After starting my off season a little earlier than planned, I was unsure how to stay fit leading up to the start of my road training. I enjoy cyclocross usually, so getting into the last few races of the season seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t sure what to expect but after a month off racing and focused training, I was mentally prepared to finish outside the top ten and just have fun riding my bike. Or so I thought…
The course was totally awesome, but also quite difficult. There were perhaps two flat straights on the entire course, and the rest was constantly twisting with sections of great flow, off camber, loose dirt, dust, grass, bumps, sketchy descents, and a few stairs.
I usually do a little course recon via Twitter. I expected to need intermediate tires, or even file treads, as the course it at a bike park and it has been very dry lately. Luckily, I was informed of how loose the course was before I arrived and I brought my aggressive Specialized Terra tubulars which worked well to cut through the soft stuff to find traction.
I had fun warming up and ended up at the back of the start grid since I hadn’t pre-registered. I moved up to about 10th from last as we hit the course, but I planned to have fun and wasn’t worried about having to pass a few guys.
At the second barrier section only a few minutes into the race I hopped back on and something was wrong with my bike. I glanced at my drivetrain and everything seemed OK so I had to dismount and troubleshoot. By the time I’d unhooked my brake caliper from under my rim, I was the last rider on the course. I’d had this happen on a remount at the Boulder Cup, and I’m not sure when I’m catching the brake. The pads aren’t adjusted perfectly, since I switch wheels a lot and unfortunately they aren’t all exactly the same diameter and I think my alloy tubulars are the largest, so the pads sit low on the braking surface of the low profile rims.
I passed the last placed rider and quickly found the tail end of the race. I figured I’d start motoring past folks, but I was instead surprised to find that I couldn’t go much faster than the small group bringing up the rear of the race.
This was in pretty much all aspects. I wasn’t interested in descending much faster, and I definitely couldn’t pedal much harder either. I felt sloppy on and off the bike and before long my back started to hurt too. I glanced at my computer and was only 20 minutes into the race.
It was only about 10 more minutes before I decided to pull the plug. I was much further back than I expected, and was feeling much worse than I expected to feel.
But, the race still served its purpose. It is easy to get used to being fast. I’ve been racing well at the top level of local and regional races for a while now and it can start to feel like you intrinsically belong there. I’ve often said that for the most part I don’t really believe in ‘genetic gifts’ and that hard work can take you a long way in cycling. I was reminded that the opposite is also true and taking a month off on the tail end of fitness after nine months of racing will send your body into all-systems shutdown pretty quickly. I also gained a bit of weight (I’m about 10-12 lbs over peak road-season weight), and this also can play a major role in race performance.
I’m not sure yet if I’ll pedal the cross bike in anger again this season or not. I might be able to put things back together a little in the few weeks leading up to the State Championship. At this point I’m planning on starting training for road season just after the start of the year, so my main priority is to stay fit beween now and then.