Granogue only treats me one of two ways when I drive up there for the cross race, or the excellent MASS series endurance race. I either lose moderately badly and have a great time, or the course pile drives my ass into the ground, beats me up physically, leaves me for dead in a DNF, and I have a great time.
There is no middle ground.
We - the highly trained tip of the spear of Joint Task Force Coppi/Family Bike Shop - assaulted up I-95, performed a stealth insertion into the Granogue Estate, and established a beachhead alongside the finishing straight at Granogue early on Saturday. We cleverly located our fortification on the starting straight, and a short stagger from a bunch of worthless drunk cyclocrossers from Philly who coincidentally had several kegs of free beer in the back of their pickup truck and who are now my newest best friends. One of the things I like about Granogue is it draws a lot of foreign pro 'crossers looking for UCI points, so that was pretty sweet. Their words of encouragement are always heartwarming, like this one guy riding by waving his middle finger - a European greeting of friendship I'm told by my Irish friends - and he was shouting "le camp de retrenche de Dien Bien Phu." His good cheer and encouragement were all I needed to keep my spirits high, despite the day's setbacks.
The race - Older Slower (35+ 2/3/4 as opposed to Older Faster 35+ 1/2/3) started as it always does, in a warm embrace of the sort a couple close prison inmates might give each other. Unlike last year, I didn't hear anybody talking at the start of the race about how great it would be to be racing in ankle deep mud. Then we started; the referees used a gun and I didn't see anybody go down so I assume the referees weren't from South Philly. Soon we were heading into the woods, and I was somewhat surprised when a very large chap - a track racer based on the jersey - gave me an extremely enthusiastic pat on the shoulder which sent me careening into some roots and a tree. I like congratulations as much as the next guy, but his enthusiasm was almost too much, and I did not know why he was congratulating me so - I hadn't really done anything at that stage.
A minute or two later, as we remounted our steeds, my good friend Dave T. gave me a nice hard karate chop to the leg, in what I assume was a good hearted attempt to teach me that ancient and honorable martial art. I felt dreadfully ashamed of myself because I did not immediately pick up on the technique, what with the severe pain in my left quadricep.
Not long after that, my buddy Trevor apparently tried to express solidarity by running into me. I do not remember that but Seibold does, saying he got a picture, and it shows "an enormous blur." I am certain the picture is completely accurate, because all I remember of this part of the race myself, is an enormous blur.
So I struggled along with an enormous Charles Horse. It would usually be a "Charlie Horse" but it felt wrong to use the familiar tense whilst decamped upon the Granogue estate of the DuPonts. Shortly thereafter, on a high speed sweeping downhill, a fellow on my left attempted to cure my Charles Horse by centerpunching me from the left. Sadly, it did not work a cure and he only managed to further aggravate the condition by bouncing hard off my left leg, and then crashing himself.
On I continued, valiantly, past the runup. My left leg sadly did not want to do much work at this point, so I resolved to be a gentleman and leave it alone for a while. Thus I stopped asking it to help me, since it did not seem inclined to do so anyhow.
After the second time up the Runup - the Limping Walkup in my case - I resolved to buckle down and just push through the pain, to try to salvage a decent performance. In the dirt and grass section behind the tower, I stuck to the high line and did a little standing effort to get my speed up, since I'd figured out in practice that I could ride the flowing downhill sweepers in front of the tower much faster than many of my peers.
As I did so, I noticed a little dirt dip in the middle of the high line. Thinking with my mountain bike brain instead of my cyclocross brain, I rode right into the middle of it. As the handlebars wrenched out of my hands and the front wheel turned 90 degrees to my direction of travel, I remembered that I was not on my full suspension 29'er with a custom fork and a 2.3 inch front tire, but a shite-handling cyclcross bike with a two year-old 700x32 Challenge Fango.
I endo'ed really hard, and I want to apologize to the DuPont family for leaving a big dent in the ground. I am sorry, please don't be angry, I did not mean to do it.
A few guys rode by while I lay there trying to breathe, and when I got up a few seconds later I noticed there were a couple awful long snot stringers hanging out of my nose. There were no pinpoints of pain, just an all-over feeling of hurt, akin to getting hit very hard from the blind side in rugby. No broken bones, just a shocky, whiplashy feeling that Members of Parliament pay good money to obtain.
My tubular had also rolled and since it was a good long way from the pit, I packed it in for the day.
The rest of the day was spent boozing, telling lies, cheering for my friends (most of whom got crushed, some of whom like Mike W. and Harshman who got great results) and just enjoying a great day. I also stuck around for the end of the M Elite race, which was interesting because Myerson, Nieters and two other guys were dicing for third. The road curves left. The boys were two abreast, with Myerson on the inside wheel, on the left. The four were clipping the apex 100 meters out from the flag. Myerson tried to come up on the inside. There was no there, there. He crashed really hard on the grass, another fellow who owes the DuPonts an apology for denting the estate. I hope he promises not to dent it in similar fashion next year.
All in all it was a really good day, as it always is. I was just really bummed out that the race chose to kick my ass today instead of letting me have a nice mediocre result.
Epilogue: I was registered to race today, Sunday. I was dubious about it, got up early, took a half minute to ease out of bed and go to the bathroom... went right back to bed. Very stiff today, still have the charlie horse from the repeated assaults on my left leg (what did it do to make God so angry at it?) and my back and neck are stiff from that crash. The tubular is wrecked, but the Velocity Escape rims that I recommend so highly? The rims are still basically true. What a great frickin' rim that is for big dudes. Yep, the bike is okay, but I'm bruised as hell. Going to try a long mileage week this week with 3-4 bike commutes and no intensity, to build a little base, get the legs under me again, and to try to work out all the knots and bruises. It was great seeing Granogue again, can't wait for the mountain bike race next spring. It'll take that long, probably, to work out the charlie horse.
Granogue, when she kisses you, always leaves a hickey.