What do you get when you plan on attending an event but then race day shows up and you’ve just finished a four week long low-sleep time of year as a farmer? Show up and race anyways, results be damned!The CUBE Cyclocross Race was picked up this year by a group of great people that I ride with. The city of Rexburg had planned it in past years but decided this year that it wasn’t worth the effort to continue doing so. So, out of love for both the sport and the event, a group of locals decided to keep it going. The planning was handled in massive part by Dave Anderson and Jeff Hancock. Those two guys did a lot to make sure things happened. There were others that helped to be sure, but from what I saw myself and took part in, those two guys really pushed hard to make it happen.
I, for my part, had volunteered to make the trophies. In the past the trophies had been cowbells. Appropriate for sure, especially considering it is a ‘cross race, but after the trophy I got at the Angry Horse I wanted them to be something to really get people to aim to get. It took me a while, but I came up with an idea and finally got it executed. People seemed very excited to see them, said that they loved them, and the winners seemed genuinely happy to get one.
I woke up early on the day of the event and got ready, threw my stuff in the car, and headed down early to help set up the course. I got there and the wind was blowing, it was pretty cold (below freezing if I remember correctly), and the sky was threatening rain or snow. There was probably a dozen people there already setting up so I grabbed some course tape from one and helped mark out the rest of the course.
Once the course was all marked out it was nearly time for the kids races to start. My son had come down early with me so that he could “see the course” that he was going to race on for his race. Evidently he is more serious about racing at seven that I thought he was. The time came for his race, which was the “eight and under” category, and he took off and did nearly two laps before the second place finisher did the one that was actually required. He was actually disappointed with that win. He felt a little cheated since there wasn’t any competition for him. He says next year he will be racing in the older category so that he can actually race some other kids.
The ‘B’ race was up next. The field was large, around thirty people I think, with a large participation from the local high school mountain bike team. The competition was a lot faster than I thought that it “should be” for a ‘B’ category race. Again, that’s what you get with self selecting categories. The range of speed was something that I would’ve expected to see from a ‘B’ category race though. There were people that finished multiple laps down to the leaders, brand new to ‘cross riders that did very well, and people that were just out to have some fun.
The ‘A’ race started shortly after the ‘B’ race. I did a lap or two with the ‘B’ riders just to get warmed up. I went up and down the road leading to the venue to keep my legs warm while the ‘B’ riders finished out their race. Eventually, the call to line up came so I made my way to the start, early enough to get in the second row, which I thought should work pretty well. I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish there in the field but I knew that people could pass me as well as I could pass them if it came to it.
Off the start I actually got clipped in well this time and got going pretty quickly behind the guys that I fully expected to win this race. I was faster through a few turns that people seemed to be cutting a lot more than just trying to carry their speed but then I lost a little time in some of the more technical sections to guys on mountain bikes. I ran a couple of laps around seven or eight people back from the front and was feeling pretty good. I was right on one guys wheel when he decided to ride very erratically and took out me and the guy behind me. I got back up and caught the guy again but then I realized that I had been riding a lot harder than I should’ve been. I checked my heart rate (I only have power for road rides or long gravel grinders) and it was well above what I know I can handle for an hour. I pulled it back a little bit and hoped to hold it there but it was a little too late.
I basically imploded at that point. I kept pushing as hard as I could but I was fading pretty quickly. My last lap ended up a full minute slower than my fastest lap. My lower back was screaming on the penultimate lap. But, I was there to do what I could do and see where I was to “finish” out my season. I put my head down, figuratively of course since at this time my tongue was all but hanging out of my face as I had a serious “pain face” on, and trudged on ahead.
Finally, the last lap came. I was relieved and annoyed at the same time. At this point I have come to expect more out of myself, no matter how poorly my preparation leading up to whatever I am trying was. This event, much like my last, didn’t go how I had hoped it would. But, I do know that both of them didn’t because of things that I have most or full control of and can fix or negate the downsides of in the future. So, even though I was disappointed with my outcome I still was able to use it as a learning experience.
I have learned that I have, if not severely then at least truly, neglected the fitness of the rest of my body. My trunk strength (meaning back, core, chest; torso basically) is not nearly what it should be, hence the lower back pain. Working on fixing the strength deficits I have through the rest of my body can only make me stronger, both on and off the bike. You can only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain between the handle bars and the pedals.
I also learned that if I want to actually do really well this late in the season that “peaking” in July isn’t the way to do it. I had a great season this year and I wouldn’t trade it to alleviate the hardships this fall has brought, but I have been able to learn from how it has gone to plan better in the future for results that I think I can achieve. It’s interesting, my FTP is only down about 4% from what it was in July. I can still do awesome things on the bike, but that 4% is very noticeable to me.
Finally, I learned that I need to remember one very important thing to this entire endeavor. It is FUN. Fun is what keeps me doing it, what drives me to want to do it more. It’s what makes me want my kids to do it for themselves and so we can do it together. I think that this revelation, that it is (or at least should be) fun, is something that most or all people who would call their self an athlete has to re-learn once they get into the competitive side of their sport. It is one that I know I have re-learned myself this year.
Looking back on this event though, there is a feeling of accomplishment. I did a good job on the trophies. Even weeks later I still get compliments on them, which is great to me. I did just fine for the circumstances that presented themselves leading up to the race. The race itself went very well as an event. There was a photographer who was there and took a ton of photos and even some video that has proven quite popular. The amount of work that was put in by so many people really provided for a great race.
Overall, I can’t wait to help put this event together next year. It was fun. For me and lots of other people. That alone made all that pain during the event worth it.
After all, isn’t cycling supposed to be hard?