I love cyclocross because it’s like a crazy family reunion of your closest, kooky, fun, crazy relatives that figuratively live far away that you don’t get to see any other time of year. I really haven’t seen Nick or Malcolm in nearly a year, and there they were heckling me every lap! And since cyclocross is super chill, you add new members to your family every race, and the family grows and grows… then you go 9 months without seeing each other until September and the family reunion starts all over again! Then you’re racing having them yelling at you that you don’t look like you’re racing, and you’re getting big hugs afterward, and drinking beer, and heckling Jeremy Powers. Life is good when it’s cyclocross season!
So I was really nervous about the start of the season. Initially I was super excited to be upgraded to cat 3 because of my cat 1 MTB upgrade, then I really realized I’d be finishing dead last in every race. This year was a turning point in where I built more endurance in the 1.5-2 hour range which helped for road and mountain biking, but I did stray far from all out, 40 minute long efforts – which is exactly what cyclocross would be. I arrived early, which was good because I picked up some goat heads during the COTN Kick Off Party group ride the day before, and my front tire was flat. I changed out the tube, and checked my rear and it was down to 20psi from 50, but I couldn’t find anything stuck in the tire. I’m super bad at changing a rear tube (aka I can’t figure out how to get my rear wheel off… I’m a noob), so I pumped it up and I didn’t hear any hissing. I rode up, got my number, rode back and struggled to figure out how to pin my number onto my skinsuit. My normal “landmarks” were missing since there’s no rear pockets. I winged it, put the suit on, took it off, and repinned it. First world issues…
Now that I was dressed I took the pit bike up, and discovered that riding and pushing another bike at the same time is sketchy and is not easy. I ended up walking it through the parking out. Ran into Deb and Terri, woohoo! Jumped in for a pre-ride, and though the course was slightly different (and not snowy and icy) than December, it was familiar. I really like the course at Rhyolite Park, I find it to be very “mountain bikey” with fast descents and corners. There’s also minimal grass, which I love because I HATE GRASS. There was even the mud bog, which was decently deep and did a good job mudding up my bike before the race even started. After the pre ride I went back to the car and checked my rear tire, and it had dropped 10 psi so this time I aired it up to about 55psi, thinking if I just had a bunch of air in it, I could maybe survive the race without a bike swap.
Soon it was time to line up. The SW3 group didn’t have a big field size – just 10 – compared to the 25 or so SW4 women. I had the last call up, go me (my USAC ranking tanked when I upgraded, go figure… otherwise I would’ve had first or second call up in SW4). The start was crazy fast, which again is something I haven’t had to deal with all year because I’ve been learning to start slow so I stop doing my “win the holeshot, finish 25th” thing. The girl to my left threw an elbow and I was like “wahhhh big girl racing sucks.” I was actually pretty disheartened when I watched the other 9 girls pedal away from me. But I tried, and didn’t allow more than a few seconds build between me and the next place. The first time through the mud bog Katie crashed so I got around her, and another girl was having mechanic issues or something so briefly I wasn’t last. That didn’t last too long, as Elizabeth came around me on the finishing stretch and overtook me.
Second lap through before the big run up (which I walked… I should’ve tried riding it! I didn’t realize this until I watched the pro men ride it and realized that I probably could’ve done it) Malcolm yelled to me that it didn’t look like I was racing. I yelled back that grass sucks. (Grass section leads up to run up). I still was keeping 9th place in my sights, so I realized that I was actually racing, and it wasn’t a complete blow out ass kicking quite yet. The first two laps felt like hell and my body didn’t know what to do, but the third lap I seemed to be falling into a rhythm. I rode the sand just so I could yell at Shawn to take my photo (I do it all for the race photos…), and I took a different line through the mud bog which caused a huge splash – yay another good photo! I was laughing and having fun. Last December I took a photo of Georgia Gould on her way to her state pro title and it was used by the Fort Collins newspaper and I printed it out and framed it for my bike room… every time I rode that corner today I broke out into a huge smile because I remembered that photo. So really I was smiling a lot! Cross is fun!
Last lap pretty soon after the line I put myself on Elizabeth’s wheel going into the grass. A spectator yelled “Yeah, go get her, attack!” and I did. She gapped me slightly on the grass but we came into the run up together and dammit, I RAN that damn hill! I didn’t look back, and just kept going! I had been caught by the two leaders of SW4 on this lap, but I was also lapping the back of SW4, and wasn’t anywhere close to being lapped by SW3, so I was happy. I knew what had happened in December when I wrecked which allowed me to lose 11th place on this course, so I focused on being smooth and keeping the tires on the ground. I pranced through the sand pit, singing “I’m running in the sand, I’m running in the sand” and flailing my arms around. Yeah, I never said I was normal. Terri laughed so it was all good! Got to the mud pit, took my normal line which sent a glob of mud up and onto my cheek. Bo and some other spectators complimented me on the mud face and I laughed some more. I was truly having fun! Soon it was all over! I rounded the last corner and these guys were staring so I asked if I had something on my face, LOL! Shawn was at the finish line snapping photos, and I had to resist posting up just to be a nerd.
9th place (aka second from last) in 39 minutes 17 seconds! First cat 3 race done and done!
OK, now I know it wasn’t snowy and icy, but I did 4 laps today 2:20 faster than I did 3 laps in December. Course conditions of course came into play, but some also has to be increased fitness and especially endurance! I really felt like I was kinda getting a groove later in the race, which wasn’t the case last year. Oh, and if you take my time, I would’ve been 3rd in SW4… whoa. I know you can’t exactly compare like that, but in a way you can and it at least tells me that I might’ve been in the right category in SW3 after all, and I just have to gain more cross-specific fitness and sharpen my skills (you don’t even wanna see me “hop” barriers right now… it’s pathetic) over this season. I guess I’m just fighting “well, this is how I was last year” thoughts, and really I shouldn’t do that because I actually trained for this year and a lot of my mountain bike skills like cornering have improved which has carried over. Gosh, Heidi, just deal with it, you’re a cat 3, and you belong there!
I hung around for the pro races and had a beer with my ‘cross family and then headed home. Whew, it’s finally here! Next up are the big big UCI Boulder races next weekend, which I unfortunately race at 7:30am and 8am for so those will be early mornings. Boulder Reservoir didn’t treat me so well last year, and I am finding the 40t chain ring to be too big, so we’ll see how it all goes. Sunday’s race will be at Valmont, which is my favorite course!
(Post will be updated with photos as I get them, as for now, it’s a lot of pretty text!)