Cyclocross racing looked like SO much fun back when I lived in TX, but I never got the chance to do a race there. Now that I finally have a bike that would have fit in back home, I signed up for a race in my newish state of MA. Hooooo-boy, it's different here!
I'm not in superb shape, but I was expecting to at least hang onto the back of the beginner women's group. The pack turned out to be HUGE. I was the only chick there who wasn't on a specific 'cross bike, and like, all of these 'beginners' were on one of two or three racing teams and had like, team strategy. No kidding! There were tubular tires around. Tubular, y'all.
I somehow managed to pass a few of the chix0rs in the first few corners, but lost that lead in the bottleneck of a first barrier followed by a soft run-up, tight corner, re-mount, and steep soft downhill back onto the grass. Well, it should have been, but I happened to get my lack of panties in a wad by the melee and remounted at the top to slide right into a tree. After yanking my front wheel out of the ground-level branches, I got back onto the grassy section. There were lots of mean scary people on the sides yelling for me to "go! go!" and "get back up there!" and people, I just wasn't making any progress on that lumpy lumpy grass.
Upon inspection, the front tire had lost a lot of air and it looks like I bent the valve on the tube back on the branches and made a big 'ol leak there. After a creative walking path back to avoid the course and the chain-link fences, I was about ready to have an embarassment puke and call it a day. This makes it the first race I've ever DNF'ed, and I'm grouchy!
After y'all have heard the tale of woe, a few questions:
1. Am I just in horrible shape? I was struggling to keep up with the back of the beginner group 1/3 into the first lap. The pavement and grass weren't so bad, but the soft sections and the run-up killed any advances I could make. I've been biking all season for distance and transportation and do get a good number of hills, but I haven't gone out to specifically train for speed. I'm getting the impression that adding miles won't do much for my performance in this matter. I'd guess that I average 125 miles a week or so, with about 20-25 miles of running mixed in.
2. I'm riding a stripped-down 650b touring frame, with a pretty decent set of components. Comparing it to the other bikes out there, my tires (33 mm) were less knobby than the competition. Also, it's a bit of a tank (the BF makes faces and grunts every time he picks it up). I'm used to hearing about 'cross races where the beginner categories are full of just about any old thang. I can't justify going out and getting a bike specifically for something I might not like when this one serves just about every other biking desire of mine so damn well, but I don't want to be crippled by it, either. The flat I got wouldn't have been prevented by a different wheel, since the valve stem got killed by a branch. Different tires might have helped keep me out of the tree, though. A rough bathroom scale estimate is that it weighs 26 pounds. Is there a major bike issue? What do I do about it?
3. Lastly, are the New England chix actually amazons? If somebody were wanting to pat my back and comfort me, they'd say that I got started with the wrong category and that the real beginners look as ragtag and scared as I did
Help! I'd love to get into cross, but I can't face the prospect of going back out there and sucking quite as spectacularly as I did today without changing something.