“Back to School” Cyclocross Race: Whee!

So the big cyclocross race at St. Olaf was about ninety-nine kinds of fun. I’ve never raced bikes before, so there was that fun for starters. There were also the various kinds of fun which all racing entails: passing, being passed, working hard, feeling just a little bit pukey, enjoying the acid-lung feeling after the race. (Personal note: I could have done without the bass-drum thud of my heart rate in my skull, which I caused by forgetting to take out my hearing aids before the race. Lesson learned.) The organizers did a great job with the race, too: the registration was painless, the concessions were ample, and above all the course was well designed and well marked.

And the race had lots of cycling-specific kinds of fun, of course. In (what I recall to have been) race-course order:

  • making the first few corners in traffic,
  • getting the timing right for every time I hit the first dismount and runup (at a barrier that was actually just a big scraggly log!),
  • climbing Thorson hill, the damnably steep “sledding hill” slope of the east side of the Olaf campus,
  • gulping air while riding the short flat at the top of the hill,
  • trying not to soil myself (or crash) on rocky descent to the football fields to the base of the hill,
  • focusing my exertion-fuzzed brain enough to negotiate the various features on the flats: several sharp turns, a combination barrier/water hazard, and the tricky involuted “pinwheel,”
  • managing (with one bloody exception (semi-gruesome photo)) to clip in and out of my pedals well enough that I probably gained four or five spots just by being able to pedal before the other guys were clipped in,
  • enjoying the shouts of “Go, Daddy!” from the girls and the clanging cowbells rung by other spectators around the start/finish area, and
  • looking down the course and seeing the hill just a couple minutes away. Again.

I climbed the hill four times, but only rode it three times after misunderstanding how many laps I had left. (I thought I was on my penultimate go-round, so I planned to run/walk the hill and conserve a bit of energy for the last lap, but it turned out I was on my last lap. The “2” on the board must have meant “two laps” for the front riders, who, I think, caught me early in that lap. Oops.)

I had no idea what to expect as far as results, and I wound up 28th out of 41 riders in my category. Not great, but passable for a first race. A bit more cycling-specific training – especially climbing hills that aren’t long, straight, gravel inclines – will go a long way. In other words, I have a few dates with that hill.

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