Blind Date at the Dairy #4
This is a weekly series at Alpenrose Dairy. The last two weeks (which I wasn't able to race) were sloppy mudfests, but it's been bone dry for the past few days so the course was like a plaster cast of a cross race -- deep, stiff ruts everywhere. My race started 15 minutes after sunset and there was a thick cloud cover so we had some serious darkness. The ruts and the darkness combined for some interesting moments where you'd be cruising along at a good clip and then suddenly the bike would jump an inch or two to the left. There were also a couple of turns where you had to aim for a wide groove to make it cleanly, but otherwise it was a pretty fast course.
Two laps in I found myself on the wheel of a man who I had written off as a false nemesis earlier in the year because he's actually a lot faster than me. It seems that his weakness is an inability to see in the dark. I spent about a lap and a half trying to hold his wheel. He'd pull away from me in the two long straight sections, but then I'd catch back up to him in the turns. It turns out that it's quite difficult to pass someone when the only place you're faster is tight turns. Nevertheless, I finally pushed myself to my limit to stay with him on a straight section and managed to dive past him on the first turn of a long twisty section. I was worried that he had snuck past me on the last lap when I got lapped by a couple of his teammates, but he ended up finishing a minute and a half behind me -- my third win against him in 10 attempts.
Meanwhile, the 68-year old gentleman who, embarrassingly, has been the only person I've been able to beat consistently managed to ride away from me while I was engaged in the battle above. He had passed me on the first lap, but I got back in front of him only to be overtaken again a lap later. He was not in sight by the time I started the bell lap, but to my surprise I saw him about 100 yards ahead of me as I entered the last straightaway. With no sense of respect for my elders, I threw it into the hardest gear I could push, caught up and passed him in the first turn of the windy finish. I ended up beating him by a scant three seconds.
I finished 71 of 75 overall with 3 DNF's.
Relaxing at home after my second ever CX race. I was SO nervous this time; I guess because I knew what I was getting into. Plus I was convinced my fitness was all shot to hell, since it'd been 2 weeks since my first race, and most of that time was spent at a conference for work (no bike, bad food, lots of booze).
The course was long (2.5 miles) and fast (lots of straightaways) so I knew I had no chance of placing well. So I just decided to focus on riding my own race and having fun. It worked! I had SUCH a blast and still managed to finish better than last time (38/41). Lesson learned: Don't try to keep up with everyone else. Heh. There was a "six-pack" of barriers that was pretty challenging -- at 5'1" with short legs, barriers are hard for me and running between them isn't exactly graceful either.
Me powering up "heckle hill"
Halloween next week! I'm going to wear a bumblebee costume.
@ misskaz- I was there also!
This was my first EVER racing event. I had no idea what I was getting into. I felt good the first mile then the pack started to get away from me. I didn't give up because I wanted to finish my first event. Three laps later, it came to an end. I did it. 90th out of 93 not including six DNF's in the 4b's. I'm happy with that. I even made $6 and change on Heckle Hill. Lots of fun for sure. I didn't hear too many jeers although some were funny.
"That bike looks WAAAAAYYYYY too clean".
"What are doing?...There is a bunch of fifth graders up there..Go get em". Actually that was true, they were up there.
My favorite when I passed on rider on a hill-
"Don't let him get by you, he has mutton chops!!!" I was the one with the chops.
Learned lots and looking forward to doing it again. It was cool to see Barry Wicks take the Cat 1/2/3 class.
Last edited by midschool22; 10-24-11 at 01:22 AM.
CX at Central Park of Morris County (CXCP)
It was my second race Saturday in the Men's 40+ Cat4 only race. I rode a brand new (less than 24 hour old) Van Dessel Gin & Trombones. Other than not being used to the shifting and having a few issues with the FD, it rode great. I didn't do any better than my previous race though. Looking back at the results, it seems to be a stronger field than at my first race, the Hillbilly Hustle v.6. My wife and daughter who raucously cheered me on for my first race couldn't be there, but friends who were riding other races made up for them.
I did great winning 2nd for the hole shot, and running in the top ten for the first lap, but couldn't hold it together for all four laps. Lap three blew me out, and I felt that I was getting passed by everyone. I also felt sloppy riding on lap three which didn't help at all. I went down once either in the 2nd or 3rd lap, but soldiered on and rode stronger on the last lap without getting passed. I ended up finishing 15 of 26 finishers.
The conditions were good with little mud, and everything navigable. Unlike the Hustle and it's RD munching mud/grass combo, the biggest mechanicals that I saw were a broken chain, and very few flats.
There were a wide variety of obstacles and many off-camber turns and challenging areas. The worst area was a downhill wet grassy area just after a series of uphill turns. Other than being demoralizing after having your legs burning from the uphill, it was like riding through molasses. You had as hard a time riding downhill as you did going uphill just previous!
The best area was the "wheel of death", a double spiral where you spiraled in for two turns, turned 180 and spiraled out. It was a lot of fun to ride, but just as much fun to watch the CAT 4 men's race with the 70+ member field going through it.
I saw and cheered on Holden McNeil in the cat4 men's field. I'll let him tell his experiences, but he did well for his first race. This race is only getting more stoked for next time at the HPCX.
Wooly Bear Cross Race - Woolastook Park, New Brunswick, Canada
4th race of the season. My first race in the upgraded category (won previous 3 races in the "Rookie" category). Course was long - about 8 minutes per lap. It was a great combo of long stretches on gravel, complex tight sections in wet grass, some technical single track, and finally - deep deep sand pits. They were near impossible during the first few laps until a groove started to form. By the end, you could almost ride hands free as the bike tracked in the grooves.
Anyways - crappy start - couldn't clip in and got crowded to the edge of the course, loosing a few spots. Got my rhythm and battled it out with 2 other guys in my class. I would pass them on the dismounted climbs - but I'd always mess up the sand pits and they'd pass me again. I finally got the hang of the sand (lots of tripod action) and pulled away from the other 2 guys. The sand also wreaked havoc on my brakes. They would clean themselves off after a few activations, but there was a high speed turn just after the pit that made things interesting.
I ended up 3rd in B Cat and 15th overall out of 43 riders. I was very happy to podium in the more advanced category - Round 5 is next weekend.
That's me dismounting with the red helmet and white/black Felt.
The dreaded sandpit
I raced Het Meer CX at Vancouver Lake Park this weekend. This course, I'm pretty sure, was specifically designed to crush me. Why they would single me out I don't know, but they did. The first half of the course was fast and flat with just two easy turns in about a mile. On the first lap I was able to stick with the pack through most of this section, but sustained speed just isn't my thing. I'm a natural sprinter...very dangerous over short distances. Once they were sure I was maxxed out aerobically, they wound the court around a sawdust-filled playground and then went into a half mile or so of S-turns through the park's trees, exposing my poor bike handling. Finally, when I had been good and dropped they had us (I use the plural loosely) go through 50-feet of deep sand down to the shore of the lake, across 200 yards of firm, wet sand, then back 50 feet of the loose stuff to the grassy area, which made its way back to the start.
This picture pretty well summarizes my day:
SICX #3___ Kuna, Idaho____ 45+ 90+% grass, one BMX section with Whoop-de-doos-banked 180s, and one short mud hole.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Front row start, not feeling strong so I let 6-8 get by in the first 1/8 lap. Then...........
The Good: at the first off-camber, two go down and I sqweak thru the wreck. This continues for the first lap. I got by 2-3 more wipe-outs in front of me that clogged up those behind. By lap 3 or 4, the rabbits were coming back to me, and I passed three on one short hill, and a couple more in the BMX whoop-de-doo section. I switched to the foot behind method for this race and nailed(cleared) the barriers every time, without losing any speed from the step-thru I've used since I started cross. (still not real fast)
The Bad: after passing the three guys a half lap earlier, I dropped my chain. I had cleared the barriers, hopped on the bike, and realized I'd forgot to downshift before the dismount. Thinking I was clipped-in, I stood on the pedals to get my leg speed up and slipped. The crank went backwards, and the chain popped off. The three I'd passed, plus one or two more went sailing by.
The Ugly: on the last lap, i was still trying to catch the guys who had passed me and was going too fast for my abilites, and the course. I went wide on an off-camber 180% and snagged a course marker. Next thing I knew, I was ass over tea kettle, up and over the bars.... one more gets by. No harm, no foul, just tweaked both shifters 15-20% inboard. Got back on, chased the passer down at the barriers, was even, or slightly ahead coming out, missed the clip-in, and he nicked me at the line..... only it wasn't the finish line, we still had 200 meters to go and I'd already sat up. Yes, I am an idiot.
5/9 45+, maybe top 3rd for the flight(45+ & cat4s) The better I get at this, the more I suck. (obligatory self loathing) Still can't wait for the next race.
p.s. Can ya tell I like to use a coma or two?
Last edited by nacler22; 10-26-11 at 10:46 PM. Reason: spelling
The last race of the Blind Date at the Dairy series was last night. The field sizes for the earlier races were considerably smaller, probably due to the increased darkness. It was completely dark before the start of my race, and we had about 20 fewer people than usual.
I switched tires for this race, hoping my wider Racing Ralphs would handle the dry, rutted terrain better than my Michelin Mud2's. The feel was very different and I kind of got spooked by it on the first stretch of gravel road. I was overly cautious at the first tight turn and went off the back. Several other riders were also off the back, even further behind than me, including my nemesis from last week. By end of the first lap, I found myself in the strange position of being completely alone on the course, with no one in sight in front of me or behind me. I started to get more comfortable with the darkness, but I was too far back by that point to catch anyone. I continued my solo ride for the next two laps.
On the final lap, the main pack caught up to me and so in addition to the utter darkness I got to experience the bad lines of the course as I yielded space to the faster riders. On one particularly rutted fast descent, a couple of guys locked in a good battle were going by me about four feet to my left when I hit a rut just the wrong way and suddenly found myself going sideways. I ended up slamming into the guy in back, and we both ended up heading straight for one of the freestanding lights. Amazingly, neither of us went down as we swerved around the light. After the race, I found him and apologized. He was very cool about it.
I ended up finishing 55 of 55, with six DNF's. Normally, I don't consider the DNF's as sparing me from the ignomy of DFL, but in this case I'm making an exception because I think the people who were behind me on the first lap probably decided to drop out because of poor visibility. I'm also considering myself to have finished above the 20 or so people who didn't race because of darkness, making this a pretty good finish for me.
HPCX: Snow to Mud in Sixty Seconds
This weekend's Snowstorm in NJ really turned Sunday's HPCX from what it billed as a fast rolling course into a slow, slippery, slogging mudfest. Part of the MAC series, it's not one of the usual NJBA series of races that I've been riding. The class that I've been riding in doesn't exist, so I went for the regular Men's Cat 4 race. Seventy-eight men started the race with me about mid pack. This was going to be a "fun" race for me to experiment with some new techniques I'd worked on during training.
Arriving at the race about 7am the course looked like a sheet of ice. It was actually ice encrusted snow. Getting onto the track, my tires made only the third tracks on the course. Corners were tricky, and even the smallest of uphills all became immediate run-ups because of lack of traction and resistance from the snow and crumbling ice. It was so slow, that most on the starting line felt that we would only be able to do 2 laps in the 40 minute time limit. We ended up riding all four laps, through thick icy mud and snow.
It was the best racing that I've had to date. The smaller class that I've been riding in is like a dirt time trial after the first lap unless your abilities are similar to another guy. This was truly racing and battling it out time and again. All in all a much more interesting race to ride.
By the third lap, the course was pure mud and it took all my skills to stay upright and keep moving. The hosts decided to leave off barriers thinking that there was enough probability to get off and run so I was quite happy about that. I did better in my third lap than I've done in the past, keeping several riders at bay and passing others. I didn't feel like I was constantly losing ground.
At one point I hit a root hard and thought I had pinch flatted, but just kept going since it wasn't totally flat. As my tire's pressure dropped, handling improved. Muddy hairpin turns became easier and tighter. It never went completely flat and it might have been a valve that I failed to tighten completely and was rattling around letting air escape.
Hitting the last transition onto asphalt, I pushed up the steep hill as hard as I could. Once the grade started to drop for the final straightaway, I heard my wife yell at me to sprint. I saw a competitor's wheel moving even with my body but I mustered all my strength and finished a wheel's diameter in front of him. Exhausted, I finished in the top 50% as 39th out of 79 starters. For a "fun" race, it was my best race yet! Maybe I need to change the race I usually ride in.
As the races continued, the course turned into a soupy, muddy mess where you couldn't tell one bike from another. Every bike was mud brown and the entire course a quagmire. One unlucky man looked like he face planted, covered solidly head to toe in mud. A small run-up became an epic battle every lap with ankle deep mud to fight. Small uphill grades were slow slogs and the only fast area was a level part of the parking lot, and the final uphill road section. All in all a good race day!
Apple Core Cross
After last weekend's David Douglas CX with its monster run-up that was so painful I couldn't even bring myself to write a report, I was very happy to have a completely flat course this week. Also, making an uncharacteristically late appearance on the Oregon CX schedule, we had significant mud. Without the mud, this race would definitely have been a full on grass crit, but add a little rain into the mix and the true potential of this course shined through with no less than four distinct varieties of mud. A scheduling conflict gave us two races on the same day in NW Oregon, and it seems most people chose the other race which was slightly closer to Portland. That resulted in just 14 racers in the Master C field, which routinely tops 200 in Cross Crusade races and has been averaging around 45 for the Grand Prix Molly Cameron series. So, as a bonus, I knew at the starting line that all I had to do was finish to get some points in the series (which scores 18 deep).
As it happens the ability to keep my bike upright in mud is one of my biggest strengths, so I liked this course a lot. Unfortunately, it also had a lot of long straight sections on freshly cut grass and hard-packed gravel, which exposed my immense lack of fitness. I'm always in danger of falling off the back right from the start with a small group like this, especially on a fast course, but I made a serious effort to avoid that. One other guy did get dropped before the first barrier, but I managed to hang on. When we hit the three sloppy section going up and down three rows of the orchard, I managed to make my way past another rider who was struggling to handle the mud. I stayed ahead of him and finished the first lap in 12th place.
Then my lack of fitness kicked in. A flat course like this doesn't really give you much room to recover, and I just couldn't sustain the pace. It turns out the guy I had passed on that lap was the same guy who had won the very first CX race I did back in 2008 and finished second in the second race I did that same year. If I had known that at the time I would have kept pushing deeper into the red, but I doubt I could have pulled it off anyway. As it was, I had to settle for 13th place. On the plus side, I avoided getting lapped for the first time all year, and I'm pretty sure I enjoyed the course for longer than anybody else in a 45 minute race for the day.
As a bonus, Mt. Angel Sausage Company had a food cart at the race. The Fricadelwurst I got may possibly be the best sausage I've ever eaten. The host, EZ Orchards, farm market also had some amazingly scrumptious pumpkin donuts.
SICX Race #4 11-5-11 45+ (with the Cat4s) Been waiting on results.
All grass coarse with no barriers or run-ups. This was the first race of my season were I didn't have an unplanned dismount or a chain drop. I had a decent start and felt O.K. the whole race. All my passes were on the straights as my cornering sucked the whole race. Had a pretty good battle with one cat. 4, we passed each other 3 or 4 times the first half. After I passed him the last time, I was able to keep him 5-15 seconds back the rest of the race. (Fun racing with you Seth) Right before the finish, I saw the guy who has won the first three races just ahead of me. No, I hadn't chased him down during the race, turns out he got his chain wrapped around his crank. Damn, for a minute I thought that I was starting to get this stupid sport.
3/8 45+ and 7/33 for the flight. Progress is being made..............slowly.
CX @ Hidden Valley
NJBA Race #3 11/6/11
This was a challenging course with a lot of technical sections that turned pretty muddy throughout the day. Where there wasn't mud, or the sand pit was grass, so it really clogged seat & chain stays pretty well. This was my best race to date with a 15th of 34 riders finish in the Men's 40+ Cat4 only race. I hit a goal of mine to finish in the top 50%. It was a beautiful day to do it on too with some good racing action. I ended up finishing last of the small group I was riding with, but held them off for most of the race. The last lap I hit the sand pit front-heavy and bogged down losing time and expending too much energy. I was passed by both riders soon after.
My technique and fitness keep improving, but I need to work on not using the brakes as well as sand. I didn't have a "bonk" lap like I did in the first couple of races of the season, so I was pretty steady throughout. Overall, I felt good with the finish.
For the most part, the riding was "clean" with few interesting crashes, but I did have the pleasure of following a guy who tried to bunnyhop a fallen tree only to flip over the bars and almost landed in the lake right next to the course. My daughter said that she had to help a rider who went over his bars and face-planted in a huge mud hole. Evidently his bike stayed upright (rear wheel in the air) and the rider stayed clipped in, face down in the mud. My daughter had to free the rider's feet from his pedals who then crumpled to the ground, but was otherwise unhurt. I was bummed that she didn't get any pictures. She said that she felt too bad for him to take any.
Turkey Cross #1 (3 of 5 in series) 45+(and cat4) and the 184.108.40.206.women(started 30" back)
Great coarse with a pretty good run-up and a another one that could be ridden. There seemed to be no place to recover, and I was in or over the red all race. Terrible start, the guy in front of me missed the clip-in and almost stopped, so, I had to put a foot down. Feeling his pain, I farked around forever getting my cleat in, and got swamped. The first lap was in the grass with lots of turns and by the time I'd passed enough to race with some speed(I use that word loosely as it relates to me), the leaders were out of sight. There was only 4 guys in my cat(45+) and I was able to get by the 45+ leader about half way thru and busted my gut staying away. I still need to work on my tight turns, but am starting to keep a little momentum and actually pedaled all the way thru a couple corners. Might have snow/rain/mud tomorrow and my last experience with mud and this coarse was not good. Think I'll bring the grippy tires this time. : )
!/4 and 7 or 8/53
Pumpkin Cross - Fredericton, NB, Canada.
Fast and muddy. Long straights clean straight sections, deep mud in others, plus the fabled "Spiral of Doom". Also, sections of forest single track with slippery roots sticking out of the ground. I was running Vittoria CX clinchers - 42 psi rear, 38 psi front. Amazing grip - I was flying thru corners trying to fold the tires - they were working great. Front mech was gummed up but I never used it.
Finished 1st in B Cat, 8th overall.
The muddy aftermath
I just got back from the Westwood Velo CX. To describe the course as diabolical is to understate how hard it was. It seemed that there were more running sections than riding sections and the great majority of them were over ankle deep in peanut butter type mud. It took so much out of me that at times it was more of a fast walk than a run. I would lose time in these sections to one of my nemeses, but would make up time in the technical sections that he seemed to be not as good at. We traded position several times, and he finally passed me for good on the last third of the last lap. I stayed on his wheel though and decided to try for a sprint at the end. It was fruitless though as I hit and hooked a stantion almost crashing. I caught him, but couldn't quite beat him out. We finished in a photo-finish, but I ended up losing out.
I ran a "clean" race and did pretty well with my technique, just need to work on fitness now. I ended up 15th again (not sure of how many) in the Men's 40+ Cat4 race. It's the second time in a row finishing at this position and third finish at this position for the season. The first race of the series, I finished 13th. If nothing else, I'm consistent!
Cross Crusade #8, Portland International Raceway, Pro Paddock course
I've been racing the smaller Grand Prix Molly Cameron series this year, but since there was no local Saturday race I jumped back into the big show for the first time since Alpenrose. I was a nice change of pace, since the Cross Crusade has a lot more racers at my (low) level. BF member aggiegrads saw me warming up before the race and introduced himself, then also said hello as he went by me early in the first lap.
The course was extremely flat, with just a few terrain ripples, but the course designers maximized their opportunities and made it an outstanding course. The main feature was mud. The mud was about evenly divided between thick, sticky peanut butter and thin slick greasy mud with a few puddles and a pocket or two of goose poop thrown in for good measure. There was enough grass, pavement and gravel between mud sections that a decent mud tire would clear itself a couple of time every map, but it seemed that each section of peanut butter was followed immediately by a nice greasy corner so your tires would get packed with the thick stuff and you'd have no hope of traction in the turn. Knowing the deviant minds of CX course designers, I'm pretty sure this wasn't a coincidence.
As is my habit, I got there early and went out to watch the beginner race to see how other skill-challenged riders were handling the tricky parts. To my surprise, they were running almost everything. Those who didn't fell frequently enough to demonstrate the wisdom of those who did. Nevertheless, four years of racing in the tractor pulls that we call cyclocross here in Oregon have taught me how to ride in this stuff, even if I haven't learned anything else, so this was a pretty good course for me.
The course started with a paved sprint to the first corner, and a couple of riders managed to crash on the pavement in the first 200 yards. I started about 120th in a field of 192 and was far enough behind the crash to avoid entanglement. The second turn was an uphill right turn through the first of the peanut butter followed by a long stretch of reasonably solid grass before the second peanut butter section. I thought that turn was going to be ridable, but in a field this size that was out of the question on the first lap. I made the mistake of running through the center of the peanut butter and got my cleats seriously clogged and lost 20-30 places as I flailed at the pedals trying to get clipped in. Still in the thick of the tail end of the pack I chose to run the second and third peanut butter sections, which in retrospect was probably a mistake. By the time we got back on solid ground I had slipped to my customary position off the back (though still ahead of a handful of other guys).
The second half of the course was characterized by windy turns through a grassy section and a couple of long stretches of pavement. Having enough space to keep myself from spazzing, I rode this part pretty well and had caught back up to the end of the main pack by the end of the lap. From then on I found myself going back and forth with about four or five other riders, a couple of whom I recognized as guys who frequently beat me by 20 places or so. My pattern was more or less the opposite of what eddubal described above -- I'd go by them in the straight muddy sections as they dismounted and ran while I managed to stay on the bike and slalom through the mud, then they catch me in the turns.
Overall, I felt like I was doing really well (for me) until about half way through the fourth lap I tweaked my left quad in some way. I'm not sure if I twisted it on an awkward foot save, or if it was just cramping, but whatever it was it was very painful and got worse as the lap went on and the muscle tightened up. Coming up to the last turn before the finish line they were still ringing the "one-to-go" bell and the clock showed 1:40 left. As I tried to figure out how I was going to drag myself through another lap, they mercifully pulled out the checkered flag a few riders ahead of me.
Judging from the finish of the guy I had been with before I tweaked my leg, I think I lost about 8-10 spots in that last half lap. The lead riders were also lapping me by then, so it's hard to say for sure. I ended up finishing 172 out of 185 with 7 DNF. I did manage to stay just ahead of one of my CrossResults.com nemeses, evening my record against him to 4-4 over the last 18 months.
Turkey Cross #2
Only 3 of us old guys(45+) lined up with the cat.4s and women. The coarse was fast and pretty hard, with one long run-up.(for me anyway) Got a decent start and had a clean race until 1 1/2 lap to go. I'd finally been able to put about 20" on who I thought was one of the 45+ racers and figured I'd back off just a tick and make sure I didn't make any mistakes. That was my second mistake. I lost my concentration, or took my head out of the game if you will, and for some reason, tried to dismount with both hands on the bars in some loose, sandy soil. Next thing I know, I have my head in the dirt/sand. Got up, jumped the barrier and climbed the run-up. The chaser passed me shortly after and it took me about a 1/2 lap to pass him back at the next barriers in the grass. Stayed away and finished 7th overall and 1st in cat. My first mistake was that my "chaser" was a cat4 and I'd had busted my gut, and damn near my head, when I didn't need to. Oh well, good training I suppose. Now on top of all the other things I need to work on, I've got to add situational awareness to the list.
State Championships next weekend, guess I've got much to learn in a week.
Cheshire Cross. Noob's First Race. Of any kind. Homemade '84 Trek SS. 80M run up. Sand.
Forgot my helmet. Wore my wife's pink Bell. Awesome.
I think Santa Claus hit me in the left butt cheek with a stone my second time up the run up.
Dropped the chain at the barriers after the hilly wooded single track section. Without having had any time to train and being in terrible shape, I knew I was in for it.
I wimped out and called it a day towards the end of the second lap. I was suffering pretty bad from the start-- 42x18 was just too tall a gear for a heavy touring bike + inexperienced rider.
But hey, even having had no good sleep all week and no training, I felt great about coming out and just freaking going for it.
People were very cool there-- it's a great scene. I think I'd have a lot more fun with some gears and some time to train. 15 minutes at sunset the night before isn't quite ideal...
I'll be back soon with gears and some lungs.
The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets. Christopher Morley
Good job getting out there to do it!! I spent alot of time overthinking everything before just entering a race.