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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 11-10-08, 09:27 AM   #1
Jagee
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Race #1

My first race was really cool. I started in the back of the pack and ended solidly in the back of the pack--dead last! I was lapped but not by everyone, which I'll count as a podium finish. My old Hardrock made it through--I didn't lose my chain or flat, so that was good. The course was excellent--I particularly liked one section of muddy forest trail and the fast parts on level single track. Technical sections were slippery and fun too though. Was surprised at how hard it is to pedal through thick, wet grass. If anything had me struggling and pukey, it was that.

I was surprised though--I thought category 4 was a beginner category. It must depend on the race, but no one in cat.4 at the race I was in was nearly a beginner (at least not that I could tell). I race in triathlons regularly and was expecting there to be a class of beginner racers much like those who show up at sprint triathlons--ready to backstroke the swim, hit the bike leg with an old Schwinn Varsity, and amble through the run. But everyone at the 'cross race in cat. 4 was in full cycling regalia with sweet 'cross rigs. At least it was fun to drool over the bikes.

I'm psyched to race again and am thinking about changes for the old bike, besides practicing on hills and riding through thick grass. If I can find drop bars thin enough to accept the thumbshifters' narrow clamps, I want to switch to drop bars to be able to get a little lower. Last place requires a little more style anyway.
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Old 11-10-08, 09:41 AM   #2
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Cross is, um, kinda tough ;-)

I've discovered that to race cross and have fun you have to... show up.

To hit the middle third of the pack takes some technical skills, some practice on the cross specific stuff like dismounting and remounting, runups, sand and barriers... and Cat 4 road fitness.

To hit the top third of the pack appears to take Cat 3 road fitness. And a lot more of the technical skills. And this is in C class.

But all is well... it doesn't matter how hard it is, it matters that its consistently hard so you can benchmark your progress.

That said, I do think USCF should consider forcing a rider to race cross at either their road cat or mountain biking cat as a minimum. If they lack the technical skills, then they can be a backmarker in the A or B class while they learn... just like the beginners are a backmarkers in the C class while they learn and make plans to be more fit next year ;-) But at least they (the fast road and mtb riders) have the fitness. You can learn skills in a season or less if you have the fitness... but cat 3 fitness might take 2 or 3 years depending on your ability, age, and what you are starting from.

Just a thought.

Oh, and it's all irrelevant because racing cross is about having fun, suffering miserably, and getting faster for "next time".
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Old 11-10-08, 10:17 AM   #3
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I recently bought my first cross bike and have been using it as a commuter so far while trying to build a base as I'm starting from absolutely nothing! I went and watched my first cross race a few weeks ago and was also a bit surprised at how serious all of the cat 4 riders were. Only maybe one or two out of 40 or so didn't have a team jersey and the whole bit. Crazy. Can't wait for my first race though.
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Old 11-10-08, 10:38 AM   #4
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That sounds a lot like my first race, except I did get lapped by everybody else who finished. And, yes, I was shocked how hard it is to ride in grass. What psi were you using? I dropped down about 20 psi between my first race and my second and I think that helped a lot.

Around here the races do have a specifically beginner category, but it's still filled with some pretty serious riders. For what it's worth, I showed up at my first race in full cycling regala and with a semi-sweet 'cross bike. Still, I don't think anyone mistook me for a serious rider.
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Old 11-10-08, 10:39 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mcfc57 View Post
Can't wait for my first race though.
Don't wait. Get out there and do it. At my first race one of the volunteers out on the course pushed me up a hill. Apparently my lack of fitness was showing. But it was still great fun.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:16 PM   #6
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I'm psyched to race again and am thinking about changes for the old bike, besides practicing on hills and riding through thick grass. If I can find drop bars thin enough to accept the thumbshifters' narrow clamps, I want to switch to drop bars to be able to get a little lower. Last place requires a little more style anyway.
Forget about drop bars. Focus on cheap fixes that will speed up and/or lighten the bike. A pair of lighter skinnier tires, for example.

If you want to "get a little lower", bend your arms.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:30 PM   #7
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I did my 2nd race this weekend and it suuuuuuuuuuuuucked. Oh man... it was mostly grass and insanely lumpy and bumpy, you had to work for every inch because the bumps plus the grass just sucked every bit of momentum up. The sun was also brutal. On the last lap at one point I was seriously thinking "Should I stop for a bit? Am I having heat stroke?"

And I started feeling like I needed to take a nap- just no energy whatsoever. In my defense I didn't get much sleep the night before and was fighting off a cold, and I still haven't figured out the best way to warm up. Good gravy did it suck. Would have came in last but one guy accidently rode into the pit and got turned around so I passed him. I'm 35 and got handidly beat by a 51 year old dude. I did pass a couple of very weary cat4 geared riders who went out a couple minutes before us, but still...

This was singlespeed and I will do it again. I'm waiting for that special combo of feeling good + warmed up well + the course suits me. Some day...

Oh yeah- last lap I was thinking "well at least I didn't crash" cuz my first race I crashed and hurt my thumb pretty bad and shore-nuff, last corner before the final stretch- bamf!

I hate WTB cross wolf, btw.
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Old 11-10-08, 01:23 PM   #8
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@TimJ in no particular order

1. Everybody rides the same course.
2. Carry water in hot races. But more importantly make sure to get to the line hydrated.
3. The Pre-Race Meal
4. Don't mistake pre-riding the course for warming up. You can use the pre-riding as a warm-up, if you approach it correctly, but it's problematic because of other races. For true warm-up in the half-hour preceding a race, find a rideable patch of grass (soccer field works great) where you can ride at varying levels of intensity. Alternate easy spinning with increasing bouts of intensity, until you finish off with three or four high-intensity ten second sprints right before staging.
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Old 11-10-08, 02:37 PM   #9
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And, yes, I was shocked how hard it is to ride in grass. What psi were you using?
I used about 50-55psi (26x1.5 tires)--when I researched, it looked like that's where people kept themselves. I think I'll start some intervals on thick grass just to start to build up tolerance.

"I'm 35 and got handily beat by a 51 year old dude"
At one point, an old, portly fella passed me, followed by what must have been a 13 year old. I waited for an obligatory granny on a unicycle, but thankfully, she never showed. Nothing quite as humbling as folks zipping by who you would never guess could do so.

I took a lap on the course and rode around on some grass before the race to warm up. I think I could have been more warmed up still. I found that my second lap was definitely better than my first--I felt more comfortable and ready to crank when I could. After that I just put one pedal in front of the other.
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Old 11-10-08, 02:48 PM   #10
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if you did want to run drop bars, you could run barcon shifters rather than trying to rig your mtn. shifters onto them.
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Old 11-10-08, 02:54 PM   #11
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I used about 50-55psi (26x1.5 tires)--when I researched, it looked like that's where people kept themselves. I think I'll start some intervals on thick grass just to start to build up tolerance.
Too high. Think 40-45. How much do you weigh?

There's nothing specific to grass that requires special training. A well-run spinning class would give equal or better benefit, especially if you aren't already doing interval training. It's all about putting watts into your rear wheel.
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Old 11-10-08, 03:05 PM   #12
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I don't get training, I think maybe I'm just destined to always be last because I don't think I can get nearly enough training in. Prior to my first race I was doing what I thought was a pretty good deal- riding fairly hard and practicing dismounts, etc., for about 45min to an hour about 3 nights a week and at least once on the weekend, and then I raced and realized how freaking hard it was.

So I upped my "training" to about a 14 mile ride about 3 times a week and maybe 1 or 2 jogs of a couple miles, but then daylight savings kicked in and I'm in the middle of LA and my route was dangerous enough in the light, in the dark I'd probably get killed so I'm down to that route on the weekend and 2 or 3 jogs of a couple miles during the week. I just don't think it's enough to make any progress this season. I think next season, knowing what I know now, if I train longer and harder for a longer period of time before daylight savings hits, I think that might bump me up a notch in fitness level.

Whats an average cx racer dude's training like anyway?

oh yeah- I hate the gym near me and would rather die than join it.
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Old 11-10-08, 03:29 PM   #13
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Too high. Think 40-45. How much do you weigh?

There's nothing specific to grass that requires special training. A well-run spinning class would give equal or better benefit, especially if you aren't already doing interval training. It's all about putting watts into your rear wheel.
I'm around 160#. I'll try 40-45 psi.
I'm actually going to do some spinning pretty soon, I've been doing about 20-25 road miles a couple of times a week, which want to up, but no interval work, so I do have to grow some quads and hamstrings. As far as training on grass specifically, I just want to get more used to the feeling of riding on it when tired. But I guess that's true of all surfaces.

"if you did want to run drop bars, you could run barcon shifters rather than trying to rig your mtn. shifters onto them."
I'm going to see what's around--this would be cool.
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Old 11-10-08, 03:51 PM   #14
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Whats an average cx racer dude's training like anyway?
Here is a typical training week for me:
M 30min swim, easy, just recovery
T 90min interval workout, usually 4x12min at/near lactate threshold with 3min recovery
W 45min hilly run with hill repeats at end
T 60min spinning class
F 45min flat run or 30min recovery swim
S 120min group ride out of local shop (usually hilly and competitive)
S 120min mtn bike ride

Tuesday is the only weekday with over an hour, and even that could be squeezed into an hour.

Not that I'm the greatest cross racer in the world but I don't finish last. A typical cat 3 roadie would have a lot more time on the bike than I do. After this season (and after a couple week's rest) I'm looking to up my volume a significant notch. During the spring and summer I do mountain bike racing, off-road multisport (like Xterra tris, duathlons, etc), and the occasional running race, but I ride at least twice a week with strong road racers and this has a huge impact on bike fitness.
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Old 11-10-08, 04:09 PM   #15
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Wow.

Yeah, I'll probably cat4 for quite a while. It's just difficult to train where I'm at in the middle of LA without belonging to a gym or having an indoor trainer. There's few stretches of road where you can get good, long runs without excessive lights, etc., and the ones that exist are dangerous, and riding them in the dark- hoo boy. But I'm slowly finding ways and places to get more miles in, it'll just take some time I think.
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Old 11-10-08, 04:20 PM   #16
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TimJ,
I'd bet you can find some running/riding clubs in LA that have good routes to follow and plenty of training opportunities. May be worth a shot.
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Old 11-10-08, 07:13 PM   #17
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Tim,

Do you bike to work? My on-bike training consists almost entirely of biking to and from work (11 miles each way). On top of that I've been doing about 30 minutes on the treadmill at the office gym three times a week and doing core exercises twice a week. Of course, my two races to date have seen me place 9th of 10 and 25th of 31, so take it with a grain of salt.

I put in a lot of miles this summer and rounded out the season with a century two weeks before my first race (not enough rest in between, I can tell you), so I had a decent base level. During 'cross season it has seemed like rest has been as important as training (which is always true to some degree). I've mostly focused on taking a route that has more hills and hitting them hard.
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Old 11-12-08, 12:21 PM   #18
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Tim,

Do you bike to work? My on-bike training consists almost entirely of biking to and from work (11 miles each way). On top of that I've been doing about 30 minutes on the treadmill at the office gym three times a week and doing core exercises twice a week. Of course, my two races to date have seen me place 9th of 10 and 25th of 31, so take it with a grain of salt.

I put in a lot of miles this summer and rounded out the season with a century two weeks before my first race (not enough rest in between, I can tell you), so I had a decent base level. During 'cross season it has seemed like rest has been as important as training (which is always true to some degree). I've mostly focused on taking a route that has more hills and hitting them hard.
I do bike to work but it's only 2 miles each way on my fixie.

I didn't really have a bike this summer except for my fixie and a mtb so I didn't get to do a lot of riding. I'm set with bikes now, if it wasn't for daylight savings I'd be doing my 14 mile route at least 3 times a week.
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