Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mixed weekend caps off a mixed season


Astoria.  For those outside of the racing community, this small coastal town in Northwest corner of Oregon may only be known as the filming location of the 80’s movie “The Goonies”, but for the last few years its hosted a 2 day sufferfest/party of Cyclecross racing at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds.  Last year we had a great time and we were looking forward to this years event since the start of the CX season.

Unfortunately building something up in your mind often leads to letdown.

I took the day off on Friday to allow for plenty of time to clean the house and pack our stuff.  Traci’s workday just got more and more hectic as it progressed, but we still managed to leave the house exactly at the time I wanted to.  Her small-car Tetris packing ability never ceases to amaze me.  In the end, the Mini was stuffed to the gills with 2 days worth of racing gear for both of us, our mud bin, beer, food, 1 spare wheel, and 15 costumes for the team.  We both agreed that we were going to try and enjoy the weekend rather than race hardcore so the trainer / trainer wheel, and spare front wheel all stayed home.

A few of us booked reservations this year at a condo in downtown Astoria.  Traci and I were the first to arrive at 4pm.  The accommodations were beautiful albeit a bit cramped as 15 of us bunked down in a condo with beds for 8.  (There were a few very sore housemates in the morning.)

Over the next few hours the rest of the folks staying started to show up, and the weather progressively got worse.  Weather reports were continuously being updated on iPhones until at about 11pm a full blown storm was battering Astoria.  Sustained 20-30mph winds with gusts of 50mph we recorded, and our small condo perched on one of Astoria’s many piers was taking the full brunt of it.  The wind howled and whipped rain against the building.  Gusts slammed nearby doors and rattled the windows.  Every time I started to doze off another noise woke me up.  Eventually around 1:30am, the storm blew through and I fell asleep.

The next morning our weary crew departed to the fairgrounds for Day 1 of racing.  We hauled the first trip of our gear up from the parking lot to find someone had decided to pitch a quarter of their camping tent under one of the team shelters next to the course.   No amount of polite asking, dirty looks, or obviously directed “who the fuck put their campsite in the middle of our tent?” like comments prompted them move their stuff.  Srsly?

Since we arrived later that normal, race time crept up on me.  Before I knew it, I was on a borrowed trainer, doing a half hearted warm up.  Ok, I’ll admit really all I was doing was getting the embrocation on my back activated.  The course was super muddy, similar to how WashCo was last week.  Since the Fango’s had issues the previous week I decided to use Traci’s Bulldog front wheel and swap the rear cassette off my tubular to my Bulldog clincher so I would have better traction and not crash.. in theory.

The 8’s drew last position on Saturday which was good on a few levels.  First I didn’t have to put any “I’m in the front so I should at least try and race hard” pressure on myself.  Second, I got free beer for my effort.  Third, I wouldn’t get in anybodies way as we went through the course.  The whistle blew, and the race started.  For the next 42 minutes I played “lets see how muddy I can get without actually crashing.”  Answer, pretty muddy. 

At the end of the race I was bummed about how I was feeling because Astoria was a course I probably could have done well at if I was at 100%.  The climbs were hard, but not grinding like Rainer or Sherwood.  The sloppy mud sections I could probably power through, if I would have been able to put power into the drive train consistently.  At least I got some really good course recon that I was able to pass on to my friends and teammates who were racing later. 

A couple hours sitting around in the cold / damp made my legs and back hurt and by the time we made our way back to the condo, I wasn’t a happy camper.  A good hot shower, my SKINS and a nice beer did go a long way to improving my spirits though.

The group stayed in on Saturday night, choosing to have a big sit down dinner rather than going out on Halloween.  Traci and I cooked dinner for the team, and by 9pm the number of folks nodding off in the family room equaled those awake.  By 10 we were all in bed.

Sunday we awoke to a thin fog hanging over the shoreline.  We ate and packed the cars and cleaned the condo for our departure.  Sunday was a new day with a new race.  Costumes where the theme and many of us decided to ride as “Guy Fawkes” aka “The V for Vendetta Guy”.  It was a clever costume and had a great impact when there were a number of us all together.  Next year however, no masks. :P

Today was about fun for me.  I carried with me to the start line a bag of treats (candy) and tricks (plastic mice and skull rings and severed fingers).  Also included in the bag was a hand-down of epic proportions. I had tipped Cap’n Dave off earlier to be ready for it.   The whistle blew and I stayed with the front of the race until the first set of barriers.. where I promptly found Dave, pulled over and unzipped the bag.  Inside was a 4 foot Skull and Spine Halloween beer funnel and a 22 of Rogue “Dead Guy” ale.  The crowd erupted in cheers but sadly at this point no photos have surfaced of the hand-down.

I remounted my bike and sprinted off, quickly catching Javad and Mike who were waiting for me.  The three of us rode easy together in identical costume’s getting a great deal of cheers from spectators.  In the orchard I bit it on the off camber section and ran my bike to the next set of people, tossing out candy and prizes to those cheering.  We rode on, over the barriers and up the road, next stop was going to be the OBRA tent.

My chain didn’t make it that far.  With an audible snap and rattle of metal on pavement, my chain exploded into 3 pieces.  I passed the bag off to Javad and Mike with the instructions to “carry on the mission”.  I’m happy to report they did to the joy of the crowd.

I shoulder my crippled bike for the fourth time this season and set off at a run.  Terry Camp saw me from the bridge and yelled down that she’d radio ahead to the Shimano pits to be ready for me.  Through the Start / Finish I ran, barely able to see through my skewed mask.  You know you’ve had a lot of mechanicals this season when Splinter actually singles you out.

Eventually I make it to the pits where the tech is waiting.  Three minutes later I’m back in business rolling to the barriers for the second time.  There are coffins now, and a pumpkin.  I run through the barriers and b-line for the pumpkin where I jump on it and smash it to bits.  More crowd cheering and I’m laughing along with them.  The course is slick and slow through the stables and orchard, and I practice corning with a foot out of the pedals in these areas.  It’s something I had never done and will be adding to my skill set next year hopefully.

The crowd continues to go nuts by the barriers, and I try to entertain them.  Iron cross bike carries, dances on top of the coffins, its all in the name of fun.

My race ends early since I’m a lap down and in dead last. I roll directly to the bike wash.  There isn’t a line, one of the few benefits of having a really bad race from a placing perspective.

I have a lot of time the remainder of the day and on the long drive home to reflect upon the weekend and the CX season as a whole.  I had a lot of anticipation leading up to both, and in the end there was some moments of brilliance and delight in a series of unfortunate events, disappointments, and mishaps.   It could be the reality of it all or it could be my tired attitude and sore body after a very long racing season. Time will tell.

Recovery and reflection this week.  Plans are being made, goals being set, announcements are starting to leak out.  Next season is right around the corner.