We got a dirt track date,I raced Charm City 'Cross this morning with around 90 of my closest friends in the B Master division, the SlowGeezer class as one of the NewerBs called it.
Demolition derby figure 8.
Eatin' food off a paper plate,
Eliminations start at 8:00. . .
So get your hair piled up real high,
I want you baby by my side,
Now they're rollin... sonofagun!
Take what you win, run what you brung.
In every turn we'll tempt our fate...
We've got a dirt track date.
Off the start, I was in too high of a gear and got swarmed, totally losing my mint third row start position. Later on in the lap, I got to this little hairpin that was a total bottleneck. I had a good line through it but the guy in front of me pretty much stopped dead. So I trackstanded for a moment, then when he moved I stomped it. My front wheel came up in a lurid wheelie, and I tipped over, feeling a sharp knee pain. As soon as I got up I recognized what the pain was - a bit of a sprained knee. Yuck. This took me off my game a little more. A bit further on it was time to get into the interminable sandpit. My knee really hurt, and I had trouble unclipping. I didn't have trouble flying into the sandpit at speed akimbo under the bike though, doing a Superman imitation and coming in for a wheels-up, knees-down landing. All I can say, is it's a good thing sand isn't abrasive at all and doesn't taking off whole layers of skin when you fly into it, otherwise my knees would be shredded and I'd be sitting here in bigtime pain typing this at 9:00 PM. Because nothing would hurt worse than a bleeding, sandblasted, abraded sprained knee.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the race.
I kept motoring along, had a pretty decent race. The course was smoothed out a bit, and it had a lot more flow than last year. Part of this is that I've been mountain biking a lot - stuff that used to throw me is very rideable this year. The other part was the massive crowd of racers and riders there cheering for me - I heard "Go Jim!" at just about every turn. For those who were cheering me, thanks so much, I can't tell you how much that helps. For those who were cheering Jim from Proteus Bikes, who spent half the race on my wheel then passed me, to stay a little in front of me the rest of the way, well, thanks for leaving some ambiguity in it and not cheering for "James." Johnny's comments on lap 2 cheering me on were particularly welcome - thanks big fella! Picked me up when I was very, very down.
The pace was a bit faster than the usual C race. I could count on a finish between 25 and 40 last year in a C field of this size, I was much closer to the back in the B Masters - as it should be. One other big difference is that everybody can roll in the Master B race, and does. I went through the top thrid of the course past the start finish on one lap nailing every corner, keeping on the gas, not hitting the brakes, and in general doing really well. As soon as I slowed... three guys railed past me. That would never happen in the C's except right near the front. In the C's you can rest a second. Not so in the SlowerGeezer... those old guys are mean and don't cut anybody a break!
There's nothing of import to discuss about how my race unfolded. It hurt a lot and I was proud I got through a couple laps with a badly messed up right knee, persevering though I wanted to quite worse than in any race I can remember. I tried to get into a zone at the start, and did. I could have gone a lot harder if I hadn't stacked it hard twice on the first lap, but if if's and buts were candied nuts, Christmas would be merrier. On my last lap, tail end of my fourth lap, I was yelling at myself to go harder. It seemed to me that I had a lot left in there that I wasn't using. So after coming down the hill from the runup and crossing the road, I worked incrementally harder up the hill to the tall barriers - just a little bit of a dig. I remounted, went down the hill and back up again, and across the regulation barriers. At that point I got *real* dizzy and it suddenly became clear that my authoritative inner voice ("Drop and give me 50, maggot!") didn't know what the hell it was talking about. I had been working very hard indeed and didn't have much, if anything, left in the tanks. It was clear I was crispy like last week's toast. Just then the 55+ national champ blew by me with another guy, and I realized it was over, or would be real soon. Two more guys passed and into the finish line. I wasn't waved off, I could have probably done another lap, but my official score would be -1 anyhow, so I pulled off at just under 40 minutes, spent. Final score was 73 out of probably ~90 [update: 104] starters. Trevor managed 63 or so, and Jon scored top 10. Way to rock it, boys!
I think I'll stick to this class. It's a harder race and I do worse but it's forcing me to ride harder, to push the boundaries and find the limits of my skill and the bike's handling.
After doing a 20 minute cooldown spin with Art, I got changed and hung out a bit. Seeing buddies I hadn't seen since last year during cross season was one of the real highlights of the day. You may not be best friends but you get to know a lot about what people are made of when you do a 10 or 15 race series with them, especially if they're in your field. After saying some hellos, we had a bit of lunch, watched the Masters Elite race and the L'il Belgians, and then I took off for home to look after a slightly under-the-weather spouse & offspring.
It was a great start to the season and I look forward to building on today's race. I know I don't have the form I had at the start of last year but also know that my handling is much improved thanks to the mountain biking. The plan is to focus on diet, the high intensity parts of my training, and doing all the little things right - proper warmup for the race, studying the course and truly learning it in warmup, paying meticulous attention to equipment and things like hydration and pre-race feed. There are many details forming the basis of racing well, and along with executing the simple things like training and the simple but hard things like diet, I'm trying to study and do the subtle things that pay off in the long run.
For example - the freshly glued rear tire clung to the rim like an investment banker hanging onto the Secretary of the Treasury, somewhat desparately and extremely tightly. That little change made all the difference. Full confession - in addition to getting off most of the tape, I did a couple other things in prep - acetone scrubbing of the rim with a rough cloth, a good sanding with 220 grit emery paper, and all the other little detail things like blowing it up to 75 right after install and taking a very short mild ride, then leaving the tire inflated at high pressure for 36 hours... the tire was money even though I saw several other rolled tubies. Another helpful detail was knocking back the highly caffeinated version of Gu before the race - that caffeine reduces the sensation of suffering, and the little episode of dizzy made it pretty clear that I was deep in the hurt bucket, on the ragged edge, but it didn't feel bad. Gotta remember the caffeine. The final detail was to bring a trainer and really use it. That sucker is staying in the truck until December.
A good routine from last year that I'm perfecting is to get there at 7:50, get the number and get the race jersey pinned, ride a couple easy laps, paying close attention to the technical portions. Ride the trainer after that up until 20 minutes before race time. Drink Accellerade the whole time on the trainer, easy spin with a number of 30 - 45 second spinups either at high power or high RPMs. Get a dry jersey on, then ride around for a few minutes, doing two or three 30 pedalstroke efforts at near max power. Then do a cooldown ride after. That routine works.
So thanks to everybody who offered a kind word, and to the friends who took time to renew our acquaintance today. Final thanks for today go to Jon and Trevor for being good travel and race companions, to my teammates, and to the organizers and refs who put it all together. There was a good scorer and the refs were all on the same sheet of music so the scoring and pulling debacle of past years was avoided. It was up to standards, four-square all around, and an event worthy of its marquis reputation.
Check out a new blog by Friend of the Rouleur Lindsey. It's very new, but her first significant entry relates to an awful experience she had at Hains Point with a persistent obnoxious wheelsucker. She totally pwned him... in her mind. Oh well, can't win 'em all.