October 24th 2010, my first Cyclocross race of the season, and my first competative race in over about 17 years. And a number of lessons learn.
The first lesson, regardless of who has come to support you , focus on the race. Keeping the family happy by going with them for a cup of tea may seem a good idea at the time, but recce’ing the course is far more important.
Training had been a hit and miss affair. Throughout september and early October I had trained in runs of several days in a row with a couple of days break. Mixing interval work with full out riding over 1 hour efforts, mixing surfaces, gravel, tarmac, grass, and mud. In Mid October the weather kicked in. Now having lived in Devon and Cornwall for the last 25 years I was not overly sure that Zero actually existed on the thermometer, and the WIND! Having got blown across the road twice I decided training outside was a wee bit dangerous so training went to pot over the final week.
So here we are, on the start line, 90 or so other riders, and I put myself nicely at the back content to just dawdle around the course, get a feel for it, and concentrate on just finishing. Chatted to a few riders on the line, which was part of the plan. Suffering anxiety is not easy, but here was a great opportunity to meet some like minded indivuduals, chat afterwards in the Bar, and make some progress in the right direction.
And we are off. Lap one was hell, and half way around I thought what the hell am I doing. The course was about as suitable for beginners as the emporers new clothes would have been for a nun. 100% grass circuit, and the rain over the previous day had turned it to a muddy bog. Multiple hairpin bends with the approach downhill (with a camber dropping away) and the exit on an uphill, and could only have been designed by a sadist. I had watched multiple rounds of the North East series on youtube and this bore no relation to anything I had ever seen. Only one set of furniture on the course, some 1ft planks which in my mind were put there just to rub in the pain completely. Added to this the wind, I really didnt know what wind was till I moved up north. Cycling up an uphill hairpin with the wind blowing you backwards is not by any stretch of the imagination fun.
Lap one, was hell on legs. Wrong tyre pressures, complete lack of plan over racing line, wrong gears all added to the nightmare, so on lap 2 I took a different approach. Take it easy to each key section, pull over, and watch some of the leading guys come through, watch their line, look at their gearing, bike position, and learn from them before continuing to the next key sector.
As a slower rider came through, I caught on his wheel and for the next lap just hung on his wheel, following his line, and getting a feel for the course. And finally, i started to actually feel good, HR was steady at about 170, legs felt strong again, and I was keeping pace with another rider, albeit one who looked like he was about to die. Decided on my tactic, follow him for another lap, and then move in front of him and do some work keeping the pace for a lap, and basically the two of us work together until the end. (Having watched the helmet cam footage I was keeping pace pretty nicely)
And then it all went very dramatically wrong. Coming around the course towards the two hairpins I could here some faster riders approaching from the rear, so pulled to the right of the racing line to let them pass, still about 2 foot away from the edge of the course aware that the wind was blowing the flimsy plastic course posts, and course tape onto the course. Next thing I remember, lying on my back, bike on top of me, course tape wrapped around the bars, and feeling like Id just been punched in the stomach by a Gorilla. Now Ive been winded before, nothing to worry about, take a lap out, regain my breath, get my composure together, and catch back on the tail of the rider I was following when he comes around next. The pain will pass.
It didnt, in fact by now I realised i couldnt actually turn, roll over, or make any effort to get up. Legs work, check, can move fingers, check, feet work, check.. Ok, another lap, then back on the bike and get going again. Then I heard the horn for the final lap, then minutes later it was all over.
Three days later, doped up to the eyeballs on Codeine, two nights in hospital fracture vertebrea, and muscles in the lower back screwed to high heaven. A painful end to what should have been a great weekend. The irony is, in the same hospital was another rider with a smashed wrist who rides for a club about 5mins ride from the house, a club that is advertised on BC website as being only for kids. Turns out they have adults too and do cross training, so if nothing else there is a local club I can join. The frustration, was that I had just started finding my feet when they were taken out from under me.
So a bit of a brutal introduction, and lessons learnt. 2) watch out for course tape 3) Pain hurts.
On the plus side, got the results through today, four riders finished behind me including the broken wrist. Mission accomplished.