Monday, July 2, 2012

The Crash-man Cometh

I've been in a bit of a work-related depression lately, so I've barely been interested in riding bikes, much less blogging about them.  In the last month, I've honed my skills at the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike clinic, blew off the French Lick DINO race when Adam hurt his back, and finally participated in my first Bloomington Crit after several years of spectating.  I guess it took a good ol' roasty hot double race weekend to get me back on the bloggy train.

Anyway, this weekend was the annual "DINO AMBC Challenge" weekend, which includes short track and downhill races on Saturday in addition to the normal cross country race on Sunday.  The one time I actually got up the courage to sign up for the downhill, it started pouring rain right before the race and wimped out, but the short track is always one of my favorite races of the year.  Even when I was still bad at cyclocross, I always faired better in the short track than I did cross country.

So despite showing up feeling flat and crappy, I still took the front-row starting spot that none of the Cat 2 men that we were starting with seemed to want.  At the BCSP DINO race, I had a horrible start (several pedal strokes to get clipped in) followed by completely unsnappy legs on the opening climb.  Standing on the short track starting line, I hoped that I hadn't lost the hole shot magic that served me so well all through last CX season.  Apparently I still had it.  I got a perfect clip-in and good positioning when the field came together.  I wanted to get out in front of the other women, without chopping any dudes who would ultimately be faster than me just to get the hole shot.  I think I hit a pretty good balance, because I only had a couple really itching to get around at the end of the first lap.  I definitely felt fast, and when I came through Adam was screaming about how good I was doing.  Apparently, I gained about 10 seconds during the first two minutes of the race.

Unfortunately, it didn't last.  I took a weird line through the first turn of the second lap since we were all still pretty bunched up and rammed into a little stump that I didn't see until it was too late.  A decently hard crash was followed by rushed panic, trying to ride with my bars turned around backwards, and a dropped chain.  First to last, just like that.  There were only three of us, so I worked my way up to second pretty easily, but the first place girl was never to be seen again.  She put some additional time into me besides what I lost in the crash, but I still feel like I would have done really well if I hadn't lost my mojo at the beginning.

It was super dusty.  Compare with the 2009 version below.

The XC was another beast entirely. Muscatatuck is one of my least-favorite courses, and Sunday was just another day in a streak of triple-digit temperatures.  That combination was compounded by a 4-6 weeks long drought coming to an end with a big downpour a few hours before the race start.  I was excited to have a day off from watering my garden, and I thought the rain would improve the dusty conditions from my Saturday pre-ride, but I guess it just didn't have enough time to soak in.  It was slick.

I once again attempted the hole shot, which is particularly difficult on this course, which has about 150 meters of slight downhill before the singletrack, and even that space is strewn with trees, fences, and outbuildings which must be avoided while also trying not to ram into the competition.  I hit the woods in third, and felt good enough to work my way to first.  However, I managed to get the lead right before my most hated section of the course.  A slick, rocky hill that I had to run up, followed by another creek crossing and "the switchbacks from hell" as I like to call them.  I maintained my lead through most of that section, but the switchbacks took their toll and I found myself in third again.  I was making ground up, until we got to my second most hated second of the course: the "bomb down, grind up, over and over" section, where I lost contact with the leaders and burned enough matches that I couldn't hold off fourth place when we finally made it to some swoopy goodness.  Then I managed another high-speed crash so that my left knee matched the my right from the day before, with another dropped chain to boot.  This cost me 4th-6th place.  After that, I just sort of rode it in, managing to lose another place and suffer another crash.  I normally only have one in-race crash per year, but somehow I managed three in one weekend.

So the way it ends sounds kind of awful, but I'm focusing on the fact that I rode *really* well for the first half-hour or so.  It was freakin' hot and I haven't been doing anything like proper XC training in forever.  With the work stuff that I mentioned earlier, I really never got going again properly after cyclcross ended, so I've been really afraid that I'd lost what I'd had last season.  The good news is that don't really seem to have lost anything; I just haven't gained what I need to be a successful Cat 3.

I've got 10 weeks to turn that around, but as I've been discussing with Jamie the past few days, I need to get my "health base" built back up before I can properly tune my motor.  In that vein, here's a picture of me eating wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from a BPA-free can post-race.  Don't I look excited?

Okay, it's just the only picture anyone took of me at the race that I know of, so it will have to do for now. 


Jez Andrews said...

About time you blogged again, I've missed your posts!. Maybe you've done all your crashing for this year and the next three? oh well, podium place can't be far off :)

Unknown said...

Ugh, I hate those crash-fest races, but good for you for racing in this heat! I'm melting and so glad to be in a break from the races right now. Also, very cool that you get to do downhill and short track in your race weekends - I wish promotors around here would throw some of those in...