Bike commuting and cyclocross

Rams camp
"We're not stalkers, we're fans..."

Football is a big deal in our house.  Like, A Big Deal.  My husband and 8 year old son went to nearly every one of the St. Louis Rams' open training sessions (I think Steven Jackson might have considered requesting a restraining order when J came through his autograph line for the third time one afternoon).  The boy has over two dozen football jerseys lining his closet (Jeff picks them up cheap at Goodwill, but still...) and wears them every day of football season.  Sundays are blocked out for watching football, and my husband once told me that he wouldn't pick me up if I DNF'd a century ride while the Rams were playing.  I'm pretty sure he was serious.

I like football ok.  I love a good football movie (especially if it stars Mark Wahlberg), and it was fun when the Rams won the World Series Super Bowl. I watched intently and cared deeply every single second of my boys' middle school and high school games.  Heck, I'm even in a fantasy football league (where I'm just weathered the first of what I'm sure will be many crushing defeats).  But I don't really care unless someone I know is playing, and without any pro athletes among my circle of friends I was available when my friend Doug was looking for volunteers for Wild Trak Bike Shop's SuperPrestige Cyclocross race on Sunday.

"Bring your bike," he advised, "You can ride the course."  I liked that idea. Ever since watching my first cyclocross race last year I've been intrigued but too timid to try it out.  Riding the course pre-race seemed like a nice, no pressure way to get my feet wet.  Thoughts of bringing my bike led to thoughts of just riding to the race.  It's only about 20 miles from my house, and I haven't been on my bike since finishing Thunder Rolls.  With the Berryman Adventure rapidly approaching, it was time to get some time in the saddle.  The fact that my son needed a car to drive to work just cemented my decision.

I had my own idea about the best way to go, but I also consulted the bike route function of Google maps.  Once again, Google knew more than I did; its route was heavy on bike paths, included only a couple of road stretches (both far less traveled than my intended way), and was a mile shorter.  Or would have been, if I were capable of following directions. :P

Bike path 1
We have a network of fantastic, well-maintained bike trails in our area.  Most weekends they're pretty full of people out riding, walking, or running.  It always makes me happy to see people out and active.

I like this bridge
While it was a beautiful morning, it was also windy.  I was riding my mountain bike since that's the one I'll be on for Berryman, and I struggled to maintain any kind of decent pace despite still having cross tires on it from Thunder Rolls.

After leaving the bike path, Google directed me through refineryville.  The roads were wide and relatively empty, but the scenery left a lot to be desired.  And the smell? Oh, good grief.  It ranged from bad to awful.  I'm thankful I don't live in the olfactory shadow of the refineries.    

Imagine this on both sides for a looooooong stretch
It was in the middle of this lovely stench stretch that I made my navigational mistake. Because I've lived in this area my entire life I more or less knew where I was all the time, just wasn't so sure of the best way to go via bike.   Luckily I caught my mistake pretty quickly. I still didn't get the directions exactly right thanks to an unmarked street that I wasn't sure was a public street, but I got more or less back on track thanks to the GPS on my phone.

The refinery zone led me onto another bike path, this one on the levees along the Mississippi River.   The first stretch, which I don't have pictures of, was in rough shape. Not sure if  it's due to shifts in the levee or what, but the pavement was pretty cracked and torn up.  The closer you get to Alton, though, the nicer the trail and the view get. 

Lock and dam 27 with the flags waving in the wind
Trying and failing to get a picture of the river in the background.
I love this bridge.  I think it's so pretty.
Once I hit Alton it was back off the trail, onto the city streets, and up the hills.  I rode through a couple mildly sketchy blocks, down a street lined with beautiful old houses, and into the park.  Registration was already starting, so the people running the race kind of talked me through what to do and then we were knee deep in racers for a while.

It always suprises me how enjoyable volunteering can be.  You get to meet and see cool people, and it's nice to take the chance to give back every once in a while.  It was fun to put faces to names I see on facebook or on race results, and because my bike clothes still go on over a nerdy girl who never quite feels like she belongs, especially at bike races, it was really nice to have a couple guys I totally admire as riders recognize me and say hi. 

It was fun to get to watch the part of the race we could see from our registration table.  I had slightly considered registering for the womens beginner race before my little commute was such a struggle, but seeing everybody ride the course reminded me why I'm still too timid to try it out.  Boy, if ever a race style highlighted my weaknesses, this is it!  Tight turns, all the dismounting/remounting...I'm so slow getting on and off my's ridiculous...and you should see the way these guys (and girls) jump on and go!

Still, while I was reaffirming my "no cyclocross, not yet" decision, I was also irritated with myself.  Since when do I not do something fun just because I'll be bad at it? That would rule out pretty much every athletic thing I do (including the upcoming Prison Break race) and is so not the person I want to be.  So...maybe...I'll think about racing one of the last two.  Maybe.

And while I was pretty pleased with myself about riding to the race rather than driving there, two of the guys put me to shame.  Peat and Anatoly rode about 38 miles to the race, raced TWICE, and then rode back home.  Bad ass.

Heading back
My ride home? Just as windy, just as pretty, just as slow.  All in all, it was a good reminder that I need to keep some balance in my bike/run teeter totter.  I definitely paid for my recent lack of miles with pain in my legs, backside, and back, but since my family was still watching football when I got home, I got to take a nice, long nap.  Home run! Basket! #score!


  1. This weekend was truly gorgeous. Love all your pics. I really need to get better about taking pics.

    I love when our athletic endeavors (no matter how slow and pitiful they can be) can also be practical (ie. riding your bike instead of driving to where you need to go).

  2. Funny about your family's love of football and you're somewhat indifferent. Same here! One year all my family went to watch the Giants/New England Patriots and I stayed home and enjoyed some alone time.
    I have a student who did her first dirt bike race Saturday. Maybe she will be a Super Kate. Another student- very quiet - saw a picture I had put up of me on my bike in the triathlon. He was super impressed. I loved it - not of the running but the bike! I love bike paths and would have liked that ride. When I got lost on my bike last spring friends asked me why I didn't use the GPS on my phone. Didn't think of it!

  3. must you put me to shame EVERY DAY? wow.

  4. Invincible!! You've found my weakness - I have a soft spot for cheesy sports movies with underlying social commentary. Can't get enough. Remember the Titans, anyone?

  5. I'm so indifferent to football it's not even funny. My husband has a fantasy team, too....the other day he gently took my hand and said he was worried about our marriage because I haven't yet inquired as to how his team is doing. :^)

    I know'll do cyclocross at some point.

  6. Reminds me of our area - levee bike paths along the Mississippi. Only if I noticed a single crack I'd be phoning the corps of engineers STAT!

  7. cyclo-cross is crazy big in Boulder. BUT I already have 4 (spendy) mtn bikes and have SWORN to myself that i will NOT buy a cyclocross bike. Looks like a good suffering good time'll have to let me know how it goes. :)

  8. I see cyclocross in your future :)

    It's all football - all the time 'round here too. Honestly, I enjoy it. Until December. Then I'm over it.

  9. That is so awesome. I love me some riding!

  10. Cool that you rode there. I was going to ask you your route, now I'll just google map it. I didn't realize the levee path is paved nor that you could get to Alton with not much road riding. I've been wanting to bike to Pere Marquette and back but have been too much of a wimp. Looks like I don't have any excuses now :-).

  11. pretty cool that you rode to the race! i can hardly manage biking on nicely paved surface streets, think it'll be quite some time before i do any fancy cyclocrossing ;) i hear ya though on the "why am i not doing something fun because of how i might perform". i'd like to think i'm getting a little better at doing stuff for fun and not just to 'win'!

    also, LOL at your husband's comment. no crazy bike rides during football.

  12. Rule V, SK. You need to race cyclocross.



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