After J’s first cyclocross race, he was hooked. One week later, it was time for the next race.
We prepared for the day much better this time. He ate a real breakfast (oatmeal and fruit!) and avoided coffee. Not me, of course, I enjoyed a delicious pumpkin spice latte. We arrived early and I registered him while he got his gear ready. So this time he had plenty of time to practice and become friends with the track.
While he was practicing, I walked around to decide where I would take my cool action shots and cheer him on. It was so cold that I decided to try out our fancy-pants hand warmers for the first time. Product Review? In one word: Why-did-it-take-me-so-damn-long-to-try-these!! As much fun as I was having playing with the hand-warmers (and probably looking a bit odd to other patrons), pretty soon it was time to start the race. The men–and women!!–lined up.
And they were off! I did my thing–I walked around, snapped pictures, and yelped as folks rode by. I think I officially need to purchase a cowbell now. It will, of course, be blue.
I enjoyed watching this race more than the last one because it was a shorter track, so I got to see J fly by almost twice as much as before. There were more women today, too, which of course I was geeked about. One actually dressed up in a costume, since it was the Halloween race.
I was impressed with J because he seemed to be keeping a pretty steady pace and was holding off a few guys behind him. Most people in the blog world post about what it was like to actually be in the race, which is a perspective I can’t provide. So, I asked J to write about his experiences. Take it from here, J!
Please Put Me Out of My Misery… Just Kidding, I LOVE This
So, I arrived at the race feeling better than the last time due to a better breakfast and more time to get ready, as previously mentioned. I took a couple of relatively slow practice laps, taking time to keep track of any obstacles and the corners throughout the course.
It initially seemed like we were going to start on a stretch of pavement that led up to the finish line, which would have been nice. But, no. Instead, we started on a sandy and muddy area and everyone had to start rolling off slowly, and there were a few close calls. No one managed to start at the same speed, it was slippery, and riders were accidentally sliding into the paths of other riders who then had to take some evasive action.
Once the race got going, it wasn’t long before the pain started. Pretty soon, my lungs were shouting “STOP! I can’t breathe! This is unnatural!” to my brain. “Sorry brain,” I said as I switched on the autopilot. Lucky for me, I’m pretty good at memorizing a course quickly, and those practice runs came in handy.
After nearly having my front wheel caught up by a rider who was clearly having trouble going in a straight line in the mud, the dirt became harder and more solid, allowing me to pick up speed through a slight curve. Then the dirt portion of the track ended and we were on some thick grass that was soaked and tough to push through. By this point everyone was just trying to power through the wet grass and maintain momentum, and it was at this point that a sharp climb onto the side of a hill presented itself. While sharp, the climb wasn’t too hard if momentum was maintained up to it, but it then curved and we had to ride along the side of the hill without reaching the crest. The top of the hill was a perfect spot for a sole heckler, who appeared to only be heckling a friend in the race while cheering for the rest of the riders. Nice, guy. As the hill turned downward and we picked up speed there was a quick chicane, which someone would flatten before the end of the race.
After negotiating the chicane we had to get on the brakes hard as the lone barriers on the course quickly approached.
I managed to get over the barriers somewhat smoothly each lap, but it is still a work in progress. All of my remounts were decent, but the area right around the barriers was massively muddy, clogging up my cleats and making clicking back in a major pain. The course went uphill again right after the remount, making it a slightly nervous moment of trying to keep pedaling while clipping in. Then there was a slight left, a quick right onto a patch of mud, and then a nice and smooth stretch of dirt that led to a steep decent. The descent was definitely an eye opener, as right at the end there was a sharp turn onto a sidewalk. Since my brakes were also clogged with the requisite mud and grass coming to a reasonable speed for the turn was a challenge for each lap, and all I could do was start turning with the hope that I slowed enough to avoid sliding on the grass that led up to the sidewalk.
Once safely on the sidewalk, which was nice and smooth compared to the rest of the course, I was drawn into a false sense of security. The sidewalk looked flat, and like a potential short reprieve from hard riding, but it ended up not giving riders a moment to breathe. Why? It was a false flat that led to a challenging steep uphill right turn on grass, and then to an uphill straight away ending with a bunny hop over a wet log and a couple of slow, but slick, turns.
After the jarring of bunny hopping the log and then being challenged to stay upright for the slippery turns that followed we were treated to a nice slog through a drenched and sandy baseball diamond.
From there the rest of the course was fairly straight forward, a path of flat ground with a couple of chicanes, although it was all on slick grass of varying height. Then there was another ride through a different baseball diamond, which thankfully was much more solid and I was able to pick up the pace back to the finish line.
As a rider with only road riding experience up to my first ‘cross race, I am still improving at getting through technical slick sections while maintaining my speed and picking up my speed out of the corners. The stop and go nature of ‘cross racing is new to me, and even though it makes the races brutal on my lungs it is making for a good workout. Luckily this course had a couple of higher speed sections on relatively hard ground, which suited me a bit better than the first course I rode on. There was still no chance to take a breather and recover, but I guess that’s the point and challenge of ‘cross. Either way, I’m really excited to see what the next course brings!
And of course, it’s important to keep your bike clean after the race. We took SpYder X to a car wash for a nice wash down. But be careful: Avoid the bearings!