A new racers experience - insight into CX
"CX is hard and unforgiving. That's the game. Enough said." - Greg Brown
Upon reading Greg Brown's email to me reviewing his last cyclocross race I saw the need to share it as an article for the benefit of our community. Most of our riders (and readers) fit in to the 35+ age category. At this point in life striking a balance of family, work and fitness is an increasingly delicate affair. Layers of commitments can often times push our health, exercise and competitive nature lower on the priority list. The following reflects both the psyche and beauty of cyclocross, and why we choose it as our competitive outlet this time of year to keep life in balance. It is a discipline of cycling that requires tough practice sessions, purposeful drilling and competition focused energy that when lacking ends in losing valuable seconds, finishing positions and even bicycle crashes. The nature of the race itself is so intense (a full gas effort for 40-60 minutes) that it turns your senses up to 11 and you become your biggest critic, advocate and enemy during the race. Greg is an accomplished family man, entrepreneur and competitive athlete. He is competing in his first full season of cyclocross in the 45+ age field. That means earning his way through the ranks from a Cat 5 (entry level amateur license) one race at a time regardless of any other accolades outside the sport.
Yesterday was by far my worst CX race experience, straight up. I went into race day tired, a bit sore from the week's efforts (and mishaps) and mentally in a fuzzy space. Did a few good recon laps, felt good and went to the start line. There was the regular cast of characters in my race but this time with an uphill sprint start. First lap fast and wild on pure adrenaline. Normal. Second lap included a steep uphill running section, then back on the bike through single track, followed by a sand section, a fast right hand decent then bang, on the ground. A crash happened so fast that my biked was jacked and I found myself taking inventory with my brain running above threshold. I was physically ok but mentally in free fall. Rode off the course and tapped out. DNF (Did Not Finish). What? Yep. Done. I rode around for the next 30 minutes "cooling down'" talking to myself trying to assess what just happened.
Was this really my worst race experience? Depends on how one looks at it. Let's unpack.
Racing CX is freaking hard. Period. Fitness, bike handling skills and true grit all required. One of my roadie buddies said, cyclocross race only 40 minutes. How hard can that be? Well ...
What happens on race day was meant to happen. Either embrace it and learn or grind under the weight of why.
We are human. Mortal, fallible, imperfect. Yeah. We all know some guys that ride like cyborgs but they suffer and experience pain just like the rest of us. Job, family, "stuff" .... we are all swimming in the same pond. Good days and not so good. The ups and downs.
Be mentally ready to deal with setbacks. It's part of the challenge. Fight the mental free fall.
Your pride gets fried. Not fun but there are not nearly the number of people watching you as you think. Sorry. Heck, cat 5 races start before most weekenders get out of bed!
Why did this happen? Why questions can be perilous. They are akin to falling down a rabbit hole or endlessly tumbling though space. Just believe that the day's events were to happen, accept and learn.
Get the right perspective. Most of us don't pay the rent with our racing. We do it for fun and should be fun.
Get your head together and commit to the race. Get clear between the ears! Push life aside for the next 40- 60 minutes and welcome what it brings and deal with it.
Focus on the present and your goals for that race. It may be a podium finish, finishing on the lead lap or just finishing without hitting the ground. CX racing requires focus.
CX is hard and unforgiving. That's the game. Enough said.
Be thankful. For your family, teammates, and that guy that just chopped you off. Yes. We do this because we are healthy enough to compete and are motivated to get out of bed and go for it. This is huge.
Give yourself a break. You beat everyone that didn't show up!
Never give up.
See you at the next race.
- Greg Brown