Let me start by letting you know where I'm coming from. I used to race MTB's about 6 years ago, and was mid-pack finisher in the beginner category, and haven't really been on the bike much since then. I just finished building up a cross bike to replace my broken road bike, and have just been getting back on the saddle for the first time in years. So my training has been very limited, and my experience is nil. I had every reason not to race, but thought I should do it anyway. I set out with two goals, not to DFL, and to learn a few things and evaluate whether I wanted to do this more seriously in the future.
My first race was at the Boulevard Cup in Kansas City, KS, part of the Series60 CX series around Kansas City. This was held at the same place as the 2007 Kansas City Cyclocross National Championships. I got there a couple of hours early to check stuff out, and I rode around the course a bit, and only saw two dismount opportunities per 2 mile lap. First was a set of barriers, and then a set of stairs. What made them tricky was that the section where you would typically remount were off-camber, and your bike would be a lot higher than what you would normally practice with. So instead of futzing with a wild remount, I just switched the bike to my other side and remounted with the bike below me. Seemed to work well, at least until I become a cross pro.
So let's get on to the race. There were 55 guys in my class, probably the largest class of the day. We all lined up on a 400-yard section of pavement, and then the whistle blew. A mass sprint ensued, and at the end of the pavement you dove off into the grass. There were lots of power hills (short steep pitches), off-camber sections, and lots of playing around in the gullies. There were a few crashes, and I managed to stay clear of those. I had my heart rate monitor on, and it instantaneously exploded. I finally shut it off after about eight minutes, and it showed an average of 185, max 196. Which is about 8 beats higher than what it should be (220 - your age). Cool.
I just kept chugging along, although my seat post broke about 10 minutes into the race, causing the nose of my saddle to go sky ward. I had my nose down about one degree, but it was a solid ten degrees up plus it had fallen way out of position. Not only was it uncomfortable, but it forced by back into a way sharper "C" position than I was used to, so I'll be visiting the Chiro today. I tried to pound the saddle back into position, but it just didn't work.
All in all, I consider the race a success. I didn't take last place, and I learned a lot. Once I get some more training in, I'll anxious to do another, maybe in a month or so. I sure didn't enjoy the race while I was doing it, but once I was done, I had that notion that I could do better and I think I should go for it.
A few random notes I had:
1) The disparity in talent between myself and the leaders was huge. I didn't get lapped until later in the race, but those guys seemed to be pretty good. Definitely have put in a few more miles/races than I have.
2) I looked like a rookie out there in a mtb jersey with all of the skin suits out there. CX doesn't seem to be a very beginnerish type of sport. There were a few MTB's out there, but a vast majority were pretty nice CX specific steeds, even in the Cat 4 class.
3) The suffering was as advertised. There just was very little chance to recover, and it makes me anxious to put in some more hours training so I can be a bit more competitive.
4) I did a pretty good job warming up, and I drank a crap load of water. I think that was good, as I wasn't really dehydrated when I finished.
5) This sport is very fun and family friendly. As most races around here are held at parks, it gives the kids something to do while the old man (or old lady) is out there sucking the oxygen out of the air.
Thanks to everyone here that helped steer me along. I'm anxious to try it again after my back un-compresses and I get some more miles on these old legs.