So today, I raced. For the first time since early September, I turned my pedals in anger. Man, was it fun.
I have my choice of three cyclocross series: OVCX (out of Cincinnati) and Cap City (out of Columbus) in Ohio and a series in Indiana (Indiana CX Cup? Not sure of the name.) Yesterday, I could've raced the Indiana series, but I'm not familiar with it. OVCX was racing in Louisville today, but it's a little bit too serious for my first race back after an extended time off. Cap City--a smaller, less organized series with the #1 series rule of NO JERKS!!!, the #2 series rule P.M.A., and general "party where a bike race breaks out" vibe--was the perfect series to resume racing. It didn't hurt that I got half off my entry for racing in costume.
Yeah, I know, I raced last year at Uncle Steve's as Fred, I raced last year's OVCX Storm Eva Bandman Halloween race as Fred, and I've raced the Warrior Dash as Fred. Not very original. Unfortunately, finances, creative energy, and available time with my Style Consultant (my daughter) have been at an all time low, so it was back to the tried and true.
One of the things I like about Cap City is starting time. If I raced in Louisville today, my wave would've gone off at 9:30 which would've required me to leave by 6:00. My start time at Uncle Steve's was noon. I met a buddy at 8:45 and off we went.
A thing about my buddy: he's in the midst of his own comeback. 2 years ago, he wasn't having fun racing cx and just put the cx bikes away and concentrated on time trials and tri/du's. This year, the cx bug hit him early and he's been racing and having fun. He hates rain, cold, mud, and sand. He's faced all 4 this year and has come out smiling each time. It's nice to watch.
We got to the race in time to be the first two to register. I managed 2 warm up laps before the start. Pretty early into the first warm up lap, I figured out I was going at race pace. There was going to be no all out efforts. The point of today was to finish. Period. I was good with that.
The course was set up in Uncle Steve's front, side, and back yards. Uncle Steve is a real person and supporter of cx. I have no idea who he is, just that the Uncle Steve's race is somewhere around his birthday. Let's see, a cx race, a Halloween race, and a birthday...spells party to me. The start was in the side yard and went up towards the road, hung a left (I think) and went along side the road in a drainage ditch into the wind. Across the driveway, we turned around, came back and went down toward the barriers and then into the woods. The trip into the woods was great. First, we went up a steep little notch and turned left along a pond, then left down a notch through some serious mud. Here, I found aiming at a tree on the left side of the notch worked well. Instead of hitting the tree dead on, the mud and lay of the land took you just to the right of the tree. We then turned back towards the pond and some more mud, a short, steep rooty run up, and left along the pond to another left turn down a notch into some mud and then deep into the woods. From the first notch up to the pond and through the woods was my favorite part of the course. It was my fastest segment, it went along a creek, had a log to ride over, trees to miss...it was sweet. Out of the woods we went into an uphill to the road, a 180 back down, a right hander, and back through the start and onto the finish line.
I experimented just a tad. I didn't put much air in the rear tire. I wanted to see if it gave me more grip in the mud. What it did was slide around. Probably, I could've used a bit more air. There were a couple times I felt like I was going sideways. It was fun. As the race went on, I realized there was a woman behind me (my wave was Cat 4 men, Cat 3/4 women, and the juniors) that was in her first race ever. One of the more experienced people from the series was riding around with her to help her through. My focus shifted from finishing to not getting passed by her. At that, I succeeded. Granted, it wasn't close, but it changed things from a training ride to an actual competition. Suddenly, there were spots where I was going, if not all out, 85% or so. Man, it was fun!
All told, I spent a shade over 50 minutes (30 in the race and 20 in warm ups) riding reasonably hard with a bunch of fun people. It doesn't get better than that. After my race it was decision time. I wanted, I really, really wanted to do the masters race an hour later. But...there's that little hospital stay and extended time off as a result. I got in a race. I was in good shape. I was happy. No reason to chance things. So my buddy went off to do the masters, I changed into my street clothes, wandered down to the main viewing area for some coffee, some Jeni's Awesome Icecream (Salty Caramel...yummy!!!!), a cup of mead, and some cheesecake.
Next weekend, is an off weekend, of sorts. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is the Cincy3UCI weekend. I'm registered to race Friday, but I'll pass. The fields will be a lot larger than what I was in today and the courses will be a lot tougher. My team is putting on the Saturday race, so I'll just concentrate on helping out there and hitting the next weekend's Cap City race. I can't wait.