Friday, December 12, 2008

Snow + Lunch + Overexuberance = Racing Joy

Apropos of the Illinois State Cyclocross Championship race, I'd like to share a cartoon with you:
Married To The Sea

What a slip-slidey blast! The course was a whole lot of oxygen-sucking fun. The terrain was a a lovely mix of frozen mud, deep and rutted snow, hard-packed sand, some short steep hills with right angle turns into and out of them, and one long hill (composed of aforementioned frozen mud). Oh, and did I mention it was like 17 degrees?

Here's what I remember (this may seem like a long list, but when you consider that it's absolutely exhaustive, and that most of the observations come from the first lap), you'll come to the conclusion that a great portion of the limited athletic success that I've had has been due to the fact that my body is able to shut off oxygen to my brain, enabling better muscle performance):

Eating lunch (ahh, yes, don't say I've learned nothing this 'cross season).

Forgetting to bring a check for registration, so a nice warmup ride to an ATM and back (OK, so I haven't learned everything. But it was a great warmup).

A lousy start-line position, third row back (More not-learning things: I realized before the start that I still had my phone in my pocket and dithered about looking for someone near the line to give it to before I found teammates--thanks, guys!--watching the start).

Thankfully, most people are really slow off the line so I was able to position myself somewhere around 20th by the time of the first crash--50 yards in. Everybody in places, oh, 5-18 went down, and so I squeezed up a bit solidly into the first group of slow people.

'Round some more turns, careening downhill and left into a tunnel, and hearing as I came out, "there's a big crash on the hill! a big crash!"--whoa! no kidding. You could easily get halfway up, lose momentum, start cranking hard and spinning your rear wheel, and ploop! out goes your bike from under you. Thankfully, I stuck to the snowy unpacked side and passed another couple of folks.

Then a long slog up the sled hill--and upwind--and down, then, what's this? a fast place? on a sand path? that isn't slippery? what a joy! And, even better, a pair of barriers on flat ground? Oh, I don't mind the right turn to the barriers and the left turn out, flatland barriers are my forte, my bread and butter, my opportunity to blow by, well, a couple of people. Not enough.

My next thought was, "Why the heck is everyone going so slow? don't they know this is a race?" It turns out six-inch deep rutted snow slows some people down. Go figure. I charged a new path around them on the right, and established myself in more or less the position I'd hold for most of the race.

At this point, my memories start getting blurrier and blurrier.

I remember passing one guy only to endo fifteen seconds later coming from a concrete flat (along the lake) onto grass. Whoops, got to lift the front wheel more to get up that lip at speed.

I remember looking back and seeing a string of 2 or 3 Tatitos and thinking, "Isn't that nice? all us neighborhood guys sticking together."

I remember (fatefully) coming into the start/finish line and seeing a "2" on the laps to go sign.

I remember thinking, "do I have one or two laps to go?"

I remember getting passed by somebody in an orange jersey and thinking, "Shoot, that guy's got a broken wrist! can't let him beat me!"

And, "can I stick with him for this last lap so I can sprint with him?"

And, "poor guy, his wrist must be killing him, why's he pulling out of the race?"

And, "no, I won't take a doughnut handup thanks I'm racing! If it was beer..." and then crashing.
(are you getting the picture? I wasn't)

And, "dang, the field is really spread out; I can't see any of my competition ahead of me."

And, "oh, the crowd must have all gone to see the finish."

And, "god, what will the lap count say now? do I have one more to do or is this it?"

And a very firm voice outside of my head saying as I crossed the line, "You're done."

And then a cool-down ride, and a couple of people asking, "Why'd you do an extra lap?"

Now I just need to equip my fans with a big "STOP, FORREST, STOP!" sign. Or better, "Sprint, Forrest, sprint!" Clearly my IQ drops to about 23 over the course of a race.

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