Healthy Living on October 28, 2011 by

Racing Back into Cyclocross

I grew up in a small town on the coast of Massachusetts between Providence, RI and Cape Cod. As a kid I rode bikes with my family and friends and rode my first little red bike until it was too small for me, climbing onto bigger bikes as I grew.

So, it seems appropriate to make my return to elite women’s cyclocross racing in Massachusetts—a place steeped in cyclocross tradition, the place where I first learned to ride a bicycle as a little girl.

I missed last year’s cx season after breaking my clavicle in September 2010. I raced on the road this spring and early summer then broke my clavicle (same one) in July 2011. Being in the broken wing club (once, never mind twice) is not something I recommend.

I’m back on my bike, training and racing into cyclocross. 2011-2012 is a rebuild year for me and I’m learning that coming back from injury requires more determination and perseverance than I thought I had in me. As the season unfolds I continue to set small goals, and meet them. I continue to learn about myself and the art of cyclocross racing.

Setting and meeting short term goals helps me track progress. Setting long term goals helps me stay motivated.

Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester


Gloucester, known as the “New England Nationals,” kicked off the New England Holy Week of Cyclocross and included the top U.S., Canadian and European pros. My goals for Gloucester: race my race. Ride clean: no crashing, no mechanicals.

At the start in Gloucester. Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd

Gloucester did not go as planned. I flatted on the first lap on the backside of the course on a rocky descent before a long muddy run up. My rim hit rock and I prayed to the cyclocross gods, “please don’t have a flat.” On the run-up I felt my tubular: totally flat, so instead of hopping back on my bike with the rest of the field, I kept running—all the way to the other side of the course to the pit.

Working my way through the field, pre-flat. Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd

By the time I got back to riding the field had completely disappeared into the fog. I got back into “my own race,” ticked off 2 laps before the leaders caught me. My race was over.


My Dad, Uncle John and Aunt Marybeth sent me off from the start line, cheered for me and greeted me with hugs after my race. My brother, Jim Dowd, worked the pit (and was jealous of Cannondale’s power-washer).

Gloucester 2011: Bob Dowd (Dad), Patricia Dowd, John Dowd (Uncle). Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd (Aunt)

When I’m not working or riding my bike, I love to cook. At home in Bozeman, Montana, I get my food from Field Day Farms and the Community Food Co-op. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island I hit the roadside farm stands and the neighborhood fish market.

Shopping for dinner, Orr’s Farm Stand, Westport, MA. Photo credit: Patricia Dowd

One night my Mom, sister-in-law, Sandi, Jim and I made this fantastic dinner: local Atlantic Haddock, roasted butternut squash (recipe below) and fresh sautéed kale.

Here’s a recipe to try this fall:

Roasted Butternut Squash with Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Beans

INGREDIENTS: (improvise if you don’t have all ingredients on hand)

  • 1 medium Butternut Squash (peeled and chopped)
  • 3-4 Carrots (chopped)
  • 1 small Onion (cut in half and thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil (or whatever oil you like to use)
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas (cooked) *Note: Pre-cook beans and store them in the frig
  • 4-5 Scallions (chopped)
  • 1 Chili (use chili powder if chilis aren’t in season)
  • 1 tbsp Cumin (or more to taste)
  • 2 cups Water/Vegetable Stock
  • Fresh cilantro (chopped) to taste
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F degrees. Peel and chop the butternut squash, chop carrots and onions. Place in a roasting dish, toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Cook for about 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender and caramelized. Combine chickpeas, scallions, chili, cumin and vegetable stock in pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pan over the butternut squash and roast in the oven for another 5 minutes. Toss in fresh cilantro and serve. De-lish!

Adapted from The Café Paradiso Cookbook: Vegetarian Cooking Season-by-Season, Denis Cotter.

The week between Gloucester and the Providence Cyclocross Festival, I raced the Night Weasel at Ski Ward near Shrewsbury, MA. The course: uphill switchbacks in the MUD with a traverse across more mud, over barriers, up the muddy stairs. Okay, you get the idea, it was MUDDY!

The elite women raced at night with lights overhead. Parts of the course were really dark, forcing me to rely on my other senses, let my bike roll and go with the flow. I finished my race then heckled the pro men.

The next morning I woke up with a fire in my belly, psyched to race my bike in Providence. I hadn’t felt the fire—the desire to race cyclocross—since December 2009. In my first few races this year I was going through the motions. I was riding, not racing, my bike. I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t able to trust my body. I was unsure of myself. I questioned why I was racing. I was afraid to crash and break my bones. It took a few months, but I worked through my fears, put them in the back of my mind and found my cyclocross race mojo in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence run up, Photo credit: SmugMug

I also found and met some stellar people in New England, including two of Bob’s Red Mill’s finest: Michelle Dwyer and Judy Donahue. Michelle and Judy served up free samples of Bob’s Steel Cut Oats and Oatmeal to racers and spectators in Gloucester and Providence.

Look for Michelle and Judy at other New England cyclocross races this fall and for the Bob’s Red Mill Train With Grain table at races throughout the country.

Michelle and Judy, Providence, 2011. Photo credit: Patricia Dowd

Cyclocross season is on and I’m psyched to be racing cyclocross back into my legs, heart, lungs and head! See you at the races.


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