Last Updated on September 22, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP
And now for something completely different:
Last Sunday, the day after the Naked 5K, Geoff and I headed to Charleston to hop in on a free organized “Banditcross” event. It was a cyclocross course set up on an old, abandoned (and relatively creepy) Navy base by a group of local cyclists, the Blue Collar Bandits. Cyclocross, for me, is my new “that looks really hard and really fun, so clearly I need to give it a try” sport. My idea of enjoyment lies somewhere between the intense fear of a gnarly crash and the thrill of an endorphone fix. It’s the burden I must carry.
Cyclocross is essentially a muddy bike obstacle course. There’s running, and climbing, and of course cycling. Personally, I still come to a complete stop in a very slow and controlled fashion, so the idea of jumping off of my bike into a full sprint to clear some wooden planks is absolutely terrifying.
So you know, sign me up .
In case you are unfamiliar with the world of cyclocross, give this video a quick watch. Fun fact: my sister in law’s house, the same house I lived in for a few years back in Vermont, is actually smack in the middle of the course pictured in the video below. I’ve snowshoed on that course, I’ve run on that course, but I’ve definitely never ridden a bike on it.
The appeal of Banditcross was not only the fact that it was free, but they were offering a run event on the course first. If you were feeling extra motivated, you could do the running portion of the race and follow it up with the biking portion of the race. And your girl here was feeling motivated.
The run course was simply 3 loops of the 1 mile cyclocross course. Let me tell you, at 10 am in the heat, 24 hours after racing another 5K, my legs were SPENT. I’m an ultra runner, damnit: two days in a row of lactic threshold paces is out of my comprehension. My legs screamed at me the entire way: through the sand pits, up the stairs, down the stairs, over the curbs, up the steep punchy little climbs, over the curbs, you name it. It was so painful it was actually hilarious. Picture me doing a pathetic “waaaaaait for meeeee!” reach for my husband as stumbled my way through the course. I redlined that entire course (and didn’t even come close to the previous day’s race time), so much for a recovery run.
Man I hate 5K’s.
Once that was over, I headed to the car to change into bike shorts and get ready for the actual cyclocross portion of this event. To say that I felt out of place would be a woeful understatement. It was a small crowd – maybe about 30 ish people, But practically every single one of them was in a full race kit or skin suit, on a cyclocross specific bike, and seemed to mean business. Then of course, there was me on my intro level mountain bike, bike shorts I got on clearance at Tuckfest, and a cotton cutoff tank top, because despite having a closet full of tech gear, this is how I roll.
There was indeed a moment of panic where I feared I’d be in the way. I knew it would likely only be a matter of 15 minutes or so before I was lapped on this one mile course, and I had this fear that it was going to be the exact moment I needed to not so gracefully dismount my bike, or wedge my massive handlebars (seriously, why are they so freaking wide?) through the gap in the fence. Plus, I was the ONLY female racing, and while that’s sometimes empowering…it’s also scary as hell when you have no idea what you are doing.
So, we are sitting around waiting for the official start of this unofficial race. Geoff decides to wander off to find a place to pee, when the guy in charge comes barreling by the crowd on his bike and yells “ON YOUR MARK GET SET GO” as he rides by. And just like that, the race has started, and my trusty husband is gone. I stand there frozen at the start unsure of what to do next. Everyone else takes off, and one of our local friends who is cheering says to me “Go. This means you Heather.” Damnit. I reluctantly start pedaling and thankfully, Geoff almost immediately shows back up.
I’ll spare you the loop by loop replay, because honestly – I don’t remember.
I’m proud to say I only white-knuckled my handle bars for the first loop. Then, I realized how much freaking fun I was having and loosened up. The “rules” stated that the race would be over as soon as someone hit 8 loops. I managed to get in five full loops, three handups, and zero falls, before the race was over.
I finished and immediately declared to Geoff that I want a cyclocross bike, in the middle of my biking version of the runner’s high. Alas, have no fear: we are meager self employed running junkies, and a $700 bike isn’t in the playing cards for 2019. You don’t have to fret, this blog isn’t changing it’s focus.
BUT, the point is, I stepped WAAAAY out of my comfort zone, tried something new, put myself in a situation where I was most definitely the “beginner” and the one with the least experience (I refuse to say “slowest” but I did get lapped three times by the winner, so call it as you see it)…
…and I had a freaking blast. Cyclocross: I’m not done with you.