Monday, October 8, 2012

The Providence 2 Day CX Festival, by Norm

Here I am, back for another cross recap. I won't be the first nor the last person to talk about the Providence weekend. But I may very well be the most mediocre, at least this week. Let me say, cross racing in the NJ series is fun and playful. The MAC is business. This like international politics, or more specifically, like 1980's Cold War Era politics. Hard, fast, and intense.

Ok, so that analogy isn't really very airtight. But I think you get what I'm saying. If they remake Red Dawn into a movie about cross races, this is where they'll be for field research. What I'm trying to say is this. This #^@% is real. No, I mean like for real.

Why go?

The short answer to this question is either "just because" or "why not?" The long answer to this question is because Eric & Allison invited me up, as they occasionally go to this race. And really I have no reason not to. Well, the driving, the tiring weekend, the expense...but you have to live a little, which is what this season is all about. Plus, once in a while it's nice to line up against national-level racers and see what you bring to the table.

As you'll soon see, in this metaphor I bring very little. Maybe like a napkin, or a pepper shaker, to the King's feast. Maybe I'm the meal.

So Friday night I pack up the car and start my journey to Providence. To be exact, we were going past Providence to the Cape, to our secret weekend hideout where Allison's family occasionally spends the summer weekends. I planned on talking about the wonderful phenomenon that is Connecticut traffic. But, you know, I'm not going to outline something that is already well-known, which is that 95 stinks. Traffic is a given, like dung heaps in a cow pasture.

Late Friday night, we get to our destination. A foreshadowing note: I have not had to pee in at least 6 hours. So I re-hydrate with 3 beers. This makes sense, right? I also have a PBJ sandwich right before bed. I'm a pro at this. Trust me.

Day 1

I wake up and this is what I see out the back window:

In the end, one could make an argument that I should have stayed right there. But I don't, and we are off to the races a bit after 7:00, which brings us to the venue at a very early 7:53, at which point Allison rushes out to do a pre-ride lap, as her race is at 10:00. I don't remember if I did a lap then or not. But in all, I do 4 laps, and sit on the trainer for a bit. See last week's recap for my thoughts on how exciting this is.

How do I feel today? Flat. Just like Baltimore day #1. These long drives seem to leave me wrung out, and spit to the curb. Not a great way to start a race against the toughest field I have ever done. I am lining up with guys who are competitive in the MAC UCI races. Why am I here? I...don't have a good answer to that question.

Recently we have been talking about race starts on the team forum, and I am generally of the opinion that how you feel that day more or less dictates how you will start. Feel good? You'll easily sit in the envelope and hit the first turn. Feel like crap? You'll hang on like some tin cans tied to the bumper of the El Camino after a low-rent wedding.

Today, I am the tin can. All I am missing in this pic is the string attaching me to the bumper. Witness:

This was a tough race for me. One can only be left to wonder why, but things are what they are. At one point, the guy numbered 509 (9th seed in the race) is in front of me and I am about to pass. He decides he has had enough, and pulls off the course. To use the word jealous here does not do justice to how much I wanted to follow him. Again, witness that wonderful picture above to get an idea.

The course has 4 things of note. The first is a flyover, which you can see here. That's Fat Marc at the top:

Marc races the MAC 35+ with me, and we often spend some of the race together. In general, it goes like this:

* Marc starts fast, I do not
* In about 3 laps, I start to reel him in for good
* I pass him and sometimes make it stick, depending how I feel

Today I made it stick, but barely. The other course features were a set of man-made barriers, a set of 2 steps that were possibly rideable (I ran them in day 1, rode in day 2), and some concrete steps. The course was a mix of many things, some fun flow, punchy climbs, and of course turns and grass and painful accelerations out of the corners.

In the end, I am almost lapped by the junior winner, who started a few minutes before us. I cross the line before him but they pull me anyway. This is all well & good, since everyone behind me got lapped and the last lap would have been some form of torture as devised at Guantanamo Bay. I am content to not add a gratuitous lap to my race to prolong my agony.

I finish 39th, but they do not officially score me for whatever reason. That's fine, since nobody needs to know how badly I did. We can just keep that between you & I, dear reader.

That night, we eat lots of wonderful food, have a few drinks, and I saw a small mini-pint of ice cream in half to enjoy with Allison. Eric was too busy checking to pay much mind to our ice cream needs. So he lost out.

Day 2

Day 2 always begs some tough questions like... I really want to get out of bed?
...where am I again?
...why do I do this to myself?
...wait, really, where am I?

...and so on. Sunday morning brings nothing new in this front. But I sleep in a little bit, then eat some apple pie for breakfast. I drop some Greek yogurt on top to give it the ice cream effect. It's good. I highly recommend pie for breakfast. This is cross after all, it totally goes. I decided to skip the beer for breakfast. Too Jim Morrison-ish.

Despite the dire forecast of cold, rain, mud, and general carnage, the day is crisp, clear, and beautiful.

I do feel better this morning. I don't know what that means, given the nature of these fields. Something I forgot to mention yesterday is this. The fields here are way stronger, but for some reason not nearly as deep. It's sort of like Battenkill in a way. People don't show up to race unless they belong, or have delusions that they think they belong. The top 50 guys are strong, then there are a few end-pack guys. But the usual pack fodder does not show, so you don't have the luxury of beating 50+ guys by default who don't belong. It's like every one of these guys is a seasoned cross racer.

Anyway, my start is better today, and I'm with the envelope fairly easily. I see Eric a few racers ahead, Marc, and...wait, who is this on the ground? Maurice? That's so odd. I pass him. So in consecutive weekends I have been ahead of both Roger Aspholm and Maurice. Odd, but I'll take it.

Like last week, he shortly passes me. And like last week, I try to stay on his wheel. I do a reasonable job for a while, but then...

My chain falls. This is kind of a mistake on my part. On the concrete steps I was in the small ring, and accidentally knocked it off on the run-up. This costs me 5 spots, and of course buckets of lost dignity as this is a crossing/observing spot. And given the road section is right here, I should have pre-shifted to the big ring to be ready for it. I won't call it a rookie mistake. But this is not something you should be doing in the 35+.

I felt good in this one. So then my chain fell off again, but this time got wedged between the chainring and frame. That was awesome. I'm pretty sure at least 618 people passed me here. I am frustrated now, but really there's not a lot I can do. I swear a few times, which does nothing. Eventually I get the chain out and back on, after swearing a few more times. I think swearing at bicycle parts, especially on a cross bike, is like playing classical music to your plants to help make them grow.

I then ride it out and try to catch a guy who I have already passed twice. Where is the justice in this? I don't manage to catch him, but we do sprint at the end of the race. I have to qualify the word "sprint" here, as what we were doing likely looked similar to the old people who walk the mall in the morning. I'm sure my average speed went down on the sprint. It was laughable.

Anyway, I finish 33rd, and actually get scored in this one. If I give myself a minute for the 2 dropped chains, that would get me to 20th, which is where I would have hoped to be. But I can't give myself a minute, so for the sake of making myself feel better, I'll say the dropped chain cost me 5 minutes, and I should have won the race.

Seems fair, no?

In the end, I never did get to meet Molly, which is a shame because I was looking forward to it. But it turns out that we went to the same college and grew up like 5 miles from each other, albeit 16 years apart, roughly. Small world, when it comes down to it. Though like some famous comic once said, I wouldn't want to paint it.