Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cyclocross, the Greatest Commute Ever

Bike commuters tend to use the phrase "You're not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. Ride a bike." Unfortunately for bicycle commuters, this post isn't going to be about commuting by bike. This is a blog about 'cross after all. It's no secret that I don't particularly enjoy road racing. I do it, but I do it for 'cross, or to be more specific to stay in shape for 'cross.

I've tried to enjoy road racing, but for the most part I can't do it. When it comes to 'cross I've always assumed that I preferred it for the obvious reasons. Some of the more obvious being the technique required, the camaraderie, the fact that I'm half decent at it, the "race within the race," and of course the mud the blood and the beer. Those are all indeed reasons that I love 'cross, but they still don't entirely explain why I love 'cross so much more than road racing.

I'm a first born. I would probably categorize myself as fairly Type A. I don't like being stuck behind people. In addition to inheriting my fathers rather sizable nose, I almost certainly inherited these traits from him. Well, I definitely inherited the nose, perhaps I learned the rest. In any event, I don't have time to explore the theories of nature vs. nurture, but this much I do know, my childhood was spent trying to "keep up"as my father weaved through people at the mall or darted through crowds looking for the quickest path when exiting a sporting event. As an adult I find myself looking for those same sweet lines.

I spend a fair amount of time in my car. Beyond the obvious commute to work, I spend time working around Boston, Long Island, and more glamorous places such as Buffalo and Albany. Given the time I spend in a car, I'm also no stranger to being stuck in traffic. 1st gear, 2nd gear, back to 1st gear, sweet I'm in 3rd gear, "come on man!" I'm back in 1st gear. There are also times I'm on the thruway and a driver feels compelled to hang out in the fast lane blocking traffic because  "I'm already going 68mph, and the speed limit is 65. It's my civic duty to slow everyone else down . . . and I need to check my makeup and text, so they can just wait." At some point one of two things happens. I get to my destination with angry looking creases on my forehead, or the road finally opens up and I ease into my comfort zone.

What I finally realized the other day is that for me, road racing is like a bad commute. My metaphorical VW TDI of an engine doesn't have the horsepower to break away, and I'm stuck with the rest of the commuters. "Slowing." "Yellow Line!!" "Bottle!" "Close that gap!" For me, road racing is the worst of both worlds. It's like being stuck in traffic during a commute, AND the drivers can actually communicate to each other verbally. At least in a car drivers are limited to using sign language from within the safety of a vehicle so you seldom have to actually listen to the other Cat 4 drivers yelling at you.

In a 'cross race there may be some argybargy in the first couple of laps, you might get taken to the tape, or you might even get yelled at, but at some point . . . at some sweet point, it becomes the best commute ever. The course opens in front of you and by and large you can travel as fast as your potential will carry you. Will people get in your way? Sure. Will you need to figure out how to pass people? Sure, but you'll almost never be stuck in traffic. The weekdays may leave you stuck in traffic but during 'cross season it's full gas. The perfect commute.

Will I stop road racing? Unlikely, it's still the best way for me to stay sharp for 'cross. Will I buy a Kawasaki Ninja for my commute? Highly unlikely, I survived doing that through my 20's and 30's and I'm not too keen on getting killed on my way to work or walking with a limp in perpetuity. I also don't need a ticket for going 168 mph. I know this for certain though, I will continue to love 'cross racing, the greatest commute ever.

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