Monday, October 22, 2012

Ruts N Guts Day 1 - Friday Night Lights

Like I said before, this race was at night. I got to the venue about two hours early so that I could pre-ride the course between events. I got to see Dylan take 2nd in the cat4 race. That was motivating for me, and he was able to give me some advice about the course. They did call-ups for pre-registered riders based on your USA Cycling points. All the riders who didn't pre-register started in the back. My USA Cycling points aren't very good since I'm so new to cross, so I ended up on the 3rd row; but at least I was in front of the people who didn't pre-register.

I took a spot all the way to the outside. I was right behind Tony Steward and Skyler Mackey. Both of those guys always have great starts, so it was the best place possible place I could be, given that I was stuck on the third row. Sure enough, those two guys got a great holeshot. I think I probably got to the first barrier somewhere around 10th.

I was so focused on getting a good start that I wasn't thinking about the first barrier. The barrier was very tall, placed right after a sharp left turn, and had a long hill we had to run up right after it. I was so flustered, I forgot how to dismount my bike. I think I unclipped my wrong foot first or something, but I finally managed to just leap off the bike and run up the hill. The horrible dismount didn't cost me time, but I'm sure I looked like a fool. I think I may have passed a few guys on the run-up, and was behind Tommy Willis going into the first set of switchbacks. Tommy didn't have a chance to pre-ride the course, and overcooked one of the turns. It put him in the grass and I was able to make it around him. There is a section that goes through some woods, up a steep sandy hill, around a tree with exposed roots, and out to a fast asphalt section. I made up some more spots during the fast section of the course and was sitting pretty decent into the stair section.

I decided to ride the stares on the first lap. I made it up clean, but I was passed by two young brothers from Arkansas. It was pretty clear that with my skill level, I should probably be running the stairs instead of trying to ride them. Skyler and the two Drummond brothers got pretty far away. Jess Parker and I kept a steady tempo. He did the majority of the work. Every lap I would be ready to pull through on the fast section, but he would drill it hard enough that I couldn't come around, so I let him keep working. We caught the Drummond brothers, who looked pretty tired, but were able to pick it up again to match our speed. On one of the stair-case run-ups, one of them kept bumping me as I was running and trying to mount. I'm sure that is normal, but being new, it took me off-guard. I'm 100% over it now and think the Drummond brothers are great racers, but it kept me motivated for that entire race. Two corners later, the brothers took each other out, and I yelled "that's what you get." I probably shouldn't have done that for multiple reasons, one of which is karma. That was with just over 1 lap to go. Jess was probably 15 seconds in front of me. I was tired, and I didn't think I'd be able to catch him. The Drummond brothers were behind me, and I didn't think they'd be able to catch me.

A few things happened. First, two laps ago I hit a bump will my hands were on the hoods and my shifter slid down a little. It was no big deal. The next lap, right before the brothers crashed, I hit the same bump and it slid down more. When that happens, it pulls the cables so your shifting and braking is out of wack. The back wheel was barely rubbing on the cost less than a few watts I'm sure. The problem was, I let it destroy me mentally. I started thinking that it was probably rubbing really bad and that it was going to cost me my race. I should have stayed focused. The bike was fine...there was no need to panic. The second thing was that I became fine with third place. I didn't think I'd catch anyone or anyone would catch me. In my head, the race was done. It was far from done.

I wasn't concentrating as I went into the steep sandy climb and didn't fully commit. I had to unclip and scoot my way up, straddling the bike. Karma. It gave the brothers the opportunity to pass me. It took me by surprise. I got on their wheel for the fast section, but didn't even try to make a pass before we hit the grass again. On the final staircase, the younger brother had a bad mount. I came around him and was in 4th place. Right where they crashed a lap ago, I was looking down and turned a post too early. My bars got caught in the tape. He dismounted and ran around me. This was all in the last 200m or so of the race. I tried to come around him on the outside of the final straight, but couldn't get him.

The other Drummond brother was actually able to catch and pass Jess that lap, so he took 2nd. I guess it wasn't as impossible for me to catch 2nd as I thought. Before the race, 5th place would have sounded great to me. Being so close to finishing 3rd, or even 2nd made 5th place a little less sweet, but I'm still happy with it.

1. Don't talk smack, karma is a B.
2. CX takes laser focus, and bad stuff can happen the second you lose focus.
3. Getting a good start makes an enormous difference.

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