Monday, October 22, 2007

Powderhorn race report: A race masochism

Cruising the three blocks over to Powderhorn, my legs felt totally cooked from Saturday's race. Completely. A spin around the course verified this. What do do? I couldn't not race the 2nd biggest MN race! While I was thinking I lined up to register. Even at the very early hour I got there, a line was queued up. I decided to take another cruise around the park to re-assess the legs and wait for the line to die down. By the time I got back the line was even longer! Another lap, even longer line. We were getting close to the start of the C race, so I queued up. Two lines had formed by then so one of the two people at the registration counter could do Cs only. The lines moved extremely slowly, and I started getting cold again. Just when the A/B line finally got to the table, they decided to take Cs only at both tables! 20 minutes of standing around for nothing. Another lap. The time for the start of the C race had come and gone, so there would be no more riding the course before the B race. Decision time.

Finally I decided to do the A3 (35+ race). Reasoning: Cat 6ers Derrick and Owen would be doing their first CX races ever (they're Cat 2s on the road so they were assigned the B race for CX), and I though it would be cool to cheer/heckle them, as well as watch the whole C race with teammates T3 and Allan, I'd be warmed up again, and there wouldn't be 100+ people swarming through the goofy barriers. Plus I'd always been curious about how I'd stack up against the A3s, and what it would be like to race for an hour. Since I had no chance in the Bs with my legs, I figured why not?

I really enjoyed watching the B and C races. When you're in the middle of a race you really can't see how things are unfolding, so this was a treat. It was really fun cheering on the people at the runup, getting some video of my teammates and seeing how people handled various sections of the race.

My goals for the race were simple: stay out of the A racers' way, ride the brutal runup, and try not to be DFL. The course started out with a good stretch before the barriers, but things still got bunched up even in the A race. I didn't like how the barriers were set up at all: first barrier after a 180 turn, so no way to cruise up to it. Second barrier perpendicular to the first with a right turn, so the same direction you're carrying the bike (very awkward), then another barrier parallel to the first, all forming a hairpin turn of barriers. After that a mud puddle that you had to be clipped in before or your cleats would get mucked up. Then the long descent from last year but no barrier, a turn into the softball diamond which was cool, then a staircase. There was tape along the sides of the staircase, but apparently the powers-that-be decided it was okay to ride the concrete lip at the side if you could, which evolved to riding the grass beside the lip if you fell off of it. Where I come from staircase means runup, so I felt it was cheating to do otherwise even if allowed, so I ran it each time. Apparently others agreed because several fans were congratulating those of us who ran for 'keeping it real.' Didn't matter anyway for me since I wasn't in the running for anything. Then some off camber curves, a fast path, feed zone, more fast path, zip past the club house, grassy turns, then the 'mounds.'

The mounds was a feature from the Cross Crusade last year. A good example of using the terrain you have. For the C and B race there was the option of running two barriers or riding the mounds, which were dirt piles from the construction of the neighboring parking lot, shored up by plywood planks. I'd decided to run the barriers since I would be faster at it, as were almost all of the people in the B race who chose to run it. Unfortunately the barriers option was deleted for the A race. After that a nice descent before the monster runup.

The runup was reconfigured for each race. The C race had the option of running the staircase, or riding or running either side of it. Almost all of the C racers ran it either up the stairs or along the side. The B race taped off the staircase, so generally they ran the left side or rode the right side, again most riders choosing to run. By the A race, though, almost everyone was riding it, highlighting the big difference between B racers and A racers. After riding it a few times during the warmups, I decided to try to ride it for the whole A race. In the end, I powered my way up every lap for the hour-long A race except for the very last lap, which I ran and high-fived these kids on the way up (thanks Mrs for the picture). Major major power training there! From there back to the start/finish.

Of my goals, I managed to stay out of the way of the rest of the field (I was lapped by the leaders twice!), moving out of the best lines most of the time when I was getting passed; rode the runup every time except the last; but I was DFL. I had Super Rookie in sight almost the whole race, but my cooked legs couldn't bridge the gap except for one lap when he fell on the runup/rideup (probably grabbing the dollar primes!). Picture from Skinnyski of another rider after falling and grabbing dollar primes. There was no way to ride that steep hill and take your hands off the bars! By the end I considered it a feat even to finish the race! Thanks to Skinnyski for the other pictures.

Thanks to my long-suffering girlfriend for sticking around for the A race and handing up my bottle after doing a long run that morning! After the race and a hot bath I met up with a group for well-deserved recovery drinks at Chatterbox. This was a pretty eventful race so I'll have more comments and maybe a video later.