You know what I hate? I hate being cold. You know what I hate more? Being cold and wet. Do you know what I hate even more? Being cold, wet and nearly naked. Given this, it’s no small wonder that I like cyclocross.
A large percentage of cyclocross racing is being cold and wet; it’s inevitable. Even on the wettest, bitterest, muddiest of days, I don’t care if you ride around in a trash bag with someone holding an umbrella over your head you are going to be cold, and you are going to be wet. A large part of cyclocross racing for me is keeping myself warm. I gave up on keeping myself dry a long time ago, however that does not mean that I am any less comfortable, and being wet means being cold is not far off.
Let me diverge for a moment here and explain to you why I hate being cold. If I am in a room any lower than 70 degrees in the winter months my hands and feet turn purple. I sleep with about a bazillion blankets on me at all times lest a small wisp of cold air were to touch me in the night. I own a snuggie. This should all be substantial proof that I hate being cold. But boy, do I sure love cyclocross. As you can see, the above description of my hatred for cold and my love for cyclocross don’t mesh very well. Why should I love a sport that exposes me to the cold, wet, miserable conditions I hate so much? Simple. I’m a hypocrite. I once lined up for a collegiate road race this past spring where it was thirty seven degrees and raining. By the time I got back to the car I was cursing my existence and I was so cold I didn’t hesitate to take every piece of drenched clothing off, in full view of the parking lot. Not that anyone really minded though, as that was pretty much what everyone else did as well.
The coldest, wettest of cyclocross races feels about the same. We’re all huddled under what little protection we can provide ourselves with as we shiver at the start line. Teeth chattering, warm up long gone, and thermal jackets pulled tightly over our shoulders like capes in a futile attempt to keep the cold at bay. At the call out for thirty seconds to go there is a mass disrobing and coats are chucked helter skelter at bystanders. Hopefully you know them, hopefully you’ll get that coat back later, but it’s too late now. The last fifteen seconds are the worst. I stand there vibrating with cold, my hands already going numb, then we’re off and for forty-five blissful, but painful minutes I am not cold. I am burning, my lungs are searing, my muscle fibers are tearing apart, but I am not cold. After the race is over, I am allowed a small, five-minute window where the lingering adrenaline keeps me warm. This is never enough to make it back to the car. Make it back to the car I do however, shaking and shivering and again, cursing my existence, wishing I were a walrus so I would at least have some sweet, sweet blubber to keep me warm. I bet walruses would be good at cyclocross.
I’m in the car, and once the door is closed I usually exclaim something along the lines of, ‘GYAAAAAAH COOOOLD!’ while frantically stripping off every item of clothing on my body. So here I am again, back to the place I hate to be. I am sitting in a frigid car, and I am wet, I am cold, and I am naked.
At the time, I always wonder what kind of sane person would put themselves through this, weekend after weekend. I always end these forays into the frigid praying that the next race will be sunny and dry. But now, in the dregs of winter, sitting in my oven-warmed kitchen, warm, and reasonably comfortable, all I can think is, ‘boy, do I miss racing cyclocross.’