Set my self up for failure? You bet I did, but I knew it in advance so it was really just getting a feel for “the scene.” In that sense, GREAT SUCCESS.
Last night, I did some browsing around, and discovered a race in the morning out at McMenamins Edgefield. Heather is out of town for the day or two so I’ve got nothing better to do with my morning. Take it easy? Nah. RACE. I’ve heard great things of cyclocross in the Northwest, which had me both excited and intimidated.
So why was I set up for failure? Going against me were the following:
- I have not been training. The month preceding to and following the move were more or less “rest.” I’ve gotten some decent miles in the past week or two, but I’m definitely not in great shape.
- I have not done CX training at all. This entails practicing lots of technique, working with mud, off-camber hilly turns, dismounts, etc. I can pedal a road bike on a flat road for 40 miles with the best of them, but this is vastly different with your heart rate going up and down and all around.
- Until two hours before the race, my CX bike was not built. I got up at the butt-crack of dawn, made my way over to our storage facility about thirty minutes away (luckily, near the race), pulled parts out of tucked-away bins and off other bikes, and made my commuter into a CX bike.
- My bike sucks. It is fine for a podium in a beginner’s race back home and tooling around town as a commuter, but it is a hack of a cyclocross racing bike and it was clear. It’s really first time its weaknesses have really shown (I’ve known it, but it never really reared its head so obviously). Gearing (1×9), weight (25lbs), and nearly bald tires do not make for good climbing of muddy hills; I’d have to dismount due to lack of traction and too much torque (lack of gearing) where others did not. It sucked.
- They are faster out here. Having spectated the beginner’s race and then experiencing the “C” race (they say it is 4/5 [they do not use USA Cycling], but it is more tike 3/4 at home), I probably belonged in the beginner’s race, but I really didn’t want to be the new guy showing up to town and running away with a race. Better safe and slow than embarrassed.
I managed to get a pre-ride lap in and was dreading what was to come. The course was a real beast. Numerous unridable hills (on my bike, at least, but luckily most [not all] of them were unridable by others too), massive stairs/climbs, downhill (fast) muddy dismounts, uneven grass the entire way, and no breaks… It put anything I’ve ever seen to shame and then some.
Rode around a bit to keep warm and then we started. I took it easy the first lap because I really had no feel for the bike (having not ridden it in a year). It came back to me pretty quickly, but I’m sure I left some speed out there not being fully comfortable with my braking and cornering abilities. I basically got passed the entire race, and unlike at home, my fitness did not have me pulling people back at the end. I finished 22nd of 29. Not my best result, but I gave it everything I had, and that’s what came of what was in my tank.
I need to get in shape, I need to get a real cross bike (maybe snag something after the season [only a few more weeks to go] on sale), and I need to practice. It was a good time and the competitors were a friendly bunch.
So yeah, cyclocross in the Pacific Northwest is no joke at all. I can’t wait to get serious too.