I also did it in a nice way....not the way I typed it. ;)
In yesterday's race at Discovery Park there was a narrow muddy section where I figured out sort of accidentally that it was faster to run my bike than it was to ride it, even though it was flat. I think that might hold true for a lot places, if you have good foot speed.
On tight turns dangle a foot so you can dab it if you slide, especially right turns where you'll be falling on the "money" side of the bike.
+1 on running if it's too muddy, you don't have to "ride it at all costs" sometimes it's faster to run.
I had my third race today. More lessons learned.
1. Save some energy for the hard parts. The course I did today had a winding, mostly paved section just before what the announcer was calling the "mud pit of death" (he was understating). On the first lap, I rode fast on the paved sections, though at a speed I thought I could sustain. Then I hit the mud. Bad news. I spent the next half lap in the granny gear trying to recover.
2. An Egg Beater to the thigh can draw blood. If you've got more than two barriers to clear, shoulder the bike. If you hold it just high enough to clear the barriers, you've got a really good chance of bashing your leg into a pedal.
3. If you cross a road (paved or hard dirt), it will give you a second or two of extra traction and smooth rolling. Use it to accelerate. It's like a power up in a video game. :)
How about some more tips from the more experienced riders?
The pit is not a Super Mario Kart shortcut.
hahahahahahahaha. rainbow road ftw.
Purchase and study Simon Burney's book. Don't take it as gospel, but read it carefully.
Warm-up to get your body ready for the hard start and pre-ride to learn the course (do a slow lap and try to spot everything, then do a faster lap to see how the tricky spots are at a racing pace).
When you're pre-riding, watch the faster riders from the later races if they're out on the course as well. Don't worry about keeping with their pace, but look at the lines they take. Quite often the "racing line" worn into the course isn't the fastest line through tricky spots. In the last race I did I learned two different lines that were better than the ones I'd been taking just by watching other riders.
Apparently I didn't learn anything in my fourth race last year. Actually, now that I think back I did learn this: riding hard does not keep your fingers warm. If it's below 35 degrees, use long fingered gloves.
Now back to this year. I've already got one race under my belt, and so I'm adding a couple of new things.
1. If it's hot, wear something to keep the sweat out of your eyes. There was a moment this week when I was heading down a hill into an off-camber turn and I absolutely could not see because of the sweat pouring into my eyes. That really sucked.
2. Don't fall off the back of the pack if you can avoid it. As long as you're with the group, you'll push yourself to stay with them. Once you're by yourself, you have no reference point for judging your effort and you'll probably be going slower than you realize.
3. Brake late and hard. There was one section of the course this week that had a fast downhill approach to an uphill U-turn. Consistently, I was catching up to people in this turn who had been 30+ yards ahead of me at the top of the hill, and I was just coasting down the hill. The only thing I can figure is that they were braking early and going into the turn slowly. I went in fast and braked hard just before I needed to start turning.
4. If you can't breath slow down before attempting barriers. Crossing a barrier, and especially multiple barriers, requires fine motor skills and coordination. Those things disappear as you approach max heart rate. I discovered that this week after sprinting up an incline and coming fast into a set of three barriers. I tried to hop off my bike and run the barriers just like I'd been practicing -- except I was out of control and planted the front tire firmly into the second barrier. Every lap after that, I slowed down and took this set of barriers more slowly. It didn't look cool, but I think it was probably faster.
5. Be aggressive. If you never lose control of the bike, you could probably be going faster. This one I actually realized just a couple of days ago. In five races, I haven't had my bike hit the ground once. Generally, that's good, but I realized that I've been extremely cautious in a lot of places where I'm sure I could do better if I took a little more risk.
Since the first post, I've thought of this thread as something that would be helpful to non-racers who were getting into CX just for fun but still wanted to do their best. I picture at least some of the racers as back-of-the-pack guys (or gals) like me. Two of these next four tips are for people like that. If you're doing well in the race, this won't help you. The first two are more general, but may be obvious to anybody with a clue about racing.
1. Look for places to pass, even when you aren't passing -- Ideally, you'd do this during the pre-ride, but keep doing it during the race. The good places to pass aren't always obvious. When you hit fast/paved sections the guy you want to pass is going to speed up too. Figure out which sections are your particular strengths. I like long slightly uphill sections and barriers. Something else might work for you.
2. Work hard for a pass if you need to -- Most courses have a section or two where everybody rides the same line and slow riders impose a pace on the guys behind them. You can use this for recovery, but if you don't need to you can burn matches and gain ground. For instance, sections of gravel road typically get a single smooth patch worn in them and everybody wants it. Look at the edge of the road and see if there's a little grass in bounds. It might be enough. Sometimes you don't even need to burn matches because the alternative isn't as bad as it looks. There was a semi-narrow section of the course this week that was about half hard-packed dirt and half bumpy looking weeds. Everybody was riding the dirt. During my pre-ride I rode the weeds and had no problems. During the race, I passed someone there on almost every lap.
3. Pass every chance you get -- Last year I made the mistake of following people around for half a lap or more before convincing myself that I could pass them. Do that and you'll only pass 5-10 people in the whole race. (I speak from experience.) Instead, pass as soon as you can. If the other rider is fast enough, he'll pass you back. If not, go after the next guy.
4. Latch on when you get lapped -- This is kind of an evil trick that will work best if there are a lot of riders on the field. In a big group, once you start to get lapped, you end up getting lapped a lot. As a courteous racer, you give the faster riders the best line and let them by you. You don't know who they are. When this happens to you, it's about to happen to the guys in front of you too. So, when a couple of fast riders blow by you, kick it up a notch and try to grab their wheel. There's a good chance that the riders in front of you will unwittingly let you by. You probably only want to do this if you've got enough in the tank to keep putting at least a little distance on them.
Someone else should really add some new tips. Mine can only be so useful. ;)
1. If you drove to the race alone, use a safety pin to secure your car keys in a jersey pocket.
2. A trunk-mounted bike carrier makes a decent workstand.
3. The key to climbing a muddy hill is weight distribution. Typically, you'll want to shift your weight forward when climbing to keep the front wheel on the ground. However, if your rear tire is slipping, you need to shift back a little more to give it some extra traction.
4. You probably don't gain anything by running, or even walking, a hill that you can climb on the bike. We had a nasty hill at the end of the lap, and a lot of people were getting off their bikes. I climbed it the first lap and was really wiped by the time I got to the top, so the next two laps I ran/walked it. The result was, I was still winded at the top, and half a dozen people had passed me. The last lap, I rode it and nearly passed out, but I gained several positions.
My tips are getting pretty lame. Somebody else should update this thread and add something useful.
Totally disagree with you about getting off the bike. It's different for everyone, use whatever expends less energy. This is the reason to run as part of your training. My heart rate used to spike every time I was running. With practice, this gets better. I find it beneficial to shoulder and run in the mud. I end up passing a few people and I feel that I exert less energy doing so.
Sure, there are definitely places when running is better. But in the mud, for example, running isn't slower and may be faster. On a hill, unless you're an amazing runner, it's slower to run, so unless you save a ton of energy, it's not worth it. At least, that's what I was claiming. I could still be wrong.
glad this is a sticky...and it has helped (theoretically)...i've trained (i mean, "trained":p) with another rider who has done ONE race himself...and is a roadie (i'm a mtbiker), but i'll have plenty of real (and quite limited i am sure!) insight in about 2 weeks. when i catch my breath...:rolleyes::)
The hill Andy is talking about was definitely a "Ride it" hill. It was long and on a gravel road. All day, almost everyone who got off their bike got passed. Your butt needs to go in the seat if the rear wheel is slipping. I even shouted "A$$ in the saddle" at a few people.
anyways, here i go with my half-processed insights a day+ later.
my first race was definitely a blast. i found out what i was actually, naturally good at...and definitely alot of the opposite!
let me ramble and hopefully make some sense for others:
*i had ridden pretty hard all week...but not too much the 3 days before the race...but i did a good warmup ride those few days, that morning before the ride, and one good steady lap at the course; if anything, i should've taken the trainer and done a bit more warming up
*i think i did a good job of getting some energy into the body: coffee, oatmeal...then about 20 minutes before the race some fluids...and a hammer gel...my BIG mistake was forgetting to bring water....and plenty of it...i should've hydrated ALOT more...heck, there were plenty of folks actually carrying water, so next time, the camelbak or a bottle! i thought no one did water WHILE racing...
*STRONG points: i discovered i was pretty efficient (from my mtbiking) at picking lines of least resistance; i took corners of all sorts great, never fell over or off. good to know that's not something i need to be concerned about...my STAMINA was taxed in the middle of the first lap, but i found i naturally fell into a rhythm without freaking out and watching most of the field shoot past me...eventually, i re-passed a few (who still eventually re-passed me), but i found that i have stamina and reserves...
*which leads to the WEAK points: those reserves were taxed by my lack of hydration...i had to slow down a bit to recover but i never stopped or felt i needed to quit. not at all. and as it went, i discovered that when i had speed, it didn't last long (endurance)...and sustained endurance levels meant not fast and too tired to gear up to a powerful gear. true, the weak link is ME i realized, but inexperience, training and...riding a 1990 non-competitive steel Schwinn is not a way to help yourself! i dragged that monster through all that muck which made everything else quite a chore: barriers, sand pit, mud/straw marshes and the little mucky streams. the bike itself handled corners really well, but the pure weight issue didn't help, esp. going up against aluminum and carbon fiber steeds.
o yeah...and my chain came off right after i let me bike down too hard (after the sand pit)...i lost nearly a minute grappling with the chain as folks whizzed further past me...i thought i had that possible eventuality minimized. at least it only happened once. as much of a negative it was, i see the positive in that i regained SOME ground once i established a rhythm.
so, my advice (to myself, out loud) is:
*lighten the bike you have or (ultimately) replace it. soon. and go clipless. or clips, at least!
*figure out what level you want to do this! fun-fun? serious fun? competitive fun? ... whatever it is, find the amount of effort of training and articulate what you need to do to keep on doing this, whether it is jumping into intervals and all that jazz or..just ride and become one with the bike. either way, ride alot and often.
*heck, i'm 46, but glad i shifted to Cat 4 and not the Masters!
*don't be disheartened that a guy snaps his handlebars but still manages to fall over, get up and ride with a nub and still outpace you...3/4s of the field are really not 'beginners' at all...:rolleyes:
*was it a blast? totally.
anyways, on to the next race. :thumb:
i did take advice to ride the start HARD.....and it was a snakey beginning for sure...i held my own through it all, but the first true straightaway, i was tanked....and i got passed by 3/4 of the field in a flash...that was disheartening at first...but it all acquired a rhythm and it all fell into place. of course, 52nd place ultimately (out of 60+ folks...10 of which were DNS!). no complaints.
Nice report. I'm glad to see another newbie updating this thread finally. :thumb:
Are you saying you did this with platform pedals? I saw a guy do that earlier in the year. It didn't look easy.
but yeah, platforms...not ready to jump to clipless for the next race in 2 weeks or so...will put on the strapless clips like i had planned (but thought it might throw me off rhythm). i just like to mtbike free-foot! doesn't work as well in cx as i can attest!
hope my insights help out, even help some more experienced racers point out my own shortcomings
We've had some muddy races this year, but this week's race (Kruger's Crossing) took the cake. Seventeen consecutive days of rain leading up to the race, including 2.5 inches in the two days before, plus another 0.7 inches of rain the day of the race. Now put that on a farm which sits in a bit of a bowl and you've got a recipe for one seriously goopy mess.
Sometime after I wrote post 38 above, I completely forgot that it can be faster to run in the mud. It wasn't until midway through the second lap when a guy who had a flat tire and ended up having to run 3/4 of the race started gapping me that I caught on. To give you some idea what this race was like, that guy who ran 75% of the race didn't finish last -- he ended up 79 of 83. In an earlier race, a dozen or so people got passed by a unicyclist.
My first tip here is going to be a repeat. I'm just leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for myself for next year. But keep reading, I think some of these are good.
1. Consider running in thick mud, no matter how long it goes on. There's definitely a feeling of accomplishment to be had from riding a long stretch of sticky mud, but if you're in danger of falling over due to lack of forward momentum, running would be faster.
2. The best tire pressure for grass isn't the best tire pressure for mud. I pre-rode the course with my tire pressure in the low 30's, and it really sucked -- too much float, not enough sink. So I talked with some guys from Bike Gallery and they suggested I bump it up to around 50-55 psi. I did, and it still sucked, but I think it was better. I think I should have gone even highe
yeah, my second race i made more interesting mistakes that could've been worse...i thought i had planned ahead (drank water this time....even carried a small bottle i slugged on a flat), but i almost forgot to DEFLATE my tires...so on my pre-ride of the course (which i wasn't able to finish), i stop to let air out...by feel (this was a very grassy course)...i let out TOO much! i had to head back to my Tracker to pump up the front tire back to 38 or so....i left the back as it was since IT was a presta and i didn't have time to mess with it....about 29psi....
luckily it all worked out because, as i found out later, there was a gravel/rooty/rocky section that loved the low psi tires...but i'd rather have the front squishier...
ultimately i don't think it mattered since i crossed the line way ahead of the few last....and those ahead i still probably wouldn't have caught...maybe one....it was all me and it was good to get another race under the belt as a 46 year old on a 17 year old bike (25 pounds)...i got some nice comments on my 'rig'...but it really is time to get my engine in top form (enough not to take over my life TOO much) AND...........get a bike that is not a conversion but a true 21st century 'cross specific setup. i know i'm sticking with this...mountain biking will be my 'recreational' time from here on...;)
but the bright side of this new race experience:
+my stamina is still there and a bit stronger...but there's no power, speed.
+off-cambers and tight turns are definitely my strength (thanks i guess to mtbiking)
+going from a rattling old scwhinn bombproof tensile carbon steel ride (31 pounds) to a slightly 'newer' Giant cro-mo i carved down to 25 or less pounds made a difference..still, it rode with one (front) brake, the two top rings removed leaving me with a 30-tooth small ring with 7 in the rear (i was worried i'd be spinning on the flats but i didn't have the juice to test THAT)...
+yes, it is easier to hop the barriers than slowly step over them
Hmmm. Looks like my last post got truncated somehow. I think it should have had six tips. The best ones got dropped. I can only remember three of them now.
3. Puddles of water are often the best line through thick mud. The water dissolves the mud, so it gets pushed aside easier letting your tire get to solid ground. The mud that isn't under water is more likely to be peanut butter.
4. Watch what happens to the mud where the person in front of you rides through. If the mud quickly flows back to fill the track behind the tire, that's the line you want. If it leaves a well-defined track, stay away. More slosh = less resistance.
5. When you get home, grab the garden hose and spray your muddy clothes out from the inside. Too much pressure probably isn't good for the life of the fabric, but you'll be surprised how much of the mud this technique eliminates. Doing this got my jersey cleaner than either soaking or washing. I've been hand-scrubbing the mud all season, and didn't stumble across this until the last race of the year.
For future refernce, here are a few links to discussions I thought were helpful.
Bike handling in various situations
Training and tabata intervals
Did my first race today and man it is pretty darn humbling thought I was a decent rider but I about killed myself to just get 4th from last. the last lap was just pure misery and pain god I hurt pretty much everywhere on that lap. probably took 10-15 minutes after the race was over just to catch my breath. It was a blast though will do again for sure.