CX season is just flying by

Wow, it’s November already. Cyclocross has been going since the last weekend of August, and it’s already starting to wind down. With only two weekends of racing left, it’s hard to believe that it’s almost finished…for me. My remaining races are the two days at Northampton International Cyclocross and then winding up at Bethlehem Cup, the NYCROSS Series finale.

Gran Prix of Gloucester

Gran Prix of Gloucester

This year I ventured out to some of the major races throughout the northeast. The year started out in January 2017 with the US Cyclocross National Championships in Hartford, CT to finish out the 2016 season. In the 2017 season, I raced at Rochester Cyclocross, KMC Crossfest, Gran Prix of Gloucester, and coming up next weekend, Northampton International Cyclocross. Added to that, I’ve race to full Cyclocross Series with the finale, Belthehem Cup, coming in two weeks, and I raced a few others that fit in along the way. That is a full schedule of races for me.

I do have to admit that I’m not sure if I was totally ready for all the racing that I have done. And I didn’t fully know what to expect at Rochester, KMC and Gloucester. By mid-October I was whooped. I ended up taking a week completely off and did nothing with the bike or with running. A good rest was definitely needed, and I never before felt as exhausted as I did. That’s when I reworked my training plan to incorporate better rest periods during the week.

However the season goes for me, I have fun each weekend of racing. That’s what is all about for me, fun…fun and fitness. Any result above the last few is a bonus.

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To Run or Not To Run

bethlehem_cup_04_jhThat does seem to be the question when it comes to training for cyclocross. I think everyone will have a different opinion on the matter of incorporating running into you cyclocross training. And I’ve said it many times before, I dislike running very much. Every year I get older it feels like it gets harder. But, I will say this…after including running in my training plan for one day a week, my overall cyclocross riding has improved. I’m not going to say that the run-ups are easy, but they are definitely easier. Where I use to struggle on the run-ups after the first lap of a race, I now shoot right up, struggle free, and hop right back on the bike. No stopping. No resting. No need walk my bike to catch my breath.

It’s all about training your muscles for the running motion. If you don’t, you will feel it when you have to dismount and run. I’ve incorporated one day a week of running 1.5 to 2 miles. It’s not training for a marathon, it’s not even training for a 5K. It’s just training you muscle memory for the short runs that come up in cyclocross.

You may or may not agree with me. But for me, it definitely helps. And for the record, I still dislike running.

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First Full Weekend of Cyclocross

The first full weekend of cyclocross racing is complete.  The opening race of the Series, Kirkland CX, was held Sunday at Kirkland Town Park in Clinton  NY. Kirkland CX is traditionally the NYCROSS opening race. It always a fun and usually a fast race course through the field and trails at the park. This year seemed to be a little dryer than usual, but the park still hold the same wet spots throughout the course. With this race being the second race of the weekend for me, I was more tired than I thought I would be. But overall I rode pretty well and rode each lap pretty clean. Even the long run-up was clean and right back on the bike at the top of the steps. That didn’t happen in past years. I always had to keep running (or walking) up the little hill at the top of the stairs. I finished -1 lap in 18th. I wanted a better result, but I’ll take whatever I get.

The weekend started Saturday in Rochester, NY with the Rochester Cyclocross event..the season opener for UCI points for the pro’s. The amateur racing was on the same course, one that I had never raced on before. I wasn’t sure what Genesee Valley Park had to offer, and I was not disappointed either. It was a fun, fast, flowing, rolling terrain course with stairs, two run-ups, a run-down, and just about everything that you would want in a cyclocross course. It was also in a region of New York that I haven’t raced in before, so the majority of the other racers were new to me too. As hard as this race was for me, I rode well and had a great time racing in Rochester. I finished -1 lap in 27th place, and probably a little better than I expected.

There’s also one thing that I noticed with my racing this weekend..none of the run-ups hurt. I didn’t struggle with any of them. As much as I dislike running, incorporating running into my training 1 time a week has been a huge improvement for me. Now, if I can just knock a little bit off my lap times…

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‘Cross Is Here! #crossishere

It’s the end of August and fall is just around the corner. It’s my favorite time of year. Why?? Because cyclocross season is finally here. The 2017-18 season has started, with ‘cross racing at Blunt Park in Springfield, MA. It’s a low key, non-sanctioned race that’s close by and a good race to get the cobwebs out. However, that doesn’t make it any easier. It’s still has many of the usual guys that I race against each weekend throughout the season. With the first NYCROSS Series race only 2 weeks away, the Blunt Park race is a good warm-up race to see just where I’m at in the beginning of the season. And I’m right where I expected to be..near the bottom. But there was one big improvement for me, I did finish on the lead lap. Racing with the “really fast old guys”, that doesn’t always happen. It always feels good finish on the lead lap and I just hope that that’s a precursor to my season.

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Less Than 2 Weeks

With the start of my cyclocross racing right around the corner, less that two weeks away, I feel a little more excited about it each day that it gets closer. I think what excites me the most is that I’m more ready than I have ever been for cyclocross. Now, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here, I know exactly where I stand in the Master’s category age groups…way closer to the bottom that the top. But I’m still excited and more ready than ever, both physically and mentally. I’ll be jumping right in with 4 race days in the first 3 weekends of the season. Then two weeks of no racing, easy training rides, and rest. And then…every weekend up to Thanksgiving, with most being double race weekends. My goals are the same as last year: finishs a little better than the previous season, bigger races, and move up in the NYCROSS Series overall.

And again, I can’t wait.

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Cross is coming: #crossiscoming

It’s mid-summer and the hash tag #crossiscoming has been prominent in all my social media news feeds. Let’s face it, ‘cross IS coming. And pretty quick too. My traditional season opener is the last weekend in August…CompEdge ‘Cross @ Blunt Park in Springfield, MA. This race has a special meaning for me as it’s the race that introduced me to cyclocross. It was my first cyclocross race…ever.

Last season was a very good season of cyclocross racing for me. Sure, I’m still finishing near the bottom of my masters category, but that’s ok. My skills have improved, my training has improved, and yes, my overall results have improved a little bit too. I ventured out to some of the bigger races. I even competed in the Cyclocross National Championships. The highlight of the season for me was finishing 11th overall in the Cyclocross Series in the Masters 45+ category. This was a huge improvement over past years  overall finishes in the 20’s.

This year I scrapped mountain bike racing to fully focus on cyclocross. I did, however, race the Wilmington/Whiteface 50K the beginning of June. On July 1, I 100% transitioned to cyclocross training. I’ve designed pre-season and in-season training plans for myself, that fit in with my work schedules. In just 3 weeks I can already see myself faster. I’m working hard on sustained efforts…let’s face it, cyclocross is a 45 minute sprint. An equally important improvement that I’ve also made is my diet. Smaller portions with more protein and more greens (salad). In other words, I’m eating healthier and not overeating.

Here is my planned cyclocross race schedule for 2017:

  • Aug 27 – CompEdge ‘Cross @ Blunt Park – Springfield, MA
  • Sep 3 – BCA Cyclocross – Pittsfield, MA
  • Sep 9 – Rochester Cyclocross – Rochester, NY
  • Sep 10 – Kirkland CX – Clinton, NY (NYCROSS Series)
  • Sep 29 – KMC Cyclocross Festival – Thompson, CT
  • Sep 30 – KMC Cyclocross Festival – Thompson, CT
  • Oct 7 – Uncle Sam Cyclocross Gran Prix – Troy, NY (NYCROSS Series)
  • Oct 8 – Uncle Sam Cyclocross Gran Prix – Troy, NY (NYCROSS Series)
  • Oct 14 – Gran Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, MA
  • Oct 15 – Gran Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, MA
  • Oct 21 – Salt City Cyclocross Spectacular – Syracuse, NY
  • Oct 22 – Salt City Cyclocross Spectacular – Syracuse, NY
  • Oct 28 – Saratoga Spa:CX – Saratoga Springs, NY (NYCROSS Series)
  • Oct 29 – Wicked Creepy Cyclocross – Bennington, VT (NYCROSS Series)
  • Nov 5 – Cider Cross – NYS CX Championships – Lafayette, NY
  • Nov 11 – Northampton International Cyclocross – Northampton, MA
  • Nov 12 – Northampton International Cyclocross – Northampton, MA
  • Nov 18 – Supercross Cup – Suffern, NY
  • Nov 19 – Bethlehem Cup – Delmar, NY (NYCROSS Series)

It is a pretty aggressive schedule, but  for me it’s mostly about the love of the sport, race as much as I can, and enjoy it. I don’t take vacations throughout the year like most people do. I save the majority of my time off for September through December…for cyclocross.

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Cyclocross, A Break And A New Season

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted anything here. I was hoping to post throughout the cyclocross season, but that just didn’t happen…racing almost every weekend and, of course, working.

Cyclocross season went exceptionally well for me. No, no podiums…not even top 50% finishes. But that’s not me in cyclocross. I raced the whole NYCROSS Series and finished 11th in the overall Series in the Masters 45+ category. That’s a huge improvement from the previous years finishing 20 something overall. I also raced many more races including some of the bigger races in the northeast..Cycle Smart International, SuperCross Cup and USA Cycling National Championships. 2016 was the season that decided to focus my racing on cyclocross. I do other racing through the spring and early summer, but it’s all training for CX.

After nationals, I took a month off from everything for rest, recovery and eating. Training has started again with 3 days of at or near 70 degrees…in February. It felt good to be out on the bike again after a good rest.

I injured my planters fascia back in May 2016, and it’s still not 100%. But, I’m back to running too. Today was my first run in more than 8 months and it feels surprisingly good. Sure, it was a short run, but I’m not going to make the same mistake again and do too much too soon. So, bike 3 to 4 days a week and run 1 to 2 days a week is starting to sound like a good training plan.

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Kirkland CX: Series #1

This past weekend was the start of the Cyclocross Series. Race #1 was Kirkland CX held at Kirkland Town Park in Clinton, NY. Heavy rain overnight turned the course into a very soggy race course, which isn’t all that unusual for this race. I’m not sure if I’ve ever raced there when it was dry. After a two hour drive and registration/number pick up, I was able to pre-ride the course and get in a good warm-up. I’m trying to pre-ride a lap each race, which is something that I haven’t always done in the past. It definitely makes a difference in my racing.

I had a decent start, although I did start at the back and it was the typical fast Masters start. I rode pretty well and I managed to pass a few riders along the way. I ended up finishing in 10th place and also finishing on the lead lap.

Next up is back to Connecticut for Hop Brook Cyclocross in the CT Cyclocross Series.

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CX Weekend #3

Yep, cyclocross season is in full swing for me. I just finished my third weekend of racing and my sixth ‘cross race of the season. My racing this year is very heavy in cyclocross, partly due to early season illness and injury. In addition, as I have said many times, I just love cyclocross. This weekend brought me to two days of racing in CT and it was my first time racing in the CT Cyclocross Series. Saturday was at Silk City Cyclocross on the campus of Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT. A very hot day and a very sandy, dry and dusty racecourse. I finished 31st in the Masters 50+ category.

Then on Sunday, I headed back to CT to the Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross at Riverside Park in Hartford. Riverside Park will be the site of the 2017 USA Cycling National Championships. And while this was not the course that will be used, it certainly gave everyone a look at many potential course features for that January race. The day wasn’t as hot, but the racecourse was as dry as Saturday’s race. I liked this race a lot. it was very fast and you definitely needed skills. I had a very good ride, riding all the off camber, the sand pit 4 of 5 laps and all three sets of barriers clean. I finished 27th in the Masters 50+ and felt so much better than the day before. I can tell that I’m racing myself in to cyclocross shape.

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Get Faster at ‘Cross Now

Cyclocross season is here, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. Fall is my favorite time of year..both on and off the bike. For me, cyclocross is more about having fun than having a great result. But there are a few things that I incorporate in my training the will make you a better ‘cross racer. And, while important, it’s more than just putting in mile/time on the road bike with some intervals mixed in. There are some ‘cross specific activities that you can and should incorporate into your training.

3 things that will make you a better ‘cross racer

  1. Practice your starts. Starts are important..very important. If you have a bad start, most of the field will be ahead of you within seconds. You can do this on a dirt road or a field. Start with one foot clipped in and one foot on the ground. It doesn’t matter which foot..whatever is comfortable. Look down the road (or field) and burst off the line as hard and fast as you can (without being reckless). Practice getting your unclipped foot clipped in and sprint. Sprint for about 20-30 seconds with a full recovery (4 to 5 minutes) between efforts. Remember that you are not only sprinting, but you are clipping in and looking where you are going.  Do 5 or 6 efforts.
  2. Run. I know, but I don’t like running least I didn’t. However, the more I run, the more I actually enjoy it. Most of cyclocross is on the bike, but as you know, there are times that you can’t be on the bike. That’s when you are running..whether it be the barriers, a run-up, sand or too much mud. Get your body used to running. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be training for a marathon, but you are training to run, nonetheless. Mid to late August, find yourself a nice quiet place and ease into your running. Just an easy jog for 15 to 20 minutes. As you get use to running you can increase you speed. Just don’t try to do too much too soon. After a few weeks, you should incorporate cyclocross specific terrain running. Find a “terrain appropriate” hill and simulate a run-up..with you bike in tow. You should run one day a week throughout the season as part of your training. Again, the run should be for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Race simulation. Find somewhere that you can simulate a race course. It doesn’t have to be a long course, but somewhere that has a variety of cyclocross terrain. Practice your cornering. Practice your dismounts and remounts. Practice riding in sand (if available). Practice shouldering your bike and running. And practice putting in hard efforts..race pace efforts. Yes, I mean intervals. Start just like the start of a foot on the ground, sprint for 30 seconds and then ride a hard effort for about 3 minutes. Each “lap” should include all the other skills that you are practicing. Then do it again..and again..and again…

There is one other very important part of cyclocross training and racing that I didn’t mention…Rest!  When ‘cross season is in full swing, you will be racing just about every weekend, and in some cases both days of the weekend, and in some cases two races in a day. You need rest. Once racing gets busy, you should easy back on you training and make recovery a priority. To use a cliche, listen to your body.

And remember to have fun!

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