The Practice Race, or Why Am I Here?

5:32 AM

I’m standing behind a large group of geezer-guys (ok, not geezers, they have the look of 35+, you know, gentlemen with less hair but more expensive bikes), and there is an official barking out rules.  The ladies and I hang back waiting for our minute-delayed start, which gives us enough time to watch the men’s field bottleneck at the first barrier when two guys spectacularly fail their remount.  Behind us the sun is setting in the chilly air – a reminder that fall is coming.  When the whistle blows I have the thought that I often have at this race: “Wait, why am I here?”

Round & Round We Go!

 Around here the road season begins with Opus – a series of Tuesday night criteriums held in a drab office park.  Mountain biking has their own weeknight practice series with Buck Hill, and now cross has officially kicked off the season with Tuesday Night Cross.  Each week racers are presented with a cross course that focuses on a different skill to get your CX brain activated.  So far this year we have seen: no barriers, tons-o-barriers, uphill barriers, and off-camber remounts after barriers.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the Tuesday races, mainly because I find it so difficult to treat them as something less than a race.  To start a race is to commit to going all out…except in these races, which I’m supposed to treat as more of a workout.  Some nights I can sit in and get some good intervals done, while other nights bring butterflies before and cross gut after – sure signs of a tough race.  This year Mother Nature and my lungs have conspired to force me into taking these less seriously.  We’re so dry and the course is so dusty that my recently diagnosed asthma has kicked into a higher gear just as I’m working to figure out my newly acquired inhaler.  My two forays into TNCX this year have ended early as I wheeze and wheeze away…

Still, there are good things about these types of races.  You get to work on your technique before the weekend series races begin, they are a great place to tryout new equipment or bike positions, and (if you can be low-key about them) they are an easy way to get a hard interval workout in with some great people.  In the end, though, they only whet my cross appetite, and make me long for the “real” races that are just on the horizion…  

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