Sunday, September 16, 2012

Monson/Blunt Park Weekend

I have a love/hate relationship with August cyclocross. I love the "jungle" courses that the Cyclonaut Racer crew put together for these things, but I really have a hard time coping with the heat. They are a nice way to test out my fitness, or lack thereof, before the "real" season begins.

I hadn't preregistered for Monson, planning on skipping it, but my cross addiction got the better of me. I found myself throwing gear in my car last minute, and driving 2 hours to get there. I thought I wasn't going to make it time, after sitting in traffic near Worcester for 45 minutes, but I arrived in just enough time to get a day of number and get pinned. It was reminiscent of my early Cat.4 days, where I show up late, and don't warm up, or inspect the course. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting to do well, and lined up near the back for my race. I saw a lot of familiar faces in the start grid, and joked with a few of them before we got the whistle.

The start had us going down the pavement into a sweeping right turn, before launching into a loose dirt off camber climb. The first group of guys made it through clean, but by the time I hit the dirt, the whole hillside had turned into a mini-reenactment of the Great Dust Bowl. With visibility reduced to a few feet, most of us were forced to run that section. We were pin balling off of each other like little coke addled versions of Pig Pen. I made up a few places on the run up, but was just hanging on for dear life for most of the course. I really enjoyed the chute into the rocky single track, almost forgetting that I wasn't on my MTB. I managed to lose a bunch of spots when I went down in the wood chips, as the course circled the jungle gym. I then killed myself trying to get them back.

More dust, pain, and heat ensued for the next several laps. With 2 to go, I bottomed out my front tire through the rocky single track area. I wasn't sure that I had flatted, because it didn't deflate immediately. It did start to feel squishy, as I approached the barriers, but I figured that I could make it to the pit. I figured wrong, and rolled my front tire, as I dive bombed the 180 after the quad barriers. I made an attempt to find a route to the center of the Earth, using my left shifter as a drill. After picking myself out of the small crater I had created during my crash, I shouldered my bike and "ran" to the pit. I grabbed a neutral wheel, and set out on my last lap while I hammered my shifter back into place. I was hoping that I wouldn't get lapped, but I really hate taking DNF's. In the end, I did get lapped, but at least I wasn't DFL. Finished up 29/35.

Buckle shovel.

After a poor showing the day before at Monson, I was eager to try redeeming myself. It was also a great chance to race with a bunch of my fellow Hup Cat. 3's. I drove out with David, and we met up with Chip, MVL, and Park. I also saw my single speeding buddy, Matt Lolli, who was sporting an amazing all white Twin Six Metal kit.

With the heat of Monson still fresh in my mind, I dumped water on myself, before heading to the line. With no staging, I again lined up near the back, but I had my friends all around me. With the whistle, we barreled down the pavement straightaway. Seconds later, my ears bled at the squeal of angry canti brakes, when everyone hit the gravel 180. David, Chip, and I all took the outside line, avoiding the scrum. After several sweeping turns, I found myself bouncing over large roots as I gunned it through the woods. There was another big mess, as the group I was with reached the very ride-able log barrier, and several guys dismounted. This caused some chaos, and I found myself doing more than just rubbing shoulders. I knocked the chain off one poor fellows bike, when I got shoved from behind, and stepped right on it.

Dave, Hup's linebacker.
The loose, very fine dirt of the turns right after the log, made for a tricky surface. Several guys crashed in this area, creating nice little mushroom clouds of dust. Right before hitting the stone barriers, I got heckled by several of the Hup women. It was well deserved, since I was riding like a non ambi-turner. This helped me to get my head back in the game, and move up a little by riding smarter. The course was very tight, making the passing difficult. I took advantage of the finish straight to sprint past guys, before we hit the woods again. This worked pretty well, and I had climbed into the low 20's, when I tried to lay down the power too soon, and took a header in the tricky soft dirt section. This also knocked my chain off (karma can be a bitch), which got jammed. It only 20 seconds to work it loose, but I was passed by just as many riders in that span. I set to work trying to chase them down, but was only able to pull back a dozen in the next few laps. Finished up 34/56, which felt better than Monson, but still not what I had hoped for.

After our race, Dave and I wanted to bury our woes in peach/blueberry cobbler, but we had forgotten to bring the utensils. Being classy fellows, we made some out of gatorade bottles, before heading back to watch the women's open race. We watched Hupsters Ana, Carrie, and Brenda all have great races. Ana really killed it, and took 2nd overall.
It puts the cobbler in its face. Photo by: David

Post race observations:

The Good:
-Had good power out the corners.
-Minimal crashing, and no serious injuries.
-Got to see a lot of my NECX friends.

The Bad:
-Flatted on day 1.
-Had a stupid chain drop, which was preventable.
-I now have to burn off all the cobbler.
-All my friends got faster in the off season.

Overall, a pretty rough start to the season, but it felt good to get some races in. I now know that I need to work on to make this an even better season than the last one.