Cyclocross : How I started

Cyclocross - the most suffering I’ve ever put myself though in cycling, but also the most fun. The biggest factor I notice when trying to encourage other females to race is pure self doubt which I can 100% relate to. So, story time.

My first experience with CX was strictly as a spectator where I went and watched an entire season. Through doing so, I met a few female racers who encouraged my friend and I to give it a try. With no previous desire or experience racing bikes, it sounded both exciting and insane. Finishing out the season of spectating, the idea of racing stayed in the back of my head. Would I actually do it next year? I mean, I want to, but who am I kidding - I have no clue what I’m doing, I don’t have a CX bike, my fitness is lacking and the list went on. Road season was approaching and that seemed interesting as well. I told myself that I would start by racing road. Yep, that’s what I was going to do. Spring time rolled around and I didn’t do it - I was too scared to race. There I was again - wishing I could be one of those girls. Instead, I was on the sidelines, week after week just watching. However, I was becoming an excellent spectator, if only they had podiums for that! After months of doubting myself, watching the road season come and go, and finding a thousand excuses as to why I couldn’t race, I made the move to buy a CX bike. I spent the end of the summer attending local gravel grinder rides, practicing the basics and attending a local clinic. I’d ride to a park near my house and Zach would show me what Adam Myerson taught him at his clinic. He would show me something and nail it. I would immediately be too scared to do it, the attempt would be hesitant, then I would fall and my doubts appeared again. I didn’t always understand how to do something I was shown and there is still a lot that I don’t know how to execute. (For example, how to take a corner properly - help!). When I didn’t have anyone to help me, I spent plenty of time watching YouTube videos to try and understand some of the skills. As daunting as practice was, the season quickly approached and it was time to apply what I had learned. On a brisk morning, I finally showed up to race for the very first time. (Hooray! I finally showed up!) Already a nervous wreck, I began making my way to the start line. As I lifted up the course tape to go under it, I accidentally caught it on my bike and pulled bright yellow tape several feet and didn’t even realize I was doing it! THEN, when I finally lined up, I leaned into a thorn bush and a few girls around me had to help me pluck thorns off my jersey. It was all super embarrassing and it didn’t feel like I was off to a great start! Honestly though, I was so nervous, that all of those silly mistakes kind of felt like a blur at the time.

Once the official said go, we all took off and I gave it my all. Suddenly all of those nervous fumbles went away and do you know why? Because when it’s all actually happening you don’t have time to even think about it - you just do it. Those moments during practice when you stop right before you go over the barrier and have to work yourself up to it again are gone! There is no split second for you to say, “I can’t” or wonder if you’ll fall. Everyone is right next to you, you’re all hurting, you’re all new and you’re all making mistakes. But you know what, at least you’re all out there doing it. Week after week I kept coming back. I kept making more friends and I kept getting a little bit better. I also never pulled the course tape with my bike again, but I have seen someone else do it! See! I wasn’t the only one and whatever mistake you might make - trust me someone has done it before and someone else will do it again.

With that being said, the same beginner clinic I attended before racing my first season, is the one I photographed on Monday. Everyone was welcome with any bike they could find. We had about 20 people show up of all ages and skill level. Some people were so nervous and had never tried anything CX related before. The clinic only covered the basics, so don’t feel like because you don’t have a local clinic that you can’t attempt CX. I’ve attached a few links below that have helped me.

Trish covered the following things:
Rules of Racing
General Attire
Mounting and Dismounting
Shouldering the Bike

If you want to learn about these skills and more, I would suggest the following link:
Global Cycling Network Youtube CX Videos

I really hope that if you’re interested in racing, but you’re full of self doubt, that you finally build up the courage to just go out there and do it.

Read the original posting on the Specialized Find Your Fast blog, here

Patience While Racing

I’m still learning patience while racing. My adrenaline tells my brain to go, go, go but my legs remind me to wait. 

During the road race, one of my awesome teammates did a lot of the work on Saturday and we were able to control the pace for the first part of the race. I managed to get in a break on the last lap, but lost the front two girls once again (I’m really going to work on this because this is twice now). I snagged third during a sprint, but I’m going back and forth as to why I keep getting dropped once I get in a break. Mental or physical? Probably both. Regardless, it’s such a bittersweet feeling to get away from the peloton only to find yourself in no mans land. 

Feeling good going into today’s crit (perhaps a little too good), I did not remember patience. Although not a large group, I was hesitant to be in the back incase of a crash, so I stayed up front entirely too much. On the last lap, the girl who won yesterday took off and I responded immediately. I ended up sprinting entirely too early and got swarmed at the last 500 meters. I have SO much to learn, but damn, I love racing my bike. 

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Getting Left Behind

With perfect weather and stunning views ahead of us, my team and I woke up in a mountain cabin early Saturday morning to consume our breakfast and drink as much coffee as we could stomach before it was time to kit up. The cool, brisk morning was quickly heating up as we walked less than a mile uphill in loose gravel to get to the pavement road ahead. We ditched our street shoes by the stop sign, put on our cycling shoes, clipped in and rode out. 

The morning started with zero traffic, endless landscapes and every animal you can find in the country. The pace gets faster as we warm up, we start getting closer to the rolling terrain that steadily increases, and the ride starts getting a little tougher. As we start winding through the woods, my chain drops and I yell to let the group know - only one person stops to wait and the rest keep going. As I fumble around to fix it, I’m anxious that I’m losing the group and I make a simple task much harder on myself. Once I fix it, my teammate Laura and I, start riding and come to a fork in the road. No one has waited on us and we have zero signal. Right here and now is when I learn to always put the damn route on my Garmin. Rookie mistake. We decide to head left and up we go. Hoping to hell this is the correct route, my brain knows that this will be an additional climb if it isn’t. On one hand, I have nature surrounding me, so I can’t help but enjoy it. On the other hand, my legs are screaming at me and I know I have a long ride ahead. I begin to remember that my thoughts are merely an exaggeration of the mind game that is happening in my head. I get out of the saddle, put down my head, and climb. I know my legs can do this. It’s silent until Laura yells, “12%” as she reads her Garmin. I don’t respond - I can’t. When I ride, I’m so concentrated on what I’m doing that I’m completely silent. We get to the top to find everyone waiting with a few apologies after I explain what happened and we keep going. 

Not long after that, every one of us runs out of water so we decide to detour 6 miles to find a gas station. We get what we need and head back to the route only to find a small biker bar across the highway from where we decided to detour. Laughing it off, we continue to ride with only rolling hills, a beautiful river and long stretches of road ahead of us. The last climb on the day is at the very end of the route, the group is strung out and we are all exhausted. A 21% grade is the very last of it as we approach the home stretch. It’s brutal, it hurts and I feel like I could walk faster than I’m riding at this point, but once I get to the top it’s all worth it. At this point we have ridden through Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. 

We regroup at the top and instead of putting my street shoes back on like the rest of the group, I stick them in my back pocket and start riding down the loose gravel hoping like hell my CX skills treat me right. They do. I ride as much of it as I can before the ‘ole road bike won’t cut it anymore. The last bit of the walk to the cabin is filled with small chat about the gorgeous routes we encountered. After rolling our bikes into the open living room, we all take a seat on the outside balcony overlooking the beautiful mountains we just rode. We proceed to pour a few drinks, take out a few snacks and talk about tomorrows ride. 

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