It's September and after my last race on the 5th, I've kept to my pledge to keep the road season closed down. Even a local race in Pittsburgh wasn't enough to tempt me back onto the road. I started the training for cross this year by just getting out and riding the bike around. The first efforts were done at Seton Hill at the old race course there. On the first real day of riding, I was able to do 3 laps there that we broke down into 3 sections with 1 30 second effort each section. Nothing fancy, just warming the body up. A couple hours of riding around and I felt a bit tired, considering I'd also riding about 25 miles on the road earlier. Through the week, I'd started some intensity workouts. Nothing major but I still had to get the body used to the kind of efforts I know I'll have to be making if I don't want to embarrass myself this year. The dismounts by the end of the first Tuesday night workout were already feeling natural and I could already tell my remounts were going to be places where if I have a gap in front of me, I know it'll be closed(assuming it's not too big). I've also looked at my starts closer and will be starting with the right foot clipped in instead of the left as I'd done for years. Last year, I'd finally gotten a start near the front at Natz, only to blow it from a bad start. Then after a wreck, I fell apart and the chain breaking only added insult to injury. Hopefully this year will be different.
Yesterday, I'd done the first official race of the year. While I still didn't feel race ready, I'd figured I needed to see just how hard I could push myself. While my technical skills were there as if I'd never stopped racing last year, I did not have that top end. My start, however went very well and after starting in the back third of the group or around 50 or so riders, I was about 15th off the road after a few hundred yards and then a sharp move through a tight corner and I was in the top 10. That's pretty much where I held for the first 20 minutes of the race. There were several sections of single track which caused some cluster f***s a couple of which I was able to ride past after pushing my way through and yelling. About halfway, the back started having it's say and I had to throttle back. I've had a mantra on cross that I've followed the past few years which goes: 'Save the effort, save the body, save the bike!' The technical skills certainly help the first and last, but the body needs to cooperate better for me. I was able to finish strong and only finished a couple minutes down on the winner in 12th place. So all in all, it was a good day. It's time to start ratcheting things up so I'm ready for the meat of the season now.