Monday, October 7, 2013

My Torrid Affair With The Sport Of Cyclocross

You wanna know what day it is and it's relative importance?  I'll tell you. Last year at this exact time, I was only 3 days shy of ACL reconstruction. I can't tell you how excited I was to have surgery.  It's a significant time of year now and I'm happy with how it all turned out in the end.  For one, I worked incredibly hard last fall trying to maintain a positive attitude through the process of getting back on my feet which in fact  hadn't even really begun forced  to wait  8 weeks after my mishap before the surgery would be performed.  Consequently, having to wait for the surgery made it all that more challenging to deal with.

I did the opposite of what I really wanted to do during this sucky time. I wanted to shut myself off completely from any and all things related to cyclocross.  But  Instead, I made  myself  go to many of the cyclocross races photographing and supporting my teammates and friends.

Fast forward to Fall 2013.  Here I am all healed and able to ride and very grateful yet  I find myself, timid and tense and any skills or confidence I had (minimal at best) have gone missing.  I keep looking for them but I'm coming up empty and even frustrated.  Right now, I can't even remount my bike properly after spending which felt like years trying to master it.
My other unfortunate confession is I found myself yesterday DREADING to race on the course at the Providence Cyclocross Festival.
"Dreading" and "can't" are two words that shouldn't be part of this.

I slipped back into triathlon seamlessly and even though I seriously  lack the skill , power and speed of the sport of cyclocross, I had hoped I would just jump right back in and pick up where I left off.

Yesterday was a good example of how it's panning out:

I made the trek down to Providence  not really sure I was making the right decision.  I didn't know how my legs were going to respond after  running an 8.5 trail race in Harold Parker State Forest on Saturday. The trail race was challenging at best with plenty of hills and single track to maneuver  through and in 20-20, entering a trail race without any trail running behind me was just dumb.  My heart rate was pegged at 183 for 1 hour and 27 minutes. I ran as if I was doing a 5k with no logical explanation except that I'm way too competitive and if I'm not burying myself (prepared or not) then It must mean that I'm turning into a slacker and  being a slacker just isn't in my genetic make up.

 Back to Sunday:
After arriving and getting checked in, my mission was to get 2 loops of the course in before the start of the men's race at 9. Then one more lap right before the women's 3/4 at 10. The more I can ride a given course the better.

Problem # 1: I only got in one lap

 The course was incredibly crowded for the warm up. This combined with the slick conditions and  technical sections that felt way over my head got me wanting to pedal right back to my car and go home. How the heck was I going to handle some of this stuff if I've never ridden on it before?  Clearly I was letting a little mud, some twisty stuff, wooden stairs, off camber slick sections and the fear of falling overtake me.


I made an emergency text to be coaxed off the ledge from a friend who's been doing cyclocross for 20+ years. "Stand your ground  you can do this. Make sure your tire pressure is low. pedal your bike over the off camber sections with your bike upright and your body slightly leaning into the side
 Don't you do triathlons with tons of people around you?"

Different skill set dude.... Case closed.


I approached my  teammate Michele with ( I'm pretty sure)  the look of panic on my face asking how she thought I could approach the off camber sections that I wouldn't even consider walking on let alone think I could ride on.

"Look past it. Look to where you want to go. Remember what Marla Streb told us this summer. You'll be fine"


The good news is, I  made the best of the advice given and today I'm happy to say I'm at  work  unscathed, teeth intact and relatively content with the result.

Here's what I accomplished:(looking for the positives here!)

1.  I stayed upright the entire race but not without narrowly mixing in with at least 3 crashes right in front of me.

2.  I rode the off camber sections tentatively but successfully. Concurrently this technique only let the other
women pull further away from me. They were tough. I was not.

3.  I didn't swear at the ankle biting juniors who tend to ride up to you within inches of your front wheel and or handlebars without even flinching fall get up, and do it again at the next tricky section..  (Not good for the 50 year old psyche)

4.  The flyover that I couldn't ride once before the race and looked intimidating was a breeze and actually fun.


So why am I doing this sport that I clearly have no skills at and scares me?

I just love it. I love the challenge and because it's so damn hard, it makes me want it even more.

 I suppose  the love of it outweighs my result which remains a constant for me: The back row sections of line up.

 It's not that I don't try or possess the desire to become better, it's just a sport/skill that eludes me even though I try to be better at it.
 In the end,  as I weigh the frustration of my given result with my desire to stick with the sport ultimately the latter keeps me continually banging my head against the barriers.


photo: David Loszewski


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