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I do not race cyclocross for a number of reasons. But I love to watch. Especially when it is muddy and everyone is having a great time. That is how today was. Epic rain, epic mud, and even a little sun. The temperature seemed to fluctuate a lot depending on whether the sun was shining. I hope everyone stayed warm enough to enjoy themselves.
I really enjoyed being a spectator today. Since PIR is only a few miles from home, Kronda and I biked over from home, her with the Burley trailer in tow filled with her trainer and gear. I donned my rubber boots and my rain suit. And to say I was very glad to have the rubber boots would be an understatement!
I hung out around the Sorella tent until the start of the 2:15pm women's races. The epic rain was just ending and I was able to pull out the camera. I managed to get a few good pics, and the sun actually decided to show its face for parts of the women's races. It was tons of fun watching all my Sorella sisters having fun in the mud.
Here are some of the photos I took today.
Check out more awesome photos from Jess on her Flickr page.
Every time I woke up last night, I heard driving rain hitting the window and the bathroom skylight and a howling wind and I considered seriously whether I *really* wanted to race today.
But I had already committed and it was my last chance to race this year before school takes over my life. Just when it was time to leave, the sun broke out as if to lure us out before leaving us to our fate.
After two weeks of being asked if I rode to the race (because I show up with my burley trailer to haul my trainer from the parking lot), today I could finally say yes I rode to the race! All of ten minutes from my house, but still.
As I spun on the trainer under our nice cozy tent, a driving rain pelted the racers going by. But just like last year, it let up just before the start of our race.
- Mud: Not nearly as bad as Rainer. Flat course except the run-up and goopy but more watery (read: rideable!) mud, even in the squishy parts.
- Run-up: Much more successful than last year. I actually *ran* instead of crawl/slide
- Three ways I know I'm having a good race: I catch Michelle, Lynn or Tonya. Did all three. Though in Tonya's case, that usually means she's having a bad race (mechanicals). Someday... :)
- Going by the tents and getting a smile and a little shove from Molly Cameron
The last two laps I was cruising through traffic from other categories and I spotted two carrots ahead, one in a green jersey, one blue. On gravel or paved sections I could get much closer, but then as soon as we hit mud, green would ride away like she had a motor. Guess I need to work on powering through mud.
Blue was also faster in the mud, but not as fast. I figured if I didn't get pulled early, I could get her.
I stalked her through the latter half of lap four, then pulled past her in the finishing straight. We went back and fourth a few times throughout the lap. I gunned it on a pavement section and up a short mud hill and she got me back through the big lake. I stayed close and managed to pass on the run up. She got me back again when I got caught in traffic on an off camber hill. One more quick paved section and going into the final super slick downhill left turn, I was right on her wheel.
As we came onto the finishing pavement, I made my move on the right. I heard her shifting and saying something to the effect of 'oh no!' and then I hit my big gear and took off!
It was a sweet way to end my season, only slightly marred by another woman who finished just a couple bike lengths ahead of me veering sharply left and into me just after the line, but I managed to avoid her and come to a safe stop.
Today's race was definitely colder than last year. I was fine with base layer and leg warmers during the race, but started freezing up as soon as I stopped riding. It took a while in the shower to get my toes back and 90 minutes outside in a cold dark rain to get my bike back to a recognizable state.
A great season for me with a nice mix of mud and dry, some top 20 results and of course, great cheering from friend and enemies alike. I guess that's why I love cross, even when I question my sanity for doing it.
Sure, the Cross Crusade has the glamour and the "scene" - photographers out the wazoo, krazy kross kowbells, and even mini-movies each week! Still, the smaller Saturday races have a lot going for them.
At Heiser Farms, the organizer set up equal prize purses for the MenA and WomenA, which meant prize money ten deep! Jan and I figured (rightly) fewer than 10 WomenA racers would show - guaranteed prize money (or so we thought)! So, we carpooled down together.
In addition to prize money, I have two words: Pumpkin Cannon (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oD_dwQkB5Bs)
The course was slightly different this year. We parked in a different location and had a "lead in" section before reaching and repeating the "usual" main circuit.
Naturally, before the WomenA race, we did the Master's race. I got the "hole shot", but that didn't really matter because then we hit "the mud". This was not Barlow Mud. This was not Rainier Mud. If this mud was an alien life force, it would be close-encounter-of-the-seventh-or-eighth-kind-mud, because it was probing every corner of our bikes and bodies. Witness this mud in some photos. The course was so muddy that we only managed *three* laps in 45 minutes. Two endos and countless wipeouts later, I finished the MasterA race victorious! GPS Log of the MasterA race.
Sadly, Jan was unlucky at the start. Two minutes into the race a small pebble lodged in her derailleur and promptly tore it off. Game over. Phooey!
No time for celebration - I drank a bottle of water+malto+nuun (are you listening Jen?), then rode back to the start for the WomenA race! We were like muddy clowns sliding around. One would get up, fall back down, another would get up and fall back down, and so on. It was so much "racing" as "repeatedly falling in the right direction".
Then the rain stopped and the mud thickened. What started as slimy was now chunky. I have raced in a lot of mud and until that day, I have *never* had to stop and clear mud out of my bike. The mud kept caking on thicker and thicker and the wheels simply stopped turning! The bike weighed easily double its normal weight. It was so heavy I had to shoulder it just to get over the barriers. I stopped riding sections - not because I couldn't ride them - but because I didn't want the mud to collect on the bike. On the final lap, I caught and passed a rider and finished second! GPS Log of the WomenA race.
We hot-footed it to "Scott's Cycles" in Salem to get Jan's bike fixed. They stayed late and got her repaired and set up to race on Sunday. Then we hit the "Willamette Burger Company" in Salem at 14th and Broadway for excellent burgers and beers. Yum! Recommended! (Thanks to Tessa for the restaurant tip!)
A quick rundown of the weekend's event! I was feeling fat and complacent after 10 days off following black diamond half iron and thought nothing would be better to put one back into the training fame of mind than a good smacking by fit women on a cross course! This was my first cross event of the year also and i knew it would also be marked by our new hard won portapotty from the team competition last year! No words can describe how awesome that single blue clean container of private joy was, slapped right next to our team tent like it had dropped from bike heaven. We did have many circling toilet vultures hoping to get past that padlock, one woman told me we were totally 'lame' for not letting spectators use it so i explained very carefully how much effort went into winning it last year. She remained convinced we were lame apparently (in a very loud voice!) but at least we had our nice clean dunny and i happily provided her with detailed directions to the non-locked loos, not that she looked appreciative in the slightest!
I had a quick chance to pre-ride some of the course and found it was quite challenging in sections and very different to the previous years i raced. I have no technical skills either, just a combination of mostly recklessness spiced with a little bit of courage when i am not on pavement, but i do like Alpenrose since I won the beginner category and a bottle of wine here in my first year of cross. I think it remains the only bike race i have probably ever come higher than 24th in actually! Anyway, i lined up as close to the front as i could, but a poplolly insisted on trying to double park and deliberately nudge me out, which was really quite annoying since i could easily have fit. I noticed she was well down the list at the finish too so not sure what she was defending - i think i passed her about 10 meters from the start. Anyway since i was worried she would cut over me at the start to ensure i did not get through i went cautiously at first then dodged my way via the wild west to hit the downhill near the front of our group. We ran right into the back of a bunch of women i think at the tail end of the B's perhaps, moving a bit like a herd of cattle who were uncertain of their direction, but made the most of the whole path while they ruminated on it. I dodged my way through there also wishing i had taped my hands - i get horrible blisters on the downhills despite gloves! After that it was around and around! I really enjoyed the course, and if cheering capacity could win it for you, Anne, Dave and some other sorellas/sorfellas (Tim!) would have put me in first, it was so nice to hear their voices and encouragement as i went through over and over for 5 laps. Tonya and i traded leads for a while which was nice to have some team support and a draft at times, though i nearly ran into her back wheel on a wide turn so was more cautious after that. Nonetheless i still managed to wipe out around the cans at the end of the flat section, and in the arena trying to nose past a beginner who proceeded to drift right into me, i stopped to pick up her bike since i felt bad she went down in my vicinity! I was glad to hear the announcer commenting on us helping each other, instead of suggesting a sorella pushed someone over!
In the end i was 4th and very happy with that. I have come to learn even in my best races of any discipline, there is always one or more in front of me - I guess that is part of what keeps us reaching! Dave had a piece of wood jam his detailer and rip it off on lap 3 so that was a disappointment for the day, as was the snarly attitude some of the girls (non-sorella of course!) out there - i thought this was meant to be fun! Anyway it was awesome to be out there with the blue and yellow again and i am really looking forward to ranier this weekend!
Let's get one thing out in the open: I don't train. Not because I don't think it's a good idea--I'm just busy with other things, and as long as I can look like I trained, that's really just as good right?
However, this year, I did train a LOT for Cycle Oregon and I'm fresh off my fastest century ever in last weekend's Gran Fondo event in Hood River. So I figured I might possibly be a little faster than last year. After a couple of days of 20-60 miles of climbing, 45 minutes of racing seems like a walk in the park!
I have a few main rules for cross racing:
- Show up
- Have fun
- Don't get hurt
I'm happy to say that I met all of those goals this past Sunday at the opener to the Cross Crusade series.
It took forever to get ready as usual but at least I didn't have to wait in the gigantic line for the porta potties. That's because last year we won the team competition, and our prize is a porta potty of our very own, right near our tent. Thank goodness someone stuck a padlock on it because there were plenty of interlopers trying to get in. I think next week we'll have some decorations so that at least people understand why we're guarding it so closely. It was hard won, and no, we're not sharing. You'll have to beat us and take it! :)
My race prep consisted of a 10 minute warm up on the road and three practice runs getting of and on my bike. Then I showed up to the start line, feeling remarkably calm in the middle of the 300+ women waiting to start.
When my group of Master B's 35+ (I was almost carded at registration which was nice), was sent off we surged around the corner. I took it easy, making sure I had plenty of room. Lap 1 is actually my pre-ride and I tend to get better as the race goes on, so I don't kill myself for starting position.
The first thing I noticed was that a fake old west town had sprung up since my last visit to Alpenrose. That was kind of cool. No time to gawk though as then we were through it and into the bumpiest part of the course. Through some really loose dirt down a big hill--the outside line was clearly more treacherous and I made a note to avoid it next time. Rattle down the hill wishing for my MTB suspension and hoping my chain wouldn't come off--that prayer wasn't answered for a lot of people as I saw lots of women by the side of the course, fixing their chains.
Over all the course was fun. I didn't like the bone-shaker as I came to think of it, but the run-up wasn't too bad and the immediate 180 to go back down was a fun surprise on lap 1. There was too much traffic for me to get back on my bike so I had to run down on the first lap which sucked. I made sure I rode it the rest of the race.
I did four laps, which felt like more. Some highlights:
- Yellow jersey nemesis. We went back and forth for a while and I finally pulled her back only to hear that her chain came off after the last pass. I hope to beat her cleanly next week.
- Lots of personal cheering on course. I hear my name quite a few times and was also referred to by team, bike model and number. The kid on the north side of the course was so cute cheering everyone on by number: "You can do it 444!"
- Barriers. They went really well for the most part and I got compliments on a couple of my remounts.
- Nemesis #110. We also went back and forth and she was very hard to catch. She was clearly faster than me, but I caught her in a technical section just before the finish and managed to make it stick. I also had probably my best sprint finish ever and nipped someone at the line--not in my category, but still fun to do!
After the race, I saw a few racer friends. Rebecca from Bend, who I almost pushed over with a bad remount at Sherwood last year. Lindsey Kandra, who I met at the Fondo last weekend. Fresh off chemo and STILL lapping me. One of my Twitter friends came and introduced herself as well.
On the way back to the team tent, I sampled everything edible that anyone was handing out and bought some mango nectar. I'm excited that the Burgerville Nomad will be serving up food at all the races this season.
All in all, a great time out on the bike and it's fun to be back in the crazy pageantry that is cross. I hope to crank out a few more races before school completely takes over my life.