Ryan Kelly is a roadie who owns a ‘cross bike and loves racing it. He’ll likely be spending his season at the back of the New England Elite races, exploring his pain cave and enjoying every hour-long sufferfest. As long as others are finding entertainment in his suffering, he’s happy. Ryan joins our growing list of columnists documenting their season racing real ‘cross. Here’s his first entry.
The big boys are coming. And I’m (temporarily) not scared.
I don’t have to tell you that Gloucester is this weekend. You’re on cxmagazine.com after all. You know that. My brain knows this, and I am mentally prepared for the massive beat-down that will be dealt to me by the big hitters in the UCI race. While Trebon, Johnson, Driscoll, Jacques-Maynes and others are at the front battling for victory, I’ll likely be hanging out in the back wondering how soon it will be before I’m lapped and listening to the insults thrown at me by my “friends” scattered throughout the course.
But despite all this, I’m at Gloucester for much the same reason that every other racer is – because cyclocross is a friggin blast. Which, again, is probably something that I didn’t have to tell you.
Even though my brain is mostly ready for what is coming, my brain is overwhelmingly aware that my legs are not prepared. This is my first year in the UCI races. In 2007 I had a decent enough season in the Verge New England 2/3 field that I decided it was time to start enjoying hour long sessions of suffering instead of only 45 minutes. Plus, I didn’t want to be featured in the next eBay UCI points sandbagger auction. Of course, I also figured it might be fun to be morally destroyed every weekend.
So here it is, Wednesday afternoon, three days before the biggest cross race in New England. And thanks to one little training tool, the worries about my legs will be momentarily erased. And why, you ask, is that?
The weekly training race! Nothing can give you the necessary mental and physical reassurance needed before a big race weekend quite like the weekly training series. There are a variety of ways that the weekly training race can be like a comforting mother to you – reminding you that you are strong, special, and capable of anything:
1. You probably aren’t racing against your real competitors: At my weekly training race, there are two fields. An A field and a B field. The B field is mostly comprised of people on mountain bikes, folks on single speeds and area residents that are interested in a decent, somewhat organized workout that’s more exciting than a spinning class. The A field are the people who own geared cross bikes and may race occasionally. And of those who race occasionally, a handful of them may actually be in my field.
So, it’s possible to throw down and crush everyone (making yourself feel better). But, even if you get your ass kicked, you can justify it by saying “These people don’t race, so I’m not really worried.” Or you can be sure you’re going to do well by entering the B race and smoking the guy on the cobweb-covered Trek Hybrid.
2. It’s Wednesday, so you’ve got plenty of time to get fit for the weekend: I mean, really, there’s two whole days between the training race and the actual race. And if you’re racing in the afternoon, it’s basically two and a half days. Plenty of time to finally figure out how to dismount without burying your pedal a centimeter into your calf, and more than enough time to get in a short run workout. There’s nothing to worry about! There’s like 60 hours until the race!
3. It’s Wednesday, and you aren’t recovered from the weekend: You buried yourself over the weekend, and your body has yet to recover from the ravages of two days of racing (as well as the Sunday night “recovery” beers). You’re only human, not a machine. This idea can also be applied to those non-racers who beat you in the training race – they didn’t race over the weekend, so they’ve got fresh legs! You can even stretch this one a little more and guess that these guys train solely for the Wednesday night training race.
4. You raced after a full day at work: If you felt this good at the training race after spending a full day at work, imagine how fast you’ll be over the weekend with proper nutrition and enough sleep! Plus, you probably ran out of the office with nothing more than a granola bar in your stomach since your Quiznos sub at 1 p.m., so you’re basically running on fumes.
5. It’s actually a great workout: And this is actually true. The other points…those just basically show that you’re good at lying to yourself (which is helpful in both competitive cycling and life). I don’t actually have any sort of logical training program – at least nothing beyond “Don’t get drunk the night before the race” – but I have found that the hard mid-week ride will really open your legs up and keep the fitness coming. It may be tough at this point to get those hard workouts going, especially with New England beginning to enter an entire season of 3 p.m. sunsets, but the mid-week races will help keep your legs fast and keep you sane during the week.
Hopefully there is a Wednesday night training race near you. Many of them are posted on BikeReg, and some of them run until the end of November, giving you many more weeks of hard workouts and temporary mental reassurance. There’s usually an entry fee, but $5 isn’t too much to shell out for a great workout. But even if there isn’t a nearby race, it’s not too hard to gather a few friends, some PVC barriers and a winner-take-all $2 entry fee to get people motivated.
Now it’s about 4 p.m. here in Seacoast New Hampshire, so I should probably get my things together for the training race. And no matter what happens tonight, there’s at least thirty-five and a half hours between now and the lineup at Gloucester.
More of Ryan‘s musings on bike racing (as well as other topics, such as the internet) can be found at exit17.net.