Meet Jason Harrod
“I am hoping through my connections and writing for Cycling Illustrated to secure and invite to next year’s Cross Vegas; either in the elite Masters or wheelers and dealers category. I plan on using that event as a target for my comeback to elite Masters racing in the cyclocross discipline. My writing will focus on the ins and outs of a 42 year old professional, father, husband, softball coach, writer and cyclist coming back from a mysterious injury and how I am able to find time to incorporate all into my life; well and happily or not. My weekly article will be centered on the working man/racer, his training, time usage, trail riding and, of course, when time affords me the opportunity to race, a few colorful first person race reports; let us not leave out the occasional humorous cycling anecdote or coarse and vulgar depiction of what pisses me off on any given day. ”
The Hole Shot
I do things the hard way, always have. Anyone who knows me knows at least that about me. In fact, it has been noted on more than one occasion that the big red H on my forehead (for the Hard way) was from me banging my melon on the difficult door, and can be seen from miles away like some sort of deranged not-so-super-hero careening wildly down whatever piece of road or trail I may be on.
Seriously, take my writing for example. Here I am 42 years old and this is the first column I have ever written. Now don’t get me wrong, I have written before but outside of the school work it has all been fiction. Sure, I have had a handful of short stories published on bottom shelf literary rags, and I have self published an eBook on Amazon loosely based on my days as a bartender, but this is my first column for general consumption, for the people. And I am stoked.
Speaking of the hard way, let’s get into cycling. I raced off road many moons ago; so long ago in fact you should be thinking NORBA. Yup, that long ago. I had a good gig: full sponsorship from a LBS, free bikes, kit, helmets, glasses, the works, but I quit racing for a crappy day job. Really, I did and I am slightly embarrassed. Bad call on my part. And even though I regret nothing in my past, because then I would not be where I am and where I am is pretty fantastic, I must admit I have a nasty penchant for doing things the hard way.
A couple of years ago I decided with some apprehension, and some prodding by my friend Captain Aggro, that I was going to pick up racing again. I mean at the age of 40 diving back into something that I was just pretty good at 15 years prior was ambitious at best and potentially painful at worst. Yup, there’s the hard way again. Are you sensing a theme here? But after Aggro’s smooth talking about camaraderie and friendship and what a complete wussy I was being, the idea of 45-60 minute races on relatively flat and fast courses had piqued my interest and jumped started the completive edge in me. Shit, it even started to sound kind of fun. Plus, I knew if I agreed to give it a go Aggro would shut the hell up. Done and done.
It was fantastic to be racing again. Seriously. I got the hole shot and jockeyed with these two other cats for a few laps. I was feeling fine, better than I had expected. I cast a side long glance at Aggro and could see even he was slightly impressed with my being off the front in my first race. Then I heard the One Lap bell and I gunned it. I gave it everything I had. There was sweat. There was snot. There was that taste of blood in my throat that I get when I am completely buried. There was more than likely a brown dot on my chamois from the effort. I could hardly believe what had happened. I was going to win that sucker. I sat up after crossing the finish line beside myself, thinking I had won. That was when everyone passed me – everyone. What a complete shit show. It turned out what I heard was really just a cow bell not the one to go bell. Yup, cow bells very prevalent at ‘cross races. I was physically exhausted and mentally beaten. Aggro just shook his head and laughed. I limped to my truck dejected and broken. I DNF’d in my first race back. I was embarrassed and angry and tired as hell. And I was certainly not looking forward to the ration of shit I was going to have to field from Aggro. I cracked a beer and decided it was time to trim up my not-so-svelte figure and get on a training plan of sorts, one that would fit my busy schedule, and see if I couldn’t be a competitive racer once again.
When I got home I sat the family down and filled them in on my plans and I think my kids put it best when they both chimed in together and said, “But, Dad, you are old, fat and slow,” and busted out in a cacophony of laughter. Funny kids. You watch and see, I thought, and embarked upon my journey back to fitness.
That brings us to the now. Two years later and I still have not been able to piece together an entire cyclocross season. There has been Pop Warner football. There has been Fall Ball Softball. There have been injuries. I could go on but I will spare you the melodrama. Sure, I have had some decent finishes, some that almost made me proud. Sure, I can make excuses, and I may in the future, but I won’t today. What I will share is that I am a man with a plan to be revealed in due time. In due time, friends.
Well, ‘cross season is here again and I am not in the shape I ought to be. I will be fighting my daughter’s traveling girls softball schedule, not to mention my son’s water polo tournament schedule, or my wife’s nursing school schedule, and my feet, my poor aching feet, but, and there is always a but, I promise you this, I will be out there on the Norcal ‘cross tracks giving it my all when my schedule allows, even if that means herding real racers from the back of the pack. So stay tuned.
If you find yourself out on the roads or trails of Marin or doing some NorCal ‘cross races in the Masters category and see the big red H of a broken not-so-super-hero coming your way please join me on the journey to fantastic. I may not take the easiest route but I sure have fun getting to where I’m going.