Saturday night we were out with friends, drinking was involved, there were mentions of strip clubs, everyone was together and happy, and I was not drinking.
I was not drinking because I had a bike race the next day.
At some point in the evening it occurred to me: I've romanticized cyclocross. I like the comradery (at least reading about it). I like the people. I like the idea of an hour of suffering. I love bicycles. It's a club I want to belong to.
But Saturday night I realized I'd rather be having fun with the friends that I already have than worrying about bikes.
Sunday I woke up early. Multiple times. When I finally got up, I had some cereal. My stomach was unhappy. Nerves. I got dressed an headed to the race.
I got to the race, signed in, pinned on my number. Only like 3 hours early. I didn't want to miss anything. I was a wreck.
I warmed up like three times. I test rode the track between races. It wore me out. I thought "OK, there are other guys here that look to be more out of shape than you. There's even a guy that's grossly out of shape. You'll be ok. You can hang at the back, maybe you won't finish last. Maybe you can just have fun with it."
Eventually the race came. Here I was. I was doing it.
I lined up toward the back. We took off. It was muddy. I was in a race. I was ok.
It didn't take long for me to fall through everyone. But I was ok with that. I knew it was a learning experience. I was measuring my effort. The first lap was hard, but there were still people behind me. Good.
As the race went on, I just got passed. And passed. I passed no one. I could barely breath. There was nowhere to hide, nowhere to catch my breath. The course was flat, but so muddy that even in the easiest gears everything was an effort.
14:32:51.3 1 1 11:48.028 7.627 48 138 53
14:46:04.5 2 2 13:13.228 6.808 59 116 55
14:59:44.8 3 4 13:40.265 6.583 51 130 56
15:13:46.6 4 5 14:01.812 6.415 61 130 59
My lap times were remarkably consistent after lap one. Remarkably slow.
I did accept two beer hand-ups. So there's something.
I finished a lap down. Second-to-last in class (the other guy's bike broke). Ahead of some guys in the 45+ class.
It was honestly the hardest thing I've ever done.
That's not even fair to say. Today I feel fine about it. But when I was done?
I was riding around, knowing I was a lap down, scared to death that in order to finish I'd have to make up that lap. So when I stopped? I wasn't even sure I had finished. I didn't care. I didn't want any more of that. It had taken everything I thought I loved and smashed it.
And I'm better for it. I still love it. Just not the same way.
Don't get me wrong. The people were great. It was nice to accomplish something. I'm glad I did it. But it was so much harder than I ever expected. And at this point in my life, I don't really need that sort of challenge/reward. My life is pretty full already. I should be in better shape - I'll be in better shape, but cyclocross?
Who thought that was a good idea?
I know it's a no guts, no glory. That's a beautiful thing. The people out there who put in all that effort deserve more respect than I could have ever imagined. It's fucking brutal. To love it? I don't know how that works.
Two hours later, I was sitting on my couch, in my living room, short of breath. Jesus.
I won't be doing cross again this year, not at 207 lbs. I've been 183 before - that seems like a reasonable weight to try again. And I might try again next year, in better shape, just to know how much difference fitness can make.
But right now? I'll watch. And offer beer hand-ups.
beer in hand