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Report: 1st Cross Race Kicked My Butt(4 posts)

Report: 1st Cross Race Kicked My ButtMarlon
Oct 18, 2001 7:28 AM
I posted some stuff when I was crit racing for the first time in the racing forum, so I'll do a double post in the cyclocross forum too. But here's the jist of my story (written originally for my triathlon club) - hope you enjoy it.

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I have to admit it - I'm not a big fan of running (then again, I'm not a big fan of swimming either. Funny that). But this semester, I made an exception, and I took up the sport of cyclocross. And I can tell you right now, this is the silliest, craziest, most insane, stupid, butt-smacking ludicrous, heart-stopping, full-on anaerobic, no-time-to-breathe, masochistic, sadistic sport known to humankind. And I love it. I think. But onto the report...

Last Saturday started early at 6:00am with me nervously getting up and beginning my race-day mental preparation - namely, wandering around in the dark trying to remember where the heck I put my glasses, trying to find some warm clothing because my room invariably dips to Antarctic temperatures, and cursing the fact that most of my cycling wardrobe is composed of really thin lycra that has no insulating value whatsoever. Believe it or not, I wasted nearly 2 hours debating whether I should wear wool tights or lycra tights. In the end, the chafing issue won out (I swear, females who cycle are so lucky not to have these issues), and bedecked in lycra, I set out for Grouse Mountain (yup, where the UCI Mtn. Bike race was), where the race was to be held. Now, being the stupid macho sort, I decided to bike there, and I live on the far western point of Vancouver, across an inlet that seperates me from the mountain. So, it was off to 2nd Narrows bridge (why are there so many frickin' hills east of Main St.?) where I promptly got lost after crossing and ended up cycling a bit up towards Mt. Seymour (ie the wrong mountain), then I overcorrected and ended up going for a short bit up the wrong side of Grouse. I was fairly exhausted when finally made it to the base of the lift up, and that when I realized going up the cable car that I'd forgotten to bring
warm spare clothing. Because it was frickin' cold up there and there was snow at the top. Yes, snow. Dirty, off-white, wet, melting snow. Suddenly, it came back to me: nightmares of 19 years spent in the cold clutches of Eastern Canada, shovelling snow off the frickin' long driveway (I lived on the outskirts of Ottawa near the "boonies", or country-side for you city folk, and our driveway was LONG) year after year while the dang snowplow would invariably come and block the dang driveway just after I'd finished. Oh man, do I ever hate this whole
concept of snow, almost as much as swimming. Still, I'm a brave strong man (albeit a bit of a dunce at times), and I fear nothing except for undercooked rice (it's all about the rice), so I put on my tuque, shoved my hands down my tights to keep warm, and after a short wait, with the start, I was off like a scalded cat up the mountain. Meow. And that's when it all fell apart.

Lesson one in cyclocrossing on a road bike: narrow tires stink.

The course was like the UCI World Cup race course, with fewer technical sections, but it was still nasty nasty stuff. Muddy sections up a hill. Snow and ice mixed with blacktop. Snowy meadowland filled with what seemed like the worst gopher holes ever misplaced on Earth. Bumpy fireroads covered with crap. Loose black shale and mud in super-tight corners. More streams and miniature lakes that threatened to swallow my bike whole. Frickin' sets of consecutive barriers with technical areas right after them. A butt-humping heck of a rocky slope (read: CLIFF) that I was expected to climb up, bike on my shoulder. Grizzly bears (I kid you not about this one!). And I had to do this on my winter road bike? Sucks to be me.

Lesson two: I need mountain bike brakes.

I fell off my dang bike at least five times, and my legs looked like they had been through a cheese-grater, more so than usual. As a friend accurately foresaw, trying to brake with at least two types of soil mixed with a copious amount of snow, loose shale, and no doubt some of my blood packed hard into my road caliper brakes was an effort in futility. I'm pretty sure my rims froze - my derailleur froze up at one point, until I crashed and bashed the ice off it (also bashing myself too in the process). Trying to remount your bike after you've climbed up various hills just stinks. Trying to "slide" into your saddle instead of jumping full-on and hurting yourself stinks. Mashing the dang pedal into your shins repeatedly because you miss clipping-in on the first, second, third, and fourth tries because you bought cheapo SPDs stinks. Tripping and falling on the hills stinks. Crashing into the barriers stinks. Come to think of it, I stank too, literally - I must have grossed out the competitors behind me to stay away from my smell.

Lesson three: In cyclocross, there is no such thing as "an easy ride".

The race only lasted an hour, but it was an hour of sheer misery. My toes were like a New England road - they would freeze, then thaw, freeze, then thaw over and over again, and each time they thawed, it was pain like none other. Mud and snow caked my face and helmet, and like I said, I really need to find some sort of polypropylene underwear soon - it felt that cold. You would steam up on the uphills, freeze on the downhills, and generally be miserable the entire time. My bike took a beating too - the rear wheel rim is taco'ed, bent like a twice-baked pretzel, my rear derailleur took a whacking, and I rode half the race with my handlebars twisted 5 degrees to my right. As one spectator yelled to me, "C'mon! You're doing this for fun!!!" Yeah right buddy, why aren't you racing too then?!?

In the end, I held on for 3rd place in the B race. Not bad, given the small field of about 30 altogether. And I'm going to do it again next Saturday. Because, despite all the misery, despite all the wounds, despite all the pain and suffering...

My left butt cheek. I had fun:)

Next race this coming Saturday... let's see if I get any better.
re: Report: 1st Cross Race Kicked My ButtTanks
Oct 18, 2001 10:38 AM
Sounds like fun (in a sick sort of way).
I laughed, I cried....lonefrontranger
Oct 24, 2001 1:01 PM
Marlon, you frickin' rock. You just summed up in one great story what 'cross racing is all about. I'll have to print this one out and send it to my mother. It won't convince her I'm sane, but maybe it will convince her that I'm not alone.

The bad news is it never gets any easier. Even if the course isn't as technical, remember the #1 rule of Cyclo-Cross 101: There's NO SUCH THING as an easy 'cross course. Repeat that to yourself 10 times. Now write it on the blackboard 100 times. You might even remember it next time you race...

Even on "speed courses" you simply go faster, ride harder, and get beat into the ground even worse. Charging into speed hurdles at 25mph+ with your tongue on the top tube and snot runners frozen down your chin is a life-changing experience.

Face it dude, you're hooked!
re: Report: 1st Cross Race Kicked My Buttflyinbowlofmilk
Nov 18, 2001 5:15 PM
It is good to hear that you place 3rd in your first cyclocross race. E-mail me with next Sat. race(leroy_a@yahoo.com). Since I have last read one of your discussion, I have done my 1st cycling tour(Cycle North Carolina 2001). I had fun. My speed increase from 12.5 to 15.5mph over the my 1st Cycling Tour. My cycling times over my 1st Tour range from 5hr 30 mins to 3hr 12mins on the last day of Cycling Tour. But it good to hear from you. Good luck in Cyclocross racing.