Saturday, October 04, 2008

Cyclocross Racing

So what the heck has Sandra been up to? This year I thought I would buy a cyclocross bike and dive into racing cyclocross. Now I had never even seen a cylcocross race before attempting my first Tuesday night casual racing night to help me prepare for my first weekend of racing (last weekend). The season is relatively short starting in mid-September and finishing up at the end of October.

Training for me consists of taking my cyclocross bike across some park area and riding up some grass hills, running with my bike up some stairs and hills, and working on dismounting and remounting at speed. Being an absolute beginner with this, it has been a rather slow and sometimes painful (literally) process. At last, I am starting to see some improvement in my ability to do these fundamental skills.

There have been some absolutely fantastic sessions where I have scared squirrels, gophers, rabbits and coyotes from their hiding spots and sent them scurrying across the park. When a rabbit fled across the field I felt like I was engaged in some sort of safari on a bike. Experiences like this are great, the crashes and groin crushing experiments in botched remounts are not. Often my training sessions contain both, moments of absolute bliss and confidence crushing misfires and crashes.

The past weekend, I had pretty strong races. My dismounts at speed are improving but remounting at speed is still a challenge though it is improving. The problem with both skills is largely rooted in a lack of confidence in my ability. Being tentative about these movements makes them much more difficult to execute cleanly, and not executing them cleanly makes you even more tentative about them. In addition, mounting is often done on a side of a hill which is crazy. Conversely, a clean execution increases your confidence when you execute the manoeuvre the next time, so it will most likely execute smoothly as well. It occurs to me that this may contain a metaphor for life in general. Yeah, one big challenging, adrenaline-filled, painful, joyful, groin-aching and confidence-testing metaphor for life.

Cyclocross is a more aerobic and intense workout (good for the colder temperatures of the fall and winter) and improves your fitness and bike handling skills tremendously. However, it trashes your legs so being a runner I will pretty much have heavy legs until the season is over. I attempted to continue to train for running while cyclocross racing but it does not work. So all my running is recovery based with some attempt to do short hills and lots of strides. I figure this will help me in the runs ups and barrier jumping involved in cyclocross.

Tonight is the first ever Alberta night race in Cyclocross at the University of Calgary and Sunday there is another race at the same location. This will be followed by Nationals in Edmonton on the long weekend. I cannot wait. I hear it is supposed to be something. Anyone who has not seen a cyclocross race should definitely come see one. Check out the Alberta Bicycle Association website for locations and times.

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