I skipped this race last year due to a scheduling conflict. I was bummed because it had poured all day and there was tons of beautiful, gloppy mud. Oregon Public Broadcasting had sent out a film crew and shot a video of the race for a story on Oregon Field Guide. It had been an epic day of Oregon cyclocross, and I had missed it. I was determined not to miss Barton again.
What went wrong:
1. The weather. It was -- say it with me, this is becoming a trend for the 2011 cyclocross season -- sunny and dry all day. It had rained the day before, which mean that several short sections of the course were muddy, and there were even a few bonafide muddy pddles here and there; but much of the course had turned tacky by 2:15 and became yet another cyclocross course that favored the roadies. A good chunk of the backside of the course was paved, which for me was a waste of time and energy. Why do cyclocross courses have so much pavement?
2. I did not warm up enough. Between trying to find folks who came to watch me race and make sure they knew where to go, and having to take a few too many bathroom stops in the last hour before my race (I know it's important to hydrate but I may have gone overboard), I had too short a warm-up time. Add to that no good place to go and do hot-laps without being out of earshot of the annoucer, and I was not sufficiently warmed up when we staged up. My fault, and I owned it, and I felt it during the race -- especially on the run-ups, which were steep and rocky. I could not even make a pretense of trying to jog up these things, it was all I could do to walk up them without tilting backwards and falling back down the hill again. Ugh.
3. This one is hard to understand, predict or gauge, but I was out of breath today and had to stop twice to take a huff from my inhaler. Remarklably, while I was stopped another woman saw me pull of the course and reach for my inhaler, then pulled up alongside me and did the same thing. We agreed that the makers of Albuterol should co-sponsor a cyclocross race, since apparently so many Oregonians suffer from allergy-induced asthma. We wished each other well and carried on. I wondered why today it was harder for me to catch my breath, when things had gome so easily at Hillsboro -- a day with similar weather, though several degrees warmer-- and I hadn't needed my inhaler at all.
What went right:
1. Even with the roadie-heavy conditions, the great equalizers -- the little whoopdee in the trees and the big drop-down in the mud -- were back, and I rejoiced. Both were simply too much fun to be so short, and I was very sorry I couldn't take another lap before I'd run out of time. They also distinguished the roadies from the mountain bikers. I was thrilled with the lime that racers before me had established -- right down the middle, with less of an off-camber and more steep -- and took it every time, feathering my rear brake at the bottom to avoid hitting the tape and crashing in the gravel. I love the drop-down and hope it remains a feature of this course forever. Nearly four hours after my race I am still smiling from the memory of the drop-down, it was that wonderful.
2. In spots where the mud got thick, I passed roadies at least three different times. I rejoiced, even as I remembered my manners and told them which side I would pass them on. I love my bike and I love my tires. (And yet, even as I write this, the boys from Crank (who were my ride today -- thank you!) were working on me, trying to convince me to switch to a 700c-wheeled singlespeed cross bike for next year. I admit that the prospect of racing on an aluminum frame (with -- gasp! -- a carbon fork!) would appeal to me for the weight savings. And yet, there are other concerns. I promised I'd at least think about it.)
3. I remembered to look farther ahead on the course in the turns and handled the thin lines through the gravel better than expected, faster and more confidently, and when I spun out because of my mud-centric, too-low-for-pavement gearing, I didn't lose my cool. I just tucked down, coasted for a bit, then resumed pedaling again until I could get to a short, punchy incline and floor it.
4. Sweetie, my Big Sister and my youngest niece all came out to watch me race. My niece hadn't seen a cyclocross race before and was duly impressed. Big Sister enjoyed watching me do crazy things and always likes visiting Barton Park because it's a lovely drive to a lovely locale. They both enjoyed watching me race and cheering me on. Sweetie screamed bloody murder ("Go Slow!") as I passed her at the top of the drop-in and again when I crested the main run-up every lap. I also heard a few cheers along the course from fellow racers who recognized either me, my team kit or my bike (Stompy is asking for his own Facebook page. I keep saying no). Believe me, when people are screaming for you and urging you on it really does make you race stronger. It was also nice that they could stick around and hang with me afterwards while I changed clothes and we watched some of the Mens' B/Singlespeed race together. They marveled (!!?) at the new, glam skinsuits the boys from Crank were wearing. (I hope there will be pictures soon.)
Teammate report: Erinne finished 16th out of a whole bunch of B Women, in spite of racing on a too-big borrowed bike and crashing badly enough to tear up her knees. She's a [bleep]ing goddess, so fast and insanely gutsy. Chris R. was scheduled to race in the Singlespeed race and I'd seen him early in the day with his racing bike, but I never saw him on the course. I didn't find his name in the posted results so I'm not sure what happened (I hope he's ok).
I finished 20th out of 20 racers, and managed three full laps. I finished only five seconds behind the next woman in my category and she was riding a geared bike. Does this make me want to ride a geared bike next year? No, it just makes me want to think about a lighter singlespeed bike. Certainly, bad warm-up and sucky run-ups aside, I have noticed that my legs are definitely stronger this year when I'm climbing those short, punchy inclines, more than enough proof that my weight work last winter and spring paid off. I'll be doing it again this year for sure.
Home now. Feeling sort of mellow, slow and happy, enjoying the post-embrocation tingle in my tired legs (my knees don't hurt this week! Yay!) and the overall feeling of that sweet, gentle, post-race fatigue. I expect to sleep well tonight. I didn't get too many photos, but they'll eventually show up at my Flickr page. If any pictures of me materialze I'll post them here.
My final race of the cyclocross season -- and the year -- is next Sunday. Cross Crusade returns to PIR for the second time this season, this time using the Pro Paddock course that has seen so much use for US Gran Prix (2007-2010) and even a National Championship (2003 or 4). It's not an ideal course for singlespeeders but racing the moto course will be fun, especially if it gets muddy. I am praying for rain.