MFG CYCLOCROSS - Woodland Park GP
I’ve been aware of the WP GP that MFG has been putting on for a couple years now, and it sounded like a ton of fun, but my schedule had never allowed me to make it. This year, I vowed that would change. Never mind the fact that it was my first CX race since last year’s epic (and epically fucked up) SSCXWC, my first (and last) cross race all year, and that I haven’t specifically trained for cross in a good while. Never mind; ‘cross is all about attitude and I had it going in.
Three things: I’ve stopped worrying about what I look like while I’m racing. This means I’m the crazy lady with mirrored sunglasses and purple tights. Whatever. Second: My pre- and post-race nutritional strategies have been fine-tuned over the years and involve Red Bull, donut holes, and beer. Third: Being unemployed really cuts into your training funds, since it takes a lot of food to train for cycling. So I’m on an edge here, literally and physically.
Anyway, the race. I had set up a Facebook event and invited roughly 100 of my friends, mostly so that I wouldn’t wake up that morning and go “aw, screw it, the weather’s bad and it’s far away and bed is warm.” I had skipped a party at the house I’m staying at the previous night, put in earplugs, and went to sleep around 10. Turned out to be a very good move. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to face some CYCLOCROSS (lack of training, you know, notwithstanding.)
My bike was clean but not tuned, and I had a few auto-shifting issues on the ride in and during my warmup, but it was too late to do anything about it, and I’m pretty sure it just needs a new cable anyway. So that was working against me. I rode out to the course (about 8 miles from where I’m staying) and did some quick hill sprints, power squats, and jumping jacks to stay warm. When the race before mine ended, I hopped on the course, hoping to have enough time to gently preview the course. I got it, but I ended up lining up at the back of the pack. Where I should have been anyway.
There are only 2 places to be in a cyclocross race, off the front, or off the back. If you’re neither, you’re caught up in the storm, bumping elbows and handlebars and hoping no one in front of you fucks up an element and piles up. Given my training and fitness, and the fact that this was my first race in over a year, I chose the latter, trying not to be DFL the entire time. I kind of succeeded…
Right off the start I hammered it and put about 10 girls behind me. The course narrowed and we got trapped up in some single track where people were just riding slow and stupid. I got plowed into from behind by some bitch on a mountain bike who half-assedly apologized. I know you’re not sorry, don’t say you are. Then by about half way through the first lap I was really fighting that urge to purge. That’s how you know you’re working hard enough in CX: You kind of think you might vomit, but you haven’t yet. I backed off so I could recover, and by the time the barriers came around I was feeling ok, but as I came into the barriers my chain dropped. Good timing anyway, since I had to get off to clear the barriers: hup, hup, up the hill, and then put the chain back on. A girl comes around me as I’m doing this - Squeaky Brakes. I tail her down the hill and around the corner but somehow she gets away.
Laps start ticking. I hear the announcer say that there are 23 minutes to go - about half way. I’m recovering from the “urge to purge” feeling but not super stoked about why I’m here in the first place. I always go through this during a cross race: the existential “why the fuck am i doing this, i should just quit, why am i here” questions. Fortunately I silenced that little voice as my strength came back and I passed a girl going up the hill toward the end of the lap. The Cat 3 Masters men started coming around to lap, and I slowed up so that I wouldn’t interfere with their race. Then the Cat 1-2 women started passing. I continued to just ride my own damn ride, not interfere with the races that I wasn’t in, and to keep working. Two to go. Dammit. I was hoping the lap card would say “1”. Maybe next time.
At one point another woman passed me with an “On your right!” and I got out of her way, assuming she was a cat 1-2 lapping me. Not the case - her number was a Cat 3 number. So I jumped on her wheel and followed her through the barrier section. Dropped my chain AGAIN. Third time’s the charm. Put the chain back on, chase back on, pass her. Put distance between self and her. Keep mashing.
Last lap, I was starting to settle back into a rhythm and was feeling good. This is the problem with cyclocross - you can’t warm up during the race, you’ll waste your race. I was finally warm and feeling good and there were less than 9 minutes left. I kept pushing it, keeping distance and growing distance between myself and the next girl, and +by the time I came back around to the finish line I had way too much gas left for the sprint. Even though I wasn’t sprinting against anyone.
2nd to last, not last. Phew. That was my goal: not last. And I was only 10 seconds off the next girl - but she was out of sight so I didn’t use her as a rabbit. Mistake. Oh well…
Lessons learned: The womens’ fields in the cyclocross scene here in the PNW is improving. Hard. When I first started this stuff back in ’07, there were only a handful of cat 1-2 women at a given race, maybe 5 or 6 at most. There were almost 20. There were 26 or 27 Cat 3 women and according to the results over 50 Cat 4 women that raced that day. That is AWESOME. I love seeing more and more girls coming out and enjoying playing in the mud. It also means that I need to step my game the fuck up. HTFU. Train harder. Train specific. Train more and train better. Also, get your shifter tuned before the race, and maybe a second chain guard so you don’t drop your chain 3 times every race.
There are always lessons learned.
Another lesson I learned: Always invite all your friends. Even though only a handful out of the hundred-something people I invited came, I still had at least 7 or 8 fans yelling my name and even more people who I didn’t know heckling me for my fantastic fashion choices. My friends enjoyed watching me suffer and get muddy, and I enjoyed racing for people that I knew. Win-win.
Note to my friends: Next year it’s on. More, faster, better, stronger. The best part of cyclocross is the way there is always room for improvement - there’s no such thing as a perfect race. There’s always an element you could have cleared better, been stronger on the run up, or the stairs, or not grabbed such a handful of brake going into those swoopy singletrack turns. Always room for improvement.
Can’t wait for next year!!! Thanks to all who came out and thanks for reading! If you haven’t ever been to a cyclocross race I strongly encourage it. You won’t be disappointed.