What possessed me to think this was a good idea? I mean how does a guy with little to no racing experience decide to race Cross. They don't make low enough categories for guys like me. Unlike mountain or road racing Cross offers little in the way of recovery. Me? I need all the recovery I can get. Not once have I ever considered lactate threshold or ideal heart rate. I simply ride to ride. And to drink beer guilt free.
Several years ago I attended my first cross race as a way to expand my photographic portfolio. I expected to see stereotypical type A's riding around in circles and getting "dirty". I expected great action shots, I never expected to see people just as intent on tapping kegs as making the starting line on time. I certainly did not expect to see people having fun. Yet here were 100s of people who obviously subscribed to my way of thinking. Most of my adult life has been fashioned after two mottos "It doesn't have to be fun to be fun" and "There is such a thing as a good kind of hurt". Needless to say I was intrigued.
Shortly thereafter I purchased my first cross bike. I began to take it on all my local singletrack and the trails came alive. Riding Cross for me was always a ride on the edge of disaster. Cantis instead of discs, 38/26 instead of 22/34. Hook, line, and sinker. I left the racing for the guys with single digit body fat. I was having as much fun as they were and never had to shell out an entry fee.
So then, why am I toeing the line with 30 or so strangers waiting to suffer? Curiosity more than anything. Cycling forums tout the sheer joy and pain of racing cross and in my experience as a spectator I had to agree with them. Plus it was only 45 minutes and who among us cannot suffer for 45 minutes. The thing about time, however, is that it is all relative. For instance 45 minutes on a date with a sultry vixen flys by, conversely 45 minutes with your heart rate pegged and your legs exploding seems to last for days.
Too late to turn back now. No fake mechanical is gonna save my sorry ass. Were off. I sprinted off the line as I wanted to run with the lead pack for at least one lap. Oh well one-tenth of a lap would have to do. By the time I finished the first lap I was worked but had no visions of giving up. By the second lap I wanted to puke. Luckily, I don't bother with such things as cyclocomputers or heart rate monitors. Had I seen what my heart was probably doing I would have more than likely ridden straight to the ER. By the last lap I had reached the "it doesn't have to be fun to be fun" zone. My 5yr old son was propelling me around the course with shouts of "Go, Daddy, go!". How could I disappoint? Unfortunately little boys have no concept of lactic acid and exploding heart rates. All he would understand was daddy quit. So I persevered. The last lap was the best and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. The barriers were no longer obstacles, merely minor inconveniences, my legs no longer hurt, they were just numb. I have no idea what my lap times were but I would guarantee my that last lap was definitely my fastest. And in keeping with Cross the finish line was at the top of the hill. I rolled across somewhere between first and last (closer to last) and right over to my son. "Daddy, did you win?" was all I got.
Biggest lesson learned was that all the technical skills in the world do not make up for a lack of fitness. And while I don't plan on getting a heart rate monitor or cutting back on beer consumption, you can bet you will see me on the line next weekend. If you find yourself off the back in the Cat 4s, say hello. I will more than likely be the guy right behind you.