So, usually you all get these epic detailed technical race reports from David, right? Yeah, not this week. It’s Jemma time! I just got done editing the gallery of photos from this past weekend’s Winter Garden Spooky Cross and I got to relive it all. I was promised it would be fun, light-hearted, and full of good-natured heckling, all of which I found very appealing and reminded me of my days playing Gainesville league ultimate frisbee. #NotAThrower!
To help you understand where I’m coming from here, my racing experience consists of exactly two events, something with Club Scrub at JD about five minutes after I first started mountain biking and one day after David thought it would be a great idea to pre-ride the course, even ROOT LOOP, oh and why not ride from the house to the trail and back while we’re at it? Yeah, so that was further than I’d ever ridden before EVER, during which I completely cooked my legs because, like I said, literally my 10th time on the bike, I just counted it on Strava. Race day, I rode about 2 miles and then I was donezo. DNF. Boo.
The other was Hungryland MiseryFest, I think is the official name… I’m kidding, I’m kidding – lots of people had fun but not me. Basically it was JULY in SFLA, I still was not good at biking, and I felt tricked. The course was not as advertised: gravel with a little bit of double track and jeep trails, and instead involved riding through quite a bit of exhausting tall grass and several wide water-filled ditches during the first few miles before all the nice easy gravel started. My heart rate hit 200bpm about halfway through that first bit and as I knew nothing about warming up, I felt like I was gonna die, so I took the road back. I decided that I’m not a racer. Nope. Resolved never to race again. Then I had this experience at Markham where I signed up, pre-rode, and then bailed. Again, why do I keep signing up for races?
Spooky Cross came up and I just was excited to have fun and play with people. I got to be a mermaid. What could go wrong?
It seemed like a friendly time that wouldn’t make me feel like a loser, even though I for sure was certain I’d get last place, I didn’t care. Maybe all this racing “experience” has taught me that it doesn’t really matter that much if I win, but if it’s fun, that’s the key.
Unlike Hungryland WaterDitch, Spooky Cross was just as advertised. There were plenty of folks in costumes, tons of friendly heckling, beer, whiskey, and donut hand-ups (from the racer himself!), and a nice easy course that everyone could complete.
I also really loved the format of cyclocross – it’s a timed event and you do as many laps as you can. I LOVED that. You just ride your bike for 31-50 minutes and go as hard and fast or as slow and easy as you want!
The course included a nice lead out into a double pinwheel, two small barriers that some unclipped super cool cyclocross style to run over and others EVEN cooler, bunny hopped. Sadly there were no people in bunny costumes (tuck that idea away for next year!) but there was a cow and Princess Peach!
I just got off my bike the normal extremely time consuming way because I’m not that cool yet and then hefted my plus bike over my shoulder to run over the barriers. I’m just proud I didn’t trip and fall over them. After this, there were a couple switchbacks/180s, then a straight, then a sand pit.
Now, the sand pit I was excited about because I have plus tires, betches! Sadly I only made it through on my pre-ride and the fourth lap. Lap 1, there was traffic and I wasn’t focused, lap 2 I totally endo-ed and I’m told it’s on go-pro somewhere, lap 3 I almost made it but came unclipped right at the end. I think the key with those is going as fast as you can and then surfing across in an easy gear with your weight back and boy it’s a lot to remember. I was pretty complacent about going fast, so that was my main issue I believe. I don’t know how the people on those skinny tires did it!
Next was another straight into some switchbacks up and down over a hump in the grass to make it interesting, another couple straights back into the double pinwheel again, and then some fun turns through the trees out back with a couple of roots and wooden bars to ride over.
None of that was a problem on my bike, but I can completely see the advantage of those light cross bikes and flying down the straights in aero position.
The best part was at the finish – what’s called a “boostie”. It was definitely a given that I would ride the boostie every single time, because it was the most fun part of all. There were quite a few awesome moves on display there, even a couple tail whips (no mermaid pun intended)!
Oh right, I forgot to mention, I finished 3rd from last, holla! And I passed two guys while I was riding, so hip hip! After my class raced, it was the single speed costume race, which was a ton of fun for the riders and spectators alike. I got a bunch of great photos of Putin and a banana shreddin’ the course plus so many others, you’ll just have to see them for yourself.
I learned that cyclocross (CX) is a sport that takes intention to get a serious workout. It would be very easy to just relax on the long straights, so you have to choose to push yourself to sprint (which I didn’t) in between the tight, more technical sections of switchbacks or obstacles which force you to slow down.
In comparison, my experience with XC (cross country) mountain biking in Florida is that it builds in natural intervals that require you to push hard just to get through some of the climbs, and natural spots to rest, like on downhills where you can’t keep pedaling because it would be dangerous to go so fast. In CX, the spots where you can rest, you really should be sprinting to get ahead. Those are your uphills. Granted this is my very limited experience with the two sports speaking here, I’m sure there are many more experienced folks who can speak to this better than I can!
My favorite part of the event was getting to spend time with friends, meet new people, and just have a silly-good time.
I would love to do more CX events and possibly race another one…. maaaaaybe. I’m still a little gun-shy about racing, but this experience definitely made me more open to the idea. What about you? Have you done a cyclocross race? Would you want to try one? Come on! And bring the fam! We’ll grab a drink after too!
You can find cyclocross races all over, and the Florida series is put on by various promoters including WAR, GearLink Racing, Gone Riding, and many of them can be found via USAC or the Florida Bicycle Racing Association.
Please enjoy the photos – this is just a taste, check out the entire gallery of Spooky Cross 2017 photos here, just log in and you can download whatever photos you like for personal use!
OH and BIG THANKS to Kami Myers (that beautiful blue and teal mermaid with the golden locks above) for a lot of these shots – if it weren’t for her, there would be no pics of the Cat 3/4/5 race! You rock, girl! <3