Monday, November 2, 2015

Swashbuckler Cross: This Is How Fast I Go

This weekend’s Swashbuckler Cross was very much the opposite of Crossasaurus Awesome the week before. The course was not awesome in any traditional sense, I rode alone for most of the race, and I was a lot more ready and willing to go out for my fifth lap.

The course had a ridiculous percentage of the riding surface consisting of loose gravel, including one fast downhill bomb near the finish where you crossed dirt, gravel, pavement, cobbles, and grass all in about three bike lengths. It is my personal opinion that ‘cross courses should not include loose gravel at all, or at most, a short perpendicular crossing of a gravel path or one straightway, if the gravel is reasonably well-packed with no high-speed turn onto it. PACX seems to love the gravel with the two-way parking lot crossing in the middle of an otherwise pretty great course at Town Hall and the sketchy landing at the bottom of the hill at Stoudt’s. One would think that I would relish the courses being more “technical”, but even though I’ve personally managed to stay upright on them so far, I feel like gravel on a ‘cross course crosses the line from technical to dangerous. That being said, Swashbuckler did have some cool features, and I started to enjoy it more as the race went on and I learned exactly how much I could let it go in the turns.

And the venue had kittens, so there's a big plus.

Once again, I got a good start in the sense that I got clipped in and up to speed very quickly. Since the start included a fairly long strip of flat pavement followed by more flat, gently-snaking course before the first hard turn, I settled in quickly and let the higher-wattage riders go ahead and pull away. Luckily, there really weren’t that many girls ahead of me when the split occurred, and my teammate Roz was the only one to come around and try to give chase to the lead group. I just churned the flats the best that I could and then challenged myself to see how much I could rail it and still stay upright once we hit the sketchier parts of the course. By the time we hit the barriers for the first time, I’d worked my way back up to Roz and pushed myself for an extra quick remount to take the lead. After the race she would say something to the effect of, “You maintained your speed well,” and upon the inspection of my GPS file when I got home, it appears that this was very true.

The first lap was partial, so this is 2-5.

After the first lap, I was mostly just cruising solo, and despite staying on the gas, each time I hit an open section, the next couple of girls up would be a bit smaller. The only ones I managed to reel in were a woman from the 45+ wave and a couple of 3/4 woman that each seemed to magically appear in front of me out of nowhere, presumably due to crashes. One I successfully passed and rode away from, but the other seemed to hover just out of reach for a lap or two before regaining her confidence on the final lap and riding out of sight. Luckily, I have the above proof that it was her speeding up and not me slowing down during the last lap. No giving up for me this race.

Even as I approached the end of the fourth lap, I was okay with doing another. I saw what I thought was the 1/2/3 leader entering the long 180 stretch that contained the barriers as I was leaving, and I knew she would not catch me in the short, fast section of the course that remained before the finish. However, the girl that I thought was the leader was actually second place, and I really had no idea how close I was to being lapped until Laura Van Gilder flew by me a few bike lengths past the finish line on my fourth time through. Although it lengthened my race, I also knew that it meant that anyone who could come up from behind me was cut off, and that I had been given one more lap to see if I could pick off anyone else. I wasn’t able to, but I was proud to have held off being lapped in a race where more than half of the girls didn’t.

It is important to stretch after exercise.

That brings us to matter of the half of the race in which I finished. Although I was already satisfied that I’d done the best I could do on that given day, after the team photos were taken and the turkey legs were eaten, the results showed that I had finished 8th out 19, my first top 50% in a PACX race. It was incredibly satisfying to finally have an unqualified good race this season, and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it through a (literally) bumpy early season. I’m actually excited at the prospect that I might be able to improve a bit more before the season’s over. Of course, the next race is Sly Fox, so while I have high hopes because the course suits me well, the goal that stands out most in my mind is not falling on the stairs two minutes into the race and almost breaking my nose. Never stop dreaming, right?

I guess this happened during my blogging break last year. Fingers crossed for a non-repeat.

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