Blunt Park - August 21, 2011

Flying in the face of the "don't race cross in August crowd", I headed to Springfield today to do the Cat 4's at Blunt Park.

 @bicykel: Gross, don't get any diapers stuck in your wheel during the race.

Despite a very late night out, I got there nice and early (and dodged the godawful mess from some major festival or other they had there last night) to get some pre-ride laps in. I should actually count them as "training laps" considering I only put in 2.5 hours on the bike last week. Even so, I now wonder if 4 laps, even at an easy pace, was too many.

Got a nice front row position at the start and the marshall did the usual countdown announcements of "10 minutes to go", "5 minutes to go" then finally when he said "about a minute to go" - he IMMEDIATELY followed that with "GO" and totally caught me snoozing.

Despite that flub, I made it through the acorn covered hole-shot in about 10th place or so. The course was in good shape as far as I could tell: a couple of rooty spots, a couple of deep potholes on the single track, but overall I thought it was a good course though with not very much up and down.

The first half of each lap featured a number of logs across the course. After the first lap, I followed the example of those in front of me and merely rode over them instead of dismounting/remounting (thankful for all that MTB action this summer!). The last log was just a bit higher than the rest and situated right after a turn in the midst of a lot of loose pine needles, so that one I did carry the bike over.

Special pat on my own back for noticing during the pre-ride that the ground immediately after was very bumpy and would have made a quick remount dicey, so I went an extra bike length before getting back on: very helpful.

Next was one of the long straights followed by a buncha turns, short straight, more turns then the barriers, there were FOUR, which were set at exactly the right distance apart for me to take TWO steps in between. This meant I pretty much felt like, and probably looked like, I was galloping through them.

The barriers were followed by the "climby" portion of the course which was really not very, but there were turns, loose dirt and roots that made you pay attention then finally back onto the start/finish straight.

The race itself pretty much settled out to me and about 4-5 others dicing back and forth for the duration. This group shrank to 3 and re-combined to 5 again later in the race. I passed a coupla guys and 2-3 passed me. I remember Dylan McKeon, a young (18?), tall Cyclonauts guy who was able to get ahead of me on the straights but every time the turns came along, he'd falter, slow or, once, fall and I'd go by him. I really felt like I was handling the bike very well today.

At some point, I realized that I forgot to turn on my 'puter and gave myself a little kick for squandering a good data collection opportunity. Once you get the stats bug, it hurts to have holes in your data. I started it up and figured I could get a decent estimate of mileage, laptime and distance later.

Another guy who was ahead of me for at least 2-3 laps went down pretty hard on a 180 right hander that had some exposed roots on the inside line - he must have slid his front wheel on them and boom, down he went. I dodged him and got a good 10 yards ahead of him and yet another guy passed him too. It took him a full lap but, kudos to him, he battled back and got ahead of our whole group.

Last lap, I had 3 of our group ahead plus one additional guy who was further ahead earlier but fading. I waited until the last series of turns to pour it on, thinking I could get ahead of at least a couple of them but it was too late: I should have made that move at least a 1/2 lap before the end. Lesson learned.

Finished 12th, 4 places ahead of the race predictor, happy with the result.

I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear both Doug and Coley cheering me on at separate sections of the course, looking forward to reading their reports.


Norwell Circuit Race - Cat 5 - July 31, 2011

Woah, two months since my last post. Hehe, oops! Synopsis: been riding A LOT, training has been much more structured than ever, mixed in some really fun MTB rides including a 3 hour "epic (pics to follow in another post), got majorly shelled by the CRW Thursday fast group and started doing some CX training. Phew. On to yesterday's race...


For some reason, I listened to my wife who thought leaving at 11 for a 1:45 race was crazy. I regretted waiting until nearly noon to leave when I found myself sitting at a dead stop in Rte 3 South traffic at 12:45 with 8 miles to go. Arrived at Norwell Town Hall at 1:00 got my numbers and geared up. Was on my bike at about 25 past and rode up and down Bowker Street a few times as it has a hill similar to the one the leads to the start/finish on the course.

Made my way back to Town Hall and found shelter from the 90ยบ+ heat in the shade of a tree with some other Cat 5's waiting to race. I was looking around for the guys the road-results race predictor might be in the top 5 but didn't I.D. any of them. Soon enough we were staging up and rolling along behind the pace car.

As we poked along down Forest Street, I re-ran my game plan in my head. This plan mostly consisted of avoiding the mistakes I made last year: being on the front too much, being out in the wind too much, burning all my matches before the finish... And of course, there I was, out in front. Again.

Ready to roll.


8 TO GO: As soon as we made the first turn onto Circuit Street and headed up the hill, one guy immediately stomped on it and when the two of us got to the top, he asked, "Wanna go?"

"I got yer wheel," I replied, figuring if he was the real deal and too much for me, I could fade back easily enough an recover for the next 7 laps. But just as I was going for his wheel another guy got on it first so there were 3 of us on a break on the first lap. But it didn't last. Just as guy #1 called out to us to keep our pulls very short, the pack gathered us back up again. I'd say we were out there maybe 1/3 of a lap.

7 TO GO: My plan on the start/finish hill was to stay light in the pedals, keep my cadence on the high side as I climbed to the top to save energy for the end. Others who could at first seemed stronger passed me but I was passing them over the top as they were gassed and soft pedaling. I made my way towards the front again on the descending portions of the back "straight" on Circuit.

6 & 5 TO GO: only thing to report here is one guy who kept calling out, "Coming up the middle!" and "Hey, hold your line" all the while scaring the crap out of me because he wiggled around so much. It's one thing to have the occasional bump with another rider in the pack but this guy seemed to use the guys around him as a physical navigation aid. And why ALWAYS come up the middle?

Meanwhile, I was maintaining a position on the inside that seemed to work well compared to when I am on the outside: on the outside, it is so much easier to get squeezed further out and be in the wind and lose position. If this happens on the inside, you can grab a new wheel as everyone squeezes inside to carve the turn. Risky as you can get run right off the road, but it was working for me. Except for that telephone pole planted on the right edge of the pavement where the road narrows to one lane - there's a slight dogleg right there and every time I went by, I said a little prayer that nobody would bump me over into it.

The 5 TO GO lap was our fastest at over 24 mph, but it didn't seem so fast to me. I seem to remember the whole race was faster last year. There was another abortive break of 4 that petered out on the slight incline on Forest.

4 & 3 TO GO: At the top of the start/finish going into 4 TO GO, there was a good separation between the first 10 or so and the rest, I was at the back of that group and swung to the outside as this big dude came by. I need the rest I would find in his draft. He was a bit wobbly but good shelter for the next half a lap compared to the skinny guy I was just behind. I stayed in the top 10, looking for stable wheels to follow and stayed alert if they started to fade and new blood came to the front.

The two mini-packs melded back together soon after that.

2 TO GO: The start/finish climb was definitely harder this time but it seemed to be for everyone around me too, a lot of huffing and puffing. I was able to hold position at about 10th wheel. As we rounded onto Forest for this second-to-last time, the pace slowed WAY down, a harbinger of things to come... And we were beginning to lap some stragglers too.

BELL LAP: The pack EXPLODED up the start/finish hill this time, leaving me behind as I was climbing the same pace I had on the earlier laps. Over the top, the main field must have had 30-40 yards on me. CRAP! I hoped if I didn't panic, I could reel them back in on the backside of the course where it is mostly downhill.

Just when I needed him, the same big guy from mid-race comes around me and had enough energy in him to give me (with a the help of a few burnt matches) a decent slingshot. Soon I was on the back of the pack and weaving my way to the front again.

This last time down Forest is where I squandered a number of places: I was probably about 15-17th wheel and still picking my way through a bunch of guys who had hit their limit. I should have been on the outside (no yellow line rule on this part of the course) and really drilling it. Once I could see the turn to the start/finish up ahead, people were already on it and going up. Damn.

I made the turn in the drops, got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had as I went up just right of the middle of the road. I could see the leaders up ahead and felt like I could at least reel in a few of those trailing behind. I passed three who were fading fast then noticed somebody all the way on the left who was powered up and just ahead of me. This was my little "race within the race", right there in the last 30 yards.

We both hit the line, throwing our bikes forward - he might have nipped me but I definitely let out the better "Howard Dean scream" as we crossed.

I finished in 12th 13th place, one spot higher than the Road-Results predictor had me. 10 places higher than I finished in this race last year.