nontechnical, but the wind made it tough. It was great for people with a lot of power who could maintain a fast pace for a long time. For a newer rider, the relentless pace set by the leaders  and the lack of recovery opportunities made for a very challenging race. Amanda Resch, a second year racer and manager of Legend Bicycle, joked that the race that day was so aerobically demanding it made her want to quit cyclocross. For The One Providence kids, it was yet another suffer fest. They may have still been the last 5 men to finish the single-speed race, but they hung on for all 40+ minutes (there were 3 DNFs). Their perseverance is admirable, and they can only get better from here.

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Practicing shouldering their bikes and running up a steep hill at Roger Williams Park in Providence.

I’ve started attending practices to help with coaching (and learn a bit more myself), and I’m very excited to see how these kids will fare in their next race. They have less than two weeks to hone their newly acquired skills and try to increase fitness with ever-decreasing daylight hours working against them. For most of the month of October, practices were sporadic because their coach, Donny, had both his dad and grandfather pass away and was understandable absent. Donny’s cousin created a GoFundMe to help raise money for One Providence Cycling, so the team can get better equipment, cover race entry fees, eat a healthy breakfast and post-race meal, and maybe pay their coach a little bit (although Donny states that he was never expecting money from this endeavor)! If you like their story and want to see them succeed, consider donating here.

WEmadeit.Still062After seeing them in action, I truly think that Ed Raff is a genius for creating this cycling team (either that or he got very lucky). This is a great way to get kids to be active and involved in a team sport that can also double as a mode of transportation and a lifestyle. After most players of team sports like football, rugby or lacrosse have retired due to injury or ‘old’ age, cyclists can maintain their sport for a lifetime. Bicycling has been predominantly a poor person’s mode of transportation but a rich person’s sport, and it’s about time that changes.

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Klondike Road Relay

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The Klondike Road Relay is a running race that runs from Skagway to Whitehorse during the first weekend of September.  It started on a Friday evening, and our team ran all night up the Klondike Highway before crossing the finish line, 110 miles later, in downtown Whitehorse Saturday afternoon.  Our friend Jaime connected us to the National Park Service team, where I ran leg 8 and Dallas ran leg 10 (the anchor leg).  Each leg was anywhere from 7 or 8 miles to 16 miles long.  The first two legs run up the White Pass (the reverse of our Sockeye Cycle Klondike bike tours), gaining 3292 feet of elevation in less than 15 miles.  Dallas and I each ran between 12 and 13 miles for our respective legs.  Our team was able to knock off more than forty minutes from their previous year’s time!

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XTerra Trail Race Recap

Team Skora the day before the big race

Team Skora the day before the big race

I had seriously underestimated the difficulty of the XTerra Trail Running World Championship Race.  Never had I encountered such steep terrain in a race of any distance, let alone a half marathon.  Before any race, one of two things usually happens, sometimes both in the same race.  1) I have the feeling of total unpreparedness, and my biggest fear is coming in last place, or 2) I feel like maybe I have a chance of placing (and hopefully winning money) in the race, or at least placing in my age group.  After looking at the times from last year, I seriously thought I might have a chance at placing.  Only 15 women had finished in under 2 hours, and the first woman crossed the finish line in over an hour and a half.  It was either a really non-competitive field or it was a really tough course.  I should have known from the title of the race and the size of the prize purse that it would draw a competitive field, but I was in no way prepared for just how tough it would be.

One last group photo before we tear our legs up on the trail

One last group photo before we tear our legs up on the trail

If I do this race again (and I hope I do, some day), I will train by doing hill repeats up mountains at least once a week.  Some parts of the race were so steep, just walking up was a challenge – my legs burning and breathing labored, I had to turn and walk sideways up some of those hills.  The scenery was incredible, but I could hardly enjoy it, since I had to keep my eyes on the ground to avoid stumbling on a root or loose rock.  I can’t wait to see the photos.

Dallas made the rest of us look bad by being the only one to finish in under 2 hours and crossing the finish line almost 20 minutes before anyone else on our team.  Gerrit managed to pass me on one of the hills and beat me by almost 2 minutes.  All six of us finished in under 3 hours, which may not be that impressive for any normal half marathon, but I am very proud of our team after conquering that course.  The official results of the race can be found here: http://www.jtltiming.com/results/x-oahu-21k.html

My feet after the race - that's not a tan line!

My feet after the race – that’s not a tan line!

Needless to say, our Skora’s got us through this tough race.  I wish I could say we remain injury-free, but 3 of us ended up hurting after the race.  However, all injuries were sustained prior to race day and while not wearing Skoras.  Gerrit had stepped on a nail at work a few weeks earlier, and his foot was sore from where the nail had pierced his heel.  Travis had injured his knee the day before while riding the strong surf on Oahu’s north shore.  Upon returning to Portland and visiting his doctor, he found out that he had torn his meniscus and ACL (but will not need surgery).  I injured my hip flexor the night before, just walking to dinner (wearing Vibrams).  Miraculously, the pain disappeared the instant the cannon went off to initiate the start of the race, but it’s back stronger than ever, and I can barely walk now.

Dallas and I break into a run during a hike on the Manoa Falls trail

Dallas and I break into a run during a hike on the Manoa Falls trail

As much as Dallas and I wanted to stay in Hawaii, it was not possible for us to find a way for it to work for us out there in the short time we had.  We both hope to be back some day (maybe for another Xterra race?).  Now we are back in Portland, saving up for the next big adventure!