"Racing into shape" is what a friend told me was his plan for cyclocross racing this year. Well I personally thought that was a little insane, but it was his fun and I was egotistically thinking how good of shape I was in after the last 8-months of endurance training and racing. Then reality hit me on my 1st cyclocross "fun" race of the year at SkyCross Ranch in Moscow...POP! (the sound of my bubble bursting was like a sonic boom to me and not the tiny pop that others may not have even noticed).
My mindset that I was fit and only needed to tune up my cross biking skills was a nice fantasy that abruptly ended when I got my butt kicked (really bad) in that first eye-opening event. The real truth was that endurance training and cyclocross training have nothing in common except that both are done using a bicycle.
So there I was with no ability to power out repeated max intensity efforts over an hour...and when I say max intensity I mean breathing-hard-almost-puking-seeing-stars-maximum-output and when you're done you can hardly walk. That's part of what cyclocross is - the other part is riding a "road-type" bike off road with knobby tires in the dirt, mud, snow, or what ever at high speeds...it's fun in a dark, diabolical sort of way. Did I mention steep run-ups...
Barrier and water crossings...
I haven't had this much fun on a bike since I raced mountain bikes in the old WIM Series. Actually I think this is more fun, I'm hooked so bad that I think this will become a yearly torture focus for me.
Well after the reality set in, racing into shape all of the sudden sounded like a good plan, in part. The other part of my plan involved shorter high output rides at home vs. the long mediocre outputs I have been doing (aka: focused training vs. aimless riding). My original fantasy goal was to win a few of these events this year, however my reality goal (after my bubble was burst) was to produce some top-10 finishes by the end of the season and get out of the mid-pack finishes.
It seems that I have achieved that goal quite well so maybe I should aim a little higher now with the 2-races left. Hmmm, got mud?
By-the-way, I'm racing on a Single-Speed cyclocross bike against guys running an uncountable number of gears. In my opinion they're at a disadvantage with gears, but that is offset with my poor cyclocross fitness compared the those that are in the top-5 consistently.
Photo credits: Bryan MacDonald (thanks!).