Death by CX

When my last post left off, I was driving home from a fantastic ten-hour orienteering meet.  My little car was ridiculously full, stuffed with my race pack, clothes bag, sleeping mat, (soaked) sleeping bag, (drenched) tent, cooler...and my bike.  I hadn't needed it for orienteering, but knowing there was a race on my way home, I'd brought my bike just in case an opportunity presented itself.

When we had to be back in Jefferson City early for Bob to get to work, I was actually a little excited at the thought of racing, but a full night's rain put a damper on my race spirits.  All that rain meant that the course was sure to be soaked, and I was leery of riding in the mud.  "If it rained in St. Louis anything like it did here," Bob pointed out, "that course is going to be a muddy mess..."

"I know..." I groaned, thinking that was a good reason to go straight home, but then Bob continued, "...and you'll regret missing that."

I was unconvinced, but I couldn't let go of the idea of racing.  In the end, despite some good reasons not to enter (I raced 10 hours the day before, I suck at cyclocross), the deciding factor was this: I wasn't too tired or sore to race; I was scared of the mud.  That's a wimpy reason to go home, so I let the car carry me to Queeny Park.

Susan was one of the first people I saw, and she told me that Kristen was already out pre-riding the course.  Having some familiar faces around made me feel better, and I registered before I could change my mind. I was afraid if I waited til after riding the course I'd chicken out, but the preride itself wasn't bad.  Yes, the course had some seriously muddy areas, but I got through them ok.  In fact, despite the one steep run-up hill, I felt much better after my practice lap than I had the week before at Gordon Moore.  I wouldn't say I felt confident, but the pre-race nausea subsided.  I had a good time hanging out and talking before the race, and it was great to see Kelly, who I haven't seen since last November's mountain bike weekend.

Start line
Lining up at the start with all the other women with my stinky race jersey and the messy braids I'd raced and slept in, I was much less nervous than during my CX debut. That didn't mean that the race went any better than last week, though.  As in every bike race I've ever done, I started terribly.  Seemed like it took me forever to get clipped in, and before we'd gone 30 feet I was off the back.

This stretch is just past the above picture.  And by the time I was here, everyone else was entering the wooded area.
Turning to the muddy section
It was muddier than it looks here.  Also, the course was somewhat less sloppy the longer the day went on.
 I was able to pass one or two women in the mud as my mountain bike seemed to handle it better than the cross bikes, but it wasn't long before I was dropped again.

More mud
The course comes from the right in the picture, towards the camera.

Bubba queeny Kelly Patty
I think this was the second or third lap, but I'm sure I looked that bad on the first, too. (Photo credit: Kelly Patty)
Going towards the orange...through more mud...
And then up a gentle uphill and across the field,
I was fairly close to Kristen, whose asthma was flaring up, and passed her when we went through the "lake", a flooded section of trail with room for one bike to get through on either side of the water.  She took right and got caught up in the mud; I went left where it ended up being more solid.  "Stay left next time," I told her, "this side's a lot better." 

For me, this was the sketchiest section of the course. (Photo credit: Mike Dawson)
Riders come from the top of the picture...
...around this turn to the right..
Back out towards the pavement...

That was pretty much the end of the mud for that lap.  The trail curved around past the lake (a real lake) and then up a paved walkway.

Coming out of the wooded area (on the left) and towards the pavement

 I was passed on this hill a few times, and it's a little disheartening how easy everybody else makes it look.  

One more muddy section

It's a little hard to tell from this picture, but you come in near the top middle then curve around before riding down where the two closest riders are...from there sweeping towards the parking lot.

Once up the hill, there were a couple field switchbacks and then a gentle downhill that curved into the parking lot...

Turn coming into the parking lot.

Bubba queeny stephanie nadeau
I love this picture, which was taken about where the two riders in the above picture are.  I look much more focused than terrified. :D (Photo credit:  Steph Nadeau)

...where I got a nasty surprise...

Hill x 2

Up on the right, down in the middle, and back up on the left.  Not cool.
On my practice ride, I'd had to dismount and run up one short-ish steep hill.  Between my ride and the race start, they'd added another run-up hill.  It was a little spirit-killing to see it there, and to know it was coming on each subsequent lap.  My second "run-up" was much more of a walk-up with each lap.  From there we had a swoopy, gentler uphill, a flat paved section, back through the grass and past the start to our next lap.

The lady with the dog was hilarious.  I'm sure she had no voice left by the end of the day.  Here they're giving beer handups.
The course curves back and forth up the incline, then down pavement and more or less back to the start.
Each lap was around 1.5 miles, but I think cyclocross must take place in some other dimension where time and distance expand like the world inside the Narnia wardrobe; otherwise it would be impossible to pack that much suffering into 45 minutes.  Forget my wishful "that was easier than Gordon Moore" thinking from the practice lap.  It was hard, you guys.  But around every turn were friendly faces: Susan, riding around the course to cheer (and give constructive criticism on my remounting technique); Kristen's husband, Maddie's mom, Steph, people I met on a bike ride last winter, and the really loud lady cheering and giving beer handups at the top of the first hill, the guy whose little boy got a dose of profanity when I slid in the mud and almost fell (sorry about that), pretty much every woman who lapped addition to all the encouragement that's a natural part of being the last-place struggler.

And yeah...last place.  13th out of 13.  I'd like to tell you I'd have done better on fresh legs, but I don't think that's true.  It was a skill and ability deficit rather than tired legs.  I got a crappy start, I was slow on hills and getting on and off my bike, and I haven't yet found that spot where I'm comfortable really pushing myself on the bike.  Too much la-di-da endurance-pace riding (well, not enough of that, either) rather than any kind of intervals or hill work.

None of this is to say that I'm upset about coming in last.  I'd like to be the kind of person who can jump into any kind of race and kick ass, but the fact is that I'm not.  And that's ok. For now it's enough to be the kind of person who will jump into a race and see what happens (and what'll happen at the next one :D).


  1. Way to gut it out! I still say bicycle racing is horrible, unless you are willing to sacrifice your morals and integrity then you can make a decent living doing it.

  2. Nice job Kate! Reading this made my stomach kind of nervous. I think I might come down and spectate a bit before jumping in and racing..

  3. Need to take out a racing license for next year. We'll need to go to another Bubba race when I get back from the world tour.

  4. nice work getting out there. I would have booked it straight home for some sleep in a bed after the 10 hour orienteering deal. I like the same picture you like too. you are looking around the corner - not at your front tire. That's good form!

  5. the beer handup girl is my friend Tara!! she's a triathlete but did her first cx race the weekend before i think. nice job this weekend!

  6. You did a FANTASTIC job on a tough course! Don't sell yourself short. CX is all about having fun and challenging yourself :-)

  7. Loved all the pictures as usual. Loved your "go big" attitude as usual. Impressed (as usual) by you fortitude and ability to embrace the back of the pack. But since I know you are a way stronger biker than me, I don't foresee jumping into CX anytime soon.

  8. K you are seriously making me feel guilty that the only off-roading my bike has done is avoiding drunks and hobos on my "urban"trail...soo cool

  9. No shame in being 13th. You were out there doing it once again, trying something new and figuring out what you need to do to make it better. Hill intervals on a bike.....sounds like what I need! Badly. It is so apparent when I ride with friends or in a race - going up a hill the gap widens!
    I love following your adventures and can do attitude.

    Hey tomorrow I go to that inservice you already went to. The only good thing.....right now a day with no kids is a good thing.

  10. Awesome SuperKate! Who wouldn't hope into a CX race after a 10 hour event? :-) that is seriously awesome you decided to do the race. Loved all the pics. Looks like a beautiful day. You definitely had to feel alive after that.

  11. Well done Kate! You are hardcore. I don't even get on a bike. Great pics! I've been last and I'm 100% OK with that. It's actually quite nice :)

  12. I tell you what. If I did what you did, I would be 14/14. That mud is crazy. And muddy uphills? That requires a level of skill I have NEVER even tried to do! I think you are a brave BA lady for taking it on. AND I expect that you will do much better if you get another shot at it.


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