I am trying to achieve better race fitness for cross season, so I did two races this weekend. The first race, the Nittany Lion Cross, was the first race of the MAC Series in Fogelsville, PA, on Saturday. Then on Sunday I did the first race of the Month of Mud Series at the Bavington State Game Lands, near Pittsburgh. Both races definitely helped push me towards better fitness and both races definitely hurt, but for different reasons.
At the Nittany Lion Cross, I competed in the elite masters race. The race was brutally fast, especially because I made the decision to start on my single speed cross bike rather than on my standard geared bike like everyone else in the field was using. The race could not have started any better, though, with me going into the first turn in second place. I was able to hold that position for about the first lap or so and then the attacks started. I chose to use a 34x15 as my gear on the single speed. All in all, it seemed to be a good gear choice; however, like any other single speed bike, there were sections on the course where I was spun out and other sections where I really had to stand on the gear to turn it over. All of the extra effort that I put into the single speed was not paying the dividends that I expected and one by one I started dropping places. With less than 2 laps to go, SteveO gave me an awesome bike exchange, but by that time I was cooked and there was not enough time left in the race to do anything significant anyway. By the end, I finished in 14th, after trying to sprint to the finish with four other riders unsuccessfully. It was definitely an all out aerobic pain fest that made me wonder what I liked so much about cyclocross racing.
On Sunday, my plan was to leave early enough for the race to allow enough time to ride the entire MOM Bavington Time Trial Course. As things would have it, I barely made it to the course by the race registration deadline. I then rushed around to put my bike together and don my cycling clothing, so that I could at least ride the beginning part of the course. I rode the first loop super fast thinking that I would be starting at around 10am with the expert riders. Well, upon arriving back at the starting line at about 1 minute to 10:00, I learned that I would actually be starting in 44th position, which meant that I had about 44 minutes before my actual start time. I was a little bummed about this because my legs were now warmed up and ready to go, but I figured that I would make good use of the wait for my starting time by riding the new ending section of the course. Knowing the Bavingon Course is the key to riding a fast time on it, but there is no way that one loop of the course will prepare anyone for riding fast on this course because it is some of the tightest and most twisty single track known to mankind, but an absolute blast to ride.
My start for Bavington seemed to be good. I felt smooth through the beginning parts of the course. The single speed was an awesome bike choice. I had no reason to think about shifting, so I could focus on just riding and riding hard. It is so easy to go way to hot into the turns at Bavington, so I did my best to also stay relaxed and smooth into and out of all the turns. I was having fun on the trails and the bike was purring like a tame house cat for me. Life seemed good. Things suddenly changed, though, when that big linebacker, from that Reebok Commercial that tackles office workers for screwing-off on the job, came out of nowhere and threw me to the ground...well, at least that it how it seemed to me at the time. In actuality, I had clipped the end of a tree with the end of my handlebar, which then threw me to the ground with a quick and hard impact. It took me a minute to figure out what happened and to also untangle my bike from the mess that it had become, but I was soon on course again trying my best to remained focused on a fast finishing time. I did manage to finish the race without anymore mishaps with a finishing time of 42 minutes 11 seconds, which was second in the single speed class.
The second MOM Series Race is this coming Sunday, September 28th, at Brady's Run County Park. It sure would be nice if I could finish a race without inflicting so much pain on myself. Unfortunately, I think pain and doing well at a race does seem to go hand in hand....I hope that is not why I like this sport so much, but maybe it is. Happy Trails... Gerry