Monday, October 17, 2011

evidence of my participation: PIR/heron lakes

It appears that some of my best shots this season (including this one taken by T. Quinones) involve run-ups. Blecch. I do not like run-ups, even though I have made myself get tougher on them this year and now actually jog instead of crawl up them. Still, this shot shows how steep this section was -- a punchy incline interrupted by not one, but two barriers placed in the middle. On this lap I timed my [off-camber cornering] dismount a bit too late to get a good carry position under my arm, so I suitcased the bike over the barriers by simply lifting it by the top tube -- a bit harder on the arm muscles but certainly faster -- and noticeably more doable thanks to the weight work I did last winter and spring. It's amazing to imagine that real, tangible results are possible with weight training.

A couple more, taken by J. Bentham, on the off-camber switchbacks following the barrier run-up:

A few random recollections and thoughts:

1. After my race I had the pleasure of meeting Julia from the Eugene team Poplollies, who raced in my category and sought me out to thank me for my blog posts about racing singlespeed. She is thinking very hard about building up a singlespeed bike of her own. I urged her to go for it, of course. I figure as long as the knees hold out, singlespeed is still the most enjoyable way to race off-road.

2. I helped out with the Kiddie Races at lunchtime, basically directing traffic for the littlest kids at the end of their race. It was sweet to watch these adorable, powerful little people push their skoot bikes and tricycles along while adults on both sides of the course clapped, rang cowbells and shouted encouragement. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide-eyed wonder of these tiniest kids urging their tiny bikes along in the tacky mud. Some of them had the most beautiful looks of fierce determination on their faces, while others rolled along happily with gentle smiles on their faces, almost oblivious to anything else but the easy joy of self-propulsion.

3. Although I am not a fan of run-ups, I have gotten better at them this year. And I didn't even do much actual running to prepare for my season. I mostly spent my practice time working on mounts and dismounts and jogging with my bike under my arm or suitcased out to my side, and let my daily commuting and cargo-biking comprise the bulk of my between-season mileage. I'm still dreadfully slow all around, but I really enjoyed noticing the small, incremental improvements in some of my cyclocross skills yesterday during the race.

4. In retrospect, I thought there was too much gravel. Yes, I pedaled through it, and no, I did not crash; but there was still way too much gravel on the race course and, well, that 180-degree, off-camber gravel turnaround was simply stupid. Very few of the women rode the turnaround successfully every lap; most of us had to get off and run through it, or be forced off our bikes halfway through the turn because of poor positioning going into the bank, not enough speed, overcrowding at that spot, or all three. Never mind the finishing straight, which I think was longer than it had been last year and was just bad for a singlespeeder like me. The gravel was probably the worst feature of the PIR course this year.

5. I take that back; the worst feature of the PIR course this year was the complete absence of rain and deep mud. And Washington County next Sunday looks no more promising; the preliminary forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high in the low to mid-60's. If that's the case, I'll leave the embrocation at home. For heaven's sake, where's the mud? It's mid-October already.

6. Crank -- the bike shop who sponsors Team Slow -- was a gracious host, allowing me to park my bag at their tent for the afternoon. The boys do seem to have a thing for pork, though -- at Alpenrose they offered me pulled pork sandiwiches, which I politely declined. At PIR, they offered me biscuits and gravy with -- you guessed it -- pork sausage. I'm convinced they own shares in a hog farm somewhere. I opted for oatmeal from the nice folks at Bob's Red Mill instead. Still, it's been really nice to hang out with the fellas and to meet their families.

7. Special thanks to pal Crystal and her friends at Metropolis Cycle Repair for letting me do a quick-change into my kit in their station wagon. The porta-potties were too far away and there was not a phone booth in sight. Bless you.

8. One nice thing about the conditions: I didn't have to hose my bike down after the race.

See you in Hillsboro.

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