Missoula Cyclocross and Race Schedule

I've been working at The Cycling House for a couple weeks now and, despite still needing to learn a lot about bikes, believe I am starting to get used to the rhythm. The same cannot be said for my cyclocross racing.
Start of the Missoula CX Season

Turns out the rest of the office staff LOVES cyclocross, and Missoula has a six-week Wednesday night race league.  Thus I found myself lining up at the Missoula Equestrian Park two days ago on a borrowed bike and absolutely no confidence that I could jump off my bike, jump over a log, and get back on my bike again without hurting myself.  I was in the 'B' group, and, after watching the 'A' group take off with Shaun and Owen bolt to the front, started the 45 minute race hoping to survive.

The course was relatively flat, with numerous hairpin turns and only two steep ups and downs.  Fortunately for me there were only two features to jump, both logs, so I could survive those then spend the rest of each lap trying to catch up. Catching up apparently requires a great deal of bike handling skill and explosive stamina; more than I have currently.  Despite being a flat course, the terrain was very bumpy and I quickly developed tender spots on the palms of my hands since I was riding mostly on my hoods.  I still have dainty runner hands rather than sun-baked, leathered skin of a seasoned rider. After the first lap I started to drop back from fourth a bit and lost a little bit of focus, but on lap three I passed Shaun who had flatted.  He caught up to me (yes, he can flat and still beat a ton of people) and helped get me going again.

By this point there was a huge dust trail traveling in circles following the herd of cyclists around the park, but it seemed like most of it was going in my mouth. My hands were also on fire so I started riding in my drops more, which actually gave me more control and felt faster. Then I got stung by bees.

Twisty ride at the Equestrian Park
One section of the course doubled back on itself twice in a short time so my speed dropped to a pedestrian pace.  On the 3rd or 4th lap something started hurting on my butt, then another spot, then on my hip flexor.  I looked down to see a bee in the process of stinging me.  Needless to say the next few minutes were not the most comfortable.

About half a lap later I realized that my left arm felt a little spongy in the drops, but I chalked it up to my arm muscles getting tired and didn't think to much of it.  As it got worse though I realized that the handlebar itself was bending.  At this point images of my crashing and impaling myself on carbon splinters flashed through my mind and I considered dropping (which I also considered after lap 1, lap 2 and when I got stung by bees), but opted to ride cautiously.  I ended up riding with my hands almost in the center of the bar to keep from breaking it even further.  This is all well and good if you are on a smooth road.  It's not so good when you have to go down a short, steep turn with an abrupt 90 degree turn at the bottom.  Somehow I was able to get to the finish and successfully finished my first real bike race.  Owen represented the office and with a bunny-hop over the last log brought the leaders jersey back to the office.

I have no idea what place I finished, but I do know that the 45 minute race ended up being just over an hour for me. With my current state of fitness I must say that those extra 15 minutes of racing were quite unnecessary.  I was sufficiently tired and ready for the post race Trout Slayer at 45.

First ride in TCH gear
All-in-all I had a blast.  The community and fans are great.  Sara came out and with some other TCH people had a good crowd going at the top of a steep push, which added to the excitement.  My hands are now completely worn out and blistered, but I am already looking forward to next week's race.

Speaking of racing....

I have put together my major goal races for the next year or so. I will keep racing smaller races, like the cyclocross series and local 5k/10k jaunts, but these are the ones for which I would like to peak/place highly.

-Dec. 6th, Aspen Summit for Life put on by Kahtoola
-Dec/Jan/Feb Snowshoe Qualifying Race
-Feb 8thish Kahtoola Agassiz Uphill
-Feb 27th-Mar 1, US Snowshoe Championships
-July 12, Missoula Marathon
-Sept 13ish, The Rut 50k

As you can see I have quite a range of terrain and distances to train for.  I still plan on spending most of my time running on trails, but will need to be more disciplined with workouts and core. Working for TCH I will also be spending time on the bike riding and training.  I'm hoping I'll be able to use the variety to grow on my backpacking base, then throw some speed in starting mid-winter.

I'm also still waiting for Nick Hilton to make good on his word to enter every race I'm in to make sure I never, ever win.

Until then, I'll keep racing cyclocross and wait for the snow to fall.