Monday, September 22, 2014

Charm City CX

This weekend we travelled to Baltimore for Charm City CX. These races were the third and fourth of the MAC series, and Frank had already registered for them when we decided to pursue the PACX series instead. It’s probably just as well, since I sort of prefer to race every weekend once the series starts, and these were the only races in the region.

If nothing else, the course certainly made up for the lack of “features” that I have seen so far this season. It contained the standard set of barriers, a flyover, two sets of three-step stairs, and a *quadruple* sandpit.

 The thing about the stairs was that the steps were so high that I probably couldn’t really run them, even wearing sneakers and not carrying a bike. I pretty much had to lift my bike to step above me and then use it to help pull myself up. It was not a quick maneuver. The setup of that section seemed to suit me well otherwise, as it would involve a tight downhill turn into the stairs, a run to the top, then another tight downhill into the next set. I got pretty good at coming in hot to the bottom of the stairs and still managing a good dismount, so it made me not hate them as much as I would have otherwise. None of the other girls could really climb them any faster than me, and I was better at the swoopy down and punchy ups that surrounded them.

The sandpit was another story. Instead of the standard run through the sand, short 180 degree turn on grass, then back through the sand setup, some particularly sadistic course designers decided to put in two more 180 degree turns for a total of four trips through the sand. This was definitely my Achilles heel on the first day, as mostly spent the race competing against the sandpit at the expense of competing with the competition. In typical Lindsay “Imma ride it, dammit!” style, I stayed on my bike until I fell over even though I could clearly see other girls going faster on foot. The first lap I made it halfway through the third pass, halfway through the fourth the next, and finally made it through all four on the third lap. Of course, I had still lost places to the runners when I successfully rode the whole thing, so the last lap I tried running the entire thing. It was definitely faster at first, but I was incapable of running that fast for all four pits. On Day 2 I narrowed it down to a reasonably successful “ride three, run one” strategy that was the fastest method that I could come up with, but it still left me feeling like I might poop my pants up the exit of the fourth pass.

It may seem strange that I have spent so much time describing the course before I really even begin to describe my races, but when I think about it, I do feel like my races were more of me against the course this weekend than me against any other girls. With 50+ starters both days and me in the next-to-last row, knowing that I would be caught up in traffic was a given. They also funneled us into a bottlenecking feature less than a minute into both days, the first being a straight shot into the stairs section and the second day being a weird little 180 degree off-camber left turn.

I think I must have done reasonably well on the stairs the first day, as I lost more places than I gained as the race went on. After the stairs there was long straight climb up an old sidewalk that had too much grass growing between the cracks to actually resemble pavement. I think it was actually bumpier than grass. Each lap girls would pass me on this climb as I moderated my effort up it, but then I would make the places back through the bombing downhill followed by a series of punchy climbs and swoopy downhills that followed. Then I would lose those places back during my sandpit experiments. It was annoying because I was faster than all of the girls around me on everything but the sidewalk climb and the sandpit, but those two things were enough to lose probably 10-15 places for me throughout the course of the race. I ended up 36th out of 49.

Day 2 was much the opposite. I knew the little off-camber turn at the beginning would be a mess, so I took it pretty easy from the start until that section. If I was going to have to slow to a near-stop, anyway, there was no point in making myself tired first. By the time I got there, it was just a sea of girls running, but I calmy soft-pedaled through the crowd, watched for my chance, and slipped through the gap still on my bike. I didn’t really make up any places doing this, but I exited the section feeling completely calm and fresh while the others had already wasted energy scrambling. Things didn’t stay so calm as I set about the business of working my way through traffic.

 Things are kind of a blur for the rest of the prologue lap as the junior boys who had started a minute back started catching us, which was extremely frustrating. I had to deal them trying to stupidly/aggressively pass me while I was trying to pass girls myself. I just remember a lot of yelling and rubbing and getting knocked around, then finding myself entering the first full lap and realizing that I was stuck back in a very slow group. From that point, I was on a campaign to work my way through traffic and get as many places back as possible. By employing my new “ride three, run one” sandpit technique, I was even able to hold my position there. I made up quite a few spots, which even included winning a sprint to the line, because the girl I was chasing didn’t realize that we were lapped and done. I’m not sure how I finished because the results aren’t out yet, and I’m sure my time spent at the back will make the final place worse that I’d hoped, but I was still pretty happy with how I executed that race.

Next up is a PACX race on Saturday, and then a three week break before we conquer the second half of the season. I’m looking forward to racing in a smaller and slightly better-known field next weekend.

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