Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Saturday night I drove down to Ellicott City, MD to stay with teammate Chad and Greg before racing Sunday in Hyattsville. After such a brutally disappointing day on Saturday, I really felt the need to redeem myself. Saturday night Greg and I watched Harry Potter while he rode the trainer. We also talked about bikes, racing, training, and our favorite kinds of apples. PROTIP: Right now, Honey Crisps are in their prime and in a few weeks, start looking for Jazz and Pink Ladies. After a brief trip to the store to purchase some apples, bananas, soy milk and butter flavored chemical spray, Greg made me a toasted peanut butter and banana sandwich on multigrain bread and went to bed. I watched more Harry Potter.

Sunday morning Greg bought me a coffee and went out on a mountain bike ride while I split for
Hyattsville. I wanted to watch the beginner's race because Matt and Chad's father was doing his first race. I parked my car at 9:05 to see the C race finishing. What did they do, half a lap and quit? Nope, MABRA switched the schedule and the C goes off at 8:30. Bummer. My buddy Steve came out to watch some races before he had to go to work, and he bought me another coffee. We ran into old friends and joked around, I am really glad he is back from Oakland. Also, I think coming to watch the races may have caught him the bug, so I'm EVEN MORE excited for that!

After the Masters 3/4 race, I started checking out the course with 1.5 - 2 laps between each race, so a total of 6 - 8 laps before I started. The course was awesome, the new "feature" was a gravel climb with some logs that a lot of people were running for some reason, followed by a semi-technical descent into a mud bog. It was all totally ridable at first, but that mud bog became a death trap later in the day, sucking in wheels and trapping feet, even stealing a few shoes. (Note: if you are racing cross in a pair of shoes that only has velcro, buy new shoes before you lose one in a mud bog! My Gaerne G.Keira (#sponsorappropriate) shoes were AWESOME at not falling off my feet! I ate a few Honey Crisp apples and drank water (and coffee) and chatted all day. Also, my buddy Jason Pearlman from my first season of cross was there. His kid is in the Little Belgian's races now, so we cheered for Tal and handed out free high fives.

An hour to go, better get my number. Awesome, I get to start 89th out of 103! After looking at Cross Results, apparently only 83 starters toed the line. I guess that is a little disappointing.

Before the race, I was talking with friend/nemeses Chris Carraway about the course. His teammate had told him that through the climb, descent, and mud bog, he was running the entire thing and opening five second gaps on the guys around him. Well, I suck at running, but I took this into account. Starting in the back was going to mean that I would need to be really smart about what to ride and what to run.

At the line, I felt like I should just not start. I didn't want Nate to win our CROSS CLASH because he was starting 13th! Everybody knows that Cross Results is the truth and that nothing else matters! The whistle blows and we're off. Well, sorta. The guys in front of me just kinda stood there and couldn't get clipped in and then fought for position into the corners. I swear nobody pre-rode any of this. At least, nobody lined up near me! Coming out of the prologue, I couldn't even see the leaders. When I got into the baseball diamond corkscrew, they were through the finish. It was going to be one of THOSE days. Through the finish stretch, I passed 5 or 6 guys, but everybody was still elbow to elbow and fighting for 80th place. In the first hairpin, everybody dismounted. For a turn, in the flat, no roots, no off camber... just a turn. Sweet! Around a few more totally non-technical turns turned that must have looked like an infant playing with that toy with the blocks and different shape holes, and we were into a straight with some barriers about 70m up. I pedal hard and make up a handful of spots, dismount, run around a bunch of guys, and remount. Sweet, I've made it to about 70th.

After the barriers were a few technical turns near some trees, so I knew I had to play this smart or else I'd get taped... only the tape would be made of a dense, hard, organic matter. I actually dismounted and ran, and it proved successful. I made up another five spots. Through a puddle that people slowed down for I kept left when everybody lined up to go right. Success, I'm in 60th! Now we are zig-zagging through a super fun small ride with some chicanes and off cambers up and down it. I ran this as well. My body was saying WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, and I said BECAUSE I HAVE TO BEAT NATE! So my legs listened.

Going in to the woods, I must have been in the top 57, and I saw it in front of me. THE bottleneck to end all bottlenecks. People were fully stopped, stepping off of their bikes, walking up the hill, and for some reason shouldering the bike as they walked. Forget that! I suitcased the bike and ran. I made up at least ten spots here, and then I decided, heck, I'm already off the bike, might as well keep running (I GOTTA GET BUBBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), so I run down the hill and through the mud bog. This was the absolute best move I made in the entire race. I passed another ten guys doing this while they were busy falling over in the mud and skidding down the hill. PROTIP: Don't lean forward while you descend a cross bike through a loose downhill section.

Coming out of the woods and things are stringing out, finally. Time to see what I've got. I mean, I knew it was going to be relatively ok, since I had moved up to about 47th by now! I couldn't even see the leaders anymore, so I was a little bummed about that. People were riding in groups, and I was island hopping from group to group. Drop, catch, drop, catch, drop, catch. I was moving up steadily, and it felt AWESOME. Through the backsection, I was divebombing corners so hard as long as there was nobody else trying to corner. Tape to tape, no brakes, can't stop (don't want to either). Moving up, up, up, up.

Laps 2 and 3 were more catch and drop. Riding the gravel hill was awesome, and I was getting heckled for running down the hill and through the mud bog, but I had something to prove today. I had to get Nate. Smooth is fast, and I'm not usually one to turn down a crowd's request to ride something, but I wasn't going to lose my IMPORTANT cross clash with a teammate over riding through some silly mud.

Coming over the barriers lap 4, Matt yells out to me that I am 16th. Amazing! How did I move up this far, and where the crap is Nate? Hammer. Hard. I GOTTA GET NATE! According to my stem mount Garmin that Greg calls a laptop, I was averaging over 16mph per lap, and was pretty consistent on lap times throughout the race. Laps 3 and 4 were my fastest at 6:44 and 6:42 (both times average 16.6mph) and lap 5 was next at 6:49 (avg 16.4 mph). On lap 5, I caught Nate. And then I dropped him. CROSS CLASH SUCCESS!

I finished up 11th. This was a complete success in my book, considering the giant field, the horrible start, and my back row call up. Cross Results has me 2:30 behind the leader, which would be why I couldn't see him, but considering the gap they had on me in the first lap, and the traffic I had to deal with throughout the race, I am confident that I could have been in that top 5 (fifth was 0:55 behind the winner) had I gotten a better start. But thats racing. You either get series points or you register early, or you suffer with a bad starting position. I hadn't raced a MABRA race yet this season. I registered Thursday for a race on Sunday. This was all on me.

During the race, Bill at CXHairs was heckling me for running sections. He even told me that Nate was riding them, and this ALMOST got me to ride them, but then I found out after the race that it was a lie and that he just wanted me to fall in front of his camera again.

This course suited me very well. There were power sections that were broken up with some semi-technical (but not overly technical) turns. I kept a clear head and I kept the legs moving. Bill made a pretty rad video from the day, and the team is heavily featured. Mostly good, except for this one part where Patrick makes an absolute fool of himself and throws his bike through the mud.

Hyattsville CX 2011: Risk vs. Reward from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

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