CX Racing…Chicago-Style

I remember complaining that Seattle’s CX season started way too early (Labor Day). Well, I’m eating my words because I just raced in August. Before we moved I did some research on the Chicago cross scene and read that the Jackson Park relay race was a must-do. The only problem…I don’t know anyone here to partner up with. Just as I was getting ready to put a want-ad on the promoter’s Facebook page, a woman I met on a group ride asked me if I wanted to race with her. Since we’re both moms of toddlers we decided on the team name “Mom Jeans”. For a brief minute we thought about actually wearing mom jeans during the race but those high waists would’ve made breathing difficult.

So, I haven’t been training for cross like I did a couple years ago. Obviously the baby is a factor, but so is being a stay-at-home mom- I can’t duck out of work early and go for a fast group ride like I used to. But lastly, there is really nowhere to practice in the ‘burbs. I know that sounds silly, but really….there is NOWHERE to practice around here (unless you want to generate negative publicity for cyclists). The parks here look like golf courses and you just can’t ride your bike on the grass. I took places like Woodland Park for granted 😦

I was supposed to go to a CX clinic a couple weeks ago but didn’t realize it was in Wisconsin. Oops.  So, I didn’t even swap out my tires until Saturday morning. I had planned on going for a short ride to at least try a dismount/remount, but it started POURING and I was stuck doing leg openers in the garage. Which sucked BTW. I think I lost a gallon of sweat in 30 minutes!

The next morning Amelia woke up at 4:55am. Grrr. Eric successfully put her back to sleep and I re-woke up at 7:30 to load up the car with my race gear, post-race stuff, a cooler, a fully-stocked diaper bag (food, beach stuff, extra clothes, toys and diapers), my trainer and the stroller.  I have to say getting everyone cleaned up, fed, packed and out the door is an epic task nowadays. We leave left than planned and then dumb Google Maps routes us though a not-so-nice neighborhood. We arrived just in time for me to pre-ride the course before meeting up with my teammate for registration.

Given all the rain we’ve had lately I was expecting mud. I was surprised to find the opposite- 95% dry with a few tacky corners. Darn! Come to find out the race had a Le Mans start and I agreed to go first. I had pulled my right upper quad a couple days ago and didn’t think this was the best idea, but hey, that’s peer pressure for you.

Sure enough, the race starts and within 5 seconds….both quads pulled. I barely made it to my bike and then had to ride hard to pass everyone. I felt clumsy, squirrely, unskilled and out of shape. There were four barriers on the course, all close enough to be run in one swoop. It was hell on my quads. I rolled into the transition in 6th place, hobbled to my teammate and then had ~10 mins to massage and stretch my legs. Didn’t help. With each lap they got worse, and I rode the 3rd lap as “hard” as I could since it was supposed to be our last. Turns out the first few teams had one more to go. Noooooooo! By that time I was just done. We had been trading places with the girls wearing kitten-patterned lycra pants, and I really wanted to beat them but couldn’t put in any more effort. So we ended up in 8th out of 30+ teams. I’ll take it. Afterwards we walked over to beach to cool off (nice benefit of racing in the city).

All in all it was fun event and a chance to meet a lot of new people. The Chicago CX scene isn’t very different from Seattle’s- you have the usual assortment of hipsters, local pros, weekend warriors, teenage phenoms and first-timers. I was disappointed to see very few families though- I think my teammate and I were the only ones with small children. Then again, keeping a toddler’s fingers away from enticing objects like chain rings, disc brake rotors and beer cans was kind of exhausting. So maybe they were all at home.

I’m trying to re-assess my fitness now that I have a race under my belt. I need to spend more time at a higher intensity and definitely need to work on my handling. We’ll see what I can do in a few weeks!  But first, I’m off to ice my quads…


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