Wow was I humbled last Saturday night! I just finished the Open Race in DarkCross: a night-time cyclocross race at the local dirt oval speedway. Open Race is for anyone without a race license who wants to try out the sport for a few races. Over all, the whole night was great. There was great racing to watch, an awesome DJ pumping everyone up, and even a live band between races! My race was fun but it just about killed me from exhaustion. I apparently need way more intense training.
I did one race last year and have trained a bit with cross labs and my modified commuting route, so I figured I’d have half a chance at finishing DarkCross. I finished. Barely. This race is pretty grueling with lots of long stretches on rough hard-packed dirt, tight turns on loose dirt, a set of barriers, the “Grandstand Run-Up”, the rock garden run-up, and the 8ft staircase “flyover” just to finish things off each lap. The “20 minutes plus a lap” race was as close to a marathon as makes no difference to me!
After the first lap I was just killed. I couldn’t go on, but somehow I had to. I was praying somehow the race would only be 2 laps, but after lap 2 I knew the race was still going and I had to do all I could just to finish. I just wanted to finish. By lap 3 I couldn’t even think. I couldn’t remember all the bumps or what came after which corner or what corners I should take wide. I was just plodding along putting one foot around the other. Luckily, there was only 3 laps total, but it took me about 37 minutes to finish all three. I can’t believe how hard it was to keep going that hard for that long. I paced myself, but compared to the race I tried last year, this one was about 1.5 times harder. Last year at MennoCross I finished 11th. I figured I’d be 2nd or 3rd last, since I had huge stretches where I was alone, but I ended up 17th out of 25. I think that’s OK for such a tough race.
I won’t give you a play-by-play, but I had a couple mishaps: One tight corner at the top of a hill had me pedaling to get up but hitting my inside pedal as I turned. I didn’t fall off, but had to stop and get back on the pedals. Halfway through lap 2, my seat came loose. When I ran up the grandstand, I heard it jingle-jangling so that when I got back on at the top, my seat tipped backwards! Lap 1.5 to the end of the race was a bit tricky and I spent a bunch of it trying to keep my seat from tipping one way or the other. It’s crazy since I checked and tightened every bolt on my bike the night before. Now I’ll be buying some blue Loctite.
As hard as it was, it was a blast and I would do it again. I had so much fun and the course was pretty technical so I got to use all the skills I’ve been learning in cross labs. I’m looking forward to a few more open races this season. It’s always a learning experience. There were several photographers at the race, so aside from my few phone pics, check out these photos: