17 November, 2013

Butterflies and Cyclocross

L-R: Maricel, Me, Lauren, Tim, Conner, Maura, Kevin, Mason, and Kenny post-race!
There're still times when I get butterflies in my stomach:  hanging out with Karen and the start(s) of races.  More about the latter...

Staging's a fairly important deadline for the race participants hence, at least an hour before, we all are getting our numbers, pinning said numbers (hopefully you haven't got stuck by a safety pin, or in my case, two races ago, I was wearing a base layer with my long sleeved skinsuit and a teammate's wife pinned me in such a way that my base layer was attached to my skinsuit.  Didn't think that through well enough because I had to go boom-boom right before my race...), checking for the green flag so we can warm up on the course, meeting other teammate's wife's/girlfriends so if I bring my kids and they have theirs they can become a flock, going boom boom because of all the nervous energy, drinking for the last time because we are cageless in CX, and finally staging.

Another CX race?  Not today.  Today's kinda special.
Kevin staying loose on the course.
Today a friend and teammate was doing his first CX event ever, and I offered beforehand whatever race you pick, I'll line up with you; and, I did so poorly at this event two years ago I needed some karmic redemption.  He picked the Cyclo-X event at the Louisville Rec Center and that's where the convergence of other teammates, Kevin's family, and I met up.

It's quite a production getting my posse ready for an event but thankfully since they're all older and wiser it gets easier.  They still argue and that gets my blood roiling but they eventually settle down because Dad has the mental wherewithal to pack Pringles and Gatorades in a cooler so their tapeworm's settled which makes for happier kids.

Four days before the event, at Kevin's, we practiced dismounting and hurdling/portaging (our bikes) over Home Depot buckets to simulate the barricades.  Taught him the 4 contact point, scooter body position (as taught to me by another teammate-Kenny) to assume before you leap and hold your bike over the barricade.  Even though there are more curvy off-cambered singletrack on the course than there are barricades it's still good to be prepared.  I used to ride the brakes a lot on the curves but now I can flow (relatively speaking).  For example, I can lay it down on the straightaways (barely measurable with modern technology) but my competitors usually closed down the gap on the flowy sections because I couldn't be nuanced with my body english to pedal through the curves and keep my momentum flowing.

Kevin and I notice the green flag waving fiercely because the winds at this point are blowing!  Yea!  On top of being a difficult course we have the added value of a stiff and rather cold wind.  We insert ourselves on a part of the course where it's super snakey and downhill and rutted.  You know, terrain that makes your spinal cord and arms say, "Thank you sir, may I have another?"  Off we go to warmup!  We notice the parts where we have to drop it in the granny for the three super stiff climbs,  we also notice the section of the course where the headwind's howling, where the mud boggy sections are (just one today which would cause my Time's some difficulty in pedal re-entry), where the sand pit is, and the flats.  So what do after noticing all of these sections of the course?  Easy.  Go faster....  What I don't like is how heavy we're breathing from our "warmup" lap.  Kenny shows up and the Red Flag's out so we warm up on the road.  Of course, when we left Denver the weather was nice and now it's dropped in the fifties and wind is rip roaring.  Eventually we noodle our way to the staging area and we warm up in circles and then the call ups begin...

The lanes here are 14 wide for the callups.  Kenny gets his,  Tim, then me.  I line up a row behind Kenny.  This is like the mental purgatory part.  All 57 of us are lined up like ducks in a row champing at the bit to bleed out of our eyeballs to crush each other-or to have fun.  Okay that was a wee bit of a hyperbole but you do this because there is a competitive side of your personality/alter-ego.  There's always small talk about how you did on your last race, how freaking cold it is currently with this nasty wind (everybody's exposed skin is chicken skinning-y'all call it goose bumps), and where the parts of the course you should pay particular attention to.  The announcer says, "13 seconds!"  I say, Self?  That's a rather odd number to begin the countdown-izzle?  Then it's so quiet you can hear a pin drop, the butterflies in your stomach are rebounding off your insides with higher pressure, and you can hear the wind rush past your ears.  For 13 seconds your mind is either calm or it's like the guy on the movie "Waterboy."  That part of the movie, Adam Sandler's kicker's deciding in what direction to kick and on-side kick based on body expression of the opposing team's player and you're the guy, they're kicking to.

Dead silence...the whistle blows...then BLAM!  Kenny explodes from the start and is like third!  Tim as if they choreographed it, lines up like 10th?  Me?  I line up like 20th-not bad!  Brother Kevin (2/3rds of the homey trinity's racing today!) is somewhere behind me.

Controlled sliding baby!
There is a near 90°, left hand turn onto a barricaded run-up that begins the selection.  I say to myself, as I'm running up, "Self?  You're doing ite!" because nobody else is passing me and I pass a couple of people.  Next section super hard, right hand switchback into the rutty, near muddy section.  You look ahead and see where the packed down section is.  Which is fine if it's a single pace line but we have 57 people fighting for the lead and we're hitting the next selection 6 people wide, screaming with our hair on fire, dug in like ticks, with the singular goal of making that holeshot come hell or high water (whatever that means)!  We're all aiming for the packed down area in the mud that's only passable for one person!  Here's where people hit the brakes or dismount or fly off course.  The loudmouths yell something stoopid here and I make it a point to pass these people.  The flats are here and everybody in front of me buries it!  I'm on the drops keeping my position and we hit the flowy section.  I pass a couple of people from late braking and cutting off their apex but in a non dickheaded, safe (for racing) sort-of-way.  Next up, another barricaded runup.
Barricades plus runup= pain.
I get passed here.  Next a flowy, whoop de doo section with full-on head wind.  Keep my position here too.  Next a sooper gravelly section where you can mash the big ring.  I mash the big ring but it's like turning on wet rail road tracks and my front tire nearly washes so I get passed again.  On the last lap, the guy I had my sights on crashed on the downhill, off-cambered g'd out section, so thanks mister!  Also, thanks to Airborne for making my second year of cross racing mo' bettah on a quality rig-the Delta (affectionately and anthropomorphized as my trusty steed Delilah).

Cut to the end, I finished 27th.  Kenny unfortunately flats but would've finished his usual top five.  Tim?  That savvy, twin-turbo diesel finishes 3rd-a podium for Natural Grocers.  Kevin?  He finishes third from last, no mechanicals or flats, with a smile on his face as his family watches their Daddy in their first CX event.  Cool!
Tim, representing NG right (far left)!

I remember:  Samer, my kids, Nicole (Kev's lovely wife) and her kids yelling as we flew by lap after lap; being in too big a gear on one of the grunt climbs and having to dismount like a novice; passing a guy on a fast downhill, off-cambered section because he had a spectacular crash in front of me that didn't take me out!; finishing and finding my teammates and it turns into cough-fest; and, why is my heart still in my throat?  Improvements from last time?  My start.  Passing on the flats.  Riding the sand pit (first lap a dude biffed it forcing me to dismount).  Flowing.

Butterflies man!  Makes you do crazy things...

No comments: