CompEdge Cross at Blunt Park

Sunday I decided to head up to Springfield Mass for my first cyclocross race of the year.  I’m not sure how I feel about doing an official cross race in August, but I did it anyway.  Luckily it has been unseasonably cool, so the temps were perfect for me.

To spare you from reading the full report I’ll give you the quick and dirt course details. The course was supper flat. I only had 36 feet of elevation gain for the entire race. There were a couple of wet spots on the course, but they where hard packed and not really muddy. Everywhere else the course was very dry and dusty. The majority of the course was on trails though the woods with lots of roots. There was an interesting collection of stuff in the woods. I saw a toilet seat and a metal couch frame. There were four spots I had to dismount. I think if you had good mt biking skills there would only be one or two spots you had to dismount. After you got off the trails you went into some grassier sections of the park. This course also has some unique stone barriers (scroll down for a pic.)

The women’s races were the last races of the day with a 2:15 PM start.  My boyfriend got in some mountain biking and we left to head up.  I knew that there is some epic road work going on in Springfield, so I left a lot of extra time.  We got there around 1pm.  I checked in and was pleased to find cloth race numbers.  Ellen Noble was also hanging out by the stone barriers.  I think she raced with the fast men. I got one lap in right before the Junior’s/Master’s race started.  I probably should have gone back and re-ridden some of the more technical parts of the course.  I’m still paranoid and feel like I’m in everyone’s way when I do a course preview, so I kind of rush though everything.  I know that’s stupid and I should do what I need to do.

After the course preview I realized my rear tire was flat and of course the only extra tube I had with me was a patched tube.   I prayed that it would work out and cursed myself for not packing the extra tubes.   I had plenty of time and my boyfriend fixed it while I went to find the bathrooms.

The race start was a bit awkward.  The official was going over the rules and at the end just said go.  The official probably mentioned how the start would work, but my hearing kind of sucks.  At any rate I was expecting a 30 second warning at the end of his speech, not going straight into a start.  They also started all the women at once instead of giving the 1/2/3s a small head start.  I wasn’t really ready, but I powered down the pavement at the start and then got caught up in the bottle neck at the first turn.  Then I got pissed that I wasted so much energy at the start just to get caught up in the very predictable bottle neck.  There is a small dirt table top after the first turn that I had to run up for the first lap since everyone was moving so slowly.

Once we got into the woods I could see everyone’s helmets popping up and down and knew we must be close to a log across the trail that most people chose to run rather then ride.   There was a small downhill into the log, so I decided to try and be smart and dismount before the hill and run over the log and past the rooty section (one of many)  before remounting.  I managed to pass another woman in this attempt, and held her off for the rest of the lap.   I cursed myself for not having the gopro on my bike to capture that move.

After the log there were a lot of roots.   Since I was mostly by myself with the one woman behind me I had my choice of lines and could avoid the worst of it.  After the roots there was a big tree across the course, so another spot to dismount and run.  I think that was probably rideable for people with good mt bike skills.  That lead into a power section followed by some twisties and the stone barriers.

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These things were a little weird.  I have no idea what purpose they served in the park, or if they live in that location year round.  A lot of people were bunny hopping at least the first barrier.

DSC_1975 There was a set of three wooden barriers too.  The third one was after the curve. DSC_1976

This little up down up thing screwed with my head. You can’t see the first up, and the down is steeper then it looks with a nice rut at the bottom where you turn and go back up again. The first time though during the race I was in a bad gear, and did some bad things to my rear derailleur trying to shift down. I’m sorry Mr Derailleur.

That lead back to the finish straight. This is also where the woman I passed flew by me never to be seen again. I tried to keep my speed up, but I really killed myself trying to keep the other woman behind me. I knew once she was gone I’d be alone and pushing myself would get harder. With one lap to go some of the fastest ladies started to lap me. At that point I started really pushing again and made it my goal to get lapped by as few people as possible. I think only five people lapped me? That’s pretty good for my comparatively slow self.

My takeaways. The flat course suits me, but I need to learn how to carry momentum though the course better. I am not very good at remounting, so I lose a fair bit of speed there. I still need to gain confidence on the corners. I lose a lot of speed slowing down more then I need to into corners.

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Muddy Onion

I had thought about doing the Muddy Onion over the winter, but I got scared off by the 3,324 feet of elevation gain over 35 miles.   Then last week the GRVL-XX Project still had some codes left for the ride, so I decided to do it anyway.  I took a half day and headed up Friday afternoon.  Packet pickup was fast and easy.    I stayed at Betsy’s Bed & Breakfast.  I’m not a huge bed and breakfast fan, but it was walking distance to Onion River Sports, and we could ride to the start without thinking about parking.   There was a nice big porch to relax on, and the bed was comfortable.  Best of all the orange pancakes they had for breakfast were fantastic.    There was also a resident cat and dog, and an adorable tuxedo cat mooching attention outside.  Outside cat was hard to photograph because they where too interested in rubbing against my legs and bike.

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This was my first non-race/non-shop ride bike event.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  The first thing I noticed was the huge variety of bike’s and body shapes present.  I also noticed by the way everyone racked their bikes that there weren’t many triathletes in the crowd.  (Top tip… you can fit more bikes on a rack of you alternate which way the bikes face.  The racks got much fuller as people started showing up, and again after the ride.

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I had started the morning out with arm warmers and clear lenses in my glasses.  Of course being spring in New England the sun promptly came out and I got too warm, so I rode back up to the B&B and ditched the arm warmers and went to darker glasses.  Coincidentally the hill was on E. State Street along the route.  I actually felt slightly less anxious after riding up it once because it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

I seeded myself at the back of the starting area and anxiously awaited the start.  I’m not sure if there was any pre-race talk because I couldn’t hear it back in my spot.

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The ride starts uphill.  Going uphill with 400 of your closest friends is an interesting experience.  People where generally well behaved, and I didn’t see anything too sketchy.    Things started to break up more slowly then I expected, probably because there were just so many people around.  After a short stint on pavement we got into the dirt roads.   The roads where in really great shape.  I’m definitely glad I went with the Vittoria Cross XN Pro II file treads vs my knobby Challenge Griffos.  There were a couple of rougher loser freshly graveled section, but mostly well packed smooth surfaced dirt. There where some  rollers along the road( like mini pump tracks?), one or two ruts, and a couple of muddy spots.   I was pretty cautious defending since I didn’t know the roads, and things were pretty steep.  My hands got tired on a couple of the longer descents from riding my breaks.  The organizers did a good job putting up reminders to stay on the right side of the road, and caution signs if the road conditions warranted it.   The course was marked with little orange signs with arrows on sticks.  I was never really alone and I’m not sure I payed much attention to the signs.  The only place where things could have been improved was a downhill leading in to a left hand turn.  I would have missed the turn if I didn’t see people turning up ahead of me, and some folks behind me did miss the turn.  Their friends had to yell to try and get them back.  Looking on the route map I think it was the turn from Marshfield Rd to E. Hill Rd.

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I didn’t have any real goals for this ride, but I was kind of hoping to do the whole thing without walking up the hills.  I didn’t succeed at this goal.  The first hill I walked was a silly mistake.  I didn’t realize I was in the big ring.  I walked a couple others because my hips and back where not too happy with life.  I had packed my Ridley Crossbow, which I love, but I’m staring to realize its not too comfy on long rides.  I probably should have gone with my heavy Surly Cross Trek.  It would have been more comfortable, and it has a triple.   I haven’t been riding the Surly much, so I was hesitant to take it.    Another fun fact, I recently played with my saddle position on the cross bow.  A couple of rides ago I wound up with a hole in my bibs after a ride.  (I fell in my last race of the season and knocked the saddle out of whack and never fixed it satisfactorily.) I thought it was from my saddle bag and I fixed the problem.  Turns out it was actually from my seat post clamp and I put another hole in another very expensive pair of bike shorts on this ride.

IMG_1584 The aid stations had the promised bacon and maple syrup shots. Plus there where pickles, cliff bars, and vermont meat sticks… think high quality slim jim. I had bacon and maple syrup at the first stop. I should have also eatten one of the rice cakes in my jersey pocket. My stomach wasn’t supper happy with me for a little bit after this stop. Not really GI issues, just not happy.

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I went back and forth with Oscar and the Cookie monster for much of the ride.

The second aid station actually had grilled PBJ sandwiches along with most of the items from the first station.   I was pretty beat by this aid station.  I sat down for a longer then I intended and had a bit of a rest while I enjoyed my PBJ and pickles.  Everyone said there was really only one more hill after this aid station, but I knew they where lying.

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There were a few impromptu rest stops in the last 10 miles. Some water and snacks in the back of a pickup truck. Probably leftovers from the first aid station. After two more steep hills and a few less step hills I finally hit the long downhill into town. I didnt’ stick around for two much of the post race fun. I had some food. I think I had some chips, coleslaw and a veggie burger. I already took and topped up a bun before I realized the options were veggie burger or grilled chicken thighs and legs. I had a can of generic coke too. I didn’t notice any deserts, which is often the case at these things. I was also quite slow, so it could be any sweets were gone by the time I finished. Luckily there was a donut cart near by.

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I’m glad I went up. Before the event I was worried about doing the entire ride by myself because I’m not very fast. I was actually with people the entire time. I went back and forth with about 10 people for most of the time.  I was not well trained for this event.  The distance would have been no problem, but the 3K+ of elevation killed me.  I wish I had done some more hill work and some much longer rides to get a better base for the event.

Studying Up

I’m sitting on my enclosed porch soaking up the last bits of warmth for the day with my fuzzy friend.  Tomorrow we go back to cold and snow, but it remains clear that spring is almost here.   With the added pressure of day light savings time arriving I’m doing something I should have started months ago…. reading up on training plans.  The past two seasons I really faked my way though the triathlon season and it showed.   I did use a plan to build up to Rev3 Quassy but then I kind of burnt myself out and fumbled about.  Luckily regularly attending group rides kept me in OK shape.    Given that I can’t afford a coach right now I headed to amazon and ebay to pick up some used books.

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I’m probably going to stick with The Cyclist’s Training Bible, but The Time-Crunched Cyclist does have a cyclocross specific plan.   It’ll probably take me another week or two to get though everything and come up with my plan for the season.  I have to be honest reading these books geared at the really talented cyclists kills me a little.  I have very little natural athletic talent, and I feel like the “real” athletes would make fun of me with my little training plan.   I do want to get better and this is the only way I know how to do it so I will soldier on.

 

All this reading about training means I have to make some decisions about the up coming season.  I’m planning on doing a short triathlon season early in the summer and then shift my focus on doing whatever I have to do to have an awesome cyclocross season.  I’m not quite ready to give up on triathlon.  At the same time I had so much fun racing cross last year that I want to see what I can do if I really focus this year.