Thursday, October 21, 2010

Month of Mud - North park

Photo by Mike Briggs

North Park Time trail - #14th Masters - :35.51

Over 200 people? Yep, over 200 people showed up for the inaugural North Park time trial. Earlier in the week, I pre-rode the course, and on my single speed I clocked a time of 38 minutes. So on Sunday, I knew the pace would have to be high for the entire course if I wanted to get any points for the race series.

Mark and I registered, and then warmed up by stopping along the course to cheer on the expert racers that had already begun their laps. Sooner than expected, I found myself on the starting line ready to go.

In this time trial, racers are released every minute. Mark was two riders behind me, so my goal was to not let him catch me. Go! I was off. We had to first do a circle around a tree in the grass field. I almost went into it too fast and just about slid out. That would've been embarrassing.

I picked up the pace in to the woods and the initial switchbacks (where I heard later Mark took a handlebar to the chest when he crashed. I continued up the rest of the switchbacks, my heart pounding, and my lungs about to explode. Crossed the first bridge, and then soon enough I was at one of the steeper climbs of the day. Luckily with North Park being my home course, I knew I could recover afterward. And that's what I did.

Crossed the second bridge and hit those switchbacks at a high speed. All was going pretty well. Slowed down at one of the first creek crossings. I thought it best to slow down as a few weeks earlier I had burped my front tired slamming into the rock armoring. After hearing about a lot of people pinch flatting, I was glad I had slowed down.

Sped down the flowy downhill section in the pines, then headed back up the valley. Somewhere I had passed three riders, and no one had passed me. As I came to the really sharp switchback, a masters rider made a pass on the right. I had expected this, in the WV series he races expert. I stayed on his wheel for a long as I could. This definitely helped me pick up my pace quite a bit. Though I lost him on the last switchbacks to the Wisconsin shelter.

I crossed the road, and then made a left. I lost a bit of time here recovering, but it was needed. Soon, I passed my fourth rider of the day. Before I knew it, I was headed down the last decent.

At this point, I was getting a bit sloppy so I made what I hoped was a good decision. I descended at a moderate pace; I could've gone a lot faster, but I may have easily crashed.

Crossed the finish line, and about 30 seconds later, Mark crossed. I had done it, I had held Mark off.

Not exactly the finish I had hoped for, but compared to my total collapse of fitness this summer (heat, humidity, exhaustion) I was pretty happy. No back pain, which is great, but I definitely I could tell that my setup doesn't allow me to get all the power from my legs that I could.

Last race of the series this Sunday - Moraine. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Month of Mud - Grove City

Grove City cyclocross - 15th - Masters - :58.45

And then it rained some more. That was the theme for Grove City. Rain, rain, and more rain. Pulled into the parking lot and got dressed for the rain, but at least it was cold.

Did a short warm up and then went and watched the experts finish their race. They were covered with mud, front and back. Soon enough we were lining up for our race. The rain had pretty much stopped, but I was pretty sure the mud would still be there.

The prologue lap was on slick pavement, and I decided to line up toward the back and play it safe. Unfortunately this was a bad strategy. There were no pile ups, so I was about midpack once we hit dirt and the first barriers.

I passed a lot of people as we moved on to the mountain bike friendly section of the course. We were then dumped on to the grass section, and a number of cross bikes caught me. Steady through the rest of the grass section, then on to the pavement and back to the start line. I was able to draft here, so I stayed with the pack. One lap down, three to go, hopefully.

Fourth lap - whew, I barely made it. As I crossed the finish line for my last lap, I saw the judges getting ready to pull people over for being lapped. Did my last lap, and caught and gapped a rider I had been battling with for two laps. I always need that kind of competition to keep my pace up. I also was able to work with another rider quite a bit. I could tell he wasn't in my division, so when he was sitting on my wheel for a lap it didn't really bother me. But when I dropped behind my "nemesis" I used the guy on my wheel. Once we hit the pavement I pulled to the side and let him use his higher gears on his cross bike to up our pace a bit. I then took back over when we hit the rough stuff. On the grassy sections, we took turns as needed. I'm not sure I really drafted except for the pavement area, but mentally swapping helped me keep up my pace.

The mountain bike was good for about one fifth of the course, but the cross bikes were just faster the rest of the race. Though I find it hard to rationalize buying a cross bike for two races a year, but I really wish I had had one.

It was a good race, muddy like cross should be. To be more competitive I need a cross bike next year. I also needed to be more up front at the start, as I was only about a minute behind three races, and that back of the pack start cost me at least that much time. But still, the race was fun. A one week break, and then the North Park time trial.