Monday, November 12, 2007

Cross My Heart A Race. First lap and Course

Wow-where to begin? I almost feel like starting at the end and working back to the beginning, but maybe thats just too weird. One thing is for certain, this race Could and Should become a classic cross event for Northern Ohio (and the midwest) and I hope Spin and the City of Willoughby see it that way as well. Todd Field was an exceptional venue and the course laid out by the Spin crew could hardly be improved upon. It was long, tough, technical with lots of running and lots of flat, slow corners and a screaming fast downhill, mushy muddy grass, obstacles and slow bits. Weather was cross like too. As Brent told me after the race, welcome to your first real cross race. In other words-it aint cross till theres mud!!

Lets just jump right in shall we? I got a front row starting position as 22 or 23 A racers lined up. At the start I just didnt go hard enough and found myself being passed by guys in the rows behind me. We swept right along the sidewalk, left uphill and right into the first grassy section. Its narrow so I held position and then its 90 degree left sharply up a short hill to a small telephone pole laying on the ground which I dismounted for, then someone crashed bottlenecking us. Once clear of that mess we sprinted in the parking lot then right and left on more pavement to a muddy ditch then a serpentine and hilly up and down through trees. This area turned out to be my undoing on more then one occasion. Dave Steiner came flying by me like I was standing still here.

Only those on mountian bikes were able to ride this section because it was so slippery and steeply pitched. After the first up and down and up some would remount and then do the last down and up, but if you didnt clip in or slipped a wheel, you were better off running it. I can tell you in all honesty that running downhill hoisting the bike was pure agony. Every lap was pure dread for me as we approached this section. Through here I was behiind Greg Jackson, Dave, John Ehrlinger and others.

After clearing that section it was up a wall of about 3 or 4 feet that was pitched very steeply then across the road into a tight, off-camber 180 degree downhill turn. Then left and across a long straightaway of soft wet grass. Right across a parking lot then inot a fun right left on pavement, across another parking lotl and down into a gravely right hander, onto the sidewalk and then a slight uphill to fun downhill decreasing radius sweeper that lead to the baseball fields. A fast run in the grass then into a tight 90 degree right and then on some sand and ruts into a downhill 180 left. This lead down to the creek or river bed. Another flat, but tight 180 right, between two big trees and then to the 2nd dismount. It was 13 to 15 mph into this and then a big felled tree that was pretty big in diameter and suspended off the ground.

I had to jump onto the tree with one foot and jump off. Now was a time to decide to remount or run to get back up to the field. Either way i sucked here and if I did it running or rode it I wasnt fast!! Once back up to the baseball level it was serpentine through some trees and then blast straight across the outfield into the two barriers, remount and another long flat run to a slow left hander by the pits and then another left.

The next section I have to say I was extremely pleased not only with myself but with my CSK bike. It was a slow rhythm section, which I think all courses should incorporate. It gives the legs and lungs a brief break while still demanding skill and control. We rode, constantly pedaling right and left almost like through a deeply convoluted slalom course then out accelerating hard around the perimeter of the baseball field, then we followed the outline of Todd Field with fast sweeping corners where the ground was a bit soft and muddy at he apexes.

I followed John Ehrlinger through here for the first lap as we moved out to the center of the outfield again then we made the run to this monster of a hill. but first we ride to the base, up a sharp, soft muddy hill into a right and then a tough off camber 180 right. Very reminiscent of Fairport Harbor only very wet and slippery on the exit. Someone at the front fell again bottlenecking us. This was unfortunate because this combined with the previous bottleneck let the top 6 leaders go straight away. Out of this into a fast downhill left, across the field again around a light pole and then to the uphill monster!! At the base of this hill was a barrier, but i dismounted well before it and would run to the barrier, step over then try to run up the hill, which had to be pitched at over 20ยบ grade and of course it was grassy, wet and slippery. How long of a hill? I dont know, but it was nasty. Look at the pics to see what I mean. Notice John at the barrier and then look at the field and rider below!

At the top was the 180, set the bike down, remount and then drop down the hill. Just flying, applying some brakes to make sure you could slow for the 180 in the mud at the bottom. Now are you thinking like I am-when is this description of this first lap gonna end? I am gettting TIRED!!! But wait, theres more!! After the 180 it was a short run behind some utility buildings, across the landing of some steps, into soft mud and tightly between a trash can and I think a fence up a another short, very steep and rutted slippery hill, a downhill right hander and inot a big sweeper to the right, around the perimeter of another baseball field then into the baseball diamonds which was now pure mud, but not too deep with a 90 degree right and a 180 left, under the pavilion where loud music was playing and yes-finally onto the start finish sidewalk where mud would fly off your tires pelting you in the face and sometimes right in the eyes. Ahhh-finally a 1.7 mile lap was complete.

Great pics courtesy of Gray Burkholder are here:


Rick said...

great job racing, ray!

Ray Huang said...

Rick-thanks and a great blog of your own. Brett said something funny-he said it was fun in a poke yourself in the eye sort of way. Crack me up. I am hoping the 82 minutes some of us put down saturday will make 60 some feel like a cake walk next Sunday. Yeah right!?! Had fun BS'ng at WBC.

thump said...

I thought you might like to see this excellent picture taken by Chris McIntosh. scroll down and see.

Tom Humphrey

Ray Huang said...

Tom-The links not working for me. can you post it again?