It was a beautiful weekend for racing out in Northampton, MA this past weekend. Sunny skies both days, although the temps on Sunday were a wee bit on the cool side - nothing that down jackets, flannel lined pants, hats and gloves wouldn't fix, mostly.
For the past two years, we have raced Porky Gulch the weekend of NoHo, so have never raced at this venue. This was also the first year (since we've been racing 'cross) that this was a two-day event at the same park. Unlike most of our friends, however, we opted to drive out and home both days - better to drive and sleep in my own bed!
We previewed the course on Saturday morning, and I didn't like it. I felt like there wasn't any place to find a good rhythm - loose, nasty, steep run-up into a twisty, turny, rooty section of woods, four separate miniature railroad crossings, a steep downhill, a sand section that was rideable if no one was in your way (which only happened for me on one lap) and a ride up that I couldn't make and had to run. Oh - and let's not forget the 90 degree right hand turn off of the pavement at the start that had the men's races grabbing so much brake you could smell burnt rubber pads for 2 or 3 mins after they had passed. Nope. This course didn't suit me well.
I got to watch part of Mike's race, but only the very beginning and very end. As usual, he was battling it out with Matt M all the way through to the final lap. Matt gave me some grief after Gloucester - said I stopped cheering for him when Mike was coming up to pass him. Since then, I have made sure, regardless of where either of them are, to cheer for Matt. This weekend, he heard me screaming at Mike, "Matt is right on your butt" - hey, at least I was still cheering for him!
After Mike's race was the 3/4 women's race. I had a front row start thanks to Mike registering us wicked early. And there I was - me and the entire MRC team. That was a bit intimidating. Had some levity though when Roz started complaining about being old. I told her to shut it, since her age didn't start with a 4. Christina, lined up beside me, looked astonished and said, "I hope I look as good as you and race as strong when my age starts with a 4." A great compliment - especially from someone whose age doesn't yet start with a 3 ;). Made me feel a bit better that many of them have been beating me this season (not a lot, but a bit).
I had a GREAT start, and went off of the pavement on the first hard turn about 4th or 5th wheel, but immediately got pinched in the next corner by Alison K, losing a bunch of places. I don't remember a whole lot about how the entire race unfolded except that there were a LOT of crashes in front of me - Roz and Stacey, Julie (again!), the Keltic girl I really wanted to beat... It seemed that staying upright in the race was a win in and of itself.
I laid it all out in the race, and finished with no gas left in the tank. I was frustrated by the roots and rocks on the upper part of the course, and the fact that I had to run the ride-up. Generally, though, I was happy with my finish - until I looked at the results. Once again, for the umpteenth time, the results listed lapped riders in the top 20, and were incorrect. Sigh.
Thankfully, the officials listened to the frustration. Alan, Richard, Diane, Kelly and Kristen worked dilligently to correct the results and have them re-posted. I had a long dicussion with Diane about the situation - she was willing to listen to suggestions, and we had a great conversation. The next morning, the results were corrected, and I moved from 21st to 16th! Woohoo!
As much as I didn't like the race course on Saturday, I loved the changes for Sunday's course. Gone was the loose, nasty run-up. There were more tight, twisty turns (I love those), a shorter, more rideable sand section, and a reversal of the downhill/uphill from the previous day, sending us up the off-camber we had come down on Saturday, and down the rideable uphill, and over the tracks (being careful not to catch too much air for fear of missing the hard turn!). It was a course that suited me much better, and I was excited.
To help ensure the results were accurate, the officials decided to run the U19s and the Cub Juniors ahead of the women, but to leave a 2 minute gap in between us. The hope was that this would enable the officals to keep better track of the laps, and any lapped riders (it worked - the results at the end of the race were accurate!). It was cold standing on the line waiting, but that was soon forgotten as the race started and I took off after Anna B, who went like rocket boosters were attached to her bike. Unfortunately, in her haste to get the hole shot, she overcooked the first corner, and ended up in a tree! I was close behind her - either 3rd or 4th wheel off the pavement (yay - another good start!), and managed to avoid that crash and another quickly thereafter.
I soon settled into a good pace for me, trying to use others to recover/rest where I could, and to try and make up time in places where I knew I had an advantage. On one lap I came to the sand neck and neck with Julie L. She chose to run, and I chose to ride through. On reaching the other side, I was able to sprint out of the sand and build a small gap as Julie had to remount her bike - I think that was my best move of the weekend, although in the end, Julie still beat me ;).
I got caught on the uphill one lap behind a rider who didn't quite make it. I dismounted and lost my footing, and had Karen T fall on top of me. As we both moved to get back up, we had to untangle our bikes - her bars had become one with my rear wheel. I took off pretty quickly to try and get an advantage, and heard someone yell to Karen to use a harder gear going over the rooty sections on the top of the course. I tried this, and it worked really well for the remainder of the race (although Karen also managed to get by me!).
Again, I left everything I had on the course, trying to catch the riders just ahead, and to stay ahead of a couple who were close behind. I managed to hold my final lap position and finish 12th - an improvement over Saturday's race for sure, and a nice ending to a great weekend.
Here are some more pics from the weekend:
Steve and Alexis - 3/4 35+; Mike and Gewilli - likely discussing the viscosity of tubular glue ;)
The crush of the 1/2/3 Masters start; Mike and Matt battling it out
A frosty start to the morning on Sunday; Mike approaching the tracks with John G.
Mike and John M.; Paul W ripping up the sand
Marc B. through the sand; Mike and Matt - again
Turning the corners with Julie and Karen; One last time over the barriers
The women 'cross racers have a fan in Geoff M!