Sunday, December 2, 2007

Boughton Farms #1 100 words for mud

I believe the Eskimos have a plethora of ways to describe snow and of course they would. After today I have a few more ways to describe mud and not all of them are good. I realize it can get a whole lot muddier and wetter, but this was a good add on to the mud that we had last week.

I brought my big fat tired Epic to warm up on and left my trainer at home. After one slow lap and getting bogged down with the big tires I was regretting it. I am not kidding when I say the Epic picked up a minimum of 10 lbs of mud, grass and leaves in one lap. It was amazing. I almost gave birth when I tried to lift it over a barrier. Rick dropped off his trainer, but by the time I had returned from my second warm-up (on the road) the start was getting close.

I took my clean CSK Cross bike to the line and lined up on the inside of the 2nd row. We were off and again I got a horrible start and faded to the back as we negotiated the muddy first left and right. I was tentative in the mud as we crossed the open field, made the right and into some pretty hard packed grass. I looked forward, too many to count. I looked back and there was no one behind me. Dead last again. I almost smiled and maybe I did, but it wasnt a smile of happiness. More like "Your a freakin idiot you know that, now you've got to chase all race long again, have fun!!"

I'll tell you a secret. I need a few laps to get my head around all this new stuff like sand, off camber descents, soupy muddy corners, sticky muddy single track, picking lines. Next year I hope to be up in the top 3 or 4 when we take off in these A races.

So anyways I start to pick off guys like I usually do by hammering in any grass I can find. I am turd slow in all of the single track and even the sweeping corners then I have to go even harder again in the long stretches of mud. Luckily theres no shortage of guys to watch lines of and I pick up a thing or two. After everything settles itself out the first guy I catch is BIll Marut and hes real smooth so I follow him the best I can and it helps. But when I am ahead of him he catches me in the single tracks and I repass out in the open. Next I slowly and painfully catch Derek Wilford who is just flying in the really deep muddy grass where I think I am usually at my best.

Turns out he had a flat tire and he says his bike was actually faster in the mud with the flat. We go back and forth doing the open field/single track dance. But somehow I manage to fall down or come to a dead stop multiple times while leading him and Bill. The falls were ridiculous even for me. One time I went into the single track and chose to ride the center of a bump and slid off and fell on my right side. Another time on the muddy road I was trying to miss a puddle and somehow fell right over going in a straight line. And again once I drifted into a puddle and that lead me left into a soft muddy rut and I had to stop, hobble to the right and get going. Another time I hit a rut and almost T-boned it and went off course.

But even with all these trials and having to re catch Derek and try and drop him I was still catching John Ehrlinger and whomever Team Lake Effect he was racing. I believe it was Matt Weeks. The gap sometimes got tantalizingly close, but still along way. But I make a lot of the mistakes I described above on laps 3 and 4 for some reason.

So anyways, its lap 3 or 4 (not that I know it at the time) and I make a mess of every single wooded section. I stop and grab trees to not fall over, I stop in deep mud mid way through, stop in a rut on an open road and Derek is by between singletrack sections and establishes a gap as I flounder. Also for the first time I don't see John and TLE anymore. I am actually wondering whats wrong with my bike, are the tires so loaded up with mud its not handling right? Turns out it was all in my head!

Also-as is the case with everyone, the effort to push in this mud and out of all of the 180's out of the single track is making my knees really ache. And then pushing like mad all around the course to keep trying to open a gap and chase the two ahead-wow was that a Huge load on the muscles. Not to mention after the race my drive train was so locked up with mud and debris it would not free spin and in fact there was a little rock stuck between a derailleur pulley and the cage!!! If your cyclist then you know what this was like, but if your not-imagine tightening the strap on that exercycle at the gym down hard then pedal like mad for an hour!!

I am now trailing Derek and have lost contact with John so I sat formulating different strategies in my head. When I come to the pits Derek screams out on a fresh bike and he is flying. I am going like hell too and hes pulling away across the field. I take a second to look at my bike and its a mass of mud around the tires, brakes, front chain ring and chain stays. I am envious of Derek and his clean drive train and much lighter bike. I know were just amateurs, but on a day like today a pit crew and bike change per lap would definitely be the way to go. I catch him in the grass and get ahead, but he and his his bike are just screaming in the mud and I am passed in an open muddy field pass. Sounds arrogant, but I am kind of amazed. I am usually the passer in the open stuff and the passee in the technical stuff.

So I had listened for last lap as we crossed start finish, and if they said it I am sure I didnt hear it. I had at least an inkling that we were close to 5 laps. No big deal. I am so on the rivet the whole time in these races I can barely think straight so I am not capable of counting laps and my glasses are so muddy I cannot see my computer (not that I thought of it anyways). Turns out its lap 5 and again I dont know. I am such an idiot!! Derek if you read this-by all means leave a comment as to the right chronological order of these events....

So my strategy now that there was no catching John was to drop Derek if I can , try and be clean in the woods and come out ahead. But when Derek passes me I think, I'll sit on him through the woods like I did earlier and learn some new lines. Well any thoughts or ideas of tire problems goes away on the last lap as I stay really close to Derek through all the single track and his gap at best grows to 40' and thats in only the 2nd to last section. I close the gap and I am past Derek by coming out of the slightly uphill 180 before the last open road to the barriers tighter and with more momentum. I clear the barriers well as I had all race long (I was waiting till the last second to dismount and try for no more then a step or two before the barriers).

So now were approaching the line and Derek comes whizzing past. I dont really react except to stay close, but when I look up and hear the cheering and the bigger crowd at the start line I realize too late its the last lap!! I lose to Derek Wilford in a great race!! He is in Masters, but it doesnt matter. It would have been a lot more exciting for me to have raced to the finish instead of getting passed in the last corner like a sitting duck. I wasnt even breathing that hard after the race because I was in a whole different strategy. But I am not taking anything away from Derek.He rode a clean race, rode so strong and he was superb in the technical sections. So much faster and smoother except the very last lap when I finally got my crap together.

In fact that last lap was awesome for me. I was having a blast carving clean lines in all those thick muddy curves, maintaining monentum up and out of the woods into the soupy grass and back into the single track and sweeping around corners one foot clipped out. I wish I was that good every lap. Maybe next year or maybe in a few years. Felt great to get it all right once!!

I got 5th in the A race too!! Overall I don't know yet, but 9th or 10th or so I am thinking as there was some attrition up front. My best BA TLE A race effort yet all around considering the awful conditions. I am pretty darn happy with it. I'll admit its awesome to be racing pretty competitively in the A races in my first year, especially considering all the time and energy wasting mistakes I make every lap and how slow I am on the starts and technically the first lap or two or three sometimes. My coach Brent told me in a few years I'll look back at how I rode these first cross races and just have to laugh. I know exactly what he means. Great fun cross. Huge learning curve!! But on the flip side I sure wish I was scrapping it out on lap one like I did at Orrville every race. Granted that was in gorgeous weather and a course that suited me to a T.

I also know I should keep my mouth shut about whining and complaining about results, So I must say now I am very aware of what a GREAT year ive had, but I dont think I would had had this great of a year if I wasnt so hard on myself to do well. Deep down I think I let myself down all those years ago by not chasing certain dreams of mine, quitting cycling and not capitalizing then. I am not trying to say that I would be a Semi Pro or a Cat 1/2, but that I didnt try hard enough and I didn't make good decisions. I had great results in college despite myself.

I am older now and I don't want to make that mistake again and be full of regrets. I want to race for years to come and I want to always strive to be better every single time I hit the starting line. I want the utmost knowledge, equipment, diet and training (while still being a good husband and father). Theres plenty of Masters racers to idolize or maybe mimic in northern Ohio too. I'd name names, but then I'd forget someone and feel like a heel.

I'm getting a bit off track because of a great thing that happened after the race..Don Frey of Team Snake Bite had a fun little awards ceremony where I got an awesome hand made and very ingenious trophy for moving up to the A's as quickly as I did instead of staying in the B's till I started racking up wins. Not that I would have (Tony Marut, Cameron Jackson and many more are studs of the future). This is what got me typing about results in the A's being great, but maybe a bit lower then I would desire deep down inside of me.

Well, my bike was a complete mess and as I sprayed it off with about 300 gallons of cold water I realized the amazing variety of different colors, textured muds that were all over it. Sticky mud, mud with pebbles, mud that rinsed right off, compacted black mud so hard as a rock it took a screwdriver to pry it out between chain rings. And just think after stripping my bike down this week to clean all the grass and goop out of all the spinning components, we get to do it all again after the 9th. So till next week, heres black sticky grass infused, clay like textured mud in your eye!!


Bill said...

Nice write up Ray and very ncie race.

Feel It: The Factory Rider said...

Ray -
Great Race too bad Derek nipped you over those barricades.
Dad purchased a 52CM Light Blue 2007 Cannondale Optimo w/ shimano wheels for me. Possibly you could borrow it next year in a muddy race! Nice job again and good selection of photography.

derek said...

Nice write-up on the race. It was great fun racing with you. You had some very interesting lines in the woods...

Ray Huang said...

derek-thanks for commenting. Lines in the woods? I was just trying to not fall down. Lines-pahhhh!!! LOL

I did my best ines by far when i followed your lines of course. Nice race!! In fact it didnt even feel like an hour to me I was so absorbed in our battle.