Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hawthorne Woods CX - ChiCrossCup Race #3

This past Sunday I made the trek up to Lake Zurich to race in the Chicago Cross Cup race #3 at Hawthorne Woods.

Since I was last on the bike for the Apple Cider Century exactly 2 weeks ago, I had very low expectations for this race. Again I would race the 4a's. Last year it was Carpentersville when I started doubling up in the Masters 30+ as well. But this year time, budget, fitness and motivation will probably conspire to keep my in the 4's only. Plus, I'm working on my sports photo skillz by shooting the earlier races, something that I cannot do when racing in Masters. I arrived early and was able to shoot the 3s race (here and below). Not terribly happy with the results. I still struggle with direct sunlight and concentrated more on my exposures than composition.

So, the course was pretty straightforward (well, ok, there were some turns... ;) ) The biggest challenge was going to be the giant toboggan hill that we had to climb not once, but twice. This guy seemed to be more of a climb that Cricket hill, but now in retrospect I'm not sure. The nice thing is you could at least ride it the first time up, then there was only a barrier at the bottom of the second climb, prompting some to try to remount and ride the second time as well. I rode it in practice, but pretty much knew I'd be "running" it in the race. Besides the barrier at the run-up, there was only one other barrier, in a pretty open straight just before the Gazebo at the center of the course. This made it a great spectator spot and where most of the cheering was going on all day. Lastly there was a culvert/ditch that we rode along side for about 20 yards or so and eventually crossed at a 45 degree angle. The fast line was also in the deepest part of the mud, and you had a tree with low branches to contend with. The right side was more open, but put you at a bad angle on the other side, and with a bit less traction.

My goals were pretty meager. I wanted to hit the open barrier at full speed and take it clean, and I wanted to pass one rider on the last lap. My standing goal for all races is to at least finish in the top half.

I was certainly more apprehensive going into this race than any in recent history. Riding all out for 30 minutes (yeah, I know, boo-hoo it's only 30 minutes) when you haven't so much as touched a bike for 2 weeks is no picnic. I also have not been sleeping well lately, so that didn't help. And the feeling stuck with me right up to the work "GO". It makes for sort of a surreal start as you find yourself sprinting in a mass of elbows and handlebars and wheels and your still thinking "do I really want to do this??"

I made the decision to get a spot in the front because I didn't want to be tied up in traffic as we hit the hill at the beginning of the lap. I was sitting about tenth as we climbed the hill, and held that position up and down and up and down again.. As we came to the flat around the ball field, and then onto the pavement, though, people started to pass me as if I was standing still. I decided to ride my own race at this point and just stick to my plan. It's not fun getting passed like that, but it's no fun when your lungs explode and your legs fall off either, so I chose humility.



It was a fairly long course, and I think we only did 4 laps. Once I settled into my race about mid pack, it was nice to see that i was able to make time on the technical sections. I passed people through the barrier and the mud ditch, usually to be passed again on the flats, but that's ok. Going into the last lap I could see I had a chaser about 20 yards behind me. Thankfully the switchbacks on the hill allowed me to see that he was gaining pretty fast! If I wasn't going to meet my goal of passing someone on the last lap, I sure as hell wasn't going to let myself get passed. I tried to put a little more pressure on the peddles as we hit the ball field, and by the pavement I could tell he had dropped back a little. One more time through the barrier I worked for the cleanest pass yet. It was fast, but my remount wasn't pretty. That's ok, move on to the mud and it's hammer down to the finish. Picking up the pace to drop the chaser brought the rider ahead of me into view. Along a long back stretch just after the mud crossing he was just a few seconds ahead. "You don't have it in you" I thought. "Of course you have it in you, but do you want to hurt?" I retorted. "You're gonna do what you always do which is just let him go, aren't you.." Now I'm not only concerned with my racing, but also my mental health. The fact of the matter is my head wasn't really into the race from the beginning. So I told my brain to take a hike and let my legs take over. It wasn't really an explosive effort, but more of a gradual building until I was on his wheel, then sailing by, hoping to dissuade any thought of a counter attack. As I went by he said "Nice pass". The ultimate compliment considering just seconds ago I was languishing in self doubt! Now the finish was in sight, and I just kept the power on. I finished much stronger at Jackson park, but I'm pretty happy with this finish from a mental standpoint.

3 Comments:

Blogger Julie said...

nice one, soupy!

15/10/08 5:19 PM  
Blogger R. Zach Thomas said...

Awesome report – racing doesn't exactly go how you want, but y'know, that's racing.

I hope to catch up with you this Sunday in Carpentersville!

15/10/08 7:03 PM  
Blogger Soupy said...

Thanks, guys.. see ya'll in Carpentersville!

18/10/08 1:43 AM  

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