The Girl With The Cowbell Tattoo

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

by Molly Hurford

When I opened an email from my Cycle-Smart coach, the awesome Alec Donahue, about a day of skills training we were planning, I laughed out loud. This is not because the schedule looked ridiculously hard, or, on the flip side, too easy. This is because after he signed off, he added “P.S. There will be blood.”

Rather than be scared, I thought it was awesome. Clearly, Al knows what makes me tick and what’s going to get me revved and ready to go hard. Because this is cyclocross. And even if there isn’t literally blood post-race, it feels like there is. In my case, I generally feel like my lungs are full of it. It’s a good feeling.

This past weekend, we had a true Beligum-style cyclocross weekend of freezing temperatures, gusting winds, sleet and five inches of snow. In New Jersey. In October. Beacon and HPCX, two notoriously dry and fast races (perfect for me!) were this past weekend, and unlike the sunny skies that greeted racers at Zonhoven in Belgium, we were treated to real ’cross weather.

There will be blood.

There will also be mud, and lots of it, this season. From the peanut butter mud at Downeast in Maine last weekend to the foot-deep puddles at Beacon and the slip-and-slide that was HPCX, it’s been a brutal season. Us cyclocrossers like to pretend that we love the cold. When it’s hot at a race, you hear plenty of us bemoaning the temperatures and saying we can’t wait for cyclocross weather. But you know what?

The cold sucks.

And sure, now that it’s over, “it was the most epic amazing weekend ever!” But during the race (and in particular, after the race), it was miserable. But that’s cyclocross, and we love it.

This weekend was both incredibly amazing and incredibly frustrating.

Muddy, but happy, post-race at HPCX. Cyclocross Magazine

Muddy, but happy, post-race at HPCX: note the snow in the background! © Cyclocross Magazine

Amazing: snow in October provided some serious chances to practice my mud racing.

Frustrating: I couldn’t feel my feet!

Amazing: having a full house with some of my favorite racers staying at my parents’, since the races were close to home.

Frustrating: losing power thanks to the snow and having to find a hotel with a washer/dryer late at night. And washing bikes in the shower. (It’s Tuesday and there’s still no power. Thank goodness for Laundromats and car washes.)

Amazing: Jersey diner for breakfast on Sunday.

Frustrating: Not having my normal oatmeal breakfast. Or having any clean clothes.

Amazing: an 11th place finish at HPCX

Frustrating: an 11th place finish at HPCX

Yes, I realize those last two are one and the same. But if you know elite cyclocross at all, you completely understand why. Yes, getting 11th was huge for me and I was really excited about it. But that also means I was one place away from that UCI point that would give me a better call up, and would be my first point ever. That’s cyclocross: amazing and frustrating at the same time.

But I am seeing improvements week to week. Cycle-Smart has me doing more work, harder, to peak for a couple key races, and I’m loving it. I love having numbers I need to reach on my Powertap, and I’m even having fun getting used to high cadence intervals, though they hurt like hell.

Cyclocross practices are getting faster, and at the end of this week, I make the biggest jump ever: relocating to New England for the rest of the season to cut down on travel and to give me access to people I can train with on a regular basis. Until Nationals, I’ll be living cyclocross.

There will be blood.

Bring it on.