Didn't really want to, but it's the last race of the year. You just shut up and go, know what I mean?
It was really cold. I rode a warmup lap, warmup being an ironic term in this case.
There was a lot of ice. The road was ice, the dirt was ice, there was ice on top of ice.
People were crashing in the parking lot. From walking.
But Schiecken was there and Cernich was there and we were joking about how it was going to be funny to be walking into work on Monday in a full body cast asking for time off due to a broken hip, and how the bosses would be incredulous because nobody who is 41 breaks their hip...
So I shut up, signed up and went. Shall I pre-load the excuses? The back was, and is in a spasm. I still haven't figured out that if I want to race in cold weather without having an I-Think-I'm-Dying sort of asthma attack it takes a half week of steadily taking my asthma medicine. And oh my lord, does this paleo diet make me weak right now. So anyhow...
Anyhow... I raced pretty good for two laps, to the extent where Joe Jefferson felt compelled to shout, "It's McNeely from Squadra Coppi. He's Mid-Pack! He's always at the back. He's having a great race!"
Or at least that's what it sounded like. I wouldn't know because I think blood was bubbling out of my ears at this point.
Great race or not, on the first lap I just kept chugging past people who were stalling out on the ice and snow, elbowed a few people out of the way when they slowed (Dave T was on my wheel and dropped me a "nice pass" for one offensive-tackle-like, um, pass) and moved on.
I did stay in a long string for maybe a lap and a half, close to two.
I've realized what my go-to move is in cross.
Ride in really shitty weather, and pray for no deep peanut butter mud. Seriously, I appear to be able to handle a bike pretty well, and if the surface consists of ball bearings atop groomed ice lubed up with Slick 50... well, I can ride it. A light coating of lube-y sloppy mud atop slick clay appears to be my surface of choice, combining peak fear in other riders and low enough friction to let me slither through turns and such. I wish my move was something like "crush all riders on any hill" or "drop anybody any time" but I'll settle for "rides like a pig that's happy in shit only probably not quite enough shit."
At one point we crossed the bridge and a couple guys rode down the ice in the middle of the road instead of the 6" wide track on the right. As they first passed the line of 8 or 10 riders I was in I muttered aloud, so that they could hear me, "you've got to be kidding, right?"
At the end of the road, where you turn right to hit the runup, first one went down, then the other. As we road by, I delivered maybe my best bit of heckling all year:
Now THAT was entirely predictable.The two boys on the ground were grimacing.
The other highlight of the race was riding the sketchy off-camber and tarmac downhill at speed into the mud, and riding the grass downhill into the yet-more-mud as hard as I could. It's not often a big boy draws cheers for his riding, but when you combine the effects of gravity with a rugby player's innate knowledge that a big fall in deep mud is essentially painless, it allows for some wild-ass hanging-it-all-out-there riding. If you can carry speed off a hill through a mud pit, it makes your day go a lot easier.
It was cool while it lasted. I was riding in a totally unfamiliar group, a half dozen or so guys that I am never near in a race, and one or two guys I completely can't touch at all were within striking distance, including Gwadzilla, who combined his worst race ever with one of my best.
Alas, it was not to last. Around the midway point of the second lap I started to feel a bit week and started losing contact with my group. Going into the third lap, on the runup near the pits (which turned into a ride up later) I was utterly gassed, just nothing in my legs. Still I kept the pedals turning, but knew I was doomed.
You know how you can see a crack or a bonk coming a ways off, like a huge dark thunderstorm on a sunny day? Well this wasn't anything like that. It was more like getting punched out. But you know what I mean. Half way through the third lap my legs were just gone, wouldn't even work at all. I'm pretty sure this was the diet kicking my ass. There just aren't enough calories on the basic paleo plan to fuel a good hard 1000 calorie race effort, so my legs cooked. About the same time I started coughing. Hard. By the time I got past the start/finish, it was TIME. So I pedaled up to the truck, and sat on the bumper coughing up chunks and taking hits of my rescue inhaler. Lovely.
After getting changed and dolled up in 5 layers of shirts, and my Amazing Wooly Sweater, I hung out for most of the rest of the day to cheer friends, tell lies, and drink some of Micah's bourbon. No carbs, eh? I could get used to that.