decided to do the Trash Dash cyclocross race in Whitewater. Even though I was planning to race the next day in Carpentersville, and I knew this would be hard on my body, I figured I could use the skills practice and it would be a kick. After all, I'm only in this for fun (not that a podium finish seems to be in my near, or any other future) and this would be an adventure, something to tell the grandkids someday (you know, while they're playing 4-D interactive holographic games and not paying any attention to me) and, most importantly, a chance to race against Cat 4 riders in my age group. In the Chicrosscup, there are Cat 4 races and Masters races, and since I give away age to the former and ability to the latter, I thought, why not give this a shot. To top it off, the race was less than two hours away and the weather report was unseasonably beautiful. Sounds great.
Mine was the first race of the day so I set out bright and early packed up with food (both pre- and post-race), water, ice (there's that thinking ahead stuff) and the needed clothing and gear. With the bike secured to the hitch rack, I set out for fun, adventure and glory. The ride up was uneventful, taking just an hour and 40 minutes, beating the GoogleMaps estimate by 15 minutes without speeding (honestly).
I registered, and had mild success with the first challenge, attaching my number to my jersey. Then, being an hour early, I warmed up by pre-riding the course. This may not be the best way to warm up, but I got to know the course very well. Essentially, we were riding on a grassy field that was as smooth as a freshly harvested cornfield (yeah, I used the word field twice in that sentence, deal with it). The course started out on a long bumpy straight away into a single barrier, then a hard left turn. Next, it's down a small hill and a 180 turn into a barrier, drag the bike up the hill and remount. After a couple of turns, dismount, over the barrier and a decision to either roll or carry the bike down the short slope and gentle curve up the short steep hill and over another barrier or remount and coast to the second barrier. I tried both and liked the second idea best. It didn't seem to cost me any time and saved me some energy. From there you ride up a gentle incline, and eventually get to the staked off left turn, right turn, left turn that I'm sure there is a technical cyclocross term for, but it just reminded me of a maze. Exit, turn left and repeat. On the last lap, after the exit you continue straight to the finish line. As I understand it, not a very technical or interesting course, but it's a beautiful day, right?
I began my last preride loop and I see two people carrying an additional barrier and stakes towards the first barrier. Even my newbie brain understands that they are adding a barrier, not attempting some kind of repair. I finish the lap, more than warmed up, and it's nearly race time, but I want to see what I'm going to face, so I begin another lap. The barriers are spaced such that you just lift the bike and roll between them or just suitcase it. I decide to use a shoulder carry, as it seems the fastest way to do this and it will give me some needed practice and it will also impress my rivals so much that they will award me the podium on style points.
At the start, I see a mix of cross bikes, several mountain bikes with front suspension and one fully suspended. What a doofus, I think. The loss of pedal power transfer efficiency plus the increased weight will put him at a real disadvantage.
The race officials offer their pre race announcements and encouragements. Oh, and one more thing they say. "We added an additional barrier in front of the first one." Groans by a number of racers who ended their prerides before seeing the addition. Advantage me. I'm so cool.
The race starts and quickly I find myself in the back third of the pack. No one has any trouble with the new set up (rats). My first racing shoulder carry lies somewhere along the continuum of elegant grace and a drunk farmer moving irrigation pipe. About halfway between, I'd say. No matter, it's fast and I settle into the pain and rhythm of the race.
I'm about an hour into the race and I check my watch and see that only five minutes has passed. I'm feeling fully anaerobic, my mouth is a dry as a sand martini with no vermouth, my legs are screaming, it seems like 100 miles to the end and I'm not passing anyone. But I'm having fun, right?
After a while, I find myself in a game of pass and be passed by the guy on the fully suspended Klein mountain bike. The jaw-rattling course is taking it out of me and isn't attenuated at all by my laterally stiff, yet vertically compliant Aluminum frame or the 45 psi I put in my 35c wheels. It makes me long for rides on smooth roads like Sheridan in Wilmette, or maybe on the cobblestones in Kenilworth. It occurs to me that the guy on the Klein is a genius.
Second to last lap, I pass the Klein hard. Take that suspension-man! I'm feeling good, relatively speaking. Hey, look at me! I passed someone. Out of the maze and just as I turn left, they open up the finish line for the winner. So I get beat by nearly a full lap, but at least I didn't get lapped. So I got that going for me, which is nice.
Last lap. Klein passes me and I never see him again. So he either gave up and snuck off the course to abandon after the huge effort it took him to catch me or I was so cooked at the end that I really didn't see anything. Yeah, it's probably one of those.
Into the maze and I'm gaining on a guy in a red jersey. We exit and I launch a sprint and blow past him guaranteeing that I don't come in last. Hooray for me.
I wobble over to my car and lean on the bike rack, just breathing. Hard. I'm tired, sore, crushed and strangely euphoric. Or is that delirious? Who knows or cares. I had fun. At least I remember it as being fun. It helps me to remember that cyclocross is one of the most difficult forms of bicycle racing. Did I mention it was a beautiful day?
I don't know where I placed. The results aren't up yet, but will be here when they are. I drink, change, eat, drink some more and head home where I take a quick nap and then mow the lawn. Carpentersville is next. Can't wait.