Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Great Weekend

Saturday I got myself out to Palos for a little last minute Iceman training. I am in such deep trouble! I'm almost wishing for bad weather just so I don't have to worry about comparing my time to past years... ;)

Despite my woeful fitness, the riding was awesome. I'm finally starting to know my way around Palos. And much like Stony Creek Metro Park back in MI which I didn't much care for until I knew my way around, I've come to appreciate the trail much more.

And the colors on Saturday were awesome! At points I would come over a rise in the trail and suddenly be immersed in yellow. The rest of the trail was awash in color as well, and I had to stop a couple times to take it in. I wish I had thought to bring my little camera..

Sunday was another Chicago Cross Cup series race at Campton Park in St. Charles, IL. This was the first race last year that I doubled up and raced both Masters 30+ and Cat 4. This year I have no where near the fitness, and my legs were already a little heavy from a steady 2 hour ride at Palos the day before. It kind of sucks racing so late in the day. I would much prefer to race earlier and then hang out for a while watching the later races. It was this thought that finally pushed me to upgrade to Cat 3 in 'cross. I had hoped to make a run at being competitive in the 4's, but that certainly isn't happening this year. And I'm becoming convinced that the pace isn't THAT much higher in 3's, but the riding is cleaner. And most importantly the races start 3 hours sooner! So, hopefully I'll get the upgrade in time for Woodstock.

The course this year was very similar to last year, except run backwards. I think I preferred this course. Much more technical, but brutal. The fun, woody, water-barred downhill became a slow uphill slog, followed by a barrier, then more water bars that prevent you from putting the bike down for about 30 feet. Ugh!!

The start was very narrow, leading to a hard right turn. I got a bad spot at the start, got swallowed up in the middle, and came out in the bottom 1/4 at the turn. After the uphill to the barrier, it was more slight, bumpy uphill where the field started to ride away from me. I recomposed and latched back on. Through the big downupdownup off camber it was pretty messy as expected for the first lap. I had to dismount and run, but came through ok. Given my poor start I was picking people off slowly, and paying for it each time, but with no real challenges, so I was able to recover before attacking the next.

On the second lap things thinned out and I was sitting about mid pack. Back around to the off camber I was glad to have less traffic, but I over cooked the first turn, failed to get all the way back up the hill, and ran into the course marker post breaking the post. I caught myself from falling down the hill, dismounted and started to run with my bike, but the bike refused! I found the right front brake pad was wedged against the rim... In these moments of oxygen debt, I have a hard time thinking clearly, so I sort of stared at it for a moment. Then I started checking cables and housing to make sure everything was seated. Still, the pad would not budge. All the while I could hear several riders passing me by. I was just about to through in the towel when it occurred to me to check the wheel alignment. I released the lever and the wheel fell back into place in the fork. Tighten the lever again and the wheel spun free!

I hopped back on, and the rest of my race was clear. Catch as many people as possible! It was a little disheartening given how hard I'd worked already for some of my passes. It felt like I was in no man's land, but pretty soon I was catching riders again. The XXXers and Half Acer'ers and all the others cheering and yelling at the switchbacks were awesome.

If you've ever seen one of those Matchbox car race tracks with the motorized device that launches the car around the track at high speed and just as it starts to slow down it loops back around and the motor launches it off again, then you know what it's like to have a cheering section like that. I rocketed out of those switch backs each time, ready to gobble up more places.

I crossed the start/finish with 2 laps to go, but my clock ready 25 minutes. There was no way I was going to get two laps in 5 minutes, so I was a bit perplexed. I caught another rider in the back stretch coming to the last turn to the line, and he asked "how many laps left?" I told him the sign said 2, but I have 31 minutes. We half sprinted to the corner, rounded the turn and the lap counter sign was turned sideways so we couldn't see the number. I sprinted out to the line only the hear the bell announcing one lap to go. UGH!! My legs felt like lead at this point. Through the woods and over the barrier, shoulder the bike.. I kept waiting for the other rider to come around me as it seemed he backed off the sprint and saved something. Back on the bike I slogged up that bumpy hill and around the ball field. Still no sign of an attack. down the hill and over the barrier, and now I knew he was cooked. My goal each race has been to pass at least one person in the last lap, so I had to keep the pace up in the hopes of finding another rabbit. As it was I didn't find my victim until the last part of the back stretch, and he'd already started his kick for the line, no chance of catching him.

So, despite the mechanical I was able to once again hold my own race within the race. I ended up 31st. I was pretty darn near dead last after the brake fiasco, but had fun making up as many positions as I could. And thanks again to all those that stayed and cheered!

Greg Heck
Greg Heck
Greg Heck


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