Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Psycho Cross

Cause the racers gonna race, race, race
And the mechanics gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off
Disc brakes are gonna brake, brake, brake
And the canti’s gonna cake, cake, cake
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, Shake it off

Things got a little weird in PACX-land last week when the last-minute schedule addition on October 3 turned into a last-minute cancellation when it rained for most of the week and was predicted to rain on day on Saturday. Normally this would be a mud racer’s dream, and I was getting pretty excited at the forecast. Unfortunately, it seems that the venue was not as amenable to mud as the racers would have been.

It was a bit of a bummer because it would have been the closest race for us all year at a mere 1.5 hours away, but with multiple East Coast ‘cross series in operation, people will just choose the best/closest race on any given weekend, save a few hardcore folks chasing series points. With much-loved New Jersey series races right over the river this weekend, the chances of many Philly people making it into Central PA was pretty slim to begin with.

Hey, hey, hey
Just think while you been getting down about the lack Central PA ‘cross
And the lack of consistent competition from weekend to weekend
You could have been signing up for this sick race 

When the PACX race was cancelled, I leaned toward not racing and just getting in some miles for Iron Cross, as I was staring down the throat of a few ‘cross-less weeks, anyway. However, when Frank suggested we go to Psycho Cross in Maryland instead, I decided to take his motivation as my own. Let’s face it, the only way I would actually end up riding my bike in the rain on Saturday would be if I raced.

Despite my body feeling a little off from the cycle of overtraining then over resting over the previous couple of weeks, the race turned out pretty okay. There were 1/2/3, 3/4, and Cat 4 women’s categories all racing in the same time slot with starts a minute apart. Despite my self-proclaimed mud proficiency, I felt like I was passed by the entire 3/4 field in the first couple of minutes of the race when I got bogged down in places that I thought were rideable but were not.

The course was on the grounds of an old mental institution, which made the clich├ęd name almost forgivable. The first half of the lap contained two steep climbs that were probably not rideable for most even in good conditions, and definitely not in the mud. The rest was filled in almost exclusively with steep downhills and off-camber sections. For someone who has been accused of being much better on the bike than off the bike, I held my own and even made up ground on most of the run-ups. It was my first time using toe spikes and I adopted the strategy of scanning for footholds and taking the biggest steps I could as quickly as I could, rather than trying to “run”.

Big steps...

After the first run-up sat what became a much greater nemesis for me than any other girl in the race. It was a rooty, off-camber downhill covered in deep, sticky mud that spit you out onto a little rise that wouldn’t have looked like much in dry conditions. The problem was that you had to stay high on the off-camber or you ended up much further down the hill with lots of slick mud between you and the top. If you could successfully stay high, you would eventually hit dry grass and be able to easily pedal over the top. Unfortunately the high line was super sticky and rutted by my race, and I never made it to the dry grass without sliding downhill and having to run over the top. Elements like this made it feel a lot more like a skills clinic than a race, as I was more concerned about choosing good lines and staying on my bike more than the other girls than I was actually racing them.

This off-camber on the other hand, I was killing.

After some line choices the first lap, my strategy seemed to work, as I was passing more people than I was being passed by in the first half of each lap. The second half was more flat, twisty stuff in between the buildings of the old institution. There were a couple of tricky turns, but overall, it favored those with power more than skill, so I wasn’t making up a lot of ground in that area. There was on girl who I could see the entire race, and I would make up ground in the first half of the lap only to lose it in the second.

At the end of the third lap, I seemed closer to her than I’d been at the end of the previous two laps, but as I entered the finishing straight, I got pulled. This was annoying, as I could see a group of three girls not that far ahead that hadn’t been pulled. It was hard to tell if they were in my category or not at that point, but I was disappointed at not having a chance to try and chase them down or at least get one more shot at that tricky off-camber.

Despite the anticlimactic finish, the results revealed it to be my best race in quite some time. I accomplished my “top 50%” goal by placing 6th out of 13 in the 3/4 and holding off all but two girls from the Cat 4 wave. It was just confusing because I felt like there were way more people in front of me than that, but perhaps I was wrong. I’ve scanned the pictures and the results over and over, and yes, I do seem to have really been in 6th.

I guess it’s time to accept my placing and my first sub-600 Cross Results score since leaving OVCX and figure how I’m going to maintain it.

1 comment:

Lisa RS said...

Well, that looked like quite a difficult trail, thanks to the rain! Anyway, finishing at the top 50% is reasonably an accomplishment. There's no way but up!

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