Thursday, October 1, 2009

Green Mountain - The Report and Photos

This was my first ‘cross race of the season, having missed out on the Suckerbrook season opener. I was excited, but also nervous. The venue at Catamount Family Center offers up beautiful mountain vistas, but also a painful, climbing 'cross course. And I may have left my climbing legs in MA...

We decided to head up on Friday to get some rest that night without having to be leaving the house at 5:30 am. It was a good call, and let us get out for an early preview of Saturday's course.

The start of the course was a long, grassy, uphill slog. The good thing was that conditions were very dry, so traction wasn't going to be an issue either up or down. Some of the standard features I remembered from last year reappeared for the race – the downhill-180 corner-uphill chicane, the log run-up (ok, for the men it was a ride-up, but I'm not that good), a screaming fast descent into a gravelly 90 degree left turn (I thought this turn would cause carnage, but somehow, all of the racers managed to navigate through without dire injury), another downhill-180-uphill chicane (that was faster to run than to ride - just ask Adam), long grassy power sections, and barriers that appeared just after a hard left turn. I heard there was about 500 feet of climbing per lap, and in between the climbs, you needed a lot of power.

We weren't the only ones pre-riding on Friday either. We bumped into Vicki and Marc while we were there, and they had just arrived from Ottawa. You know - I LOVE the social aspect of 'cross. We haven't seen each other since the last races at NBX last season, and it was good to catch up. Of course, blog-land and Facebook let us keep in touch in the off season, but it's just not the same...

After checking out the venue, and having already checked in to our home away from home for the weekend, we set out in search of dinner. Mike wanted to see certain parts of Burlington, and how things have changed since he graduated from UVM (many moons ago!). We ended up driving quite a ways with no luck. Places he remembered were no longer there, and other places had 30 minute waits for a table. Frustration started to set in, and I remembered that I had seen a tavern next to our B&B, so we decided to check it out. It ended up being a TERRIFIC find - awesome food (recommend the veggie pot pie, potato pancakes and mac 'n cheese), great service and really good beer. Plus, we could walk back to our room!

In the morning, we were able to take our time having coffee and breakfast at the B&B, since we were literally two minutes from the venue. One thing I will caution, however, is that eggs benedict does not make good pre-race food! Tasted fine when I ate it, but caused some serious issues later. Full of breakfast, topped off after a trip to Starbucks (literally passing a burning building to get there), and we were at the race site, prepping for the day.

In pre-riding the course, I felt good, but knew that the climbing would give me some trouble. Back to the trainer for 35 mins before the race, and then it was show time.

I lined up at the start behind my teammate Julie. My start was ok, and I quickly moved into having to pass riders ahead. In the first down-180-up, several riders had issues, and one crashed remounting her bike directly in front of me! This put me back behind a place or two, and I knew I needed to move back up. I passed Christine Fort (Quad), and for most of a lap couldn’t get her off of my wheel. I finally buried myself in one of the uphill power sections to create a gap that stuck. After the race, Christine told me that one of her goals for the season had been to chase me, and now she could cross that off her list ;). I had a decent race, and practiced ensuring that I was smooth in the corners, and took long strides into, over, and after the barriers before getting back on my bike. Haven’t had that hard of an effort for the entire year! Finished up with 13 mins of anaerobic effort (of a total 29 minutes racing). Man – I forgot how much ‘cross hurts!

After my race, I changed up and was ready to become a cheering spectator. Mike was up soon after I finished, and I spent his entire race chasing him around the course to take photos, and to let him know where he was in the field. You see, we didn't decide until quite late that we were even going to race the Green Mountain races, so Mike ended up lined up in the LAST row - of 50+ racers! And, he had an auspicious start when the official told someone else to get in that row, telling Mike to move over. Mike made the other racer go to his left so he could maintain his outside position, and the official then told him he couldn't move up that side. Baffled, neither of us knew exactly what he meant, but Mike quickly found out when he went to blast to the right, only to almost run into said official, who stood there to ensure he stayed straight/behind.

Nonetheless, Mike had a great racing, quickly passing about half the field. He worked his way from 26th, all the way up to a 16th place finish! The funniest thing about his race was when he and teammate Todd were in the same group - since they share the same last name, and are teammates, the announcer made the [incorrect] assumption that they were brothers - not the first time we've heard that one! Todd also finished well, just behind Mike in 17th. That meant they were both in the points, and would get a call up on Day 2.

The rest of the day was spent spectating, cheering wildly, and just hanging with all of our 'cross friends. A few of us went back to the tavern for dinner that night, but bedtime came early for most after a long, tough day.

I heard the rain start in the night, and with the forecast, knew that the conditions on Sunday weren’t going to be stellar. Quite frankly, after all of the MTB racing I have done in the rain this year, my motivation for another rainy, cold, muddy race was pretty low. It was tough to even get warmed up on the trainer, and by the time we went to staging and waited to start, I was cold again anyway.

The good traction of the previous day was gone with the rain and cooler temps. Instead, the corners were slick and muddy. And if at all possible, there seemed to be MORE climbing in the course on Sunday; the laps were also a full 2.5 miles long! Features like the BMX pump track, a set of stairs, a rock drop and the barriers kept us all on our toes. Getting caught in the single-track ruts claimed more than one rider on the day – riding in the grass seemed to be the safer alternative.

I’ll admit that I approached this race with a bit too much caution. I was nervous about the corners and the slippery conditions, and that nervousness cost me. In a 2-3 hour mountain bike race, time can be made up – not in a 39 minute ‘cross race! In hindsight, I should have done two things:
  1. Pitted and used my other bike – the tires would have provided better traction;
  2. Planned to run the pump track each time instead of getting bogged down TRYING to ride it.
So why didn’t I do either of those things? Everytime I went by the pit, I was either just ahead of or just behind other racers, and I didn’t want to take the time necessary for a bike change. I also didn’t know that I COULD legally do that since my bike was working (shifting) fine, I hadn’t crashed, and nothing was broken. And approaching the pump track each time, I THOUGHT that I could ride it – I really did! Good lessons to learn early in the season. ;) So, I finished without crashing, but didn't have a stellar performance. Christine needs to update her goal sheet though - she beat me on Sunday...

Again, I changed up and prepped for Mike's race. Today though, I had a job - I was working the pits. With the weather a factor, and course conditions deteriorating, it was important that I was there in case he needed a bike change during the race (plus, he had done the same for me!). I got schooled in pit etiquette by some veterans, and was ready (Mike didn't end up needing to pit, and I did take some grief from Jamie for yelling "Go Honey" as Mike went by).

Mike got a second row call up on Day 2 - a much better position than the previous day! Unfortunately, he had a couple of issues with his pedal on the start, and was forced to chase for the first part of the first lap. I tried to let him know where he was in the placing through the race, but lost count near the end, with lapped traffic. Like me, he didn't crash, but also didn't feel as good about the day - finishing 18th. Still good enough for series points, and the all important call ups for Gloucester this weekend!


Christine said...

Regarding my goal sheet: I'll have to revisit it. Heh.

Had a great time racing you last weekend, and see you at Gloucester!

Trigirlpink said...

hummmmm... pit etiquette, inquiring minds want to know. Waiting for your Gloucester report......