Cross Crusade#3: Sherwood – Bulk Photos

Two weeks ago, I swore off cyclocross. To my friends, the decision must have seemed rash, or probably just overly dramatic. After all, I had only really participated in one full race before formulating the life-altering decision to remove myself from the sport forever. But my early retirement was not without good reason and careful consideration, all of which pointed to the only possible conclusion—cyclocross rendered me a danger to society, myself, and anyone bold enough to venture within a ten-foot radius of my bike. This fundamental truth became immediately apparent at the first race of the Cross Crusade at Alpenrose. From the moment my Beginner Women category took off in a pack from the starting line, I instantly settled into the role of additional obstacle for the other racers—the human adaptive barrier that unexpectedly tackles other riders off their bikes. I was a monster. Once my wheels entered the off-road uncertainty of the winding, sludgy course, it was like I kept bumping the “Eject” button on my bike saddle, catapulting me again and again toward the nearest terrified rider and sending us both rolling into the mud. There’s only so many times you can watch yourself unleash that kind of unholy terror before, 90 seconds into the race, you commit to the altruistic act of self-termination. I quit for the good of Beginner Women everywhere and I had no intention of going back.

Unfortunately, everyone I know seems to be currently obsessed with the ongoing Cross Crusade, so my noble withdrawal from the world of racing did not go down without a fight. “Are you coming to the race on Sunday? C’mon, give it another try!” was all I heard the following week, despite my every effort to turn the conversation towards something more exciting, like comic books. “Eat your heart out, I’m retired!” I yelled in an old grandpa voice, mysteriously quoting a t-shirt I spotted at a thrift store over 10 years ago. It should have been obvious to everyone that I wasn’t cut out to be an off-road racer, even at the extreme amateur level. After all, I hadn’t just been bad, I had been comically bad, a special sub-sect of bad which should rally for its own racing category somewhere after the unicycles. We could wear funny costumes and drop banana peels for each other all over the course. Or maybe we could just stay home together and play Mario Kart. Far, far away from the slippery death mazes of the Cross Crusade.

But unperturbed by my calamitous showing at Death Race: Alpenrose, my so-called friends continued to encourage me. Luckily, I became visibly ill for the entire following weekend, so the pressure to give Wilsonville the ol’ college try was temporarily deferred. By the day of the Rainier race, though, the sun was scheduled to shine and I started to feel somewhat hopeful. Maybe I could give it another shot. Even if I did horribly, at least I would be going out on a more promising note. A small sliver of hope entered my weary heart at the news that the impending sun would curb the appearance of my personal kryptonite—mud, and that the legendary Rainier sand pit would not be making an appearance this year. I liked the image of cyclists trying to navigate a giant arena of quicksand with the help of dangling, cartoonish vines… but not so much the idea of riding through a small pit of your garden variety sand, which would probably make survival difficult for only those as equilibrium-challenged as myself. But with the sand pit-free stamp of approval, I decided to ride out to Rainier with Dawn and once again line up at the starting block with all of the other Beginner Women. What the hell was I thinking?

Despite the impending threat of a destabilizing ear infection, no Beginner Women were harmed in my return to off-road riding. The race was definitely not my best work—I started in the very back and mostly stayed there—but I was glad that I decided to give it a try. The course was a lot different than the other cyclocross courses I’ve seen, in that there was a steepish gravelly climb that led into a nice paved climb–features I appreciated because they were the only challenges in which I was relatively capable. Some of the wooded singletrack areas were also really fun, but I struggled a lot with controlling my bike on the long, fast-paced downhills, opting to ride my brakes instead of trusting that my lackluster technique would keep me from inevitable catastrophe. Lacking the confidence to pass other slow descenders, I didn’t particularly push myself very hard during the race, and my mounting/dismounting “skills” were a stylistic disaster. Nevertheless, somehow, despite myself, I managed to have that rare form of fun which actually only feels like fun in retrospect (and feels like abject misery while it’s underway). And best of all, I got a free bag of Bob’s delicious Red Mill Oats, which I swear is not a paid advertiser of this website. Once again, it’s over and I’m finished–able to relax in the relief of accomplishment and the satisfaction of confronting a fear. I can once again swear off cyclocross for the good of Beginner Women everywhere, knowing that my disappointing past performances were certainly no fluke. From now on, I’m going to stick with riding on sweet, sweet, predictable pavement. And eating bag after bag of Bob’s delicious Red Mill Oats.