The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo, created by Tim Shay.

by Molly Hurford

This past trip I made was probably one of my favorites this season. In part because it was a blast, but more because going to San Francisco from New Jersey was a pilgrimage of sorts. Back in the early 1900s, my great-great-uncle Frank Kolbe made the trek from Lambertville, New Jersey, to San Francisco, California. By bike. Now, we’re not talking a Lightspeed here. We’re talking pannier-ed turn-of-the-century monster across a country that hadn’t been connected by highways and convenience stores. My great-great-uncle was, in short, a total badass. Even better, he wrote a book about it, ‘Frisco or Bust. I like to think we would have gotten along amazingly. When I was younger, all I wanted was to be like Frank and write my own book. Now, I have the book and, while I haven’t made the ride across the country, I bike a heck of a lot, and now I’ve seen the city he spent months getting to a century ago. Kinda neat how things work out, right?

Anyway, since I last wrote, I’ve been across the country and back: out to Oregon for the USGP in Bend, and then a jaunt down to San Francisco for a week of serious work at Cyclocross Magazine HQ, scheming up ways to make print and online more exciting, and planning out the best Nationals and Worlds coverage that we’ve ever had. There was also some serious bike riding, sight-seeing, and general levels of unparralled awesomeness. In all, the trip was a success, though I’m pretty stoked to be home for the holidays. There’s snow in Massachusetts right now, a far cry from the orange and lemon trees in full bloom in Mountain View, California.

The highlight of this season has definitely been more writing-oriented than racing out of simple necessity, and while my heart sinks when I watch “my race” start and I’m not out there, these past couple of weeks, my legs haven’t been on the same page as my heart and mind. “Get ready, we’re racin’,” I tell them.

They laugh.

When they realize I’m serious, they cramp up. Or just turn a lot slower than I know that they can. They seem to be trying to show me who the boss is, and lately, I’ve been trying to listen. While some of the pros can handle travel well — Jeremy Powers certainly comes to mind with his five-day Euro tours — when time isn’t dedicated to recovery and plans aren’t made with racing in mind, legs are less than thrilled. So when I’m hitting the ground running for work (and working 18 hour days!), maybe it’s time to think about ending the season early for fear of burnout.

That said, I’m thankfully nowhere near burnt. After a less than stellar race weekend at NBX (mechanical one day, cramping the next), I was more thrilled with bike racing than I’ve ever been. Why? Good course, good riding, good friends, good food, good drink … really, where is the bad? So my race didn’t go according to plan. That’s a bummer, but at the end of the day, I didn’t shift my focus to cyclocross because it’s my best sport. Full disclosure: I’m a much better triathlete than cyclocross-er. ’Cross is just way more fun!

With New Year’s coming up, and being the resolution-oriented person that I am, I’ve already started thinking about what I want out of training and racing in 2013. Since I’m planning on sticking around Cyclocross Magazine, the question becomes: is making ’cross my main focus a wise decision? And, if not, what do I do then?

Obviously, between the travel and the workload, an elite-level focus isn’t really a possibility. But to give up ’cross altogether isn’t an option either. I think, therefore, the middle ground is simple: stop racing the elite women’s UCI races. Instead, I’m going to follow Emma White’s footsteps: if you can’t race the elite women (she’s too young, and I should be writing that race report!), race the Cat 3 men. Same fitness gains, but way more emphasis on serious in-race brutality. I figure a year of learning some racing aggression will only help me in the long run, and bonus: I won’t be running around like a crazy person trying to cover and race the same event. Same sport that I love, just cutting out the problematic issues!

However, racing cat 3 men is all well and good, but that doesn’t exactly count as a season to focus on. Which leads to my next plan: Xterra triathlon and mountain biking as my main athletic focus. Wait, keep reading! Xterra triathlon isn’t as “lame” as it’s more road-oriented counterpart. Really. Actually, the races and the racers are pretty similar to ’crossers. I swear.

Last Xterra I did, I ended up in a pushup contest. With heckling on par with Gloucester-level antics.

But that isn’t until the Spring and there’s a heck of a lot left to the season. My rooms are booked and drive plans are made for Nationals and Worlds, and I couldn’t be more excited. The best part about both races is that they’ll bring together a whole lot of my favorite people from all over the country.

Speaking of all over the country, the past week has been split between the West Coast – Oregon and California – and the East Coast – New Jersey and Massachusetts. The West Coast trip was, in a word, a whirlwind. Between an amazing race weekend in Bend, Oregon, and the road trip/race that Elle Anderson and I had with the WD40 guys down to San Francisco, it was a fast-paced few days. Things settled down a bit when I got to the Bay Area, and I was treated to a taste of racing and riding in the area, and met some amazing people. The cyclocross practice I attended was hilarious, between the pitch black and the woodchip laps around the playground. And the ride up to Twin Peaks through some trails within the city limits was breathtaking. The views from San Francisco, especially since it was my first visit, were just impossible to describe, and photos just don’t do them justice.

View from Twin Peaks. © Molly Hurford

View from Twin Peaks. © Molly Hurford

And, in a very real way, being out where Cyclocross Magazine HQ is technically based made me feel like I’d come a long way. I went to check out the Rapha Cycle Club in the city during the course of one very long ride (never trust cyclists that say “we’re almost there.” You are not.) and being in there felt oddly familiar. I later realized that it was because I’d seen the club before: when I first started working at Cyclocross Magazine, one of my first assignments was posting a photo gallery from the club’s opening. To be out there, spending time in the shop, actually made sense: now that I’m working full-time and this is officially my life and livelihood, it makes sense that instead of just posting pictures, I actually get to stop in and see the place for myself!

My photo gallery of the Rapha Cycle Club!

My photo gallery of the Rapha Cycle Club!

One last note: we have nominations open for our Reader Awards Survey, so if you’re passionate about a particular race, product or event, let us know before we make the final selection for the survey this weekend. I have to admit, reading some of the write-ins has again reminded me of why I love this sport. Best edible recovery product? Five of you nominated panties. Well-played, US cyclocross.

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Bonus photo for those of you who read the whole article!

My favorite sight in San Francisco.

My favorite sight in San Francisco.