My CX Season: Stories from the back of the pack

Posted by in Cyclo-Cross, Other Stuff, Race Reports, Road

As you may already know, or may have figured out by now, I met and subsequently started training and racing with Dave Williams after I started working with Tanya, Dave’s better half.

Tanya Williams

Tanya has been hearing all about my riding and racing for over a decade now, and sometimes even manages to seem interested . . . so, a couple of weeks ago she feigned interest:

Why aren’t you racing this weekend?

I thought for a few seconds hoping to come up with a good, acceptable reason that would make me feel justified . . . I couldn’t think of anything so I answered honestly.

I’m tired of losing.

Hence, the somewhat self-deprecating title of this post; and no, I’m not giving up, although I was pretty discouraged.  I didn’t anticipate winning this season, I just expected to improve; I wanted to score some points, to feel like I was helping the team in the competition.  I’ve been trying, let me tell you, albeit unsuccessfully.

Which leads me to where I left off with my last post, just after the Long Beach Half . . .

That half-marathon was an altogether…enlightening (for lack of a better word) experience.  I often tell people new to cycling that the fun of being on the bike doesn’t actually manifest itself until well after the ride because the ride is often about suffering and you only realize how much fun you had in retrospect, thinking back on what transpired on the bike: “Yeah, that was fun!”

So it was for me with the half, after all the soreness and stiffness and cramps, when I finally recovered, no less than two weeks later, I realized not only that it was fun, but it was also the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Certainly because I wasn’t as prepared for it as I should’ve been.

I took that soreness to Camarillo to race at Casa Pacifica, the second stop on the So Cal Cross Prestige Series.  It was pretty painful to race with a pair of legs that felt like a bag of bricks.  Dave Lawson and Dave Williams both caught me in the first lap, and I think they started a minute after me.  Lee Willmore used to joke that others were racing while he went around in circles, and that’s exactly how I felt.  I finished, not in the middle, but near the end in the Masters 35+B race.  I attempted the Killer Bs and cramped up in the second lap going over the barriers.  I tried to ride it out to no avail and pulled out and hung out with the Lawson girls until the end of the single speed races.

The following weekend was Spooky Cross and I could feel during the week leading up to it that I was recovering and noticed improvement in my riding after that terrible showing in Camarillo (although it was almost impossible to get worse, I suppose).  Spooky was held at the Pomona Fairgrounds this year for the first time which featured a velo swap meet and bicycle polo out in the parking lot.  The venue was, as Geoff would say, “Groovy!”

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The course was fun, too, it featured some interesting twists, starting in the parking area and turning onto the race track, then through some soft stuff and stairs, grass, a flyover followed by a BMX section with a pump track, sand, and, of course, barriers.  The BMX section was the toughest part for me; I had zero confidence there and slowed significantly as I maneuvered through it: the Masters 35+ race was bad, probably because of my inexperience in that terrain; and although I was trying to go as hard as I could without blowing up in that race, I’m sure I was overly cautious, costing me at least a place or two.  I suppose I haven’t grown accustomed to my own fitness because by the time I did the Bs race, I was working much  harder and it turns out I did a better fastest lap and somehow figured that I was faster overall in that second race.  Perhaps I should consider reincorporating my “barf or finish” philosophy and see how that plays out for me now; I also did better on the BMX section which undoubtedly resulted in a faster lap.

I finished 23rd in the Masters race and 48th in the Killer Bs, placing me pretty solidly in the middle of the pack of both races.

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Then it was on to San Diego the following weekend for the race at the velodrome.  It was Dave’s and Tanya’s wedding anniversary and Tanya drove south with Dave while I drove with Geoff, but Geoff and I weren’t celebrating anything.  I don’t think any of us wanted to drive down too early so we decided to skip the Masters race and only participate in the Killer Bs race.  There was a good amount of indolence going around in our little circle and no one seemed to want to warm up; I knew I needed to get my heart rate up before the race because it’s easier to get your heart rate up once you’ve gotten your heart rate up, and when you need to get your heart rate up . . . well, you get the idea.

Geoff, Dave and I all started together in the back of the Killer Bs and slowly started to make our way up a little: Dave in front, followed by Geoff and then me.  We went around a couple of times and I got the feeling Geoff was taking it easy on us until I passed him after two or three laps.  A short while after that I passed Dave and I later found out they both had tire troubles.  They both maintain that I passed them before their misfortunes on the course, but I have my doubts.  In the warm up laps the course did not seem as fun as it did during the race.  Miguel was out there cheering and somehow got a group of strangers to cheer, “Chuy! Chuy! Chuy!” as I rode by.  They made me laugh and when I asked Miguel later who they were he said he had no idea!  I finished 26th of about 50 people, again mid-pack.  Neither Geoff nor Dave ended up DFL despite both suffering mechanicals.

That was it, San Diego was the last time I raced, I’ve missed three consecutive weeks.

I am being a bit pessimistic by referring to the “back of the pack” as opposed to mid-pack in the title, especially since they’re both correct.  I suppose my frustration is compounded by my inability to lose more weight and reach my target weight, in fact, I’ve gained a pound or three.

So when Tanya asked why I wasn’t racing, she was in effect asking why I wasn’t eating well, because I was eating everything from muffins to peanut butter cups and I’ve never been the type to engage in anything remotely self-destructive (other than some of those mountain bike descents, I suppose).  I stopped following what was an almost strictly Paleo diet . . . and then I read in The Paleo Diet for Athletes:

Every calorie eaten from less than optimal food means a lost opportunity to take in much larger amounts of nutrients from vegetables, fruits, and lean animal protein.  The more serious you are about your athletic performance, the more important this is.

Suddenly I was motivated again. Suddenly I realized that I had to be serious about my training.  Suddenly, I wondered whether anyone wondered why I hadn’t posted anything new on my site.  Suddenly, I wanted to post something new.

Dave and I have done intense short rides, medium intense rides, and rode 106 miles all the way down to San Diego.  Geoff also sent me a training plan that worked for him in the past and Dave and I have been following it.  I think having the structure has been very useful, and for now the guessing is taken out: guidance is good.

The goal was to take some better fitness to Bakersfield, and I thought I was on my way.  Then after Tuesday night’s ride I caught a cold and decided to stay home for the weekend.

Hopefully, come Monday of next week I’ll be posting about a good race where I scored some points for my team, which would be a marked improvement.  Last year’s Turkey Trot was somewhat of a revelation for me, let’s hope this year’s will bring more of the same.