A Mountain Bike Race as ‘Cross Season Training

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It’s 2015, I turn 40 this year and I care. Maybe that’s why I want to have a great CX season this year…I want to podium…multiple times…preferably every time. This year I am doing everything I can to podium, and preparation has started a while ago.
For me, preparation means being in the best physical condition I possibly can. Being in the best shape to race/win means a few things. First and foremost is road fitness. I think you all know what I mean about that. Not countless hours, but quality time on the road bike (I shoot for at least eight hours per week) and a couple of races under my belt. Secondly, I have to work out at the gym; I’m strongest on a bike when I’m in the gym, at least twice per week. Finally, some quality time on the mountain bike, and preferably a handful of mountain races under my belt.
Cyclocross is the perfect marriage of mountain and road. It’s where fitness meets handling, and you need both. If you can rock that 30mph kick at a 120 heart rate, good for you. But if you cannot make it up that rooty climb, then I’m going to beat you.
On Saturday June 30th, I did my first mountain race of the season, Ramsey’s Revenge in Wilmington, Delaware. Ramsey’s Revenge is an awesome mountain bike race in the Brandywine State Park. My race was about 15 miles with about 1600 ft of climbing, and the course is pretty tough. It’s a great gauge for where you are fitness-wise. Also, it has a great turnout, so it’s competitive—you will really know where you stand in your peer group when you are done.
I pre-rode the course a couple of times, and did the course in about 50 minutes per lap. Not horrible, but not winning material either. Hey that’s OK. This is a tune up, and I can use this as a tool. I’m stoked for that. I get to the race, warm-up and line-up. I’m not nervous or anything, I just want to have some fun.
The bell goes off and so do I.
In that moment, something happens…I go bananas and decide to rip it. I’m out front, which is not abnormal. What is abnormal, is that I’m staying that way. I mean I’m ahead…so I decide to just keep ripping. I get to the first climb, and I’m all alone until I see out of the corner of my eye a teammate of mine passing by. I’m like, “Go for it dude!” We smile through the pain, and he goes on. I’m slugging it out with some dude in a Specialized kit, and we keep trading punches until he blows up. I hit a big downhill, which is a specialty of mine, and I bomb it, gaining enough momentum to keep rolling up the next section which is a big, long, off-camber switchback. I roll up that, and to my delight I see some fodder from the singlespeed race ahead of me.
Man I’m hurting. I’m like five miles in, and my heart rate is averaging 186. I turn off my brain and keep burning. I hit this BMX section, and I’m directing traffic. “Out of my way!”   I’m shouting like a psycho to the people in front of me, yelling things like, “Burn it!”, “Crush that ish!”, “MOOOVEEE!!” Man, I’m not making any friends, but I know everyone I pick off is just money in the bank.
I’m in second place! I got this man! I’ve got to hold on!
I hit the gnarly rocks, and man, I pump right through them. I hear crunching carbon fiber behind me, which is music to my ears. I know I’m gapping! I get to the final climb of the first lap, and I’m hurting again…I’m at 191. My heart is going to explode. I push, descend cross the line, and go on to my second lap.
I can’t find my teammate. He’s ahead of me….no big deal: “I’ve got second.” I keep ripping, up the big hill again. Man, I’m blowing up. I get passed. I’m in 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th….man.
Self doubt starts. “I’m a loser, I stink, I can’t do this”, but I keep pedaling. I make the self-doubt stop. I reaffirm, “I got this, settle in, race your race!”
I get to the top of the hill, and the guys that passed me are blowing up. Man, I’m recovering. I drink, I gel and I drink again. I start picking them off. Off camber log-over, I bunny hop it and pick up a spot. Through the rock garden, I bounce right through again, and pick up another spot! I get to a fast, but slightly technical, descent, and pick off two others to reclaim second place!
I keep ripping! I’m passing peeps from another class! Good…more in the way for the peeps behind me. I hit a flat section. My HR is 186. I don’t care. I put my head down, and motor at 22 mph and I’m looking back, and there is not one person there.
I’m stoked. “Keep it up man!” I say to myself. I keep motoring, and I make it to the last climb.
Man, I’m all alone. I got this!
I get to the top and I’m ready to descend to victory! Ok, second place, but still! I go to pedal hard. I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to bomb this hill so fast, but…my pedals won’t move.
I look down. My chain has dropped, and I can’t move any faster. I have to use momentum. I see a rider behind me, and he’s in my class. I put my chest on the bars, and lean forward. He is gaining on me, man…he’s right there!
But I make it. I coast on fumes across the line with literally nothing left. I made it. I got second, and my teammate got first.
Dude, I’m stoked. So stoked. My wife and kids are there, all of my teammates are there, and I’ve never been happier to take second. My best lap time was a shade over 39 minutes, which was way better than any pre-ride lap I had done.
I’m on the path this year, and it’s all about training and preparation. I hit that gym, I’m strong. I race that road bike, I have that fitness. I race that mountain bike, I can handle the bike. I have a positive attitude…it leads to a nice second place. I’m stoked to find out that preparing for the cyclocross podium sometimes leads to a mountain bike podium. I mean I’m no podium slut or anything but, man I don’t mind winning. I raced my best race. I trained hard and it panned out. Oh, and after this race, turning 40- years old this year bothered me way less. Turning 40 was important to me before this race, but so much less after.
Just more motivation for this upcoming season!
Here is a link to my race on Strava.

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