Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Co-Worker Races Cross

Fall means cyclocross season and yes, it is here. The Pacific Northwest is a bit of cross hotspot, with numerous races in the Seattle area. Today was the first race of a new series promoted by the folks behind MFG Cyclocross along with a few other sponsors, including the cool people at uBRDO. This race also happened to be in my backyard - Big Finn Park, located in scenic Kirkland, Washington.

Over the years, I've attended a few cross races as a spectator, but have never raced myself. Even though I race the (very) occasional mountain bike race, when it comes to racing, my joke is "I have the mentality, but not the ability."

Since this race was rideable from the house, son Ian wanted to enter, and the uBRODO crew was involved - I thought I'd give it go - plus I always wanted to give cross racing a try. Now was the time, do or die.

I considered the CAT 4 Masters 45+ race at 9:00 AM, but decided to go with the wacky Category Du Jour class for cross newbies. As a goof, the Category Du Jour class for this race was titled "My Co-Worker Races Cross." Yup, humor - along with pain - still lives with cross.

Since I'd be racing my mountain bike, have absolutely no running dismount skills, and at 48 years of age - thought I'd give the newbie class a try. As a bonus, the 12:10 PM start time was easier to digest and was the same time as Ian's Junior 10 - 12 age class. Both races scheduled for 20 minutes. Sounded good to me. Thought it be fun to have us both out on the course at the same time.

Plan in mind, Ian and I rode over from the house - nice change from loading up the car and driving somewhere. We signed on the dotted line, then rode around a bit to warm up, but never got a chance to pre-ride the course, due to other races in progress. Who cares, we'll wing it.

We line up for the 12:10 (ish) race. I have no idea who or what type of racer shows up for the Category Du Jour class, but soon find out. Kid on a single speed beach cruiser complete with a bright orange Protec helmet, younger dude with baggy shorts on a cross bike, tattooed girl also on a cross bike - and me, the semi-old Dork on a mountain bike. So, a massive field of 4 racers. This should be fun.

Ian's Junior 10 - 12 class, lined up behind us, had a quite a few kids - great to see. All of 'em on real cross bikes and running clipless pedals - except for Ian on his mountain bike, still racing with platform pedals and sneakers.

My goofy class takes off first and away we go. Course is a mixture of pavement, grass sections and a little bit of singletrack. Mostly flat with a few small elevation changes and only one running barrier section to embarrass myself on. Beach Cruiser Kid is off the front right away, with me in second place, holding off Baggy Shorts Dude. Tattoo Girl follows in fourth position. Baggy Shorts Dude hangs with me for a bit, then I lose him. I can see Beach Cruiser Kid at various points during the race, but can't catch him. The 20 minute race goes by quick, only 2 laps around the course. Beach Cruiser Kid officially kicks my ass on a beater singlespeed. I maintain my second place finish, with Tattoo Girl overtaking Baggy Shorts Dude for third place. Baggy Shorts Dude brings up the rear in fourth place. An epic battle indeed.

Immediately after the race I'm bombarded with sponsorship offers and pestered by the media for comments, flashbulbs going off in my face. My handlers push them away, while I congratulate Beach Cruiser Kid on his impressive win. I'm soon whisked away by helicopter to escape the crowd and get a head start on training for the next cross race. Beach Cruiser Kid - you will be defeated.

Huh, not quite - but I did congratulate the kid who won. He's all of 19 years old and proves the engine is the real factor, not the bike. Still, on a real cross bike - or any other "real" bike - he'd be even faster. Nice job.

Even though I'm goofing here, a race is a race. It hurts, though fun, and you learn a few things. I should have pre-rode the course for sure. I spent some time on the first lap just seeing where to go. I also wasn't hydrated enough. It was warm today, but I was insanely thirsty for such a short race. In cross fashion, I used no water bottles for the race. I also discovered I didn't suck as bad as I thought I would. If I actually practiced running dismounts for the barriers and used a real cross bike - guessing I could at least hang for the 30 minute CAT 4 Masters 45+ class. Maybe. It would be fun anyway and I may give it a go. Plenty more races coming up.

In any case, I had a blast during this race and it sparked my interest in doing it for real. I do have a cross bike, my '97 Ibis that I use for commuting. Just need to yank off the fenders and get some cross tires. Not exactly the trickest bike out there, but I'll fly the old guy, steel flag proudly.

Oh yeah - Ian's race. He did great and had fun as well. Being as I was on the course at the same time, only saw him for an instant. No crashes and finished ahead of a few kids. I give Ian and the other kids credit, racing is tough and they did the same 2 laps I did. Plus, lifting bikes over barriers is not easy at 10 years old. The kids rock and deserve some praise.

A few pictures of the faster folks in action.....

Thanks to my Neighbor Dan, some actual video of my stunning second place finish. Keep in mind, the barrier section was filmed in slow motion, so that you - the home viewer - can study the detail and improve your cyclocross skills. You can thank me later.....

In addition, Neighbor Dan capture Ian's race as well. Watching kids go at it is always cool.....

A fun day for all. Ian and I had a blast, daughter Amy and Mom cheered us on, neighbors caught their first cross race - complete with video - thanks for that. Thanks to MFG Cyclocross, uBRODO, Raleigh and the sponsors for putting this gig on.

We may hit the next event as well. It's all good.


  1. Congratulations on the podium finish. Sounds fun.
    (Hey, isn't it about time you invested in a helmet cam for this kind of thing? I mean, you must be raking it in with all the endorsement deals, right?)

  2. No podium involved for this little slice of racing. It was fun though and makes for a decent story anyway.

    Man, having a helmet cam would be killer. I have too many other actual needed items, before I could spring for one. I have looked at them though and prices are pretty cheap now.