You know what is fun about running in the sand? Passing people.The third race of the year for Evo. Once again my dear mom, Betty the Beast, came to cheer me on. My son and his wife were back for a few days from their life in Moscow (and I don't mean the one in Idaho) and they came as well. Hottie, ever faithful, was there as always to support me.
The weather remains distinctly non cyclocross, but I am not inclined to complain too much. After a lackluster warmup I lined up alongside my brothers sporting the brown and soon we, and the rest of the fast middle age guys, were racing.
True to my 2012 form I found myself near the caboose of the 45 plus train as we turned onto the grassy slalom course. I was pedaling, but my mind wasn't racing yet. I was getting passed left and right and I was as passive as the passenger in a VW microbus.
Every course has a trademark. This one is pancake flat and has been called a grassy crit by detractors. That isn't the trademark of this course. In years past, the course has featured two short section of sand on the edge of Lake Sammamish. You were generally able to ride the first one and, after returning to the grass for fifty yards, you were forced to run about forty yards on sand before remounting. This sand was dreaded by hacks and pros alike. This year the sand was unridable after thirty feet and instead of getting a respite back on the grass we had to serve our purgatory for a full one hundred plus meters of beach sand.
Only a hundred meters you say? Try running with your bike through deep, SOFT sand once, twice, hows about five times? Heavy legs for sale!
I ran track and cross country in high school and college. Despite three knee surgeries over the last fifteen years and riding thousand of kilometers a year I still think of myself as a runner. I channelled my inner Prefontaine and ran it hard. A few brave/foolish souls tried to ride it and ground to painful stops and dismounted awkwardly.
The first fifty meters everyone was moving about the same speed. The last fifty plus meters everyone was slowing down. I passed a few and was moving. A rider stepped in front of me and I moved to pass and his front wheel caught my bike and slowed me for a moment. "Hang on," he shouted. I felt the drag release and a hearty, "go," and I was off again.
Once off the sand I remounted and dug deep. There were some microscopic rollers and I was working to take turns wide and keep my speed up. "Free speed," I said out loud as I kept pushing. I was having trouble breathing and was wondering WTF was up with that? Soon we were on a short asphalt path and then back on the open field of grass and gopher holes. I chose a big gear as a smaller gear could spin out over the bumpy dirt. Wide sweeping grassy corners meant you kept the power on and didn't get a moment to catch your breath.
Squinting, or holding back a tear?Out and back, out and back, tight turns and big corners. Barriers at speed. I love barriers at full speed. I grabbed my brakes and my right hand lever had no resistance I looked at my back brake. My contact in the sand pit had popped my straddle cable off and I had no rear brake. I didn't panic and decided that on this fast course with minimal braking I would wait until I completed the sand on the second lap, or when I crashed, whichever came first. I clearly had a preference and I hoped to stay upright.
More corners. My tires were sticking like velcro. The first race of the day was slippery, but the racers dried out the course so it was wonderful for us mid day riders. I was feeling better and soon I was on the long paved finishing straight. Five to go. I tried to tell myself that was what I wanted.
Grass and sand. Rinse, repeat.In front of me my teammate Big John pulled off to the side with a dropped chain. The course was that bumpy. John is such a monster he would need a special Garmin because his watt numbers need more display digits than anyone else. I felt awesome to be near him. El Hefe blew past me on the first lap and was out of sight.
On the sand I passed more riders. After the sand I dropped my bike and put my cable back in and remounted and pushed. Another big gear and I kept moving up on the grassy course. Big John came past and I tried to hang on. He slowly pulled away. John is super fast and the power course suited him well, so I took some solace that he didn't blow past me.
More laps and I could hear my son Zach cheering me on. As I approached the barriers on the third lap I could hear Betty the Beast ringing her cowbell and screaming, "Rip off their legs." Her words galvanized my resolve and I attacked.
I looked behind me and I had a huge gap. I was moving up and looking for more victims.
I could see Big John ahead and wondered if I could catch him. On my fifth lap I saw John entering the sand just ahead of me and I committed to race the sand. "Go Davo," John cheered me on and I could hear other team members yelling for both of us. It turned out John had dropped his chain again just before the sand, but it went right back on.
I had a reasonable gap on John and while I love him like the brown brother that he is, beating him would be a nice thing so I churned a big gear across the lumpy grass. I was catching younger riders from the race that started a minute ahead of ours and lapping some of the women who had started a minute behind us.
Flying over the barriers...I had expected to be caught by the first 35 plus rider but as I approached the finish line on my fifth lap but the sign said one to go and I kept driving. It turned out the winner of the 35 plus group was just behind me and fifty yards past the line they pulled some tape across the course and told me I was done. I was coming in "hot" as they say, and grabbed my brakes and rolled to a stop.
I was the first lapped rider and my disappointment and not getting a sixth lap lasted about one second and then I was happy to be done. Other riders came zipping along and a minute later Big John came thundering in and he was happy to call it a day as well.
I finished 29th of 49 and can do better. That was about ten places better than my first race in the MFG series, so I was happy. I will try and get my race on next week and see what I can do.
Just as I have after every cross race of 2012, I changed into shorts. I put the bike back on the war wagon and noticed that the sidewall of my tubie was shredded. I don't know what happened. Maybe it was a rock, or a root, or another bike, but the casing was cut and peeling back. The tire was finished. I haven't had to invest in any equipment other than a roll of bar tape this year so I won't cry too much.