Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mud and Sun

Saturday I headed over to New Gloucester, ME, to take part in day one of the Downeast Cyclocross race. I needed to go over and face a demon from last year, but as I rolled onto the Pineland campus I was directed to a totally different part of the facility, so while it was still Pineland it wasn't the same spot as previous years- oh well.

I should mention the temp when I arrived was 38 degrees and it was pouring. Good times. The course this year included much more cow shit and a ride through a barn, which was nice as you got at least a little bit of warmth and dryness for about 4 seconds per lap.

I tried to warm up, but the weather was such that I really just wanted to sit in the van and wait for the start. I rode a lap and a half and decided that hot coffee and some Black Eyed Peas in the van was a much better option. I headed back, cleaned up the bike a bit, stripped off my muddy over pants and jacket so I didn't totally trash my car, and kicked back for about 20 minutes while I waited for the clock to approach 9:30am. Usually before a race I feel like time is flying and I don't have time to get everything done, this go around the clock just seemed to not move, which was bad as I was cooling down and loosing motivation to go out and race.

Just then the rain stopped and the clock had gotten close enough to 9:30 that I grabbed my helmet and gloves, slugged down the last of the coffee and headed over to the start. The lack of rain was short lived, but now the excitement of the race was taking over.

I got into the staging area, near the back and found Marc D'Amour who rides for the hosting club, Downeast. Marc and I have been riding "against" each other for a few years and it's always good to see him at a race. We took our place near the back and began the typical "anti-smack" talk, who was going to be the slowest, how many laps until we got lapped, etc. Nothing like lowering expectations before a race! We (35+ Cat 4's) were set to go about a minute after the Senior 4's, so there would be plenty of rabbits to chase.

The whistle was blown and we were off. Surprisingly Marc and I both moved up through the field pretty quick on the start, which caught me off guard. This isn't to say I saw the front of the race, more like I saw what the back of the pack looked like from inside the pack instead of taking up the caboose position. The course had plenty of passing spots so I felt better letting the race come to me instead of blowing up right out of the blocks.

The course was wet, muddy, slippery, muddy, and rutty. It was one of those races where there was ZERO rest, as even on the flats you were going hard just to keep moving. If I was a runner I would have jumped off and run on the flats and likely been passing people in the process. Instead I sat and ground away at the gears trying to find a line that enabled me to feel like I was moving.

I started to get my heart back down into my chest a bit the legs began to remember what it was like to pedal hard. We came into the first set of barriers and somehow the connection between my brain and the rest of my body took a short break and I'm not sure how to explain what I tried to do (I can tell you it didn't work). Basically I unclipped my right foot, started to swing it around the back of the bike, at the same time I took my right hand and reached down to grab the top tube- while my right leg was still coming around the back, all the while my weight was shifting to my left and the barrier was coming up fast. At that point I woke up and actually said something out loud about my apparent attempt at combining modern dance with cross racing, I said this just as my front wheel plowed into the barrier and by some stupid luck I came out of my left pedal and managed to get that foot over the barrier on the ground safely while the bike launched up and over the barrier with a little bit of guidance from my hands. Somehow I stayed upright and got over the second barrier and back on my bike thanking my lucky stars and feeling much more awake!

The rest of the race was a test of lines and an effort to keep momentum on my side. I was pleased with my bike handling, as I took efforts to really find my limits on some of the corners. I spent a good amount of time sliding through turns, barely hanging on, but keeping the Chilli Con upright. It gave me confidence as the race went on and I got faster each lap through some of the trickier turns.

With a lap to go I got a Cat 4 rider in my sites and planned to catch and pass him on the final climb. I had been cleaning that climb each lap and passing riders who where trying to run (unfortunately many of them would then pass me back on the following mud bog), I was sure I could make the catch on that spot and then hold him off to the line. However I struggled on the climb and lost traction and momentum about half way up and watched him pull away. I assumed I wouldn't be able to catch him at that point but as we came into the finish S turns I found myself on his wheel and I put in the effort to go by. I'm sure he was wondering why I was trying to pass him for such a low placing, but I had two good reasons- one it was a race, and two- I was really racing him to the bike wash so I could then get changed and warm!

It was a good ride and it gave me a bit more confidence in my bike handling. It also gave me a pile of nasty laundry and a fair amount of bike cleaning to do. It took me a good couple of hours to feel warm and comfy again, but by Saturday afternoon I was feeling human again and looking forward to racing at Great Glen on Sunday.

Sunday morning rolled around and this time the entire family was going to head to the race as the weather was looking much nicer.

We rolled out, a touch behind schedule, and I had promised the girls a "treat", which translated into a stop at Burger King for some breakfast. I chose to pass on the BK feast (which was hard to do!)

We made it to GGTOC and I was met with a bit of grief as registration had closed already (oops), but it turned out to be just a bit of grief as they took good care of me and I got a chance to race. I did a very short warm up and then lined up for the Elite/Intermediate race. This is a course I know pretty well having raced there for about five years. At the start I took my familiar place near the back and again had an interesting go at the first set of barriers. Looks like that is something I'll need to work on. Soon it was a bit of a battle for the back of the pack with Michelin Mike and a guy racing on a SS and yours truly took turns riding at the back. The course was pretty fast and (for the most part) dry.

There was a fair amount of wind (surprise, surprise- wind in Pinkham Notch)and for the most part I rode either alone or did short stints with MM and the SS guy. My wife and kids where on the hill above the tunnel and K was doing a good job of not letting me slack off to much. I was feeling a bit fatigued and couldn't really get my heart rate up into the numbers I usually see when racing, but as the laps ticked off I did manage to pull away from MM and SS guy.

The course was fun and the weather was great. This is the first of three races up at GGTOC. I'll likely miss this weekend, but will then be ready for Porky Gulch Classic the following weekend, looking forward to that!

1 comment:

Dennis said...

doesn't look like you did much work today