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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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.

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I was had a sore throat/cold thing for a week leading up to this race.  I knew it was going to be muddy, and I really wanted to play in the mud.   I decided that if I could breath at 11 AM on Saturday I’d go ahead and register.   Lucky for me I woke up Saturday feeling much better.

We had to get to the venue very easy since my other half was in the first race of the day.  His race was almost all snow with no traction.  My race was at 1 pm, so I had a lot of time to kill.  I managed to fall twice when I was pre-riding. I have a lovely scrape up my shin from one of them.  Note: crashing into snow doesn’t really hurt, but hitting the pavement does. The downside to the venue/snow combo, was a lack of warmup space.  The park is really in the middle of a city, and I didn’t feel comfortable on the streets.  If I do this one again next year I will definitely bring my trainer to warm up on.  I joined some other women in the slow circles on a paved path while we waited for call ups.

The race was a muddy mess and everything I hoped for.  As usual I didn’t do well with the uphills, and the snow and mud  sketched me out for the one steep downhill after I crashed in warmup.  (I also notice looking at the pictures now I managed to screw up the level of my saddle in one of my warmup crashes.)