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.