Monday, November 22, 2004

Midpack Mayhem in Highland Park

Highland Park Cyclocross
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Highland Park, NJ
B Race, ~70 starters

HP cross me hurdles
Over the hurdles

The Course

~150 meter flat road section, hard left onto soft grass, short/steep muddy run-up, right back down on soft grass to a relatively high speed double hurdle. ankle deep mud past the pits and onto a wet sand baseball infield, back onto more deep muddy grass. paved walking path, 180 degree right onto combo of slick dirt singletrack and soft grass. soft grass winding back by the pits, more soft grass onto a short stretch of road to more soft grass to a chicane at the base of another short/steep muddy run-up on the same hill. steep muddy rutted drop back onto soft grass winding around to the road for the finishing straight. i was off the bike 5 times per lap.

The Race

It's a double race weekend...
so I'm drinking lots saturday evening to stay hydrated
Sleeping on an air mattress on the floor makes standing up for the late night pee's
agonizing after those steps at beacon! Yikes, the quad demons are haunting me!

Wake up, take stock of body and mind...
Mind strong & motivated to race. Legs shaky and look like they've been at it with a
cheese grater, but they're still there!
The stomach is another story.
I'm questioning eating TWO french dinners, especially gallette # 8.
The vittles were good, but sacre bleu dem belly is bubbly!

Time to check bike and gear.
There's no mud, just sand everywhere.
A quick 'n e-z clean and we're ready to roll.

Warming up I see the course morphing before my eyes.
First time around everything is ridable, even the hills.
This doesn't last for long as the combination of wet turf and bike tires turns things
pear shaped in a hurry.
The deterioration is quick as the course goes from nondescript to epic within an hour.

I head to the road to continue the warm-up as more laps on the course will only drain the
already shaky legs.

It's almost time to start and I score a spot mid-bunch and anticipate the brutality that
will soon follow. All of a sudden we get the 15 second warning and we're off!
I spy a gap immediately and zip up onto the wheels of the leaders.
Seconds later i'm spinning out my 39x12 as we approach the left turn.

Knowing the first hill will be FUBAR i give it full gas on the lead-up to the slop.
Things get surreal now as the guy on my left goes over the bars on the uphill! wtf!
That was sweet! A massive traffic jam ensues, but i find a clear lane up the inside.

I'm back on and closing in on the leading group.
Over the barriers and ready to close it down.
But wait, I'm not going anywhere in this muck!
Stubbornly I continue to grind past the pits and into more muck, going nowhere fast.
Awwww muck! the leading group of 15 or so is just ahead but i feel like i'm sinking!
Note to self: run this mess from now on, and I do.

Onto the paved path and i'm at the front of the second group, just seconds behind the
tempting draft of the front runners.
This is the part of the course where i need to get a quick recovery but it's not
happening this lap. As we make the turn around the tree I'm starting to go from
redlined to meltdown mode...not good.

I back it off just a touch and immediately I'm passed by two or three groups. I try to
latch on, but I've started too fast and need to settle in.

Dusty comes by and I ramp it up again to get his wheel. Riding with someone you know
makes the pain more bearable. We get into a good rhythm and start to pick off riders.
We're flowing now, measuring our hard efforts and taking what the course gives us.

HP cross me run up
Dusty and I on the run-up

HP cross me slop
And on the soft grass

Now we've caught a good group and make continued progress, but the group is a little big.
FJ drills it along the river every lap and it's back to survival mode.

Our group has splintered and I'm gapped as we come by the pit. In a last ditch effort to
maintain contact I take the left line after the pit and all of a sudden I'm back at the
front of the group. Yeah!

HP cross my group
The group

The adrenaline boost from that bit of luck gives me the juice I need for the last lap.
Over the barriers I really focus on taking long strides and breathing as I lope through
the ankle deep mud and goose dung. I have about 5 pounds of it on my bike, not to
mention in my eyes, ears, and mouth...mmmmm organic foie gras.

It's the last lap and I'm hanging on as our group keeps the heat on and eyes each other.
Down the trail and onto the soft grass we push, chests heaving and legs mashing the
pedals without elegance. The left line does the trick again and I move up to second
wheel as we hit the short stretch of road.

Back onto the grass and I move to front, but slide and almost go down in the process.
I try to keep the pace high as I consider my options. Undergeared with a 39T single
chainring I'm thinking that I don't have the winning hand in a sprint.

HP cross me group 2
Last lap as I'm moving to the front of the group

That leaves a late attack. The chicane leading into the final run-up seems like a good
place to get a gap as it squeezes everyone into a single file line. I gear up and give
it a last burst into the dismount and get the bike shouldered cleanly.

The legs are screaming, but the toe spikes gain traction and I'm really moving up the
muddy slope. Back on the bike and I'm back in my pedals immediately (love the Candy
SL's!). I'm committed now so I start pedalling and drop down the hill fishtailing, but
making it through the ruts cleanly.

I'm really hurting now, but I know I have a small gap so I keep giving it full stick.
A quick look back and I see the others are driving it, but the gap should be enough.

I make the transition back to the road without going down and now I'm giving it one more
effort up the road to hold the gap to the line. As I approach the finish Richard Fries
is making a wisecrack at my expense, but it's all good. I love ya Richard!

Crossing the line I'm exhausted and elated at once. I finish 24th, so why am I so happy?
Yeah, I scored my first MAC series points in the B's (woohoo!), but it's really just the
joy of racing and competing.

In 'cross, no matter where you are in the pack you're still racing, trying to catch the
rider in front or hold off someone behind. All race long you're locked into these
intense micro-battles. The combination of this level of competition and the wonderful
community that comes together for the season makes 'cross the best thing on two wheels.

Thanks to everyone that makes it happen and extra respect to my fellow mid-pack dwellers
who race with such passion and intensity week after week.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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