Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kisscross cyclocross race at Markin Glen Park (part 2)

For part 1 of this report, go here!

It was just about race time. Kendal went to scope out some good places to take photos. She took great care to find spots where we were most likely to flirt with disaster. Dan and I headed to the start line. Our race, the men's C class, was 30 minutes of racing. The C class is for first timers or slower racers . Perfect, since I am both of those things! The race director said something that I didn't pay attention to, as is my usual behavior. The first wave included the men and women C. I figured I'd be slow even among the slow, so I put myself near the back just behind Dan.

And we were off! Sadly, there was no canon or gun shot or even a loud "Go!". The only reason I knew the race started was because people started moving in front of me. So I followed the herd!

Unlike Lowell, the pace picked up immediately. Dan was just in front of me. Once we started rolling, Dan started to take off. Not surprising. During Lowell, I gave chase. But this time,  I decided to not follow. I just didn't know what to expect from myself on such a short, high intensity race. I hadn't done enough training to know what my body was capable of. How fast can I go without running out of gas? No clue. But my guess was, "Not very fast."

So during the beginning, I settled myself in to a little group of guys and girls on mountain bikes near the back. The race started on a straight section of paved path but it wasn't long before we took a left on to grass and hit the big hill. Even on the hill, I didn't attack on this first lap. I just sat back and followed the guy in front of me. Through the whole first lap, Dan was in visual sight. There were probably around 8 to 10 riders between us. It looked like he was riding strong. In fact, his lead was growing!! I guessed he was a full 40 seconds ahead of me at one point, which is a ton! I started to wonder if all of his commuting to work had put him in a position to beat me in this race. That would have been terrible. I would never hear the end of it. Even if he never beat me again, he would remind me of this loss forever! Unless I could come up with a good excuse! Maybe I could crash and break an arm? That would be plan B. But I wasn't giving in just yet.

As I approached the first obstacle, I thought it a perfect place to throw the race in the event I decide I couldn't beat Dan. But now wasn't the time. I approached sorta slowly and very deliberately. I didn't stumble much at all! Dismounted pretty smoothly! Hopped all three barriers! I probably looked like a total dork though. I was so paranoid about catching by foot on the barrier,  so I jumped extra high. Like, I had to grunt to achieve the height I wanted to in order to feel safe. Overkill. It's like pulling out a calculator to do simple arithmetic (which I also do). After the final barrier, I hopped back on the bike. Sorta. I was NOT very graceful or fast at getting back on the bike. And I couldn't clip back into my pedals to save my life! The pedal thing would plague me all race long. I need to practice clipping in quickly. But...I didn't fall or crash. That's the most important part! The scariest element in this race had been conquered...for at least this lap!

Then came some tight turns. Going through the tight, technical sections I noticed that I had a bit of trouble compared to some of the other riders at carving up corners. On the tighter turns, no matter how slow I went, it seemed like I could BARELY make it without going off course. I have to work on bike handling skills!

Dan, carving up corners.

Me, delicately navigating my way to the next straight section of the course.

Once at the beach section, pretty much everyone was carrying their bike back up beach. Otherwise, they found themselves falling down trying to ride it. Good thing Dan and I scouted the course! I still can't fathom how that girl made it through on her road bike! Lies! They were lies! Because that makes me feel better!

I actually had a bit of trouble on my first pass through the beach. I waited too long to dismount and started getting stuck in the sand. So my dismount was hasty and panicked, which resulted in me getting off on the opposite side of the bike than usual. So once I got to the top of the beach, I didn't really know how to remount from that side of the bike! But I managed to fumble my way back on the seat, and wobble off again.

I'm cracking up after the most pathetic remount ever! But I didn't fall!!!

After lap 1, I didn't really speed up. I felt comfortable and wasn't sure I could go much faster without a fair amount of discomfort.

[Discomfort is the ultimate limiting factor for me in cyclocross. I don't like to really dig down deep and kill myself. More than any road race or triathlon I have done, I saw plenty of guys and girls riding so hard I literally thought they were going to have a heart attack! They were struggling with their breathing so badly, they sounded like a overweight, chain-smoking James Gandolfini sprinting after his next plate of capocolla. I have nothing but respect for these people that push so hard in a race. I can't do it!]

I didn't feel like speeding up. But LOTS of people started slowing down. Since this was the 'C' race, there were probably lots of beginners and first timers like myself. Many of them probably let adrenaline dictate their first lap pace. That usually ends poorly. I started passing people when I could. And that's the thing. I learned that on a cross course, you can't just pass people when you want. It's crowded. Narrow. Full of trees and bushes and tall tall grass. The only places I felt really comfortable passing people were on a long straight paved section or on the big hill, both at the beginning of each lap. But during the second lap, I passed a lot of people. And on the hill, I finally caught Dan.

"This is intense!", I said.

"I'm done!", replied Dan.

Dan looked tired. But he always looks tired going up hills. I slowly crawled ahead of him and continued on my way.

You can see Dan in the blue jersey still ahead of me in the red jersey at the end of the first lap.

Shortly after the hill on lap 2, I'm starting to slowly crawl away from Dan.

I kept picking people off here and there, whenever I thought I had the energy and room to do so. And soon, the second lap was done. Some time around the third lap, I settled into a small group, two riders in front of me and two riders behind. I tried to drop them once, but they caught back up pretty quick. So I settled in and just  rode with them, flip flopping who was ahead a couple times.

The four guys in front of me I was chasing. Got two of them. Should have caught the other two.

Chasing down riders!

The second half of the race was mostly uneventful aside from avoiding small, crying children on the course. So yeah, they released the kids on the course for their one lap race before the adults were done. Now, I enjoy watching children get injured just as much as the next guy. But they were affecting the adults race! Near the beach, in a very criss-cross section, I had to slow down to not annihilate a small child (you're welcome!). That allowed a couple people to catch up to me for a bit...and allowed others to get further ahead of me. Found out after the race that Dan fell while trying to avoid a kid.

The other odd thing that happened near the end of lap three was a very odd exchange among spectators. As I was passing by a couple guys, one says to the other,

"I like this guy on the Motobecane."

I'm still curious as to the context of this comment! lol

Despite and because of the child I had to avoid, our group of 5 riders reformed by the 4th lap. Shortly into the 4th lap, I looked down at my Garmin and we were at around 28-ish minutes. But there was no indication that this was our last lap. I figured they'd signal final lap after this lap. And I'd use that 5th lap to get away from my group. Perfect!!!  Because I was feeling fantastic. I paced myself very well and I had a lot left in the fuel tank. We came up to the start/finish line to begin the 5th lap when...

"Pull off into the parking lot!"

What?!?!? The race was over?!?! Nooooo!!!!!! I really had a lot left for a very very fast 5th lap! How come there was no warning that this was the last lap? I was later told by another racer that there was a little sign by the start/finish line that indicated how many laps to go. Apparently, the race director announced this at the beginning of the race. I NEED to start paying attention to what they say...

I was BUMMED! Not only was I prevented from attempting my final lap strategy, but I was also not mentally ready for the race to be over. It's like telling Usain Bolt to stop in the middle of his 100m run. Just like Usain would have been, I was upset and confused! (Yup, I compared myself to Usain Bolt. I feel it's apropo.) But...there was nothing I could do. I'll just have to chalk this up to a lesson: listen to the race director, make sure to find out how many laps there will be or how they will communicate it to riders during the race.

I went to look for Kendal. I couldn't find where she was. But I had a very nice chat with some of the other racers. One of the guys I was fighting for position with, Ben Gross, came to say I rode a good race. I said likewise. It was his first cyclocross race as well. Everyone was so pleasant and cordial and just very cool!

I then went to a section of the course to wait for Dan. As he was coming around into earshot, he asked if it was the last a lap. Dan obviously was not aware of the little sign either. I told him that he's done once he reaches the finish line. "Thank goodness!!!!" And he dialed up a few extra watts to end his suffering as quickly as possible. After he crossed the line, we all regrouped in the parking lot. Dan and I traded our race stories. And Kendal told us how awesome or silly we looked at different parts of the race. We packed up and made our way home to get some much needed food!

All in all, it was a success! I finished 11th out of 21 but felt I could do much better (which I could not say about Lowell). And it was a blast! There's something very urgent and intense and gratifying in participating in a 30 minute event as opposed to a long event like a triathlon or marathon. There are very few lulls...every second is exhilarating! Plus...unlike long events, you still have the afternoon to do whatever you want!  I'm just bummed I waited so long to give cyclocross a shot! There's a learning curve, for sure. But if you spend time in another bike discipline (road, track, time trial, mountain, whatever) I would strongly encourage you to try cyclocross for a bit of cross training. Of even if you don't bike, get a cyclocross bike and give it a shot! You won't regret it!

Thanks go out to my wife Kendal for all the pictures and the cheers on every lap!

Results: http://michianatiming.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/crace-results-markin.txt

Strava: http://app.strava.com/activities/27606618

Fourth lap! I still having a blast!

Eat my dust!

Dan is sprinting up that beach!!

He's feeling the suffering...

"If you try to pass, I'll KNOCK YOU OVER!"

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