Monday, October 06, 2008

My first cyclocross race report!

And not my last. It was even more fun racing than it’s been cheering for racers these last couple of seasons.

I was a little nervous about my first ‘cross race. I made the butterflies smaller by keeping my expectations low; don’t come in DFL, and try not to break any bones. The miniaturized butterflies didn’t keep me up too late, and I managed to get a pretty good night’s sleep.

Gregg’s race was a full two hours before mine. But I was pretty anxious, so I started warming up during his race. We were parked near the course, so we set up the trainer next to the car, and while I warmed up I was ringing the cowbell and cheering for him and some other friends as they raced by the car. In past years I’ve hiked all over the course taking pictures. Also fun. But I’ll have to do a couple of races before I’m comfortable wandering around being a spectator a couple of hours before my race. I’d burned myself out so badly at Kruger’s a couple of weeks ago that I was kind of freaking out about the warm up. I was determined to get my heart rate up during warm up this time. I have trouble doing that on the trainer, but I did manage to get a couple of pretty good intervals in.

But since I’d started warming up so early on the trainer I had almost an hour until my lineup. So I rode around Alpenrose trying to stay loose and warm, and chatting up other friends who were out for the race. It’s really cool to finally be seeing people I know; some of them from Portland I’ve met at other races, and actually a growing number from Corvallis. It’s good to be around friends when you’re putting yourself out there.

Finally I got around to lining up, and discovered that I was about 20th back in the beginners. Not the start I’d been hoping for. And then they had all the beginners move to the other side of the rope. Somehow I lost some positions there. And then they had us move back?! By the time we started, I was probably in 35th – 40th position in the lineup. It was an impressive lineup … 75 beginner women?! Amazing, and wonderful. And because my expectations were low, I didn’t actually mind being so far back in the pack. Those roadies always kick my butt, and there are a LOT of roadies into ‘cross racing.
From 2008 Cross Crusade #1 - Alpenrose

It was looking pretty rainy when we arrived, but during Gregg’s race it was actually starting to dry out a little. Perfect conditions in my mind … muddy, but not actually raining. By the time the women’s race started the mud had actually dried out a little. So it wasn’t actively raining on us, and the mud was pretty tacky. I couldn’t have hoped for better conditions!

It took a few minutes to get through the initial clump of women who were slower than me. We were pretty tightly packed. But as soon as I had an opportunity to pass I hammered! We had a little mud about two minutes into the race, and I found my first opportunity to pass. A nice section of double-track; most of the women in front of me took the nice packed path to the left, which left a less traveled path to the right totally open. I hadn’t had a chance to pre-ride, or even walk the course. So everything was a surprise to me. Including the off-camber uphill right turn at the end of that section. Quick shift-down, and pass another rider on the inside.

On to the one and only tiny section of single-track on the course, and naturally there were about 5 women in front of me; some of them actually stopping on the hill! Noooo! What are you doing to me?! Another section of downhill double-track, and the roadies are slowing down again. Pass some riders on the left, and get around the U-turn at the end.

Another nice long straight section; oh my god, this is steeper than it looks, and rough, damn, it’s harder than it looked when I was watching the men’s field race by. Another twist, and a turn, and … wow, avoid the riders going down in front of me on that sharp left. I hop off the bike in the corner and run to the barrier … and … I’m not doing that again! For a non-runner, this is too far to run; the roadies might not be willing, but I could have made that corner and ridden there instead! Make a note for the next lap.

From 2008 Cross Crusade #1 - Alpenrose

The bike that I didn’t think I could shoulder flies onto my shoulder, and I run up the hill. Re-mount? Are you kidding? Even on a good day this is ugly, and it’s not looking good in race conditions. But now into the Velodrome. Cool. Over a couple of barriers. Another embarrassing re-mount (I really need to work on that), and then onto the track. The women in front of me don’t seem to realize they can use the side of the Velodrome and make the corner unnecessarily sharp (and slow), so I sweep around the outside and up on the side of the Velodrome (following the path of mud left by the men before us), passing another couple of women.

I’m thankful all this time that I decided to keep my heart rate monitor in front of me. I know it’s totally un-cool, but I have such a hard time managing my heart rate. At Kruger’s I let it get out of control, and burned myself out in the first 15 minutes of the race. Not cool. So this time I managed my warm-up better, and kept a closer eye on my heart rate during the race. It seems like the magic numbers are … don’t let it get above 200, and when it does get around 200 follow with a quick “recovery” by letting it drop below 190. Crazy, huh? But I was able to maintain this for the duration of the race, and didn’t actually get the light-headed, seeing stars, think I’m going to vomit thing until the end of the race. Perfect timing, right?
From 2008 Cross Crusade #1 - Alpenrose

Oh yeah, I came in 15th! Not bad for starting in about 35th out of 75 riders.

This was really a good race for me, and I don’t know if I’ll get this lucky again. It was technical enough to slow down the beginners who are coming from a roadie background, but not so slick that it slowed me down at all. And minimal barriers … god I’m awful at getting over those things. But this year’s Crusade season is all about fun for me. I’ll practice a little now and again, and I’ll absolutely give 100% on the course. But the riding I’m doing during the week is all about having a good time with my friends, and is not focused on training for any specific goal.

But next year, after the next big exam … well, I think I could really get hooked on this and want to train for more. Time will tell, eh?

Next installment … maybe I’ll finally get around to chatting about our mountain bike vacation back in July!


MTB Man said...

Congratulations! That's a great finish! ... and a great recounting.

Stephanie said...

Thanks! I did have a great time. I'm still hurting ... sore back, sore neck, bruises all over the place. None of that hit me until the next morning. But you can bet I'll be there again next week to suffer all over again :)

Heidi Swift said...

Dude. You KILLED your first race. I'm so crazy proud of ya.
And scared.
Your heartrate freaks me out. :)
See you at the funny farm. No more crappy starts for us, you hear?