Last year in cyclocross I was constantly dead last in Category 4. When I took on Tracy McKay as my endurance coach for the TourDivide, I asked him if he could also help me with Cyclocross, too. He said he’d train me the way he’d train someone for a Criterium (Crit) race when the season came around. Tracy said the key elements to succeeding in a short-track race are:
After the Trans North Georgia Adventure, Tracy switched my training over to intervals and field work (working on technical, 180 degree turns and handling a cyclocross bike). I also started consulting Kelli Jennings, a nutritionist for the proper fuel and dietary habits and sleep? Well, I’ll sleep when I’m dead as I don’t seem to have 3 minutes to even shut my eyes lately.
The result? Not too shabby. The first Cyclocross Race of the season I was able to get 15th place (even with a flat) and this past weekend’s race I got up to 9th. I was very excited and happy to see the climb in the ranks. Of course this all diminishes soon as I’ll be upgrading to Cylcocross Category 3 where I’ll get my ass collectively handed to me by the big boys.
My training has been like a science project lately – every meal is timed, training is very regimented and I try to pack in as much sleep as I can (which doesn’t seem like a lot). I don’t skip meals, in fact if I do I can feel it almost instantly. For a race pre-fuel I have a specific shake recommended by the Kelli 3 hours before so that all the nutrients have been converted to glycogen for immediate use. Fortunately for this race everything clicked.
Before the Sunday race I talked to my bud Mat about racing tips. While he’s not done many cyclocross races, he’s done a fair amount of other races. He said “you need to be aggressive, you’re not at a cyclocross race to make friends. That’s afterwards over beer.” This “be aggressive “was also confirmed by my other friend, Stacey.
I decided that this race I’d try this out and when we took off from the starting line I saw myself starting to fall back immediately while the more aggressive racers took the lead.
“Not this time,” I thought to myself and I went into a sprint starting to muscle my way through the crowd of cyclists. Once we hit the first turn the racers started to thin a bit and I was able to try to work my way around cyclists where I could. Before I knew it, I had weaved my way to trailing the front pack of impossibly fast people.
“It’s a template, lay your training over the cyclocross course” is what Tracy said over the phone to me one day. ”Find the places you can sprint and the places you can recover.” I took note during the preride of where to do that and had my plan. I knew where to sprint and have immediate recovery afterwards. I also tried to pace myself out so I wouldn’t burn through all my energy at once
The race could have gone anymore perfect than it did for me. No mechanicals, no flats and my little Felt Cyclocross Bike stayed together for the entire race with no problems. I had swapped 8th place with one guy however he outpaced me, fair and square, at the end.
When I got off the bike, I about collapsed from fatigue. I was super happy with snagging 9th out of around 41 riders . It was a great feeling to being have an improvement that far in training.
I did race #2 an hour or so later after the Cat 4. I knew something was up because I felt like I had very little energy left (if any) from going so hard in the first cyclocross race. Also, I caved in and had one beer chocking it up to “carbs for the next race.” The singlespeeders all lined up ready to roll and it didn’t take more than 10 minutes to realize my body wasn’t prepared to handle the race #2. I completely fell apart and bonked and while I didn’t get DFL, I go pretty damned close to it only beating the folks on fat tires to my skinnies.
I talked to Kelli the next day and she said I probably did not have enough nutrition to sustain the next race and gave me a few tips for fueling for a second race.
After the very epic TNGA I dealt with some pretty big lows (emotionally) and the thought of spending 12-15 hours at a time on a bike was lackluster at best. My coach thought it’d a great diversion to spend some time doing something different and pick back up training again. Also, I really love Cyclocross and while I’m no pro at it by any means, it’s fun to compete and I honestly don’t know a better way to spend a Sunday than with friends, competing and laughter.
Even if it’s in the rain.