There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who has ever done a cyclocross race that it is a painful experience. Out of all the types of bike racing I have done, cross probably hurts more in 60 minutes than any other type of race. To be successful at cross racing, one needs to look this pain in the face and welcome it with open arms. This past weekend I took two full doses of this cyclocross pain while doing the 2nd Team Lake Effect Series Race at the Kent State University Stark Campus and at the 2nd Month of Mud (MOM) Series Race in Raccoon Twp.
Like my last race in Cincinnati, OH the weekend prior, these two races were held on muddy courses. With all the mud, using my single speed cross bike was a very prominent choice in my mind each day. But, after doing a couple laps on the single speed at the Stark Race on Saturday, I determined that using gears would be the fastest and best choice for this race. BTW, I must admit that I was very impressed with how my SRAM 1x10 drivetrain held up in all the mud. Unfortunately, other parts on my bike did not fare as well. For one, my stem decided that it was time to loosen up during the race. After each lap past the mid point of the race, my bars decided to move a little bit more towards the left. By the end of the race, my bars were at a 45 degree angle when my front wheel was pointed straight ahead. During the race, I was not too sure of the exact problem with my stem, but I knew that I wasn't going to stop and figure it out. Additionally, the cotton casing on my tubular tire became so water logged that the glue started to separate from the rim, which then caused the value stem to move on the rim. This created a large bubbled area on my rear wheel that could be felt with each rotation of the rim. Luckily the tire stayed on the rim for the remainder of the race. Somehow even with these problems and my bad start from being in the second row of riders, I was able to finish 3rd overall in the elite men's race. I guess my body had a huge craving for some pain on Saturday that only a cyclocross race could deliver.
Since the MOM has a single speed category and because I spent too much time cleaning my two muddy bikes on Saturday, I decided the best thing to do on Sunday would be to race a bike without gears. With the course not having any road sections and being very muddy, I figured this would be a good single speed course anyway. My choice seemed to be a good one after the first few laps, once Mike Mihalik and I escaped from the front of the pack. We rode good together until there was about 2.5 laps to go. It was at this point where my body said to me "you have had enough pain for today old man, take a break." Unwillingly, I then let Mike slip away from me and began my individual time trial to the finish. The one disadvantage of using a single speed over a geared bike is the amount of effort needed to keep the one gear rolling. There is no way to make the cranks spin faster other than pedaling harder. And, eventually the body will feel the effects of all this added effort, as mine did on Sunday. By the end of the race, another rider, Kevin Kralik, caught me just before the line. I ended up finishing in 3rd place overall and as the 1st single speed racer. I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach, as I took a little bigger portion of pain than I could handle on Sunday by attempting to take an overall victory on the single speed. I may not have taken the victory, but I did get a very large Chinese Buffet sized portion of pain for the day.
I am finding comfort in the fact that my cross legs do seem to be coming around a little better each week. I felt much better this weekend than I did during the two prior weekends of cross racing. Maybe it is just a matter of accepting the 60 minutes of pain and realizing I have to pretty much put in maximum effort during the entire cross race. Getting used to not being able to recover is certainly different that a road race or mtb race. Unlike road or mtb racing, a cross race does require a complete welcoming of pain.
I need to say thanks to Stark Velo/Team Lake Effect for the serving of pain they offered me on Saturday and also a big thank you to the MOM Organization for their dose of pain on Sunday. This weekend I will be competing at the 3rd MOM Series Race at the Grove City Community Park in Grove City, PA. This is the longest standing cyclocross race in Western PA, so it will probably attract a big, fast field of riders like it usually does. It is hard for me to believe that way back in 1995 I was the person that actually brought the MOM to the Grove City Community park and that it is still going strong today. Wow!
See you all on Sunday at GC for some welcomed pain. If the weather is nice, I am planning to do a ride after the race from GC to Mars, PA (40 miles or so) for some bonus points. Anyone interested in joining me for the ride, please jump on the pain train. Happy Trails - Gerry
BTW - thanks to Robert Sroka for the photo!