Thursday, December 8, 2011

Folsom Cyclocross: Nov 13, 2011

Almost caught up!

Note:  This was already posted in the VSRT forum but I have a compulsive need to be thorough and put everything in the right place. 

With only two races so far this 'cross season under my belt (one mediocre mid-field result plus one dnf due to a flat) I headed up to Folsom early Sunday morning looking forward to the rare opportunity to get away for a Sunday race. I was also looking forward to letting the excellent training legs I've been enjoying lately rev out in a race. I even got that pre-race adreneline feeling that only really comes when I anticipate a good race. I also knew I was sandbagging a little bit. This was an actual USAC race so they had racing by categories. Though I've been racing at the "B" level (think Cat 3/4) this was a Cat 4 35+ race and we raced with the E4's all starting together.

I arrived plenty early enough to get five practice laps in. First off the course was a pure joy to ride. My nemesis in 'cross races are those annoying 180 degree turns that promoters use to stretch out small spaces. This course only had one! The course began on a flat-out rolling section with a cute little bridge in there that needed only the shortest bunny hop to get over without ruining a wheel. This led into a mix of sidewalk, lawn and gravel that had a u-turn in it. After that was a fun double-track section with a steep but fast climb then a descent into a sharp curve before another longer short but steep climb. Then there was another very fast rolling section leading into one barrier at the bottom of a hill that seemed to seperate the field between gettin'-it and not-gettin'-it. Luckily I found myself able to run fast enough to remount smoothly and ride the hill, placing me in the former category. Another very fast descent with a brake-free (slight pucker factor here) corner at the bottom lead into a medium length climb that really stung the legs. An annoyingly off camber but wide 180 degree turn was followed by the only set of double barriers. Then a bridge, another double track descent, a short climb into a climbing 180 degree turn then a short section and then a narrow sidewalk next to a fence came before the third and final dismount of the lap to get up a steep-but-short run up. I found this runup to really suit me and I cleared it in only about ten steps each lap and my cheap-o shoes dug in and worked great each lap. After that it was hop-back-on and wide open across the start/finish for another lap.

I was chatting with a guy setting up the course (turns out I was skipping an entire section of the course on my warmups!) and ended up showing up to the start a little late so I didn't have time to ditch my snazzy new Voler leg warmers that I won last Summer. That wasn't a big deal since the temps were still in the lower 60's. Off we went! I started pretty far back in the field but with the wide open section was able to dig in a bit and move up move up move up. I was a little concerned how hard I was pushing but I've vowed to stop these lazy starts that have become habitual. By the time we hit the first technical section I was seventh wheel and we had a nice train going. But, oops! A couple guys stacked it and there was some rearranging. When the smoke cleared, two guys were riding away, two more were behind them and I was with two guys chasing. During that rest of that first lap I really felt I was feeling good and when my partners took their turns at the front, I was cruising too easy.

So at the start of the second lap I decided to bridge across or die trying. I was doing really well until that first technical section. I hopped off the curb then over another curb turned across a sidewalk and entered a gravel section as soon as I cleared the apex I put the pedal to the floor and next thing I knew I was getting up off the ground and remounting as the two guys from earlier were passing. I latched back onto them but realized that, "Snap! That hurt!" We rolled up to the bottom of the turn before the steep climb and suddenly the side of my face was plowing through the dirt and I felt that sick feeling of the momentum of my body pushing against my neck trying to use my head as a tipping point. I bounced then grabbed the bike and was a bit slower remounting and getting going both due to the ringing in my ears and for being at the bottom of a hill. By the time I got my butt up the hill, fixed by brake lever and was rolling again I had lost three of four more positions. I used the next section to try to calm down, figure out if I was concussed and just find my rhythm again.

After remounting on the uphill after the barrier I knew I was going to be okay and just got back to business. Luckily that was the end of mishaps for the day. The course continued to agree with me and the good sensations in the legs ( ) continued so I was able to reel in, work with and pass riders over the next several laps.

Going into the last lap I saw one of the guys from the original triplet of chasers off in the distance. On the fast charging section I thought, "Hey, I've got matches to burn! This is awesome!" It seemed far-fetched to close the distance but I turned it up to eleven and, when he bobbled the uphill remount I suddenly was three inches off his rear wheel. I waited until the longest climb of the race and jumped as hard as I could. I never looked back and just rode the rest of the lap as hard as I could. In the final 30 seconds I started to feel like I was going to throw up and no finish line was ever so sweet to cross!

I finally assessed the damage during a cooldown lap and a BS session with Ray and Jenni Fortner where I found my left hip with a pancake-sized rash (shorts torn), my left elbow already swelling up, both knees bloodied (my brand new race-won Voler leg warmers were both torn!!! ) and my left ankle and right knee both not bending pain-free and feeling tweeked.

But you know what? I don't care! It was worth it!

I simply can't emphasize enough just how much damn fun cyclocross can be when you've got good fitness and the course agrees with you.

PS  Was 3rd of 20 and took home a nice pair of socks and some food.

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