This morning was my first scheduled cyclocross practice. I sent out an email to teammates and friends inviting them to join me on this first of three, and possibly four, Sundays at my local park. I hurriedly swapped out the fat short-track tires and swapped in the early-season**, skinnier cyclocross tires. Although I was a little late getting to the park, I wasn't surprised to find no one else there. After taking several laps around the park that included practicing dismounts and some admittedly awkward re-mounts -- will THIS be the year I learn how to make the flying leap back onto the bike? -- I decided I wanted a longer, more brisk ride. I took a loop north and around Overlook. I enjoyed noticing the first changes of color in the trees, with leaves turning gold and orange around the edges, and even a couple that softly fell into my path; in spite of the past week's hot temperatures, autumn is definitely on the way here in Portland. The first rides on skinnier tires are always a revelation after racing all summer on fat, off-road tires; although there's no noticeable weight difference, the skinnier tires make my bike feel lighter and more nimble, especially on pavement.
Because of potential job schedule changes that are as yet unclear, I have not signed up for all of the Cross Crusade races I originally planned to race. So far, I have signed up for the grand opening at Alpenrose and the PIR race, both favorites of mine and races I can easily get to and from without help. Once I figure out my job schedule I will hope to add at least two or three more races to my 2011 cross schedule.
I've stressed a little about how to manage the "down" time between the end of short-track and the beginning of cyclocross seasons; I had ten days totally OFF my bike during an absolutely lovely vacation spent with family. There was plenty of walking, a little kayaking and swimming (BRR!) in a mountain lake, and some definite mental and emotional recharging. On the down side, I ate some pretty rich food in spite of my best efforts. Still, when I got back I found it wasn't too difficult to get my groove back on the bike after a couple of days. Today I enjoyed little bursts of speed on pavement and off, and returned home after a brisk, 45-minute loop that has helped to turn on the little switch inside that says "cyclocross". I'm starting to get excited.
(** Technical notes: For the early season in Portland, when things are still pretty warm and dry, I like to train and race on Club Roost Cross Terra tires, a cheap and decent hardpack cyclocross tire for 26" wheels. Later on when the rains come and the ground gets muddy, I'll swap in the "later season" choice, Continental Cross Country 1.5's.)