Like a weight watcher at a donut shop I could not help myself. It was a smorgasbord of MUD !
This is when my cross bike is happiest !After a week of rain that would have made Noah nervous, Hottie and I went to bed Saturday night listening to the rain trickling its way down the downspout near our bedroom. During the night as I tossed and turned, I heard the reassuring sound of never ending rain. The race would be a bog of pain. I couldn't say no. Last week I thought I was done, but my power to resist was weak.
Nothing like mud to make your teeth look white !Our team was a co-sponsor of the race which is a polite way of saying we were the race "bitches." We arrived early and worked registration. It was pretty much uneventful, aside from a couple overly exuberant parents who were registering their offspring. One mom, was trying to register her son to compete in the junior boys ages 10-12. Based on his birthday the lad was a nine year old. She insisted he race "up" a category. Since this was a USA cycling state championship, I guessed, correctly, that racing "up" wasn't an option. When I informed her that her son would be racing as a nine year old she took on a tone and told me the fruit of her womb had WON the 10-12 age group in both the Seattle Cyclocross and MFG series races. What I would have like to have said was, "I don't care if your son is freakin' Eddy Merckx, he is nine years old and will race that way." What I did was smile and say, "I'm sorry, he will have to wait until next year to race as a ten year old."
Hottie was forced to operate solo juggling camera, stool, umbrella and such as the sky alternated between damp, drizzle and downpour. During a particularly heavy dump, I was glad I was working registration under a tent.
During a break I looked and saw the riders were finishing buried in mud. It was one of those surreal races where fast guys struggle to average eight miles an hour for complete laps.
I had contemplated taking it real easy and just rolling the race as if to honor a teammate who had died this year. Sadly, nobody died, so I had to think of another reason to ride slow. I took a warm up lap and realized a person could not go "easy" on this course. Anything less than full gas in mud sections would result in being overtaken by friction and stopping, perhaps never to be seen again....
Once again, facial contortions assist in bike handling !A start on loose gravel that turned onto one of two paved sections. A long straight on asphalt followed by some intense braking then a log crossing that went well as long as you channeled your inner child and just went for it. If you over-thought it, you would biff. Then onto the soul sucking grass.
How can I be working so hard and still going so slow? It is the magic of mud! After a slalom and then a back and forth series of chicane turns you enter a bog and you had better have some speed going into it or you don't get out. Then through a slippery single track and onto the second (and last) bit of pave'. The pavement drops and then a wet, loose one eighty turn and you are on a run up with dry, clotty mud. Then when you would normally remount, the mud and grass combo was so gloppy there were footprints six inches deep. A bike tire sunk just as much.
The smorgasbord continued as you wove a path of pain through a grassy bog that was the cyclocross equivalent of a tractor pull. Puddles, muddy sand sections and a spiral of death where you could make eye contact with those ahead of, and behind you. Facial expressions were universally a combination of WTF and suffering.
By the time you encountered the barriers, you knew the end was near (nothing but mud and suffering between you and the line). Finally one last bog, then a slippery corner and then some packed sand and finally a sharp corner on gravel (corners and gravel are a dangerous combination) that put you on the finishing straight.
For this race, they started the Cat 1/2 women ahead of us so we were catching them instead of them catching us ! If the grass behind looks fast; it isn't. It is hell.
After my warm up I put on dry socks and pinned on my number. No skinsuit today. I started near the back and we all knew we were in for some suffering. It was like volunteering for someone else's dental work. I wasn't about to risk it on the pavement so I took it easy and then started moving up on the grass. It was a power course and I had some juice this day. We would be doing five laps. That meant I would be doing four assuming the single speeders caught me. Since the start order was shuffled (SS, W1/2, 45+3's, instead of SS, 45+3's, W1/2) we would be two minutes behind the Single speeders so I was confident we would be caught.
After two laps I got a shout out from the announcer that I was 23rd. I was chasing a guy named David who I had battled during the year. For atmospheric reasons I don't understand, and despite the fact it was about two in the afternoon, it got really dark. On the third lap we traded and then traded back. On the fourth lap I rode a section he chose to run and I had a gap. I realized we would not be caught by the single speeders and that we would get five full laps of pain.
The course was so nice, I wanted to take some home with me.In the countless turns I could see he was still close. As we approached the run up I decided to push it and get a gap and hope to discourage him. I gassed it, got out of the saddle and got a little gap. I kept drilling it and the gap got bigger. On a corner I could see in his eyes he just wanted to be done. All I had to do was stay upright and I had him.
As I rounded the last corner the gap had grown and I was able to roll across the line and hear that I finished 17th. I was on the lead lap, which in combination with my 17th was icing on the mud cake. David, whom I had battled today, and all year came up covered wit mud and we shook hands. We were done.
Belgian Thugs post-race.Afterwards Hottie and I were both exhausted. Instead of the tired today, more work tomorrow feeling as if a dark cloud looms overhead, we had the satisfied feeling of having completed something hard. 2012 cyclocross is in the books. It was fun. Time to