Things don’t always go as planned.
Today was the annual Cypress Challenge hill climb ‘race’. (It’s a fund-raising ride for a great cause.) I’ve never done it, but my husband has the past few years. For various reasons, he decided not to do it this year. I was considering it as my riding group was trying to get a big group riding it, but in the end, I didn’t sign up either. Turns out it was a good thing.
The air quality has been atrocious around here for the past few weeks, so bad, that I haven’t been able to cycle. But it cleared up yesterday and I was anxious to get out for a ride, so I had planned to go and ride a local hill a few times this morning. I was really tired though, and so didn’t manage to get myself out of bed as early as I had planned. But I figured I should still go anyway. So about 1-1.5 hours later than planned I was breakfasted and kitted up and went to get my bike. I checked the tires to see if I was going to need to pump them up a bit before my ride. Turns out my front tire was totally flat. As in, no air in it at all. My husband offered to change the tube for me, but I didn’t want to wait. And because the tires are tubeless, they’re not easy to fill again. (One can always put in a tube. But if there’s an issue with the tire itself, as might have been the case, then that wouldn’t really help.) Last year he bought a special device for reinflating tubeless tires which he hadn’t had a chance to use yet, so he was quite happy to work on my tire while I was out riding something else. I was going to just head out on my winter road bike, which meant changing shoes. (I accidentally ended up with different pedals on the two bikes – don’t ask – and so have to use different cleats. I have old shoes that I’ve kept around for now for this purpose. I will get around to just changing the pedals at some point. But to this point it’s just been cheaper to use my old shoes.)
By now it’s getting really late to head out for a 2-3 hour ride. And I’m tired, and not really feeling motivated to go do hill climb repeats. So I started to think about not going out at all. But my husband suggested I take my cross bike out for a spin. After all, it’s getting to be that time of year again. Yay! (In fact, yesterday I booked a whack of ferry reservations so we can go do cross races on Vancouver Island in the fall. They have a great series there – Cross on the Rock – that I highly recommend. One of the best parts about their races is that if you finish, you get points.)
Turned out to be a great suggestion and I'm glad I listened. I went out for about 1.5 hours. Rode to some local hilly trails where I worked on various cx skills. Mostly I practiced going downhill, did some hill repeats on dirt and pea gravel, and pushed myself on the flats. I learned that road fitness really is not the same as cross fitness. I say learned rather than was reminded because I didn’t have as much road fitness last year, and didn’t push myself in cross as much as I’m going to have to this year, so I didn’t notice the difference as much last fall. Mentally, it was the right thing for me to do today. I was in the tress, smelling the forest, and having fun on my bike (while working hard, don’t get my wrong). (Usually at this time of year I’m spending time on the trails on my feet, but I have an injured foot at the moment and am really missing that.)
I’m making the move up to Masters in cross this year, so I’ll have longer races, and against women who are faster as a group than the beginners I’ve been riding against for the past two seasons. While beginners always includes some very fast riders who are just new to cross, it also includes a lot of people who are not like that, and so the range is bigger than it is in Masters. Anyway, that means I’m going to have to be more ‘on’ this year in races. Cross really is different than riding on the road: you (are supposed to) go as hard as you can for the length of the race. You have to pick spots for little micro-rests, but they are really micro. And whenever there’s a spot you can push is (e.g., a nice flat section) you go go go. And if you are not at the limit, then go faster, go up a gear, or both. on the road you learn to pace yourself, especially in the beginning of a ride. Cross is not like that. At all. And it’s hard to change the way you think about what you’re doing on the bike. Even harder when you’re, ahem, older, and are better at endurance than short speedy efforts. But that’s why it’s a great work out, especially for people like us for whom the fall is always crazy busy (we’re both professors) and it’s much harder to find the time for a day out on the road.
Anyway, I wouldn’t have liked to have found the flat this morning while trying to hurry out the door to get to the Cypress Challenge. I’m happy the rain held off for all the people who did ride it, I hope my friends who did it had a good climb, and I hope they raised a lot of money again this year. But today I did the ride I needed to do. I figured out that I really need to work on my cross fitness. I could spend my time practicing mounts and dismounts, and done properly I would save a few seconds here and there, but they really aren’t where I can make the biggest gains right now. And I’m pumped for race season!
If you're interested, here's some links to information on races in the lower mainland and other places nearby.