Casual CX ... No Commitment, Just Fun

By Christine Soja

The author enjoying Casual CX in Seattle.  Photo courtesy of Christine Soja Photo courtesy of Christine Soja

The author enjoying Casual CX in Seattle.

I have a confession to make: I am a neophiliac. That is to say, I like to try new things. I get bored with routine and I like a new challenge. I also have a second confession to make: I am fiercely competitive. This can be a challenge because it’s difficult for me to get good at anything before I become bored with it and then move onto something new. But, sometimes a girl just needs to have a little fun. It’s hard to find the time to get into shape, and too easy to get lost in the endless cycle of not feeling fit enough to compete. Then along comes cyclocross, the perfect sport for this type of weekend warrior.

Category 4 and beginner races are just 30-45 minutes long, about half the duration of a spin-class. Cross training during the week can consist of running and biking, maybe participating in a cross-specific workout such as Wednesday nights at the velodrome. Yoga helps with strength and balance, which is key to maneuvering the bike over and around obstacles and slick off-camber turns.

I have made a special place for ‘cross in my heart, knowing that I want it, but also acknowledging that the responsibilities of family and work render me unable to fully commit. So let’s be casual. I’m here to have a good time, and I know that ‘cross is OK with that. Let’s try not to complicate things, no strings attached. I’m here to enjoy myself, get a solid workout, and go home satisfied. I prefer calling it "Casual CX."

Casual CX is a commitment to show up, do my best and be happy with that; to commit to just one race at a time, ride my heart out, and remember that results are only another number, like the one on the scale. What really matters at the end of the day is how well my jeans zip up.

World-class athletes during championship performances enter a zone, wherein everything around them disappears. I try to do the same, blocking out everything and focusing on the rhythm of my ride. In a race, it’s all or nothing. The energy from the other racers and the crowd is contagious and help propel me around the course.

‘Cross is fun for a “city girl” because I get to ride over grass, dirt, pavement and sometimes sand. I have to jump off the bike and carry it over barriers and up short hills. I don’t have to worry about traffic or stop lights, only about turning and staying upright. With all of this right in front of me, it’s impossible to remember the fledgling career, overdue bills or the to-do list.

 Photo courtesy of Christine Soja Photo courtesy of Christine Soja

When I’m racing, my body is taut and alert, focused on the space a few yards ahead. I love being outdoors, gasping for fresh air, lungs burning; I just can’t push myself this hard at the gym. As my body gets fitter my expectations grow, but I’ve always got to keep that ego in check. This is casual, remember, it’s for fun. And no, you can’t really be good at something you don’t put a lot of work and effort into. But my legs feel strong when I wash the dirt off at the end of the day. And the beer and fries I relish post-race? Those are well earned.

For those of us who won’t be on the podium any time soon, it’s all about the race within the race. These are the moments of victory, passing a racer on the track wall, cutting a corner tighter. It’s amazing to me how I can actually push harder knowing someone’s on my tail. This is what it’s all about, pushing yourself physically. The trick is to be big enough not to hate the really fast people, just be inspired by them.

For me, cyclocross is a church of sorts. It’s all about getting up early on a Sunday and putting on uncomfortable clothes, but instead of listening to a sermon, I listen to my body. Instead of wine and wafers, it’s Shot Bloks and Red Bull. This is my chance for redemption, a chance to give it my all, as every ounce of strength will be used.

If you’re at all competitive, this is the place to let it out. Casual CX is a safe place to compete, to focus, and to get out of the comfort zone. I have found that the more twisted my stomach is at the start, the better my results are in the end.

You don’t need to commit to an entire season, or even sign up before race day if you’re the spontaneous sort. However, pre-registering is recommended if you tend to get cold feet, are flakey, or have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning.

 Photo courtesy of Christine Soja Photo courtesy of Christine Soja

Eleanor Roosevelt said that you must do the thing that scares you the most. My suspicion, indeed my hope, is that doing things that scare me to death but are not actually life-threatening will somehow help move me forward in other areas of life. Scientists have linked longevity with the ability to try new things. Weekend racing is a chance to push yourself as hard as you can. If you aren’t pushing yourself you’re going to fall over. It’s good to put that kind of energy forth into the universe.

Every weekend during the autumn months, there is a chance to be a part of a community of folks who like to challenge themselves physically, who like to have fun, who like to get out of the house and aren’t afraid of the cold or the rain. These are my people, and they may be yours. Come and give it a try, at the very least you’ll get a workout. Remember, no commitment is necessary. Let’s keep this casual.

Christine Soja is a freelance writer, a mother, a teacher and a member of Peterson Racing. She can be reached at

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