September 25, 2012

CXpreX Cyclocross Clinic Recap

I've had a cyclocross bike for a few years now. I got it because I wanted a rugged, yet efficient and versatile ride for my commute to work. It has done spectacularly. Yet, one thing always nagged at me. I always thought it would be nice to some day try out the sport that the thing was actually designed for: cyclocross.

What is cyclocross?
If you've never been exposed to cyclocross it's possible that you are now conjuring up images of BMX racing or dirt motorcycle racing. Cyclocross is an old cycling sport that is rumored to have started by European riders who would gather at the edge of a town with their road bikes, point out the steeple of a church and then race to it by all means possible. Hopping fences, going up stairs, riding over fields, etc. These days it is performed on a manicured course with obstacles such as 15" barriers to jump over, sand, mud, grass, steep hills, and stairs. It is a short and very intense race. A cyclocross bike looks very much like a road bike at first glance, but when you look closer you see many differences. The brakes are large and cantilevered in order to give clearance for larger tires and mud. The frame is designed to allow for a slightly wider tire than a road bike. The tires for cyclocross are normally knobby and a bit wider than a road bike tire (but much narrower than a mountain bike tire).

A few videos help:

My indoctrination into cyclocross
Instead of jumping right into a race I thought I'd try out the CXpreX clinics that I've heard about on the Internet machine every fall. It's cheap ($10 per session) and I'd be able to learn alongside other newbies. The sessions were every Thursday for three weeks in late August and early September. At the first clinic the weather was hot (85 degrees) and sunny. We spent the first half hour learning how to get on the bike. No simple feat if you're trying to do it while running. In later sessions we would learn how to get off the bike at speed and how to jump over barriers. We also learned about how to carry the bike for different situations. Each session had the same format: split up into groups based on experience and do some drills. Then split up into A's and B's (based on ability) for a race.

My initial impression was "wow, I never knew riding around on grass would be so difficult". The race lived up to its hype. It was intense and during the race it seemed as if it would never end. I can go out and ride for 5+ hours and be fine the next day. This was a completely different animal. It was 110% intensity for 45 minutes. My HR monitor basically pegged out and stayed there until I crossed the finish line.

I don't think I'll do a race this year (mostly because it wouldn't fit in my schedule) but I know I will be doing CXpreX again next year.

Charge the hill! We had to run up this hill carrying our bikes.

Photo Courtesy of CXpreX

September 6, 2012

1 more makes 5

I feel like I am closing in on a milestone.  I have been running for about 4 years now and "racing" for about 3 of those years.  I have never won, placed or even finished near the winners in any of the races I have participated in which is the main reason for the quotation marks there.  I am pretty proud of a number of my races though.  The first half marathon I raced in is up there in my highlights as well as last year's Turkey Trot 5k.  I have a substantial goal for next fall for my 5k racing that I was supposed to meet this year but an injury pushed that goal back a bit.

Here's the thing though, in about a month and a half I am going to participate in a race that I have decided is a big deal.  First, it is another half marathon.  This is still the hardest distance that I run and I therefore consider each one to be an accomplishment.  Second, the race is the Freepress Half Marathon which has been a race I have wanted to do since I ran my first half.  I don't know why it has called to me but it has and this year I am able to fit it into my calendar.  Third and most importantly, it will be my 5th half marathon.  I am not sure why this seems like an important or monumental number to me but it does.  I am pretty excited about both the race and it being my 5th half.  I think I may even pick up one of those overpriced pieces of apparel at the race expo to commemorate my race...

Side note, if you haven't raced ever, give it a try it is pretty addicting.