You're ready to tackle your first cyclocross race.

OK, you're not really ready. You've been watching "Jersey Shore" reruns and eating organic Pop-Tarts. But what else are you going to do with yourself this fall?

More to the point, how else will you lose that organic pop tart gut before ski season?

Now that you're convinced, you need to get ready -- you want to bring your Pop-Tart A-game to your first 'cross race. Here's how:

1 Do intervals

Not sure you're fit enough for the intensity of 'cross? No problem! Start doing intervals now.

Here's how you do intervals for 'cross: Warm up by wheeling your bike out of your garage/basement/living room (wherever your bikes live).

Immediately ride all-out. Keep riding all-out until you get back home. For the cool down, walk inside wheezing. Stretch by passing out on your couch in an uncomfortable but stretchy position. Later, eat an organic Pop-Tart.

This will perfectly simulate your first race.

2 Practice dismounting

Go to a park and practice dismounting and re-mounting your bike. Make faux barriers out of sticks or mountain lions or whatever you find at the park.

Roll around lazily between super-smooth dismounts. You don't want to be out of breath for this. That would be too much like the actual race situation. Take your time and get it juuuuuust right.


Your fellow competitors will love this on race day. Everyone loves the gumby who runs his/her front tire into the first barrier.

Everyone also loves someone who can bunny-hop a mountain lion.

3 Get dirty

At any given 'cross race, you could be riding through a dust cloud or mud puddles. You're pretty much guaranteed to race with dirt all over you and your bike.

To prep for the inevitable dirt-fest, ride your bike to the nearest prairie dog town and roll around with the inhabitants. (You'll probably scare them all underground. Weren't some found with the black plague a few years ago? Anyway.)

Once your face is good and grimy (you'll know when you lick your lips), use your water bottle to cake mud onto your chain and brakes.

Now go do those intervals from No. 1. Taste the dirt, fight the lackluster shifting, love 'cross.

When you get home, make a donation to PETA, you prairie-dog traumatizing freak-o.

4 Mentally prep

Visualize your race: You'll be anaerobic for the whole race. Your legs and lungs will be searing, yet you'll be way off the back, getting lapped by a skinny and ferocious man/woman. You might cry when this happens.

It's OK. Tear-streaked dirty faces are cute.

Also, you might:

Face-plant tripping over a barrier (or mountain lion) in front of a large crowd

Blow up in the first lap, drop out in the second, drink beer during the third

Vomit pretty much anywhere at any time

It's OK. Vomiting is cute.

5 Place friends

Strategically place friends along the course to help cheer you on. Cyclocross racing is hard, which is why it's essential to have support to make it through.

Important: Make sure they have organic Pop-Tarts for you at the finish line. You need recovery food.

So does the mountain lion.