Monday, November 10, 2008

PIR and SSCXWC: Ups and Downs of Cross Racing

Finally getting around to writing my race reports from last weekend. My lack of motivation and inspiration at work is starting to seep into other areas of my life.

Last weekend was the penultimate race in the Cross Crusade Series and the "official" Single Speed Cyclocross World Championship race. In order to qualify for the latter, we were supposed to show up and "compete" in a time trial qualifier on Saturday morning.

Saturday ended up being a total clusterf*ck. I finally had new wheels for the On-One, but when Daryl and I threw them on (complete with pink IRD Crossfire tires) Friday night, we discovered that the pink chain was too short to allow for any clearance for the back tire. And my seat post clamp bolt was completely stripped. But both were easy fixes that I figured could be taken care of Saturday morning.

Beth, Jeff and I met at Chris King at 9:15am to get a quick spin in before the 10:30 (Or was it 11? Or 10? No one seemed to know for sure) informational meeting. At about 9:19:23, Beth pointed out that the back brake pads on the Kona were completely stripped. Then, at about 9:26:45, it starts to piss rain. Not mist or sprinkle...this was a deluge of fat raindrops that soaked through my socks in a matter of minutes. Consensus was immediately reached to bag the ride in favor of more coffee.

We checked in, got our start times for the qualifier (three hours away), and drove over to Fat Tire Farm to see if they could make the quick fixes on the singlespeed so that I could ride it for the qualifier. We left the bike, grabbed more coffee, and headed back to Chris King.

There were over 200 people milling about when we got back. About 150 of them were either in costume or already drinking beer or waiting in line at the single porty potty procured for the event. Everyone packed underneath a few tents trying to stay out of the rain, which showed no signs of letting up.

The route was finally announced (up Saltzman, over to firelane 5, up Lief Erickson back to Saltzman), as was the fact that it would be a good 20-25 minute ride, through the gravel spray of trucks and SUVs speeding down Hwy 30, just to get out to the start line. I was really trying to keep a good attitude about the whole debacle, but it was getting progressively difficult.

Beth, Coco, Coco's friend and I jammed into the Subaru to keep out of the rain while we waited to head out to Forest Park. Then the Subaru died. Again. By the time I had made a couple of calls about the car and arrived at the staging area, I was officially in a bad goddamned mood, as evidenced by this photo (credit Sarah T.):

The time trial, however, ended up being fun, as things you think will totally suck often are. The single-speed was still at Fat Tire Farm, but they let me ride on the Kona on the honor system. I picked my easiest gear, figuring that I'd rather climb comfortably that worry about pedaling through any of the downhills.

We climbed up Saltzman for a mile or two, then hooked over to Firelane 5. Whereby I discover that, despite some new, hastily installed brake pads, that I have no back brake. It's so soft as to be nonexistent.

As I have had enough problems with Firelane 5 in dry weather, on a mountain bike, with fully functional brakes, I decided to shoulder my bike and run, rather than take the chance that I kill myself or someone else. My time ended up being ridiculously slow. Can't say that I cared all that much.

We rode back (with me pussyfooting it down Saltzman on the front brake), jumped the car, then I sat at NW Portland Les Schwab for an hour--in muddy bike gear. I got the prime seat in front of the TV and no one bothered me for fear of contamination.

On race morning, D and I loaded three tons of gear, and D's mom Lori (in town from St. Louis), into the car and headed out to Portland International Raceway. We sent up at the PV encampment (and it has truly become an encampment-600 square feet of tent, heaters, two changing tents, two fold out tables, a repair stand, bike racks, eight cases of beer) and settled in for a long day of muddy race action.

D had another great race, despite a first lap crash and the loss of several square inches of skin on his left hip. He chased his way back up to second place. If he can stay upright this weekend, he'll likely win the Clydesdale Series title.

At least one of us is performing consistently. I had been having a series of really low energy days leading into Sunday and had another mediocre race. Great start, but as soon as we hit the peanut butter mud on the east end of the course, it was as if someone had shot a hole in my gas tank. I went from 3/4 tank to 1/4 tank within a matter of 30 seconds. It was really demoralizing. I willed myself to work harder, push through it, but my body just wouldn't listen.
Quitting was not an option, so I settled in at the middle of the pack and tried to enjoy the course as much as possible. Because there was a lot to enjoy about this course: lots of mud, puddles, barriers, flat straightaways. Here is the first "barrier," a concrete pad in the middle of a field.
Here is one of two run-ups: this one had four barriers and a man-eating windmill at the crest, courtesy of Yakima. This section kicked my ass almost as much as the tacky mud...I haven't quit mustered shouldering my bike properly and the seat would repeatedly hit the back of my helmet as I trudged up.

In the final lap, my body finally quit ignoring me and I was able to put in a strong effort through to the finish. I finished around 24th place. Meh. Dead legs, bad attitude. I hated cross, hated the time I was wasting to train for it, hated the bike, hated the mud.

I then had 60 minutes to "recover" before lining back up again for the SSCXWC race. I changed into some dry clothes and, despite the fact that the doctor recently said no booze for four weeks, started pounding recovery beers. Figured it would dull the disappointment of a bad race and take some of the pain out of the five additional laps to come.

Turns out, riding that singlespeed was the best thing I could have done. I loved riding that bike and had a blast participating in the race.

No call-ups at the start this year. They basically lined everyone (at least 200 folks-despite the fact that you were supposed to "qualify" for the race, it looked like people were jumping in left and right) up in a huge field and let us loose. Which led to 45 seconds of balls out riding, then coming to a screeching halt as we got onto the course and hit the first barrier.

Fifty meters later, the bubble machine (that's me in the left hand bottom corner, white helmet). By the last lap, the wall of bubbles was twelve feet high and three feet deep:

Fifty meters after the bulbbles: the run-up. This is what it looked like on the first lap. There was a drum corp working at full volume on the left hand side and hundreds of people sticking either a beer or camera into your face.

Things spread out quickly and I just rode along, putting in hard efforts when I could, stopping for a beer when the opportunity presented itself.

I drank out of a beer bottle right after Ryan Trebon and slapped him on the ass when he lapped me for the first (or maybe second) time. I got doused in the face with IPA by Beth. I got shoved off course by some riders taking themselves way too seriously and, in a breathtaking display of ninja-like bike handing skills (check the ninja socks in the photo below), only managed to take out three people and two small dogs. I ran full speed into barriers and rode without fear into drop offs and puddles. I mentally willed the naked guy not to touch me as he rode past. I rode a pink and turqoise bike with one gear, in a basketball jersey, through the mud, for 45 minutes.

And fell in love with cyclocross again.

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