The triathlon training blog of Phil Barnes

I was told there would be beer!

Several years ago, on my multisport journey, I learned of the 'fringe' cycling sport of Cyclocross. A YouTube video search would be enough to scare off the timid. Joey's starcrossed wipe out would be enough to scare of the fence-sitters. On Sunday, "Cross" racing came to Cornwall.

If I wasn't going to compete, I was dam sure going to watch. And If I was going to watch, I was certain to regret not signing up.... so despite my apparent difficulty in deciphering the sign-up instructions, by midnight on Thursday, Andrew and I were signed up for Cyclocross Cornwall. (Andrew has been dying to do Cyclocross, for a few years now.)

But Phil... you don't have a cyclocross bike. Good point. Well, this is where I draw inspiration from first-time triathletes on mountain bikes... If they can do a triathlon an old 30 lb bike, I can certainly do a cyclocross race on Guylaine's old 30 lb hybrid -- semi-slick tires -- and running shoes.

Thursday night: Couldn't sleep a wink: "What the hell have I signed up for!?!?!"

Friday night: Couldn't sleep a wink: "What the hell have I signed up for!?!? And what have I signed pour Andrew up for??"

Saturday morning:  Some of the guys from the Cornwall Cycling Club had organized a mini training session. We met at the race site, and ran through a good portion of the course. This really put my mind at ease: The bike would work and I could actually ride it on grass, and up hills - barriers weren't all that tricky; mount and dismounting was good. They also put Andrew at ease; knowing he didn't have to do all the same hills as the adults, and he could bail out after a few laps or so.

Saturday night: Actually slept a bit.

Sunday morning: Up early and signed in with 40 minutes to go before the start.  Andrew and I warmed up on the course; it was a little different than the Saturday, but still manageable. 10 minutes before the start time; I was getting a bit nervous... I couldn't find the start line... so I asked the race organizers where it was. "Oh, we're not sure yet. We'll let you know."

Around 9:10, (10 minutes after the posted start time), we find out where the start is... so we high-tail it over there -- we're the first ones there. Apparently, 9am start time, is "approximate". We actually started at 9:25. The 10:45 race started at 11:20.

Eventually, we're off. My strategy: Start at the back. Take it easy for the first loop. Don't get lost. Don't wipe out. Finish the race...  Mission accomplished.

It was pretty hard - you have to continuously stay 100% focused. My heart rate was maxed out immediately. My breathing was out of control most of the first 2 loops. My legs were dead for the last 2 loops. I was a little overdressed - the temperature was about 1 or 2 degrees, but the sun was out - I had a thin base layer, and cycling jacket; running tights with bike shorts over top - I think I could have gotten away with a regular jersey and arm-warmers.

The course was nice - the conditions were great - sort of anti-normal for cyclocross - very little mud; and the grass was pretty firm. The local fans were great - nice and vocal!

My favourite part of the race came at about the 49 minute mark, passing by the timing tent on the top of the hill, "This is your last lap".  Maybe that was my second favourite part... the best being 15 minutes later when I actually finished the last lap!

Stats: Early race (9AM); 127 starters. I started about 120th (last adult, with about 7 kids behind me) - and finished 102nd (!!!) I actually passed a few people.

The splits: [How cyclocross works, is that they set up a course, 3 or 4 km in length, and you do continuous loops. After about 30 minutes, they estimate how many total loops the winner will do, and then when he (or her)'s on their last lap - that's called the bell lap, and everyone else finishes their race at the end of the lap they are on. So it could be a 20K race, or a 30K race... depending on how fast the winner is, and how difficult the course is.  I have no idea how long the circuit was, and even while racing I had no idea how many loops I had done. I did get caught by the leaders on my 3rd lap. And so for that lap and my last lap, I was being picked up by the faster riders.

Lap 1: 25:06 (was actually more like 1.5 laps, we started half a lap from timing tent - also includes 5 minutes for delayed start - we started 5 mins after women)
Lap 2: 14:06
Lap 3: 14:34
Lap 4: 14:26
Total Time: 1:08:12 finished 1 lap behind the leaders.

Andrew did well too, finishing 3 laps for a total time of 47:45. "I am so doing this again next year!" were the exact words out of his mouth. Me.... ah what the heck. why not, It was a total blast.

Some pics (courtesy of Dan Filliol)
Andrew and I at the start. It looks like I'm praying, but I'm actually checking my watch.. it was 15 minutes past the designated start time. Andrew's a little worried...

Rob Lebvre and I... Smiling because I am completely unsuspecting of the hurt about to be put on my legs and lungs.
127 Racers, mass-start. I'm at the very back of the pack.
Sliding down a hill, on route to the stairs.
Somewhere on the course... a brief spot of pavement.
Cupajoe looking way more professional than me.

Cupajoe and Rob - going toe-to-toe


The finish line. I was told there would be beer!! Andrew smiling in the background - he made it too.