Monday, October 20, 2008

Hot Crossed Buns

Originally uploaded by Anne and Tim Photos

Survived and thrived at cross race number two today, out at Rainer High School. I managed to get my act together (so I thought) and head out around 11:00am. As I was driving up I-5, I ticked off the list in my head: keys, wallet, phone, check. Helmet and shoes, check. Front wheel... ? crap! This is the downside and the nightmare I have about a roof rack that requires taking off the front wheel. Luckily, I hadn't yet crossed into Washington, so it was a simple matter to take the Jantzen Beach exit and retrace my steps, making my effective departure time 11:30.

I guess I should've worn lighter shoes because coming off I-5 onto the 432 expressway, I had a little too much momentum and got caught in a speed trap. Yet another reason I hate driving. On my bike, I can sprint as fast as I want, and not worry about stupid cops. He wasn't even bothering with sirens, just had his speed gun out and was pointing and waving at folks to pull over. He got me and another car with two cross bikes on top, obviously in a hurry to get to the race as well.

He had some mercy and only wrote the ticket for 5mph over the limit, but that's still a big ol' $93.00 ouch. So much for saving money by buying cross race passes...

I reached the high school without further incident. Registering as a returning rider was as easy as signing my name on a sheet and handing over my pass. The sun had been working it's way out on the drive out and now it was a bonafied gorgeous fall day. I went back and got my race gear on, but my warm up was pretty lazy at best, punctuated by chatting with other team members and fiddling with strange noises on my bike.

Oh well, warm ups are for sissies I thought. I decided not to pre-ride either, though I probably could have followed the course around just outside the cones. But we came out last year to watch this race, so I had a good idea where the tough spots were. I also talked to a guy who was already done and asked him for tips. He said there was a lone barrier on the back side, and I should gear down before I get to it because the remount would be bumpy. It turned out to be a really good tip.

Last week, the women seemed to start lining up 45 mintues before the race. This week, no one went near the start line until the call for staging actually came. That's because this week, starting positions were determined by who had the most series points, and then by number lottery. I don't really care much about my starting position but I ended up in the second row, which was pretty good.

I didn't have any of the nerves of last week, so I was pretty relaxed right up until the whistle blew. Then we were off. As we reached the end of the starting chute, I counted and determined I was probably in the top ten. That quickly altered as we took a right turn and headed up what I would come to think of as the hill of pain. Of course, I find just about all hills painful. But this one was special.

My cross check is the first bike I've had with a double ring up front. Usually all my road bikes have had triples up front because I love my granny gears. But since was going to be an around town bike mostly, I went for a compact double instead. Until today, I hadn't yet bottomed out of my gears and wished for more, but that all changed on the first hill. Still, it wasn't too bad, and most of my panic subsided once I warmed up a little. I wasn't exactly spinning the next time I hit that hill, but I made it up alright, especially with people ringing cowbells in my ear and Bruce yelling at me to "PUSH IT!"

This course was a lot less technical than last week, but at the same time, much harder because of all the climbing. And there were seven barriers total, six of them all together in a pack, and the one lonely one that the guy had warned me about. Let me just say that as a vertically challenged person, six packs of barriers suck like a black hole. I got over them without tripping and that's all that can be said. As for the rest of the course, it just never seemed to end. On the first lap, I just kept thinking: we're still on the first lap. Man, we're still on the first lap? Geez, this lap is long. When is this lap going to end?

Finally, it did end--with the aformentioned hill of pain. In the regular course, it starts with gravel and standing up to pedal put me at risk for spinning out my back wheel. So it was a sit and grind. Then once you've made it up that, there's still a pavement hill to kill any will you had to live before you cross the finish line.

Now that I'm a cross veteran, with two whole races behind me, I think I've figured out that I'm one of those people who gets better as the race goes on. Once the first lap was done, I was pretty well warmed up, and I knew what to expect. In addition to the climbing, there were some super fun, really fast descents as well, and I hung loose on every one of them. In lap two I started to pull back some of those jack rabbits who got away at the start. One woman in my category passed me, but then immediately lost all her juice and I passed her back and made it stick. I caught a few other people on the few technical sections--steep short climbs, barriers and tight turns.

Of course, I was also getting passed by the A and B women right and left. It wasn't till lap three that things settled down a little. There was one particular narrow spot that was gravel road going over a pipe that carried water underneath. Twice when I went over it, I heard women barreling down on me, screaming, "On your left!" I wanted to reply, "I got nowhere to go, just wait a damn second!" But I didn't, and they went barreling by and it's a wonder I didn't end up in the ditch. But that's racing.

Jess is working this weekend, so I didn't have a crew (or a personal photographer, but pics are bound to turn up on Flickr and elsewhere), but I did have a few pockets of cheering sections. Zan showed up right before the start. Mostly I couldn't tell who was cheering when I went by, but I just want to say that no matter what look I may have directed your way, I really did appreciate the support.

I came up the hill at the end of lap three, really hoping I might see a big zero on the lap counter, but alas, I rode too fast and still had one to go. "It's your last lap, make it a good one!" yelled Zan. I decided that was good advice. I resolved to try not to let anyone in my category catch me, and I think I managed to pick off a couple of more before it was all over.

Results were posted right away and I was astonished and pleased to see that I got sixteenth, nine places better than last week. Who knows what would happen if I kept at it?

After the race, (and the required time spent collapsed over my bike heaving, though my recovery was much faster this week, and some guy who should be raised to sainthood offered me water), I did the smart thing I and went straight back to the car to change clothes. I stopped by the concessions tent, but they had been cleaned out by hungry riders and spectators before me. Luckily I came up with a better post-race food plane than the Costco samples I had last week. I grabbed my post race cookies and went to the hill to watch the men suffer. I ended up next to Bernard, whom I met at the Oregon Manifest Handmade Bike show a few weeks ago. Bernard brings the count to three, of black folks crazy enough to do cross--and we have to import him from Seattle. The other one is a member of team Ironclad, or The Real Team Beer, as I like to think of them. I gave Bernard one of my recovery cookies.

My dear teammate Sage is devastated that I'm not planning to fully explore my cross potential. She missed her calling as a crack dealer--she offered to sell me one of her race passes for $5, and insists that there's no way I'll be able to walk away. However, future weekends will be devoted to study. Because I can stop any time I want. And this amazing weather is bound to turn soon.

For photos of the race, check out these prompt flickr posters:

Anne & Tim's Flickr Page (Photos by Tim) (Thanks for making me look WAY cooler than I am :)

Ironclad's Flickr Page

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