|From My Racing Thoughts|
I woke up at 7:30AM with the intention of heading over to my teammate Bailey's house for pancakes. I rolled out of bed and looked out the window. The courtyard was covered with a thin venire of white and powdery snow. The Afterglow was here, and the conditions were primed for epic (Note: No epic was guaranteed by race promoters). Instead I got delayed by a long awaited phone call. I had some catching up to do with my girlfriend's daughter. After connecting with her, I had breakfast and a shower, then finalized my packing. I bundled up my head for the ride over to compensate for being a little lightly dressed in the lower body. I did not layer up for the rid over because I wanted to try to ride quickly, but not get all of my clothes soaked with sweat. It was too cold for that. The ride over was chilly and into the wind, but entirely uneventful. I arrived at the Park and hopped onto the race course on the Northwest corner. I rode last few hundred yards into the finish line area. The park was blanketed with the first real snow of winter. The tall unmowed green blades poking up through the inch thick dusting of white. There was already a line 14 inches wide melted around the course where the grass was blazon green through the white. When I arrived at the starting line Mumford with a bullhorn gave me a preview of what the day would be like.
"Good citizens do not panic. That is NOT Darth Vader on a bicycle, it's just Nathan."
I do look pretty ominous when I put on my helmet, Cold-Avenger Pro and Ski Goggles, and dressed in mostly black and red.
I found our tent, warm with two heaters, and threw down my bag. I wanted to get out there and pre-ride the course. By the time I got to the park, got my gear set down, there was not really time to do any pre-riding. I could have taken off, but they were already starting to stage for the first races of the day. They were running the Master's 30+ and 40+ concurrently with the 30+s going off first, followed a few minutes later by the 40+. I got my camera out and waited by the starting line for the race to start. I snapped photos as both waves took off from the line, and then worked my way backwards around the course (cutting across at the wheel pit) to take pictures of the riders as they made their way around. I took pictures of guys making their way up and around "Heroin Hill" and then headed to the Beach of Broken Glass to watch the riders tackle what turned out to be the second fairly nasty sand pit. I even got a photo of a guy mid-wipeout out on the beach. There were two lines, and I noticed that all the fast guys went to the right. Mental note.
I finished up at the sand pit, and headed further up the course, all the way to the far southeast corner. I found what looked to be a good vantage from which to take pictures. I was snapping riders as they came around the course, and saw a form that I recognized. It was no other than Gavin from Half-Acre. I didn't realize that he was racing in the master's race today, he usually races Cat 3. Then it hit me. He wasn't racing as a master's rider. He was pre-riding. Oh crap. This was my only shot to pre-ride the course. I tucked my camera back into my bag and hopped on the course.
I lamented at that moment that I had not yet let any air out of my tires, and that I was still at road pressure of 60psi. The course was very rough at that pressure, and I did not have as much tractions in the turns. But at the same time it was okay, because I had my camera, I was pre-riding, and it was 30 degrees. I did not want to go all that fast lest I crash out and ruin my gear. I was also wearing more layers than I had when I arrived, having put on some additional clothing to keep from freezing while photographing. All of these things combined for a low-key pre-ride back to the finish, I did not get waved off the course by the officials so I continued on, but I did not make it all the way back to where I started. I made it down and around the backside of the field house where the sandy beach dropped off into 4 inches of sludge and then into the sand. I didn't need to pre-ride that. I have ridden enough mud and sand, so I turned back. The single speed race had already started so I grabbed my camera and started shooting. The single speed men made it by before I could really get into position, but I found a better spot for the women. I let the men come around a second time, and I packed in my camera for the day. It was time for me to get ready to race.
I went back to the tent, changed into my speedsuit and dry base-layers. I wanted to be warm, but I also did not want to over dress. I found what felt like a good balance, and had Michael C pin on my number. While I was standing in the tent some guy named Barry poked his head in and asked if he could drop his bag in our tent. He had just ridden down from Evanston and wanted to drop his stuff. Yeah Barry, you can hang out in our tent.
I went into the bathroom, and found that Michael had pinned my number to both my skinsuit and my baselayer. After a momentary panic I was able to pull myself together and avert a full crisis. My friend and teammate Chernoh was also in the bathroom finishing changing into his race gear. We chatted a bit and then headed outside.
We walked out of the bathroom together, and were headed across the parking lot and I literally almost ran into my girlfriend Morleigh. She was sitting near her car, waiting for me to come out. Apparently she had seen me go in and called to me, but I was in such a hurry that I missed her. Chernoh had not had an opportunity to meet her yet, and he was very pleased to make her acquaintance. I gave her a quick kiss, and I had to go. They were staging the Men's Cat 1-2-3 race and the Men's Cat 3 race so there was not much time to get my bike (let air out of the tires) and get to the starting line. Staging went fairly quickly as there were only about 70 people total for both races. The men's 123s were sent off first, followed by the Cat 3. I started from "the back row" but as there were only three rows I wasn't worried about being able to burn a match and move up in the field. And move up I did. I got past half of the field around the first corner, and fell into line when the course got narrow before the first run up. My match burned out about that time, but hitting the sand helped me hold position. I found a line through the muck, and dismounted at the turn into the second sandpit. That would be a theme for the day. I was able to power forward and hold position ahead of my teammates Brent and Forest for most of the first lap. I had one mishap dismounting for the barrier on lap one. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but as I was swinging my right leg over the seat to dismount the wheels slipped laterally, and I somehow ended up driving my groin into to top of my seat. I groaned, but did not stop. The rest of my race went fairly smoothly. Brent and Forest both passed me, but I was able to pass them both back. Brent (who was on his second or third race) faded and I was able to get past him. I rode a mostly clean race, having to only put my foot down a handful of times as my front wheel washed out on turns, but I did not hit the ground. Forest (who had a mechanical in his third consecutive race) took off on the last two laps and opened up a gap that I could not close.
The hecklers were not all that creative. "Go Darth", "What's that on your face", "Storm Trooper", and one "let's go terminator". For the record the thing on my face was a Cold Avenger Pro, a new piece of high tech winter equipment that has a number of impressive features. First, it is effective at creating a pocket that pre-warms the air coming into the mouth and nose, which reduces irritation and helped reduce exercise/cold induced asthma. Second, the surgical grade silcon cup causes moisture from breathing to condense away from the face, so unlike with a traditional cloth wrap or balaklava it does not get wet, heavy, and cold. Third, there are sufficient drainage holes on the bottom that even snotrockets drain out of the mask during the race. Fourth, as previously mentioned, it looks bad ass.
During the 4th lap I was passed by the leaders, and picked a bad time to yield by taking a terrible line through the deepest muck. I had to get off and run which took a lot of energy. My legs were completely shot by the last lap. Getting off my bike in the sand on the last lap it felt like I could hardly run. I then missed the high approach to the off-camber barriers on the last lap, and ended up sliding and steeping for about 20 feet on the upper track heading. It was ugly looking, but the course was increasingly muddy and traction was even harder to find. It felt like I could hardly pick them up to moe through the sand. I gave a good effort on the bell lap to close the gap on Forest, maintaining good balance on the technical sections and trying to power it out on the straight aways. I was able to get a little bit closer, but not enough to actually have a chance at making a move. Instead I finished in the same position I had ridden for most of the last lap. In 19th place it was my best finish of the season. It wasn't the strongest field, but I was happy with my performance and my effort independent of who else was there. It was a good enough result for me to think seriously about the New Years Resolution.
My bike was piled with mud, but I was lucky that it did not stop functioning. . My bike had literally about 10lbs of wet sand and mud piled up behind the downtube, on the wheels, and on the pedals and chain stays. There were some mechanical issues I noticed on the way home including a chain that was slipping, wheels that were out of true, and mud on everything. It was a good day, but I did not stay to watch the rest of the races. I was cold, tired, and hungry and ready to head home.