Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Plymouth Festival of CX - my P.O.V.

3+ hours from start of warm up to completion of 2nd race (in a row)? Must be nuts - or looking to make a full blown training adventure out of one day of 'cross racing! The ever patient and gracious Dave agreed to come out to Marblehead and pick me up - then truck us and our gear down to Plymouth for a day of racing. As a CAT3 - we race late in the day. As a CAT4 - Dave races early. What to do in between? Race together, of course! So I signed up not only for the CAT3 race, but for the Masters 35+ (M35+) version too. The promoter was VERY cool in giving a discount on additional races - making them only $10 a pop. TWO was plenty, I knew - and was not at all tempted by the 'A' Race after thew CAT3 one!

XC Style Section near end of lap(s):

Anyhow - driving south made it clear that it'd be a gray - albeit mild - day. Rain, drizzle, fog, clouds. Temps in the high 50's kept it comfortable. Only problem we had was arriving on time (just) to Plymouth North HS - as there was no event to be found. Hmmm. After the 3rd check of the flyer, I noticed day 2 said 'SOUTH' High School.... whoops! Once we were headed the right way, we knew Dave would have little time to prep and get to his race start!

His race took off - well, some of them, Dave included did, as the rest were either in, or stuck behind a nasty pile up off the line. He seemed to settle in and rode well. I bopped around the course yelling and snapping my lame photos - and took notes on different lines. When he was done, I started suiting up, and easing into a SLOW warm up for the 12PM M35+ race start. I felt strangely good - a bad sign when I'd not ridden much, as it means I'm more than 'recovered', but likely stale. No worries, as that is why we're here - to race into shape, of course!

I pre-ride one lap of the course and find one HELLACIOUS muddy climb to a bog-like traverse at the top of said climb. The high line sucks, the center is sticky, gloopy, awful stuff - but the 'lower line' - basically through some bushes and weeds - is ride-able. It's a long course - with 8 to 9 minute laps likely. The other techy section is a fun sandy climb up a small ridge. I make it fine, but know in the heat of a race, and with traffic - it may not go so well.

As 12 noon approaches, I head over to staging. Dave *ahems* me as I weave my way, instinctively - to a start position at the front. I move back, as this is my 'warm up' race and I had insisted I would take it easy. So I back it on up. We get ready, get set - and GO! Nice to just ride at a race start - even though we accelerate fast. Aside from the first lap and associated traffic, I ride all the sections on all subsequent laps. I'm pretty sure I was last - or near last, as when I rolled through for my bell lap - I heard the finish over the PA a minute later.


Damn. At the end of the last lap I realize that even "taking it easy" for 45 minutes is no way to warm-up, as I'm pretty worked already - and my bike is thrashed! With 10 minutes before the CAT3 race start, I rinse off the big chunks, drizzle heavy-duty motor oil like lube on my chain, and head back to staging. No surprise everyone else is fresh and clean! As I walk up, folks back away ever so slightly.

I punch it as best I can, but have a harder time clipping in than usual due to residual gunk in show/pedal from the last race - but get 'er going anyhow. By the end of the start area straight away, I'm already in pain! I do not contest too many spots as we turn abruptly onto singletrack (!) and know it'll be a dogfight here.


The first lap is full of the usual traffic since I'm not out near the front - so we plug away and get around to the start of the second lap and the real race settles in. Over the next 20 minutes I start feeling better, and pass the random guy here and there - especially when it gets steep, technical, or over at the barriers - where I seem to be making VERY good time dismounting, doing the 'cross boogie - and re-mounting. This is new, and perhaps due to actually practicing it a few times recently. I'm still taking up duties as a rear-guard, but not DFL. I think. I hope!

On the 2nd to last lap, however, I crack harder than I have in a long time - and like I never have in a (short) CX race. Granted I was in past 3 hours at this point (since start of warm-up), when I stood up to grind up the steep parts, my right quad sent a white-hot blazing jolt of pain up my body. Well, that'll teach me to stand up! I sit and hammer the rest of the race - losing 2-3 spots due to inability to stand, and general bonked/cramped state. I did clean the two hard steep (sandy and muddy) spots while seated - as I was terrified to get off and try and "run" with my bike, knowing I'd collapse on that right leg.

Scramble up that last climb onto pavement, and head for Miller Time.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plymouth Festival of Cyclocross

There comes a time in a race when you know you're pushing as hard as you can. Your heart rate is at the max, you're legs are pumping, and you can't hear over the rush of blood pounding through your ears. You take a moment to look behind you, and see... no one. At this point, you can glean one of two things. Either you've made a break that no one can match, you're in front and your gap is growing. or, in my case, you know that you're probably in DFL.

I wish I could blame my bike-but it was working fairly well. I wish I could blame the course, but it was fast and fun (an no one else seemed to be hindered). I wish I could blame the big crash at the start line, but fortunately, I was in front of that mess, implying that I got a great start (which I did). Nay, blame lies sadly in one spot-that's right, the Spanish Inquisition.

Okay, here's how things went down. I picked up my buddy Glen at about 7:00am and made the hour or so drive to Plymouth, MA. In case you didn't know, Plymouth has TWO high schools, so if you plug Plymouth High School into GoogleMaps, you've got a 50/50 shot of getting the right one. As usual, the odds were against me and we arrived at the high school without a single course marker, port-o-let, or person. Incidentally, as this weekend was a two-day race in Plymouth, the race promoters used the north high school for day one and the south high school on day two (which would have been apparent to me if I had read the flyer). You can imagine our confusion at seeing clear signs of a recent race (tire tracks in the mud), but not another soul.

Anyway, after some BlackBerry and iPhone maneuvering, we found the correct location. The delay did however give me a simple answer to the question of "should I pre-ride the course?" We got there in just enough time for me to pin my number on, sign my one-day license and find the staging area. I muscled my ironic flat bar 'cross bike to the start line and within a few minutes, the start whistle had been whistled.

After a few hard pedal strokes I heard the unmistakable sound of knobby tires meeting knobby tires, followed by some crashing. Fortunately, this occurred behind me. Unfortunately, everyone that was held up with that calamity seemed pass me not too much later. I felt great heading into the woods on the singletrack, but as soon as we hit the huge field of grass, I felt like I was riding on two flat tires.

The remainder of the race was mostly unremarkable. I kept up the effort, and pretty much settled in to my approximately 30th place spot. I made sure I didn't lose any spots, but I couldn't seem to bridge up any further... until the final climb up to the finish.

I came up behind another rider that seemed to feel about as fresh as I did (not). I hung in behind him down a slick, off-camber, wet, grassy downhill and put the hammer down on the last climb. I passed him, but then exploded. And I do mean exploded. I honestly don't know what happened. Did my chain skip or slip? Did my back wheel spin out? Did someone shoot me from a grassy knoll? I don't know. But what I do know is that I was suddenly falling face first into a large rock. I was able to keep my pretty face from making contact, but I was totally off my bike, and oddly enough, out of one of my shoes. Needless to say, that guy passed me. With the reflexes of a ninja, I jumped back on my bike and finished the race doing a one-legged sprint to the line. Check out GPS data from the course here.

And while I didn't have to wait around for a medal, I did wait around to put another effort out on the course. I raced again at noon (this time with my buddy Glen), both in the Master 35+. I over estimated my athletic prowess as I was caught by the leaders by the third or fourth lap. I decided to drop out, get cleaned up, and take some pics of Glen's race.

All in all, the day was a good beating. That cheeseburger on the way home and the beer later that night tasted so good though! Next up, Sterling, MA, Thanksgiving weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009