I am not sure what I was getting myself into signing up for a cyclocross race after having had very little time to practice, or attempt to practice, as in my prior post about the sport. The race was in Saratoga, very close to the famous race tracks, which I realized after 1. passing a sign indicating it was home of the Saratoga Springs race track and 2. why there were so many horses everywhere. The experience, as a whole was fun, and I cannot remember the last time I raced just for fun. Really, all races should just be fun anyways, right?
My innate poor sense of direction made it slightly difficult finding the race as normal– perhaps if I had a navigation system things would have been slightly easier. But even with a printed out mapquest directions, I still got lost a couple of times (okay, a few illegal U Turns were made as I was passing the bridge going into Massachusetts, which is definitely not where I wanted to be.) And, it gave me directions which made no sense to me. Then again, it really wouldn’t be a true racing experience if I did not get lost trying to find the place.
I did make it in time to get my number and meet a couple new friends and did a couple of practice loops on the course which consisted of a run up, a couple little hurdle/obstacles, and a long sand pit, which the really good racers could just plow through on their bikes. I, on the other hand, attempted to ride through which was unsuccessful, and probably wasted more time, hence simply carried the bike and ran through the sand. (Hey, people carried their bikes in the YouTube videos I studied).
I was with the cat 4 women and it was the first time I’ve ever actually been in a group of cyclists all starting at once, which was a little nerve wrecking being so close to other cyclists.But, a quick “good luck and have fun!” from Billy D. as I was waiting at the start definitely helped ease the nerves a bit. Throughout the race, you are in close proximity to the other racers for the first lap or so (depending on category determines how many loops you do in the allocated time.) Falls can occur, and often do, with a course that has sharp turns, or areas where you have to ride through thick mud, and if you cannot brake in time to avoid collision with the cyclist in front of you.
Basically, it’s a sprint from the very start. You start fast, run up the hills fast, bike down hills fast, carry your bike fast, run over the hurdles fast, if your shoe falls off, put that on really fast too(no judging, I’m still getting used to my pedals).The course zig zags and marked by tape. Your lungs are on fire the whole time and your thighs burn. Like running a 5k or short sprint race.
Compared to running races/ multisport racing (as I cannot really compare it to a road race, but from what I heard from a female road racer yesterday, a lot of female road racers can be non-friendly and “bitchy”), the pre-race atmosphere is quite similar– instead of you asking someone to zip up your wetsuit for you, or ask if they have ever run the particular race before, you talk about other cx races which you have participated in, who won the last race, where the next one is (of course, all I could say was, ‘no I wasn’t at the last race,’ and ‘ um, no, I don’t know anything about this course, or cyclocross.)
Bike handling skills, like in mountain bike racing, are of vital importance in a cyclocross race. You need to be able to control, or attempt to have control over your bike, because the course has sharp turns and “obstacles” and people cycling past you. My mountain bike handling skills are better–my best is road skills, probably because you rarely have sharp turns except for when riding in a town.
Like other races, lots of cheering is going on by spectators, and it helps you going esp when you think you can’t do something. Cause you can. Like ride through thick mud which might be just as hard as riding through sand, or harder. Other women racers, who are not in the race with you (obviously, when you are in a race, you want to win and don’t give a crap about the other riders around you) cheer you on, saying “you can do it!” which really does help. And, cheering goes on for all racers. For me, it was fun knowing people who were racing, so I knew names of the people who bikes on Overlook Mountain Bike’s team. If I didn’t know them, I just called out, “Go Overlook!”
Mixed with cheering is the sound of cowbells. I think I heard a cowbell once when I ran the Boston marathon. Perhaps there have been cowbells in other races too and I just don’t remember them. And, apparently, there is heckling which can go on during these types of races. I didn’t hear any. I thought that was just a mountain bike thing you do. But, apparently it isn’t.
All in all, it was so much fun, and I am excited to be able to do the wicked Creepy cx race next weekend (I love when I have weekends off and can race, even though, yes, I haven’t quite switched back to normal sleep patterns yet). And, despite how quite and shy I can be, at races, it is totally different. I have no problem talking to the other racers and, am actually outgoing (which you need to be if you don’t know too many people who are there earlier enough to watch you race). Otherwise, just being at a race by yourself and not talking to anyone else, just isn’t fun. (And yes, imagine me being outgoing!)
To sum up the first cyclocross race, I must say it was wicked fun, and tough. And to show that I raced, I noticed after getting home before taking a shower that I have nasty bruises ALL over my thighs and inner thigh (from the “mounting” and a nasty one on my right shoulder from flinging my bike over my shoulder when running through the sand…) .And that is the reason why I didn’t go to the pool today, in fear of someone saying, “what happened to you?” I think I just bruise easily.
Video courtesy of Mississippi Queen, has some shots of some of the Overlook team cat 3/4 men!And, the cow bells!
Ohh, and I didn’t get lost going home!Sweet!