Two things I’ve largely left out of my bike-life for a while now are cyclocross and other human beings. Saturday I decided to revisit both at once.
It didn’t go that well. While it’s true that I raced my Taiwanese-knockoff CX bike for two years, it’s also true that I spent the subsequent two years rehabbing my hip like a grandma. I recall the connection only now, of course, that I’m again writhing around on the floor with the foam roller.
As for the reason I stopped riding with other people once I got slow, well:
||Your crime against me
||You’re on my ass. You’re rushing me.
|Next to me
||You’re soft-pedaling and/or not breathing as hard as I am. You’re showing off.
|Directly in front of me
||You’re blocking my line. You made me mess this uuuuupppppp!
|Farther in front of me
||You’re dragging me up this stupid hill. You put this hill here, didn’t you?
|Out of sight
||You’re waiting for me and now I can’t stop to Instagram these flowers.
So as you can see, I’m a real joy to gain elevation with. Saturday’s victim endured a hissy fit at the top of Mt. Tam: first I tried to get him to leave and do his own ride; when this didn’t work I insisted on going home. Because I also hate out-and-backs and was additionally annoyed by the prospect of pavement (…), this meant crossing the road to descend Eldridge Grade. A mountain biker waiting at the top raised an eyebrow. “It’s a bit … boulder-y,” he offered, cautiously. “WHATEVER,” I said. “WE’RE GOING.”
This was where I recalled what I do like about my cross bike. The following guide applies to all two-wheeled purchases:
The Motobecane hurts me, but at least I can’t hurt it.
Unclear if I can say the same thing of my ride buddy. “Now I’m having fun!” I announced to him, halfway down Eldridge. I’d stopped to shake out my wrists from a few miles of death-grip braking. If he was rolling his eyes at me by then I couldn’t see it, because I was at last in my happy place—out in front.
The short-track test race was a musculoskeletal failure. But that was a whole month ago, plenty of time to forgive and forget and do penance/PT. There’s also the fact—pointed out to me by my housemates, all of whom managed to notice this even while watching football—that because I cannot do the simplest goddamn piece of wrenching unsupervised I finished the course at McLaren with my saddle slipped backwards to an angle that would probably have broken Nina Caprez‘s hip, never mind mine. That’s not exactly setting myself up for success.
So last weekend I picked the quietest, smallest, least intimidating race on the calendar (i.e.,not Murphy’s), watched in predawn awe as George Tetris-ed three bikes into a Honda Fit, and went to Orangevale. It looked like this (to a drone):
I found cross racing largely as I’d left it: I got stressed out by the techno and the hecklers and thought maybe I was taking things too seriously; I saw a six-year-old warming up on a trainer, front wheel propped up on her overturned car-seat, and thought maybe I wasn’t taking things seriously enough. I rode geometrically irrational lines on the grass and I did all my remounts at a complete standstill. That was always my M.O. The updated analysis?
- I considered crying when the cards showed six laps to go. Conclusion: I am not very fit.
- Despite this, my final lap benefited so much from my joy at the prospect of leaving the park to go and eat waffles that it was actually my fastest. Conclusion: I love Black Bear Diner and am not riding at my limit.
- The woman in front of me finished more than a minute ahead. Conclusion: Eh, it wouldn’t have made a difference if I did.
Obviously, if the only value I derive from competition is in the results, I should cash in my gene lottery ticket and get the hell out of endurance sports. But of course there are many other reasons to race, and thanks to years of babbling on the Internet I’ve got written evidence that those reasons have trumped the pain and the early-morning alarms and the entry fees before. Now, though? Mmmm … unclear. Ask me again when it’s too rainy to ride mountain bikes.
PT addendum: Hip and knee seem OK, which is really, really awesome. On the other hand—nope, can’t take me anywhere.