This Sunday I raced Kutztown Cross Day 2 as part of the PACX series. We had our normal team on show with a new racer and racer we haven’t seen in a while. Kutztown puts on a Friday night light race for bologna, a Saturday race for the MAC series, and a Sunday race for PACX. I wished I could have rode the Friday night bologna race, but with family in town and some sick kiddos, it was not possible. I did have the opportunity to get my parents, mother-in-law, and my aunt to see what cyclocross was all about. I do get quite a few questions about cyclocross racing from my family, so it was nice for them to actually witness a real live cross race. Explaining it doesn’t really do it justice. Now, let’s talk about the Kutztown race.
Kutztown is a very flat course. However, the race promoter does a very good job with what he has to work with. The course layout is practically flawless. A solid prologue, straight areas to pass, turns to challenge your corning skills, some large rollers to test your mettle, and two sets of barriers to get on and off the bicycle. The course is built for someone who can just lay down the power for a solid 45 minutes while being able to rail the grass corners at high speed. The only thing you could do for that course to make it a little more interesting is build in a fly over or put in a sand pit. However, the way it is set up now, this is a straight up grass crit race. Lots and lots of steady power required. A lot of cross racers love that type of racing. I knew my performance on Sunday was going to be rough even though I do well on these types of courses.
The kids were sick all week. We’ve been dealing with barfing, coughing, and general crankiness. Combine that with my parents visiting and myself trying to hold a peak for 5 weeks now; well, my goal on this race was to not be last place. Goal barely accomplished. I was 11th out of 12 racers and I had to dig deep just to pass and hold my gap on the last rider.
I was more impressed with the other racer’s performances. As you can see from the lap times emailed by the race promoter (I love this by the way), I am in no way, shape, or form competitive in the 35+ category. I knew this coming into the race, I knew there wasn’t going to be anything left in my legs, I knew that the 5th glass of wine I had Saturday night wasn’t going to help, I knew all of these things but still had a good time. I was most impressed with Matthew Morrison’s performance.
I was able to watch Matt from the back. He was really riding a fantastic race. As you can see from the cross results race predictor he really had a phenomenal race. He placed 3 ahead of where he was predicted to place. The race predictor had me placing dead last and I only wanted to beat that damn prediction. Well, mission accomplished.
After racing most of the races within the PACX series, all I can say is I’m thoroughly impressed with the capabilities of these masters racers. The full results are up here (Kutztown Results) on the internet. The winner in the 35+ would have placed 6th in the men’s elite field according to lap times and the 45+ winner would have beat all us if he raced in our category. It’s really humbling to see how strong some of these guys are, and I’m not frustrated with it at all. I admire their capabilities and the amount of work they put in to be in that kind of shape. I only wish I had that talent and that kind of time to really get strong.
Racing bikes is nothing like running. I’m pretty solid runner. I can go out right now without having ran one mile and put up a 7:30 mile on a 5K. Give me about 3 months and my run times will be down in the sub 6 minute range. I’ve found that running fitness does not translate to great bike fitness.
I’m on my third year now of racing bicycles. I moved to bicycle racing because I have some pretty bad achilles tendonitis. I’ve had surgery on one of my achilles in 2009 to repair some extensive damage. Running aggravates my achilles badly but cycling doesn’t bother me at all. I had to leave the military sooner than I would have liked because my achilles bothered me so much on runs and marches.
My first year cycling I had all of these great aspirations. I believed my running fitness would transfer directly to cycling with only a little bit of work. I was used to being on the podium for my age group in running races but have rarely seen the podium these last three years on the bicycle. I’ve learned that it takes time to build cycling fitness. You can’t just build cycling fitness in one or two years. These guys that are riding well above my level have been riding their bicycles for years. I’m hoping when I hit the 5 year mark of consistent training I might be a top 10 guy in the 45+ group. Next year is my last year in the 35+ and then I move on to another old man’s category. However, these “old guys” are still riding at a very high level. I always remember it’s important to enjoy the process, admire the dedication and work that others put into their sport, and just have a good time with it.
Most of all, when the race predictor has you in last place man, just pushed the peddles harder and “embrace the suck!”