Here in Central Illinois we get bored during the long winters and find it necessary to come up with creative alternatives to your standard swim/bike/run training. By far, the greatest of these is our "Recyclo-cross" race series. In theory, these races are supposed to resemble a traditional cyclocross race. In actual practice, they morph into twisted, sadistic events that a dyed in the wool Belgian cross racer wouldn't even be able to recognize.
The races are called recyclo-cross because they are held on the grounds of a wood recycling facility. During normal business hours, the place sells mulch, firewood and such. On select weekends during the fall and winter a bunch of local crazies descend on the place to ride through impossibly deep mud and snow (very little grass on this cross course). Instead of nice simple haybales, we carry our bikes over mulch piles that can be a story high! The finish line is often an arch made from the scoop arm of a Caterpillar tractor. To really get a sense of these races, you need to check out some video footage from this season on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dAqIqO0zGM
The races are competitive, but insanely fun. There are both beginner and advanced races. It is simply amazing how quickly you can hit your max heartrate when you jump off your bike and try to carry the damn thing up a great big, loose mulch pile!
To add to the unique local flair, we have monster truck-style log pulls after the race. We take a log chain, attach it to the bike and wrap it around a 100 lb log. The winner is whoever can drag the damn thing 100 yards including a 180 degree turnaround. Here's a picture of me enroute to losing the log pull:
As if that weren't enough to make every intelligent fun/suffering lovin' person come to these races, the awards are amazing- the best I've ever received. Most of the awards are hand-crafted by the race director. I pulled off an upset victory over the weekend and won an awesome bike sculpture/award made by one of the racers (a local high school student). Check out some of these awards:
And there's more! Last couple of races, we've had local musicians performing during and after the events. They even wrote a cyclocross tribute that is surely destined for greatness! The day always finishes with hot, hommade chili and cold beer. There are no entry fees, just a donation for the venue- which generally is given back to the beer fund!
Sorry to say that the series is over for the winter. After reading this I'm sure we'll have racers from all over the country chomping at the bit to try a Recyclo-cross race!
To me, these races represent everything that is great and pure about sport. Some of us take the competition seriously, but first and foremost everyone is out there to have fun. These races got me outside on days when I would have sat on the trainer or, more likely than not, sat around on my butt. There is great commraderie among the regular racers. Everyone cheers and encourages the other racers. The course changes every time so it is never about personal bests or a certain time standard that you feel the need to live up to. We're simply out there enjoying being fit enough to even think about doing this sort of thing.
A huge thank you to our fearless leader and race director Chris Tuma!
Can't wait for next year!