Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Race #115: For Pride and Nation

Photo by Joe Becerra

I just finished my first Nationals cyclocross race. It's been a great year, I got a win in my age group for Ohio Masters age 35-39. I got 3rd in the Midwest Regionals. So now I'm representing Ohio in Nationals, and representing the U.S. of A. in the (Masters) Worlds.

I remember being a Cat 4 in 2008 and being intimidated by the big races. And I should be, the fields are large and loaded with talent. But over time I embraced these races, they're kind of like the playoffs and you have to get amped up for the big game. Unfortunately I haven't had much luck in these races. Maybe I get overwhelmed, maybe even awestruck by the amount of talent and fanfare these events attract. But at the end of the day you feel 1% Pro, you had to travel, live out of a suitcase and only worry about racing your bike for an entire weekend.

After the OVCX (Ohio Valley Cyclocross Series) ended I chose just to go out and ride my bike and have fun. I feel like I've had some killer training but not racing since early December may have taken an edge off my game. I still didn't let this bother me. I know at Nats and the big races there are a ton of variables you cannot control so I just wanted to go out and do my best for 45 minutes. My wife, Bjet the killer cross racer, stopped racing at the end of the season and is a little upset with me that I'm still going, blowing money on races. And she was a little peeved about having to drive to Madison, Wisconsin in January. But, she was 100% supportive. She got my bike fixed up, letting me swap out my broken parts for nice ones from her road bike. And she let me use her sweet CX bike as my pit bike, and she pitted for me! I love her so much, I know she didn't want to be there but she didn't let me down!

I got to drive up and stay with my Sis in Chicago on Friday night. I went out for a late nite warmup spin on the Lakefront Trail and saw the skyline and moon shining over the lake. Next morning, a hectic 3 hour commute to the race with a couple small detours that cost me some warmup gear adjustment time.

Warm up was fun. The Pro Women were out on the course and I got some pointers from Sue Butler. Then I cleaned off my bike and warmed up. But I did make 2 mistakes: 1, I didn't get to double-check or lower my tire pressure; 2, I didn't get to watch the race before me and see how they attacked the technical sections of the course. But I felt like I did a pretty good trainer warmup, really focused on hitting my different zones and ramping it up.

So I got to the start of the Masters age 35-39 race with just enough time to get cold again, and BANG! The start. I actually started well! I was holding my midpack position around the first bend, with riders 5-8 rows wide going around the turn. I heard my friends Ben, Andrew, Zach and Enzo shouting at me. I was churning through the ruts, still in the pack, when my bikes just started accelerating and veering off course. Evidently there was a bit of icy frozen tundra at the bottom of the rut. I ended up slamming into a big wooden stake holding the caution tape.

I took a second to make sure the chain was on and the caution was not in my cassette and took off again. But I was in last! So I started racing my ass off. The only problem is sometimes you get a bit too aggressive and take a lame line that winds up slowing you down. I was chewing myself out inside my head, and I was embarrassed to drag Bjet along and to perform so badly.

The Nationals course in Madison is sweet. It's this big prairie with a hill in the middle. You ride up it, with the last bit being a steep wall. Then you descend, come back around and run up a bunch of stairs. Then you descend. Then you run up barriers. Then you climb some more. Then you come back down and go through some mud and sand. It was a blast!

I think I got about 3 laps in. On my third I was chuggin up the big hill and I just completely blew up! I made a mistake on the climb and ended up running a bunch of it and that pushed my heart rate over the edge and I seriously nearly threw up! I ended up dropping a couple spots trying to recover. Damn! That rarely ever happens, I guess I just asked for too much on a challenging course.

I rolled in 45th, which means after my rough start I was able to claw back about 20 guys. I was pulled early and was down 2 laps on the leaders, I think they only let the top 30 finish. My friends Christian, Cooper and Ben all said I did a good job pulling people in and I stopped kicking myself.

Later I looked online at a race predictor and it ends up they predicted me to finish 45th? Weird. That was my whole season, there was the potential result, and then there was the actual result...

I was so happy to have my sister Julie come and watch, and her boyfriend Joe took some killer photos of me! We went back to the hotel and I watched the Bengals blow the big game and I could really identify with them. So we went out for dinner on the town. The next day Bjet and I woke up early and we did a bit of sightseeing. I ran 8 miles around Lake Manona training for the Pig while Bjet rode.

We went to lunch and then we went to watch the Pro get crowned National Champions. I think it's so cool that if you win you are the only one who gets to wear the National Champion's Red, White and Blue for a year. Wow. Watching the race was such a blast, and Bjet finally was happy she came. I'm going to edit some video to post later. Killer!

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