Well I'm not dead. I finished my first cyclocross race on Sunday. I don't know if I finished with a smile, but I know I was smiling shortly after then end.
First the obvious question - where did I finish. I finished 78th - which was close to the end, but not the end, so I did reach my goal of not finishing last.
The race went pretty well. The first first lap was crazy. It was really bunched up at the beginning. I was able to keep up with folks for a bit for the first lap or so, but dropped off relatively quickly after fatigue and poor technique had an opportunity to do their mischief. A couple notes:
The sandpits seem to go on forever and ever. It looks like they used two old volleyball courses. The way they ran the courses through the pits you couldn't blow through the pits and stay on your bike. They seemed to have at least three turns in the pits and a couple crosses across the grass between the two. The sand was relatively deep and was rough slogging through it. It was a pretty challenging little area and sucked alot of steam out of me. I also had a bit of trouble getting my shoes back into my pedals when I got out of the pits. I'll have to figure out a trick to take care of that this weekend.
I was pretty intimidated by the barrier in front of the tree when I watched the video of last year's ride. It seemed really high on the video. Fortunately when I got there it wasn't as bad as I thought and I was able to clear it by just putting a foot on the top and climbing over. It still required a good deal of effort and was a challenge but wasn't as bad as I made it out in my head.
After the tree there were a few hurdles which were relatively manageable. They were at the top of slight hill so you got some speed heading down the hill before making a turn again. They weren't easy but not the worse part of the course either.
On the other side of the course there were a few switchbacks which at the beginning had to be run because of all the riders on the course. By the time I'd been spit out the back I was able to ride the switchbacks and then dismount and clear the hurdles up the small hill and head back out. For whatever reason I always had trouble getting back into my pedals after that spot on the course. Getting back on the bike was fine but getting in the pedals was a problem.
One fall. Nothing too eventful, just hit a patch of loose dirt on a corner and lost my bike from under me. I was able to get back up and get on the bike right away so it was nothing too dramatic - although it was nice to have a ~13 year old kid from NCVC right there to witness it. Wouldn't have been any fun otherwise.
There were a ton of great people at the ride cheering folks on, chief among them - cheerer-in-chief, Noel. It seemed like she was everywhere. I'd look up a hill and she'd be yelling "Go Honey, keep pushing." I'd come around a corner and she'd be rattling the cowbell and shaking her pig clappers. It was great inspiration to have her out there!! There were also alot of misc people out there just cheering. That was very cool. It was nice to have the occasional "Good work Proteus" along the route.
I'm really pleased with how it went. It was really hard. I was really spent at the end. And I really had alot of fun. I certainly would like to do better in the future, but I wasn't the last guy across the line, so I met my goal. I'm going to ride again this weekend, and hopefully will do a bit better. Hopefully though, I'll have just as much fun. I'm really glad I signed up for cross and am looking forward to a season full of racing. (we'll see if that holds when its muddy, sloppy and 40 degrees.)
Finally, its really nice to have a ranking. I've always done rides. Which are fun and a great time and good way to spend time on a bike, but I never knew how I did at the end of the ride. Now I have something to push myself against. It certainly wasn't the best finish of the day, but it gives me a metric to compare myself against and will measure how I do.