Prepping for Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross Race Northampton
Next weekend is the 22nd annual Cycle-Smart International Cyclocross races in Northampton, MA. I’ve been attending this race for a long time–since before it was held in Northampton. This was the first cyclocross race I ever saw, back when it was held behind Orchard Hill housing area on campus at UMASS/Amherst. That was in 2001. So yes, it’s been 12 years now. I’ve been there, (finally doing that)–here’s the T-Shirt.
I’m pretty excited to be doing this race. It’s a 2 day event and because it’s just 2 towns away, I can do both days without getting up at 4am. We’ve got an epic storm heading our way…the “Frankenstorm,” but I’m feeling strangely confident that we will be spared the worst. Hopefully I’m right about that. At any rate, if we really do get the 4 inches of rain that’s predicted, I can’t imagine that we won’t have some mud on the course. The final ingredient to make my cyclocross season complete. Mud! Although it makes things crazy, I am excited about the prospect.
Training this week will be a challenge however. Winds and rain start tonight, and the rain finally ends by Friday. 5 + days of rain! I will ride in the rain but no one is riding in 60-80 MPH gusts, so I will reluctantly be logging some trainer time. The trainer will also work if we lose power, which is a strong possibility.
I got out on an amazing ride yesterday–the best training ride of the year in my opinion. I took every pedal stroke with big gulps–I couldn’t get enough. I had some structure to this ride since I knew it was going to be one of the few times I’d be able to get outside to ride this week. I did 15 minute intervals–which is something I’ve never really done before. I have never “trained” in the way I should. I just ride my bike. If I need to get ready for a long charity event, I ride more. If I’m doing a duathlon, I run more often. I’m not sure why I’m approaching this with more seriousness… doing this sport at all was not planned. The only explanation is that I really love it, and getting more experienced and more competent are the next natural steps. So I’ve started to look into basic training methods for increasing my speed. Intervals are a new concept for me, and they are not fun or easy.
But I did them. 15 mins long a piece, 3 of them, with a rest/spin in between. I realized that this was like most things in life–if you wanted to improve something, you have to come out of the comfort zone and be uncomfortable for a while. Intervals were just that–uncomfortable. But after I was done with the assigned plan, I played. I went off-road and found a cross-country race trail on a private school campus, nicely marked and leading through close cut grass and into a pine forest. I went to another park and discovered some hiking trails that had an excellent “run - up” to practice my carries. I went hard yesterday, and enjoyed the endorphin buzz well into the evening as a result.
Northampton has this crazy-intense run up that I want to be ready for. The course also has woods, barriers, deep sand, climbing, roots, and a bit of pavement for a fast start and a fast finish. You can get a good sense of the race by watching this video. The music drives me crazy so I mute it, otherwise it’s a pretty good representation of many parts of the course. If you want to see the run up I’ll be tackling, drag the bar to 3:30 and watch the speeded-up version of the dismount and carry up this monster. Then imagine 5 days of rain and the mudslide it will likely become. Then picture 800 pairs of cleats stampeding up it. I’m expecting it to be beyond treacherous. There is another climb (pause video at 2:24) that it technically rideable, but I’m thinking may be smarter to just run instead. I’ll know more after the preride next week. But even in dry conditions, even the Elite women and men sometimes just dismount for the smaller run up. The course hairpins just before the ascent, so momentum is inevitably lost. Running is sometimes just faster. Knowing that before can save you time and a fall.
Until then I’m hunkered down awaiting Sandy. My only exercise was mowing up the leaves in the back yard and cleaning gutters. I couldn’t get a sitter for a second day of riding, and I needed to prepare for the storm. So until Friday, it’s me and the trainer. Thankfully you don’t need electricity for that.