Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Iron Cross IV

I’ve wanted to do this 60-mile “cyclocross” race ever since it started three years ago. After a typical frenetic summer season though, my gumption reserves are typically pretty low by the time October comes around. Usually all I want to do is eat pie (pumpkin), drink beer (stout), and sleep (any flavor). But since I’m on an endurance roll these days, I decided this was the year to finally roll up my sleeves (err...arm warmers?) and do it.

And what an excellent decision it was. Sheila and I made an overnighter of it, so we got to eat Indian food (in the metropolis of Harrisburg, PA) and sleep in a strange bed (Motel 6). We watched the sun rise over our Sunday breakfast (Waffle House) and drove the rest of the way to the Michaux State Forest.

Sheila planned out a hike and even found someone else to go with while I pumped up my tires and applied chamois cream to my...err...chamois? Suitably inflated and slathered, I was ready to go. The start was crazy fun. Less than a quarter mile in, two goofballs bounced off each other and went down in the gravel right in front of me. Yeehaw! Dodged that mess, then we did a lap around the traditional 'cross course, which was a hoot juking and fighting for position with 150 guys snaking around a twisty grass course. Then it was out onto the big loop of the course proper.

There were lots of gravel roads, a bit of pavement too, and some tasty niblets of singletrack to spice things up. For most of the first half I sucked wheel wherever I could, enjoying the ride and savoring the gorgeous day (low 50’s, crisp blue skies, and autumn colors). Coming into the midpoint there was a “run-up” that was more like a “claw-up”. Parts of it were so steep that, with my bike on my right shoulder, I could reach out with my left hand and grab at stuff to help pull myself up. No running involved at all, just a lot of baby-stepping, scrabbling, and cursing the course designer.

When I finally reached the top, though, they told me I was in 37th place. And I thought, Dang, that’s pretty good for not really trying too hard yet. I’m having a good ride. I could gain some places if I step it up a little. And so I did. There were no more groups to hide in – the race was now in EMFH mode (every man for himself). So I started leapfrogging my way from rider to rider, pausing long enough catch my breath, maybe snag a draft on a fast section, then set off in pursuit of the next one. I worked my way up to 29th or 30th place. I was feeling pretty good, but in my fervor pushed things just a tad too far. On a fast gravelly downhill I came to grief in a corner and went off into the ditch. The bike stopped and I went over the bars and into the rocky bank. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly fine – my face broke the fall.

I got back on immediately. It only took a couple of minutes for my vision to clear and my ears to stop ringing, then I was right back at it. But I wasn’t eating or drinking enough for how hard I was going (or maybe I was just going too hard) and soon the piper was waving his pay stub in front of my bleary eyes. Stupid piper. He was dancing a happy jig and chanting cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-chiiinnnggg! as my legs started to cramp. Or maybe that was just a residual effect from my earlier brainbell ringing. Anyway, I floundered my way through the last 10 miles, losing a few of the places I had gained, to finish 33rd. A decent result on a most excellent day.

Sheila told me all about her hike as we sat in the sun. Then we had about as good a lunch as you can have at an interstate exit (Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie sandwich and coffee), made it home by dark, and slept like the dead (in our own bed).

1 comment:

Josh Beals said...

Here are some videos from the iron cross race. See if you can find Waldo....er...I mean Tom.