Cheryl getting ready to race

Cheryl getting ready to race

EVENT
Sea Otter Cyclocross W 3/4

CATEGORY
Women's 3/4

DATE
Saturday, April 12, 2014

AUTHOR
Cheryl Shwe

COURSE DESCRIPTION
Fast course:  ~1.5 mi loops of road, hard pack, slippery stuff, gravel, sand, 2 sets of double barriers, mini-burm into short, steep dirt up & over, man-made steep climb/bridge with astroturf.  Race time: 30min.

TEAMMATES
Just me (although Caroline was in the Pro 1/2 race later in afternoon)

GOALS & PLAN
Get out fast, secure a top position going into the steep climbs/obstacles.  Hold on for the ride!  Keep pedaling and always find a route--especially if there's a log-jam on any of the obstacles.  Nail the barriers and obstacles and any tricky-terrain sections.

RACE SUMMARY
The race course opened 30min prior to the first 'cross race of the day and fortunately I was able to get quite a few passes and felt good about how I was going to handle the barriers & obstacles, the best lines to take & where I needed to jam.  Plus, I got some good practice hopping off/on the 'cross bike as it's been a while since I raced 'cross.  [The best part about practicing on the 'cross course is that it forces you to practice things in bad conditions (congested, slower speeds, etc.) so if that sort of congestion or craziness occurs during the race, at least you have some options up your sleeve.  It also reminds you how positioning within the pack is super important.]  After the course practice, I kept pedaling easy to moderate as to not completely shut down as I knew I had to be totally ready to redline for the entirety of the race.

 
When it was time to roll up to the line, I was ready and focused.  Although I can clip in and get-going quickly, I'm a smidge slower doing this on my 'cross bike compared to my road bike.  Plus, every single 'cross racer wants that hole-shot and initial positioning within a 'cross race is super important as it can make/break your race since passing is difficult and getting stuck behind others crapping out over barriers/obstacles causes major log-jams.  At the gun I got a decent start, but was probably 8th (at best) for the first 1/4 mile (little hill, bark, double barrier).  I hopped off my bike at the big gravel pit and ran and rolled my bike alongside me (vs. carrying it) and that allowed me to pass at least one person, maybe two.  A gal passed me just before the uphill burm and although she and another gal proved to be obstacles on the steep dirt uphill after the burm, and I had to clip out, I got over it faster then the two of them.  Onto the second set of double barriers (no sweat) and a fast clip in and up & over the man made ascent/descent.  I held my own -- until -- I totally biffed it at the bottom of the man-made barrier!  Doh!  I think my front wheel just turned too quickly and I basically fell onto my right side.  Of course, this caused a mess behind me, but I got up in a flash and was the first one out of there.  Well, at that point, anyone listening to the race play-by-play knew my name because they saw and reported my crash with full name and all.  Funny.  Well, I've learned it's not really a 'cross race unless you get a little dirt and blood in the mix.  OK, glad I could check that off and carry on!  In order to keep my speed (and have a little fun!), I bunny hopped the plastic cord covers (one day I'll attempt the barriers!) and pushed upward onto the gravel/sand/sharpish turn portion.  One gal passed me on the lead up to this section and she was nice enough to ask if I was OK.  I responded yes and then promptly passed her heading out of the sand section.  Onto the road and under the start/finish banner.  Lap one down.  OK, I can do this thing and worked and worked to make up more time.  I had no idea where I was but figured somewhere in the top 6-8.

 I think I passed at least one more person within the next lap and maybe another at some point, but it's hard to say when your eyes are about to pop out of your head!  Eventually I started lapping a few gals.  Although I could occasionally hear others behind me, no one else ever passed me.  I nailed all the rest of the technical climbs, hops and craziness--it makes a difference when you can ride it with no one in the way.  I had no idea where I was, but I told myself to ride hard, not let up for a second, nail the obstacles and carry on!  I did just that and finished strong with smile on my face -- and my heart about to hop out of my chest!  

LESSONS LEARNED/TAKE AWAYS
When you plan ahead and do exactly what you need to do to warm up and prepare for the race, chances are you'll be much more prepared to race hard.  (Ummm, certainly very obvious but not always easy to follow through with on race day.) I felt really good and totally in my element during the race--although I was totally redlining the entire time!  At one point when I looked down to my garmin (I know, stupid), my HR average was my most recent MAX HR.  Ruh-roh!  But that's 'cross racing and I guess I can handle it in this environment because it's a steady state, not the crazy accelerations in crits/circuits/road races.  Now, I need to take that into the crit/RR environment!   I also learned (or really was reminded) of how much I love 'cross racing and I'm going to get back at it this fall. I'm much more suited for this style of racing--but I also know that I can take elements of 'cross racing and bring them into my performances on the road.  

FINISH
5th out of 24 (3/4 raced together, not picked separately)