Monthly Archives: October 2007

Canton CX Race Report

All rankings out of five possible

Parking:
Overall, good parking situation, although the tight quarters make getting in and out a bit of a challenge as people are coming and going from the course. Lots of parking available, but unclear on how to get to all of it.

Registration:
These guys and gals have a nice set up at the registration area. Centrally located at the finish line, with the food and music. Participants were organized by last name and not category, adding an interesting twist.

Bathrooms:
Can’t really have any complaints here. Indoor bathrooms and showers. I didn’t go in during any rush, but it was very clean and accommodating. Plus, lots of wood to dodge in and out of. You could also go by the huge pile of horse manure to obscure your own scent.

Course:
Really nice mix of endurance, power, and technical section. Can be “chunked” into about four sections. First from starting line extend to the first set of barriers, where you are barreling along roads, grassy stretches, and some tight turns. Second after the uphill barriers include more tight turns, some rocky single track that turned muddy pretty quick. Third is the back road section that is paved, and deceptively technical. Take a turn too fast on the leaves, and away you go sliding across the road. Fourth is the semi-technical power section. Tighter turns that you need to accelerate out of, steep run up, around the track, hairpins, into a power section over the barriers and to the start. Chances for exertion and recovery. Fun, fun, fun.

Line-up Procedure:
No call-ups, and no real discernible starting line. So, we just started lining up. But, good distance between the rows to make it safe. Looking at 18 across in each row as interesting.

Pits:
You gotta mechanic with a boxer named Nuggets. But, single entry is kind of a drag. Not much to be done about that.

Post-Race Refreshments:
Good grill spread with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and fixins. The proceeds go to a great cause as well.

Overall:
A New Belgium Classic. You can’t go wrong with Canton. NAV and IBC know what makes for a good experience, and deliver. Only bummer this year was no Canton Cup glasses. Maybe next year. Also, a potential drawback is the collapsing of the Cat 4, with 3/4 women and young pups. Creates a lot of potential traffic on the course. If the fields continue to grow, going to have to figure out a way to make this more manageable and spread it across the day.

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Now That’s Entertainment!


Canton happened today, and it was to be my last Cat 4 race before the big upgrade to 3. I had 25 pts., with 23 of them coming this season. So, time to make a move. I was hoping to go out in style.

This whole week I’ve felt like absolute dog crap. Not sick, but just lethargic with no pop in the legs. Last night, I decided to make the bold move and buy a six of Guinness. I have had Guinness at the top of the Guinness factory with a shamrock in the foam, in small pubs in Galway, in large pubs in Dublin, in Irish pubs in the Boston, and nothing compares to Guinness poured properly. I normally wouldn’t commit such sacrilege, but desperate times call for desperate measures. After downing two, I went to bed and hoped for the best.

Got to the course early (as usually), hit the head, and off to the course. First race in the skinsuit, so I was sure I would be jinxed and wreck. Plenty of leaves to make the pavement interesting, loose stuff, tight turns, and long laps. I discovered it is a good idea to pre-ride the course when it is getting crowded. Helps to get a sense of what is going to happen during the race, such as where to pass, what lines you can take when you have to, and how best to avoid trouble.

I was first to the line before the race to reserve a front position. 100 guys in the Cat 4 race. Unbelievable. The road was wide enough to have 18 in a row. More fun. We had a flotilla of MRC guys on the right side.

I had another flying start. Absolutely beautiful. Struggled to clip in while people were flying by me. Once I got clipped, I went all out trying to save some spots. Thankfully, a bad start at Canton isn’t the end of the world because you are basically diving from wide pavement to a wide dirt road. So, I was able to make it up and pass people.

Into the first stretch, I decided I would bunny-hop a deep groove in the course. I did it in practice no problem, and figured it would be a better line that trying to cram on the right side. I almost paid dearly for my hubris. After nearly going over my handle bars and wiping out in spectacular style, Mike Lowry commented on the beauty of my near impact. No time for complements; time to move on.

As we reached the pavement for the first time, I was about 7th wheel. As I made the turn, I heard behind my someone scrapping metal on the pavement. Assuming this was not intention, I gunned it, thinking that we would now have a gap.

Was able to start passing people through attrition and a few sharp efforts. Guy in front of me was taking really good lines, so I tried to follow. My desire was only limited by my skill level, which still is low. I would catch back up on the power section, and he would gap me anytime we turned. Until, of course, he bunny-hopped the low barriers. What an a-hole.

Ended up racing with the same pack of 5 guys for the entire race. What a blast. Trading leads, trying to attack, going too hard in corners and ending up in the weeds (again). Digging back. Mr. Rabbit was off the front, and I was with a group of three going into the last set of barriers. Guy in front thinks they lowered the barriers from 40cm to 37cm and takes a face plant. This leaves me and another guy up the finish hill. I figure he is all mine. I shift for the sprint, shift too much, legs say F-you, and I finish third by half a wheel. Bummer, but given the fun I had, I couldn’t complain. I only wish they would have thrown one more lap, as we raced 37 minutes.

Great race and a great day.

Brrrrr!

Woke up “late” this morning at 4:30 because of the Red Sox game last night. Temperature outside was 37. Good thing I have my new Thermal Jacket and Winter Bib Shorts from Capo Forma. Good Stuff. Nice and toasty for my 80 minutes of riding in the dark. The full moon was pretty amazing, as was the steam rising off of Delaney Pond. It’s great to get out in the dark when no one else is around and the world seems to be your own. Sometimes I like to ride and run with an Ipod (I know, dangerous), but not in the morning like this. I like to hear twigs snaps, leaves rustle, owls hoot, and other unidentifiable noises. Saw a deer hanging out, sleeping horses, and came home in time to see the sun start to rise. Pretty cool.

Otherwise, lousy week of training. My legs have felt like scrap since the 12 mile run Sunday morning. Did some riding and a little running, but nothing consequential. Tried to do hill repeats on the bike on Tuesday and felt awful. Did some easy tempo last night and felt awful. When it ain’t fun, it ain’t easy.

Onto Canton this weekend. Likely my last race as a 4. Doing the 3/4 35+ for Nhampton. Time to step things up a bit. Hopefully the body comes around a little more. Tri + Cross = Long Season. Should be a fun course, though, and a good time.

Mansfield Race Review

Each category out of 5

Parking:

Open-field grassy area after a day of hard rain has disaster written all over it. However, you park right next to the course. Was able to shuttle between car and warm-up very easily. Only major drawback as stepping in some kind of animal feces with my Crocs.

Registration:
Being early, it was not yet opened, but was going after one warm-up lap.

Race numbers:
Basically thick paper on a damp day? C’mon guys.

Bathrooms:
Two port-o-johns, but plenty of woods! (Sorry ladies)

Course:
Ask me this last year, and you would have had a much different response. If a cross course is supposed to make you hurt, this one fits the definition. A little too much grinding perhaps and not enough flow given the up and down. Plus, a damp field sucked with long grass sucked the life out of you quick. While the run down to the beach is fun, it could be lost to maintain some speedy sections. Does a course need four run-ups?

Pits:
A little tiny, but dual access. Not much room to stash bikes. Good thing I didn’t need it.

Post-race Refreshments:
Stellar. Fresh-baked goodies galore. This race is a caloric break-even at best.

Prizes:
Seven deep in the Cat 4 race? Unheard of.

Overall:
Great race and great vibe. Definitely worth making the trip to check out, especially if you want to test your technical skills. You’ll be feeling it in the morning for sure.

BONEHEAD – The Mansfield Report

As my wife told me when I told her about going back down to Mansfield for the cross race, “That race is your Newman.” I remember going down there last year and thinking, “This is a cross course? You’ve got to be kidding me.” Dismount after dismount. Steep downhills. Steep run-ups. A crazy off-camber. I’m told “this is what cross used to be like.” I guess the phrase is “old school.” When everyone was caught up in the kumbaya moment of Gloucester, we were all going to race in CT this weekend. When the dust settled and the alcohol worked through the system, there were three of us from the club.

I was determined not to make the same mistake as last year, which was screwing the first off-camber. When I drove in, I saw my nemesis taunting me. After getting my stuff together, I went off to pre-ride the course. Pretty much the same as last year. Much of the pre-ride, I stopped at the lip of something that I would normally walk down (given my lack of technical skills). I was thinking to myself, “What the hell am I doing here.”

But, I have a new bike, tubulars, a year worth of experience, and a can-do attitude. “No problem” I say.

Doing the off-camber the first couple of times in the pre-ride, I was able to work high and low no problem. I hooked up with Andy from Landry’s and got his downhill advice. As he would go blasting over lips, trying to make things more challenging for himself, I would EASE my way down. But, at least I saw things were possible, and how to best attack it.

Got to the line-up in the front row. Not a big field with about 30 riders. A few familiar faces, some new guys who have never done cross before. One guy asks me, “How many water stops are there?” Water stops? “What pressure are your tires? About 80?” 80? Hmm. Better keep an eye on him. Important to get the hole shot.

As we line up, I’m brimming with confidence from my last races. I have my right crank at 2:00 (thank Jorge) and looking to go all out to the first turn. Bang! Away we go, with me cranking about second wheel. I keep digging to get the hole shot, and actually get to the first corner second wheel. I pass that guy going over the first barriers, and BAM, I’m in first place. Time to starting hammering the first lap hard and make people hurt. I’m going to sail through the off-camber, hit the down hill, pound the straight-away, and go all the home to VICTORY.

Wait, my wheel is sliding out. What’s going on? I’m not going down on the off-camber. I am going down on the off-camber. Same spot as last year, people cussing behind me. I’m trying to unclip. I’m running with my bike. My bike is hooked on the course tape. I have to unhook my bike. People are sailing by me. Sh*t.

I finally disengage and start going like a madman. Of course no matter what else happens, I blew my first lead in a cross race by pulling the same BONEHEAD maneuver as last year. Priceless.

The rest of the race hurt like hell. The first place guy was off the front a good ways. I was able to pass everyone else on the first lap with my adrenaline rush, which wore off two laps too early. Coasted in for second place. You gotta love it.

Sandbagger Fallout

After Cort has been skewered regarding his top-notch performance at Gloucester, I’m feeling left out. No one accused me of being a sand-bagger, which can only mean their comments originated in pangs of pity for me and my fellow Cat 4 brethren who were slain at the alter of the cross gods. DON’T PITY ME!!! FEAR ME!!! Whatever.

Signed up for Mansfield, to make my triumphant return after taking out the entire Cat 4 field on the off-camber from hell. Ah the memories. Hard to live that one down. We’ll try ‘er again this year with the tubulars and see if there is a different result. Only two more upgrade points needed before I can move to Cat 3. Not that I will of course. I still have 10 points to burn until I HAVE to upgrade. Might was well kick sand in the faces of the other Cat 4s before I end up in moderate obscurity at the hands of other seasoned Cat 3 (read “old”). If I do race 3/4 35+, at least I can be the young punk at 37.

Onto other news, thank god for saline nose spray. With the dry weather, I have been absolutely dying from nasal drip and a burning sensation. I can roll through a box of tissue no problem once the irritation starts. A few squeezes of this magic potion, and I’m right where I need to be. Better living through chemistry.

Early morning riser

I’m typically an early riser, but this is ridiculous. 2:43am and I’m awake. I’ll pay for this later. Hailey work up at about 1:20am, and I went in to see if I could help. The downside of that is, once I am up, I’m can’t get back to sleep very easily. Also, my intense guilt won’t let me go back to sleep when I know my wife is up with the baby. So, I’m hosed. The cat keeps wanting attention, and she is about to get launched. I’m usually a very caring and compassionate person, but not at the moment. Being nurturing without sleep is not one of my strong points.

No need for more Gloucester race reports. Short story for Sunday, I finished 4th. It is amazing the difference between third and fourth. While the other guys were on the podium, I was washing my bike. I could hear the call-ups to the podium as I’m trying to clean crud from my dérailleur pulleys. Nice. At least I got to see the crash in the Men’s 3/4 race at the start. Nothing like scrapping metal to get your attention.

I was battling with another guy for third the last few laps, struggling to get his wheel, getting it, passing him, trying to drop him, trying to let him lead me out in the wind, then face-planting in the sand pit. Gotta watch those high-speed dismounts. I guess if you’re not crashing, you’re not trying. The other side of that is if you are crashing, you need better skills. I still keep running the last lap through my head. Gotta learn to let things go a little more.

The upside was everyone from the team hanging out and doing well, telling stories from their races. This is the great side of cross: the social and community nature. It has a different vibe from other types of activities. That’s why you see such a strong on-line presence as well. Adam Meyerson had an interesting interview once about the virtual and co-located cross community. There is a lot to be said for it, and something people should experience more.

I was able to open the training back up after taking Monday off. Track work on Tuesday, with 1 mile and then 4 x 800. I dropped the last scheduled 1 mile. I figured 3 miles of speed work two days after Gloucester was good enough. Plus, cross practice tonight. I don’t know what kind of shape I’ll be in after 4 1/2 hours sleep, but what the hell. It’s cross season.