The tri season is over and coach said to be a normal person. She said go have unstructured fun. Ok, so now what? An incredible season is over and I don’t HAVE to workout or do anything I don’t want to. I’ve taken my dog for some off leash walks next to the river (we usually run on leash instead) and I maintained swimming because it’s easy to show up to. I decided to try out this cyclocross thing. My parents have been volunteering at them for years (my mom makes some bomb breakfast burritos for cross!) so I’ve poked around and watched friends do a few. So far I’ve hit the park 3 times prior to race day; just enough to have an ounce of confidence but not enough to have any idea what I’m actually doing. I borrowed an entry level mountain bike to get started. It’s heavy but the trade off is stability.
Race morning arrives and my category, Women’s C, isn’t until 12:25…um. What?!? So I slept in, packed my bag, and got to the park at 9:30. I had plenty of time to grab my bib and then chat with some veterans about what to expect. The resounding advice is “Go slow to go fast.” It’s common knowledge that our course is relatively easy being a dry climate. Even though it rained that night there was still one tiny puddle you could go around, if you even call it that. The guys said there was a semi technical turn at the gravel and to be careful. I’m a huge anti pin proponent because I hate poking holes in nice kits. I tried out some adhesive spray for the number instead and put one pin in the seam of my suit just in case.
Before I knew it, it was race time. We had to wait for Women’s C race to finish 2 loops before starting. Our race was only 3 loops (if you didn’t get lapped) of about 1.2 miles. A total of 7 women toed the line. We positioned ourselves into 2 rows with cyclocross bikes in the front and mountain bike in the back.
“3…2…1…GO!” and we were off. I started off in a bad position being last at the first turn. One of the only obstacles on the course were 3 steps early on in the course my bike was extremely difficult to lift over the steps but I made it. After the next bend and straight away we had a decent onto gravel and then a sharp right. They were not exaggerating about being careful here. I almost eat it but was able to stay upright. After this my mantra became “Go slow to go fast.” Next up was our first big incline. The girl in front of me had to get off her bike so I was able to pass her. We had some tight descending switchbacks lined with slippery pine needles which then opened up to a decent into the “mud puddle. We then had a straight away back to the main walk way.
Here they zig zagged us a bit on the top of a little hill before sending us down a nice slope.
At the end of a long slightly winding decline we had a sharp right turn and a bump where someone ejected a water bottle we had to avoid each loop. Next we had a mound of dirt to pump over before a sharp right. Here we hit grass for some tight rectangular zig zagging and some turns before heading back to the finish line area. On the way back we had a serpentine pattern that went up and down into almost a valley. There was sand at the base of the inclines so you had to hit them at a pretty good speed. I thought this was the best part of the course and I was really grateful to have tried it out while practicing so I could hit them a little faster with more confidence.
We had one more hard right turn at the base of a fast decline then another hill before crossing the finish line. This was the longest and hardest 1.2 mile loop I’ve ever done.
Now that I knew what the loops were I spent the rest of the race inching closer and closer to the next girl in front of me but didn’t have the confidence or experience to pass. This is definitely a skill I will have to figure out if I do another race but for now I’m happy with how I handled the terrain and had fun.
I was able to stay upright, not get lapped, and have fun. All in all a fun morning! What I have loved about cyclocross and off road riding is it works on all of my weakness. It’s been fun trying something a little different and not being good. There was something freeing about just going and playing out on the course with no pressure or expectations.
Time: 35:17 (8.06 miles)
Women’s C Category: 6/7
Mountain bikes: 2/3
Special thanks to Coola for keeping my skin protected with top quality sunscreen, Betty Designs for keeping me decked out in the best apparel, and last but not least, thank you Emelia for letting me borrow your bike for this race. Photos graciously by Gary Brooks and Jim Hawe