Preparing for Jinglecross

My tire tracks from a rainy ride out at the Jones County fairgrounds, where I've been training for my upcoming cyclocross race.

Well, it’s official: I’ve signed up to race at JingleCross. My race starts at 9:15 a.m. Sunday.

It had taken awhile for me to decide whether to ride this year or not. With a job that often requires me to be gone for 12 hours a day, and preparing for impending fatherhood (our little girl’s due at the end of February), I just wasn’t sure if I’d be able to put the time in to train for it.

After struggling through RAGBRAI (yes, it was fun, but I definitely did not prepare for it like I should have; you’ll notice Michelle did the post and not me, because I was too wiped out) I knew that if I wanted to ride a ‘cross race I really needed to be ready so it wouldn’t just be 35 minutes of sheer pain and exhaustion–there at least had to be some fun in there somehow. At the very least, I wanted to make sure I’d put up a fight–not toward anyone else, but the course itself.

I’m pretty much already resigned to coming in toward the back end of the beginner’s race, if not finishing last. I just wanted to make sure it was worth the effort.

After a few weeks of decent training, however, I feel ready to give it another try. Thankfully, because I live near the Jones County Fairgrounds I’ve been able to create a ‘cross course of my own to practice on. It’s got pretty much everything you need to have a challenging course: steep run-ups, dirt (and when it’s rainy, mud), grass, some areas where you can at least pretend you’re hopping over barriers, and a maze of trees and lightposts to practice tight turns and weaving.

I’ll be racing Sunday’s Jinglecross race, and here’s a link to that day’s race map. Now, here’s a map I created of what I’ve been doing, more or less, at the fairgrounds:

I have no idea if you can understand any of that, or if it’s all chicken scratch to you, but it’s the route I’ve created that offers the biggest challenge. I even recently started riding it the other direction, which offered its own set of challenges and a whole new workout. And I’ve since added a few more hilly areas by creating a hybrid figure-8 course. 

While trying to find new obstacles during a recent ride, I discovered a little sand pit in the best–or worst–way possible. My front tire went right into the deep sand, and I did an ‘endo! Basically, front tire stopped moving, I and the rest of the bike continued forward and over the tire until we were about vertical, and then toppled over to one side! It happened so fast that I was just glad to get my hands and arms out in front of me, otherwise I would have landed head-first. Thankfully, falling in deep sand doesn’t hurt, but it definitely startled me! I did get pissed though, and upon re-mounting turned around, got some momentum and powered through that sand pit. It’s now part of my route.

I’ve also enjoyed trying out some different clothing and layering options to see what works best. Last year, although it was cold, I decided to wear my winter riding jacket during the race, and got way too hot. So this time I think I’ve figured out what works, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens and being much more comfortable, at least in terms of clothing!

Finally, I’m just excited to be part of a great weekend that is Jinglecross, and having friends and family there to cheer me on. Michelle won’t be racing this year, as her work schedule is similar to mine, plus she doesn’t live close to anything that offers good cyclocross training like I do. But she’ll be out there cheering me on, as will my wife Megan. And this year I’m excited that my mom-in-law, Mary, will be out there too!

I hope you can come out to watch too, whether it’s for me or any of the other racers. Or just come out and watch the mayhem that is cyclocross. It’s a great time whether you’re a spectator. If you’re a racer, it’ll still be a great time even though some suffering will be involved. But if you’ve done your homework and trained, it won’t be as bad.

I hope that’ll be the situation for me.

-DAVE

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