I’ve been bit by something. Something that involves barriers, mud, 45 minutes, and violent pain. The seemingly unpleasant thing I’m referring to is called Cyclocross. Except it’s not unpleasant like say, getting a wound cleaned out with a brush… or maybe it is. Painful? Sure. Do you feel like your heart, lungs, and legs will simultaneously explode? You betcha, but that’s why it’s fun! If you’ve been reading my blog, I think it’s probably pretty obvious that I love a good challenge, and good competition.
In Colorado, the ‘cross scene is huge and continually growing. I dabbled in it about 5 years ago, but was left with a bad taste in my mouth trying to ride a bike that was too big for me so I gave up on it pretty quickly. When Hudz Subaru called me up and asked me if I wanted to try racing cross. They offered me a grassroots sponsorship with hopes of moving up to the “elite” team in the future. HUGE thanks to them, and I gladly accepted. I didn’t really know what to expect from myself. 5 years ago, I was horrible. I got lapped, I never finished well (and I was racing XC at the time, so I was more used to the high end efforts) so I decided I’d start from there. Would I even be able to ride in zone 5 for 45 minutes? The type of racing I specialize in is sub-threshold. About 3 points lower in pain on the Richter scale(1-10) compared to sustaining max effort.
On Tuesday this week, I got my super sweet bike – Ridley X-Fire.
Tuesday I went out with Chuck and Lance for a little skills clinic. They showed me how to shoulder the bike, mount, and dismount. They made it look much easier. I can do it if I’m not going race pace. However, once I get all anaerobic, my technique goes straight to hell. My project this year will be to get that dialed.
Step 3 – RACE!
Saturday I went to my first cross race of the year called “on the cross” in Denver. Cross Results can be found here.. I was actually nervous going to this race. I rarely get nervous for racing anymore, but my hands were all clammy on the steering wheel driving to Denver, and it wasn’t just the bad traffic.
It was one of those days where I surprised myself. The course was mostly in a field with a few barrier sections and a sand pit. Power was the name of the game. Full gas the whole time with very little relief. I was lucky to get a spot on the front row, despite having no points and not having a call-up. From the whistle, I threw down as hard I could and quickly opened a gap on the field. I looked back in disbelief. I held the lead for about 2 laps, well-knowing I was going to blow up. And blow I did. I faded back into 5th place and mentally had to get used to anaerobic suffering. I backed off for a lap, and gave myself one gear easier to spin in hopes of recovering. My plan worked, and I felt the power creep back into my legs. It was enough for me to fight my way back up to 2nd place for the day.
Huge thanks to drp and for the photos(and also to Jim Heuck) and bottle hand-ups on Saturday. On Friday, I felt something icky coming on. I had some nasty sinus drainage and no energy. I hoped that I’d feel well enough Saturday to race. I did, but during the race, I was drowning in my own mucus. I did it to myself, but I felt so horrible after the race. I was dry heaving in the garbage can right after the race. When I got home, I spent the next 4 hours totally out of it, feverish, nauseated, and hacking up a lung the rest of the night. I was worried about racing on Sunday too. “If this is what cross does to you, it’s not very healthy,” I thought to myself. “Can I go through with tomorrow?”
Step 4- RACE, again.
Sunday, I woke up feeling better. The yucky drainage feeling had gone away, but I woke up with a head cold. Irrationally, I told myself, “Well, racing today will clear up my head cold. I will snot it all out.” (gross) My energy level was fine, I wasn’t sore from the day before, and I was already registered so I loaded up and headed to Estes Park. The scene was quite a bit different from Saturday’s race. It was much bigger. This is part of the Colorado Cup series meaning a lot more riders and prestige.
There were 35 women at the start line…. about 15 more than the day before. The course was also different. It was technically demanding… good for the mountain bikers. I quickly had to get used to using cantilever brakes which don’t stop you even close to as well as the hydraulic disc brakes on my mountain bike. At this race, I learned how to ride my cross bike and how it handles.
I didn’t get very lucky at the start. No call-up because I haven’t done any races and found myself in the 3rd/4 rows. I had to fight my way up to the front through the traffic over the course of the first lap and by the time I got up as far as I could, the leaders were long gone. I found myself sitting in 4th place for most of the race. I was surprised because there were some other fast pro mountain bikers there that I respect and figured I’d be behind them somewhere. One thing I need to work on is paying attention to the lap counter. I thought I had one more lap so I slowed down a little bit to conserve for the last lap, and lost 2 spots. Granted, I probably would have lost them anyway, but I learned to pay attention to what lap you’re on and not to slow down!!!!
I ended up in 6th which was much better than I was expecting. I thought I was going to get lapped!
Jeff Kerkove rode up from Ft. Collins to watch our race. Here is a vid he took:
Lap 1… trying to move on up.
Heart rate and altitude profile from the day. I think it’s pretty obvious where I started and stopped racing. Pin it you muppet! I haven’t pushed sustained effort like that since my last Boulder Short Track in July. It felt good, and I was surprised I was able to do it!
There were photographers all over the course, so hopefully I can dig up some cooler action shots from Sunday’s race (Aspen Lodge CX) and will post ‘em tomorrow sometime.
My non-bike thing I discovered this week is that LiquorMart in Boulder has a build your own 6 pack section offering a ton of different singles you can try, and then it’s 20% off!
I think there might be a misconception about me – perhaps people think that because I like to drink beer, it leads them to believe that I party a lot. I’m actually more mellow than that. I don’t like getting wasted and I don’t like staying out late. I like to enjoy A beer, I just have a beer almost every day. Binge drinking isn’t good for training, but enjoying one a day is healthy and fun. I still have 4 left.
After a weekend off the mountain bike, I’m looking forward to doing some longer tempo/zone 4 training rides this week for Brazil prep, and I can’t wait to work on my cross craft next weekend at the races. I have to work at Veloswap on Saturday, so Sunday it is!
Thanks to all the wonderful supportive folks at the races this weekend – volunteers, promoters, and racers. Having a great scene with people who have jovial, good attitudes is what makes it fun. Looking forward to being part of the ‘cross scene this year (although I’ll be cutting out for a few weeks in November for some STAGE RACING on the fatter knobby tires. YEEESSSS!!!) I’ll have my Hudz Subaru skinsuit next week too. OOOOO!