I had every single intention of racing my bike this Saturday. I have the weekend free, Sterling is actually fairly close by, and I keep hearing the Twitter buzz about a fun course. Additional, my mysterious co-blogger has caught the CX bug (I’ll take full credit for that, thank you very much) and she’s texting me daily, “did you sign up yet? did you sign up yet?” No. And now pre reg is closed.
The reason is a cold. I’ve been fighting something for a while–You might remember I complained of being sick during Northampton’s CSI International CX race weekend, and again at Cheshire, I suffered a coughing fit that lost me places in my race. The germ that has taken up residence in my upper respiratory system has invited friends over to party. I’m trying to kick out the bug but each time I start to think I’ll be just fine, I break out into another coughing fit.
It’s only Wednesday, so I have a couple of days to improve my lung function. I’m going to ride tomorrow and Friday too….I’ll know better if I can hack it (pun intended). Same day registration is allowed so the option remains to race, and Heather still seems interested. But if I don’t go for it, I still plan to ride (thinking as I type this, if I’m planning on riding anyway, maybe I should just race…..).
I guess the difference is intensity. The predicted temperature at the starting whistle is an optimistic 20 degrees F. Start time is 9:30 AM, I’d need to leave the house at about 6AM, up by 5:30AM. Intense cold, early start, and its a race, so full gas. I think my lungs would seize. Riding on my own means slower spins, exploring, playing, starting later at a balmy 30 degrees, and stopping to pull my Kleenex out and clear the pipes every so often. Not to mention the travel time and registration $$$$. On the other hand, racing means seeing some of the fantastic New England Cyclocross Community again. I’m very torn.
If I miss this weekend, the season isn’t over yet. I am doing the DAS BEavER CX race in Dayville, CT. My coffee is on the prize list there so it’s a must attend for me. And then there is the famous Ice Weasels Cometh race in Walpole, MA. Both of these races are in the same weekend, so that would be a whole weekend of CX, and lots of road time. But if I’m healthy, it would be a great last hurrah for me to wrap up the 2013 cyclocross season.
Thoughts? My lungs make the final decision. I think if it were at least 20 degrees warmer (like, the 40′s) I’d feel my lungs could take it.
I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend. It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed. Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.
When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross. But I was selling my new addiction short.
I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total. They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout. At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4. I’m interested to see how that looks. I was really pleased with my results at Northampton. I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence). In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th. And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field. It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.
Other things I have noticed in this pursuit: I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year. Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes. This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all. I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.
To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to. There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts. I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me. When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time. After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds. And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well. It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.
Not making mistakes on the course carves time. Getting faster and stronger carves time. Building endurance carves time. Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time. Skills work carves time. Staying healthy carves time. Staying lean and light carves time. I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.
Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack. I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.
Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one. The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result. But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross. It’s just really, really fun. It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun. It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible. This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.
Here’s a few more shots of the Women’s Elite Race last Sunday. What a beautiful day for cross racing. Until next year Northampton! –Karen
Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happening in the cycling world.
Right now, pro teams are readying themselves for the Amgen Tour of California, one of the premier tours in this country. HealthNet/Maxxis has morphed into a new team, Ouch Pro Cycling. Several members of the old Health Net Team are still there, with notable addition Floyd Landis. It will be an interesting season with Floyd back in the game, and of course I’ll be tuned into the Tour de France to watch Lance’s performance closely. Another favorite cyclist of mine is Tyler Hamilton, who rides for Rock Racing. I’m excited to see Landis, Tyler, and Armstrong all in races again. A wave of nostalgia perhaps, with a anticipation of what is to come in 2009.
The National Cyclocross Championship races are being held in Kansas again this year. Last year the snowy cold weather provided a dramatic win for Tim Johnson of Cannondale/Leer/Cyclocrossworld. There’s a big kick-off party being held that weekend, appropriately dubbed the “Mud & Blood Ball.” I say….excellent! Here’s the press release taken from their site:
Crossniacs National Syndicateand Cyclocross Magazine present the Mud and Blood Ball, the USA Cycling ’08 Cyclocross National Championship kick-off party to be held at the Mission Theatre in Mission, Kansas.
Clip into your race weekend with a cool movie, gourmet food, Boulevard Beer, give-aways and much more. Visit with other racers. Celebrate the season with a beer. Tickets are $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door. Get tickets at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/47004
This gritty movie is a Roll Your Own Films Production with additional support from Trek Bicycles and KLM Marketing. It was shot entirely in high definition in December of 2007 at the Cyclocross National Championships in Kansas City. The film immerses the viewer in the real feel of hard-core cyclocross racing in extreme weather conditions, including driving snow, mud, ice and frozen mud. It includes interviews from Steve Tilford and elite men’s champion Tim Johnson. With a hard-charging soundtrack, all the action is from multiple races over four days, culminating with the exciting elite women’s and men’s championships.
Definitely sounds like a good time! Check out the Mud and Blood Ball site for more information!
They used to hold this race at UMASS/Amherst years ago, right near my old dorm, Van Meter out near Orchard Hill. A few years ago they moved it here to Look Park in Northampton. The park is large enough to still accommodate its rapid growth.
I brought my Mom and my son. Mom was snapping pictures and enjoying herself–it was her first bike race. She compared it a little to when her brother raced motocross back in the 70′s. I guess bikes are a family thing–one way or another. We caught the Men’s Cat 2/3 race and most of the Women’s Elite race before my son had had enough, and we headed home. What a great weekend for ‘cross racing here in New England!
Trebon took first, Johnson took second, and Jamie Driscoll took third. For more photos and results click here. It was a beautiful day and there was a heavy spectator turnout. More photos to come!