I started doing the xXx team rides this summer to mix up my triathlon training and really enjoyed the dynamic, so I decided to join the team with the plan to try bike racing in 2014. After getting some encouragement from Rob Whittier at the team banquet to try cross, however, I thought "why wait for 2014?" and signed up for the Afterglow. So thanks to Brian Piotrowski and Ryan Fay I had a cross bike to ride and a jersey to wear. My cross "training" consisted of one 30-minute session on a Tuesday night after work riding through the snow and around trees over by soldier field.
Race day: got there early to get in a few practice laps and after only one did I start to think I was in over my head. The soft terrain and ever-changing course topography took way more out of my legs and lungs than I anticipated. But I had fun. Did three practice laps in total and it was a different course each time as it continued to deteriorate throughout the day.
By the time the 4/5 race rolled around it was a sloppy mess but I was excited to see how I'd do. I had two goals, make through the whole race and don't finish last. I lined up near the back as I didn't want to be the noob that screws up other people's races. After a very long and cold wait they finally started us. I had a slow start but made it through the first few sections without incident despite the large pack, I even made a few passes. The race quickly spread out and I spent the first lap riding with a group led by a junior girl named Ella who supposedly was going to get a $1 for every adult male she beat. I finally passed her at the end of the first laps, along with a couple other guys in the group ahead of me. I felt I handled all of the course great except for the barriers - my attempt to remount and clip back in was painfully slow all three laps due to their and snow; I'd always get passed by people I had picked off and would have then have to try to pass them again.
I made it through almost the whole race without incident and had made several passss that stuck. Coming back down to the start/finish area, I got passed by a dude with blue hair. I followed his wheel down the hill and into the sand trap, where he suddenly got stuck. I slammed into his back wheel and went ass over tea kettle into the ground. Luckily it was a soft landing, but I may have dropped an F-bomb nonetheless. Everyone was ok so I quickly hopped back on the bike and got going. Blue hair made the mistake of running his bike over the ensuing mud pit and I was able to pass him back just in time for the finish.
I ended up 36th out of 53 finishers. Not bad for my first go at it. I had a blast and can't wait to do some more cx next fall (and some road in the spring). Now I just need to convince my gf I need a 4th bike..might have to buy her some hardware first.