I want start this post by stating the fact thatI love to run. That is also why I have forced myself out of the running shoes and on to the bike this fall season. It really boils down to this problem I have with physical activity and how I can become slightlyOCDabout it. For whatever reason I can become so completely focused on continual improvement in one activity that I end up pushing my body to a breaking point (sometimes painful, but always frustrating), which is then followed by a rebuilding period. I have a history with this issue and based on that experience, without a break, my chances of running myself straight into an injury seems very high. So this year I made a resolution to heed some advice I received years ago and do something different.
For this fall season, that something different is Cyclocross. It just so happens I have a few pieces of equipment laying around from my previous addiction, errr activity of choice – cycling. Three bikes to be exact; one road, one mountain bike and a singlespeed cyclocross bike. I started taking turns riding the road and mountain bike ever since pacingNick ClarkatWasatchand had a great time re-discovering an old passion. Then one night I saw my lonely 'cross bike sitting in the corner begging to be ridden. It wasn’t long after getting air in the tires that I decided I would race the following weekend.
Before I get to the racing let me give you a quick explanation of what cyclocross is. The bike of preference looks like a road bike with knobby tires and while there are other subtle differences between road and 'cross bikes, they are minor. Sometimes riders will put on flat bars instead drop bars (the kind that roll down) to get a wider hand position. The reason a rider might want a wider hand position is because of the terrain the circuits cover, including but not limited to: gravel, dirt, grass, sand, concrete, asphalt and when it’s wet, mud. The circuits also include sections that require the rider to dismount and run with the bike. These sections could include some barriers, large logs or a steep uphill that the rider must negotiate on foot and almost every course has at least one or two dismount sections (some riders can bunny hop barriers and that is perfectly legal as well). The length of the circuits vary, but generally take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to cover and the races are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour long depending on the category. The category I decided to ride is singlespeed, meaning I pick a single rear cog and a single front chainring and use it for that race.
Leading up to the first race (week two of the series) I had done a handful rides (5 or 6) and simply banked on my running fitness getting me through, besides, I had no expectations except having fun and catching up with a few old friends. Well, once I was in the moment, standing on the start line it was a different story. I took off with the other dozen or so racers heading for the first turn and I heard my chain making a weird noise. I eased up and drifted to the rear of the group to investigate and lost several places. Frustrated, I pushed hard to catch back up and the noise became louder. Finally I got off to check it out and discovered the chain was off the jockey wheel in the chain tensioner. This pattern repeated itself until device that holds tension on the chain came apart, rendering my bike useless. I ran back to the car, fixed it and finished the race in 2nd to last place. Despite the setback I was still smiling and my heart was pounding.
Before the following race the next weekend I fixed the chain tensioner by throwing it in the garbage and finding a suitable replacement. I also managed to squeeze in a few more rides, giving my legs a chance to acclimate to the new stress I was forcing on them. The next race went much better where I finished in 2nd place. Surprisingly, I had more fun this time around and I'm sure it had something to do with actually being able to focus on riding rather than fixing my bike.
I plan on doing a few more while I'm having fun and mixing up the riding with some occasional trail runs just to remind my legs what they'll be coming back to...