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Tonight after work I went to the second 'cross clinic offered by Upper Echelon Sports.
The clinic was out at Alpenrose, which is good since it's the site of the first Cross Crusade in October.

I arrived feeling tired -- underslept and slow. I've been sleeping poorly the last few nights and it has taken a toll. Stretching and chatting with other women, then grouping up with the instructors and taking a stab at -- you guessed it -- more mounts and dismounts and hopping over the barriers. I was glad, because this is the kind of stuff I really need to work on.

Getting off the bike is better. Lifting the bike and running over the barriers is exhausting after the 13th or 14th repeat, but still quite doable. Getting back on the bike while it's moving forward is something else entirely. I watched carefully as each of the instructors demonstrated the flying leap -- looking basically like Olympic hurdlers with bikes on their shoulders -- and then I tried to replicate it myself. Ten times in a row. No way. No how. Ten times, my body refused to believe it could do this without slamming my nether regions hard into the saddle, and all the padding in my bike shorts wasn't going to allieviate that fear. A few more times of failing at those balletic leaps, and in the end I settled for last week's "waddle", that thing where I push the bike forward slowly after setting it down and I sort of "walk" back onto the saddle. It's slow, it's ugly, it's ridiculous, I'm sure it makes me look like Donald Duck on quaaludes; and it still works better than coming to a complete stop before re-mounting.

I've agreed to schedule a couple of practices with a couple of women I met at the clinics, in an east side park to practice. I gotta work on this stuff!

After this, we split into smaller groups. My group practiced some sprint work over gravel and grass, including a couple of passes at some off-camber stuff that I timed better this week so I could pedal all the way up (the key? More space between me and the geared bike in front of me). This was mostly okay, though against these sleek, muscled women on their 'cross-specific, geared bikes, I was slow as could be. (Am I just digging my own grave by riding singlespeed? Probably. Don't care.)

Stops here and there to regroup; lots of talk about heart rate monitors and power meters, stuff I've never dealt with. I huffed and puffed my way back up the incline to the barrier area, gulped down some water, tried another sprint run and felt utterly spent. I've never messed with a heart rate monitor but if I'd worn one tonight my max heart rate would've popped the thing clean off my chest and into the instructor's face. I opted NOT to try another sprint run, but instead returned to the barriers to work on ons and offs some more; then the whole class regrouped to work on starts.

WOW. Hard, scary, and actually kind of fun. We began at slow speeds to get the feel of jostling for position. The instructors reminded us that fields at Cross Crusade races rival the populations of some small countries, and that we should not allow ourselves to get freaked out by this. We tried a couple of starts at slower speed, heading up the paved driveway and then turning left onto the grass and into the first set of barriers. Hard, but doable. Then we went back and tried it one time at a faster speed. Okay, this was really hard, and if they asked me to do another one I wouldn't have been able to just then. Thankfully, the session was wrapping up about then.

I thanked the instructors for their time and said I'd see them at the races. (I'd only budgeted for two of these professional paid sessions; there are three free/sliding-scale clinics in September that aren't women-only and I'm going to hit those while also practicing at home on my own. The crowds at those clinics will be bigger, too, allowing me to get used to lots more people on the course.)

At home now and ready for bed. Really, really tired. Wow. Phew.

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Another nice post. As a fellow newbie, I've been enjoying your take on starting as a cross racer.

A tip I've found helpful so far is to practice mounts/re-mounts whenever possible. No need for barriers and no need for a group, as long as you don't mind looking silly in public. I usually take the cross bike to an empty ball field and do laps or whatever pattern strikes me, randomly making myself dismount, run briefly rolling the bike and then re-mount. At first I started at a walking pace, which is harder I think, as you need some good forward momentum for bike balance. Or at least that is my experience. So practice practice practice. I have plenty to do myself. Bike is in the shop right now getting ready for the season, but as soon as it is back, I will be upping my cross specific training.

Another tip I found helpful is don't aim to land on the saddle with your nether regions, but the inside of your upper thigh and then slide sideways onto the saddle. The challenge I've found is the closer you get up your thigh to those sensitive areas, the easier the re-mount, so it can be a scary thin margin between nice smooth re-mount and ouch.

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