THE dreaded hill. We got snow on Saturday, and rain, and cold... cyclocross weather. I spent some time this week getting the bike(s) together, including the old surly that I could use as a pit bike. Boy is my position on that thing weird compared to my race bike. Ah well. I hope to not need it now that I have it.
Arrived at Todd field to see the course for the NEOCX Series. 5 dismounts, wow! And mud as expected. We even had a start grid, and call ups! Very nicely done. Call ups went by results before Brett's races last weekend. It'll be all upside down by next weekend when nearly everyone will have races dropping off the overall series.
Start on flat field to a barrier/short run up. Remount on gravel, a quick twist and back down that little hill. Sweep around to pavement, and around the outfield of ball field 1. Out and into some seriously muddy twisting leading to run up number 2. Back on the bike for 100m, then into THE run up the sledding hill. All the way up, then across the hill, then back down for a long field crossing. Drop down by the river, and the log dismount. Back along the river, 180 uphill, along the wood line to ball field 2 and the spiral to the pitcher's mound, and back out. 180, then twisty around outfield fences back to THE hill. Half way up this time, across the short way, and back down to ball field 3. Head to home along the first base line, then back out to third. Sweeping turn to 180 into the pavement through the pavilion. Into ball field 4 along first base line, 180 before home, then back out. A little twist before the outfield barrier set, and a 90 left hander back to the start/finish.
Short course, I got just under 1.5 miles, with 5 dismounts. By the time the A race went off, we were running a LOT, all the twisty sections before the second run up, and a good deal across the top of the main hill.
Jason, Brent, Zak, Derek, Aussie and myself lined up in the 25+ A race. No count down for folks to jump, and we had a clean start. I did well to get to the light pole first, making sure to leave some space for Brent to come inside. The ONLY time I've lead an A race, lasted all of 100ft. 8th at the first run up, and I hoped I was away for a top 10. Until the first time "running" up that hill. I maintained a 13th place through the end of the first lap.
Speed chess. The idea in cross is to find the fastest way to get through everything, and limit the losses as much as possible. I'm constantly trying to solve the course problems, and I was having problems. I had a hard time figuring out the fast way through the spiral. I knew where I wanted to come out of the tight turn, but didn't quite figure out how to enter. I tried all kinds of different lines coming out of the thing also, not happy with any of them. I also had a hard time on the twists around the outfields, sure I should be able to get through faster, but not quite sure how. In the end I should have spent a LOT more time trying things in warm up laps.
As the race went on I was alone chasing Aussie with 2 guys fighting a battle behind me. One guy would open a gap that the other closed repeatedly each lap. With 3 to go, the closer must have figure the course out. I caught Aussie, and he caught both of us. So I figured I'd go defensive and try some games. I was in the middle, and let a gap open on pavement. Aussie got a little bit ahead when closer closed around me. WOAH! He's got more left than I expected. The two of them walked to the top of the hill slightly faster than I did, got on their bikes earlier and I was left trying to close a gap now. Unsuccessfully I might add.
So, I ended up in 15th or so right behind Aussie. We were the last guys lapped. Happy with my start, not happy with my running ability. I did get to see Jason battle, and narrowly miss fifth place, Zak came in shortly for 7th. Brent finished 12th. Not sure where Derek finished.
Peering through the data, I did the first two laps at sub 7 minutes (barely), then for the remainder I was running at about 7:20. I'm not sure where the entire 20 seconds per lap went, but I'll guess not having anything like a run on the hill was at least half of it. The last two laps I lost more time having trouble on the half hill sliding out, and clipping in off the main hill. Mud clogged cleats while descending at 30per, through a large puddle is a bit freaky. I did manage to stay off the brakes all trips down though, so that's something.
I've been lapped now twice out of 7 races... not including my DNF. Still, I was only caught by the leader both times, on short courses at slightly more than the half way through the last lap. So I'm close, just having a little trouble completely staying lapped free. My goals remain for the last two races. Top 10, and not to get lapped again. I think they are both attainable, but not freebie goals.
Both the remaining course will be short, with lots of turning. I expect the hill in Euclid to be VERY similar to the Todd field hill... I wonder if it's to late to start a running program?