|October 13, 2023||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Logically it doesn’t take me forty min to change a tire, even a back tire. But faced with a *completely flat rear tire on the way to staging area to start the race my squirrel brain short-circuited and I froze. “Whelp, there goes my 40 minute race, I’ll never get a tire changed in time,” even as I was also thinking in the slowest motion ever “goooooo toooooo the caaaarrrrr and get your spaaaarrreeee tuuuuuuuuuuube.”
*(The tire was FINE 30 minutes prior on the pre-ride. Later inspection showed that I somehow broke my valve stem)
Considering how much time I spend terrified, uncomfortable, and screaming “no no no no no” in my brain for the first chunk of every cycloX race (this was my fourth), it’s ironic how mad/sad/disappointed I was when I saw the flat tire and thought I was going to miss the race.
As I quivered with indecision between channeling my inner Rosie the Riveter with a can-do attitude, versus succumbing to Jane Austen swoon, “I simply can’t”, the Blessed-Bike-Angels at the start line saw my predicament and threw me a life line. “Do you have a spare? We will help change it.”
Apparently give me some time pressure and a skill that I don’t feel proficient at, and I’m pathetically happy to be rescued.
“Yes Sir Knight! Please slay the dragon while I wring my hands in support!”
New tube installed, I rolled down the course only mere half lap behind the pack (an eternity in cycloX), but determined to give it my best shot over the pump track, loose corners, a flyover, stair climb, and more.
The familiar “this is not fun what were you thinking” mantra started up so I did the only logical thing possible. I ignored it and tried to mutter more positive mantras to drown it out like “you are a grinder,” and “you will probably die going down the fly over “….oops….maybe not that one.
Around lap 2 the brain tried a more logical, less anxious approach. “If I go slow enough I don’t have to do another lap,” which is what I was stupid enough to listen to the previous week’s race and I was so mad at myself for being a pansy, so I squished that thought down too.
Fortunately, I was distracted from my non-helpful thoughts in the form of a loose corner grabbing my tire and throwing me down to the ground so fast that I hadn’t even processed the fact that I had fallen until I was already back on the bike, and furiously pedaling towards lap 3.
Which is when I finally got brave and pissed off enough about missed lines and flubbed dismounts to actually let the adrenaline do something useful. It’s a powerful moment when the I can’t turns into “I can.” There’s a reason every sappy inspirational movie exploits this cliche moment, because when it happens IRL it truly is the best. (Confession, I never did get brave enough to go down the fly over.)
Last year I briefly mentioned that I was going to try the sport of cyclocross. After doing a few races I’ve figured out on good days the bike gets very dirty and just a little bit broken. And the rider? Hopefully you fair better than your bike.
Cyclocross is intense – the technical courses are physical and mentally demanding. There’s a lot packed into an event that lasts less than an hour! It also feels insane because the season is so short. In this area cyclocross lasts about 6-8 weeks. Perhaps it would be good to prep for the season by actually practicing some skillz outside of this timeframe. This sounds like a #goodidea, but in reality, I barely got my bike out of the shop repairing the damage from the LAST season of cyclocross just in time to start this season. Oops….
Unlike ultras, I don’t get to employ my favorite coping strategy and cheer myself up by reminding myself “you never have to go up that hill again! It’s behind you!” No. In cyclocross I’m guaranteed to see the same gut churning, wheel grabbing “feature” again, and again….and again.
On average I can start focusing and stop panicking around the third lap which makes me think I need to handle my pre-rides differently.
Current strategy: Take the lap at a leisurely pace. Eye each scary looking obstacle with concern and disbelief. Have no plan for riding the course except “don’t die.”
Possibly a better strategy: repeat some elements. Have a plan that involves putting my weight back and being brave instead of “definitely dismounting and walking that.”
I have a handful of races between now and the beginning of December to hone my skills and then promptly forget everything until next October. But, aside from these perishable technical skills that will wax and wane, there’s the broader lessons that are just as important that cyclocross teaches really well:
- Bad things happen. You just have to keep going because anything can happen during the race (or life)!
- Pick your lines through the crap (on the bike and in life)
- If/When you fall, you get *back up and you keep going.
*I guess you could just lay there. If you want to experience the sensation of what being roadkill feels like as the riders behind you lap around and run you over. I also wouldn’t advise it as a life strategy in general. At least crawl to the side.
PS – There are some pictures of Paige doing cyclocross at an event a couple weeks ago on my Polo_ponie instagram account if you want to check out some cuteness!