Monday, November 30, 2009

Uncomfortably comfortable

The biggest difference between doing well at cyclocross race and not doing well is the ability to sustain maximum effort during the entire event. For the most part, road and mtb racing does allow for a rider to find some recovery time after putting out hard efforts. I call the feel of racing with time to recover as being uncomfortably comfortable. What I mean is that both road and mtb racing can hurt pretty bad at times from the amount of effort I am putting out, but that level of pain does not last for the entire race. Cyclocross, on the other hand, requires a rider to go much deeper into the pain reserves and ride at a completely uncomfortable level pretty much the entire race. I think this difference in effort is a big reason why some of the best road and mtn bike racers don’t always make great cross racers. Being the pain monger that I am, I decided to dig deep into my box of pain this weekend and do three cyclocross races: one on Saturday and two on Sunday.

On Saturday, I did the elite men’s PA State Cyclocross Championship Race in Allentown, PA. Yes, I know that my cyclocross racing age is 42 and that I should probably play with “kids” my own age, but because of my recent USAC category 1 upgrade in cross I had no choice but to do the elite race. Anyway, as my current racing trend would have it, I had a fairly bad start off the whistle. By the second or third lap, though, I was able to work my way into the top five riders. Eventually, this group was whittled down to me and Patrick Bradley, with two riders (Andy Wulfkuhle and Pavel Gonda) ahead of us. After what seemed to be way too many laps of riding with that feeling of being “uncomfortable,” bad Andy took the win, Pavel came in second and believe it or not I actually won a sprint to take third over Patrick. Even though I came in third place overall, I was the second placed PA Rider and therefore was the silver medalist.

Yeah, there was definitely pain associated with PA States, but my racing on Sunday in New York at the Staten Island CX Race was a two headed monster. Being the single speed fanatic that I am, I had to register for the single speed only race. And, for a single speed only race, there was a pretty good turnout. I really think single speed cross racing is going to keep growing and one day be a pretty big thing. Anyway, my start went pretty good this time and I was able to get into a group with about four other racers right after the first few turns and technical features of the course. By about part way through the second lap, a Team Toga Rider and I were able to get clear from the other racers. We pretty much hammered each other and the one gear we had on our bikes for the rest of the race. My gear choice was a 39x17 and he had a 39x16, so I was accelerating faster, but the Toga Rider was faster on the long flats. With one lap to go, things were shaping up for an epic sprint between us. Unfortunately, however, for the Toga Rider, he got a flat tire with about a third of a lap remaining in the race, giving me a much easier win than anticipated.

After my single speed race, I did some spinning on the trainer, drank some fluids, ate some food and stretched my legs to prepare for tackling my second race of the day against a group of fast elite men. I thought that my preparations between races would be enough to keep me in the mix during the second race, but I can tell you now that it certainly was not. Right from the start of the race, I went backwards faster than I was going forward. I was totally at my limit and was completely questioning my logic about doing two CX races in one day. After the third lap, and all of the positioning insanity of the first couple of loops, I was able to get into a pretty good rhythm on the course. I basically told myself that I was not going to win this thing, so I needed to knock my level down to more of an uncomfortably comfortable type of speed rather than a full out effort. I made the decision to enjoy the course and learn where I could make up time and keep up my speed without exerting too much effort. Surprisingly, even though I was not going full-tilt, I was able to work my way back into the top ten riders. Unfortunately, After about 45 minutes of racing and with three laps remaining, my fun on the course came to an abrupt end when I flatted my rear tubular on the furthest section of the course away from the pit. I pretty much immediately decided that riding the flat, or running to the pit would not be a good choice with so little time left in the race. So, convinced that my pain dosage was more than enough for the day, I took the DNF and went back to my trainer to spin out the concrete in my legs before the long drive home.

My hat goes off again to the promoters of both the PA State and the SICX Races; both events and course were awesome. Of course, it is hard to have any complaints with another weekend of dry racing, especially in late November. I am certainly not used to this much love from Mother Nature during cyclocross season and it is kind of taking a huge chunk of that uncomfortable feeling away from cross racing. But, I must say that re-gluing yet another tire on my racing wheels this season is probably much more painful to me than doing a cold and muddy cross race is anyway, so I guess there is always be something to give me a little anguish.

Another weekend of racing gone and only two more to go before the off season begins. Next up for me is the Team Lake Effect Race at Broughton Farm in Akron, OH. Hope to see you there friends to share a bunch of uncomfortable feelings with you. Happy Trails, Gerry

1 comment:

Henry Dimmick said...

What is a Box of Pain for you is a GRAVE for others!

Good Job!