Monday, November 12, 2012

Kisscross cyclocross race at Markin Glen Park (part 1)

Yesterday, I participated in my first cyclocross race. It was part of the Kisscross series and took place at Markin Glen Park in Kalamazoo. As always, preparation is key. I left nothing to chance!


  • The days leading up the race, I prepared my body by fueling it with McDonalds, Red Lobster, Nick's Original House of Pancakes, and assorted candy from every single place I stopped at for whatever reason (gas stations, pharmacy's, etc).
  • On race day, Dan made us some homemade breakfast sandwiches! Absolutely amazing! All sorts of meats, egg, cheese, and these crazy potatoes roasted in rosemary or some such nonsense! Fanciest breakfast sandwich ever. Later, I would learn that even one breakfast sandwich constricts blood vessels and essentially tries to kill you dead: Killer Breakfast Sandwiches! Luckily, I had been eating well prior to race day. Phew!
Cyclocross technique:

  • I attended one of three CXpreX cyclocross clinics in September, where I failed so miserably that the instructor would shake his head and groan, "Motobecane..." every time I fell.
  • I never attempted cyclocross techniques again until this past Saturday.
  • Less than 24 hours before the race, I began to panic at the thought of face planting all over the park. So I followed Kendal on my bike while she went on a 6 mile run and practiced getting on and off the bike. It's like cramming for an exam! That always works, right?

  • After having not prepared for Lowell and racing in said unprepared state at Lowell, I did nothing for a week except sit in bed and watch Family Guy on Netflix. Went on a 30 mile social ride with Dan on 11/2. Then another 20 mile social ride with Dan and Joe on 11/3. Averaged a blistering 11mph!
  • Then, four days before the race, I started panicking. So I got on the trainer for 20 minutes on Thursday. And 40 minutes on Friday. Anything above 5 minutes on the trainer is a lot for me. Just sitting on the trainer and not pedaling is far more than I usually do. Oh, and did laundry on Saturday (it was a LOT of laundry so it counts as a workout).
Bike maintenance:

  • My rear tire had some sort of blow out. So I had to repair it. Didn't do so until 3 days before the race. And only tested it on my panicked technique ride where I followed Kendal on her 6 mile run the day before the race.
  • Completely cleaned my bike. That included removing the crank and bottom bracket to get all the sand and grit off of everything. And applying fresh grease where needed. In the process of putting the bottom bracket back in, the bottom bracket wrench slipped and deformed the normally round bottom bracket cup into a oval. Smooth, freely moving cranks are overrated anyway. I like the resistance. Yeah...
  • Ignore the entire decision making process involved in choosing a tire pressure and just use max pressure.
This is how champions are made, people. Take note.

Shortly after arrival, and before nerves kicked in.

The race started at 11am. So Kendal and I got up around 7:00am. Packed up the car and headed over to Dan's. We picked up Dan at around 7:50am. And off we went, enjoying Dan's death inducing breakfast sandwiches (but they were awesome)!

We arrived at the park very early, around 9:30am. We were so early, in fact, that when we approached the registration table a guy started talking to us about where to put the barriers! If Dan and I had been a bit more agile of mind, we would have ran with it and made sure the barriers were placed off of the course! But we are fragile of mind, so we just looked at him with blank stares which clued him into the possibility that we might be racers instead of volunteers.

After getting registered, I did what I had to do in the Porta Potty. Success. A sure sign that my body was getting ready to race!

As you can see from the above pic, the mind was NOT ready to race. Sheer terror.

Once back at the car, we still had an hour or more left. Dan and I unloaded the bikes and got ready to ride. It was a shockingly warm and sunny day, I was wearing all my summer riding gear plus arm warmers. Dan thought it would be a good idea to take a lap of the course. I thought it would be a good idea to sit in the car and ignore the race for as long as possible. But I ended up riding the course with him. We started out at a random spot because the volunteers were still putting the start/finish area together. But we found out we were going the wrong way when we ran into another group of 4 riders scouting the course. So, we turned around!

The first thing I noticed was how bumpy and jarring the grass is. I had forgotten about that as I hadn't ridden grass since the CXpreX clinic. It also appeared that the course was cut through the grass and thicket very recently. The cut stalks were crunching underneath our tires as we rode. The course was also very technical. Bike handling is not a forte of mine. I could barely make the turns at very slow speeds. The course was pretty rolling...lots of small up and down hills...a couple big hill...a triple barrier. And then the beach. After coming down a very technical section, you turn left onto a beach. It was a bit slippery but the sand wasn't very deep. I actually think the slight dampness of the sand helped bouy us on top of it. But then you turn left again to go back up and off the beach. A few feet after making the turn up the beach, Dan came to a complete stop after his wheels sank into the sand.

"Dan's going down!"

Then I made the turn, determined to not make the same mistake.

"Juho's going down!"

Dan, though, was even more determined than I. So he picked himself up and said he wanted to try again and chose a different line. Nope! Down goes Dan. We both felt that riding through this was impossible. We just planned to dismount and carry the bike up the beach. But oddly...there was a set of tire tracks without any footprints next to them.

When we got back to the parking lot, we spotted one of the riders that scouted the course before us. I asked her if she was able to ride through the sand. She was. On a Pinarello FP road bike. With 28mm slicks. We had no idea how she did it. But...I saw other riders also fall and was satisfied with my decision to carry the bike up the beach. We also discovered that Dan's left shifter got sand in it and had seized. It was stuck in the small chainring, which actually suited Dan just fine.

We still had a bit before the race started so Dan decided to change out his file tread tires for his Michelin Mud2 knobby tires for more traction. And he decided to lower his tire pressure. I decided to use the same knobby's I used in Lowell and keep my pressure at max. Since I have no clue what I'm doing, I thought it best to do nothing at all!

Race and results and pics to follow!!! Stay tuned!


  1. Wish I could have made it to this one with you. The course sounds fun!

    1. It was a blast! I'm finishing up my blog post about the actual race. We're thinking about doing one more before the season is over. I'll let you know so you can join if your schedule allows!