This runner’s first cyclocross race! Combining elements of road cycling, mountain biking, trail-running, and even steeple-chase, cyclocross is the fastest-growing (and arguably craziest) type of bike racing in the United States. An avid trail runner that’s always up to try something new, Dave gave the dynamic sport of cyclocross the ol’ college try.
by Dave Swoish,
customer service and analytics guru
Ever since the Sun Mountain 50 Mile trail race in late May, I've been dealing with some form of inflammation/bursitis on the second metarsal of my left foot. Having dealt with soft tissue injuries in late 2014 as well, I decided I probably needed to take time away from the trail running circuit, to try out some other sports in case I could never run again for the rest of my life. I paraglided, took second from last (!) at a standup paddleboard race, and then decided to give cyclocross a go.
I was keen on getting into some form of biking, to get away from the constant impact present with trail running. Cyclocross intrigued me more than other forms of cycling, as it involved mud, obstacles, some running, and the vibe just seemed to be fun and less competitive. I may also have some extremely persuasive co-workers.
So along came the local MFG #3, early on a Saturday Morning. Fellow Nuunie and cyclocross veteran, Tyler, was nice enough to take me out for a training session before the race. The practice was essential, because I definitely needed some practice dismounting and remounting my bike at speed. Considering this was my first race, I expected to dismount and remount a lot. I didn't have confidence I would be able to bike through all obstacles.
I've run a lot of trail races, from 10K's, to 50K's, to 100 milers, and I was eager to check out all that was this experience of cyclocross. I had a great first race, and learned a few things about cyclocross along the way.
It's a Spectator Sport!
With cyclocross, teams and fellow racers are cheering and heckling the entire time. I wasn't used to it. With trail runs, there are spectators at start and at the finish, but most the time you’re alone with the other competitors. During my cyclocross race, someone always seemed to be yelling, cheering, or ringing a cowbell.
Getting used to "Categories."
Most trail races have anywhere from 50-300 people, and you all start at the same time. The leaders make their way to the front, the mid pack makes its way to the mid pack. It’s not so with cyclocross, where everyone is broken up into various skill levels or "categories." It makes for many opportunities to watch and learn from veterans of the sport, particularly the "Cat 1" and "Cat 2" racers.
Pre-riding the course.
This is the most important tip I would give anyone doing their first race. It’s easy to do, as long as you show up on time. In only 20 minutes, you can get a couple of easy laps in and better understand the course. Pre-riding the course allowed me to know where I might have more trouble navigating terrain, and areas where I could "catch my breath." I also decided I would take the conservative approach to tackling the sand pits and dismount my bike to run through sand as fast as I could.
Beer is an integral part of trail running. After, and sometimes even during. The cyclocross race I chose was held in a city park, so beer was not allowed. This was difficult to accept at first, but I happily drank multiple bottles of Nuun post-race.
The Community vibe is strong.
The community reminded me a lot of the trail community. Most everyone seemed to be tight knit, accepting of all levels, and a good mix of fast racers and weekend warriors. The common element was everyone was out there giving it their all and having fun.
Overall, the experience was one I thoroughly enjoyed, and I most certainly have more cyclocross races in my future!
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